Scoring For the Other Team

This past weekend, the Senior Pastor at my church delivered a message called “Know Your Enemy.” Our enemy is Satan, a fallen angel. This enemy can have us turn on each other. He can have us do things that take us further from our walk with Christ.

Our pastor gave a good analogy of how sometimes we think we are doing good and doing the right thing, but maybe we’re not. Like a hockey player who has the puck but he is going the wrong way down the ice towards the opponent’s goal, and ends up scoring for the other team.

How often have I scored for the other team by my actions or attitude? Am I doing what I want or want Christ wants?

I’m also studying Romans 8 right now, via Dineen Miller’s “You Are Loved” book. In Roman’s 8:1, it states: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

Dineen also states that the enemy’s mission is to condemn us and destroy our faith. If we have no condemnation as Christ followers, then how can the enemy do this to us? Easy – he is a deceiver. And if we’re not paying attention, then we’re scoring for the other team.

We need to remember how Jesus treated others. Are we so busy judging everyone else that we forget to take a look at ourselves? Are we so self-focused that we don’t care what anyone else is doing? Do we say, “I have to get there faster, I have to take care of my own stuff, I’ll ignore that because it has nothing to do with me.”

If we are no longer condemned as Christ followers, then what gives us any right to condemn others? If we are forgiven and set free, why can’t we forgive others? If someone lives a lifestyle different than mine, am I treating them with kindness or am I condemning them? Judging them? Spitting in their face because they’re different than me?

Or are we so busy trying to shine our light for Jesus that we end up with a strobe light in someone’s face instead? How can they see the light of Christ when we’re blinding them? Blinding with our attitudes and judgment.

It’s a dark world, but we know who has the ultimate victory. So, this week, as I think through all of this, I have to ask myself, “Is my light shining brighter in kindness, or in condemnation?”

In other words, I don’t want to keep scoring for the other side.

 

 

Little Things

This summer seems to be filled with anger from an ugly political season and violence. Many people I know are also facing tough times, with health issues and tragic deaths in their families. For me, I’m just upset about computer problems. That may seem minor, but my entire job is on the computer and this time of year, having everything work is critical.

Ok, compared to what others are going through, I have no problems. However, all that to say is when you feel surrounded by sadness or anger, how do you battle through? How do you keep from being pulled into the pit of negativity? Life events may take us to negative places, but how do you not stay there?

For me, I find solace in little things. Admittedly, sometimes I have to look hard for the little things that are positive, but they’re there. The other night, in the midst of my computer frustration, a friend texted me. The conversation evolved from what I’m not doing to how to reach future goals. She lifted my spirits in unexpected ways.

Then the next day was just coffee and breakfast with a friend. Thinking that I really didn’t have time to be away from my desk, I felt rushed and hurried when I arrived to meet her. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to see my friend. But I was concerned about the timing of our visit. As always, God showed up then. That breakfast had good conversation, serious thoughts that moved to laughter, and a sweet morning of sharing. I’m so glad I took the time. It was the boost I needed to power through the rest of my work day.

None of this will solve the grief my friends are experiencing with tragic deaths of relatives, or help others with serious health issues. But friends, family, and little moments can help all of us get through one day to the next. Knowing friends are there for prayers and support are God’s way of saying “I still have this.”

So despite the turmoil surrounding us, we cling to our faith. God’s still got this. He has us! He’ll make a way for us to walk through these trying times.

I’m determined to cling to His promises and to look for the little things.

A Better Word for the New Year

I’m sure many of you have seen this or do it yourself: picking a “word” to live by or motivate you for the new year. It’s big deal to find “your word” for the year.

When thinking about my word for the new year, I landed on one immediately. The word was “Renewal.” I think I wanted that word because I want to feel renewed. As mentioned in my last blog (https://talkingamongfriends.com/2016/01/07/2015-the-year-of-the-unchosen-path/), I talked about 2015 being a hard year. And it was. So, I’m longing for a sense of renewal. Longing for a sense of peace.
But is it really my word? Renewal is definitely what I want, however, in thinking about it more and more, I realize what my true word is for 2016: HOPE.

