Monthly Archives: April 2012

Rediscovering Your Song…

Being a survivor isn’t about defeating the cancer. Being a survivor is about defeating the silence.

That’s what I told a group of cancer survivors last Sunday night at a Relay for Life banquet. It’s what I’ve come to believe. To survive cancer is to survive the silence—the deafening quiet that creeps in alongside suffering in hopes of suffocating the song that once sang its melody so gracefully, so faithfully, so willingly, so naturally.

There is a great price that often accompanies a great suffering. That price? A great silence. A time when the previous witness and words of a great faith are stifled by the traumatic strain of simply staying alive. Singing isn’t a priority when suffering steps to the front of the line. The song often gets buried, cast aside and forgotten, to simmer beneath the weightiness of pain and of what once was.

But here is the truth of the eternal song. Once the music has made its way into a heart, no amount of throwing and crying and denying its pulse can keep it buried forever. We can go to the grave refusing it a voice, but in the end, the music remains. It will find its chorus, even without our participation, because the King’s music is meant to be sung (peace for the journey: in the pleasure of his company,” 2010, pg. 7). 

Some songs don’t die. Some songs are just that strong, certain, truthful, and demanding. Some songs, God’s song, your song and my song, are still singing. Maybe you haven’t heard it in a long time; maybe, like me, it’s been buried beneath a season of grief and suffering. I want to encourage you today to not give up on the reality of the music that’s hiding deep within your heart. The melody remains, and whether or not you’ve been victimized by cancer or by another soul-eating something, you can know that your survivorship isn’t solely dependent on a pill or a program or the best resources available to you by doctors. The best of all of these remedies will only carry you so far in the process of healing. In fact, none of these may help you as it pertains to defeating your cancer.

But if you can defeat the silence that surrounds your cancer? If you can dig deeply to retrieve the melody that once sang so beautifully through your lips? Well, then you’ll have survived your disease in a way that yields eternal value. For our pain to matter, our pain needs a voice that is surrendered to the process of renewal. It’s a slow process that walks its own timetable. Silence doesn’t turn into song over night. But over night, a step in the right direction will yield a few notes… one or two or ten at first. One verse building on another until the music makes a melody that takes what once was and sings it more gracefully, more faithfully, more willingly, and more naturally. Almost as if that’s what God had in mind all along—a better song, refined and renewed through suffering.

To get there? Well, I don’t have the perfect strategy for curing your silence, but I have a few thoughts about how you might begin the process of rediscovering your song.

Remember. Take time to review the melody of your yesterdays—the days before your suffering began. Remember your voice, your faith, your hope. Reflect on the beauty that once was. Write it down, retrieve those memories, and linger upon them long enough until the refrain finds its way to your lips. And then, with that old song fresh in your memory…

Resist thinking that your old song was your best song. Refuse the enemy’s lie that the best has already been. Your best song is your next song—the one tempered and refined by the trials of life. God can and does write new notes into your musical score, not in an attempt to cover up the old ones, but rather to enhance them. To energize them. To fully empower them with the truth of his Spirit so that when you sing, you sing with understanding and with the certainty that all has not been lost in the suffering. God has been gained in the midst of great peril, and you have lived another day to sing the witness of his grace. And then, once you’ve made it past your remembering and your resisting, by God’s grace and with his permission,…

Rehearse. Start practicing your new song. A few notes today; a few more tomorrow, until you get the melody down, until it starts sounding familiar. Sing to yourself. Sing to your kids. Sing to your spouse. Sing to your friends. Sing to the mirror. Sing to God. Don’t worry about your voice. You’ll probably warble at first, crack your voice a time or two and turn a few heads in the process. Who cares? Songs of faith aren’t written to shame you. Songs of faith are written to reframe you. It doesn’t matter your performance with the melody. What matters is your willingness to try—to be so bold as to believe that you were meant to sing and that nobody, not one single person, can sing your new song as beautifully as you can. And finally, if you’ve made it this far with your remembering, resisting, and rehearsing, then…

Rejoice. Thank God for the gift of the song. Thank God for the gift of the song. Thank God for the gift of the song. Over and over again, rejoice in the gift of the song, because the song begins and ends with God. In the beginning, he wrote the melody. Through his Son, he retrieved the melody from the depths of the deepest grave. And through the power of his Holy Spirit, his melody still sings through flesh—through you and me. What a gift! What privilege! What renewal is ours because of the song!

