How has God kept pace with your pain in recent days?
How has God kept pace with your pain in recent days?
I felt the earth move beneath my feet last Tuesday. Literally. Despite the fact that I was 250 miles removed from the epicenter of last week’s earthquake in Mineral, VA, I still felt its tremor. Its duration indicated to me that it was something more than just my imagination. My first thought was to attribute the shaking to Ft. Bragg. Their routine operations are sometimes accompanied by large booms that usually rattle the walls of my home. My second thought was one very loosely tied to the “rapture,” but after a minute’s worth of shaking and no trumpet sound, I moved forward with my third thought—call Billy.
“Billy, did you feel that?”
“That shaking. Honey, I think we’ve had an earthquake.”
“Do you want me to come home?”
“No. I’ve survived worse. Forget I called.”
Figures. Billy and I are rarely on the same page when it comes to noticing things. Accordingly, I called my son who attends the university just miles from our home. I received a similar response from him, although he made no offers to come home and check on me. Then I called my mom. Same story. Thinking, perhaps, that I did imagine it, I went to the one place where all good researchers go when looking for reliable information.
I logged onto Facebook.
Well, it was a start; a fairly good one this time around. At least my friend Shirley directed me to turn on the news where, in fact, I did learn that an earthquake with a 5.8 magnitude had occurred. Not in Fayetteville, but rather 250 miles to the north in Virginia.
Wow. Some earthquake, some shaking, some kind of deep quaking beneath the surface of the earth that it would reach this far. What kind of tremor does that? I know. Those of you on the West Coast are laughing at us; go ahead. Call me when a hurricane threatens your seaboard. I’ve got it all over you on that one. I suppose we’ve all got some shaking, some wind, some storm threatening its witness in our lives, do we not? Better not to compare; better to live prepared!
Which brings me back around to a thought about the earthquake of last week. A good thought. I have my Ohio friend, Juanita, to thank for it. She didn’t know she was supplying it to me; her experience (some 450 miles northwest of the epicenter) spurred me along in my thinking. After talking with my husband, son, and mother and receiving no back-up support regarding the tremor I’d just experienced, I called Juanita to report the news.
“Guess what, friend? I’ve just survived my first earthquake!”
“Really? Me, too!”
“Yes, I felt it here as well.”
“Where were you when it happened?”
“I was sitting out on my back porch, being still and enjoying the summer afternoon, when I felt the cement slab beneath my feet begin to shake.”
Instantly, I knew. I got it. I understood the reason why she and I felt the tremor and others did not.
We were both being still in the moments preceding its arrival. She on her porch; me on my couch. Think about that for a moment, and let it sink deeply into your heart. You could probably preach the sermon from this point forward, but in case you’re getting a slow start to your thought processes this week, I’ll offer you mine.
What lies beneath—the quaking, trembling, soul-stirring shakings of our hearts—often go unnoticed when we are consumed by the quaking, trembling, earth-stirring shakings of our world. When the noise in our external becomes too loud, too busy, too full of the clanging, clamoring cymbals of temporal value, we are prone to missing the whispers of the eternal. Whispers that, when heard, have the capacity to shake us, wake us, and move us to a place of unparalleled intimacy with God. If we never take the time to be still before the Lord, we run the risk of excluding his voice from our everyday doings.
Rarely will God interrupt our busyness with his insistence. Not that he isn’t speaking, isn’t always presenting himself to us throughout our days so that he might better be known by his children. But rather, God sometimes best reveals himself to our hearts in quiet places of contemplation—moments when we slow down, sit down, and allow our minds room enough and time enough to pause and consider life beyond the externals … the “what and who” that lie beneath our surface.
If we could get this, Christian, if we could see the value of our “beneath,” then Facebook wouldn’t be able to contain the amount of first-hand reports of the soul-quakes happening across our nation. Facebook (as my boys like to say) would blow-up with the witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. So would the news channels. So would the phone lines. If all of us would be willing to take the time to tend to our quietness instead of lending all our time to the noisiness in our lives, then the soul-shaping, heart-stirring work of the Lord would go forth in manifold measure.
