Thursday, June 30, 2016

Tranquil Waters in Troubled World

I am lying in Lake Wylie here, though it is kind of hard to tell. There is a little island that I kayak to, where I get out of my boat, lie down in the water, and cool off. Ahhhh! Peaceful waters all around me; the troubled world far in the distance. There is almost nothing as soothing as cool, still waters when you are hot, and tired.

I went kayaking right after getting a bone density scan. That was the absolute least invasive medical procedure I have had to have in a long time! It doesn't hurt AT ALL. The oncologist wanted to see how much calcium had leeched from my bones over the years since I already have borderline bone mass and the cancer drug will eat my bones even more. If only everything I faced was so painless....

My plastic surgeon tells me the operation Friday will very likely NOT be my last one. After radiation, the implant for mastectomy breast reconstruction tends to shrink and harden, and many women have to have a third surgery to correct the "capsular contractions". I am NOT LOVING this process.

The radiologist who was on-call for my vacationing doctor went to a lot of trouble to search for some articles that answered my worried questions. He emailed me the research report. The statistics are not encouraging. With the type of reconstruction I have and the surgery tomorrow (which I thought would be the last one), the majority of women who have radiation after the reconstruction (like me) will end up with another surgery to fix the effects of radiation. If I wait and have the reconstruction surgery after radiation, the reconstruction I have is often unsuccessful or with unsatisfactory results due to the condition of the radiated skin. There is no good option open to me, except prayer.

This is never ending! I had no idea when I started this journey how much struggle and impossible decisions would have to be made. I have no choice at this point, being half-way through the process. So I spent a lot of time talking to God. Please Lord, let me defy the odds and have no complications and let this be the last surgery I will need. I would calm during my chats with Him, and especially when I focused on praying for others, but it was a constant battle to keep my mind stayed on God, rather than my troubled thoughts.

What I am going through is difficult, but we all face troubling issues in life. None of us know what we will face when we crawl out of the womb. If we did, we would all crawl right back in. We are often faced with impossible choices, none of which seem perfect or even pleasant. None of us are guaranteed an easy go of it. Truthfully, the Bible says all of us are guaranteed times of struggle.

How are we to survive then? Or even better, how do we thrive in the midst of this guaranteed pain and suffering? Is kayaking all day every day the only way to find peace? (It works for me to a point...and then my arms give out.)

“Peace be with you.” (John 20:19) The promise and hope in the words of the risen Christ are the only peace that will confront and vanquish the terrors of the Enemy.

Fortunately, the lake and kayak worked their magic. My pulse and blood pressure returned to a normal range following the peaceful emptying of my mind before God in the glory of His creation.

Besides, I got two pieces of good news. The baby of one of the mamas I work with who had been in the Neonatal ICU for ten days IS HOME!!!!! Next, the mama who chose life Monday but is still wavering texted me. Her baby is still safe in her womb, and she sounds like she is leaning towards letting him remain there.

So, prayer warriors -- big list for you. Please....
1. Pray surgery Friday goes well with no complications
2. Pray radiation does not damage my implant and I miraculously need no more operations.
3. Praise God for the adorable baby boy given a second lease on life!
4. Pray the wavering mama chooses life, and rededicates her life to God.

Oh! One other really joyful news! My audiobook producers whom I adore have asked to do Gidget- The Horse Formerly Known as Witch as an audiobook! I am thrilled as Dorothy Deavers Moore and Rick Moore are on-fire Christians with an incredible talent as well. (If you sign up for my mailing list on the upper right side of this blog page, you will be in the running for one of ten free new audio-book giveaways when they are completed. Go ahead. Nothing to lose and everything to gain!)

So don't feel bad for me. I am blessed. Everyone is who has God on their side. Troubles will not cease, but God does provide tranquil water in the midst of this troubled world. Its name is Jesus.

James 1:12 

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Regard Self Less, God More

I spent much of the day yesterday cleaning the house in preparation for my upcoming surgery July 1. I won't be able to clean for at least a couple of weeks after surgery, so decided I needed to get everything done now while I am still strong and able. I did the laundry, made two loaves of my home-ground healthy bread, vacuumed, dusted, cleaned the bathrooms, mopped the floors, and packed my hospital bag.

