Shattered lights and black ice.

This morning around 4:45 am I got into a car accident. What a way to start a Monday. The past few days have already been emotionally exhausting- read my prior posts to see why.  I’m emotionally drained. I’m mentally exhausted. Now I’m physically sore.

It could have been worse.

As I woke up my normal time at 4:23 am [with multiple alarms to follow assuring my waking up by 4:30am], I got ready for work at Starbucks. It was any other Monday. Despite my baggy eyes and exhaustion from lack of sleep and mourning over the loss of a friend, I got up for work and left by 4:45am. Immediately I was aware of icy conditions and chose to dry extra careful this morning. In fact yesterday as I drove to and from Pennington- about 80 miles round trip from my house- I saw over a dozen serious car accidents. The roads were terrible and incredibly dangerous in certain parts. Having seen the conditions yesterday, I wanted to drive safe, so I did. Even though I did everything right….it did not matter.

Weather doesn’t care about a perfect record for driving. It doesn’t care whether or not you can’t afford an accident. It doesn’t care about you, good or bad. As I drove toward my job, and was less than 5 minutes away [2 miles], I saw the thick sheet of ice covering the entire width of the road. I slowed down even more, prepared for my tires to possibly lose control, and had both hands on the steering wheel ready to take necessary action. As both of my right tires hit the ice, the spin started, and I did everything right but even in doing everything right, nothing could really be done.

In my head, maybe even out loud, I prayed for protection all the while controlling the spin as best as I could to avoid hitting nearly head on a telephone pole. My car had spin around completely and then some more before it stopped. I took a minute to breathe before getting out of my car to look at the damage. To my surprise it wasn’t terrible. It is still a few hundred dollars to fix, but it could have been worse...it could have definitely been worse. Had I not controlled the spin, I would have hit the pole, I would have been injured, and it would have been more serious. Had I not been paying attention to my speed and the road conditions, the accident could have been far more serious than a broken bumper and shattered lights.

Thank God.

As I was standing in the 20 degrees in the dark on the phone with police, I couldn’t help but think about yesterday, specifically last night. Last night before bed I posted a blog stating that God is good regardless of situations or circumstances. God is good. And as I stood in the cold, really mad and shaken up, I remembered my own words that God is good. What a test of my own beliefs. If I believe that God is good when things are going well, if I believe that he is faithful and steadfast, that means when things don’t go my way, when things are frustrating, sad or enraging, God still is good. His goodness never fades and never leaves, we can just choose to not see it or believe it.

I saw as several cars spun out in the exact same way as me. I saw as one truck came close to hitting me. I saw the potential for things to be worse, but in the midst of it…I saw His goodness. I saw that God kept me safe. I saw that God protected me from injury. I saw that God protected other drivers. The cop who arrived on scene saw that somehow I missed the telephone pole. Yes, yes….God is indeed good.

I don’t have answers for bad things. I don’t have understanding of His ways all the time. But if I have learned anything in my past year of many trials, struggles, and difficulties is that God has been by my side giving me strength and perseverance in spite of my situations. I have learned that he loves me and his love is constant and unwavering. Whatever you struggle with, whatever you face in your life right now, know that God is here with you waiting for you to rely on his love and peace. With him, you can have rest, peace, joy, comfort, and strength. Life comes as at us fast and sometimes painfully. I’d rather do life with God as a part of my story than trying it on my own.

He is good. I know this to be true.

Good morning.

With much sadness, I write tonight, hoping to share my heart with you. I don’t have wisdom to share beyond my own experiences and the faith that I have learned and gained.

I don’t know why people die.
I don’t know why bad things happen.
I don’t like death. Ever.
I don’t like sadness.

Yet today, today is a day full of much sadness. Today is a day that I write through teary eyes. A man from my church passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack. He was a good man. His family is so precious. I can’t say that I knew all things about him, but I can attest to the legacy he left behind. In the year I have been at my church, I have seen the impact he has made on those around him: A loving husband, loving father, generous boss and owner, and passionate worshipper. As I sat in church today on this somber, rainy and icy Sunday, I could hear the cries of those in church. I could see the worship team singing through tears and cracking voices. I could see brokenness and loss that brought such heartache.

