Hunter’s Graceful Battle

This is a story of courage, perseverance, and victory. A shy six-year-old little Hunter first came to me, his teacher at children’s church, with a depth of soul that squeezed my heart. He climbed my lab and searched me eyes for something only he knew. We became friends, and I sensed it was a precious honor.

As you read his father’s account of Hunter’s valor, would you pray for him, perhaps send him some encouraging words, and pause long enough to allow his story to infuse you own with fresh courage to fight your battles well and remember how breath-taking that is to your Father.

“Six months after he was born, his father left for military duty. This was a pattern the boy would see regularly over the first four years of his life, along with moves to four different homes. At age five, he moved again. This time because his mother, wondering why she could no longer pick him up, sought help and was diagnosed with terminal cancer. That year he watched as she fought bravely in a slow, vigorously contested but ultimately losing battle for life. Eight months after he lost his mother, his father left again for military duty, although thanks to a generous commander, he was able to see him on the weekends. At age six he moved again to a new city. At age seven he welcomed a new mother into his life, a gift from God. At age eight he moved again and would see some stability for two years for the first time in his life. That is, until age 10, when he himself was diagnosed with cancer. Now, weighing the same 67 lbs as his birth-mother when she passed on, he battles onwards.

Johns Hopkins keeps having the social workers check on us because apparently most families at this point in Hunter’s chemotherapy plan really start showing sings of stress and cracking. The Docs here told me that Hunter’s chemo plan is the most aggressive they have in their menu of chemo plans. If his cancer is stopped before it spreads there is a high survivability rate, and if it spreads and takes root with another metastase, there is a very low survival rate, hence the intensity to nip in the bud. We still have intensive chemo through December, then another major surgery on his leg, then 5-7 months of bone regrowth, rehab visits, monitoring, scans etc. All looks good so far, and all is going according to plan, praise God.

Where does the victory come in you ask? Despite all that he has been through, and despite the near weekly chemotherapy inpatient visits, Hunter’s spirit remains indomitable. The Doctors, the PA’s, the nurses, and the social workers have all commented on his steadfastness. He is relentlessly positive, never complains, and is always quick to smile. The inpatient nurses contend over which one will get the schedule to work with Hunter. He is a breath of fresh air to them, and they know it will be a smooth day with no drama in a high-drama Wing. Through it all, Hunter has maintained his peace. He has humbled all of us with his strength. He has not regressed – no, rather he has grown. He suddenly made the leap to drafting architectural sketches in three dimensions and the detail in his drawings is blossoming. When he is well enough, he dutifully embraces his homeschooling. Though he is often in a weakened state and though one might expect the contrary, he continues to GIVE love and energy away to others. It is amazing to witness. This is victory – that in the face of this mighty challenge, this 10-year old boy not only stands firm, but advances. Hunter is doing great. Though he has and continues to overcome much in his short life to date, we know that he will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, that God gives us beauty for ashes, and that He has good plans for Hunter. What a mighty privilege it is to be his father.” ~ Tom Willis, thomasewillis2

To support other children in Hunter’s situation, please visit www.childrenbattlingcancer.com

“You’re there in dark of the night
While holding the sun and its light
Through the triumph and trials alike
There’s no one beside You…
I live my life to shine Your light
‘Cause there is none beside You God”~ Hillsong United

Leap for Life


“Is it cheating if I pray to God now after so many years away, ignoring Him?” My precious friend had lived her life in pursuit of men’s love and theater’s success, sporadically but never permanently achieving both, and usually feeling more battered and confused than satisfied by it.

Now in her early seventies, life has slowed down. Her flings with the New Age seductions have fizzled, as the ever-expensive promises one by one proved hollow. Her children are grown with independent lives, and theater acting at this point seems pointless. She reads to mental-illness patients, take long walks with her dog, and feels generally settled in her village and the quieter pace of this age.

