Tuesday, November 17, 2015

In the Words of Willie Nelson--"On the Road Again"

We have come so far in almost 3 years! Tomorrow, November 18, 2015, Rodney and I will leave for Houston for tests at MD Anderson. I was scrolling through my blog and was reminded of a BIG trip to Houston when we went for surgery. God is so amazing and has done SO much since May 2013. This week we will see the same doctors from the story below. Pray for us as we travel and pray for our doctors as they guide us. Pray for our boys as they are in the loving care of family!

You all have been, and continue to be, such a blessing to our family! Thank you for your prayers and encouragement! We expect miracles! LIVING AS IF!!

May 2013

This is a big week for the Jackson crew.  We have checked off our final round of Power Aide (hear the angels sing?!?) and now we move to the next phase of attack---surgery. Wow! By the time I am done I am going to have more scars on my body than a road map of Texas, but if that is what it takes to kick this nuisance, then so be it. I will be a personally monogrammed map of triumph!

Your prayers and encouragement have sustained us on this rocky road. It is an amazing thing to look back over the past 6 months of struggle with this and honestly be able to say that I have cried more tears of amazement than tears of sadness. You have loved us, fed us, covered for us, supported us, and prayed for us. If it isn't too much to ask, we'd love to solicit your prayers for the needs that lie ahead.

Wednesday morning I will leave for MD Anderson. Rodney is giving his Chemistry End-Of-Course exam (big state test) and doesn't want run out on his kids who have worked so hard, so he will fly in later that day to catch up with me. I will have labs and CT scans done on Wednesday to see where we are standing with things.  Please pray that my blood counts are all good and that the CT scans show that the little boogers (tumors) got blown to bits by my Power Aide and are no longer existent! Pray that everything is in order so that surgery can be performed.

Thursday morning I will meet with my MD Anderson oncologist. His name is Dr. Blumenschein. He will review the labs and scan with us and give any input on treatment that he sees necessary. We saw Dr. Blumenschein on our initial visit, but he has been out on leave for our last two. That means he will have a little catching up to do on my progress.  Pray that he gains a thorough understanding of where we are in my recovery. Pray he has wisdom in his decision making regarding my case. Pray that God blesses him for his willingness to be a healer.

Friday we will meet with the surgeon, Dr. Vaporciyan. I LOVE THIS MAN! Each time we have met with him he has given us valuable information about our situation. If you remember my earlier blog, In the Details, I talked about the miracle we had our first time at MD Anderson when we realized that Dr. Vaporciyan, whom we were squeezed in with at the last moment as an afterthought, trained the surgeon who did my initial surgery in Lubbock. He is a miracle and we are glad for him! He will make final surgery plans with us and answer any remaining questions. Pray that he is able to remove any remaining cells of the nuisance--each little one. Pray that the margins of the tumors are clear and that the pathology is good so it never regroups and attacks. Pray for Dr. Vaporciyan's hands, his eyes, his mind and his judgement as he performs surgery on me. Pray that God uses him to perform a miracle!

After we meet with Dr. Vaporciyan, I will meet with the anesthesiologist. I do not know who that will be yet, but he has a very important job! The greatest obstacle I faced with the last surgery was nausea from the anesthesia. It lasted for days. Pray that they will find the perfect balance of medication to control the pain and avoid the nausea.

Then the waiting begins. Rodney and I will stay in Houston over the weekend. My mom, dad, and two sisters will join us on Monday. Then Tuesday is the big day. I will have surgery on the 14th. The surgery will involve an incision between my ribs on my back (a few will be broken to get in there). It is a pretty tough little surgery. The goal of the surgery is to remove any remainders of tumors. There are two that have been seen on scans that have already shown improvement, but during my first surgery more were felt on my diaghram. These have not shown up on any scans so we don't know exactly what we're dealing with there. Hopefully, they are no longer there or by some strange chance, were never tumors, but some kind of scarring or other medical mystery! One of the greatest risks is to my lungs. Since they have already been beaten up a little by the first surgery, there is a chance they will have small punctures when they begin to manipulate them. This is one of the greatest risks. Please pray that my lungs hold strong. Pray for success in the surgery- clean margins and easy removal. Pray that my recovery is smooth and that we are able to get home without any bad side effects.