I can’t find renewal or peace without HOPE, the hope that comes from my faith, and from family and friends.

How did I get through two bouts with cancer? HOPE. I had to completely let go and trust that God had this. God put the right physicians and surgeons in my path. I had to let go. You can’t let go without hope and trust in the One who is our life, who gives us the breath in our lungs. (Okay, I had to find a way to reference my favorite song these days: “Great Are You, Lord” by All Sons and Daughters. Take a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHz0w-HG4iU).

One of my brothers asked me how I could have such a positive attitude after my second, more serious, battle with cancer. I realized it was because I had HOPE. God had this, I knew God was with me and watching. It was good to feel that.

With 2015, I knew God was there, too, but there were days when it was much more difficult to feel His presence. It was just hard. But the only way to get through it is with hope.

With 2016, I have goals, things I’m looking forward to and things I want to accomplish. I still long for a sense of renewal, of being refreshed and regenerated, but the deeper word, my life word, is HOPE. Hope is not just my word for the year, but probably my word for life.

In our Christian walk, that is the one thing we cherish and hold dear through life, is knowledge that God is with us, and we have the hope and assurance of seeing Him and being with Him again. That HOPE is a powerful force in our lives. So, here’s to 2016 – no matter what comes, let it be our year of hope.

A New Perspective on “One Word” for the Year

If you’re like me, you know several people who choose “one word” for the year and try to live by that word. I’ve done it myself. Many are talking about it now as we’re preparing to go into the new year.
086
This has got me thinking (always a dangerous thing! :)) There’s a song out now that keeps echoing in my head:

“When you don’t know what to say, just say Jesus. There’s power in the name….”

Last year, my word was “shine.” I wanted to shine Christ through me and shine in all I did, I wanted to make sure my focus was on Him.

And every time I felt like I was failing, or when I was having a bad day, I would pray. And the first word out of my mouth was “Jesus.”

I had already picked out my word for 2015, which was “time.” You know, time for God, time for others, better time management at work. You get the idea. The thing is, none of that can be accomplished without Jesus first.

While it’s great to ponder whatever word is on your heart for the new year, or if you don’t utilize “one word”, let’s not forget to name the most important: Jesus. Nothing we want to accomplish in the new year can be done without Him.

So perhaps, every year, every month, every day, we already know what our “one word” should be: Jesus.

Wishing you many blessings for 2015.

Stay focused on the one who saved us.

In Our Darkest Moments

NOTE FROM BECKY:  Hi everyone. My friend and fellow writer, Jennifer Slattery, is guesting on my blog today — with a great message of hope.  Please enjoy!

In Our Darkest Moments:
Jennifer Slattery
by Jennifer Slattery

I stood in the back of a large, cafeteria-styled room, Bible in my hand, and stared at the broken women and children in front of me. I’d been asked to speak, to share God’s Word, and never before had I felt the pressure of such a task more intensely.

They sat with hunched shoulders, faces drawn. They’d come for a meal and maybe a bed. The one who pierced my heart most was a teen with thick, tightly curled hair and wide brown eyes. Close to my daughter’s age.

My mother’s heart ached as questions surfaced. How does a homeless child fare in the cruel, clique-laden, shallow halls of high school where poverty is seen as a disease? Does he dream for better? Or drown his pain in busyness and noise? Or booze?

Nothing I could say would fix these women and children’s problems. I couldn’t fill their bellies tomorrow or buffer them from the heat or rain or cold.

But I could share the story of a man who’d been right where they were, one who found glory in the darkness.

His name was Joseph. He was the youngest of twelve sons, favored by his father and despised by his brothers. One day, his brothers turned on him, and his life instantly changed. They stripped him of his robe, threw him in a cistern, and sold him into slavery.

