Monthly Archives: January 2011

on chasing fires…

“‘You know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” {John 14:4-6}

Before Christmas, we received a note from Jadon’s teacher regarding his “lack of focus” in the classroom. The teacher is well-informed regarding Jadon’s ADHD diagnosis (attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder) and his trend toward straying thoughts, but she felt that, perhaps, something extra was being added to the mix of his confusion.

Accordingly, she pulled Jadon aside and inquired of him as to the reason behind his straying during her lecture time. He assured her that nothing was wrong… that he simply had lost focus. Not quite satisfied with his answer, she wrote me a kind note, letting me know of the situation, and asking me if their might be something further “going on at home” that might be contributing to my son’s distraction.

Immediately my thoughts turned toward my cancer, quickly followed by thoughts of the upcoming Christmas celebration. Rather than linger in my suspicions, I talked with Jadon regarding his straying in the classroom. In serious tone and with little hesitation came his reply:

“Mom, it’s like this. When I’m listening to the teacher at school, it’s like I’m on my horse, traveling on a path through the woods when all of the sudden I see a fire off in the distance. I turn my horse in that direction, and I begin to chase after that fire. Before long, I don’t see the teacher anymore. Only the fire in front of me.”

My concerns abated, I smiled. I looked at my son and simply said:

“Tomorrow, son, no chasing fires. Stay on the path with your teacher, and all will be well. If a fire happens while on the path, you’ll just have to step around it, hop over it, or walk right through it. But son, stay on the path with your teacher.”

He chuckled; we hugged, and he left the house for the great outdoors… I suppose for an afternoon filled with chasing fires of all manners. And I couldn’t help but wonder about Jadon’s diagnosis and if ever there has ever been a more apt description for the problem of ADHD, the problem of straying thoughts. I bet the experts would like to get a hold of this one, maybe even use it as a way of describing to the world what it is like to live inside the skin of a person who struggles with this label. A person who is easily distracted and would rather chase fires through the tangled forest than to stay on the path already blazed within.

Chasing fires. When was the last time you stepped off the marked path with the Teacher in order to entertain the flames of a fire not meant for your daily deliberations? I imagine we all could recall occasions when we’ve been guilty of foraging for foreign flames rather than sticking to the sacred steps already blazed on our behalf. Times when the warmth and burnt orange of a distant flickering rerouted our thoughts and redirected our horses into dangerous territory—territory meant only for distraction and destruction, not for personal discovery.

Like my son, I’ve chased a few foreign fires over the course of my earthly tenure. It’s not served me very well. I’ve got a few burn scars to prove it. Even when the path before me has been an obvious leading from the Teacher, there have been those “out-of-the-corner-of-my-eye” occasions when the flames of another fire have captured my attention, and my learning disability kicks in. It’s called temptation. And whenever temptation is entertained, a straying is soon to follow. And whenever straying in the woods is chosen over staying on the path, the chasm between the two becomes a cluttered gap of trees and brambles and miscellaneous steps not easily retraced once the fire has diminished and lost its heat.

Fires like that… ones that burn to ashes… are never intended for our good. Instead, they temporarily flame for our distraction. For our straying. For our missing out on some steps with the Teacher—steps that can never be replaced, but steps that will have to be retraced in order for learning to occur. That being said, not all fire chasing is bad. Some fires are meant for our approach, our attention, and our purification. But those fires aren’t usually found off the beaten path. Instead, they usually present themselves along the way and as we go… in plain view and requiring our stepping around them, hopping over them, or walking right through them. On those occasions, we clearly see the Teacher through the flames, knowing that his holy veil has passed through them first, allowing us safe passage as well.

Oh for feet that are firmly entrenched upon the soil of our up head rather than our side to side. For eyes to clearly see the path, for wisdom to choose the path, and for a heart full of courage to stay on the path with the Teacher despite the fires burning all around us. It’s not easy to continue on course, friends. Not easy to stay fixed on our learning when multiple distractions line our daily lives with their interrupting flames. But stay we must if we want to pass the test and travel forward to the next assignment that our Teacher has for us—a task that will further our maturity and move us past our infancy.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste time in the woods with fires that are going to stunt my growth. Instead, I want to keep in step with my Teacher, believing that where he’s headed is where I need to be. He’s leading me on an odyssey of faith that will eventually land me safely home; I’d rather get there with fewer burns because of fewer fieldtrips to the forest. Thus, I say to myself this day the words I now speak to my son each morning before he leaves for school…

“Child, no chasing fires today. Stay on the path with your teacher, and all will be well. If a fire happens while on the path, you’ll just have to step around it, hop over it, or walk right through it. But child, stay on the path with your teacher.”