God’s shaking, God’s quaking, and God’s tremors not only would be felt in Mineral, VA, in Navarre, OH, and in Fayetteville, NC, but also in and around the place that you call home. The magnitude would far exceed a 5.8 on the Richter scale, because God’s magnitude quakes eternally. There’s no measuring his impact. There are no borders to contain his witness. He’s just that big and beyond and so much more than we’re willing to cede to him on any given day.
And this, my friends, is a great tragedy. To live with less of Jesus is to never really live at all. To stay stuck at Ground Zero without ever considering the “what and who” of our beneath, is to live temporarily, without focus and without an anchor. What is seen above is limited to fixed parameters. What is seen below? Well, his depth is limitless, tethered to the eternal—the Epicenter of all humanity. Tap into that kind of understanding and the earth breaks open with the truth of the kingdom!
Would you take some time to get quiet before the Lord this week so that you might feel the tremors of home? It’s time to give God room enough and time enough in your day to shake you so that you might awaken to the reality of your “beneath,” and so that when friends call you and ask, “Did you feel that?” you can respond with your “Yes, I felt it as well.”
What truth and understanding are ours as children of the Most High God! Be still, and know that he is God. As always,
Peace for the journey,
I thought, perhaps, that it might just slip by. But it didn’t. It hasn’t. It’s here.
Today. A mile-marker in my fight against cancer. An anniversary. One year of survivorship. One year of wearing the pink ribbon. One year beyond hearing those first words of initiation from my doctor…
Mrs. Olsen, the tumor is cancerous … Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
Her words are as vivid to me today as they were 365 days ago. Not as shocking as they were back then, but just as real. I don’t suppose I’ll ever forget that moment. I don’t suppose I’m meant to forget. Some moments in our journeys are intended for remembrance. Not to serve as an idol but rather as a memorial. A stone or two gathered in our pockets that, from time to time, can be touched, felt, held, and raised in honor to the one God who’s been faithful to walk the road with us.
Thus far, the Lord has helped us. Thus far, the Lord has helped me.
As I’ve thought about Samuel and his “Ebenezer”—his stone marking the place of God’s deliverance—I’ve looked around my house for what might serve as mine. What stone, what tangible “holding” can serve to bookmark this milestone in my survivorship? Seems like there should be something, some way of honoring this occasion with the respect that it deserves. Some sort of celebration to acknowledge the accomplishment.
Alas, no parties. No balloons. No etchings in marble. No altar of stone.
Just life. A new day to live with the rich perspective afforded to me because of a year’s worth of struggle. A few words of remembrance from my pen. A few words of prayerful pause from my heart given to God in thanks for the deliverance I have known. A few moments of looking back at the journey and believing God for the next 365 days that will follow this one.
When I began my cancer survivorship on August 23, 2010, I did so with one overriding prayer in my heart. Knowing what was coming, knowing something about the requirements of my disease, I asked the Lord for his enabling strength to keep me writing from time to time. I knew there would come a “look back” day—a season when I would want to reflect upon the fullness of my walk through cancer. Today, a year down the road with nearly 100 posts written since that time, I’m able to look back and to trace the love and faithfulness of God that has been present in my pain. And therein, I find my “Ebenezer.”
Today I raise this collection of remembrances to God and call them grace. Call them mercy. Call them deliverance. Call them enough. The beauty in my “Ebenezer” is that it is a stone you can gather around as well. Because of God’s empowering Spirit within me, I’ve been able to chronicle some of my journey. Lovingly, you’ve come alongside me and shared in my struggle. Together, today, we can gather around this collection of words … stand around my story, and raise our voices to the Father in thanksgiving for what he has done in the last 365 days.
Thus far, the Lord has helped me. Continuing forward, he will do the same. I am a child of promise. A child of the kingdom. A child who knows who her Father is and a child who trusts him to walk her safely home.
I pray you know the same. As you look back on your previous 365 days, I hope that you are able to trace the hand of God’s faithfulness in your life. Most likely, it wasn’t evident to you on a daily basis. But I imagine that in its entirety, this last year has afforded you some moments of knowing and living the promises of God. Today is a good day for reflecting, for remembering and for speaking the truest witness of your faith.
