Friday, August 5, 2016

Mountains Will Be Thrown Into the Sea

What if?  An age old question we all ask from time to time.  I've been asking it a lot lately.  Especially this week.  I've known that my faith has grown through this journey I've been on these past few months.  I've seen God work in ways I never dreamed possible.  I've learned to see and hear Him in the simplest of things each day.  I've had people all over the country praying and agreeing with me for healing.  But this week, He's been stirring my heart.  In a way unlike ever before.  It's exciting and hopeful.  But it also scares me to death.   What if He is taking me to higher place, increasing my faith even more than I can even fathom?  The word "miracle" is even floating around in my head and heart.  And even as I type this, I have tears of hope welling up in my eyes.  Which has happened a lot this week!

Yesterday Marlee and Nana came over to visit for awhile.  And we had such an interesting conversation about the things of God and trust and how we have to learn to hear and see Him every day.  Marlee brought up something that happened after I was first diagnosed.  My dad and my best friends were here, and there had just been a rainstorm.  All of sudden the rain stopped, and Marlee told us to go look outside.  And when we went outside, there was the clearest double rainbow!

I broke down in tears.  I was unable to contain my emotions in that moment.  It was the first in a number of ways that God has spoken peace to my heart over the past few months.  It was like God was reminding me of His promises.  And I had a peace I was going to be ok and this cancer wasn't going to kill me.  And in the months since, God has confirmed over and over to me through a variety of ways that He has some work for me still to do here on this earth.

And this morning my cousin, Elaine, posted something to my Facebook wall that reminded me I was in good company.  The Bible is full of stories of people who God used despite the gravest of circumstances to do His work.  To lead His people.  To speak peace or healing or whatever was needed.  In 2 Kings 20 we find the story of Hezekiah.  If you look back in Chapters 18 and 19, you see that Hezekiah was the King of Judah.  He was a good man.  The Bible tells us he did what was right in the  eyes of the Lord, he trusted in the Lord, he admitted when he was wrong, he cried out before the Lord in his distress, he sought God in prayer, and he saw God deliver His people.  He was a faithful servant of God.  However, he became ill.  He came before God and made his case.  He reminded God (not that God needs reminding...this is more to remind us of where God has been faithful before and that He will be faithful again) that he had served Him faithfully and wept bitterly.  After this prayer, God spoke to Isaiah and told him to go tell Hezekiah that He had heard his prayer and seen his tears.  (What a sweet gift from our Father!  In the middle of Hezekiah's deep despair, God pauses to tell him He hears and sees Him.)  He then tells him that he will add 15 years to his life.  And He healed him.  

Isaiah 38 also tells the story of Hezekiah's illness but includes a writing that he wrote during his illness and healing.  In this writing we see the depth of Hezekiah's pain and despair.  And as I read it, I see some familiar phrases and thoughts that I've voiced to God myself on many occasions.  And I see some phrases and thoughts I hope I will be voicing in the coming days.  Verses 16 - 20 say, "You restored me to health and let me live.  Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.  In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.  For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down into the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness.  The living, the living - they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness.  The LORD will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the LORD."  This passage kind of breaks down into two parts for I've already come to know and one I hope to come to know very soon.

In the past months, I've come to be able to say that it has been for my benefit that I have cancer.  Now, I know that sounds totally counterintuitive to human thinking.  Thankful for cancer?!  Yep!  I'm not saying that I like it.  But I'm learning to be thankful.  My faith has grown.  I've met people I never would have met.  I have a boldness I've never had for sharing Jesus.  I could go on and on, but that's a post for another day...

But here's the cool and exciting part that also has me scared to death.  In a good way.  The first verse in this passage... "You restored me to health and let me live."  And that is where my question "what if" and that word "miracle" come in to play.  I trust God.  Make no mistake about that.  I've seen Him do things only He can do. I've experienced Him in a way I never dreamed.  I've tolerated chemo way better than the doctors said I WAY better.  Like not normal.  I've seen the cancer on my tongue all but disappear after just 3 rounds of chemo.  I've had "Gizmo" on my neck that baffles the doctors and nurses who apparently have not seen anything like it before.  (Yes, I named my wound on my neck...I'm fun like that!)  I'm believing that it is God's way of allowing the cancer cells to leave my body.  And all of that has been miraculous on its own.  But what if I dare to believe like never before?  Has all of that been baby steps leading up to a bigger miracle? 

