Run the Race Marked Out for You

It is no secret that I am an enthusiastic sports fan. My sweet husband and children cannot stymie my outbursts as I cheer perhaps a little too loudly for my favourite team, especially during the playoffs. I enjoy watching almost all team sports but I appreciate and applaud exceptional individual achievements no matter what sport an athlete may compete in.

I was never a particularly great athlete myself. Truth be told, I wasn’t even a mediocre athlete. I had no natural abilities. I tried a few sports but I just did not have the talent. My soccer coach in high school, bless his heart, allowed me to run up and down the field for a few shifts each game basically so I could have the experience and to enjoy the close camaraderie of team competition. He had no serious expectations I would ever score any goals or set up any scoring plays. I think he was thankful whenever I survived a shift because I had the uncanny ability to block shots with my face. In one game alone I was carried off the field twice, struck senseless by a ball ricocheting off my nose. After that fateful game he determined the safest place for me was on the sidelines where I could loudly cheer for my team mates.

My track coach also discovered what I lacked in athletic ability I more than made up for in vocalizing encouragement for others. He made me house team Captain during a school sports day, not because of any athletic prowess I possessed, but based entirely on the fact I could yell the loudest, effectively spurring my teammates onto victory with my incessant encouragement.  It came as just as much a shock to him and to me when I participated in and won the girl’s high jump event that year.  As I proudly walked up to him wearing my first place ribbon, he did not congratulate me, as would have been good coaching protocol, but asked incredulously, “Where in the world did you get that ribbon?  Did you find it on the ground?”

I should have been hurt by his assuming I did not earn the ribbon by my own merits, but instead, I smiled and sauntered past him and said, “I came in first in high jump!”  I neglected to add how I managed that extraordinary feat but it became obvious when the three girls who were supposed to have come in first, second and third place, limped past us.  Each of them in succession had managed to careen over the pole and land with enough force to injure themselves thus leaving the last competitor, me, the last gal standing and the winner by default.

I am in week four of my recovery from major surgery and I have little else to do but rest and allow time to heal.  Thankfully, I have enjoyed the NHL Hockey playoffs and the NBA playoffs during this “down” time.  Unfortunately, no Canadian teams are in the finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  I honestly do not care who eventually wins out between the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins, but I always seem to cheer for the “underdogs” so this year I’m throwing support behind the St. Louis Blues who haven’t taken home a cup in forty-nine years.

It’s a different story with the NBA playoffs.  This is the first time I’ve actually watched basketball since my brother played on our small town high school team in the 70’s.  I was the team statistician and occasionally I was also the score keeper for the home games.  I can’t say I was enamoured with the game then, but I did like hanging out with tall basketball players.  So, for close to forty-five years I haven’t followed the game or the NBA with any kind of interest…until this year.

The Toronto Raptors, the only Canadian team in the NBA, are in the finals for the very first time in their franchise history.  Up until two weeks ago I did not know any of the player’s names, much less their rise in the NBA league, but I have become a Raptor fan in short order.  Canadians have embraced this team with patriotic furor.  I have great respect for the players of both the Raptors and the Golden State Warriors who can throw a three pointer on a consistent basis.  I don’t understand all the rules, but I enjoy the games and I laugh at the antics of Drake, Canadian Rapper extraordinaire, on the side lines, as he and the thousands of other diehard Raptor fans cheer on their favourite team.

Raptors “Superfan” was interviewed after a game and I couldn’t help but take note when he said, “One more game, God willing, and we are the Champs!”

God willing.

I find that comment interesting.  It is as if he is assuming that God will determine the outcome of each game.  Does He?  I’ve asked that question before.  Is God a sports fan?  CNN wrote an article in 2010: “When did God become a sports fan?”

“It’s hard to pinpoint when athletes started invoking God on game day. The late NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White, the “Minister of Defense,” was one of the first professional athletes to routinely thank Jesus after victories during his career in the 1990s.

Baker, the author, says that as far back as 1943, Gil “The Flying Parson” Dodds, an American distance runner, would give Jesus credit for his victories. Dodds signed autographs with a scriptural reference to Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”).

One of the first professional athletes to attract criticism for invoking God after victory was Michael Chang, an American professional tennis player.

