Posts Tagged ‘grace’

I really believe the human default (for adults that is) is law and legalism. I am not sure we are born with it, but society operates on this paradigm so it’s drilled into us at a very early age. Even if you don’t grow up in a legalistic religion, classmates and teachers both will make sure you understand the ground rules of success both socially and academically. How far back can we trace our fear of failure and rejection? Maybe parents were critical and you felt you must achieve something to gain their love. I am starting to see behavior-based religion as a secondary element that we choose because it flows with the worldview we already have. All the world religions I know of fall well into this same paradigm.

The problem isn’t that the law framework is false. Reaping and sowing are obvious – and even Jesus talked about this.  But grace is the supernatural variable that comes in, and unconditional love sees only that which remains – the good He planted in you – His own life and breath spreading light into the world.

The shocking, scandalous grace Jesus brought offends this law-based world, largely because we are led to believe that law is an end in itself. We never imagined there was another way, so if we can’t see the higher way He taught, we will try to fit him into the old wineskin where we understand how things work.

I read an essay yesterday by an environmental activist who saw the tragedy in living by a contract – that you will give no more than you absolutely have to. Sustainability concepts teach that you should endeavor to not take more from a living system than you put in, whether it be your land, community or family. This “contract” he stated, has created a mindset of people who are not willing to go out of their way for anyone or anything if they believe they have fulfilled their obligation. I understood exactly what he meant. Legalism at its finest.

Yesterday my children gave me a beautiful picture of what it looks like when Love trumps Law. I left my younger two with their older brother while I went to run errands. The house had been neglected for three days as we had spent most of our time working in the garden and yard over the holiday weekend. I constantly struggle with feeling overwhelmed, unable to keep up with my own expectations (law) about what I believe I need to accomplish.  I left them with two things I wanted them to do while I was gone, not really expecting it to be done by the time I returned. This brother and sister can take ALL day to clean a room, between playing and fighting – very normal kids.

When I came home, I instantly noticed the living room looked unusually tidy. My young son couldn’t wait to tell me what they did. But he didn’t have to tell me because I could see it! I walked into the kitchen to find my daughter sweeping the floor, and a note on the table said, “For You Mom”. The table was cleared off, along with the rest of the clutter around their desk and school area. She pointed to my bedroom door and said, “Look we even made your bed!” They also had started their laundry. I nearly cried. My gratitude for this gift was beyond measure. They weren’t even asking for extra allowance! They just wanted to help me. As I kept telling them how much I appreciated this extra help, my son said, “Wow mom, I didn’t think you would be THAT happy.”

I very soon thought of our Father in heaven and how it must touch his heart when we joyfully do things as a gift of love for Him, and not just doing our duty. Doesn’t the Scripture say, “God loves a cheerful giver?” I always go back to our human family as a reflection of our relationship with Him. Where there is love, no law is needed. Love goes above and beyond. It is a Law in itself, but one that breathes life and joy. (Not saying children don’t need boundaries… they do!) But as they grow and mature I want this love to be their motivation, not living up to my law or anyone else’s version of “have to”. Because everyone seems to have one, in and out of church or religions.

I would have been pleased enough if they had done what I asked. But to see them thinking outside of themselves, beyond reward or punishment to what would bless someone else, gave me a far greater joy – not just for the help it gave me, but for them to know this joy also. I don’t want to see them living a life seeking only their own benefit which leads to the never-enough syndrome, whether it’s in trying to ensure they avoid the wrath of God, or just impress the world on its terms. My prayer is they choose Love.  




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My mental backlog of blog posts is starting to get a little overwhelming.   I could go into all the reasons why I have no time to write, but I guess I’ll just let this one fly off the cuff tonight.  It’s been a really strange, but wonderful day.

First I will start with a dream I had this morning, which I don’t fully understand, but feel it’s related in some way.  It was definitely one of “those” dreams – the kind that stands out from the normal kind, whatever normal is.  But some just scream, “Pay attention!’

I was in a small village, out in the main street, and many people were out walking around.  News was spreading that someone important was coming, and everyone seemed excited and started lining up on the sidelines like it was going to be a parade.  But a man began warning to not go and see, not to look.  He said a powerful woman was coming in really fine, splendid clothes, and an entourage, and you will want to look at her, but you must not look.  If you glanced at her in the least, you would be under her dominion in some way.  My excitement turned to fear, and I began looking for a place to hide from this splendid, yet frightfully powerful woman.  I could find nowhere, until I came upon a seating bench that had a lid with storage underneath.  I was trying to get in and place the lid over me, but I realized I was too late, so I sat behind it, facing away from the street, hoping to just not be seen.  I could hear the crowds going wild and felt powerless to stop what was happening.  A woman was standing near me who was not cheering, yet she was not hiding either.  A man from the entourage stopped, and I pretended to be asleep (so I could keep my eyes closed and not see anything.)  I could hear the woman near me talking to him.  She wasn’t afraid, but she was pleading with him.  The man was her brother.  She kept saying how much she loved him and it seemed she was hoping to be the one with the most influence over him instead.   Then I realized that I had based all my fear on the warning of one man, and not even known if he was telling the truth or not.  Then I woke up.

