The Sacrament of the Moment

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Human beings have a very bad habit of not really paying attention to what is going on around us at any given moment. We tend to get caught up in focusing on one of two things—the future, or the past. All too often our thought processes are an endless, (and futile), cycle of “I’ll be happy when . . . .” or “I was happy when . . . .”. The result? We are rarely happy right now.

It is a habit we can break, however. We can teach ourselves to adjust our thinking, to adopt an attitude of watchfulness or mindfulness, to learn to pay attention to what is happening to us in the moment, and to be content with it. In doing so, we learn a different way of dealing with stress—God’s way.

When Moses was being sent back to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of captivity, he asked God who he should say had sent him. God did not tell him to say that “I WAS” sent him, or that “I WILL BE” ordered him forward. Rather, He told him to say that “I AM is who has me to you”. The past is done. The future is a mystery. The present—this very present moment—is where God dwells, and where He wants us to focus our thoughts.

When we do just that, we can receive the joy that the present has for us. We can learn to enjoy it, to be content in it, and to trust God in it. We can learn to listen to God, and to receive from Him. We can be blessed.

You may have heard of the Serenity Prayer. Simply put, it is a prayer to have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. It is a worthwhile prayer, especially if we couple it with gratitude and thankfulness. If we start each day by thinking of our blessings and focusing on at least three things we are thankful for, we can face the day more easily with courage and joy.

Creating a habit of thankfulness, of gratitude, and of mindfulness, can allow us to be joyful even in the midst of trials. Even when we suffer, we can still create a habit of laughter and happiness, and not a habit of worry. We can chose to think of others, to bless others, to finish well.

We can be surprised by joy.

 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:1-5

(Much of the above has been blatantly plagiarised from Pastor Owen Scott when he taught at Kedleston Gospel Camp.)

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Old Friends

Friends hands

 

There are lots of different kind of friends. Childhood friends. Family friends. Casual friends. They’re all important. But maybe the two best kinds are old friends and new friends. New friends are the unknown. They hold the possibility of adventure, and excitement, and mystery. But also the risk of disappointment and failure.

Old friends are comfortable. You know what to expect, how they will respond. The need to perform, to preen and strut, to impress is not there. They already know what an idiot you can be, but they’re still your friend. Even with all your failings, quirks, and mistakes, they still accept you.

In the past couple months, I have been able to reconnect with some old friends. Some, I literally had not seen or spoken to in years. Reconnecting with them was not completely easy. It took time, effort and commitment, but, man, was it ever worth it.

It was just like we had seen each other a week ago, not a decade or two. We were able to share and even pray together. It was a great encouragement to me and I hope it was too my friends. I hope and plan to be a lot better at keeping up with them in the future.

I have another friend. He’s always around when I need him, but he never pushes himself on me. He knows and wants what is best for me, and he encourages me to strive to be a better person. Sometimes, he corrects me, admonishes even, but, he is never condemning. I know that he loves me enough to die for me. He already did.

Maybe you know him, too?

Proverbs 18:24b – But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Luke 5:20 – When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

 

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The Loneliest Journey – Part 8

Long Hallway

Oops.

Not sure why, but everyone seems quicker to share bad news than good news. I guess that I am included considering how long it has been since I last posted anything. I’ll try to fix that.

Everything has been going very well. It has been over a year now that I was diagnosed with a Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and I feel fine. My CT scan is clear and I am symptom free. It is still a waiting game but each day that passes improves my prognosis. God has truly blessed me.

I appreciate, desire, and need your ongoing prayer and support through the rest of this journey. Thank you for making it not so lonely after all.

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The Loneliest Journey – Part 7

Long Hallway

 

Good news.

When you have cancer, good news is great news. I finished my chemotherapy in November and then had a full body CT scan in early January. The results were excellent with no sign of any active disease. That is good news.