From there, owning nothing and with no hope for aid, he began the long, treacherous journey to Egypt. He arrived in this foreign, pagan land, completely alone, his life at the mercy of the highest bidder.

Or so he thought. But even in the depths of Joseph’s despair, God was watching. And loving Joseph to his very core. In fact, I believe Joseph sensed God’s presence with every step and every bid. Those strong arms surrounding him, buffering him, giving him strength and holding him close.

For a while, things went well. Joseph served with faithfulness, and God blessed him for it. But once again, when he least expected it, a human betrayed him, and Joseph was thrown into a dark, dank prison, indefinitely. No hope of a trial by jury or even a trial at all.

And once again, God was watching, and loving Joseph to his core. I believe Joseph sensed God’s presence with every shiver and hunger pain. Those strong arms surrounding him, giving him strength and holding him close.

Because Joseph clung and surrendered to his Creator, he was able to bring light to a dark and hopeless place. One morning, he noticed two inmates looked upset, so he asked them about it (Genesis 40:5-7). They told him they had two very unsettling dreams, and Joseph used their revelation to point them to God.

This encounter-Joseph’s noticing the pain of other prisoners, compassionately engaging them, and pointing them to God-resulted in Joseph standing before the Pharaoh, the leader of an immensely powerful pagan nation, pointing him, also, to Creator God.

Joseph alone was in a position to speak to those inmates, and God had used his lowly position for something so glorious, pastors preach on this event today!

Had Joseph been consumed with self, he would’ve missed it, and how different this story would’ve been. A lonely man, betrayed first by family than by strangers, left to die in a dark, dank prison.

This was the message I gave those women, and it’s the one I give to you. Each day, we have countless “Joseph” moment, opportunities to look past our circumstances to those God sets before us, individuals in need of hope.

In need of God.

Will we allow God to use us in our lowly, broken state, for His glory?

About Jennifer:

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently available in print and e-book format for under $10! You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Jennifer-Slattery/e/B00JKQ4ZTW/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Jennifer loves helping aspiring authors grow in their craft, and has editing slots open beginning in November. Find out more here: http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com/

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

Beyond I Do:
beyond I do
Released Sept. 2014

Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?

Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

Read a free, 36-page excerpt here: http://issuu.com/newhopedigital/docs/beyond_i_do_sample?e=6362996/8842858

Swimming Upstream

Are there times when you feel like you’re going against the tide? Or that your beliefs are counter to the world’s beliefs?

These days as a Christian, I feel like I’m swimming upstream.

I long for a time when people knew it was okay to “agree to disagree.” Everyone is different, we are created different, so we’re all not going to think alike or act alike or be alike. And by not being alike, well, that keeps life interesting!

But if I happen not to agree with someone, I’m somehow called “intolerant.”salmon-swimming-upstream-1

That’s so not true!

You don’t have to believe as I do. But I ask that you respect my views, even if you don’t understand them or think they’re outdated or ridiculous. I may not understand your views, lifestyles or beliefs, but you’re a fellow human being. Because I don’t agree, doesn’t make me intolerant. It just means I don’t agree. Feel free to live your life as you choose.

But please do me the same courtesy. Allow me to have my beliefs. We can discuss what each other believes and why, but we may not come to a meeting of the minds. Does that make us enemies? No. It means we’re citizens of this world with opposing viewpoints. Respect mine and I’ll respect yours.

This day in age though, if I disagree with someone, I’m intolerant, hypocritical or worse. All of that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I love people. I may not love what you do or how you live… and in turn, you may not love what I do or how I choose to live, but don’t call me names for it. Let’s just agree to disagree.

Maybe that way, none of us will feel like we’re swimming upstream.