Not long after I awoke, my husband received a phone call from someone we met through this blog who does desire to obey God through Torah observance.  We never knew if we would meet in person or not, but he just happened to be in town today, so we readily agreed to get together, and had him over for dinner.  As I was working in the kitchen preparing the meal, and he and my husband were having a good visit in another room (which I could not hear), I had the strong impression that this dream is about our meeting in some way.  I will let the reader decide in discernment.

I let them know when the meal was ready and we all sat down.  He was very kind to patiently listen to my expounding (I get really passionate about Jesus, Spirit, and the power of Love).   We went around the usual circular discussions that are inevitable whenever the Old and New Covenant ways of thinking collide.  There are so many ideas, so many angles, and ways of seeing things.  I can’t give someone my eyes, or my heart vision.  Nor can I judge their heart.  I sensed in him a deep conviction, and desire that was very familiar.  I have it too.  I used to walk on that path he is on, but found a different way to apply that conviction.  In fact the practical application of my belief system continues to change and grow.  I believe now more than ever that patience and love is the most important element in relationships of any kind where religious differences are present.  Can we make the other party approach the table this way?  No.  Can we choose to?  Yes.  I have seen and sadly been party to some painful divisions since leaving the HRM between people who had much more in common than they disagreed on, yet the mountains of offense continued to build over differences in information and perception.

If someone believes with all their heart, they are doing the right thing, then they are.  Even if their ways seem crazy to us, their hearts are being true to what they believe.  I have a great deal of respect for our new friend who loves God, trusts God, and wants to obey Him.  That is a beautiful thing, even if that looks much differently to him than it does to me now.  Of course I did my best to explain the new and improved version of righteous fruit (it’s not really new, we just have it in HD with Jesus, with the static taken away).  But I can’t force him to see the world my way.  No one could have forced me.

After our friend had gone, I saw a status post on facebook:  “Do the right thing, regardless of whether bad things may come later or what it might lead to. Do the right thing today.”  This friend does not observe Torah as given to Moses, but follows Jesus whole-heartedly.

A short time later I found a similar quote while continuing an internet search I had been on for a few days about my family history.  I ran across an article written in 1961 about my grandfather who gave up his 15 year career as a law enforcement officer because he had just been baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist.  They would not allow for him to have Saturdays off, so he turned in his badge.  Ironically, the article was written by my other grandfather who was the pastor that baptized him.  The editors added a relevant quote from Ellen White that read, “It is the very essence of all right faith to do the right thing at the right time.”

I had seen this piece in a scrap book a long time ago.  Our family had held it up for many years as the picture of integrity.  My husband also for years would not accept a lucrative promotion at work because he refused to work on the Sabbath.  We followed our conscience and I don’t regret that.  However during those years, we have many regrets about failures to love with our whole heart.  Which will hold more weight in the end?   I am thankful for the few instances where we were given a chance to redeem those lost opportunities.

Today I also saw a picture of my grandmother’s headstone, wife of the former police officer.  I did not attend her funeral, and she is buried far from where I live.  It was the first time I’d seen it.  Under her name it reads, “She Loved Country Music.”   She also observed the Sabbath and the feasts, and out of respect for her, I will only say that it makes me sad this was the love she was known for.  I loved her, but she loved very little and it has grieved me to see how the pain of not being loved gets handed down from generation to generation.

So there we have it, a day all about doing the right thing, which is not exactly defined the same way by everyone.  HRM followers disagree about this all the time between themselves, as well as Christians.  We think having a Law would simplify it and preserve it.  It doesn’t.

Often the right thing is determined by fear.  There is something that needs to be avoided, controlled, or protected, or an approval to gain and keep.  These fears used to drive my view of faith, scripture, and my value system about what is right.  I understand this path very well.  I go back there a lot in other areas of my life as it seems to be my default operating system installed since birth.  It takes conscious effort, or realignment I should say, to His heart and mind, to operate from the other center point.

Perfect Love casts out all fear.  I believe this is the example of the fearless woman in my dream.  What if the right thing was determined only by what was Love.  Perfect love loves no matter what.  Even to the death.  What is the right thing?  A legal system can never answer this question because the explanations take volumes of Talmud, endless Supreme Court cases, or other books and tapes and videos without end.  Yet there is always something left unclear and uncovered, or impossible.

Love answers the question with itself and satisfies all.

Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:10 Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
James 2:8 If you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well:

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photo by Krystal Tye

I spent last week in Southwest Colorado, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  My father moved to this area when I was 11 years old (and helped build the condos in the picture) so I’ve been blessed to have a childhood full of mountain memories.  Even before this, our family lived in Grand County, Colorado on three acres of lodge-pole pines.  I have always wished my own children could have grown up having the same adventures I did.  As kids, we lived outdoors – hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, sledding, swimming, spelunking,  backpacking, fishing, biking, four wheel mountain road driving … that’s all the “ing” words I can think of.  I am so glad my parents gave me an appreciation for nature and finding joy in the Creator’s world.  I still have to be outside as much as possible, even if it’s just to sit in my own back yard.  Sitting.. my new “ing”  word for my older body.

Now I am a city dweller, and it has some great perks.  But nothing can compare to watching the mood of a mountain range change five times in a day as the light and clouds change, hearing the wind in the trees before it comes to you, the smell of soil, pine, and sage, and a sky so blue you wouldn’t find a match even in a 64-count box of crayons.  I’ve only been home a day and I’m already homesick for the Rockies.  And I have not even begun to count the ways I love them.

On this visit, my younger two children were finally old enough to take a serious hike.  We took off to climb the mesa behind my father’s house.  My brother has camped on top a few times, so he knew they easy way to the top.  In this case, easy meant avoiding the 80 degree incline directly behind the house and opting for a more gradual slope farther down the road.  But we still had a steep climb with patches of snow, mud, large rocks, cactus, and brush to maneuver around, with no trail.  My six and eight year old kids had never been on anything more challenging than the bike trail behind our house.  I wondered how long before the complaining would begin, but I didn’t start begging to stop for a rest until we nearly reached the top!  My idle ways while living at near sea level revealed themselves as I gasped for air.  My children however urged me on to keep up.  I realized hiking in the mountains from a young age taught me I could do hard things, and that hard things could be very enjoyable, even though painful at times.

The views from the top made it worth the effort.  We could see the entire valley, a lake, and even the state line into New Mexico.  We hiked along the top to the far end,WP_000580 then made our way down farther from the house than we planned.  We tried mud skiing (new sport) down the last incline, investigating a large animal skeleton at the bottom.  As we rounded the base of the mesa and found the road that led home, I realized we had walked farther than we ever do on our city trails.  Yet none of us had grown bored or wished we hadn’t come.  I contrasted this to my various attempts to start a walking program motivated by the fact that it’s good for me.  No comparison.  I tortured my body on this hike and wondered if I would need assistance to get out of bed the next day.  But at home it’s like pulling teeth to get out and walk down my flat, straight city street, or even the bike trail.

WP_000589I sometimes hear people speak of their relationship with God as I do my exercise program; obligatory and guilt-ridden for lack of effort.  I’ve been in that place plenty of times too.  But God is not an obligation – He is an adventure!  The Spirit has so much beauty to show us, so many interesting things to ponder and ask about, full of fresh air and bright light.  My grown-up self often forgets that God isn’t found in the list of things we “should” do to be a good Christian.  He is found in the joy of childlike curiosity, love, and trust.  He delivered us from being servants and pupils under the school master to being sons and daughters of Him, Abba, Daddy.   I love the world He created for us to enjoy and He speaks to me so much when I have the chance to immerse myself in it.  Even in my city, there are places and times to do this.

But sometimes following Jesus isn’t a walk in the park.  He did say there was a cross involved.  Choices, sacrifices, endurance, patience, and pain – these also come with the high calling to “walk as He walked.”  I have been on hikes that lasted longer than I bargained for.  One day, when I was 12, my dad had to carry me the last couple miles back to the truck.  I couldn’t go anymore.  Sixteen miles round trip of steep trails and a few laps around the lake while fishing – I was overly optimistic about my abilities.  But do I regret it?  Not for a second.  What drives people to do crazy things for Jesus?  Joy, Gratitude, and Love.  If obligation is my game, I’m afraid I would give up before I have barely started.  Truly loving relationships don’t understand that kind of drudgery.

When we got home from our trip, my children ran to see their daddy who had to stay behind.  No one had to say, “Please go hug your dad and tell him you missed him.”  Spontaneous love and affection erupted that even the neighbors across the street could hear.  If only we could see ourselves with our Heavenly Father this way.

I can write about this much easier than I can live it.  So easy for my default setting to be task oriented, not love seeking.  Seeing truth is easier than walking.  But I’m thankful my Abba knows when I need Him to pick me up and carry me.  Maybe that’s a third and best way of walking.

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Today I read a passionate argument against some “hyper-grace” teaching that has become popular.  Living under my rock, I am not in a position to comment on teachings I have not heard for myself, but this has never stopped me before.  🙂  I will concede that maybe the message of Grace in Christ could be presented badly.  But I find it hard to believe that it could ever be too much.