Of course, my journey is not over yet. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and especially the type I have, is not considered curable. However, it can behave more like a chronic disease, like diabetes or emphysema, and be controlled. My response to the initial treatment has been very good and this significantly improves my prognosis. I need to continue to trust in God and in the power of prayer, and continue to do all the things I need to do to stay healthy.

The results of my CT scan were good news. But it’s not the best news I’ve ever had. Lisa saying yes. Each of our four children being born. Being accepted into medicine. These were all huge, but they weren’t the best news either.

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19

Best news.

 

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The Loneliest Journey -Part 6

Long Hallway

It’s not very truthful.

In fact it’s not truthful at all.

I call it “The Loneliest Journey” but it’s not. This journey that I am on with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma may at times seem lonely but in actual fact, I am never alone. The people around me are great but they can’t be there all the time. My kids and extended family are praying me and supporting me but try as they might they cannot real understand fully what I am going through. My wife, Lisa, is simply amazing. She is doing everything possible to help me through it all but even she cannot always be with me.

But someone else is.

This time of the year reminds us of that fact. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14. Immanuel is translated “God with us.” Not over us. Not ignoring us. Not watching us from a distance. With us.

Pastor Dave Wicks recently spoke on this. Then he brought up that most difficult of questions people often ask. If God is with us, how can He allow all these bad things to happen? Pastor Dave replied with some rhetorical questions. Did He allow us, (you and me) to sin today? Did He allow us to have a bad attitude, to think bad thoughts, to do wrong things? Free will is a wonderful and terrible gift and it has wonderful and terrible consequences.

Not the least of these consequences is that death and disease entered into the world. The world as God created it was changed by the sin that followed humankind’s free will. Nature was disrupted and corrupted, becoming dangerous and deadly. All of us were affected. Hebrews 9:27 confirms that “man is destined to die”. It will come to all of unless God returns.

But that is not the end of the story, nor the end of God’s interaction with us He did not create us, give us free will, and then depart. He remains here. He remains with us!

This was the other thing Pastor Dave emphasized. God is not just with you. He is not just with me. He is with US. This is vitally important. It means that to truly and fully experience God’s power and His presence, we need to be in community. We can and do feel Him with us no matter what the situation or circumstance, but we miss the full nuance and scope of His glory when we fail to seek Him in fellowship with others. It is worth the effort.

He is with us. “The Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6 And if we fully grasp how much He is truly with us all, together in community, we will remember that others walk with us on this journey.

It may seem lonely.

But we are never alone.

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The Loneliest Journey – Part 5

Long Hallway

Mother Theresa is attributed as saying, “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.”

I am far from anything close to Mother Theresa but I sometimes feel like saying “Enough already! I get the point.” Getting Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was a shock. But I truly felt, and still do, that God was in control and that His plans for me were good. Sometimes it’s been a struggle however.

Back in 2000 I suffered a detached retina in my left eye. I had a dozen or so surgeries but developed a condition called proliferative vitreoretinopathy which kept pulling the retina back off and eventually damaged the macula. As a result, I am now blind in my left eye. About a month and a half ago, I started to notice a shadow in the upper inner corner of my right, (and last, good) eye. It worsened over a couple days and we quickly got in to have it checked. The retina in my right eye had started to lift away and separate from the underlying layers. There was no definite tear yet but there would be if something was not done.

I had to have emergency surgery. Three tiny holes were found in the retina. These were lasered shut and the retina was “welded” back into place. The fluid normally in the eye was removed and replaced with a gas. This gas would rise and hold the retina in place while it healed. Of course, that necessitates holding the eye in a certain position to keep the gas bubble and the retina in the proper position. In my case that meant lying on my left side 98% of the time. For just over seven days.

Now Ezekiel was commanded to lay on his left side for three hundred and ninety days, so I guess that I shouldn’t complain. But it still was not easy. For most of the time I had virtually no vision. No reading. No writing. I couldn’t even watch TV. Fortunately I was able to find some audio-books and that really helped get me through. Slowly, over the week, the gas bubble reabsorbed and my vision returned.

