Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tony Snow 1955--2008

This is an outstanding testimony from Tony Snow,
President Bush's Press Secretary, and his fight with cancer.
Commentator and broadcaster Tony Snow
announced that he had colon cancer in 2005.
Following surgery and chemo-therapy,
Snow joined the Bush Administration in April, 2006, as press secretary.
Unfortunately, on March 23, 2007,
Snow, 51, a husband and father of three,
announced that the cancer had recurred, with tumors found in his abdomen,
leading to surgery in April, followed by more chemotherapy.
Snow went back to work in the White House Briefing Room on May 3,
but has resigned since, 'for economic reasons,'
and to pursue 'other interests.'
It needs little intro . . . it speaks for itself.


'Blessings arrive in unexpected packages,
- in my case, cancer.
Those of us with potentially fatal diseases
- and there are millions in America today -
find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality
while trying to fathom God's will.
Although it would be the height of presumption
to declare with confidence 'What It All Means,'
Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.

The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time
trying to answer the 'why' questions:
Why me?
Why must people suffer?
Why can't someone else get sick?
We can't answer such things,
and the questions themselves
often are designed more to express our anguish
than to solicit an answer.

I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care.
It is what it is, a plain and indisputable fact.
Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly,
great and stunning truths began to take shape.
Our maladies define a central feature of our existence:
We are fallen.
We are imperfect.
Our bodies give out.

But, despite this, - or because of it, -
God offers the possibility of salvation and grace.
We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end,
but we get to choose how to use the interval
between now
and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.

Second, we need to get past the anxiety.
The mere thought of dying
can send adrenaline flooding through your system.
A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you.
Your heart thumps; your head swims.
You think of nothingness and swoon.
You fear partings;
you worry about the impact on family and friends.
You fidget and get nowhere.

To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death,
but into life - and that the journey continues
after we have finished our days on this earth.
We accept this on faith,
but that faith is nourished by a conviction
that stirs even within many non-believing hearts
- an institution that the gift of life, once given,
cannot be taken away.
Those who have been stricken
enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight
with their might, main, and faith
to live fully, richly, exuberantly
- no matter how their days may be numbered.

Third, we can open our eyes and hearts.
God relishes surprise.
We want lives of simple, predictable ease,
- smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see, -
but God likes to go off-road.
He provokes us with twists and turns.
He places us in predicaments
that seem to defy our endurance and comprehension
- and yet don't.
By His love and grace, we persevere.
The challenges that make our hearts leap
and stomachs churn
invariably strengthen our faith
and grant measures of wisdom and joy
we would not experience otherwise.

'You Have Been Called'.
Picture yourself in a hospital bed.
The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away.
A doctor stands at your feet,
a loved one holds your hand at the side.
'It's cancer,' the healer announces.

The natural reaction is to turn to God
and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa.
'Dear God, make it all go away.
Make everything simpler.'
But another voice whispers: 'You have been called.'
Your quandary has drawn you closer to God,
closer to those you love,
closer to the issues that matter,
- and has dragged into insignificance
the banal concerns
that occupy our 'normal time.'

There's another kind of response,
although usually short-lived,
an inexplicable shudder of excitement
as if a clarifying moment of calamity
has swept away everything trivial and tiny,
and placed before us
the challenge of important questions.

The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death,
things change.
You discover that Christianity
is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft.
Faith may be the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.
But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution.
The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks,
reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies.
Think of Paul, traipsing through the known world
and comtemplating trips
to what must have seemed the antipodes (Spain),
shaking the dust from his sandals,
worrying not about the morrow,
but only about the moment.

There's nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue,
- for it is through selflessness and service
that God wrings from our bodies and spirits
the most we ever could give,
the most we ever could offer,
and the most we ever could do.

Finally, we can let love change everything.
When Jesus was faced with the prospect of cruicifixion,
he grieved not for himself,
but for us.
He cried for Jerusalem before entering the Holy City.
From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness,
and begged for forgiveness on our behalf.

We get repeated chances
to learn that life is not about us,
that we acquired purpose and satisfaction
by sharing in God's love for others.
Sickness gets us part way there.
It reminds us of our limitations and dependence.
But it also gives us a chance to serve the healthy.
A minister friend of mine observes
that people suffering grave afflictions
often acquire the faith of two people,
while loved ones accept the burden
of two peoples' worries and fears.

'Learning How to Live'.
Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God's arms,
not with resignation, but with peace and hope.
In so doing, they have taught us not how to die,
but how to live.
They have emulated Christ
by transmitting the power and authority of live.

I sat by my best friend's bedside a few years ago
as a wasting cancer took him away.
He kept at his table a worn Bible
and a 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer.
A shattering grief disabled his family,
many of his old friends, and at least one priest.
Here was an humble and very good guy,
someone who apologized when he winced with pain
because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable.
He restrained his equanimity and good humor
literally until his last conscious moment.
'I'm going to try to beat [this cancer],'
he told me several months before he died.
'But if I don't, I'll see you on the other side.'

His gift was to remind everyone around him
that even though God doesn't promise us tomorrow,
he does promise us eternity
- filled with life and love we cannot comprehend, -
and that one can, in the throes of sickness,
point the rest of us toward timeless truths
that will help us weather future storms.

