Finding Space

Having some renewed energy lately, I’ve been tackling a few early Spring cleaning projects.  I spent one morning digging through kitchen drawers and cupboards and organizing them.  Clutter at times overwhelms me, so this was long over do. When I was finished, I was amazed by how much space I had!  Everything tidy and in its place, I had no problem finding any item I needed quickly and easily. With this kind of success I decided I would then tackle my bedroom closet. Once I had discarded, recycled, and donated items that no longer brought me “joy”, (thanks Marie Kondo), I found with great delight more space. The challenge now is not to fill up the drawers, cupboards and closets again with unnecessary junk and be disciplined to keep my new-found space tidy.

I was challenged last Sunday by a powerful message given by Dr. Steve Booth, who was the guest speaker at our church. Steve and his wife, Susan are professors at the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary. Not only was Steve my professor in New Testament studies when I attended the CSBS, we boast a twenty year friendship with the family. Their son, Caleb, a brilliant artist, designed the covers for my Wounded Trilogy books. They have been so faithful to pray for me over these many months and years. I am truly blessed by them! This Sunday, continuing the sermon series Pastor Gary has been teaching through, Steve brought a message that continued the focus on the importance of reading the Bible daily.

As a Christian, reading the Bible has become a critical discipline in my life. Using different reading plans over the years, I know the daily “nourishment” I receive from being in the Word. I have experienced His Comfort, Provision, Wisdom, Direction, Encouragement, and Love because His Word is “alive and active” in my life.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

The challenge everyday is making space in my own heart to prepare to meet God, read, and meditate on Scripture. Then I need to be willing and able to apply the lessons God wants me to learn from reading His Word. Steve referenced the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20) and though I have read and studied this passage at length, Steve referenced a conversation he had with George Guthrie who wrote “Read the Bible for Life”. Guthrie, an avid gardener explained that in order for seeds to germinate and sprout properly, they not only need fertile soil but also enough space to grow. I had always focused on the type of soil (the heart) being prepared to read and understand the Word of God, but the concept of making space for God’s Word was new to me. In the Biblical parable, the first three soils are inhospitable to proper seed growth because there is inadequate soil preparation and lack of space for the seed to grow. The fertile soil is prepared, free of weeds and has space enough for a seed to sprout and the plant to grow tall and healthy.

The application is clear. To make space for the Word of God I must:

1. Prepare my heart. I must clean up the “space” in my heart before, during and after reading His Word. I must remember the Word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” I must try to remove the heart clutter, the things that crowd out the meaning and message of His Word like unconfessed sin, and unforgiveness. I need to make room in my heart for growth.

2. Set aside time (space) each day to read the Bible. I must make reading the Bible a priority.

3. Focus. If my mind is cluttered with daily concerns and my never-ending to-do list, I won’t focus on what I’m reading. In fact, my mind will not have sufficient space to comprehend what I’m reading because it’s too overwhelmed and disorganized with other things that can hamper my ability to hear from God through His Word. Therefore, I need to ask God to give me clarity whenever I read His Word.

It’s amazing how full God’s Word can fill up my heart space!

I thought my readers might enjoy Steve’s entire message, so I’ve posted the link to our church’s YouTube channel. Feel free to also enjoy the rest of Pastor Gary’s Sermon Series on Bible reading. The messages will bless your heart!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DqxmuIfBrrE#menu

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Braving the Cold

Our view of the Rocky Mountains.

We have been in the deep freeze here in Alberta this past week. In fact, news people said Calgary was one of the coldest places on earth! With temperatures of -36 C (-33 F) with windchills that make it feel like -40 C or -40 F, I have been praising God for a warm home. Oh, and I have said an extra prayer of thanksgiving for all the oil and gas workers here in our province who work so diligently to provide the product to heat our homes and fuel our cars. I will never malign the oil industry!

We are a hearty people here in Alberta when it comes to braving the cold. While schools were cancelled Wednesday, kids only had one snow day before they were sent back to classes even though there was no negligible change in temperature. One young man even wore his parka over shorts! Road crews and pipeline workers continued to work in the blistering cold, as well as first responders who tackled house fires and car crashes. Water main breaks kept road crews busy. While we did enjoy the confines of our warm home, my husband and I bundled up to go to the recreation centre almost daily so he could work out in the gym and I could walk around the track. We won’t let the cold keep us holed up, although it will be nice to walk to the car without my nostril hairs freezing up. I’m told a Chinook is on its way, with local forecasts predicting temperatures to go from the -30’s to above 0 by Monday. I’m praying the wild barometric pressure that comes with these snow-eating Chinooks will not cause nasty migraines, but I guess I will tackle that inconvenience in favour of warmer weather.