But something is stirring in her; the chill of autumn winds and the rustle of falling leaves fail to overpower that still, small Voice. Though no one around her appears interested in questions about life after death – though the tone everywhere seems haughty and dismissive of our Creator – from deep within her soul, childhood Bible stories and a longing for restoration and truth has awakened.

Could it be? Could life and joy really pulse through her body now? No longer suppressing the questions and their hopes, the voice of her yearning is clearer and more focused every day. Courage to defy the sleepy status quo is gaining momentum inside. Any day now, she’ll leap – from death to life, – from the mocking majority to the cheers in heaven. And He is ready to catch her.

“And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” ~ John 10:28-29

“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven…” ~ Luke 6:23

“I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety- nine just persons who need no repentance.” ~ Luke 15:7

So no, dear friend, it is not cheating to pray to Him now. It is beautiful. It is why He died for you – so you could come Home. He longs for you more than a bereaved mother for her missing child. Before you even think your prayer, He knows what’s on your heart. But He still invites you to tell Him, because He loves to listen, and just like between you and me but infinitely sweeter, He is devotedly deepening your dialogue.

“O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
In the secret places of the cliff,
Let me see your face,
Let me hear your voice;
For your voice is sweet,
And your face is lovely.”
~ Song of Solomon 2:14

“For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
~ Isaiah 55:12

(written with her permission)

[ tags Seeker, Searching, Meaning of Life, Return to God, Longing, Loneliness, Prayer, Salvation]

[ end]

Falling Into Grace


I just turned 47. After more than two decades in America, I still haven’t grasped why it’s considered impolite to ask a woman her age. I am so relieved not to be 17! The world was spinning then, as an Alice-in -Wonderland concoction of disconnected experiments, and I didn’t know where to find solid ground.

But Jesus found me, planted my feet on the Rock, and an inner calm began to spread through the spheres of my life. There were even seasons when I thought I had figured it all out, when I had easy answers to most questions, but thankfully, those were brief. Reality interrupted that illusion, and my Shepherd kept leading me further from the boat to deeper waters.

Life now is both paradoxical complexities and freeing simplicity. I am what I am and what He is making me. My flaws don’t surprise me. They grieve me more than ever and I discover fresh grace like never before. My risk-taking has some substance of experience under its wings – I trust Him more. I trust me less.

Perhaps I expected to arrive at this life season less vulnerable. So many midlife jokes portray an “I couldn’t care less” attitude as the ticket to freedom here. Not me. When I hugged my son goodbye before college, turned and walked away, it felt like my breasts were ripped off. When I realize I hurt someone, I can barely breathe till peace has been restored. And when in the presence of dear ones, like my beloved sisters at church, I am bursting out of my skin to release the tenderness that mustn’t be wasted.

I feel more deeply, cry more easily, but also laugh more freely and certainly heal much better than my younger self. Life is a vapor, a breath in a cold morning, and then we’re Home. The brevity urges me to cherish it more, and yet, straining against the restrictions here, my soul is eager to shed this cocoon and fly into eternity.

Meanwhile, there is Grace. Breaking my falls, it wraps me in comfort, as it salves me from life’s bites as much as it balms the hurts I have caused. The latter amazes me more. Such undeserved kindness lifts my eyes to my Savior. I see Him everywhere.

“And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the giver
Of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That You will pull me through
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his Home”
~ Rich Mullins

To Everything There Is a season

Some seasons are so long and so difficult that hope seems a burden too heavy… In a world saturated in empty clichés, how do we discern true promises from commercial Hallmark cards?

In retrospect, it was impatience and discontentment mixed with illusions of an easy income that drove us into the business that became our nightmare. Then a young pastor of a fragile church plant and new father, my man sought the solution to our struggle for sufficient time and money for both, in what appeared to have worked for others.

But it was like David wearing Saul’s armor; it didn’t fit and it wasn’t faith. For a season, it provided what we had hoped, both in flexibility and income . But there was never peace. By the time we realized just how far from God’s will for us it was, the negative consequences were in motion. Yet, even as the business crashed under excruciating stress in 2007, His grace remained.

