Psalm 100 – Thank You

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.  Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.  Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.  King James Version (KJV)

Rainbows - Northern Ireland
Rainbows – Northern Ireland

May 2013 – a long way (9 years) from May 2004 and those words no one should ever have to hear: “it is malignant”.

Thank you Lord for a great report today!

Faith

Faith – have been stuck on that topic today.  Posted to my FB status that on Day 7 of the month of Thanksgiving that I am thankful that I understand and believe the principle laid down for us in Hebrews 11:6 (KJV): But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

After all the left, right, and middle of the election, and all the push/pull of folks telling us what matters when most of them are clueless, I am again reminded that faith is how we respond to Him if we are obedient to Him as we are commanded. We won’t know in this life necessarily the outcome of our faithfulness – that never was promised. Take a long hard look again at Hebrews 11 if your have forgotten how those promises were made and fulfilled.

Just because we are faithful does not mean we will get our way (i.e. “have our prayers answered the way we want them answered”). I do believe without a doubt God is answering our prayers but in those answers He is seeking urgently to get our attention and get us focused on Him. And I am not aware of a situation anywhere at any time where God did not have a plan for the situation at hand.

While listening to the whining and lamenting and name calling and (of particular offense to me, the stupid actions of students at my alma mater last night), I realized we have ignored how folks around us are walking in faith. There are many examples but close to my heart because of my personal walk with BC, I am particularly tuned into these.

Today while at JOA for my semi-annual check up, I watched as a wife pushed a wheelchair bearing a very tall and very very ill man into the lab ahead of me. I watched three lab techs come straight to his aid, concerned for his pain and his needs and made a way for him to get to a place in the clinic where folks were not looking on or exposing him to who knows what. He had tubes everywhere. Yes – it was the folks at JOA’s job to take care of this man – and yes – his wife is his caregiver but the compassion with which they handled him and how they encouraged him as they cared for him, caused me to sit still (my tech was helping them) and pray while this was going on. I don’t know their names. I don’t know his prognosis though I would guess it is not good. But their faith and commitment and attention gave him comfort in that moment and gave (could see it in her face) his wife relief.

I follow/followed closely the cancer journeys of several of our church members at FBCJ.  I have watched some unbelievable men of God move from this life to eternal life and do it with dignity and courage that caused others to ask what was the source of their faith.  I am praying now for another church member who is in a similar battle and yet his faith and that of his wife is amazing.  These folks did not turn their backs on God. They certainly were not/are not a part of the evil we see around us today. But they chose faith and moving forward with what God gives them today not whining and complaining about what might have been or should have been.

Other examples abound – these are just close to my heart because I have walked that road before. For whatever reason God chose to allow me to continue here for now. I don’t know what lies ahead for me (or for America). I do know He expects me to be praying, witnessing, sharing, giving hope, meeting the needs of others – being obedient – persevering. I suggest that is what He expects of each of us.  And in our obedience, we will be amazed yet again by His grace. 

Romans 5:3-5 (NASB) – And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Make New Friends

Shilup – Counselors In Training 1971

Where to start?  You think you reach a point in life where you might forget someone. Certainly, I am past the time where that occurs every day but summers never pass that I don’t find myself deep in the piney woods just north of Wiggins mentoring young girls with my friend Becky. Or doing Senior Scout projects with Becky. Or hanging out with Becky. Or talking on the phone or planning/plotting/whatever with Becky.  It was an unlikely friendship of two strong and willful personalities at opposite ends of any spectrum you might ever imagine. 
Staff Photo 1972 – We LOVED this bobtruck!
Our common denominator was Girl Scouting. We had both been in Scouts since we were 7 year old Brownies in Gulf Pines Council but the Pascagoula/Moss Point Neighborhoods might as well have been as far from Wiggins as Moscow is from New Orleans!
 I suppose in the “texting” parlance of 2012, we were “BFFs”. She would have agreed but would be amused, I think, at that term.
We met during the summer of our CIT year (1971) at Camp Iti Kana – we knew “of” each other. Both of us were considered to be campers who got it, we just did not know each other. We struggled to figure out how or even if we could be friends (I find that funny now – at the time, not so much so. In fact, was not sure I wanted her as my friend because she was so bossy!)

Teaching about “horseplay” at the pool.  
The summers (six) we spent together as well as as much time in between as we could figure out, were so much fun. Becky taught me more than anything how to laugh at myself and how to trust others. Those have come in handy over the years. We both served as unit leaders. She directed CIT and I served as Waterfront Director and we both taught swimming. We mentored tons of girls. Some of those same folks will be getting back together in October to talk about those long summer days and nights and how much fun we had and how much we learned.