Perhaps, my friends, you need the reminder as well. Keep to the path of our Jesus; he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life… the only fire worthy of our chase this day. Keep your eyes fixed forward. As always…

Peace for the journey,

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on landing safely home…

This is an important post for me.
I want to go somewhere with my thoughts—a “place” I’ve been dwelling at in recent days. I don’t think I’m alone in my dwelling, for I believe that there are many of us who’ve pitched our tents a time or two or ten at this address, especially following a season of trauma. It doesn’t mean I want to live here forever, and I suppose there are a few of you who quietly wish that I’d just get on with it—”it” being the rest of my life. But I can’t; nor should I. Nor should any of you because in doing so—in prematurely getting on with it—we run the risk of short-changing the trajectory that will safely and most healthily land us at the threshold of our “next.”
Let me explain.
A couple of nights ago, my husband and I finished watching the HBO miniseries The Pacific. It was grizzly and gruesome and full of a grittiness that exacted a toll on my senses… my thoughts as well. Still and yet, the story was compelling enough to keep me engaged (and fast-forwarding on several occasions). In addition, I wanted to spend some couch time with my husband. He’s a history buff who holds a special interest in wartime eras. Accordingly, he was all about his Christmas gift (thanks boys for thinking of it), and because I’m all about him we spent several evenings bonding together with the men of the 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal, Peleliu, and Iwo Jima.
There’s so much I could tell you about the movie, so many moments when I felt as if I were there, tasting the torment and feeling the pulse of the Marines who bravely manned their stations and, even more so, bravely pushed forward when the orders were given. You’d expect that… that I would write about their bravery and about their pushing through, but those are neither the scenes nor the sentiment that captured me most fully. Certainly they are noteworthy. Those kinds of victories are the makings of good headlines, best-selling books, ticker-tape parades, and made-for-television movies. Without the bravery of countless armed forces, which undoubtedly served as a pre-cursor to certain triumph, we’d have far less of these moments to chronicle with our token remembrance. Victories are important, but not all of them are won on the battlefield. Some of them are won in lesser places—the silent fields that surround a heart and life once the swords have found their scabbards and the guns their holstered display.
Some victories arrive after the obvious. Some emerge on the heels of a battle quietly fought on the front lines of a return home—a safe landing at a crossroads in a cornfield where the only ammunition in sight is the manure-laden fields begging a healthy harvest in due season. That is the sentiment from The Pacific that captured my heart on the final evening of our watching… the “coming home” sentiment and all that must have meant for the Marines who made it home and who were willing to do the hard thing of living… beyond the Pacific.
Scene after scene, I witnessed the “dropping off” of these men and women, back into the normalcy of what used to be. Some returning to fanfare. Some returning to anonymity. All returning with renewed perspective about their lives and the questions that came alongside to challenge their former safe parameters and sterile thinking. All of them wanting life as usual. Most of them realizing that life as usual could never be again. Instead, life as usual was infiltrated by scalded memories and harsh woundings that refused amputation from their thinking. Thus, a new battle for home turf began within the Marine’s soul with little or no support from a country that proudly displayed its flag, bought its war bonds, and wrote its memoirs.
We left them alone to fight those unseen battles, to deal with their silent pains, while bravely and arrogantly shouting our get on with it. Suck it up. Deal with it. Man up. That’s life. Move on or get left behind.
Easy words to speak; harder words to receive. All quick fixes to the problem of pain. A boorish and rude interruption into the process of healing. Still and yet, words that were often spoken when silence gripped a conversation… when answers weren’t so obvious and when the one offering up solutions wasn’t comfortable with suffering’s significance. Instead of lending grace and time and community to a returning Marine, many were quick to wrap up their comforting with cards and calls and casseroles and deem it enough for the healing.
It wasn’t enough back then; it isn’t enough right now.
And lest you think I’m talking solely about the honorable men and women that serve in our Armed Forces, you’ve missed the bigger picture. For all of us, every last one of us, have stood on the battlefield at one time or another in our lives. We’ve all fought hard for victories that bloodied and bruised us along the way. We all boast the wounding and scars of the sacred ground we’ve fought to preserve… the hallowed hill we’ve climbed to take. And when the battle is through, when the victory seemingly won, we, like the Marines of The Pacific get dropped on in our cornfields… left at our train stations and commissioned with the responsibility of getting on with it.
And somewhere in between the dropping off and getting on with it, there resides a gap. A huge gap. Rows and rows of planted seed that requires time and tending before moving forward with harvest. To quickly step over it is to short change the trajectory that will safely and most healthily land us at the threshold of our “next.”  I clearly saw that in the hearts and minds of those returning soldiers in The Pacific. I clearly see this in the heart and mind of me. Even in some of you.