Chang won the French Open in 1989 as a 17-year-old underdog. He was booed by a Parisian crowd when he thanked Jesus for his victory at the tournament’s trophy presentation.

Chang, who now helps runs a Christian Sports League in California, says he thanked Jesus not to gloat, but to show gratitude.

“When I go out there and share my faith, I’m not saying God is on my side and he’s not on your side,” Chang says. “The Lord loves everybody, and the Lord is on everyone’s side.”

In a week, both the NHL and NBA finals will have concluded.  There will be celebrations for the winner and the losing team will commiserate and feel the loss profoundly.  Will the teams praise God for the win, or blame God for the loss?  I am always a little concerned when athletes (and fans) praise God for the wins, but neglect to praise Him for the losses as well.  After all, shouldn’t Christians praise Him all the time?

So, I will pray that the athletes of all the teams will show good sportsmanship whatever the outcome.  I pray the fans will also show good character in the manner they celebrate a win, as well as how they graciously accept defeat.  I will pray that Christian athletes will understand the importance of giving Glory to God whether they come in first or come in last.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Hebrews 12:1-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Pain, Your Gain

It’s no coincidence that this Oswald Chambers quote has come across my path in several settings and through different conversations I have had with several people recently.

I didn’t hesitate to share openly about my new cancer diagnosis as soon as possible with my family, friends and church family in early April this year.  I’ve also been proactive in journaling and even writing about my ovarian cancer diagnosis here on my Journey Thoughts blog.  So many people have commented that they appreciate that I have been open and honest about this health challenge so they can pray specifically for me and come alongside me in practical ways as well.

I have learned through my previous experience not to “waste my cancer”.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, I didn’t understand the impact I had on others just by living out my faith throughout the “battle”. When first diagnosed, I didn’t want to share anything about what I was going through. It was partly because I was fearful to admit such vulnerability to others and I certainly did not want any kind of notoriety! I didn’t want curious stares, or pitying remarks, and I certainly didn’t want people to only identify me with my cancer diagnosis. I envisioned the whispered comments and I cringed thinking people were talking about me behind my back: “There’s Lynn – she has breast cancer, poor thing!” Ugh!

I fought against revealing my health struggle with anyone other than my husband and immediate family for several weeks and then God clearly spoke to me through Henry Blackaby, who was the guest speaker at our church one Sunday. I went up to him at the altar call and without getting too specific, I just told him I was facing a major health crisis and appreciated his prayers.  He nodded and said he would pray but he was adamant that I share my health struggle with my church family.  “They need to be able to come alongside you,” he said, “so they can support you and your family through this and you need to let them!  God may use your health struggle to teach them what true koinonia is and it will be of great benefit to them and to you!”

I was floored. Did Henry say my breast cancer would actually be a “benefit” to myself and to others? That was the most bazaar statement I had ever heard! Surely I had heard him wrong.

He turned me to face my church family and quieted the congregation. “Lynn needs to share a health struggle she is facing so you, as her church family, can come alongside her in prayer and support her through this.”

I didn’t have time to react or even to prepare what to say.  I cleared my throat and surprised myself by openly sharing that I was going to be undergoing mastectomy surgery followed by chemotherapy treatments over the next several months.  When I was finished speaking, I was overwhelmed by the emotional response displayed by the congregation and the immediate outpouring of love as people swarmed me promising to pray and assist me and my family throughout the months ahead.

I did not know it on that day, but learned later, that there was a couple visiting our church to “check it out” that morning, and it was my testimony and the subsequent congregational response that prompted that couple to join our church!  They said they wanted to be a part of a church that cared so much for others.

I didn’t totally understand what koinonia was until I experienced it first hand after my cancer diagnosis.  Henry Blackaby defines it in his book: A God Centered Church: Experiencing God Together:

“Koinonia is the practical expression of God’s love toward his people….Koinonia is agape love in action.  It is how we experience the fullness of God’s love for his people and in his people.” (p. 31)

My church family learned to love and care for me and my entire family through the two years of surgeries, and treatments I had to go through.  I heard so often from so many, “When one member of our family hurts, we ALL hurt!”  I received cards, daily emails, care baskets, meals, home care, babysitting for my young children, and the Worship Team even came to my home when chemo left me too weak to attend church services.  The men’s group came alongside my husband, and the youth group surrounded my teenaged daughter with their love and support as well.