To avoid the re-occurrence of blood clots which I had with the original surgery, I bought rainbow striped compression socks. How fun is that! I was also told I need compression shorts for a couple of weeks for my liposuctioned thighs (they are harvesting fat to aid in the breast reconstruction.) Since I just don't think a near 60-year-old lady should be seen in public in compression shorts, I got some with a skirt over them. How cute will I be in rainbow knee socks and a little skort with compression shorts? I will be the talk of the recovery room.

I spent a great deal of time walking, and in prayer. As the surgery looms, I find I must constantly be talking to God, or my freak-out potential increases. Charles Spurgeon agrees this is a good strategy. Here is what he said in my morning Bible study:

It is ever the Holy Spirit's work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan's work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. 

I had always thought of this as a call to glorify God rather than self...and of course, it is. But it is also protective! When I am facing something terribly frightening or difficult, like the surgery, focusing on myself makes it a thousand times worse. When I focus on Christ instead, the hours pass and I barely consider the upcoming ordeal.

In fact, I am almost excited about surgery since I get to wear those rainbow socks afterwards. Almost excited, but not quite. In the not quite moments, I am focusing on Christ to get me through.

Colossians 3:2 

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; ...

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Did God abandon me....or is it the other way around?

Calvary, oil on canvas, 16x20, available

A woman pulled her car alongside the abortion center with her blinker on but stopped for one of my sidewalk team members, Chrissy. She rolled down her window. Somehow, Chrissy convinced her to talk to me, and she agreed to let me take her on our mobile RV for the free ultrasound. As she got out of the car she told me in no uncertain terms that she could not have this baby and was going to abort.

However, she would go ahead and do the free pregnancy test and ultrasound, since she had to do that anyway before aborting. When she got on board and I asked what had brought her here that made her feel this was her only choice, it became quickly apparent that she was very angry with God. She said that she had prayed so many times for a better life, and God has answered none of her prayers.

She even claimed that years ago, she had accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. However, as the years went by, she rarely read her Bible (if at all). She only went to church briefly for a few weeks, then stopped altogether. Her prayers ended when the life she wanted didn’t materialize.

After hearing her concerns, which were mostly financial, I told her I felt we could meet every one of them. First, I flipped through the pages of our pamphlet that shows babies at various stages of development in utero.  Step-by-step, I encouraged her to tell me if the baby at a lower level of development was of more value or less value than a baby at a higher level. She told me their value didn't change from one month to the next. She even looked at the 40-week old, and the newborn, and agreed the value didn't change in the moment they went from womb to newborn.

I asked the same question regarding value changes with difference in the baby's size, level of dependency, and environment where the baby resided. She agreed on every point that the baby’s value was not determined by any of those things. (For those of you in active pro-life ministry, this is the SLED method and it is very effective.)

Then we returned to a discussion of the obstacles facing her that had made her feel abortion was her only option. For each obstacle, we offered a realistic solution that has helped many of the women we work with. She could not hide behind her rationalizations any more. She had to come face to face with what this choice to abort was really all about.

Thus far, the good news was she’d come to the conclusion that the value of a human being is intrinsic, based on the fact that God created human beings in His image. She also agreed that every objection she had raised did not trump the value of human life. She admitted she knew now that abortion was wrong, but she was still struggling.

Next, I moved on to citing abortion statistics, including the physical and emotional trauma to the mother. Increased depression, increased suicide rates, substance-abuse, Post-Abortive syndrome, shattered relationships, and physical ailments are a few of the staggering collateral damage of abortion. We showed her what happens in an abortion of a baby at the same gestational age as her own baby. (If you don't know, click HERE. It is mind numbing what a civilized society passes off as a humane and valid choice.) She was horrified and said she had no idea that that’s what happens during an abortion.