And so, today, I speak to it, and I tell you that I’m not willing to short change my trajectory into my “next.” Today, having just jumped off the train, I willingly stand on the edge of my cornfield and wait. I see the tender shoots before me and will pause long enough to watch them grow in season, not according to my almanac. I will not let others rush me to the other side. They mean well with their cards and calls and casseroles, and the best part of these offerings is nourishment for my walk-thru. I am grateful for them, but they are not enough to heal me. A suffering season that has required a pound or two of flesh as well as a pound or two of struggling faith requires more than human memorial.
It requires eternal mending—sacred renovation and restoration from the only One who knows what it means to suffer perfectly through to victory. God is the trajectory that will safely land me at the threshold of my “next.” Accordingly, he meets me in train station, and he tells me not to rush the journey home. He says that he has time enough to linger with me in my thinking—my talking and my pain. He reminds me that I am the reason for the battle he waged—for the sacred ground he fought to preserve, the hallowed hill he climbed to take. And that according to him, all that is required with my getting on with it is a willingness to place my wearied hand in his nail-scarred one and to rest my wounded flesh next to his. Together, we will unhurriedly watch the harvest come in.
Victories are important, friends, but not all of them are won on the battlefield. Some of them are won next to Jesus, in the silent fields that surround a heart and life upon the return home. This is where I’m standing today. Others may see the battle as over, but I see it is ongoing. Not because I have some martyring need to linger in the pain, but rather because I know that band-aids are poor company when wounds fester with lingering infection. Thus, I give myself permission to tenderly and carefully walk through the mine-field in front of me. I give you permission as well.
Don’t rush you’re getting on with it. Simply live the grace that is given you today, and drink in the view from our Father’s side. He is the trajectory who will safely and wholly… holy lead you home. As always…
Peace for the journey,
PS: I just asked Amelia to pick a number between 1 and 34. She picked 20. So, Cheryl is the winner of Mariel’s new study, Knowing God Through His Names. I’ll have this in the mail to you tomorrow!

a flower for you…

Photo courtesy of Shirley Jones

I’m a woman in need of connection… a person who needs people. It matters not the number of people. What matters is presence… what my friend, Alicia Chole, would say “the present of presence.” We give big when we give ourselves to someone else, for the giving of self doesn’t come without price. It sometimes costs us a great deal. Mostly it’s a “good great” or we wouldn’t abide the connection. With the giving of self, we get something in return.

We live relationship.

I love relationships. I have many of them. Some deep; some less entrenched, but all of them meaningful to me for multiple reasons. Some of the sweetest ones I’ve known in recent days have been the relationships I share with you, my readers. It seems odd to outsiders that we share deep connections, but if they (the outsiders) were really in then they’d “get it.” It doesn’t much matter to me if they “get us;” what matters to me is that I “get you.” You are kind, generous, considerate, and real. Many of us have shared a friendship for nearly three years; some of you are newer to my world. Regardless of our tenure together, I shudder to think of how I would be faring right now without your constant love and support for me in this season. I know we can’t be all things to all people, especially people we’ve never met face-to-face, but your friendship has proved genuine to me time and again, and it has been, yet, another undeserved grace from our Father.

Along these lines, blogging allows us many beautiful ways to stay connected with one another. Got an interest? Chances are someone is blogging about it… cooking, decorating, photography, book reviews, Bible studies, educational links, health links, and the like. Blogging provides a menu for even the pickiest and hungriest of readers. Oh, that I could take it all in! Being a relational creature makes it all the more difficult for me to choose where to spend some of my time.

But I have… chosen a few interests for this season. One is participating in Leah’s on-line Bible study From the Trash Pile to the Treasure Chest. Another is readying my heart for Mariel’s new Bible study Knowing God Through His Names. Still another is signing up for Melanie’s 21 Meditations and Motivations to Get You Moving.

See what I mean? I’m a joiner; not because I need another thing to do, but rather because with the joining I know that…

1. The doing will be good for me.

2. I get to do the doing with some wonderful people.

Heart health all around, thereby living out (at least in part) my responsibility as it pertains to my being the living temple of the living God.

