An Intentional Life

My church has faithfully prayed for me ever since I was diagnosed with cancer 21 years ago.  Yes, my name has appeared on the prayer list almost weekly. “Most people on the church prayer list either get well…or die… yet I have not managed to do either!”  When I made that statement to the congregation at a Wednesday service, I was intentionally trying to be funny; and from their response, I was successful.  Everyone laughed.

I went on to share by way of an update to these dear ones who have prayed so faithfully that there is every indication there will not be another 21 years.  Laughter?  In the face of death? Absolutely!  To me, this is a great manifestation of the grace and mercy of God.  How wonderful that my loving heavenly father allows me to bring laughter even while coming to grips once again with my own mortality.  Just because I may be suffering does not mean that everyone around me has to suffer as well!

Thus has begun in my spirit a subtle but very real transition from this life to the next.  In what I believe was a providentially directed birthday gift from a friend, I have been reading Pursue the Intentional Life by Jean Fleming.  Her insightful writing held up to the test of Scripture is helping me determine how I want to live the rest of my life.  Jean wrote a prayer that my heart echoes:

“Father, dear Father, only You know how many days I have left on earth and what joys, opportunities, and challenges are ahead for me. I give myself to You again.  Lord God, I want Continue reading

Do Good

chickadee taking off Shandi-lee Cox via Compfight

Building a business is inherently stressful. On the entrepreneurial roller coaster, I am experiencing abounding fear, much self-doubt, and occasional panic! As an example, while rejoicing that my first group coaching venture was off the ground, I fretted and worried: How will I find six more people for the next group? How can I market this? I confess to self-doubt and discouragement. Very often in the building stage, the activity level is high and the “return on investment” is low. It was during that fretting and worrying that God began plying my heart with a simple truth: “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” (Psalm 37:3)

In a recent week, I participated in, presided at, and prepared for six different events related to a non-profit organization of which I have been a member for many years. “Trust in the Lord, and do good….”

During this same week, there was a non-paid speaking engagement at a local university wherein I delivered a training session for instructors on how to write a good course description. This was not a topic on which I considered myself an expert; thus it required considerable research and writing time. I had prepared a sheet of DOs and DON’Ts with respect to writing a course description and submitted it for duplication. Wondering if I was on target for what I had been asked to do, I inquired of the administrator if she had
read the material and if it met her expectations. Her comment: “Yes, this is exactly what we have needed.” During the presentation, a gentleman commented, “We instructors have to write a course description every quarter. It would be great if this document could be included as a guideline in the form we have to complete for our courses.” I passed his suggestion to the administrator who agreed that was a great idea. “Trust in the Lord, and do good….”

Three more non-paid speaking engagements filled my calendar. Thankfully I was able to use material with which I was already familiar for classes of sixth and eighth graders at a middle school, and an adult student group at a local university. The topics were how to write and deliver a speech and effective speaking skills. “Trust in the Lord, and do good….”

Through all of this, God encouraged me with his promise of “…so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” There are hundreds of Continue reading

It Takes a Village to Get Grandma Down the River

When the grandchildren made plans for tubing down Davidson River in Pisgah Forest last July 4th weekend, I decided to go along just to watch them launch and start their journey, then walk back to the campsite that was nearby. But what is a grandmother to do when her son shows up with a tube for her? Obviously, he did not get the memo that Grandma was there just to watch. Since I hate to see good money wasted, I felt obligated to join the down-river migration.

The grandchildren were seasoned veterans after having tubed once during this fateful weekend, so they each jumped into their watercraft and floated merrily on their way. They also came prepared with bathing suits and water shoes. I was wearing appropriate campsite attire and leather moccasin-type shoes – not appropriate tubing attire at all. However, since my tube had a bottom in it, I naively thought there was an outside chance I might not get wet. That thought was reinforced when I was instructed to take off my shoes and put them in the bottom of the tube before wading into the water and getting into it myself. It would be nice at the end of this journey to have dry shoes for the walk back to the campsite.

It was bottoms down when I finally managed to get situated in the tube with the help of my son and grandson. With legs hanging over one side of the tube and arms flailing over the other, I was pushed out into the mainstream of the river. Not get wet? What was I thinking??!! My river craft had a leaky bottom and both I and my leather shoes were soaked immediately.