I’m not sure if the reaction is toward something that may actually be heretical or if maybe much of the Church has never understood that law and grace were never meant to be in balance.  Grace replaces law because it does what the law could never do; creates a new life, draws with love rather than fear of punishment, transforms desires which in turn guides a life toward Christ instead of self.  Maybe those teaching “hyper-grace” don’t know this either, but I have never heard anyone teach that Jesus has no affect on a life.  He just saves you and that’s all there is to it?  Nothing changes except you go to heaven instead of hell?  Are people really teaching this?  Or are some people afraid to let go and let Him be the Lord of the road people are on while seeking Him.  I would speculate it’s possible that neither side of this debate really know Grace.

I have wanted to write about this so many times, and never could quite seem to figure out how to approach it – because it’s kind of the depth and scope of everything about living in Christ. It’s like, if you don’t get it – I can’t give it to you.  But I see so many Christians , churches, and creeds missing the awesome power of Grace.

Real Grace (which is even beyond my ability to accurately define) is such a transforming power that squabbling over what you think you are allowed to do or not allowed to do becomes pointless.   Those debates are for those who don’t have enough grace, not too much.  Grace fills you with love for God that keeps Him in mind in all your actions, words, and even your thoughts.  Grace fills you with love for other people so that you lay down your prejudices, hates, grudges, and feelings of superiority.  Your heart lives with those who are last, not first, and you learn to lay down your life and take up your cross.  You even find yourself loving those who hate you.  Grace isn’t always easy, but it’s glorious.  It’s Jesus on a cross loving you and His executioners, saving us who were against Him.  You can’t have too much of Him.  Loving Him with your whole heart, mind, and soul does not lead to licentiousness.  Quite the opposite.  People think that when Christians begin to get comfy with sin (which is also sadly defined only by moral behavioral lines while the sins against love are ignored), they need more law.  I disagree. They need to see more Jesus, and we so seldom speak of Him.  We love to dwell on agendas and abstract ideas.  Even New Covenant recovering theology junkies like me are in danger of this.  Life is not a good idea we can talk about at a distance.  It’s a Person who is your Life and has an active participation in it.  We often turn His Spirit into a dead doctrine  or a band-wagon, either one.   Both of these forget that He is standing there as our Bridegroom, waiting for us to realize the intimacy and power of His Love.  Imagine an unpublished final chapter of Pride and Prejudice.  Elizabeth Bennett,  in spite of her hard-won love and admiration of Mr. Darcy, turns to a life of crime because he wasn’t stern enough to keep her in line.  That’s not how love stories go, and I don’t believe it’s what Jesus intended for those who fall in love with Him.

It makes me sad when people believe Jesus isn’t enough and we need to step back to Moses to get a good dose of morality to stay on the straight and narrow, or to even find conviction for sin.  This isn’t what He taught.  The inheritance He gives us, His Spirit, His Life.. is so much more, so much greater.  And it’s continuing to open my eyes to areas that I had not surrendered to Him before.  Grace loves me enough to not leave me to wallow in my own ways.  In the last year, I’ve seen things that were so out of line with Him, that I used to believe were true (similar to the awakening which inspired the start of this blog).   The areas of my life being pruned would never have been brought into the light with the Law.  His Spirit goes deep into the heart and tests things against the Law of Love.  So much in my heart has failed this test.   This did not come about because someone came and said, “you need to repent of x,y, and z”.  Rather, it’s the fruit of walking with Him, and hearing His heart.  And I have much further to walk.  Maybe we need to move past God as a doctrine and realize that living in communion with him (as a husband and wife, father and child, etc… whatever family or friend relationship you relate to) doesn’t operate on this score and control system when it’s healthy.  What friend of Jesus did He ever have to force Himself upon?  Was there ever a more attractive Person?

I may have never encountered this actual problem of hyper-grace, and I may misunderstand the arguments against it, but I do appreciate the chance to say, Jesus is enough. 🙂  Always.

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In Matthew 7 Jesus tells us not to spend our time judging others when we have logs in our own eyes. He says that in the way we judge, we will be judged. He doesn’t elaborate how or by whom. And it almost sounds like Karma although I know Grace overrides what we deserve.

My theory … after an extremely uncomfortable situation this week, is that the internal voice we have which expounds frustration over other people’s faults will in turn condemn and accuse us when we find ourselves falling short or letting people down. Yesterday I experienced both of these simultaneously and realized I was the victim of my own critical voice. I wanted to lash out at someone else while feeling like a complete loser over some very small infraction. In my own case, nothing good I had done counted for anything at all in the face of a small failure for which I could find no excuse.

Maybe this voice was inherited from my parents, or maybe it is simply an unfortunate personality trait. Whatever the source, I know I can continue to let it own me, or I can pray for more grace. It is so much more than a theological position. Grace is to be in Life….even down to our thoughts and attitudes.

Today is brighter. No one is as much a failure as my internal judge would accuse. Not even me. Thank you Jesus.