I wrote a blog in 2014, “Heart Scars, that goes into detail what I learned after that cancer experience.  I feel the need to share a portion of that blog post now that I am facing another cancer diagnosis.

1.  God used pain to move me.  I couldn’t ignore the fact I had cancer.  I had to take action, it would have cost me my life otherwise.  I had never thought much about my health or my mortality before.  A cancer diagnosis forced me to rethink priorities in my life.

2.  God used pain to move me towards Jesus.  I ran straight into the arms of Jesus.  I had no one else to turn to.  Although I had the support of family and friends there were times they just couldn’t comfort me, try as hard as they might.  In my pain, God revealed Himself to me more clearly and compassionately than ever before.  I would never have experienced Him the way I did without journeying with Him through cancer.

3.  God used pain to move me towards others.  We are called to bear one another’s burdens, encourage, befriend, support, and love one another.  I allowed others to minister to me during my time of need.  I relied on them as I never had before.  I let go of foolish pride to allow myself to become vulnerable not only before others but before God.

4.  God used pain to bring me together with others who have experienced similar suffering.  I have been blessed to be able to fellowship with many courageous women who, like me, have experienced breast cancer and some who are still  experiencing breast cancer.  We are part of sisterhood and we have a special bond and camaraderie together as a result.  I can empathize with them, cry with them, laugh with them, but mostly I can point them to the One Who will ultimately brush every tear away and heal them of their pain…Jesus Christ.

One of the most profound things I learned was that pain is not to be wasted!

Whoa!  Think about that.  Whatever circumstance right now that you are in, big or small…if you are experiencing pain, do not waste it!  If God has purposed you to experience cancer (or any other kind of “pain” physically, or if you are experiencing Heart Scars) do not waste the opportunity to draw nearer to God and to others through the experience.

I thank so many of my readers who have commented and stated they are praying for me. Your words and encouragement have meant so much to me!  I pray we will experience koinonia together and that God will be glorified throughout this journey!

 

 

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Plans Change

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Our plan was to spend a week in Rome, then board a ship on the 1st of June to cruise the Mediterranean for eleven days. We pictured spending our 40th Wedding Anniversary on the 2nd of June to be the most memorable day onboard, seeing new sights, and then ending the day with a romantic sunset dinner on the private balcony of our estate room. It was supposed to be our trip of a lifetime.

But plans change.

I’m three weeks post op on Monday. Instead of cruising the Mediterranean on our anniversary, we will likely take a leisurely drive to the mountains after church and have a nice lunch in Banff or Canmore. Something we’ve done numerous times before. We haven’t finalized the plan yet, it sort of depends on whether a morning in church has tuckered me out too much. It will be my first Sunday back after surgery and I have discovered to my dismay that I get tired quickly after any kind of activity. I attended a prayer meeting the other day with three dear ladies and I came home so exhausted I slept most of the afternoon. I know prayer is hard work but seriously?

So, we might make plans for our anniversary on Sunday but those plans might change too. All we can do is adapt and go with the flow.

My sweet husband and I are used to change; we have learned to either accept it and adapt to it, or be filled with disappointment and regret that our plans didn’t work out as we thought they should. We make a conscious choice of accepting and believing that each U-turn and unexpected course change in life has a God-Centred purpose.

It’s the way we’ve lived our lives for forty years. Proverbs 16:9 has been our life verse and every time a plan we made didn’t work out exactly like we intended, or not at all, we believed God was always in control and He’d steer us in a different and often much better direction.

He’s never let us down.

In every course change or U-turn we’ve experienced over these forty years, we have been able to share remarkable testimony about God’s goodness, provision, and faithfulness towards us.

Now some may say if that is so, why make your own plans at all?

My parents gave me a little wooden plaque with a Hans Christian Andersen quote in Danish painted on it:

Loosely translated: “God gives us peanuts but He doesn’t crack the shells open for us.”

It’s important to keep making plans. Dream big, plan hard and have fun in the process, but never be so immersed or dedicated to any plan that you can’t accept and adapt as necessary if your plan unexpectedly changes. Trust that God is in control and look for His activity around you.

My husband and I are already planning another cruise after my health improves. We have great plans for the future and we will continue to plan with confidence that God will, as always, direct our steps!

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