As I’ve said before in recent posts, these past months have been some of the loneliest of my life. Being sick and getting well sometimes live in isolation from other people. I get that reality, and most days, I’m fine with that, because when I’m feeling less than I don’t need a party to validate that feeling. Less is an event all its own with little need of further festivities… just ask the suffering soul. Still and yet, even the suffering soul needs connection. Needs a place to belong. To fit. To call home. To be safely loved and, in return, to love back.

And while I’m sorely lacking this kind of “fit” in my face-to-face connections with others in my physical community, I find that fit with some of you—the present of your presence in my life. And I want you to know how beautiful a gift you are to me. I thank God upon my every remembrance of you, because you are the sustaining witness of heaven in my life. You may not think your words worthy of consideration… may not think your prayers as getting any further than the ceiling above you, but I’m living proof that every word you’ve spoken on my behalf, every prayer you’ve uttered has been an integral part of my pressing through these last five months.

The connection we share here matters, not just to me, but to our Father. We live sacred relationship in this place; it is but a dress rehearsal for what is to come. I feel so honored to share the road with you. You are some of God’s best children, and I simply wanted to say so. What we do here is real to me; not just fluff and filler but the getting-down-to-what-really-matters kind of stuff. Heaven knows what will be counted in our favor because of the intentional investment we’ve made along these lines.

Keep investing in one another, friends; keep sowing relational seed, and see if our Father isn’t faithful to grow a beautiful offering of friendship. I hold some of those blooms in my heart this day: they fill my senses with the fragrance of God’s good grace and willing love for me. What a beautiful place to call home. As always…

Peace for the journey,


PS: For a chance to win a copy of Mariel’s new study, Knowing God Through His Names, leave a comment with this post. I can’t wait to dive into the treasure of her words regarding the Word!

Chemo #8 {crossing over}

Chemo #8 {crossing over}

Few words today… plenty on the video. This is my crossing over day, and while I’ll spend the next few weeks with the same side effects and many more months being restored to full health, I feel closer now than I have in the previous five months. To God be the glory… great things he hath done!
{heading out the door to the cancer center}
{greeted by volunteers}
{Coleen, nurse practitioner, not even a hundred pounds… made her sit on my lap}
{Mrs. Ann/ Jadon’s tutor saves the day and babysits, bringing the kids by with my surprise}
{my surprise}
{precious Vic}
{a woman I will love for life, Sarah, who soon will make her way home to Montana with her husband who has just returned home from his second tour to Afghanistan. They both have served our country well. Now I have a good reason to visit my Montana dream!}
{saying good-bye}
{saying good-bye some more}
{and more to the blood collectors}
{and more… I love this place; I will miss it!}
{and more to the gals at the registration desk}
{and finally out the door, crossing over to home!}
Friends, I can’t even begin to process all that I am feeling in this moment, but time will reveal my heart in the matter. I have spent some of the best weeks of my life at the Cape Fear Valley Cancer Center. The folks there (patients, nurses, drs., and volunteers) have significantly changed my life, and I am forever in their debt. I’d like nothing more than to serve them with my heart for my remaining days in Fayetteville. Thus far, they have been the best, most gracious reward of my cancer journey. I love you each one. {For the record, they scored two honey bun cakes, Sassy Granny cookies, Krispy Kreme donuts, Preacher Billy’s applesauce cake, candy Christmas chex mix, Starbucks, banana nut muffins… never hurts to win their favor with some food!}
Now, in regards to the video, I know it is lengthy. I thought of breaking it up into smaller segments, but honestly, it takes so long to do that. I changed my mind. If you want to skip over the preliminaries and get to my main thoughts, you can fast forward about 5.20 minutes. I will be collecting all the videos into one to serve as a “stone of remembrance” for my family for the years to come. Thanks, again, for all your prayers. More to come after a few days of much needed rest and healing. I still have to weather the effects of this round of chemo.


PS: On my way out of the cancer center, I saw a precious young 20 something gal sitting outside the bloodwork bay. She had tears in her eyes and was getting her instructions to start her chemo. I briefly stopped, offered her my “you can do this thing, by God’s grace you can do this thing; I just did this thing, and before you know you’ll be a pro at this.” I wish I had more time to spend with her, but I promised her my prayers. Her name is Serena. Just another tender soul now a part of club she never wanted to claim as her own. I know she’d appreciate your prayers as well. Thanks.

a bloodied, beautiful faith

a bloodied, beautiful faith

And to think, I almost didn’t publish the previous post. Why? Well, I was a bit weepy and pitiful while writing it, and I learned a long time ago that strong emotion isn’t always the best leader when it comes to reasoned thinking. In this case, I think, perhaps, strong emotion served my words well… dutifully came alongside to punctuate a reality with which most of us can resonate—

That growing, forward-moving faith is often accompanied by our struggles, our questions, and our confusion.