Where do go from here? Where do we go when bad things happen…when things take place that are out of our control? What do we do? What can we do? It is so easy for us to become bitter, angry, resentful, and even turn our hearts from God. When tragedy strikes, when sadness happens, when the tears coming rolling down your cheeks, and when the crying hurts so much…we can easily be filled with emotion. And that is okay. But know that in the midst of your pain and struggle, in the midst of your suffering, in the midst of what looks like your darkest hour, God is there. He is present. He is steadfast. He is unwavering.  I don’t have the answers as to why God doesn’t stop things from happening. I don’t understand why some things happen, but I do believe in a greater, bigger story taking place. I believe that God is not a God that is watching on the sidelines of our lives. I do not believe that he is just sitting there without feeling for us. He loves us tremendously. He does have a plan, even if we cannot see the full picture. He is working out his goodness.

This morning, as I greeted the church, I said “Good Morning”…then I paused to realize that it was indeed a good morning. It wasn’t good because of the weather. It wasn’t good because of the circumstances of loss. It wasn’t good because of so many things. It was good simply because God IS GOOD. When we go through our lives, we can choose to go through tragedy, brokenness, sadness, pain, and anything else by ourselves. Or when we go through life, we can choose to let him be a part of the story. He can give us strength, courage, perseverance, peace, comfort, and complete joy. Despite everything, each day is good, each night is good because HE IS GOOD. His goodness is what has gotten me through every battle, struggle, and difficult time in my life. He surely is good.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his,
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, 
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him, bless his name!

For the LORD is good!
His steadfast love endures forever, 
and his faithfulness to all generations. 
[Psalm 100]

Vengeance is not mine.

My heart is saddened again tonight as I hear more of the brokenness and loss that happens in our world. Even more, I am angry. I do not even think angry is a sufficient word for how I am feeling. I could think of a hundred words to describe my feelings tonight and I still believe it would be lacking. I am angry because of entitlement. I am angry because of hate. I am infuriated by the self-righteous, bigoted, racist, hateful things I am witnessing in the news. Let’s get one thing clear right here, right now. I am white. I am blonde. I am female. I am a Christian. I am straight. Your skin color, hair color, gender, orientation, religion or anything else will not change my opinion of you. Your behavior and attitude will change my opinion of you. The opinions I form about others are based on character, integrity, and heart of the individual. Just because I disagree with you does not mean I hate you.

That being said, tonight, I am angry. I saw on the news about a shooting that took place in NYC in retaliation of those who bear the color blue- specifically the NYPD. Regardless of your opinion on what has taken place regarding the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, the death of Eric Garner in NYC, or anything else in relationship to these, I still maintain that the solution starts with me and you. I wrote just a few weeks ago on this subject and that still will be the bulk of my opinion. Read it here. In the meantime, I beg of you, for the love of God, to stop.

Stop the quick judgments.
Stop the hate.
Stop the racism.
Stop the unforgiveness.
Stop the vengeful attitude.

These things will not get you anywhere. The shooting of the NYC police is outright ridiculous. That is not justice. That is furthered hate. The looting in Ferguson and violent protesting are furthered hate. Not justice. Not peace. More hate. Revenge is something that will destroy. It does not bring wholeness. It is poison that will inevitably bring destruction. When injustice happens, we cannot take let an attitude of revenge be our fuel. Vengeance is not mine to bring. It is not yours. When we retaliate, we irrationally respond, when we violently act on our emotions, when we let the cancer of unforgiveness continue, we will bring our own destruction. Even more, we will further the problem.

If you really care about this race war, stop being a racist. Stop referring to people by ill-conceived judgments, the color of their skin or the history of their people. Don’t refer to Germans as Nazis. Don’t refer to Russians as Commies. Don’t refer to Middle Easterners [of any nation] as terrorists or Al Qaeda. If you really care about bringing unity to Mankind- to all people- than treat every person…as a person. Everyone matters. Again…black lives matter. So do white lives. So does every race in the world, regardless of skin color, religion, nationality, or lifestyle. People always matter.

If you really care about peace, then try to bring peace…in your home, in your job, in your family, in your marriage. Bring peace on earth by how you act in your everyday life. In your speech, let it reflect a heart of someone who wants to bring peace, not destruction.