Just as I was recovering from the detached retina, our youngest son became ill. He had severe headaches, nausea, and vomiting. At first we thought it was due to a concussion he had suffered two weeks earlier but he kept getting worse and then broke out in a viral rash. By this time he was getting dehydrated and had to be hospitalized. Despite IV fluids and medication he was not improving and it was decided to consult a neurologist in Regina. And that was when God once more intervened.

There had been a lot of prayer swirling around us. For a long time, I’ve had occasional leg cramps at night and these had gotten much worse since I had been on chemo. During the week I spent lying on my left side day and night, I had not had a single leg cramp.  My eye healed completely from surgery and my vision returned to 20/20.

The night before Jason’s appointment with the specialist, his family physician, Dr. Brown, awoke in the middle of the night with a strong urge to pray for Jason. He sat up and prayed.

The next day Jason was feeling much improved. He saw the neurologist who did a lumbar puncture and diagnosed viral meningitis. He was confused however by Jason’s physical state. He told us that based on the lumbar puncture, our son should still have been severely ill. The specialist had no explanation for this, but we knew the answer.

God is great.

God is glorious.

God is good.

God is gracious.

I know this. I hope you do too.

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The Loneliest Journey – Part 4

Long Hallway

 

I could tell right away that something was wrong.

I enjoy animation and I am especially a fan of Claymation. My favorite is the British series, “Wallace and Gromit”. Wallace is an eccentric inventor with an excessive love for cheese and Gromit is his silent, but much more intelligent, side kick and pet dog. One of the first episodes I ever saw involved a master jewel thief, (who happened to be a penguin), depositing Wallace in a pair of remote controlled mechanical pants and using him to carry out his thefts. Thus the name of the episode, The Wrong Trousers.

Wallace and Gromit

I recently experienced something a bit similar. We were going up to Saskatoon for a family event and I quickly packed, grabbing a pair of dress slacks from my closet. Everything seemed fine until the morning of the event. I started to get dressed and begin to pull on the pants when I immediately realized things weren’t quite right. The slacks were a couple inches too tight and a good four to six inches too short. They were the wrong trousers.

Fortunately I had another pair. Later we realized that somehow an old pair of my son’s slacks had gotten hung in my closet. He had actually outgrown them a few years before and they somehow disappeared into the back of his wardrobe until they reappeared in a pile of his dirty laundry. When they were clean the pants moved on to hang with the rest of my clothes until I packed them by mistake.

Maybe I didn’t just get the wrong trousers. Maybe I got the wrong body. Maybe when God was forming me in my mother’s womb He grabbed the wrong body off the rack. Maybe the whole thing was a mistake. The appendicitis, the hernia, the detached retina, the cancer. Maybe none of them were meant for me. It was all just some terrible cosmic error.

But God doesn’t make mistakes. He knew me before I was born, before I was even conceived. He knew all the days of my life and His plans for me were, and still are, for good. So why the disease? Why non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma? Was that His plan? How could that be “good”? I have realized that God is all good, all powerful, all sovereign, and all loving. He created us to have relationship with Him and that could only happen if He gave us the gift of free will. That allows us to freely and completely love and worship Him but also to reject Him and His ways.

That’s what happened. Humankind made a choice and moved away from God’s love and grace. The relationship was broken and sin, disease and death came into the world. All of us continue to bear the consequences. We are all going to die. We are all going to face illness and pain. We are all going to sin. None of this is God’s will. He made us for something better, but our choice, our sin, has lead us to where we are.

But it doesn’t end there. The good news is that God has made a way for His relationship with us to be restored, a way for us to be healed, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. It is a gift He offers to us today and for all time. Have you accepted it?

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelations 21: 3-4

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

This truth can become real for you today. You just need to decide.

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