Now, we took her back to the ultrasound unit. Her baby put on a wonderful show. The baby was very active sucking her thumb, kicking, doing flips. The mama smiled as she watched her child on the screen, and commented about how active the little baby was. Sherry, the ultrasound nurse, spoke about the unique and wonderful attributes of the little baby at this stage of development. Knowing how determined this mama was to abort, Sherry took a lot of extra time, and let the living proof of the little person seep into the mama's heart.

As we walked out of the ultrasound room, I asked the mama what she was feeling now, and she said “I am not going to go in that place[the abortion center]. I am going to go home and talk with my boyfriend now.”

Our final discussion as she finished filling out the discharge paperwork was about God.  I shared the gospel and talked about God’s work in my own life, and how he had redeemed me from a life of selfishness and doubt  to one of faith. Sherry also shared the miracles of God and the joy of following Him from her own experiences.

The mama talked morre about her anger with God and how she wonders how He could take things away from her and not tell her why. I then shared with her the story of Job, a book I feel like I have lived for the past couple of years. I told her that everything was taken from Job except his life. He grew very angry with God and demanded answers to his questions: WHY?  But God never answered those questions, never told him why. All he told him was how: How Job should live having now seen God face-to-face, knowing that he could trust the creator of the entire universe without God’s explanations of why He does what He does. Job got the message. His response should be all our responses:
Then Job replied to the Lord:
“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42: 1-6

By the end of our discussion, she understood that it was not God who had abandoned her, but it was she who had abandoned God. 

We wrote a list of the things that we would do to help this mom.  I walked her to her car, not fully certain she would drive away from the abortion center. As I waited, praying and waving, she did indeed leave and drive  away.

In  all honesty, I’m concerned. She is what we call a "shaky save", and it could go either way depending on the discussion with her family and her boyfriend. In fact, last night I exchanged several texts coaching her on her discussion with the boyfriend. The fact that she was texting me was a good sign, but she was clearly still on the fence.

Before she left the RV yesterday, she told me that maybe God was answering some of her prayers. Maybe she had seen a miracle already. She said when she first pulled up in her car, she was telling herself, “Don’t stop for those people, and don’t roll down the  window.”
 But something  made her roll down her window.
“Maybe that was God," she said, looking hopefully at me.

I agreed, and encouraged her to read her Bible, find a good church, and pray to God. I told her it was one of the most unbelievable privileges of all that the creator of the universe wants us to know Him, and wants us to talk to Him. And I told her that when she asks God into her life, the Holy Spirit of God Himself indwells  her and guides her in truth. How cool is that???

“You know when I first saw you,” she said, “I decided I would come and do the ultrasound, but while you were talking I was thinking, as soon as I finish the ultrasound I will leave and get the abortion. But then, something happened. Something changed in my heart. Maybe that was the Holy Spirit working.”

I found out as I was driving home listening to the radio that the Supreme Court of the United States had just struck down the Texas abortion laws which increased safety rules for the mothers in the abortion clinics to match those of any surgical center. Abortion on demand was apparently more important than the women's safety. This ruling was a great disappointment. However, laws will never truly affect matters of the heart, and abortion is a heart and Gospel issue. We must change people's hearts.

Three women chose life at that Charlotte abortion center yesterday. Three women’s hearts were convicted that what they were about to do was wrong. It is a small percentage of those that were there, but it is cause for great rejoicing. Every little person's life that is spared is cause for rejoicing.

Ezekiel 11:19 

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.                        


Monday, June 27, 2016

Filling with the Knowledge of His Will and a Thousand Thank Yous

This is just a portion of the gifts that Truth and Mercy Pro-life Ministries showered yesterday on one of the mamas I work with. It is always a joy attending the baby shower of a mama who at one point was considering aborting her child. The lavish love of Christ is exemplified in these showers. The gifts come from a whole host of pro-life supporters, and are lovingly packaged and prepared by the ministry founder, Sheryl Chandler.