That brings me to the biggest prayer of all. Our total time away from home is probably going to be around 15-16 days. That is a long time to be away from my babies. Pray for our family as we are apart. Pray that the days goes swiftly and that all our needs are met while we are apart. Pray that my boys are confident and courageous (and us too!) Please pray for my family members as they take care of my kids and for their teachers as they take care of them at school. And if you see them, give them a big hug!!!!!

Finally, please pray for the next phases.  After surgery, my medical team will have to make some decisions about what is next. It could involve more Power Aide, radiation, or by the grace of God a miracle. Radiation would involve 4-6 weeks in Houston (PLEASE NO!!!!!!!!). Power Aide would involve more of what we've endured. Neither sound very fun. PRAY FOR A MIRACLE! Pray that we don't require any more treatment to have this thing totally beat. But most of all, pray for God's will. He knows what is best for me. That is what I want.

Thank you again for loving us. Thank you for sharing these requests with your prayer groups. Thank you for being a part of our healing team and our lives! Now, let's get ready for the miracles!!!!!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Prayer for the Persecutioner

This post is very different from anything I have shared before, but I cannot get it out of my mind. I actually wrote it months ago and hesitated to post it, but each new event brings it back to my mind. I know that we all have a variety of opinions on war and politics, my intent is not to fuel a feud, but to share a different perspective. You do not have to agree with me. I do not have to agree with you. We each answer only to one. This is what that one has been laying on my heart. 
..."But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you.

Persecuted. Women. Men. Children. Persecuted.
My mind has struggled to make sense of it. I have felt anger. I have felt despair. I have felt fear. I have wondered how to pray. I have seen responses calling for hell fire and damnation, and sometimes that is how God disciplines, but my mind could not find rest with that prayer. I keep thinking of a particular persecutioner. Worse than the rest, he feels totally justified in his killing. He prides himself on his crimes and feels no repentance for his violence. He marches across the country slaying those who do not believe like him, leading others in the crusade. He breeds fear. He breeds anger. He breeds despair. And then one day, this murderer of believers, is traveling on his mission of destruction. Like a predator he stalks his prey when suddenly he is blinded by a light. Lifting his hands to shield his eyes he hears a voice, and in a moment his life is changed, and so are ours. Not hell fire, not damnation, but a question. "Why are you persecuting me?" He had an encounter with Jesus Christ. On that day it was the persecutor that died--- to a life of murder. He began a new life as a passionate servant of a God he could not deny.

That man, Saul of Tarsus,  went on to write two-thirds of the New Testament. He was himself persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, abandoned, for his dedication to a Savior he had once denied. His messages to the churches of his day continue to speak to churches of ours. I am left wondering if in our fear, despair, and anger we are praying the wrong prayers. Instead of justice and vindication, what if we pray that today's persecutioners meet a Savior who will change their hearts, a God who will show them love. What if we pray that they are blinded by a truth that is too brilliant to be denied? What if the tide of hate is changed because we pray for the persecutor's salvation rather than their destruction? What if?

Things can change. People can change. Even those most committed to a mission can be changed by an encounter with a loving God.
Pray for the persecuted, oh please pray for them and their protection, and then pray for the persecutioner as well. It may very well be the greatest of all weapons in this war!

ACTS 9:9-22
9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Off to Houston Again (God Has A Plan For That!)