Throughout it all, my man pastored the now flourishing church, our children thrived in the Lord, and we were purged of much materialism in the process. When 2008 pulled the financial rug under so many others, we empathized. The sleepless nights, wrecked by shame and fear and reaching for true hope, were familiar to us, too.

Somewhere along the line, we settled into the acceptance that financially, we had been utterly eroded. Our ever- leaking roof was a practical expression of the red numbers’ reality, but images from persecuted Christians in burned homes, burned bodies brought sobering perspective. No matter what, we are among the most privileged in the world, and I blush at the whining that has come from my lips, my spoiled self….

Still, one day last week, a phone call from our lawyer informed me that the last residual drain from the business had been stopped, and just like that, I realized that our long financial winter had begun to thaw. Every season does indeed come to an end. And most importantly, the winter accomplishes necessary growth that simply could not occur during perpetual summer.

“Dormancy is like hibernation in that everything within the plant slows down. Metabolism, energy consumption, growth and so on. The first part of dormancy is when trees lose their leaves. They don’t make food in the winter, so they have no use for masses of leaves that would require energy to maintain…”

When God allows winter in our lives, the excess falls like autumn leaves. Financially, we realize how much we can do without. Emotionally, we realize entitlements that may not have produced good fruit. Spiritually, we see who we are when pretenses are dropped.

“Impeded growth is another aspect of dormancy. It saves a lot of energy to stall growth during the winter, and during the winter, the tree isn’t making any new food for energy. It’s similar to hibernation, since most animals who hibernate store food as fat, and then use it to run their essential systems during the winter, rather than grow any more. The tree’s metabolism also slows down during dormancy, and this is part of why cell growth is impeded. Since it has to conserve the food it has stored, it’s best if the tree uses it up slowly and only for essential functions.”

What are the essential functions in your life?
In what ways may the inessentials have cluttered your purpose?

“It is possible to force a tree to evade dormancy if you keep it inside and with a stable temperature and light pattern. However, this is usually bad for the tree. It’s natural for trees to go through dormancy cycles, and the lifespan of the plant is dramatically increased if the tree is not allowed to go dormant for a few months. Trees have winter dormancy for a reason, and it’s best to just let them run their course as nature intended.”

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Ask Him, and He will reveal His purpose for your season.
Seek refuge in Him, and He will shield you, even as you go through this season.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.” (Isaiah 43:2)

Lift your eyes, and you will see glimpses of His beauty, as your heart stretches towards eternity.”He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts….” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Unlike the Hallmark cards, “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

(Nature quotes from www.com/local-reports/illinois/local/how-do-trees-get-through-the-winter)

Sent from my iPad

Not Tame ~ A Response to Chapter 1

” I am furiously typing away because I woke up to a quiet house this morning and grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down to read the first chapter. Then I ran to the computer and here I am. And oh my sister! I don’t even know how to express to you what I am feeling or thinking. I felt like, something happened. Someone else gets it. I am not crazy. I felt this confirmation that it is okay to feel the way I do about Him and to believe He feels that way about me. I always think I take it one step too far in my passion for Him and I better tame it? People won’t like it. It doesn’t fit the mold of religion. But can I?

I catch myself daydreaming about Him. Dancing with Him in my mind. Thinking about Him like one would daydream about a lover they can’t wait to see. My heart flutters and I get butterflies. If I could sing and dance I would do that for Him but He withheld those gifts from me because He knew I would misuse them, so I close my eyes and pretend I can and pray that He will bless me with that ability in heaven so I will have one more means of expression for this aching for Him.

Sometimes I feel guilty because I should be pouring this passion into my husband. Do I cheat him when a love song I am listening to switches in my mind from thinking of my earthly groom to thinking of my heavenly groom? But God whispers…Your love for Me is what binds you to and blesses him.

Elisabet, I have had women tell me to tame my passion…it might offend. But it’s not tame. How do you tame a fire? And shouldn’t I fan the flame, not try to control it?