“Sick to my stomach about the killing of these NYPD officers. More people dead, more families hurting, more division. A foolish act of vengeance is not Justice. This doesn’t help the cause of equality or unity. It drives a wedge of hatred deeper. All these deaths show very clearly we have work to do.” (Lecrae)
…We have all been hurt by someone. We have been betrayed. Beaten. Some killed. Some tortured. Some raped. Some molested. People are bullied and people are bullies. Murderers. Bad things happen and often there is someone to blame. But friend, it is not your job to bring your own form of justice on those who have harmed you. I urge you, from the depth of my being, to realize that justice is more than a quick or emotional response. It has to be more. It just has to be more. We have so much to work on…there just has to be more than vengeance. If we foolishly take vengeance and “justice” in our own hands…we only perpetuate the same crap we are trying to stop.

I posted something [read here] about a POW who survived a WWII Japanese imprisonment only to return to Japan 4 years after he was rescued all to show that restoration, forgiveness, and redemption are possible. If he, a man who endured more pain and suffering than I can imagine, can forgive those who hurt him the greatness and strive to bring restoration, why cannot we at least try? Why not try to love…I mean really really love your enemy? Why not try to forgive instead of plan your revenge? Justice will be served to each of us, I believe in eternity. There will be justice for you, for me, for them. Can’t we at least try to do something greater than our own sense of justice? Vengeance was never for us to bring. Vengeance is not justice. It only equates to more evil, more pain, more hate, and far less actual justice and peace.

This…this is how we should live.

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I AM the LORD.” Lev. 19:18

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…'” (Romans 12:17-20a)

A POW’s brave love.

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan…”

President Roosevelt continued with, what I would imagine, great pain and sadness in his heart as he addressed the nation about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Our nation in a single day lost thousands of men and women- service and civilians. Our nation was hurt. Wounded at our heart. Shortly after the attacks our nation retaliated in explosive force [literally] by something called the Doolittle Raids. The retaliation involved a mere 16 B-25 “Mitchell” bombers with 80 airmen total. Not much of a fight in comparison to the 300 that Japan attacked Pearl with in those early minutes. But our men- the Raiders- bombed military establishments in Japan.  Unlike any other mission, the Raiders could not return to the aircraft carriers but to land…they had no choice but to crash land in China in hopes of avoiding the Japanese that had infiltrated the Chinese border. We lost some of the Raiders that day. Most returned home. Eight men became POWs, held captive by a merciless enemy.

This is one of their stories. I cannot help but be moved by this man, one of the POWs. He experienced Pearl and the tragedy along with the rest of our nation. He experienced the bombing over Japan. Such vengeance and hatred overwhelmed his heart. He wanted the Japanese to die painfully and without mercy. When his bomber was crashing over occupied China, he and his crew had to parachute out. For 40 months, Staff Sergeant Jacob Daniel DeShazer was held prisoner by the Japanese, tortured and facing death every single day. For 40 months he had no idea when his death would happen, although he thought it was certain. For 34 of his 40 months, he awaited death in solitary confinement. Most of the other POWs had already died. Only 3 made it home when the American armies invaded and freed the camp.

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He was not the same man.

Physically DeShazer was malnourished, sick, and nearly dead. Mentally the isolation could have made him crazy. Mentally he could have given up a long time before he did. But Spiritually…something had changed. During his imprisonment, he needed a glimpse of hope to simply survive; he finally received a Bible from his prison guards. They figured it would not matter. They figured it was only a book requested by a prisoner awaiting death. Though he only physically had the Bible for 3 weeks, God began to work on DeShazer’s heart. He saw the messages and stories of the Bible as reason enough to survive, and reason enough to not give up, and as reason enough to believe in a God that was greater than his imprisonment. In August 1945, DeShazer was freed and made his voyage home to America. He would need to recover, to heal, to be restored. It would take time, but it would happen.

He soon married and attended school…to be a missionary.

How can someone who had once be filled with such hatred toward the Japanese, been a prisoner of the Japanese, tortured and nearly killed at the hands of the Japanese, decide to be a missionary to the Japanese? For DeShazer, it was the simple fact that God loves and he had to be that love to to his previous captors. It was not a matter of hate anymore. It was a matter of redemption. If God could redeem him, a man full of hate, could not that same God change the hearts of others? He loved with such a redeeming, forgiving love that Mitsuo Fuchida, the commander who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, was brought into the same story of redemption through salvation in Jesus Christ. Let me say that again..the man who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, a broken dark day in American history, was saved by the redeeming love of Jesus Christ because a POW was brave enough to love.