Thus far, the Lord has helped us all. Continuing forward, he will do the same. As always…
Peace for the journey,
Take time to consider your creative side. We all have one—a creative edge to our personalities. Some of us writers, painters, musicians, chefs, singers, cooks, sewers, teachers, marketers, photographers, scrapbookers, gardeners, planners. The list is endless, and while you might not consider yourself particularly creative, you cannot escape the label. Why? Because you’ve been created in the image of God. Accordingly, there’s something about you that resembles the creative pulse of the Creator.
Along these lines, I have a question for you. It didn’t originate with me. It belongs to Jeannie Burlowski. She first asked it of me a couple of months ago during a pre-conference seminar for She Speaks. The session was designed to better prepare writers for their upcoming publisher meetings at the conference. Part of the preparation included writing a book proposal—a thirty-forty page document detailing an idea for a book, a marketing plan, and a few writing samples. As Jeannie was discussing the various components of the proposal and how it should be presented to publishers, she said something that interrupted my note-taking and forced my thinking.
“How does your book … your words help solve the problem of pain?”
Sit with that a minute. I did. In fact, I’ve sat with this question ever since first receiving it. It struck me back then; it strikes me still. The problem of pain and my words as a healing agent therein.
Really? Seriously? Apparently.
You see, no matter how I turn it, consider it, and think about it, I think she’s right. Not just as it pertains to me as a writer, but to all of us who create. We’re all in the business of solving pain. We may not realize the importance of our roll in the matter, but at the root of all creativity is this idea that art solves pain. We create because it brings us pleasure; in doing so, it brings others pleasure as well. Otherwise, why bother to pick up the pen or the paintbrush or the cookbook? Creativity helps to heal the wounded. And who of us haven’t felt some pain? Who of us haven’t “created” in an attempt to salve the pain of others?
And so, as you consider your creative bent, I ask you the same question I’ve been asking of myself over these past months. How does your creativity—whether in music, words, pictures, recipes—help solve the problem of pain? I know. It feels weighty, almost too much responsibility attached to our giftings.
Nonetheless, we cannot escape the reality that our “art” is a direct reflection of our God-given talents. The generous dispensation of creativity that Creator-Father has seeded into each one of us requires that we share it with others. In doing so, we bring joy to the earth. Whenever we create we sow eternal life, goodness, and hope into the temporal soil of pain.
Without art, we all suffer. Without creativity, we tend to forget the Creator. Without vision, we remain as we are, and left as we are, we’re unfinished.
There’s a whole lot of pain in this world yet untouched by the creativity residing in you. Your giftings are meant to be applied to that pain. Don’t underestimate your creativity just because it looks different from your neighbor’s. We shouldn’t measure our artful reflections against the artful reflections of others. It’s not fair to our DNA, and it certainly undercuts the witness of our Father’s fingerprints on our lives.
He made each of us unique, different, and with a specialness that can only display its worthiness through the skin delicately designed to hold its beauty. You are the owner of that skin, and you are given the rich privilege of unveiling your creativity as a healing agent to the problem of pain.
Take your creativity seriously, friends. Live it wildly, and share it liberally with the world. I, for one, have been the direct beneficiary of your giftings; they’ve have gone a long way to help solve the problem of my pain. Keep to it. I will endeavor to do the same. As always…
Peace for the journey,
PS: What does your creativity lead you to create? How does it help solve the problem of pain? I’d love to hear from you.
Two things I know for certain as I begin this week:
1. My emotions and the feelings attached to them aren’t reliable; they are ever-changing.
2. God and his Word are reliable; they never change.
In regards to number one, I’m in menopause … an induced menopause due to my ovaries being removed. Forget the 5-6 years of perimenopause experienced by most women prior to the full onset of menopause. There’s been nothing gradual or measured about my introduction to this new phase of life. Eight rounds of chemo forced my body into a medical menopause; the oopherectomy (ovary removal) following the chemo sealed the deal.
What does that mean? The estrogen/progesterone that my body once produced because of the ovaries have now been eliminated. In addition, the adjuvant course of treatment I’ve been prescribed, Armidex, works to prevent the remaining estrogen in my body (mostly produced by the adrenal glands) from growing. Confused? Maybe this will help. According to EMedTV:
“Arimidex is part of a group of medications called aromatase inhibitors. Aromatase is an enzyme found in various places in the body. These enzymes help produce estrogens (in particular, a certain estrogen called estradiol). In postmenopausal women, most of the estrogen in the body is made by aromatase. By blocking these enzymes, Arimidex helps to decrease the amount of estrogen in the body.
