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Cancer: Staging

We got a crash course in cancer staging our first few days after Anna’s tumor was discovered. We were told that an MRI and CT Scan were needed to determine staging so we scheduled her appointments. Here’s a pic that gives an overview of the Stages:

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Stage 1 is the hyperplasia; Stage 2 dyplasia; Stage 3 in situ cancer; Stage 4 Invasive cancer

We were hopeful for Stage 1 or 2, as surgery only is standard protocol. We were disappointed to learn from the doctor that Anna has Stage 3 colon cancer. The recommended protocol is 5 weeks of chemo and radiation to shrink the tumor, followed by surgery. As you might imagine, this was hard news for Anna and me both.

The morning after staging was complete and we talked to the doctor, Anna and I did our Pray As You Go together and found these words of Jesus appropriate and comforting:

“I leave behind with you—peace; I give you my own peace and my gift is nothing like the peace of this world. You must not be distressed and you must not be daunted. You have heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you really loved me, you would be glad because I am going to my Father, for my Father is greater than I. And I have told you of it now, before it happens, so that when it does happen, your faith in me will not be shaken. I shall not be able to talk much longer to you for the spirit that rules this world is coming very close. He has no hold over me, but I go on my way to show the world that I love the Father and do what he sent me to do.” (John 14:27-31 JBP)

“You must not be distressed and you must not be daunted.” Those words hung in the air as we listened to the reader say that statement of Jesus. As this reality of staging sets in we are doing our best not to be distressed and not to be daunted. Please continue to join us as we lean on the peace that is nothing like the peace this world offers.

 

 

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From Atonement to At-One-Ment

You may be familiar with the word Atonement. Traditionally, Atonement is commonly understood as substitutionary atonement, a theological theory that Jesus suffered crucifixion as a substitute for human sin, satisfying God’s just wrath against man’s transgression due to Christ’s infinite merit. This theory depicts God as angry, filled with judgment, waiting to carry out punishment on his created ones. It presents Jesus as the “scapegoat” taking on the sins of mankind.

There is another understanding of atonement that has been around since the first century, called Christus Victor (Latin for “Christ is victorious”). This explanation of atonement argues that Christ’s death is God’s victory over sin and death. God conquers death by fully entering into it. Thus, the crucifixion is not a necessary transaction to appease a wrathful and justice-demanding deity, but an act of divine love.

The Early Church Fathers believed that the Cross was primarily how God defeated Satan, once and for all. It was not about a payment of penalty to a wrathful God. No, the Cross was the pinnacle of the battle between God and Satan. God won the battle, once for all, and the Cross is the reminder that He is the victor. Because of this victory you and I get to live a life of at-one-ment with God.

Brennan Manning in his book, The Furious Longing of God, explains it this way: “On the Cross Jesus surrenders in trusting, obedient love to His Abba, and then rises from the ground, not as a trapped animal (paying the penalty to a wrathful Father), but completely at one with the Father; atonement – at-one-ment in the furious love of God.” This is a very different understanding of what happened on the Cross than is presented in substitutionary atonement theology.

As we walk through Holy Week together we have an invitation to move from atonement to at-one-ment with God. Sin and death has been conquered and there is no wrathful Father that needed to be appeased. You are I are clean, forgiven, and whole. Our hearts are good, they matter to God and we can live today at-one with the God of all things!

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From Situation Help to Constant Care

There is something about being human that causes us to reach out to God when we need help. We get into a situation at home, at work, in a relationship or crisis, and we call out to God asking him to help us. While there are plenty of instances of situational help from God throughout the Bible, the promise is that we are living in the constant care of God.

“For consider what he (God) has done—before the foundation of the world he chose us to become, in Christ, his holy and blameless children living within his constant care. He planned, in his purpose of love, that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ.” (Eph 1:4)

This teaching of Paul is a reminder of the reality that you and I living in the constant care of God. We have been adopted as his children. Think about this from the perspective of a parent. Does a parent offer situation help to a child or constant care? My friend Kent Hotaling writes this about care, “ The experience of God caring for us – even when He is not “curing” us as quickly as we choose, is necessary for us to be able to pass along this kind of care for others.”