This mama, K, was overwhelmed, and grateful. She told me, as so many do, "I cannot believe I ever thought of killing this baby. I am so glad you all were there that day." Every piece of our Cities4Life network of support is critical. The baby showers are tangible support -- providing the first two years of clothes and supplies the baby will need.  K could not stop thanking Sheryl for the incredible overflow of gifts. She said, "I love this, thank you so much," with almost every single article of clothing and supplies. It took 1 1/2 hours of nonstop pulling items out of bags to get through them all. She must have said thank you a thousand times.

Both our initial contact with the moms on the sidewalks of the abortion mill, and the baby showers are gospel oriented. In this particular case, K and her boyfriend heard the gospel and asked Jesus to be their Lord and savior a couple of months ago when they first chose not to abort. At the shower, the gospel was reviewed again by Sheryl, and the mom was able to hear it more clearly. Sheryl followed the same general format I follow in presenting the gospel (check out Ray Comfort's excellent method of reaching others for Jesus.) K said she had never thought about that, several times. This gave me pause. I knew she had, because she had thought about it when I discussed it with her two months ago. In fact she had answered the very same questions in very much the same way. It reinforced what Sheryl said later. Sometimes truth must be heard many times before it really sinks in.

It struck me again how critical it is to have an on-going mentorship with these young new believers. It is impossible for the sidewalk counselors at the abortion center to do this effectively. Most of us follow several women, and the work on the sidewalk itself is an enormous emotional and time-intensive undertaking. We are desperate to have Christians, along with the support of great churches, step in and take over after our initial contact with these new converts.

When I became a Christian, I had no clue really of what I had just done when I believed Jesus died for me. I believe my salvation that first day I proclaimed Christ was real, but it was filled with ignorance of truth as well. My faith was shallow, and undeveloped. I had a million questions, and a very murky understanding of what it meant to "be saved" or to follow Jesus. My doubt could well have snuffed out the spark of faith. I was fortunate enough to get plugged into a good church right away, and my faith and understanding grew. This is what these moms need as well.

I try to stay in touch with the moms I personally counsel at the abortion center sidewalks, but at this point I am following about twenty regularly. I send them daily Bible verses, but I just don't have the time to give each of them the personal discipleship they need.

Might you have the desire to help one of these moms grow in their faith? You don't need to be in our city to have ongoing contact through texts and emails, to encourage and help them in their Christian walk. Or if you are in the Charlotte area, perhaps you could encourage your church to be willing to mentor and walk alongside one of these mamas.

If interested, please go to for more information on how you can help. Or contact me at .

This morning, my team and I will once again be on the sidewalks of one of the busiest abortion centers in the entire Southeast. My prayer is that babies will be saved, and that precious souls will see how bankrupt they are without Jesus. I pray many will stream out of that awful place, new life in their spirit, and a thousand thank-yous on their tongue.

Colossians 1:9-10 

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. ...

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Right Kind of Fear - In the Face of Cancer, and Flesh-Eating Bacteria

Lost, But Found a Hidden Creek

I got lost on my morning bikeride looking for Caribou Coffee. That's okay. It was a beautiful morning, and I discovered a little creek hidden alongside a secluded path I had never seen before. It's in the picture above, right behind my shoulder. What a happy surprise! Mapquest helped me find the Caribou Coffee.

I biked home and headed off immediately to kayak. I know. Rest isn't really in my vocabulary. Also, I only have a week till my surgery, and then radiation. I need to cram in as much fun as I can since I don't know if I will be able to do much with my summer and those fun medical interventions.

Besides, truth be told, I am afraid of my upcoming ordeals. If I stay active in places of beauty and peace, the fear subsides.

I unloaded my kayak at the Catawba riverside park, and was wheeling it on its little cart to the river. A couple of women passed me and one said, "Don't get wet. There's flesh eating bacteria in there."

I thought she was referring to the brain-eating amoeba, which recently killed a girl who was rafting at the nearby Whitewater Center. I knew the amoeba could only reach the brain by being sucked in through the nose. I was in no danger since all I would do was  step into the water.

"I won't snort the water," I promised.
"No, not the amoeba," the lady said, "Flesh eating bacteria. Some kids that were swimming right there..." She pointed to the exact point where I launch my kayak. "...came down with rashes, and were quarantined. It was in the news, though I haven't heard updates. They said it was flesh-eating bacteria."