I am feeling permission just from chapter one that I am free to feel it and experience it. I don’t need to tame my feelings for Him. I have always felt that the only thing that separates me from a family full of addicts and I mean full of addicts….is that I am a full blown addict too…but I am addicted to Him and His words and His love. He is my wine. But I never knew how to understand it until chapter one and I never had a Brita tell me it was okay, so I hid it. I hide it.

Anyway, my friend, my sister, my fellow sojourner, I am just thinking and anticipating and already jumping way ahead and telling you that just after one chapter…I am blessed and can’t wait to continue this journey with you and Him as He comes to fill the gaps in my life. ”

Dawn George
Founder of Children Battling Cancer
www.childrenbattlingcancer.com

Image: Renee Rich Edwards

Artistic Director of In Motion Dance Center
www.inmotionmiami.com

Soli Deo Gloria

27 June, 2013 16:23


What would be left of you if your faith was subtracted? What parts of your emotions, relationships, ethics would remain? Would your physical life change? Your finances? Granted that we are body, soul, and spirit, does that mean two-thirds would remain if that one, troublesome part, the politically incorrect faith, was amputated?

That math would perhaps make it easier to inwardly justify the compromise. I am all too familiar with this. But it is not some abstract faith I silence, it is the Creator of the universe. It is not a little personal conviction, it is the loving Truth who gave everything to penetrate our proud notions of knowledge. He is the source of the very empathy that motivates me to set Him aside in order to please people. As if I could birth His life on my terms. As if I had life of my own to give.

No. In my experience, there is nowhere near two-thirds of me left when I exclude Him. A grey, dead coral reef strangled by plastic packets of artificial vitamins comes much closer. Like those wrappers, I become void of the fruit depicted on the outside, “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2. Timothy 3:5) Like the reef, I lose color, life, purpose. If nothing changed, I soon would have nothing to offer.

Compared to the rescue efforts for coral reefs, restoration for depleted and polluted souls, is simpler, yet similar. “Using innovative techniques, like underwater coral farming and reattaching broken coral pieces,….the goal is to restore the coral reef to allow the natural inhabitants a chance to thrive…. Scientists have found that the corals grown in the nurseries are able to reproduce in their new homes.” (http://oceantoday.noaa.gov/coralrestoration/)

God’s innovative technique is simply for us to return to Him, the very Source of life, and allowing the Living Water of His Word to revive our detached faith.
“And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘ Live! ’ Yes, I said to you in your blood, ‘ Live! ’ I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful…” (Ezekiel 16:6-7a)

“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “ I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:3-5)

With power and insight beyond the most sophisticated scientists’, He invites us into the only habitat where we can thrive and be fruitful: in Him.

“For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light.”
(Psalms 36:9)

“O Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is discord, harmony.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sorrow, joy.

Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not
so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are
born to Eternal Life.”

[ title Thrive]

[ tags Faith, Political Correctness, Soul, Depleted, Compromise, Restoration, Coral Reef, Pollusion, Thrive, Reproduce, Life]

Skillfully Wrought

I wish I could grow a garden. Lush landscapes of exotic, flowering plants, pomegranates, and fragrant herbs in terra-cotta pots, discretely lit by torches decorate my daydreams. In real life, I can’t even keep the basil plant from Publix alive beyond its first week’s residual strength – it’s pathetic. The only exception to this are plants given to me by people I love. I don’t know why, but Annisette’s lime and Humberto’s flower trees flourish, while the orange tree we ourselves bought is a sorry sight.

If not for the help of compassionate friends, my house would be a complete disaster. In stead, shall we say, it is very well lived in. It will never grace anyone’s Pinterest board. At times, it has been a real source of embarrassment for me, not because I ever had illusions of being related to Martha Steward, but I thirst for a beauty I am incapable of creating.

My soul was saturated from weeks of sweet togetherness with beloved friends, sentimentally grateful for the passion-fruit vine they added to my collection of love-plants, when it struck me: The people I love comprise my true exotic garden. While I am bewildered and confused by the physical, practical world, I feel at home in and intuitively understand the emotional realm much better. That’s how I am made. That’s where I thrive and bear fruit.