Some of you may not agree; some of you hold to the idea that strong faith never wrestles with fears and doubts. That faith leaves little wiggle room for any amount of compromise. That faith has no room for imperfection or disorder. If that’s you, then I’m mostly OK with your take on faith; that is, as long as you don’t force that kind of understanding on me. Why?

Because I have walked a different road than you. My faith is what it is, as strong as it is, because of years of rough terrain and dark nights of the soul when a battle for understanding was the only way for me to push through in order to take hold of higher understanding. Faith, for me, isn’t a neatly wrapped package that can be quickly assimilated into my way of doing life. Faith, for me, is a messy, beautiful gift from God, wrapped in the witness of a bloody, beautiful cross. The “wrestling” that took place at Calvary is proof-positive that pain is often attached to faith’s cultivation.

This doesn’t mean that we ask for pain, desire the worst of life’s struggles so that we might further deepen our faith. It simply means that we can embrace them as they come, because we know that with our testing comes the very real possibility that we will emerge from that season with fuller understanding, stronger convictions, and deeper belief. The fierce determination of our hearts to hear from God on the matter of our pain is a holy and righteous pressing through. And friends, whenever we hear from God on the matter of our anything, we are never closer to his heart than in those moments.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12).

Paul correctly identifies the struggle of our faith. It’s a fight—the Greek word Agonizomai meaning “to enter a contest; contend in gymnastic games; to contend with adversaries; fight; struggle with difficulties and dangers; to endeavor with strenuous zeal; strive; to obtain something.” 

This is the language of a willing agony… a desire to contend for something worth contending for… faith in God. A bowing to the struggle believing that a stronger faith will emerge because of it. A faith that all can be well with our souls in this moment and in the days to come. A faith that understands our beginnings originate and our endings culminate with Jesus—the Author and Perfector of all faith journeys (Hebrews 12:2). A faith that believes the struggles we’re currently working through are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Cor. 4:17).   

Faith is a life-long process, friends. If we were going to receive the fullness of our faith in the beginning days of our salvation, then there would be little room for further spiritual maturation. We’d simply hold it all and, more than likely be a know-it-all. And knowing it all isn’t in keeping with the tenets of Scripture. There is One and only One who exists on our side of eternity who knows it all, and I’m not him. Neither are you. Therefore, we concede our ignorance to God and say to him with all the passion and fervency of Mark 9:24:

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

That is the prayer of my heart in this season of struggle. That my faith, already well-anchored within the soil of my heart, would continue to grow and flourish in order to root out the weeds of faithlessness that still reside alongside. It’s the most honest petition of my heart right now, because I don’t want to get to the other side of this cancer journey with a fragmented faith. I want to get there with the bloodied, beautiful wounds of grace that have allowed me heaven’s understanding in regards to my suffering.

I willingly take this wounding because I believe in its merits. As I’ve written before and believe more firmly now than in my before, “cancer will not be my undoing; rather cancer will be the threshold of my emerging.” That threshold begins and ends at the feet of Jesus, and my emerging? Well, as it comes, I move from dimming darkness into the marvelous witness of his glorious light, bursting forth with the firmest faith allowed a fleshly frame.

Accordingly, here’s to the fight of faith, good pilgrims, and here’s to bowing and bleeding and willingly agonizing it through until it finishes me home, and I stand before my Jesus complete. And here’s to you, faith-filled or faith-lacking ones; may the truth of our Father’s witness—his love for you and his contending for you—be the underpinning of your quest for more faith today. Be not weary in your suffering, your struggles and your strains. Our Father understands, and at his feet, grace remains.

Always… grace remains.

Peace for the journey,

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PS: My final chemo is postponed until Wednesday of this week due to weather conditions. I appreciate your continuing prayers as I finish this portion of my journey and move onto the healing days ahead. Look for a video post to benchmark the “crossing over.” Shalom.

PS: My final chemo is postponed until Wednesday of this week due to weather conditions. I appreciate your continuing prayers as I finish this portion of my journey and move onto the healing days ahead. Look for a video post to benchmark the “crossing over.” Shalom.
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