This week has been one of ups and downs. My kids have had some victories in their lives and some sadness. I celebrated the life of a great man with his family and friends as we sadly said our final earthly goodbyes. I watched with sadness as our world was once again attacked by terrorists and I had to click off the news page as I read of mothers who have killed their children. Our world can be a really broken place. Meanwhile, life moves on and as mine does I face another trip to Houston for tests and doctor visits at MD Anderson. Normally as I gear up for that trip the verse, "They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD." Psalm 112:7 is running through my mind, but this week there is another I have been reflecting on. I  found myself saying it as I talked to our youth group on Sunday. I referenced it as I talk to my son about a loss he experienced that brought heartache. This morning it popped up on my phone as the verse of the day. I have quoted it to myself for assurance all week. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

As I read my Twitter feed this morning I saw a world asking how a good God can allow bad to happen. If He is so loving, why did people die? If He is so powerful, why do families fall apart? If He is so great, why do people get sick?  

"You know God, they actually have some pretty good questions there. If the plans you have for us are good, why does the world seem so bad?"

And then the verse ran through my head again, but this time it was if he placed the emphasis on the words a little differently. "For I know the plans I have for you are good." GOD'S plans for our lives are good, but there are other forces in the world. You see, free choice in the world led to sin. Sin in the world led to death, darkness, sickness. Yes, He could have kept that from happening, but to do so would have meant creating man to have no choice. He could have kept us from choosing sin and we'd all be living happily ever after in the Garden of Eden, but to do so would have required that we also didn't get to choose whether we loved him or not. He wanted us to choose Him, and because of that free choice bad things began. That doesn't change the fact that the plans HE has for us are good. God didn't sit down with a calendar and say that in November of 2012 Anna Jackson should be given cancer, but when that plot twist entered into my life he DID sit down and say, "Satan is planning an attack on my beloved, Anna. In that evil plan Anna will face cancer so MY plan is that in it she will find amazing joy. While Satan is trying to bring harm, I will show her peace. When Satan attacks with pain and nausea, when he takes her hair, her health, her energy, when he scares her children and husband and saddens her parents and sisters, I will show them things about me they never could have imagined. During the attack Satan thinks he has so wisely planned, they will be blessed by friends, family and strangers and they will see love. When they fear for the future, I will comfort them with provision. When the healing comes, but the tests continue, I will send remembrances of our journey together and remind them that my plan for them is good. In the end their memories of my presence will overshadow their memories of the pain. Through this trial, MY plan is to show them I am God. I am good."

Our world is broken. Man is mean. Satan is real. Pain exists. Bad things happen that should never, ever happen. But GOD, is good and his plan is to take the bad and use it to prosper us and not to harm us. Even if Satan takes our very lives, God has a plan for that.

This week people in Paris will have chances to see God in ways they couldn't have before. My prayer is that it brings revival and renewal to their hearts. This week my friends will begin learning to live without a man they dearly loved. I pray that as they do God brings comfort they could never have dreamed of. This week my son will begin to walk a different path than what he had planned. I pray that God will use it to show him opportunities he would have missed otherwise. This week I will travel to Houston for more tests. I pray that God will once again take my breath away with his love for me. The world is bad, but God has a plan for that!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

My To Be List

I have a confession. I am a list maker. For me there is great satisfaction in creating my daily to-do list and marking things off. I have to admit, there are times I have already completed a task but go ahead and put it on my list just to reinforce the feeling of accomplishment when I can mark it off. Sick mind, right? I will own that one.

This week I was challenged with a new thought about lists. I was participating in a training in which I was encouraged to create a life purpose statement. This statement was to be a summary of my mission--a phrase that should guide my decisions about all the various areas of my life. Whatever I chose as my mission guides how I live, how I love, how I work, and how I invest my time, money, and efforts.