Due to longevity, I can claim expertise in several areas, but at tubing I was a complete neophyte and had much to learn. It all seemed so simple. Get in the tube and float. Nothing to it, right? Seems the river was somewhat low that day, so I had not floated long or far when I hit a rock and got hung up. I managed to push off one nearby and get moving again only to be snagged by another rock. And so it went for a good portion of the adventure. Once I even got caught in some brush near the riverbank. My son, smart man that he is, was following closely behind and came to my rescue. A man fishing from the bank with an amused expression on his face watched my struggle. I decided to laugh with him by saying, “It takes a village to get Grandma down the river!”

Once you are in that tube on the river, you have no choice but to finish the journey. Along the way, I finally realized I was getting snagged by so many rocks because….well, let’s just say I was sitting very low in that tube! The rocks were visible, so I began arching my back to lift myself off the bottom. Amazingly, I skimmed the rocks and floated easily! Wow!

Lots of life lessons here. None of us shows up for life truly prepared for what is going to happen. Yet, if we waited until we were “dressed appropriately” (fully prepared), we would miss so many unexpected blessings and learning opportunities. The best Continue reading

Persistence – Not Perfection

It was my last day of work for George Barney in Phoenix, Arizona. He knew I was leaving to attend college in South Carolina. He also knew I had tried to attend the year before but, due to the drowning death of my 7-year-old youngest brother, and realizing that to Mother my leaving was like losing a second child within a few months, I had postponed my college plans. But the year had passed, and I was now ready to start towards my dream of a college degree. As we said our goodbyes, George looked me in the eye and said, “Geneva, you are one of the most determined people I have ever met.”

I left for school with only enough money to pay the first month’s room, board and tuition. Never mind that it took working in both the office and the dining hall to cover the costs. I was not a perfect student – my grades certainly reflected that! But persistence won out and I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.

My degree is in the Humanities, but I took a lot of speech classes. Even those many years ago, there was buried within me the desire to be a professional speaker. To realize this dream would demand persistence, yet I had no idea how imperfect the road would be.

Life happens. Dreams get shoved into the background. I married, reared four children and have been blessed to see them all married and establishing families of their own. They have further blessed me with nine grandchildren in whom I delight. When our children were very young, my husband suffered a complete breakdown and was subsequently diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. From that point on, all I could dream was of his being restored to health and productivity. Some days it took every ounce of strength I could muster just to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but that is the epitome of persistence.

I never dreamed that joining Toastmasters in 1994 and experiencing all that the organization offers in the way of communication and leadership skills development would eventually be the catalyst that helped me realize my dream of being a professional speaker. Persistence in Toastmasters has given me a laboratory in which to hone my speaking skills and a platform from which to showcase them.

In August of 2012, the dream became reality. The journey has not been perfect, but persistence in building skills, developing speaking opportunities and moving into training others is beginning to pay off – literally! After recently learning that I have a paralyzed vocal cord – not good news for a professional speaker – I was tempted to give it all up. Why persist? I have a gravelly voice and tumors in my lungs that compete for every breath I take. Perhaps we have now crossed the line from persistence to stubbornness, but I have determined that as long as God enables, no matter how I feel, I will get up, dress up, and show up! Perfection will not be attained this side of heaven, but persistence bespeaks a consistent forward movement.

For the believer, persistence is a God-given trait. Psalm 121 defines persistence. The Psalmist writes, “My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” I love what comes next: “He will not suffer thy foot to be moved.” The Lord keeps us on course to accomplish his will. To be sure we do not stray from his chosen path, he “neither slumbers nor sleeps.” Verse 8 of this Psalm bears this out: “The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” Any persistence manifested in my life has come from the Lord.

Persistence will always trump perfection. The Lord be praised!

In Quietness

It is the wee hours of the morning. I have just completed a list of things in preparation for what is now today. Stopping, I am taken with the quietness. There are no cars speeding past, no noises from the apartment above me, no emails flying in requiring a reply, no phones ringing. All is at rest seemingly.
What a perfect scenario for basking in the presence of God without distraction. When sitting down to read God’s Word, even soon after rising, I find myself so distracted with the cares and plans of the day. There is a constant re-focusing and a frustration that my concentration is not what I would like it to be. Thus, during this brief respite, I will rehearse the goodness of God and offer to him the praise and Thanksgiving due unto his name.