Christmas with a Heavy Heart

It’s tough to go through the Christmas holidays with a heavy heart, especially when you’ve lost someone dear.  
We received word that a family friend passed away, someone I’ve known since I was 11 years old.  We used to live next door to his family, he went to college with my brother,  I’ve watched his little brother and sister grow up from birth, and am close friends with another sister.  Over the years, our families just became intertwined.
Granted, time has put some distance between us, as we’ve grown and had families and lives of our own.  Yet there is always a bond, especially around Christmas.  When we lived next door to each other, we started the tradition of spending Christmas Eve at their house.  Even though we no longer live next door, every Christmas we come home,  we have Christmas Eve with our friends. That included last year.
While we’re reeling from losing a member of this precious family, it hits home a little harder during the Christmas season.  I’m staying home for Christmas this year, but part of me is yearning to be in New Mexico to be with our friends. Yes, I will see them this weekend, when I take this unplanned  journey back home for the memorial service, but I won’t be staying for Christmas Eve.
I know I’m not the only struggling through the grieving process right now. Another dear friend of mine lost her father about a month ago. Getting through this first holiday without him has to be difficult for her.
And I can’t help but remember our Christmas from 18 years ago.  We lost my (step) nephew in a car accident, and nearly lost his mother.  My nephew was 7 years old, and it was 4 days before Christmas. His funeral was Christmas Eve.  I don’t know how my brother got through that time. 
As I think through all of this, I’m learning that while it’s difficult to celebrate Christmas with a heavy heart, I ask what our deceased loved ones would want us to do. I believe they’d want us to move forward, carry on, and continue our Christmas traditions.
I think my other nephew, who was 6 at the time of his brother’s passing, said it best on that awful Christmas when we lost his brother.  He said that he thought our nephew was having the best Christmas ever, because he was celebrating with Jesus!
Out of the mouths of babes…
While we miss our family and friends who aren’t with us right now, are feel their absence deeply, I know they are celebrating with Jesus. 
We must look upon Christmas not just as something we have to get through this year. We need to remember that  Christmas celebrates Jesus’ birth.  And in my mind that means: Christmas is hope.  
Personally, as I grieve the loss of my old friend, and recall 37 years of memories with his family, I know I must cling to the hope that Jesus’ birth brings. I will cling to that tightly as I hug my friend’s sister when I see her in a few days. 
We must have that hope to carry us through…and celebrate Jesus’ life, and the lives of those we love, more than ever.

Caring for the Care-Giver

One of the most difficult things with having cancer was worrying about my husband and family. I think they have the hardest job. Yes, I was enduring surgery, and previously, radiation. But I had doctors, nurses, and others taking good care of me, and I really had no choice with what I had to go through as the patient. I was just along for the ride. But being the spouse of someone battling this disease is often times worse than being the patient. It’s so difficult to sit on the sidelines and watch your loved one in pain or going through surgery. There’s nothing worse than that helpless feeling. Who takes care of the care-giver?

No matter how many times I told my husband to take a break or make sure he was in good shape, he’d always say “It’s not about me right now.”
Well, in my mind, it was about him. He marvels that people from our church came to sit with him and pray during my surgery. He doesn’t understand that having our friends with him so he wouldn’t be alone made ME feel better. I wanted him to feel love and supported. It doesn’t do us any good as patients to watch our loved ones run themselves ragged.

While being a cancer patient is often a lonely road, I believe being the spouse or a loved-one of a cancer patient is often lonelier and scarier.

The next time you go see a sick friend, or visit a patient in the hospital, make sure you take the time to do something special for the spouse of that patient. Let them know they really aren’t alone and that people care about them as much as they care about the patient. Take them out for coffee and let them talk. Listen to them. They have just as many fears as the cancer patient does. Maybe more…

Take care of the care-giver. It’s good medicine for all of us.

Keep on truckin’ everyone!

Scars

Scars. I don’t think there are any of us who haven’t dealt with scars one way or the other — whether physical scars or emotional ones. Right now, I think I’m wrestling with both.