“Jacob DeShazer was brave like a Japanese samurai. He was brave as a prisoner of the Japanese. He never yielded to the guards. After conversion he was braver, enough to love [the] Japanese. As a missionary, he never sought fame or wealth, just the lost. He was kind, patient, and humble, for he was a brave Christian. He was brave enough to make the Japanese commander of the attack on Pearl Harbor one of his best friends.”

—Iwao ShimadaPastor of the church the DeShazers started in Japan

 

I find his story so incredible. How can I not be moved by the legacy of a man that lived out the forgiveness of Christ? In his forgiveness toward Japan, one of the leading Japanese officers of the Attack on Pearl Harbor came to know Jesus Christ. I have to believe that because of men and women like DeShazer, that my purpose is beyond myself and my situation, good or bad, can be used to glorify God, bringing hope to many. So on this day of December 7, remember this history. Remember those who died and fought valiantly. Remember the soldiers who defended our nation in one of the greatest wars in world history. But also remember the stories of men and women like Jacob Daniel DeShazer who chose to forgive the enemy that hurt him the greatest, because just as Christ died for him, he also died for them. Redemption is always possible.

 

 

Check out this video from the man himself.

 

 

[this is an old post I updated: originally called A POW’s Forgiveness Towards Japan]

This all starts with me.

I have to say, I have thought and prayed long and hard about writing this and expressing the brokenness upon my heart tonight. Like anything I post, I want to post my thoughts, convictions and opinions but with grace, love and compassion. But tonight, I find it so very difficult to do just that…write my thoughts and opinions without the risk of being judged, condemned, or considered hateful. Please know, as you read this, I am broken as I write and all I ask is that you offer me grace and love and I try to offer.

Ferguson. Mike Brown. Eric Garner. Those are just a few of the names being mentioned in the news and all forms of social media. You probably know them. If you don’t, you should probably get informed on what is happening. My heart is so deeply broken tonight by the news, social media, protests, killings, deaths, and looting. This is not right. All of it, its just not right. Ferguson matters. The people of Ferguson matters. Women and men in uniform matter. Black lives matter. White lives matter. Every ethnicity in the world matters. The deaths of both Mike Brown and Eric Garner matter. The protests and the looting matter. None of this started at Ferguson. None of this started during the Civil Right’s movement with Dr. King. None of this started during slavery.

It started a very long time ago when Man decided to do their own thing. Sin…the very thing that is innate in each of us. Sin is the thing that creates entitlement. It births prides and raises hate. Judgment. Anger. Hate. Rape. Murder. Racism. Prejudices. Biogtry. Adultery. Lying. Gossip. It all comes from the same place. In our core, we can be very bad people simple because we are people. But at the same time we are offered something so incredibly beautiful and challenging through Jesus Christ. Without his love transforming our hearts and minds, we can and will hurt others by our sin. We just might sin differently than others. We may wound or injure others differently than someone else. But we will inevitably hurt, wound, injure someone. That’s why this news about Ferguson and NYC and the deaths of two black men just breaks my heart. It breaks the heart of Jesus.

He lets us CHOOSE to love him which means we can choose to hate him and live opposing to his love.

I was not at Ferguson or NYC. I do not know any of the officers, Brown or Garner, but I know me. And in knowing me, I know I am flawed. I judge others. I criticize immensely. I hurt and deeply wound. I don’t always control my tongue and therefore gossip and maybe even slander. I make quick, often uneducated judgments of others. I don’t know what happened for real in either case therefore I will not make an opinion on the Grand Jury verdicts or state whether police were right and the victims were wrong. I will say that I understand how flawed and broken we all are and how if we have learned anything from the recent events in the news, we should be able to recognize this brokenness. Its not about being black or white. Its not about being from lower income or lacking education. Its not about coming from money. Its not about being a cop. Its not about guilt or innocence.

Simply put…we are all guilty…of something. And that is exactly why we need Jesus. It is why I desperately, earnestly know I need Jesus. Without him, I could very easily become victim to my own demise. Without him, I could very easily throw judgment at either party knowing for sure what really happened. Without him, I could sling hate toward one side over another. Without him, oh there are so many things I could do, be, say. But because I have him- Jesus Christ- as the redemption for my life, I choose recognize that what is happening regarding Ferguson and NYC are just part of a bigger story of the broken world we live in and a need for a savior. Because Jesus redeemed me from my sin, shame, and brokenness, I firmly believe Ferguson can be redeemed. Yes, things are lost, and some things won’t change. But I can try. You can try. We can together try to understand. To love. To stop hating. To stop looting. Stop judging. And if, only then, we can possibly see healing and restoration.