 I thought about it, wrote a few things on my list, scratched those off and thought a little more. I finally settled on one--one I have known since I was a little girl. My life purpose is to love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength and with all my mind; and to love my neighbor as myself (Luke 10:27). That is my mission. It is what must drive every word that comes from my mouth, every action that I take, every thought that I have. Once I settled on my statement, it was time to reflect on how that statement impacts my family, my work, my friends, my budget, my service. It was then that my view on lists took a shift. I busily create To-Do lists each day, but what really deserves my time and attention is a To-BE list. What do I aspire To-BE each day? If I love God, how must I BE in my family, at my work, with my investments and gifts? If I love my neighbor, how must I BE when I see needs, how must I BE in how I interact with others?

Here is the a-ha for me. My TO-BE list is much more important than a To-do list. True joy comes from being able to mark off that list. So I am developing a new habit. My TO-BE list has to drive my to-do list. That is the way to accomplish my purpose.

So what is your mission? Do you have a to-do list driving you today? How about adding one more thing to it? To-Do:  Create a TO-BE list.  Let's check that box off together!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Two Directions

This week I was reminded once again that life is really about the way you choose to look at things. I woke up early to head to work.  I rushed to my car juggling coffee and my smoothie, threw the vehicle into gear, and headed out. I dashed to the corner, braked at the stop sign, and quickly looked first to the left, then to the right. It was then, when I was forced to slow down and look around me, that I saw it. To the left the sky was dark and dreary. Rain clouds hung heavy in the air, host to thunder and bolts of lightning. The clouds held the threat of what might be, the potential storm ahead, the foreboding of rough weather. To the right was a stunning sunrise. Beams burst from their hiding place among the clouds. It truly was breathtaking. It held hope for a new day, beauty of fresh starts, promise of warmth and sunshine.

As a stop sign forced me to be still, I suddenly was reminded that  life is truly about what you choose to focus on. The day held two possibilities and the direction I turned would choose how I saw it. Turn left and keep my eye on the storm or turn right and keep myeyes on the sun. The direction I turned wouldn't change the day, but it could certainly change the way I viewed it.

I drew a breath, thanked God for the stop sign that made me pause long enough for the lesson, and happily turned my car towards the sun. The clouds still existed it my rear view mirror, we don't control the storms, but my eyes stayed focused on the sunrise. Joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Happy To Be Here Day!!

I love the word August. Makes me think of fall, football, and the excitement of back-to-school. I love the number 30. It is a nice even number. I like the sound of it. You put them together and they create a special date--my birthday. I always liked my birthday. It has marked many fists for me.  My first day of school fell on August 30th. My first day of teaching was August 30th. My first day of life was August 30th. But not too long ago I wondered if I would live to see my next August 30th. Cancer makes you reevaluate a lot of things. Birthdays take on new meaning. 

The candles on my birthday cake used to represent a passing year. Now they represent hope for another one.  The sweetness of the cake is no longer just a justified treat, it now reminds me of the sweetness of living and to savor every bite of life. The Happy Birthday song is not just a traditional melody, it is a reminder of how the voices of those I love come together to create the soundtrack of my life. When I open a present I am reminded that life is a gift and it shouldn't be taken for granted.  The birthday greetings of my family and friends bring a lump to my throat as I am reminded how they prayed for me, cheered for me, cried for me, hoped for me, fought for me. My birthday is no longer a marker of an anniversary of the day I was born, it is now a marker of the miracles God performed in answer to our prayers. I am a very blessed girl.

I get to celebrate another day. I get to live a little more, love a little longer, learn another lesson. God is so good! Happy birthday to me! Happy to be here!!!

Blessed is she who has believed that The Lord would fulfill his promises to her. 
Luke 1:45

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Just Extend the Boundaries

As school is about to begin I can't help but remember some of my own school starts as a kid. I had many good teachers, a few that I could have done without, and one that taught me lessons that changed my whole life. Mrs. Etta Mae Mann was my first introduction to school and boy did I love her!