My dad posted a verse on Facebook earlier this week that I shared and that keeps coming back to my mind.  Matthew 21:21-22 says, "Jesus replied, 'Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."  Throw a mountain into a sea?!  Well, if Jesus said it can be done, it can be done.  See, I view my cancer as my mountain.  And as I've thought of that verse this week, I pause and pray that God will take this mountain and cast it into the sea.  And I know He is able!  I can see all the ways He has been chipping away at this mountain in the past few months.  Could it be He is preparing it to be cast into the depths of the sea?  I hope so.  I believe so.  Even though it makes no human sense.  Even though it makes no medical sense.  I have had a feeling the past few days that God is working more than every before.  And that He is going to be working up until the moment I enter that PET scan tube Monday morning.  And I'm expecting to see great things.  I want to say I'm expecting a miracle...but that scares me.  And that is my doubt.  But Jesus said that I had to have faith and not doubt.  So my prayer has become like the man who asked Jesus to heal his son.  In Mark 9:23-24 Jesus tells the man that everything is possible to the one who believes.  And the man responds in an interesting way.  He says "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"  What?  How can he say I believe and then ask for Jesus to help him overcome his unbelief?  The same way I say I believe He can do the miracle but that I'm scared to believe.  So my prayer is for Him to help my take away all doubt so that I can believe without doubting.  Our Father is so loving.  He knows how frail and weak we are.  And He offers faith and strength where ours falters.  

I've been listening to the new album Love Remains by Hillary Scott and the Scott Family.  If you have not gotten it, go get it!  It is written out of a personal pain Hillary experienced.  And the songs minister to me in my pain.  Anyway... There is a song on the album called "Still."  The song talks about how God is already parting waters and MOVING MOUNTAINS for me...all He asks of me is to be still.  And I realize that the moving of the mountain has nothing do with my ability to move it.  It will move because HE moves it.  My job is to trust, believe and not doubt.  Father, I believe; help my unbelief! 

So that brings me back to what if.  What if God works a miracle Monday morning that leaves us all speechless?  What if I dare to believe?  He can do it.  I know He can.  I know He has a plan for me beyond cancer.  I know it's not time for me to go Home to Heaven.  He has spoken that to my heart from the beginning.  I've already seen Him building a ministry for me to do for years to come.  And I've seen Him work miracles before!  Before I was born, my Mema was diagnosed with cancer on her nose.  However, she believed He could move the mountain.  Her church family anointed her with oil and prayed for her and she was healed.  No trace of cancer.  And God blessed her with many more years before she passed away from breast cancer.  My own mother was a walking miracle!  She lived a lot longer than humanly and medically possible with all of her health issues.  But she believed God could move the mountain.  And now it's my turn.  I believe God can move this mountain!  Now, I also know that His purpose and ways are higher than mine.  And He may choose to heal me using more treatment and surgery.  Maybe He will continue to chip away at the mountain piece by piece rather than all at once.  And that doesn't make it any less miraculous!  No matter the method of the healing, it is still a miracle.  

But I'm going to be brave and believe and trust like never before that He is going to move my mountain into the depths of the sea Monday... What if?  I'm choosing to be still... And believe.  And to say with Hezekiah, "You restored me to health and let me live.  Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.  In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.  For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down into the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness.  The living, the living - they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness.  The LORD will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the LORD."

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Healer of Body and Soul

"I see shattered, You see whole
I see broken, You see beautiful
And You're helping me to believe
That You're restoring me piece by piece.

What was dead, now lives again
My heart's beating, beating inside my chest
Oh, I'm coming alive with joy and destiny
'Cause You're restoring me piece by piece

There's nothing too dirty
That You can't make worthy
You wash me in Mercy
I am clean

Washed in the blood of Your sacrifice
Your blood flowed red and made me white
My dirty rags are purified
I am clean."

These lyrics are from one of my newest favorite songs, "Clean," by Natalie Grant.  I had heard bits of it before.  But a couple of weeks ago, as I was sitting in the car while Daddy ran in to pick up my medicines at the drug store, it came on.  And I was able to listen to it completely.  Wow!  What a powerful song.  I have had the chorus singing over and over in my head.  I've listened to it, I'm sure, no less than 100 times since that day.  And I'm hoping to sing it in church when I'm able to share my testimony...which will hopefully be soon.  Which would be wonderful!  I haven't been able to sing due to my tongue in months.  Months!!! That has been so very difficult because I love to sing.  But I'm thankful because when something you love is taken away, you develop a new found appreciation for it.  And now I cherish that ability more than every before.  But I digress...that is not the focus of this post.