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2012 turned out to be the hardest year on record for our family that I can remember.   We have had several crisis points in over two decades of marriage, but generally they came one a time, spaced by a reasonable distance.  We didn’t have that luxury this year.  The first thing I want to do is praise God for getting us through it, and thank all the family and friends who prayed and encouraged us!  Truly so blessed by so many brothers and sisters in Jesus.  You are all a gift!

The Big Move

A year ago in December we made a whirlwind move to the city from a rural town.  We had wanted to move for many years, but one day God just picked us up and got us here, it seemed quite literally.  There was no way to deny that He was in it from start to finish.  I had a keen sense of the Red Sea parting, and how all the pieces had fallen into place, being prepared years ago for this moment in time.

We moved into a house owned by some wonderful friends in one of the most amazing neighborhoods.  The city trail system that follows a river is accessible right out the backyard gate.  Huge old trees cover the gigantic lot.  One day out walking I took these pictures  and my Hobbit nerd family and I kept saying how it looked like we imagined the Shire in J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories.  (I don’t always compare my life to Tolkien’s stories.. but often!)  One day walking home through this beautiful green winter, I realized that in their peaceful idyllic life, the Hobbits had no idea about the evil brewing in Mordor.  I looked at my innocent young children and felt glad they didn’t know much yet about the evils in the world, but I had a sense of foreboding.

After the move I thought hardship was having to clean up the mountain (literally) of trash and filth left by the previous occupant.  Or the one-month ordeal to replace a broken fridge.  The five days without internet service, now that was tough!  ha.  I was so overwhelmed with all there was to do and take care of, not to mention our own house we had rented out presented us with constant issues that needed attention and repair.  The first few weeks after the move were overwhelming, but we were just getting started.

Now – I don’t want to make too much of all this – because it isn’t a drop in the bucket compared to what many people are going through right now.  But maybe someone will be encouraged knowing we are all facing trials together.  No one is exempt, but sometimes it’s easy to feel like we are all alone while in the valley.

Round 1

Actually before I even took those pictures out on the trail, the adventures had already begun. My father-in-law suffered a heart attack and needed bypass surgery.  His wife passed away a year prior, so we brought him home for his recovery.  We had already taken in a roommate in our 3/1/1 house so our total occupancy reached 8 people.  At this point I wondered what it would cost to rent a port-a-john for the back yard!  But we finally started to remember to always take a survey of everyone’s personal needs before any bathroom use lasting longer than two minutes.  My personality thrives on quiet solitude so naturally God puts me in a house with lots of people!  He has a great sense of humor like that.   But I was SO thankful God had brought us into a location where we could help with all the doctor visits and after-surgery care and also so thankful my father-in-law is still with us!

Round 2

While my father-in-law stayed with us, my oldest daughter, who had come back to live with us before the move, called to tell me she was pregnant.  I had been bracing myself for this for a few years.  These things happen, and I knew it would turn out for the good even if it wasn’t ideal.  She is on her own spiritual journey (and not nearly off the deep end as I was at that age).  I prided myself in trying to be loving and understanding –  you know, this walk of grace.  When she told me who the father was – my grace walk just evaporated into thin air and I instead found myself wallowing in hurt and rage.  I don’t even wish to explain the details, but he had crossed the line with us – and she knew it.  No matter how I turned it over in my mind, I could not fathom why she would have gone back to him.  She had broken up with him and we believed she was finally in the clear.  (I cannot stress to you enough the mental sickness involved with this young man.)   After she stated she wanted to work things out with the father, we decided that choice meant she could not stay here at all.  We even changed the locks because we didn’t want the father having access through her to our house in any way.

Knowing that this person was now forever connected to my family – and the thought that my first grandchild would have this person for a father, felt like more than I could bear.  I sobbed my eyes out.  My daughter and I had terrible “How could you do this to us?” and “Why can’t you just support me and be happy for the baby?” kind of fights.  I assured her it wasn’t the baby that I had  a problem with, but who we would have to deal with as the father for the rest of our lives.  God reminded me of Hosea – and of Himself.  Taking on the sinful flesh of humanity with all our perversion and filth.  He reminded me I was no better than this person I had come to loathe.  It took a few weeks for me to hear Him through my rage, but eventually I did.  Maybe what came next put everything into perspective.

Round 3.1

While helping my father-in-law recover I thought, “So THIS is why He brought us here so quickly ”  Well, yes.  And no.  A few weeks later my oldest son you might remember from this post about the Hebrew Roots Movement and Children, came to us very distraught about a medical problem.  We thought it was minor, and sent him to the urgent care clinic we have been using for the many years we have not had health insurance.   The doctor diagnosed it as a simple infection and prescribed an antibiotic.  I had no thought it could be anything else.  Less than a week later while sorting through boxes of keepsakes unearthed in our recent move, I came across a stack of birthday cards saved through the years for my two oldest children.  I sorted them into his and hers piles and asked Jesse if he wanted them.  He took them from my hand and at that moment a chilling thought came into my mind, almost as an external voice.  “He won’t have any more birthdays.”   I nearly had to sit down but I did my best to completely ignore it as some strange trick my mind was playing on me.