I attended kindergarten in Garland, Texas. I turned 5 years old on the first day of school. For my kindergarten teacher friends you know what that means. I was the baby of the babies. You could only be one day younger than me and be allowed in that grade. While I felt quite grown and ready for school, there were definitely some things that weren't quite matured yet. I have vivid memories of things I did that year to compensate for any gaps. When I'd forget how to spell my last name I would pretend to have to go sharpen my pencil. On the sharpener shelf was a yellow egg carton that contained seashells I had brought for show-and-tell. In my mother's neat handwriting my name was written on a tiny label. I would slowly sharpen my pencil as I memorized the order of the letters I would need to write on my paper and then return to my seat. I learned that you don't have to know it all, you just have to know where to find the answers.

I have other great memories of lessons I learned that year.  I remember a green construction paper kite made as we learned our letters. It won't fly we were told, but it was pretty to look at. I took it home from school and as I got out of my car the kite was grabbed by the wind. It CAN fly!!! I was ecstatic and couldn't wait to tell Mrs. Mann. I learned that the impossible is possible after all.

I LOVED Mrs. Mann. I did everything in my power to impress her. I would tell tall tales about where I lived, the exotic foods I liked (you know, exotic like fish sticks, which I hated, but apparently thought would be impressive). Maybe the reason I loved Mrs. Mann so much was because she loved me. One evening she invited my family to her home for dinner. She served the foods I had told her were my favorite. You guessed it, fish sticks. I had to choke down those fish sticks with a smile on my face! I learned a pretty valuable lesson that day- don't pretend to be someone you're not and always tell the truth!

But the lesson I learned that may have had the most impact came from Mrs. Mann and a coloring page of a tomato soup can. I assume we were learning about the letter T, that wasn't the part of the lesson that mattered that day. You see one of the things that hadn't matured in me very well yet was my coloring. My fine motor skills were a work in progress. When I colored I pressed very hard which would make a big mess on the paper. I struggled to stay in lines. More than ANYTHING I wanted to be the best artist in the class. I wanted to color the most beautiful tomato soup can in the whole wide world for Mrs. Mann. She deserved a picture that could stand up to the quality of the Mona Lisa. The harder I tried the worse it got. I still remember my little heart beating inside my chest as I began to get frustrated and feel like a failure. I can see my knuckles beginning to get white as I gripped the crayon tighter trying to control it. The more I tried to control it, the harder I gripped, the worse it got. I was out of the lines. It was a mess! My red crayon drawing began to look like someone had smashed a tomato on the page. As my frustration grew, a shadow fell across the page and Mrs. Mann leaned down and quietly said words that have forever changed my life. "Anna, just extend the boundaries." She put her hand over mine and showed me how to make new borders for my tomato soup can. By the time I finished my drawing it had a one inch border all the way around, BUT I WAS IN THE LINES! It wasn't perfect by most standards, but it was a Mona Lisa! I cannot even begin to tell you how those words, "Anna, just extend the boundaries" have impacted my life. When I run into obstacles that I don't know how to address I don't give up in frustration, I just extend the boundaries. When I have made a mess of things, I hear Mrs. Mann whisper in my ear and I just extend the boundaries. When solutions are no where to be found, I look outside the boundaries. The lesson learned from Mrs. Mann and a tomato soup can have served me well. I learned to think outside the boundaries which opened a whole new world of possibilities.

At the end of kindergarten my family moved to Shallowater. I only saw Mrs. Mann one other time in my life, but when I graduated from high school I received a card from her in the mail. Inside the card was a red rose that I had colored long ago. My picture was in the center. I remember that it had hung on a bulletin board in our classroom in her "Kinder-garden". And the coloring was quite nice for a kid who had made such a mess of things. I turned it over and found a message written in Mrs. Mann's script-  "My all time favorite pupil Anna Masten". It was the best graduation present of all.

Now that I am older and maybe a little wiser, I see all sorts of spiritual lessons in the way Mrs. Mann lived her life and the lessons she taught me.

"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26. (Just extend the boundaries.)

"Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool." Proverbs 19:1. (Don't try to be bigger than you are. It is okay not to like fish sticks.)