Being a survivor isn’t about defeating the cancer. Being a survivor is about defeating the silence.

Are you willing to do the hard work of soul-survivorship? I pray so, because no one can sing God’s song through you better than you. I believe this with my whole heart, and by God’s very good grace, I’m endeavoring to live accordingly. Remembering, resisting, rehearsing, and rejoicing all the way home to heaven. As always…

Peace for the journey,

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loose ends…

Loose ends. Frayed threads. Separated strands of life dangling mid-air. Waiting. Hoping. Praying that somehow, some way they might be found by Master Weaver. Touched by the Master Weaver. Worked into a portrait of grace by the Master Weaver. Some day by the Master Weaver… loose ends tied up and woven as purpose into a story that currently doesn’t make sense.

Loose ends. I have some. How about you? Any dangling unknowns hanging around your heart, your mind, your soul? Any situations, complications that you’re still scratching your head over, wondering what in the wide-world-of-lovin’-and-livin’-Jesus was that all about?

If I could peel back the layers of my heart and give you open access to my loose ends, you might be surprised by what you’d see. My frayed threads aren’t pretty; not yet. Safe to say, ministry days can be hard days. I know you understand. You’ve probably had a few, because as Christians, we cannot escape our ministry days. They are our assignments. The message of the cross is our requirement, regardless of the pulpits that rest beneath our feet.

Ministry is not always well-received. Sometimes it is rejected; sometimes by those you trust most fully with your heart, your story, your faith. And if you’ve loved well in the midst of your ministry days (loved intentionally and without boundaries), then your heart aches, your heart breaks with the rejection… just enough to make you scratch your head a time or two and offer a few questions to the Master Weaver.

Really God? This? After everything else? Seriously?

“Seriously. After everything else. This. Really. Now about your faith, Elaine? I’ve got a few questions of my own.”

And so we talk about ministry days, back and forth, forth and back, the Master Weaver and me. And I pray for more strength, more obedience, more endurance to see the thing through. More hand-to-the-plow fortitude and more long-term visioning to match the faith of my spiritual ancestors—those who, perhaps, scratched their heads and offered their questions but who did so while moving forward… always forward, always proclaiming the God of their youth… the God of their forevers. And in this prayerful exchange between the Weaver and me… I give my messy, frayed, and separated loose ends to him because none of them currently make any sense to me. And I say the only words I know to say…

I trust you, God. I trust you, God. I trust you, God.

Over and over again and then some more I repeat these four words, believing that if I just say them enough, I might actually arrive at a point of doing them… of trusting God. And this one act of obedience, sweet companions on the journey, feels something like faith. Just a little bit of faith; just enough to keep me moving forward with hope.

I don’t know what trust has become difficult for you in this ministry season… what loose ends have attached themselves to your faith, but I do know the only One who is capable of weaving them into something more than the confusing mess that is currently swirling around your heart. I don’t know the “how and when” behind it making sense for you… for me, but I whole-heartedly believe that the Master Weaver hasn’t left the loom. God is still in the house, still weighing in on our loose ends, and still heavily invested in our spiritual progress.

If I didn’t believe this, my loose ends would be the death of me. Instead, they have become my lifelines… my link to the Almighty. To let go now would be to let go too soon. Instead, I’m holding on to them for dear life. I know that it won’t be long before the Master Weaver will also take hold of them, and when that happens, I will touch the hands that have touched the cross. Hands of mercy, grace, and love. And I will begin in my understanding, because life starts making sense when Jesus is attached to me.

Hand to hand, with all loose ends in between.