I had NOT heart about this. I decided since I had other bodies of water I could kayak in, I would instead drive a half hour to Lake Wylie. As far as I know, no flesh-eating bacteria have been reported there.

I thanked the ladies, and drove to Lake Wylie. I was glad I did. It was relatively calm for a Saturday without too many noisy motorboats, and the water felt wonderful. I don't know what I would have done if I didn't have options. Brave flesh eating bacteria or forgo one of my favorite activities on earth?

Sitting in Lake Wylie avoiding Flesh-Eating Bacteria

There are a lot of dangers in the world. The miracle is that most of us do survive through adulthood.
It would be very easy to succumb to fear. There really are a bizarre number of things to be afraid of. Fear could quickly become the motivator for all our activity, and I suspect would reduce our lives to nothing.

The Bible warns us that we who love God should not fear. If we trust Him, we have nothing to fear. This does not mean we should abandon common sense, but a life spent huddled in our closet because so many things out there can kill us is not a life.

Listen to what the Bible says about fear:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, Isaiah 41:10

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.1 John 4:18

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me Psalm 23:4

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Proverbs 29:25

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15

The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. Proverbs 19:23

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom... Psalm 111:10

The message is clear. We should fear nothing on earth. We are only to fear the One who controls all things. He who directs the universe directs our paths. He alone should be the object of fear, since our future is in His hands. A holy fear should direct us to follow, cling to, and obey Him, not to avoid catastrophe, but because of the immensity of our love for Him and understanding of His love for us.
This is wisdom, and ironically, this type of fear leads to life. Eternal life.

There are no flesh-eating bacteria in heaven.

Psalm 23:1-6

A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. ...

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Is God Big Enough For Even This?

On a recent run, I was going at a moderate pace. I wasn't planning to run for very long because it was so hot outside. However, by the time I hit mile 4.2, I started feeling good. I kicked into high gear, thinking I will just run fast to the corner.

I pulled out my handy fitness app, Map My Run, and saw I was doing a 7:15/mile pace. I was sure it was a mistake. I haven't run that fast since I was twenty. So, suddenly, I was on a mission. Could I maintain that pace for two miles to finish out a 10K?

I was running for sure to my utmost. Don't think I wasn't gasping for air. I was. However, I was determined to run faster than I thought I could bear. That seemed like something worthwhile to do. I kept the timer in my hand, checking my pace. I can do this! No, I can't! Yes, I can!

My second (and last) breast reconstruction surgery is in one week, July 1. I have been told this operation is a breeze as regards to the breasts. HOWEVER, to smooth and perfect the reconstruction, the surgeon will be sucking fat out of my thighs to smooth and pad the new breast.

Friends and the internet seem to concur that the aftermath of this liposuction is pretty terribly painful. I am downright terrified. It is hard to keep my eyes on Jesus when everyone is telling me my eyeballs will be rolling out of their sockets in misery.

I can do this! No I can't! Yes, I can...can I?

Please pray friends. Prayer moves mountains. Pray the pain is bearable, and there are no complications. I will call the surgeon this week to be sure he feels it is absolutely necessary we do the liposuction but I already know the answer. He has already told me the breast reconstruction is better with the liposuction.

I watched my phone click off the mileage, and as soon as it hit 6.2 miles, the distance of a 10k, I clicked finish on "Map My Run."  The last two miles I averaged below 7:30/mile.  I did it. I don't know what reserve all that speed came out of, but it showed me something I needed to see.

We defeat ourselves. We are almost always capable of doing more than we believe we are capable of doing. Similarly, we defeat God's work in our lives. Our vision of God is rarely too is usually too small. Can God handle even this liposuction? Of course He can. Can He empower me to handle it? Is God big enough for even this?

You may not be facing cancer, but I bet you have asked this of God at some point in your life about some overwhelming obstacle. If you haven't, you probably will.