It’s been 15 weeks now since my last chemo treatment and when I think how far I’ve come in that time, I am so very thankful! My hair is coming in nicely although I still wear my wig for warmth more than vanity this week. I call it my “hair hat”. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, I feel more myself every day. Certainly there are days when I fight fatigue and I still have some nagging side effects, but those more challenging days are becoming fewer and fewer. I do find however, that I frequently wrestle with negative thoughts and irrational worries. I beat myself up over things I can’t do, rather than focus on things I can do. So to combat those thoughts, I try to celebrate my little victories perhaps with more gusto than a “normal” person would. I did an extra lap around the track yesterday and felt like an Olympian!

I appreciate all the continuing prayer and well wishes during this part of my recovery. I have two oncology appointments over the next two months. I always get nervous around doctors in general, but I’m hopeful they will see I have progressed well over these many weeks. I had a genetic screening test done this week to see if I carry the high risk genes in hereditary breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers. Amazingly they managed to extract six vials of blood from me with no problems and no bruising! Having this genetic testing done makes little difference to me, since I’ve already been diagnosed with cancer twice, but to my daughters, it may play an important role in health decisions they may make in the future for themselves. If I do have those high risk genes, there is a 50% increased risk (compared to the general population risk of 10 – 12%) of them developing cancer. In a way, 50/50 odds are not very definitive. ANYONE can get cancer regardless of whether or not they have an hereditary risk or not. Even the geneticists admit that heredity plays a minimal role in developing cancer. Lifestyle, weight, and fitness plays a much bigger role in reducing the risks of getting cancer, but even the healthiest, fittest person on the planet can get cancer. That’s why more research needs to be done. There is still so little we know about the disease itself and few answers as to why it continues to plague thousands of people here in Canada every year. That’s why I support the research efforts of the Terry Fox Foundation, and why I will keep praying a cure will be found soon so that my children and grandchildren will never face cancer in their future!

As I look over the mountains this frosty morning and await the warm Chinook winds to blow in, I am feeling positive about my continuing progress towards a full recovery. God reminds me daily that He is with me. I look to the mountains and am comforted by these words:

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121

Amen.

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Stayin’ Alive

It was a fitting song to start my workout this morning: “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. I could picture John Travolta strutting beside me, he with a paint can in his hand, and me with my water bottle.

Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother
You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’
And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive…”

I sang the lyrics in my head, trying to keep pace with the beat, but I knew from my previous day’s exertion that walking any faster would wear me out too quickly. My goal was ten laps or two kilometres around the indoor running track at our community’s recreation centre. The day before I had managed seven laps, and almost passed out. I had started my walk trying to keep up with the rhythm of ” Working for the Weekend” by Loverboy. It was way too fast I discovered. I burned out and felt miserable and defeated. Today, I remembered yesterday’s lesson and kept telling myself that slow and steady was the key.

Well now, I get low and I get high
And if I can’t get either, I really try
Got the wings of heaven on my shoes
I’m a dancin’ man and I just can’t lose
You know it’s alright, it’s okay
I’ll live to see another day
We can try to understand
The New York Times’ effect on man…”

I raised my hands like ” Rocky” when I finished my eleventh lap, and praised God I had surpassed my goal. I’m sure I felt His hand push me forward, or drag me along, either-or, the last half a lap.

It’s slow and steady, daily progress. I didn’t think it would be this hard on this side of cancer. I had so looked forward to being done treatments, but I have been frustrated and discouraged that I still deal with side effects, and fatigue. I thought I would have bounced back by now, but unfortunately that has not been the case. I was ready to start 2020 with a clean bill of health, and be back to my “old” self. Well, “old” seems an apt description some days. Someone told me it might take a year to fully recover from surgery and treatments. I guess I’m not willing to accept that, or use it as an excuse to hold me back. Still, I’m not Super Woman, and I have to listen when my body says “slow down”!

Today though, I am celebrating small victories. Tomorrow’s goal: twelve laps!

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