Maybe this constant care of God is more kind and gracious than the situational help we so often think we desire. Allowing ourselves to be cared for by God is learned at a much slower pace that we would prefer. We are not accustomed to be cared for. We are taught to do life on our own and cry out for help only when we are desperate. Living today believing the truth that we are care for by the God of all things can have a dramatic impact on how we view life. The truth is that you and I are cared for.

Do we dare believe this reality?

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Are You Content?

We are suffering from an epidemic of discontent. What we don’t have, aren’t experiencing, can’t achieve often dominates our thought life. “If only…” or “When _______ happens then…” For some reason it seems easier to focus on what isn’t happening, instead of all of the remarkable things that happen every day.

The third “blessed” of Jesus in Matthew 5, Message translation is,

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” (Matt 5:5)

Being content with just who we are-no more, no less. That sounds amazing and is a challenge. Being content with who we are involves believing the truth of what God says about us. The truth that we are loved, known, cared for, that we are his sons and daughters. Being content also involves being honest about how we feel today, right now, in the midst of joy or sadness, trusting that God is with us.

It’s pretty great being around a person who is content with who they are. We can sense it. We may not even know what it is, but we are drawn to the person. He or she puts us at ease when we are with them. The most content person to ever walk this earth was Jesus. A few days before his death Jesus washed his closest friends feet, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4 got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.” (John 13:3-4) Jesus did this act of a servant knowing who he was, where he had come from and where he was going.

The more time we spend with Jesus the more content we become with who we are. A content person is comfortable in his or her own skin and it shows. We can’t will ourselves to contentment. It is a bi-product of being with Jesus, allowing his opinion of us to remind us of who we are.

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From Control to Kingdom

We are a few weeks into Lent, almost. Have you been able to put your finger on what you would like to move away from and what you would like to move toward? Lately I have been reading the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5 over and over. I like reading Matthew 5:1-12 in the Message translation. I’ve found that these teaching of Jesus can help us identify what we want to move away from and what we want to move toward.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. (Matt 5:3)

Really? Jesus begins there. Who wants to be at the end of their rope? I know I don’t. I like having things figured out. I like knowing what is going to happen and when. The end of the rope does not feel good. So why does Jesus say we are blessed when we are at the end of our rope?

My friend Doug Barrem is 79 years old going on 59. He has a sharp mind and has taken good care of his body over the years. He is wise beyond his years, and that is saying something.  Recently he was reading Matthew 5 and saw something new in Jesus’ teaching. He showed me that each one of the “Your blessed…” is an invitation to lose something or order to gain something. Matthew 5:3, according to Doug, is an invitation to loose power in order to gain the Kingdom.

I think I hear what Jesus was saying, along with my friend Doug. The more we release control and power, there more room there is for God to be who he is in our lives. Maybe that is something to move away from, control and power. Jesus teaches as we move away from control and power we naturally moved toward the Kingdom.

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Only Two Primary Relationships

I believe there are only two primary relationships for each person on earth. Every other relationship is secondary. Want to guess what they are before you keep reading? In my 43 years of life I am now more convinced than ever that the two primary relationships in a persons life are relationship with Creator, and relationship with self.

The word primary suggests that something is important and worthy of time and attention. If these two relationships are, in fact, the two primary relationships in life, do they get the attention they deserve? Think about it. We have access to an ongoing growing relationship with the one who created us! In fact, the deepest intimacy that we can experience as a human being is being (that’s not a mistake use of the word being twice, we aren’t human doings) in relationship with God the Father. Jesus himself considered his relationship with God the Father as primary and so can we.

On to the second primary relationship in our lives, relationship with ourselves. Developing a growing relationship with ourselves may sound selfish at first glance, but let’s unpack it. Brene’ Brown says this about love: “Love is not something that we give or get, it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them. We can only love others as much as we love ourselves.” (Men, Women and Worthiness)

Jesus said it this way, “… love your neighbor as yourself”, implying that a person will love and care for his or herself first before he or she attempts to care for anyone else. So, as the Lenten season begins you might consider asking yourself how you are doing in these two primary relationships in your life. Maybe what you want to move away from is making other relationships (or things) primary, and move toward these two relationships with God and yourself.