God and I have shared some sweet moments in recent days as I have once again been confronted with my own mortality. The latest CT scan shows that the cancerous tumors in my lungs continue their steady, albeit small, growth. The paralyzed vocal cord is directly related to one tumor specifically that is putting pressure on a nerve. While I do not sense that my demise is imminent, I do sense that my time is drawing nearer. We are still talking years, but not many years.

Thus we have diligently sought to know the mind of God: Do we continue pro-actively fighting this disease? In all the reading I have done on the particular ovarian cancer cell that is now in my lungs, I have learned that it is a rare form of ovarian cancer, that it seldom metastasizes. It is further characterized as slow growing but very tenacious. I have not read that this cancer is curable. The praise and thanksgiving to God is that I have survived over 20 years since the original diagnosis! They don’t track survival rates beyond 10 years because most women who have ovarian cancer do not live that long!

Recently the Lord spoke to me through Hosea 6:11, “Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee….” It was as if the Lord was saying, “You have something to look forward to but your work is not yet done. If you expect the harvest I have set for you, you must continue planting, watering, tilling – working!” So, with great quietness of spirit, peace of mind, and fervency of heart, the approach is to continue a protocol that we trust will give physical strength and stamina to “keep on keeping on” as Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., so often admonished his “boys and girls.” If any healing occurs, it will be because God ordains healing. We are not focused on healing. We are focused on doing the will of God from the heart as long as he gives strength and enablement.

In discussing various options with my family recently, one of my sons said, “Mom, nothing you do will alter the number of days God has ordained for you.” That helped to confirm in my heart that regardless of how many days are left, I want them lived well and “to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6).

“In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). The Lord be praised!

“Singing I Go….”

“Singing I go along life’s road, Praising the Lord, praising the Lord, Singing I go along life’s road, For Jesus has lifted my load.”

“Day by day, and with each passing moment, Strength I find to meet my trials here; Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.”

“When morning gilds the skies my heart awaking cries: May Jesus Christ be praised!”

“Awake, my soul, to joyful lays, And sing thy great Redeemer’s praise; He justly claims a song from me; His loving-kindness is so free!”

“Holy Bible, Book divine, Precious treasure, thou art mine; Mine to tell me whence I came; Mine to teach me what I am….”

“Tis the blessed hour of prayer, When our hearts lowly bend, And we gather to Jesus, our Savior and friend; If we come to him in faith, His protection to share, What a balm for the weary! Oh how sweet to be there!”

“Out in the highways and byways of life, Many are weary and sad; Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife, Making the sorrowing glad. Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray. Make me a blessing to someone today.”

“When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey.”

“All the way my Savior leads me, What have I to ask beside? Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide? Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort, Here by faith in Him to dwell! For I know, whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.”

“How tedious and tasteless the hours When Jesus no longer I see! Sweet prospects, sweet birds, and sweet flowers, Have all lost their sweetness to me. The midsummer sun shines but dim; The fields strive in vain to look gay; But when I am happy with Him, December’s as pleasant as May.”

“Moment by moment I’m kept in his love; Moment by moment I’ve life from above; Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine; Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

“To the work! To the work! We are servants of God. Let us follow the path that our Master has trod; With the balm of His counsel our strength to renew, Let us do with our might what our hands find to do.”

“Work, for the night is coming, Work thro’ the morning hours; Work while the dew is sparkling, Work ‘mid springing flowers; Work when the day grows brighter, Work in the glowing sun; Work, for the night is coming, When man’s work is done.”

“Lord, help me live from day to day, In such a self-forgetful way; That even when I kneel to pray, My prayer shall be for – Others.”

“Day is dying in the west, Heaven is touching earth with rest; Wait and worship while the night Sets her evening lamps alight Thro’ all the sky. Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts! Heaven and earth are full of Thee! Heaven and earth are praising Thee, O Lord Most High!”