I challenge you, whatever side- if on a side- you find yourself tonight, I ask that you try, for a moment, to understand the perspective of the other. I ask that the looting and vandalism stops. I ask that both sides stop slandering, hating, judging, and start seeing how this all can be changed. It won’t be easy. It will take effort for all of us. Whites don’t understand the struggle  and history of the black community. Simply put…I really don’t understand but I want to. I want to try to understand, so be honest and talk to me. I want you to understand that not all whites are bad. I do not hate you, so please don’t hate me. I want the cops to understand that not every black person is a criminal- some are, but many are not. I want blacks to understand that most cops actually care about justice and aren’t in it for killing. If you haven’t been in a situation like these, please hold your judgments and outrage a little and instead pray to understand.

Pray that you might love others that you don’t understand. Pray that you might help those who can’t help you. Pray that you might love others who may never care about you. Pray that you might bridge this gap of brokenness. Pray for yourself, that you might be redeemed. All of this that is happening right now…its start with me. It starts with you. Until we can each work through out our own hate, prejudices, judgments, misunderstandings, and sin, we cannot and will not be able to really help others. Jesus, oh my sweet Jesus… he is the answer and he waiting for you to reach out to him. He knows this is a mess. He knows you and your struggle. And he wants to redeem.

The life I want.

I had a moment today, and for many, that moment wouldn’t matter. My car window broke. The motor needs to be replaced. Seems simple right? Not for me. Since August, I have replaced 2 [soon to be 3] windows in my car for the same reason. I have fixed broken front brakes, an 02 sensor, wiper fluid tank, and other small things. It has not been cheap. So today, when my window broke as I was leaving the church, it was another moment where I realized something in my life…

My window breaking was a reminder for me that I don’t have the life I want. It was a reminder of my lack of a job that is financial stablizing. It was a reminder of my many many job rejections I have received this past year. It was a reminder of my lack of a husband. It was a reminder of my uncertainty in my life. It was a reminder of not being in a place I want, figuratively or actually.

Then I realized something else. The life I want…what does that even mean? Its selfish. Its prideful. Its arrogant. Its dependent. Its me-centered. The life I actually want is a life that honors God whether the circumstances around me are good or likable. The life I actually want is one that is full of joy and not temporary happiness. The life I actually want is one that lives on even when bad things, annoying things, painful things happen.  The life I actually want is one full of passion, love, compassion, joy, faith, and more, doing my very best for Him. The life I actually want is one not about me.

Yes, a broken window today brought on this thinking, but the year I have had, has been one that is full of a lot of reasons to quit, be angry, dwell in disappointment, and to just forget about what God thinks about it all. The life I want doesn’t matter if the life he wants is disregarded. God knows me more than I can fathom. He knows my desires and dreams. He knows the things that are seemingly insignificant to anyone else. He knows the big things. He knows my need for a job, desire for a godly husband, wish to move out, and the longing of my heart to show the world his love. He knows… yet one window breaking and for a brief moment, I thought about my lack. God has been more than faithful.  I want the life that God wants for me, and I trust that it will be a life worth living.

Faith before the mountain.

Its no secret that this year has been one of difficulty. Anyone who knows me, knows that the past year has been one of struggle, brokenness, difficulty, crushed dreams, lost hopes, transition, confusion and wandering.  A little more than a year ago, I resigned from a position at a church. Since then, it seems, my life offers no stability or peace.  I had written a post about prayer faith- facing the difficulty before me- and tonight I reflected on it once more.

Life is messy. Very messy at times. Bad things happen. Terrible things happen. I have learned over the past year that patience is definitely not a virtue I hold well. Control is not something I release easily. Yet, over this past year, I feel the security and comfort I’ve had for years has been unsteady. When I wrote my post Prayer Faith, I spoke of reading a devotional called Draw the Circle. I think its time I read it again. When I read it, it changed me, not because the book holds any power, but because the God who I love- who I pray to – does. RIght now, my life is very messy and I desperately need Him.

