Saturday, March 31, 2007

Storms and God's Presence

Oswalt Chambers notes that, in the Bible, clouds seem always to be associated with the times when God comes closest to man.

Maybe you, like me, have always thought of that as being due to the need to obscure the vision of God from man.

But Chambers draws another conclusion, which I think is both valid and powerful. Storms in our lives, symbolized by the clouds, are when we are most aware of God's presence, are when we most feel the need for God's presence, are when we are most receptive to God's presence. In fact, without the storms of our lives, we might very well not recognize the need for God in our lives.

The rain storms of this morning remind me of the necessity of storms for life. They're messy, noisy, sometimes very scary, can cause damage and pain, and they're always inconvenient. Yet they clean the air, replenish the moisture in the soil and rivers and lakes, and provide renewal and growth.

The storms in our lives are exactly the same. They too are messy, noisy, scary, cause damage and pain, and are inconvenient. Yet they serve to cleanse us, renew us, and grow us.

Thank you, God, for your presence during our storms.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Duck on a Joy Ride

On the same spring day as I photographed the wildflowers, this duck was swimming nearby. What a glorious day to cruise around the pond!
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I Love Spring

One of the reasons I love Spring is the wildfowers that abound. They are so perfect, so unplanned by man, so glorious, so unaffected even when surrounded by trash as these were. What a great gift from God!
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Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Visit by Black Bellied Tree Ducks

These two beautiful creatures dropped down into the pecan tree in the back yard for a brief visit this morning. It looked like formation flying -- just swooping down for a landing in the tree. They're black bellied tree ducks, also called wood ducks by some. They're even prettier in person.
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Monday, March 19, 2007

Resilience under Fire

Sometimes I'm amazed by the resilience of people. Today is one of those days. I visited with three people, each of whom has been hit with at least a double whammy.

First, there's the mom. Her teenage son is battling a difficult cancer and will undergo two difficult surgeries this week with periods in ICU following each surgery. Yet she's stuck in a neighboring hospital having just been diagnosed with brain cancer. She's facing the battle of her life while her son is fighting his own. I can't even imagine what she's going through, what her son is going through, what her husband is going through. Yet they were all doing what they had to be doing today. She feels that this battle is really about spiritual warfare -- Satan trying to diminish her faith, her testimony. I didn't disagree

Then there was the man with serious cancer in ICU. As we talked, he revealed to me that he and his wife were involved in a bad auto accident a week or so ago. She was severely injured, and has just been released from the hospital. He told me that when he woke up in the hospital after the accident, that he didn't believe what they were telling him had happened. Yet today he told me that both of them were taking this new chance to live their lives for God. Part of our conversation touched on his decision to forgive someone who wronged him almost 60 years ago, and how difficult forgiveness is. He's focusing on forgiveness -- not on self pity.

Finally there was a 30-something year old guy recovering from surgery for his fourth cancer recurrence. He's been fighting it for six plus years, with chemo, surgery, and radiation. And each time he fights back. I was inspired by his fight, his optimism, and his recently found faith.

What I learned today is that people are capable of dealing with incredible hardships -- and through it all staying faithful and positive. May God bless them.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Perspective: Do What Matters

Sometimes I struggle to maintain perspective. I've got things I want to do, and a long list of the things I need to do, and I don't seem to be making much progress on any of them. So I get frustrated. I know that most of us share this struggle that is complicated by being caregivers.

After visiting a man in ICU this week, I went to the waiting room to spend a few minutes with his wife. Her daughter had told me that she had gone to get a nap and and some rest, but to please visit with her. I found her sitting at the computer, emailing her office. As we talked, I learned that she had gotten a five-minute nap, but that she was trying to keep her business going -- her clients still needed what they needed. And that while things were better with her husband, the long-term outlook was dismal. I recognized the look in her eyes that spoke volumes entitled, "I Don't Know How I'm Going to Get Through This."

I know that she will, because God will provide each day exactly what she needs to be able to do it. Not everything will get done, important stuff will fall through the cracks, but it will be okay because the really important stuff -- caring for her husband, being loved by their girls, will get done.

And that provides the dose of perspective I need -- "When you can't do everything, be sure to do what matters."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

From Bad to Worse -- But With a Respite

For some, life turns upside down seemingly overnight. That's the case for a man I visited this week.

Inoperable pancreatic cancer. Major medical complication after two rounds of chemo, requiring extensive surgery and extended stay in ICU. Metastases discovered during surgery. Unknown future treatment options, if any. Loss of 60 pounds in two months since diagnosis.

It's a story of things going from bad to worse fast.

Yet we prayed a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving because his immediate condition had improved enough not to be as scary for him and his family as it had been for a couple of days. In the midst of fear and terror came a respite and time for rejoicing. I treasure that moment even as I'm saddened by the long-term outlook and the pain this family will suffer.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Can't Start Them on Starbucks Too Early!

Looks like Ben has discovered Starbucks hot chocolate! Frodo may even be cleaning up behind.
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Monday, March 05, 2007

Being Overwhelmed and Impatient

Some days it's almost overwhelming to walk into M. D. Anderson. Today was one of those days.

Coming in from Garage 10, I ride the escalator down to the second floor, passing by the overflow of folks waiting for diagnostic testing. I look at the faces because I want to see, and I find myself guessing at the stories, at the emotions they are feeling, and saying a prayer for them as they wait.

A floor further down on the escalator is the overflow waiting for the E.R. Today it was full. Several of those waiting had the little kidney-shaped plastic containers that are somehow supposed to be adequate when you're nauseous. Others showed effects from surgery, while others just looked tired and sick. Again I prayed silently as I passed by.

It's a stark reminder, that in this day of God-given miraculous treatments for cancer, that there is still great suffering, and that it involves lots of people.

But it's calmer once I reach the inpatient floors, entering the rooms to visit those on my list. Today the list was short, but as seems typical of short list days, there are generally several who have a lot they want to talk about. The list seems to be short so that there's time for the conversations they need to have. Today's list included a lady with stage 4 metastatic cancer, and God blessed us with a deep spiritual conversation.

It also included a lady whose primary prayer request was for patience. The two big things that hit cancer patients are feeling a lack of control, and struggling to be patient. So we prayed for patience, for her, but also for me.

Then a little later while waiting in line for coffee while several workers just stood around, I found myself being impatient with them. Being impatient about getting a cup of coffee shouldn't even be allowed in a place where folks are suffering like those I visited today.

God has so much to teach me, so much molding to do.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Dinner at the Firehouse

Our 40 Days of Community group provided dinner for the local firefighters. Here's a shot of three of the guys talking to Sara and John about movies...
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Friday, March 02, 2007