What a freedom to accept and embrace our Creator’s design. I am profoundly grateful to be surrounded by people who cherish each other’s uniqueness…. They are strong where I am weak and vice versa. We complete each other.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
― Albert Einstein

“He fashions their hearts individually;
He considers all their works.”
– Psalms 33:15

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.
– Psalms 139:14-18

Overcome Evil

Must we constantly pick sides? Must we be labeled either Republican or Democrat, for or against every issue of life or the public square? Don’t get me wrong; there are causes I would fight for, die for, live for. But how easily I become what I fight against!

When I think of the idealistic revolutionaries throughout history, whose opposition truly was tyrannical, how tragically frequent did they themselves become the oppressors once in power. Is there a way to fight evil without becoming it?

In “The Pastor’s Wife,” Jewish-Christian Sabina Wurmbrand describes life in Romania, first under the Nazi steel boots, and then under the totalitarian regime brought by their Communist “liberators.” When the hunters become the hunted, she hides from the now cowering left-over Nazis, caring for the very people who sent her family to their deaths in concentration camps.

Later, free after years behind barbed wire (Sabina served three years, Richard fourteen), she and her husband receive their torturers as guests in their home. I cannot imagine their internal turmoil, as they transcend their own profound suffering, extend forgiveness, and introduce Love Himself to these former agents of unrestrained hatred.

When I think of our last election, friendships torn to shreds in the us-against-them battles on Facebook and elsewhere, I fear we might have lost more than the Wurmbrands did in prison. Facing the gruesome abyss of brainwashed souls, where creative torture becomes a passion, they chose a Love that lays itself down to rescue an enemy. The Love that rescued them – and me.

I treasure real affection for people from all walks of life with all kinds of worldviews – some actively fighting against my own, actively attacking the God I adore. Should I join the battles of smart remarks online? Reading Sabina’s book again, resolve is steeling my heart: I will not fight eternal souls over temporary issues, no matter what. I will fight FOR them on behalf of their Maker. In words, ascribed to Einstein, “The rest are details.”

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2-3)

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:12-13)

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Prayer for the Graduate


My son, my firstborn graduated high school yesterday. The awareness of letting go spent all our tears – probably a necessary catharsis. Yes, the little feisty boy who scaled every doorway and then pounced on us like a ninja is gone. Yes, I miss holding him on my lap and for a moment believing I was everything he needed.

But I profoundly treasure the friend he now is to us, steady, wise, and with an empathy I wish his younger mother would have had. But rather than replaying regrets, I marvel at the miracle of a man he became. As I am loosening my grip, I am releasing a healing gift to our broken world.

We are sending him out like an arrow aimed at eternity. Free from our limitations, we trust his Father to carry him as an extension of His rescuing hands, as a refreshing taste of God’s Kingdom wherever he goes – and that when people meet him, they meet the most fascinating Person in the universe – Who lives inside him.

Our ambitions for him are painful. A fellow mother confided that this prayer scared her, as it does me. But the alternative scares me more. Anything glorious involves suffering; as a seed must die to bear much fruit, so God’s molding a soul into His image requires what this prayer by Kendall Payne expresses:

“May your heart break enough that compassion enters in
May your strength all be spent upon the weak
All the castles and crowns you build and place upon your head May they all fall, come crashing down around your feet
May you find every step to be harder than the last
So your character grows greater every stride
May your company be of humble insignificance
May your weakness be your only source of pride
What you do unto others may it all be done to you
May you meet the One who made us
And see Him smile when life is through
May your blessings be many but not what you hoped they’d be And when you look upon the broken
May mercy show you what you could not see
May you never be sure of any plans you desire
But you’d learn to trust the plan He has for you
May your passions be tried and tested in the holy fire
May you fight with all your life for what is true”

“The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place. ’” (Deuteronomy 1:30-31)