After a week on antibiotics his condition had not improved but gotten worse.  On his way to work one afternoon he called in and decided to pull back into the clinic.  A different doctor on duty sent him to the Emergency Room for a sonogram.  I began looking up possible conditions online and there were many easily treatable conditions for his symptoms.  I was sure they would find something simple and even if it required a surgical procedure, he would soon be fine.  My husband had gone to meet him at ER and called me with the sonogram results.  We then first heard the “c” word… as a possibility.  He had an appointment with a urologist the next morning.

Cancer has hit older members in our family all too frequently.  We have lost friends as well, as I am sure most people have.  It’s a terrible epidemic in this country and my husband and I often have it in the back of our minds that it could happen to us too.  But when it comes to your children, your mind just doesn’t go there.  We sat in the urologist office waiting to see him with our minds racing.   One of the big question marks was our lack of health insurance and, “How are we going to get him the care he needs?”

The doctor came in and said that surgery was necessary no matter what the cause of the mass, and the sooner the better.  The tissue would be sent to the lab and we would not know anything until the results were back.  We told the doctor our insurance situation, and he immediately offered his services for free!  (Unspeakable gratitude!)   We only had to work out a deal with the surgical center and the anesthesiologist.  We got it all worked out for him to have the surgery the very next day!  A large tumor was removed, but we had to wait two weeks for lab results. (read.. “two weeks of sheer agony”)  The doctor was out of town the following week, and his Physician’s assistant we saw on the first follow up visit was not willing to be the one to tell us the news, but from his vague avoidance of my questions, I had a pretty good idea.  The blood work I now know showed high cancer markers, but his answer to us was the pathology on the tissue samples had not come in yet, so they were not “sure”.  To keep us busy in the mean time they sent us off to get his first CT scan.  Thankfully, we had the funds available for this as well.  (Self pay rates are a fraction of what they normally bill for these procedures.)

That week I decided I wasn’t waiting another week to “be sure” before starting the application process for a health network our county has for lower-income residents.  Jesse was considered his own household, so application and qualification were simple.  However I feared a long wait time for approval.  I feared everything at this point.  All we knew was it was “maybe” cancer.  I have always tried hard to avoid panic unless sufficient evidence warranted a valid freak-out meltdown.  But not knowing, and wondering how serious and how far it had gone for those weeks left too much to the imagination.  I found much comfort in knowing that God moved us here, where medical care was accessible to us.  The county we came from didn’t have programs like this.

Round 3.2 – God sends a Praying Man

I also wanted someone to pray for his healing.  Of course we prayed for him – but I prayed for God to show us who He wanted to have pray.  A few days later, coming out of  Home Depot, my husband ran into a Christian friend he had not seen in years.  I remembered my husband telling me about him many times – the discussions they’d had on the job sites about God.  This man had a rare, clear faith.  He went on to tell my husband this day how God had given him a heart to just pray for people, and how he was getting discouraged, asking God to open doors for him to do this more, because it seemed that nothing was happening.  Jeff told him what we were going through, and he prayed right there in the parking lot, God answering a prayer for my husband’s friend as well!  But I felt for all of us, it would be really great if he could come and pray for Jesse in person.  He agreed to come, and it was such an encouraging experience and the Holy Spirit covered us in His Presence in a real way.  We asked for total healing, as we had seen happen with our younger son.  My very first post on this blog five years ago was about an incredible answer to prayer we had for him.  But we expressed total faith in God regardless of the outcome.

I kept thinking at the next appointment they would tell us the scan results showed no cancer at all!  I really believed God could spare him this.  Many people believe healing is a guaranteed thing if you have enough faith.  I have learned to trust in a totally amazing God -not in outcomes.  With Him, there is no losing outcome – no matter what.  At this point in the experience I knew that and stayed fairly brave.  But I will also fully admit I would like to be gifted with more faith also!

Getting him qualified into the county health system to start receiving care, and to get that first appointment with an oncologist in a really over-burdened system, drove me to urgency once we had the diagnosis.  The CT scan showed that the cancer cells had spread beyond the tumor into lymph nodes and one lung.  I took the application papers directly in person to the cancer center, not the general eligibility office.  I walked straight into their office with no wait and had approval for him in half an hour.  Then I called repeatedly asking when his first appointment would be.  I am so thankful for their prompt responses because it wasn’t until very late in his treatment that we found out he was actually stage 3.  (They had told us Stage 2 and it wasn’t communicated to us when they changed the assessment.  We only found out when we discovered he had one more round of chemo than we had thought.)  Every moment mattered at that point – especially since the tumor he had seemed to have grown very rapidly.