For three months I have been job searching. My desire is to be in a place where I can work for the freedom of those held captive, literally, in the slave trade around the world. To free the slaves. Rescue the broken. Bring restoration. Everyone needs a shot at redemption, and I want people to know that God- my God- is able. But in my search of jobs, I have looked in faith-based, non-profits, NGO’s and federal, and to my continued disappointment, I have received only one job interview, dozens of rejections, and no promises of a future. For three months I have gone to work dealing with customers that, especially as of late, treat me like garbage. For three months, I have given all my effort and used all my connections to try to see God’s leading for my life and find the right job. Nothing. Only disappointment and frustration. This is my mountain.

Since June, my family has had added stress and struggle. My dad was diagnosed with cancer and, frankly, its pretty serious. Our lives are now different and we are living a new normal. We don’t know what will happen or how this will continue to affect both my dad and the family. He’s had a stem cell transplant, blood transfusions, all kinds of shots, steroids, chemo and plenty more. He’s a fighter. But things are uncertain.  Let me say that this is our mountain.

I have had conversations with friends and coworkers lately. These conversations speak of the difficulty they face. The heartache. The brokenness and pain. The uncertainty. Bad things. Difficult things. Painful things. Unknown things. They all have mountains too.

And that is when I was reminded of my post about faith just a year ago. When I thought I was facing hardships, I was really being prepared for a very hard year ahead. Though this year has been one of mixed emotions and difficulty, pain, frustration, and even annoyance, I am convinced of faith even more.  Though I remember this year as a lot of bad and a lot of uncertainty, I haven’t stopped believing. I believe in God and I believe God… he is for me. He loves me. He DOES have something planned. Timing is important. The lessons I have learned through the past 14-15 months have been so hard and painful, but they will be useful for my future. Right now it seems like I am facing a mountain. A big mountain. I don’t see the other side. I don’t see the beauty all the time. If I believe God and what he says, then I can face my mountain and what’s ahead.  He will be my strength. He will be what not only gets me through, but what helps me overcome.

Whether its a job, a relationship, health, a marriage, family, finances, or something else, I know you have a mountain- something before you that you see as an impossibility or a major difficulty that you can’t seem to overcome, He is able to make it possible, to make a way for you, to give victory, to bring freedom, to give redemption, and to bring you over that mountain. Its never too late. He is doing a new thing in my life and I can definitely see it. I may not- no I definitely do not- have the whole picture, but I know he is doing something. Its undeniable. He has gotten me through this year and I am stronger because of Him, because he is my strength.  Don’t give up on that mountain in front of you. Don’t quit because its hard. Don’t forfeit what can be something beautiful ahead. There’s more in you. There’s more in Him.

Cancer…the story isn’t over.

No one ever really thinks it could happen to them. No one ever wants tragedy, difficulty, or struggle to be a part of their story. However we don’t always choose the chapters that come out int our stories, do we?

In May of this year, my family got some news. After months of increased body aches, soreness, difficulty with working out, and a variation of other problems, my dad was diagnosed with a form of cancer called Multiple Myeloma. Myeloma is fairly common…except for the kind my dad has. He has the rare one. There is plenty I don’t understand or know about cancer, but what I have learned is that no matter how healthy someone can be, cancer can choose whoever it wants. My dad is a marathoner, regularly works out, a busy pastor, and getting his Doctorate. Yeah, sure, my dad has had other health issues over the years, but we never expected this

I have known so many people to have lost someone to the battle of cancer. I have known plenty who have had victory in their battle. For my family, for my dad, the fight continues on.

My heart is saddened this morning, as it was last night, when I learned of the death of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year old girl who “died with dignity” according to state law that allowed her assisted suicide. This is not a discussion on Brittany and her suicide. [please respect the fact that this blog is not here for debate…I will delete any inappropriate or rude comments regarding her death]. This is simply me saying how proud I am of my dad for being courageous with staying in the fight. It would break my family’s heart if he ended his life on purpose. And I am saddened for her family.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, my dad goes into the hospital for several weeks. He will first get chemo that will destroy his immune system. Once that part of the process is over, the doctors will begin a stem cell transplant [stem cells from his own body]. This next month will look very different for us. Honestly, we don’t really know what it will look like, but we know its part of our new normal. That’s what I was told by a few of my dear friends who have loved and sometimes lost someone to cancer: this is our new normal. For now, for however long we have to, this is part of our story. It is something that God will get us through.