As I've been reflecting on these lyrics over the past couple of weeks, God has spoken to my heart and shown me how, for me, this song has a dual meaning and purpose.  First of all it so aptly applies to my cancer battle.  The verses..."I see shattered, You see whole.  I see broken, You see beautiful.  What was dead, now lives again.  My heart's beating inside my chest.  Oh, I'm coming alive with joy and destiny.  You're restoring me piece by piece."  All of this describes how I have felt on this journey.  I see a body that is so broken.  So shattered.  So covered with scars and tubes and ports.  I have lost my hair, my skin is flaking off, and while I'm loving the weight loss, I've not enjoyed the loss of muscle and muscle tone which leaves my skin hanging.  I don't see whole and beautiful when I look in the mirror.  But God sees what I could be and what He intends for me to be.  And what I will be when I'm healed.  And I can see the dead coming to life.  I am full of joy and destiny.  And He IS restoring my body piece by piece.  I can see a tongue that was almost covered with cancer and folded over now almost looking normal.  In fact, I just took my first actual bite of food without having to pinch it off first!  I see tumors in my neck shrinking and going away.  Isaiah 53: 5 says, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed."  The filthiness of this cancer in my body and the poison of the chemo that is killing the good along with bad...He will purify.  He will wash my body clean of the cancer cells and of the chemo meds after they have done their job.  He will heal the wounds from the tubes and ports.  And hopefully He will keep me from needing surgery.  But if not, He will heal me from that, too.  Nothing is too dirty or hard for him.  He is restoring me and making me clean and healthy.

But there is a second, and more important, part to the meaning of these lyrics.  And that is that God is healing the cancer of my soul.  And of your soul.  See, our lives become cancerous with sin.  I could list a bunch, but I won't  You know the areas with which you struggle.  I know my difficult areas.  What may be easy for me to avoid may be your Achilles' heel.  What you can pass without a second glance, I can't help but be consumed by.  Our bodies, even if they are healthy physically, are eaten up with the cancer of sin.  Even if you think you live a "good life"...which let's get one leads a good life.  The Bible says in Romans 3:10-12, "As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.  They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."  So no matter how many times we sit in church or give to the poor or share love with others, we are still as filthy rags before Him.  Those acts are good!  And we should do those and so much more.  But we are born with a desire to do evil.  It's the great human experience...good vs. evil.  And it is a lifelong struggle to do what is right in His sight.  But no matter how much we try, we can never do the right thing 100% of the time.  But God...

But God... this has become one of my favorite phrases from the Bible in the past year.  I've got a whole other post about my "But God" moments through this...I started on it a month ago, but haven't gotten very far.  But it will come soon.  Anyway... I digress.  (Chemo brain...the struggle is real!)  See, we can bring before God every filthy dirty rag.  All our sin.  And there is nothing in ourselves to do anything about that.  But God!  God can.  And did.  Through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, we CAN be made clean.  No matter what you bring to Him to make clean, He can and will do it.  We simply have to be willing to humble ourselves and bring it to Him.  Unashamed.  And He will meet us with grace and mercy and clean us.  Yes, there are times He disciplines us.  My parents definitely did their share of disciplining me growing up.  But discipline is always with the purpose of correction and growing us into the person He desires us to be.  It can be hard and difficult to bear.  I sure didn't like those spankings when I was younger.  But I'm thankful my parents did it!  It has made me into the responsible woman I am today.  It has enabled me to think of others before myself and to serve God.  However, something God never comes at us with is shame and condemnation.  Romans 8:1 says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  See?  He never looks on you with condemnation.  No matter how ugly the sin.  When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He cleanses us from head to toe, inside and out with His blood.  So that means that when God looks at us, He sees He's perfect holy Son.  That precious blood makes the ugly cancer of our souls clean and whole.  We have been washed in the blood of His sacrifice.  And there's no cleaner feeling than knowing you have been washed in that blood and can have no fear to stand before God one day.

Jesus is the Healer of both body and soul.  I know God is healing me of this nasty cancer.  I can see evidence of it daily.  And I know He is constantly healing my soul of the ugly cancer of sin.  I can see evidence of that daily, too.  And if I get to the point that I don't see evidence of it and others stop seeing evidence of it, I need to get away and alone with Him and ask Him to show me where I need to confess sin and draw close to Him.

I'm so thankful that He is restoring me piece by piece.  Sometimes that process is so very slow!  But God knows the best timing and way to heal us.  So I'll trust Him for the details.  And I'll allow Him to wash me clean both inside and out, body and soul!

I'm almost done with chemo for the day and "get" to go home on my pump for the week.  I'm already started to feel tired and weak.  But that means it's working!  Please pray for me this week to be able to keep the nausea to a minimum and to be able to eat a little something each day.  And for me not to have severe bowel issues like I usually do at the end of chemo week...sorry, but just keeping it real!  God is even concerned with our bowels!  It's Biblical!  Lamentations 1:20 says, " Behold, O Lord; for I am in distress:  my bowels are troubled;"  Just keeping it real!  But seriously, I do covet your prayers and know they are working!  The progress I'm seeing is more than what chemo can do.  What a might God we serve!