Today Mrs. Mann is not around to whisper in my ear when things get hard, but the Holy Spirit is and he gently whispers encouragement and advice when I am still enough to listen.

Sometimes the harder I try to control things, the worse I make them. Rather than gripping harder to try to manage things, sometimes the power comes in letting go. Don't cling tighter to problems, lighten your grip! Let the Father place his hands over yours and show you how to navigate through the problem.

It is back to school time, but not just for kids. Maybe my lessons learned in kindergarten apply to you today. Are you having a hard time staying in the lines? Has your life become a mess? Does it seem impossible? Hear the soft whisper?

 Just extend the boundaries!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

She Believed She Could...

Today I spent the day in a hospital waiting room as a sweet friend of mine had surgery. As I passed the time I read a little, surfed the web a little, and prayed a lot. The mixture of those things brought me to an a-ha moment. I guess I was finally still enough for one!

Have you ever heard the phrase, "She believed she could so she did"? I noticed it in several places today. I saw it on jewelry, on a plaque and on Pinterest. I think I have even posted it somewhere before.  At first glance I didn't think much about it, but the more I saw it the more I got to thinking about it. SHE believed SHE could so SHE did. How sad that SHE was in it alone. I get it, you have to believe in yourself to accomplish things. I agree. But the more I thought about the phrase the more a little thought started to turn in my head. I am SHE, but there have been ALOT of things in my life that I couldn't do, even though I wanted to. Among them, I couldn't cure myself of cancer. I remember when I was first diagnosed scrambling in my mind to come up with a solution. Something I could do to cure myself. I read every book I could find. I scoured websites for ideas. I thought that if I found just the right thing I could bring a cure, but believing in myself to come up with a solution just wasn't enough. As I remembered those days, the phrase begin to shift. You see it wasn't believing in me that brought healing in my life. I found myself thinking, "She believed HE could so HE did." That was the secret. We have been sold a pack of lies that if we believe in ourselves we can do anything. That if we set our minds to things we can achieve, but that is a lonely, defeating, disappointing way to approach life. We have a Father who is bigger and stronger that is the one who truly impacts change in our lives. We don't have to believe in OURSELVES, we have to believe in HIM!
God's power in our lives is amazing when we believe. Mathew 9:29 says, "According to your faith will it be done to you."  She believed HE could so HE did. The bigger our belief, the bigger the response. We have to believe in HIM. Then, and only then, can we count on the promise of Matthew 17:20, "Nothing will be impossible for you."
But what about when our faith tank is low? What about times we struggle with unbelief?   I love Mark 9:24, "Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" God let's us ask for him to help us believe. (I can't even begin to tell you how many times I have cried that out in the last three years!)

I don't know about you, but I get tired of struggling sometimes. I get tired of trying to work things out on my own. I think the quiet whispers of the waiting room were coming through loud and clear, "She believed HE could so HE did." I am grateful it isn't dependent on me, because I CAN'T DO IT!  But I am so grateful for a God who can. My prayer? I believe, help me overcome by belief so that the impossible can be done!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Wise Man's Words

Happy Birthday, America! Today we will celebrate our independence. People across our nation will barbeque, enjoy their family and friends, and end the day by lighting the sky with fireworks. We celebrate our independence, our freedom, our nation. But the very things we celebrate today are some of the things that also separate us at times. Our independence. Our freedom. Our government. The past few weeks have been filled with controversy in our country to say the very least. Governmental decisions regarding gay marriage, confederate flags, posting of the ten commandments have created a tsunami of comments on the social media shorelines. One man's freedom and independence imposes on another's. It would seem our government is failing and our nation if filling with hate. As I have tried to keep my head above the flood of responses and opinions, I have searched for direction to safety. I came across the words of a very wise man. They were written long ago in a language that might not seem relevant to all readers of this day and age. I decided see how they might sound if they were translated into modern language. Would they still have meaning today for our struggling nation? You decide.