Through such trials, God bids us to choose:
Do we believe, or do we not?
Will we be bold enough to love,
daring enough to serve,
humble enough to submit,
and strong enough
to acknowledge our limitations?
Can we surrender our concern
in things that don't matter
so that we might devote our remaining days
to things that do?

When our faith flags, He throws reminders in our way.
Think of the prayer warriors in our midst.
They change things,
and those of us
who have been on the receiving end
of their petitions and intercessions
know it.
It is hard to describe,
but there are times
when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up,
and you feel a surge of the Spirit.
Somehow you just know:
Others have chosen,
when talking to the Author of all creation,
to lift us up,
- to speak of us!

This is love of a very special order.
But so is the ability to sit back
and appreciate the wonder of every created thing.
The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid,
every happiness more luminious and intense.
We may not know how our contest with sickness will end,
but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God.

What is man that Thou are mindful of him?
We don't know much, but we know this:
No matter where we are,
no matter what we do,
no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects,
each and every one of us who believe each and every day,
lies in the same safe and impregnable place,
in the hollow of God's hand.'

T. Snow

Thursday, May 15, 2008

First Love

Most parents love their children enough, so much so, that they allow them to leave and seek their own way. Yet, the way is always open for that same child to return when they have the need to come home. I've heard that home can be defined as "where love is always found". That may explain why, when someone is hurt in the world, there is that response to the one hurt by their returning to where love can be found.... home.

At one time or another we have all been wayward and estranged from the love we've known and that we associate with being "back home". It has also been said and understood that you can " never go home again" .... with those two thoughts scrambled together the question becomes ... how can we return to the home (where love always can be found) if the love that was once there is no longer earthly bound ? Where then, can home be found? That place where love is.... where can that be found?

Imagine a prodigal son/daughter, unable to undo either something done or something said to a now deceased parent(s).... Knowing how important closure is..... how can we find that love, forgiveness and peace we once knew..... at home??? How do we return to that place of security and peace that once upon a time embraced us in the love that we ourselves moved away from? Especially if the ones who showered us with love is no longer living.... how can we find that peace that is only found in forgiveness?

My father passed away many years ago, and my mother is battling cancer right now. The thoughts of being unplugged to both of them is at times…..overwhelming. There is never enough time when this time arrives. Things undone and unsaid can loom heavier and heavier with every day.... every year. That is why I am often times reminded of a co-worker's story that he told me years ago about a funeral service he was conducting. It seems the family was so distraught that some there, while wailing, jumped down into the grave themselves. To which, my friend the minister, chastised them by saying "if you had done right by her while she was living you would not be so lost without her right now!" I have never forgotten that story, and I mention it to help point out that reconciling with those living is best but even after death there is a place (home) where we can still return to that love we knew.

As hard as it sometimes is to do, saying "I'm sorry" or the seeking of forgiveness is a difficult thing for many .... yet, it isn't a complex thing. This pride we often times cannot get beyond is the very thing God knew would block us from returning to His love (the First Love)...that is why, just like the father in the story of the prodigal who upon seeing his wayward son in the distance returning, ran to meet him. Similarly God comes to meet us while we are still in our prideful, self-serving ways through the loving arms of His Son, Jesus. I believe He meets each of us there, one at a time, as we start back to Him.

As Christians we have the promise that we will see our loved ones again once we all graduate from this life, and we will find them once again "where love can always be found" .... home....where God is ...His heaven. For those unable to hear the voice of a parent who is no longer living, you can find peace this day by returning home to God. If forgiveness is what you seek, He can and is willing to help you return to the peace that you can only know by returning home... to the One who first loved you. In Him all things can be made right.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What's Your Answer?

Several years ago in preparing for a Sunday school (Bible study) class I thought that people needed to know what their faith consisted of for themselves so I prepared questions that I hoped would help them. So many hold beliefs that were planted in them over the years but since that time had not grown to be fully and completely their own, and if you don't know what or why you believe what you do, you will become an easy target for those trying to get you to embrace what they are selling. These are most assuredly not all the questions one should ask themselves, but maybe they will help you to begin your maturing in the faith. (some of these are trick questions!!!)

1. Is heavenly residence based on doing enough good to outweigh the bad in your life?
Do you feel that you are "better" than most, if so..... do you win???

2. Do you recall when you came to know what you believe to be true??? (i.e., Adam & Eve, Noah's Ark, Virgin birth etc.)

3. How would you view yourself if you were looking through God's eyes?

4. It has been said that conscience attaches itself to the highest standard that we know. Is your moral standard your moral standard or is it God's? There is a difference, each of us must figure this out.....

5. Do you know someone that through them you have been blessed? Is it your desire to be that for someone else? As Christians we have most certainly been blessed by Jesus Christ, do others see that relationship in you????

6. Is there a particular sin in your life that you refuse to give up? Do you think that when you defend yourself before or to God He understands and relents to your position..... or does it damage your relationship with Him?

7. If belief = commitment, do you believe???

8 Do you feel incomplete because you have not been called to a "special" work or calling??? (Remember God calls us to be special where we are... cause we certainly can't where we aren't!)

9. Does God forgive without our asking for His forgiveness? Do we forgive someone else before they ask us???

10. It is said that the early Puritans use to pray for "the gift of tears" which is the expression given to the gift of repentance. Have you experienced that gift? Does this need to be public?

May I suggest The Way to Wholeness by the late Dr. Ray Stedman. After reading Dr. Stedman's work, take the quiz again. See which questions you might answer differently.