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Advent Week 4: God loves his body

On this final week of advent I am interested in the body of Jesus. “8pound, 6-ounce, newborn infant Jesus, don’t even know a word yet…”(Talledega Nights) Yeah, that Jesus. Baby Jesus grew up to be a man in a body. Why did God choose to come in the form of a human in the skin of a body? I came across something this morning that I had never noticed before.

33 “No one takes a lamp and puts it in a cupboard or under a bucket, but on a lamp-stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 34The lamp of your body is your eye. When your eye is sound, your whole body is full of light, but when your eye is evil, your whole body is full of darkness. 35So be very careful that your light never becomes darkness. 36For if your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in shadow, it will all be radiant—it will be like having a bright lamp to give you light.” (Luke 11:33-36)

In order to get a better grasp on the gravity of Jesus’ words about the physical body, it may be helpful to look at his teaching in this order:

vs. 34 – Your whole body is full of light

vs. 35 – so be very careful that your light never becomes darkness

vs. 33 – don’t put it (your body) in a cupboard or under a bucket, but (put your body)on a lampstand SO THAT others who come in (spouse, children, extended family, friends, everyone you encounter) can see the light! (Others get to experience the Gospel by us putting our bodies on a lampstand)

Now this is where is gets really good, at least for me:

vs 34(a) – the lamp of your body is your eye (what you see when you look at your body in the mirror)

vs 34 (b) – when your eye is sound (ἁπλοῦς) – this greek word can be translated as “not complicated or confused”, so when your eye is not complicated or confused about what it is seeing in the mirror then “your whole body is full of light”

vs 34 (c) – when your eye is evil (believes the lies the evil one tells you about your own body) your whole body is full of darkness

Therefore…

IF your whole body is full of light (you believe the truth that your body is created by God, that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that your body is worth caring about)

AND

IF you are willing to put “no part of it in the shadow” (v36)

The PROMISE:

IT WILL ALL (your whole body) BE RADIANT! This is how God the Father viewed Jesus as he came into the world, and how the Father viewed him the whole time Jesus walked around in his body. This is how God the Father views you and me too.

Jesus understood this reality about his body well. So did David…

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well. (Ps 139:13-14)

 

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Generously Cancelled, Generously Treated

“Once upon a time, there were two men in debt to the same money-lender. One owed him fifty pounds and the other five. And since they were unable to pay, he generously cancelled both of their debts. Now, which one of them do you suppose will love him more?”“Well,” returned Simon, “I suppose it will be the one who has been more generously treated,”

Do you feel generously treated?

This once upon a time story is a response to a man named Simon that asked a much different question of Jesus. This scene  from Luke 7 is a dinner at Simon’s house, Jesus as a guest, other men at the table. A “bad woman” who is most likely a prostitute, walks into the house, massages Jesus dirty feet, uses her tears to wash his feet, kisses them, anoints his feet with perfume and them dries them with her hair. What!? Yeah, that was Simon’s response too. This can’t be happening! He’s gotta be thinking that on a lot of levels, this cannot be allowed. To use Simon’s own words, “If this man (Jesus) were really a prophet, he would know who this woman is and what sort of a person is touching him. He would have realized that she is a bad woman.”

Jesus’ kind, but accurate response to Simon, “I came into your house but you provided no water to wash my feet. But she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. There was no warmth in your greeting, but she, from the moment I came in, has not stopped covering my feet with kisses. You gave me no oil for my head, but she has put perfume on my feet.”

I read this story and, to be completely honest, a lot of me wants to be Simon. It’s a lot easier and less risky to be Simon. To appear to have it all together, to follow the Law, to “host” Jesus. However, a closer look at Simon reveals that he offered Jesus (and I’m assuming other guests that came to dinner), no water-no warmth-no oil. In contrast, the woman who had no business being in the room is the one that Jesus singled out. And what is it that he said to her, what is the one thing he said? “It is your faith that has saved you. Go in Peace.” Faith is simply belief, so what did she believe? What did she believe about herself and Jesus that caused her to walk into a room full of men, some of whom she may or may not have slept with, single out Jesus and begin to do all those intimate things to his feet?