"The struggles we have with one another over events we disagree on seems proof to me that there is a lot lacking in human understanding. We each desire to live in a country where there is political wisdom and freedom. We look on the news and see countries all around us who have different forms of government that have failed and are failing. We find no others that have guiding systems suitable to our circumstances, yet we complain about the functioning of our own government. In this situation, searching in the dark for political truth and a strong government, how has it happened that we have not once thought of humbly praying to God to guide our understandings? Do you remember 9-11, when we were a nation with a heightened sense of vulnerability? We had churches packed with people praying for divine protection. Strangers who disagreed on race, religion, sexual orientation all came together and our prayers were heard. They were graciously answered and our nation, for a brief moment, seemed stronger in our weakness. All of us who engaged in that time can testify to the power of a God who is in our favor. Our country if full of examples of God's answers to prayer. Because of his past blessings on our people, we live in a place where we can today ask for his guidance for our nation. Our forefathers assured us of that religious freedom. Have we forgotten the God on whom this nation was built? Have we ignored that powerful friend? The longer I live, the more evidence I can see of this truth --- that God cares about the concerns of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his attention, then how is it possible that a nation can stay strong without his aid? The bible is clear that "except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain." I believe this; and I also believe that without his blessing and help, we shall fail as a country just like the great empires before us. We will be divided by our personal interests and agendas; we will be unable to accomplish things and eventually America will go down in the history books as a failed country, victim of that which has ruined so many others. We give way to human wisdom which will eventually lead to war and conquest.
On this 4th of July, I am begging you, my brothers and sisters, to seek the heavenly father's blessings. Start your days in prayer for our country. Pray for our government leaders as they make decisions about our country. Do not forget the guidance of the one who gives us strength."

It still seems like sage advice to me. How about you? The original words were pinned by Benjamin Franklin in 1787. It was written during the Constitutional Convention when they had seemed to reach a deadlock on our government. Mr. Franklin seemed to recognize that without divine intervention our country would fail. There were people then, as their are people now, who believe there is no need for prayer or God. I would suggest that a nation without God truly is a nation without a prayer.

As you celebrate Independence day, don't forget to pray to the father of heavenly lights. Ask God to once again bless our nation. Remember the days after 9-11 when we were a united nation; a nation not separated by hate and political viewpoints. My constant prayer in my own life is that I don't have to be in a crisis like cancer to be close to God. I pray the same for our country. I pray we we will gladly, willingly, eagerly take a knee rather than falling to them in fear and despair.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

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The original Benjamin Franklin speech:

The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other,”our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes and ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, some we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. ”Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that "except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments be Human Wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.
I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of the City be requested to officiate in that service.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In the Silence

There are moments in life that take your breath away. Moments when all you hear is the pounding of your heart, the drawing of your breath. In those moments there are no words to speak, no way to communicate the aching of your soul. You search for answers. You look for words of comfort. You seek explanations and solutions, but sometimes there is just silence. Painfully loud, silence.

Most of us are not comfortable in the silence. We frantically seek to fill it. Words, motion, busyness. Surely there is something we can do. We wrestle to escape it. We struggle to dissolve it. Somehow we must break it. We cannot stand the silence.

But it is in the silence that we begin to hear the whisper. We hear the voice that holds our hope for tomorrow. We hear the only sound in the whole wide world that can truly comfort our soul. We become acutely aware of the one that truly knows the depth of our pain. When we do not have the words, he "himself intercedes for us through wordless groans." (Romans 8:26).  We hear the one "who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." (2 Corinthians 1:4).  We find relief in one who promises, "Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning." (Psalm 30:5)In the silence we find God. Waiting. We have busily rushed past him the the noisiness of daily life. We did not notice him quietly waiting to be with us. Watching us. Loving us. Wishing he could talk with us. Yet there he is, in the silence. Whispering, ""Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)

God is waiting....in the silence.