“I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘Come unto Me and rest; Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My breast.’ I came to Jesus as I was, Weary and worn and said. I found in Him a resting place, And he has made me glad.”

“Sun of my soul! Thou Savior dear, It is not night if Thou be near; Oh, may no earth-born cloud arise To hide Thee from Thy servant’s eyes!”

“Abide with me: fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide; When other helpers fail, and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me!”

“Praise Him, praise Him, all ye little children, God is love, God is love; Praise Him, praise Him, all ye little children, God is love, God is love.”

God’s Process of Change

“Change is the only constant in life.” (Heraclitus) “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” (Quote attributed to Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr.)

“In whom [Christ] also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory ….” (Ephesians 1:11-12 KJV)

The phrase “predestinated according to the purpose” leaped off the page while reading this week as part of my pastor’s call to special prayer and focus on the book of Ephesians. God spoke to my heart in a wonderful way through this verse as I contemplated the truth that his purpose for my life was determined even before the foundation of the world that he created!

The spirit seemed to take this thought process much deeper. First, the inheritance I have obtained began with salvation by grace through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ “wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6 KJV) Thus began the many-times-painful process of change that endures even to this day as the chiseling continues.

I once heard a preacher say, “Everyone likes change, but no one likes being changed!” I challenge his presumption that “everyone likes change” simply because I resist change and sometimes vehemently so. However, I would wholeheartedly concur that no one likes the process of being changed. Yet, if I am to fulfill the purpose for which I have been predestinated, I must change! I must participate in the process of change by embracing it and aligning my heart with God’s purpose for me. Why? That I “should be to the praise of his glory….” What a blessed contemplation! Every change that Christ works in me should ultimately return glory and praise to him. O Lord, I pray it be so!

There is more change coming, of that I am sure. I sense that God has allowed this meditation to prepare my heart for things anticipated but yet unknown. He is allowing me to see that his changes are “according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will….”

The Lord be praised!

Valley Moments

Nepal - Valley of Eternity  (Ripuk, Barun Valley)Creative Commons License“… He leads me beside still waters, somewhere in the valley below; He draws me aside to be tested and tried, and in the valley He restores my soul.” In a second verse of that same song, are these lyrics: “And I question, ‘Lord why must this be?’ ”

In the Spring I had an extended bout with bronchitis. While very ill, I was rejoicing that it had not gone into pneumonia. Along with the bronchitis I had what I thought was laryngitis. In spite of a compromised voice, I fulfilled several speaking engagements and even competed in two speech contests, placing second in both! Since the voice issues lingered long after the bronchitis had cleared, I was referred to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) doctor who determined with one quick test that I have a paralyzed vocal cord on the left side.

That is just about the worst news a professional speaker could receive! And in my depraved humanity, I asked, “Lord, why must this be?” Why would you choose to afflict me in the one organ that impacts my ability to earn a living? What’s a professional speaker to do?

Oh, my! How dangerously close to outright rebellion those questions are! I confess to having asked them, but God in his gracious kindness and tenderness has rebuked me. Certainly he is not intimidated by my questioning, but there is great risk to me if I languish and wallow in self-pity and fail to see his loving hand. It is here that I must turn the questioning into praise because of who I know my God to be.

Thank you that you love me too much to allow anything in my life that is not for my good or your glory;
Thank you that once again your strength can be made perfect in my weakness;
Thank you that you have faithfully met my needs throughout life;
Thank you for showing my pride in thinking anything was up to me;
Thank you for “peace in the midst of my storm.”

Another thing I know about my God is that any trial he allows is part of a plan much greater than I could ever comprehend this side of Heaven, and my little part is very insignificant and not at all about me. It is possible that Christ could take a raspy voice and use it for his glory to an even greater extent. It is also possible that the door of public speaking is closing for me. Then, perhaps there are other untried doors about to open. While waiting upon the Lord for his direction, my part is to “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”

I have been in God’s valley more than once in my life. Thankfully, he does not allow me to linger long or languish in “Why me?” Instead, he nourishes my heart in green pastures and calms my soul beside still waters that restore and enable me to walk in paths of righteousness FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE! With praise to my Savior, I am no longer in the valley. I’m just changing mountains!

The Lord be praised!