Even though they assured us this form of cancer (testicular) was highly treatable with a 90% cure rate, there are always exceptions and risks.  The “what if” questions hounded me daily.  He had to undergo another surgery for the chemo port then treatment began.  I watched him suffer physically and emotionally.  But he stayed very strong spiritually and really glorified God through the experience.  I however still cannot bear to even go back and look at the pictures of those days.  My baby with a bald head and a swollen face from the steroids.  Even now I don’t know why I can’t just be thankful instead of feeling the pain of it.  Maybe someday.  I talked to a cancer survivor the other day who had been through years of treatment.  She told me her own experience was nothing compared to seeing her own son go through it (and is also okay now).  I guess it’s a mom thing.

Round 3.2

About half way through his treatment, influenza came to visit.  I got sick first, and wasn’t sure what I had – because it wasn’t severe, but I suspected it might be.  We immediately sent Jesse to stay with a relative because his immune system was so compromised.  The next day I ended up in ER, with what amounted to an anxiety attack brought on by the perfect storm of stress, lack of food, and a bad reaction to some medication I was taking for my symptoms.

While waiting to see an ER doctor we got a call that my youngest was also running a high fever.  Already wallowing in anxiety, and not really knowing what was wrong with me, I sent my husband to take our younger son to the doctor.  (Husband deserves a gold medal for endurance this week.)  The bizarre thing is that neither the hospital nor the family doctor ever diagnosed the influenza.  My husband and younger son got very ill with high fevers for several days.  My pregnant daughter miraculously never did – even though she had been helping.

We thought we were in the clear, about ready to allow Jesse to come back home – when he called and said he had a fever.  The phone lines to the cancer center were down and even our house was without power because of a spring storm.  My phone was about to die, and I had no way to charge it.  I told them to head for the hospital (he was staying about an hour from the hospital) and I would drive to the cancer center to see if I could find someone to talk to.  I found patients and employees waiting in the foyer, their building also without power.  The infusion nurses who knew us said, “Take him to ER stat.”  If cancer was scary.. having the flu with cancer scared me much worse.  We got him in and triage admitted him with no waiting into an isolation room.  He spent the next week there, and I did too.  For the first time we had a positive ID on the influenza virus (which I was already sure of) but thankfully with hospital care, and prayers, his case never became severe.

Round 3.3 and 3.4

A few weeks later, just as we thought things were about to calm down, Jesse rear-ended someone at an intersection and totaled my husband’s work truck.  We didn’t care about the truck, just SO thankful he was not hurt and back in the hospital again.  The same day we got a letter in the mail that a creditor was suing us.  We were not at all proud of that situation, but not in a position to remedy it either.  Ironically, the insurance money paid out from the accident covered the legal fees for that too!

God is good.. ALL the time.

Every time something turns out for the good, people say, “God is so good!”  But do I have the ability to say that if things don’t turn out the way I want them to?  Our friend who was staying with us lost her mom a few weeks ago.  When God answers our prayers as “no” or “not right now”.  We are not often inclined to praise Him.  But I KNOW He is – even if my own strength and faith fail.

In every step we could see God’s hand moving and providing.  But I can’t say I stayed on the upside of faith through all this.  I got to a place where I felt every thing I’d ever claimed about my faith was a farce.  Every thing I’d written, everything I said I believed…  of no consequence.  Not that God wasn’t real.  But that maybe I didn’t really know Him.. not really.  And maybe I was a little angry too.  I could not read the Word, or pray.  I could only breathe in and breathe out – and even that was a challenge at times.

But as I write this, every single situation had an amazing turn of events, or a protection in the storm.  It only came within a certain distance, but then only to yield something good!

Through all of this trauma, my daughter and I reconciled.  The attempt to “work  it out” with the father only lasted a few days.  She came home and was an incredible help to us.  She finished her Associates Degree in Graphic Design in spite of pregnancy and the chaos here, and on October 1st I had the privilege of attending the birth of her beautiful baby girl, who in God’s mercy, looks exactly like her mother and no one else.  🙂  (I pray for her daddy… I just don’t want him to hurt them physically or emotionally.)  But even this proved to be a bigger adventure than we expected when her midwife dropped her from her care a week before her due date.  We had to scramble for a provider and a hospital at the last minute.  That insane few days would take more pages, so I will spare you, but mom and baby are fine thank God!

Our roommate has moved on to her next adventure, but we still have 7 people in our house.  Thankfully, one uses diapers so that’s only 6 competing for bathroom time.  I am thankful for all these people in my house – and surviving this year together has definitely drawn us closer.  As of his last CT scan, Jesse’s cancer is still in remission and the doctor feels it safe to remove the port for chemotherapy.   Oh, and Jesse’s birthday was celebrated with great glee and thankfulness, and the voice of the enemy was shown to be a liar!