I firmly believe that God can give us strength, perseverance, and steadfast faith through this entire process, regardless of the outcome. I also believe that if God wanted to make it part of this story, he could absolutely heal my dad- I have no doubt in my mind. However, sometimes our stories become ones that, when we face them, we are made stronger, we are pushed, we might be broken, we might stretched, but we can overcome. I can’t explain why God doesn’t heal everyone. I can’t explain why cancer happens or why bad things happen to good people. But I believe and love God with all my heart, and I believe that God will be with my family during this new normal. I have seen God give me a strange peace since day one of finding out about my dad. Yes I love my dad and this makes me sad, but I have a peace that I cannot explain and can only give credit to God.

Yeah, so my family didn’t choose cancer. Yes, we didn’t want this to be a part of our story. But in the light of the things we cannot choose, we still have choices left. When faced with difficulty, struggle, frustrating circumstance, unexplainable, even painful things, we- you and I- can choose to smile. We can choose to fight. We can choose to not be destroyed by these things. We can choose to still love people despite what others might do to us. We can choose to forgive. Choose to have compassion. We can choose to see the brighter side of the story. I believe God has purpose for things. I believe that God is a part of this story. I may not understand it, but I trust him and love him with all of my heart. So with my love, I choose to hope and believe that everything is alright. The story isn’t over.

For the One.

“As a prisoner”…I find myself intrigued, convicted, humbled, and moved by this phrase.

Paul, in many of the letters he wrote that can be found in the Bible, started with this phrase in some variation. Last night as I read through the letter [book] of Ephesians, my heart was so deeply moved. He was a prisoner. He was a religious prisoner because of his belief in who Jesus really was: not a story, not a man, but a savior that changes everything.

Paul’s life was completely changed in one encounter with Jesus- the resurrected Jesus- on the road to Damascus. At the time, he was called Saul, he was a Pharisee [Jewish leader], part of the Sanhedrin [Jewish elite], and on his way to imprison and even kill Christians, people that were of both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds, that decided that they believed in the man Jesus, as their savior. His life was changed when he met Jesus and he was the never same. Never.

In his letter to the church found in Ephesus, he urged for the unity of their church. He urged them to keep in focus what was truly important. Not legalism. Not opinion. Not self. But Jesus and how he had changed their lives, individually and collectively. He first reminded them they were redeemed. If they followed and believed in Jesus they were redeemed, forgiven, and new. They were made alive-new- in Jesus. It was for that reason that he challenged their church to be bold and embrace a deeper love for Jesus, one that could not have been questioned or doubted. It could not and would not be something that only ended with loving Jesus; actions had to follow.

This was the challenge.

“I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the called to which you have been called, will all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity in the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope that belongs to your call- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us….put on a new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness…walk in love….for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of Light…we are members of His body.” [sections of the book of Ephesians]

Paul completely understood the challenge of turning one’s life around. He understood the sacrifice, the difficulty, the cost, and also the joy. He understood that Jesus was worth it. But he also understood that with loving Jesus, his life could no longer look like it did before he had met Jesus- before he committed his life to Him. He knew the church in Ephesus, among the others he wrote to, struggled with this for one simple fact: we are human and completely fallible.

But it is in our humanity that we have a choice. If we have been given the option of something better and greater, why would we miss out on that? Why would we choose anything but that which is better and greater? I continue the challenge that Paul set forth 2,000 years ago, one that I know full well that I need to work on personally. I need to live my life in such a way that it shows the love that Jesus has for me, a love that has changed me, and a love that has freed me. I need to be humble, admit my own wrongdoings, be patient and gentle, especially with those that lack a love of Jesus. I need to work on keeping unity with other believers in Jesus, but also show deep, sincere love for those outside the faith, not because of trying to convert anyone, but because I want the love of Jesus to overflow, so that others, if they choose, might choose His love. Everything I do is for Him because He gave everything for me. He is why I am different. He is why I am no longer bound to my own shame, guilt, fears, sin, and selfishness. He is the very One who forgives me when I mess up, despite trying to love him. I was once living in darkness. My darkness looks different than yours. But I can guarantee, we all have darkness…and we are all offered a chance to be removed from that darkness and brought to life into the Light. Paul understood the concept of darkness to light. Persecutor, possible murderer, a man full of hatred, full redeemed and forgiven brought to restoration through Jesus Christ. He is the One. He is the Only One.

He is Jesus.