Dhilung Kirat via Compfight

A Heart Stirred

Empty Tomb abcdz2000 via Compfight
How does one rise on Easter morning with words to express accurately the significance of this day? I confess such an inadequacy. My heart was stirred last evening while attending “The Living Gallery” at Bob Jones University. The painting of Christ being taken down from the cross renewed within me a sense of the pain and loss my Savior endured. Watching that painting brought to life caused me to see my sin in a new light, for it was my sin that made his sacrifice a requirement of a Holy God.

This is not the first time I have experienced such a vivid recreation, and I pray we who know the salvation found only in Christ will never, ever forget the magnitude of his death. I know that shortly I will hear a penetrating message on the significance of the cross, but the significance of the cross should stir my heart every day. Since the fall of man, nothing but the cross has altered the course of humanity so dramatically, and nothing stirs such passion within the souls of men than the cross. As much as the cross divides, it unites. It is not a piece of wood in the shape of a cross that is significant. It is what happend on that cross that is a Christian’s reality.

I have written before how important music is in my worship. There is a relatively new song by Keith Getty and Stewart Townsend that stirs my heart each time we sing it, and the words resound for days afterwards. We sang it Friday night in a special Good Friday service at church, and I want to share the words to “The Power of the Cross” with you.

Oh, to see the dawn
Of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.

This, the pow’r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
Took the blame, bore the wrath—
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Oh, to see the pain
Written on Your face,
Bearing the awesome weight of sin.
Ev’ry bitter thought,
Ev’ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow.

Now the daylight flees;
Now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head.
Curtain torn in two,
Dead are raised to life;
“Finished!” the vict’ry cry.

Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

This, the pow’r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

There is also a refrain from a hymn by Jennie Hussey, that has been stirring my heart this morning:

Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget Thine agony;
Lest I forget Thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.

The tomb is empty! Christ is risen! Hallelujah! The Lord be praised!

“Nothing is Random”

At the crossroads Thomas Guignard via Compfight
In Jesus Calling, I read, “Nothing is random in My Kingdom. Everything fits into a pattern for good, to those who love Me.” Thus, I began ruminating especially on the phrase “Nothing is random….”

The Lord frequently reminds me…because I too soon forget…just how intimately he is involved in the minutest details of my life. From being “fearfully and wonderfully made” to being “accepted in the beloved,” there is a divine concert in my life that continues playing out moment by moment through the masterful conducting of Christ. When I can grasp just how intricately he is weaving the warp and woof of his plan, there is rest and a fearless trust. In recent months, I have experienced a blessed rest that comes from fearless trust. Yes, I will confess to moments of fear, but fear is fleeting in the face of who my God is.

I have been at a crossroads trying to discern the Lord’s forward path for me. I was not questioning God’s master plan as I felt sure I was headed in the general direction of where he wanted me to go. Yet I was very perplexed at how he might possibly be executing that plan.

Having set upon the path of being a professional speaker, I knew it would take some time to find my niche. Never mind that I was entering a very crowded and highly competitive field. I was confident of the Lord’s leading in the matter. My vision was of speaking engagements here, there, everywhere! And God granted some exciting opportunities over time. It was humbling when I had to rely on family for support when there was not income sufficient. At one point I even took a part-time job that allowed me great flexibility for scheduling speaking engagements, but the whole time I sensed the Lord was not pleased by my lack of trust in his ability to care for me. When that job played out – not enough work to keep me busy – the Lord had made his point. There were some difficult months, but God was faithful.

At that crossroads, in desperation I cried out to the Lord with a very unglamorous prayer: “Lord, I need to either go big or go home.” In reality, that prayer was God bringing me to the point where I was ready to boldly step out AGAIN in faith and trust him to open every door, guide each step. Shortly after, the Lord began sending people who needed help strengthening their speaking and communications skills who were willing to pay for the help! The exciting thing is that this is as much a ministry as it is a service, and seeing someone grasp the principles of effective speaking is great reward. The beauty is that Christ has allowed me to witness how intricately he has been working to prepare and enable me. Truly, I see and know experientially that “Nothing is random….”

God has opened the way for me to help people who put both feet in their mouth at the same time because those folks don’t have a leg to stand on! The Lord be praised!