On the old CIK bridge (1975)
Of course we had to make everything difficult. She went to MGCCC/JC and to MSU. I went to Ole Miss. She dated one guy and then married another from Pascagoula. I dated a guy (at the time) from the Mississippi Delta. She married Ricky Grafton and returned to Jackson County the semester she finished at MSU. I had another three semesters at Ole Miss and then located in Jackson. She taught kindergarten. I decided to chase technology. She had children. That was not in God’s plan for me. I did know Ricky (her husband). She never knew Steve but I do think she would have liked him. She would also have liked that we have adopted a couple of really special kids that we treat like grand kids.We stayed in touch though our lives took very different turns in the years after she married. We did not talk as much or visit as often but the friendship was still there.
December 20, 1976
In addition to both having similar but different leadership skills (we also learned from each other how to be followers, how to divide and conquer, and how to respect the differences in others.) We figured out that a team only works if the parts work together. 
Finally, we both had breast cancer.  She died from her encounter. Mine which occurred some 18 years later, was probably treated with things that were tried and refined with her and others like her in clinical trials like she was in.
Her birthday and Steve’s are a day apart. He was born one day before her. This November she would have been 58.  She was 32 when she left us. I still hear sounds, pick up certain scents in the woods, and even see folks who remind me of her. I still miss her and expect I always will. Next month when we return to CIK for our reunion, I know I will walk to the bridge and some other places we spent hours together and remember.
On the wall of our guest room hangs a cross stitch she did for me when I graduated from high school. It says:
 
Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver, the other is gold.
Thanks Becky for being my friend.
   
 


Stouthearted

When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted.
Psalm 138:3 (NIV)
I love this verse. It came to mind when I was thinking about a friend last night who is in a position of “hurry up and wait” and as I pondered even having yet another small skin cancer removed (this time from my eyelid – not too excited about someone messing around with sharp objects around my eye but as my Mama says, “this, too shall pass.”)  Also, I have this in perspective – it is NOT breast cancer!
I think what I like is the word “stouthearted”.  Sounds sort of King James like but this translation is the NIV.  Other translations talk about God giving you “strength in your soul”.  I agree that is what it means but it just does not carry the visual of being “stouthearted”.
To be stouthearted means to be someone who stands firm on your beliefs – a faith thing – unwaivering – TOB (“tough ole bird” as my “friend” Patty has called me at times). To be stouthearted means that you are focused on the Creator thus the chief “what if” dude (a.k.a. “Satan) cannot get entrance into your heart and thoughts.

The dictionary (Merriam-Webster) defines it this way.

stout·heart·ed

adjective /ˈstoutˈhärtid/ 

Courageous or determined

Works for me. I encourage you to be the same.

CilleP.S. Breast Cancer Awareness month starts October 1. Have you had a mammogram this year?

Still Choosing Joy

I was asked to write a short article about my testimony.  Funny how something you have lived blesses you when you revisit it.  As I write this, I know a faithful choir member is on the verge of being free from the earthly suffering of cancer (may already be free). Celeste – you lived this even more than me. Your glass was always full and you ministered to so many. You amazed me when you were first diagnosed with colon cancer. You amazed me the Carols after that when you were on the ladders hanging garland and in your place every time for rehearsal and concerts. You simply amazed me. And I will miss you as will many others.

I consider myself a “glass half full person”.  My tolerance for whiners or folks who persist in looking at the dark side of every event they encounter is very low.  I was very much of that “try to see the best in everything” mindset during 2003-2004 when I decided to focus on joy. I wanted to develop my understanding that experiencing joy was a choice, not a given and not dependent on circumstance. My personal verse for the year was Philippians 2:2 (NIV): then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  
I was busy. I served as Sanctuary Choir President for the third time. Work was busy and unsettling as election years often are (I work for the State of Mississippi). Yet, I was restless. God was working in me (and in Steve) and I was struggling. Verses like Malachi 3:3 (KJV) came alive for me:  And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. You have been there, I am sure. I laugh now, but I prayed for patience in the period of refinement.  Frankly, I am not sure I will ever do that again. And I wondered since my focus was joy why pain might accompany that.
On May 18, 2004, I received that confirmation dreaded by everyone. You have cancer. That spot you came to see me about is definitely malignant. Talk about a body blow.  Steve had really convinced himself nothing was there as I underwent the testing. I think I knew all along that this might be a part of that “refinement” thing and I was going to learn a lot about choices, including the choice to be joyful. That night, we called friends who came and prayed with us. When they left, I sat down at my desk and opened my Bible and the pages fell to Psalm 34:4 (NASB): “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”  I honestly believe that God put my hand on that verse because it was not one I had marked before. And I remembered that as He delivered me from my fears, it would be up to me “choose joy”.
Cancer diagnosis and treatment is like drinking from a fire hose. You have the personal aspect – Steve could not get a grip initially; my parents were devastated – three girls out of three with cancer – why; well meaning folks offering everything from solid advice to horror stories – none of which you can process at the time; and decisions to be made. And then you have the aspect that your life for the period of treatment is very much lived in a fishbowl – especially if you chose to move forward with living in parallel to treatment.
I manage projects for a living, and this was how I approached cancer. I knew God was with me at every step – in the medical decisions, in the support structure, in teaching me I could not do this on my own.  And I was constantly reminded that people were watching me and would be impacted for Christ one way or another by how I handled myself during what I was going through. They would see my choice be it joy or be it anything else. His Word and His people sustained me. God opened so many doors through the experience for me to be a support and encourager to others who have walked that path since I did.
I would never wish breast cancer on anyone. I would also never give back that period in my life.  Jesus was, and still is, my strength. He did “calm all my fears” and still does. And because of Him, I am still choosing joy!