As always…

Peace for the journey,
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Going Fishing…

Going Fishing…

I pray you all had a blessed, peace-filled Easter celebration this year. It’s good to live on the other side of the cross–to receive grace and to daily walk in that grace knowing that our Lord’s got us covered.

The Lord has had me covered from my very beginning. I was born on Easter Sunday. While my dad was preaching about new life issuing forth from the tomb, my mom was pressing down bringing forth new life from her womb. I suppose you could say the cross has “kept” me, shadowed me and covered me all the days of my life. Tomorrow, I’ll celebrate my 46th birthday. I’ll do so knowing that not single day of those forty-six years has taken Jesus by surprise. From that very first Easter 2000 years ago, to that Easter morning in 1966, and straight through until now, God knew how desperately I would need Calvary. I still need it. Every morning. Every night. Every moment in between.

Sweet loving grace. Rich merciful love. I am humbled by them both, and I am grateful for another candle on the cake. Another song to be sung in my honor. Another day to remember my first Easter… my lasting Easter. Christ in me, the hope of glory.

Enjoy this Easter week, friends. I’ll be spending some time with my kids as they celebrate no school, no homework, and new fishing poles. And when I return, don’t be surprised to find a new look to the blog. It’s getting a much needed make-over, and I am excited for the change. As always…

Peace for the journey,
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In the Olive Press with Jesus {part nine: Keep the Change}

This is one of my favorite stories of grace. It’s a good one to walk us home to Easter. I’ve grown up hearing it, time and again, and it never fails to stir my heart in the deepest way. Thank you, dad, for sharing it with us, and thanks to my Grandpa Al for giving and living grace all those many years ago… just when my daddy needed it most. Perhaps you, readers, need it today.


The Crossroads Restaurant, Lent, March 25 {written by Charles Killian}

When I went off to college (Marion College, now Indiana Wesleyan University) in 1955, I had less than fifty dollars to my name. I remember clearly that matriculation fees were $19.50. My tuition and books were covered by two wonderfully gracious men from my local church: Robert Huffman and Jesse Shatford. They asked nothing in return, except a pledge that I would remain ‘true to the Lord’. That was it.

For my room and board, my job was washing pots and pans in the kitchen, seven days a week. It was boring, and I was lonely. During the middle of that first year, I had decided that I didn’t need college, and was going to quit and join the army. I was only 17, and I needed my parent’s permission. When my folks heard of this they called and said they wanted to come down to Marion and talk to me about this. They came, and we went out to the Crossroads Restaurant, which was famed for its plate-sized tenderloin sandwiches.

I don’t remember much of our conversation that day, but it had to do with my staying in college. My brother, George, was in the army and after ‘boot camp’ I could join him and we could see the world, so I was told by the recruiter. That sounded a whole lot better than doing dishes, going to college, and being penniless. When the meal was over, Dad gave me a piece of money and said, “Go pay the bill and keep the change.” Not noticing, I took the check and money to the counter to pay and realized I was holding a $100 bill. I had never seen such a large bill except for monopoly money.

I returned to the table and told Dad, “You gave me a $100 bill, you meant to give me ten.” He said, “No, pay the bill and keep the change.” My father knew I didn’t have two dimes to rub together, and believed if I had some extra change in my pocket, I might stay in college. After paying the bill, I was left with $94.

Years later, I learned that my parents stopped at the Marshall County bank in Plymouth on their way to Marion. Dad took out a loan for $100 for his homesick boy, and was hoping and praying for the love of God his boy would stay in college. And I did.

The journey has taken me around the world a time or two, but that luncheon at the Crossroads long ago, still looms as one of the greatest moments in my life. And the words, keep the change, stand as the watershed statement that best articulates my understanding of grace.

Keep the change. My father’s words to me at the Crossroads. My heavenly Father’s words to me at the cross. Oh the depths and stretch of such a gift. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get to the end of it. I don’t suppose I’m meant to.

Keep the change. Keep the faith, and by all means, keep telling the story. The best is yet to be.

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