Most of us have some concept of God, and usually it is narrowed by our own limited perspective and experience. A classic book by JB Phillips (Your God is Too Small) says we limit God, envisioning him  as policeman, conscience, parental voice, a grand old man, meek and mild, or in a box we construct based on our expectations, to name a few. None of those give the grandeur, power, and awe that God deserves.

Colossians 1:16 tells us that He created all things, the entire universe. Isaiah 45:7 reminds us he formed light and created darkness, makes well-being and calamity. He numbers and names every star, as well as every hair on our head. No sparrow falls to the ground without his notice. His Providence stretches wider than the universe and as small as numbering our every hair. Who is like Him other than He? Majestic in holiness, awesome in power, eternal... and yet inexplicably concerned with the comparatively minuscule affairs of humankind.

This God can do all things. My friend prayed for me yesterday and told me she was praying I would replace worry with worship. Yes! My God is big enough for everything I face. Is yours?

Exodus 15:11

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Carrying Burdens We Are Not Meant to Carry

On my long eight-mile walk yesterday morning, I passed a man who was carrying weights in each hand. He didn't look like he was having fun at all. It was a blistery hot day, and the weights looked heavy. His face was red, and he was pouring sweat. He didn't smile as I passed him. He grimaced.

Well, at least he was getting stronger. Carrying weights does make us stronger...depending on the weight we carry. As those thoughts traipsed around in my head, I realized God was sending another message.

We all carry burdens. Some are burdens God would gladly lift from us. They don't make us stronger; they cause despair and make the journey miserable. We may think we cannot put them down, but that is a lie of the enemy. Burdens of anger, fear,  unforgiveness, despair at the injustice we endure from the world, desire for revenge. Those burdens destroy us from the inside out. If we don't put them down, they will crush us.

There are burdens we are supposed to carry. The burden to love one another, to seek to save the lost, to care for the weak, to stand up for the powerless, and to comfort those who are hurting. Those are burdens God places upon us that we should hoist no matter the cost. When we carry those burdens, we grow stronger in the Lord.

After my long walk, I went kayaking. The wind was so strong that there were whitecaps on the water. It was pretty hard kayaking against the wind, and the waves were smacking over my hull.

I felt like that hot, sweaty man carrying those heavy weights. Then I turned around. I let the wind carry me effortlessly back to the dock.

Turn around to Jesus, my beloved friends. Lay down your burdens and He will carry you.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Matthew 11: 28

As my second reconstruction surgery approaches July 1, I find myself worrying and fearful. Please pray friends that I would enter this with calm assurance.

John 13:34-35 

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Defying Death and Pursuing Peace

Danger-- Warning from Overhead
"Be safe on those waters," a stranger said to me as I launched my kayak. I wondered why she was concerned. As soon, as I hit the water, helicopters were circling over me. That was when I remembered the recent news report of happenings on those very waters. I was afraid they were going to pull out a gun, and say "Get off the water, you crazy person. Brain-eating amoebas are in the river!"

I am NOT making light of the recent death of a young lady from the brain-eating amoeba in our White Water Center on the Catawba, right where I was kayaking. However, it is extremely rare for someone to be infected by the amoeba. There have only been 35 cases world-wide in ten years. The folks in the helicopter were far more likely to die from crashing than I was from the amoeba. I should have been warning them!

Also, you have to suck the water deep into your nose to let the amoeba near your brain. I never swim in the water or submerge my face. Occasionally I sit in it to cool off. The amoeba would definitely go after easier prey.

The helicopter circled above me for some time. Maybe it was a News helicopter, and I will be on the News; the death-defying kayaker taking her life in her hands on the amoeba infested waters.

The helicopter eventually moved on down the river, perhaps to warn other death-defying kayakers. I came to this picturesque railroad bridge. All thoughts of amoebas were long gone.

Picturesque railroad bridge over waters teeming with brain-eating amoebas

I saw osprey, herons, and many turtles. If I saw any brain-eating amoebas, I didn't know it. As I kayaked, it was hard to be worried about the amoebas, or really, anything. The peace that washes over me when I kayak is other-worldly. I don't understand why everyone on earth isn't racing to buy kayaks and take their chances with the amoebas. Peace is elusive, and many people pursue such unhealthy means of trying to obtain it.