Many breast cancers are sensitive to the estrogen hormone, meaning that the tumor grows with the help of estrogen. When a tumor is sensitive to estrogen, it has receptors on the outer surface of its cells. Estrogen fits into these receptors like a key opening a lock. When this connection is made, the cancer grows.”
So … I think it’s fair to say that my emotions and the feelings attached to them aren’t reliable in this season. My body is constantly playing tricks on me, and my reactions are often either “off the charts unreasonable” or “completely unavailable.” There seems to be little middle ground between these extremes as I recently wrote about in this post. My precious friend, Judith, tells me that (as cancer survivors) “We don’t have the bandwidth that we used to have, Elaine.” She’s right. I don’t currently have the range of frequency with which my body can operate effectively, nor the transmission capacity I once had.
For example… a precious lady approached me in church recently, obviously upset as indicated by the tears pouring down her face. She was in deep, emotional pain and desired to share that pain with me. I was mostly with her up until the point that I needed to “feel” for her. I knew what my reaction should be, but my empathy had a difficult time catching up with my should. When this happens, my compassion becomes functional, not felt. For some folks, this is a typical way of handling the issue of another’s pain. For me, this a huge departure from the way I’ve always operated. And friends, I don’t mind telling you that this is a tragic loss for me. Perhaps one of the most costly surrenders I’ve had to make in this journey through cancer.
I don’t tell you this to garner your sympathy. I tell you this solely for educational purposes, so that if you’re someone who is going through the same thing or you know someone who is going through a forceful, immediate menopause, you might better have an idea as to the “goings on” behind the scenes.
All this being said (and I realize it’s a lot to digest), all is not lost. Which brings me to number two—my second certainty regarding my upcoming week (really regarding my life). God and his Word are reliable. They never change. They are the consistent underpinning of my heart and life, my walkabout in faith. Regardless of how my emotions are or are not presenting themselves on a daily basis, God is presenting himself as he has always presented himself.
Truthful. Reliable. Strong. Steady. Certain. Fixed. Constant. Unchanged.
Who God IS and everything that he has said about himself in his holy Word is, in fact, reality. The same God who cradled Eden’s soil in his hands and fashioned Adam in his image, is the same God who cradles us, shapes us, and breathes over us his holy validation. The same Jesus who cut through choppy waters and walked his peace on top of those waters to a boatload of fearful disciples, is the same Jesus who walks to us in the middle of our darkest nights to extend his hand of kingdom courage as ministry to our doubting souls.
Creator God, Savior Jesus, Companion Holy Spirit, cannot be anything other than what he has always been. Others have tried to make him less—tried to box him in and call him by another name—but their attempts at renaming him are futile attempts at control. And really, when personal control becomes an issue, then truth becomes relative—easily shifted by the changing winds and temperament of the individual involved.
Still and yet, God does not change, and it is this one reality, this one certainty that keeps me moving forward in my faith. Keeps me digging into the treasure of Scripture to take hold of truth, even though my feelings lag behind my obedience. God’s Word is my anchor, my hope, my “go to” resource as I navigate these strange waters of this new season. In its entirety, it doesn’t feel like it should, but it’s my reality.
The temporal reality of menopause. The eternal reality of God.
In the end, it’s the number two certainty of my season that will trump all others. God doesn’t ask me to ignore the other realities that are present and pressing … just to temper them with the greater reality of his presence. In doing so, my bandwidth increases, and I am better able to engage with the life that he has entrusted to my care.
Whatever temporal reality is staring you in the face today, I pray it tempered by the truth and witness of our living Lord. Spend as much time with him examining eternal truth as you are spending looking into the mirror examining temporal truth. In doing so, your bandwidth will increase and your perspective will regain proper focus.
Lose yourself within the truthful, reliable, strong, steady, certain, fixed, constant, and unchanging God who created you. The Jesus who saved you. The Holy Spirit who sustains you. The Truth that renames you…
As always, peace for the journey!