It’s her belief that she was loved that saved her. This “bad woman” responded to the love of Jesus with, “so much love” because she believed (had faith) that she was loved by Jesus. Simon, the Pharisee, must not have believed he was loved and forgiven. Otherwise, he would have instinctively provided water, warmth and oil. A person who believes that they are loved by Jesus responds with “so much love.”

I want to become more like the “bad woman” who has had her debts generously cancelled, the one who has been more generously treated. God is so generous! We have all been generously treated, whether we believe it or not. God has so much love for us, and we get to respond with so much love toward him and others we encounter today.

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Learning To Rest

I was with a friend last week and he made the comment, “Shawn, I’ve noticed that you rest well when you are off work. How did you learn to do that?” That was quite a statement to me, a guy who comes from generations of work-a-holics. I can only say that because I am a recovering work-a-holic myself, and my dad has confirmed that as far back as he knows our family has seen work as primary.

Clayton Christensen, a Harvard professor, business owner in his book How Will You Measure Your Life , says this with regards to making work our primary focus:“The danger for high-achieving people is that they’ll unconsciously allocate their resources to activities that yield the most immediate, tangible accomplishments. This is often in their careers, as this domain of their life provides the most concrete evidence that they are moving forward.” No wonder we do this! Who doesn’t want proof that we are moving forward?

Back to the question from my friend, how did I learn to rest? It was a great question. How does a man whose tendency is to work all the time (not just at a job but around the house, on projects, etc) make time to rest? Well, it started slow for me. I began by taking an hour here and an hour there to schedule something that I wanted to do. Yes, I scheduled it and still do. I eventually moved to 4-hour increments of a day once a week. Four hours of no work at all. At this point a couple of little kids came on the scene for my wife and me. You would think that rest went out the door at that point, but I (we) stayed with it. In fact, as our kids got older I began scheduling a day off for our family, an actual Sabbath day. It wasn’t always Sunday, it was the day of the weekend when we could most likely take a full 24 hours to rest. Practically, it stated in the evening of one day and ended the evening of the next. We are six years into this rhythm and most weeks we get this day off.

I was enjoying these times of rest so much that I decided to take it a step further and plan a weekend once a year when my wife and I could get away and rest. That turned into two then three, and most years we now do a quarterly two nights away. Along with that my wife and I began to look six months in advance to when we could get our kids away for a week to rest and play together. Then after that, again as our kids got older, we looked for a week when she and I could get away for at least seven days together to rest without our kids.

So how did I learn to rest? I just did it. It is one of the best decisions I even made (am making). Rest is a gift from the Lord. One that we can all receive.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
In quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

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Gnawing on Jesus

No one really “makes time” to eat, it’s just what we do. We make skip a meal (or two) because we got up late and rushed into the day, then think we don’t have time to grab lunch because things are too hectic, but eventually at some point during the day we eat.

Jesus loved to eat with friends and new companions. He was even accused of eating and drinking with the wrong crowd on a number of occasions. As Jesus gets further and further into his time hanging out with the disciples he makes a statement that often gets overlooked:

“He who keeps on eating my flesh and drinking my blood, in me is continually abiding and I in him.” (John 6:54)

The actual word used here for eating is τρώγω, which is best translated from the Greek as gnawing, “He who keeps on gnawing…” Gnawing takes time and is not in a hurry. We have a dog and she gnaws for a while on a bone, takes a break then goes back for more, she loves it!

If we look at verse 54 in the NIV we can easily miss Jesus teaching, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…” In this standard translation his message sounds past tense. It sounds like something we can do occasionally, like we occasionally eat broccoli, but that was not Jesus teaching that day. He was telling the crowd that in order to have eternal life we have to gnaw on him.

“Unless you do eat (gnaw on) the body of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you are not really living at all.” (v.53) Are you living?