Yet for the cost of a kayak, I bob in the cradle of God's creation, soaking in His presence, glory, and peace.

You can find God anywhere, and the more you seek Him, the easier He is to find. However, it helps if you can shut out the clamor and worry of a frenetic world to hear His whispers. Sometimes He shouts over the world's noise, but most of the time, I think He prefers a gentler approach. It is we who make Him raise His voice.

So I glided in my kayak, slicing through who knows how many hungry brain-eating amoebas in complete safety and peace. I was listening, in case there was something God wanted me to hear.

Safely navigating dangerous waters with God

2 Thessalonians 3:16 

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

At the End of Yourself, Be Brave in God

Before my morning kayak, I got a text from a friend, Alice. She had been speaking with a young man whose girlfriend was planning to abort the following day. The young man was a friend of her son's, and was willing to talk with her, at least a little. However, the young mama would not speak to her, and her mind was made up. She would abort. My incredible friend offered the frightened couple her home, money, even adoption of their baby if only they would not abort. They refused.

Alice encouraged her son Mike and his wife to confront their young, terrified friends. They agreed. Alice  asked me to pray, which I was eager to do. I also gave a whole bunch of advice, based on my experience as a sidewalk counselor at our local abortion center. She asked if her son could call me so I could advise him myself.
Of course!

When Mike called, he and his wife put me on speaker phone. They were in the car, en route to meet with the young abortion-minded couple. I talked for an hour, laying out step-by-step what I do in counseling an abortion-minded mama. I gave them an assortment of facts they could use in their discussion. I even sent pictures to their phone of our abortion statistics pamphlet, as well as several websites they should look at before their time with the couple. They took careful notes.

"Remember," I told them, "You are only responsible for being there, for bringing God's message. You are not responsible for the results. That is up to God."

Afterwards, I kayaked on my favorite river, and wondered how this young husband and wife would deal with their first time confronting someone determined to abort. I remembered my first time...I was petrified. As I skimmed along in my kayak, feeling the peace that always envelops me when I am on the river, I prayed.

Later that day, I received the following text:

Hey everyone. Short update. Our talk went very well. We really got to them, and it got to the point where we pretty much answered everything. It's up to God now.

I could not believe the wisdom coming out of my mouth! God definitely helped us with what we said. Nobody got mad, and we were able to keep the intensity very low and sensitive, and they definitely felt that we were talking to them out of love.

Thank you Vicky for your amazing advice. We wouldn't have been able to do it without you.

You will not believe what we just realized!
I had taken notes when we were on the phone with Vicky, and right when we started on the subject, I tried to pull them up to refresh myself...but the phone instantly died and wouldn't turn on.

I started to panic, but then I felt like God wanted me to listen to Him, and speak from the heart. And it went really well! My wife just pulled out the phone...and all of a sudden now- it's working and has a decent charge. We didn't plug it in since it died....

God? I think so. 

I got chills reading this text. They didn't need their notes, or their phone. They didn't need me. They could have done it without me. They could NOT have done it without God, and they didn't need to.

See, when we are brave in God, and obedient to His call, He empowers us.

There is nothing more exciting than feeling the Holy Spirit take over and bring us to places we know we could not possibly arrive on our own. These obedient messengers of truth to the hurting, abortion-minded couple have no training in counseling abortion-minded mothers. All they have is a conviction of right and wrong, a desire to heed God's call, and the obedience to be in a place that is terrifying and outside their knowledge and ability.

We don't know what the young abortion-minded couple will choose to do. We don't yet know if their baby will be saved. What I do know for sure is that another young couple has just been irrevocably changed, finding a strength and a purpose to their lives that perhaps they had never known they had.

Be brave in God. When you come to the end of yourself, He is ready and waiting. It will amaze you what He can do with a fearful but willing heart.

Deuteronomy 31:6 

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, ...

Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.