I also finally was able to have a surgery I had needed for three years and that is the exclamation point of praise on this year.  My condition was the initial motivation to move in the first place, seeking access to health care.  That huge mountain in my life became a mole hill rather quickly after the move.

Both my walk of grace and my faith had faltered through all this, which is why I could barely stand to face this blog at all.  I didn’t even feel I had a right to speak anymore – even if I’d had a word to say, which I mostly didn’t.  But when they say faith is a fact, not a feeling – I knew this was true.  I believed the fact with my whole heart even when I couldn’t feel a thing.  I knew He was there.  He showed us He was over and over.   We have so much that is new and better ahead.  I have no idea if 2013 will be easier, or harder.  We don’t have any guarantees about what tomorrow holds except that He will never leave us or forsake us, even to the end of the age.   May He richly bless this year in fruitfulness of love for Him.

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Today was one of the most stressful days I have had in awhile.  Recently I asked God for more… an ability to do more for Him, going beyond giving material goods and money, to letting Him give of Himself through me, which really means I have to get out of the way and let Him do His work.  For years now I’ve been involved in charitable pursuits, but seem to have gotten stuck at the level of handing people a toothbrush or a bar of soap and not touching soul to soul.  It has been a wonderful privilege to be involved in these things, but I know there is so much more.  I long to see what God can do, and to see people really reached by His love.

Without delay He has brought me to a place of great stress, having to choose between what I want and what He has placed before me, for the sake of someone else.  Just one small change in the turn of events today changed the entire script, and on the outside it may have looked noble, but on the inside I was so frustrated, and complaining loudly.  This breaking doesn’t come easily.

I recently read an article stating the problem with our culture is no one knows what sin is anymore, and that we must really bring this back into focus if anyone is going to realize their need for God.  To most people this means we must preach the Ten Commandments.  Ask people if they have ever told a lie.  Go through each one and make sure we convince people they have broken them all, and therefore need Jesus, the “Get out of hell free” card.  I won’t say that never works, but I believe the Old Covenant mirror of the Law is far inferior to the New Covenant version.  

Last night I watched a program about a Benedictine monastery  and five men from various walks of life who had decided to go spend some time there for various reasons.  One was an atheist, one a former convict, another a spiritual seeker who had also spent time at a Buddhist monastery.  Being a spiritual seeker myself, most of my life, this show fascinated me, seeing men from vastly different walks of life coming together in answer to a spiritual call in their hearts.  Maybe there would be better places to find the answers than with monks.  But then again, I heard a great deal of wisdom coming from them.  Spending hours a day listening to God in silence must result in learning a few things.

One caveat of wisdom I heard, which I had also come to realize some time ago, is that in order to grow spiritually, we absolutely must live in community with other people.  One man in this episode had a particular distaste for another member of the group.  The monk mentoring him suggested that he had the most to learn from this individual who he detested so badly.

For most of us, the “community” of refining begins in our own families.  Marriage is the one of the most challenging relationships, then parenting.. after the ordeal of growing up with imperfect parents of course.  Outside of family, my culture has precious little that qualifies as genuine community.  The Church has the opportunity to demonstrate to the world how this is done, and what it looks like. People are starving for this!  We need it because God wired us to be connected to each other, living stones in His temple.    

In all these relationships we find both joy and pain.  In all these, the opportunity to seek that which Jesus commanded, “Love one another as I have loved you.” When we pull down our defenses and are willing to see ourselves through the eyes of those closest to us, then we live in honesty, confession, forgiveness, restoration.  The true nature of New Covenant sin is to transgress love.  I Corinthians 13 should be the list of commands, if we thought we needed one to hang on the wall.  

But even community is not the perfect mirror. Once again – Jesus is.  Looking into Him, deeply into Him, we find the most humbling of pictures, the brightest revealing light into our own souls.  We see the cross he invites us to take up and crucify our own desires, ego, agenda, resentments and fear.  Let them die.  The Ten Commandments, or even 613, will never come close to bringing the conviction in our hearts that one look at Jesus will do.  Zacchaeus  knew the law from birth.  He had learned to live with the guilt it bound upon his life.  But as soon as He saw Jesus, and realized Jesus loved Him, he not only truly knew His sin, but was free from it.  He let it go, with great joy in response to the Creator of the world coming to eat at his table.  Beautifully, the root words in the name Zacchaeus mean pure, transparent, and clean.  And the town could not believe Jesus would eat with such a sinner!

Today, even as I prayed for God to deliver me from a task, he herded me right into it.  I had no way of escape.  As the day wore on – the demands increased, and so did my frustration. But He showed me repeatedly that love was a much higher priority than my plans.  Love revealed my own selfishness and impatience.  But love also made a way out to a place of peace.  This is a mirror that not only reflects, but transforms.  By beholding, we become changed, into His likeness. 



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