I’m used to scars. I was in a motorcycle accident when I was 20 years old, and ended up with a compound fracture of my right femur and had four operations on my leg. Thankfully, I walk, talk and can go dancing. With physical therapy, I was nearly good as new. By the way, I think physical therapists are fantastic! They’re very special folks and really do their best to get you back to “normal.” Again, after any accident or surgery, there’s a “new normal.” However, if there’s a “normal” to get to, your PT’s will help you get there!

Ok, I digress…The result of my leg surgery were scars. I have one that goes from my knee to the top of my leg. My hubby calls it my zipper. This scar really only bothered me in the summer — when I’d wear shorts or a swimsuit. But it didn’t take long for me to dress how I wanted and not worry about hiding my zipper. I didn’t want my scars to run my life.

Now, I have more scars across my chest. Of course, these are easier to hide. But they’re still there.

There are two ways you can look at scars. It’s easy to look at scars and believe they’re ugly and disfiguring. With scars, you know you’ll never look the same way again as you did before.

Or you can look at scars as a sign of strength and survival, as God’s blessing. You may ask yourself “What? Scars as a blessing? After the trauma that caused them?”

Yes, scars are a blessing. My scars tell me that I’m still here. After a while, I learned to look at my scars as a sign of strength and survival. Going through that accident and the recovery, and going through cancer not once, but twice, has made me realize I was stronger than I thought I was.
That God carried me through those surgeries, and that He has work for me to do here on earth.

Would I feel that faith and feel this strength had I not gone through these experiences? I was talking with my cousin last week. In future blog posts, I hope to share more about my cousins. We are blessed to be a part of the same family, as most of us choose to go beyond just being cousins, and choose to be brothers, sisters and friends.

So, I was chatting with my special cousin-sister. She fights her own daily battle against a physically debilitating disease: arthritis.
This is not the disease just for aging. She’s had this as long as I can remember, and has to deal with physical pain and the crippling effects every single day. But she told me, she wouldn’t be the same person without this disease. It has made her stronger, made her the person she is today. And I must say, she is beautiful, strong, and sunshine in our lives. If you didn’t know what she battles every day, you would think she didn’t have a care in the world. She is such a bright light, and like me, would credit family and faith for getting her through her days.

My cousin and I have a kinship. She was also in a serious accident when she was younger. And now we know we are more beautiful for what we’ve endured, despite the physical changes on the outside. We are blessed to have our family, to have our faith and prayers for each other, and blessed to have our scars, both inside and out. We’re stronger for our pain, and know God will use this for His purpose in those around us.

I’m thankful for my cousins and the scars we share.

Keep on truckin’ everyone.

My Cancer History

A little bit more about me and my history. I was diagnosed with breast cancer (DCIS) in June 2004. I had a lumpectomy and 7 weeks of radiation. Believe me, I did all I could to move on very quickly from that and put it behind me. I hated radiation! By week six, I was in misery, and couldn’t wait to be done with the entire ordeal.

Of course, that inspired me to write about it, with the help of my husband. You can read more of our story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cancer Book (released March 2009).

After that, I happily put cancer behind me. Truthfully, I felt like I “got off easy.” I had fairly minor surgery, and despite how I hated radiation, I did not have to have chemo. I was still me and ready to move on with my life.

But five years later it all changed. Yes, I made it to my five-year mark. Five years and three weeks to be exact. But in July 2009, during my mammogram, the doctor said there was something there. But this one was different. I did NOT have a recurrence. Instead, I had a new cancer, in the same breast as my previous cancer. This was diagnosed as a high-grade sarcoma. It was, as the doctors like to say, “an ugly baby.”

Well, this ugly baby would cost me my breasts. A double-mastectomy was in order. I was diagnosed two days before my birthday.

My emotions were all over the place. Fear, hope, faith, fear, fear, fear…
I was afraid of surgery, anesthesia, pain, recovery, what would I look like, and mostly would I die?

The internet research I did on sarcoma was frightening. I was turning 46 years old, and what I had thought was the downhill slide toward 50, suddenly became a very young 46. I wasn’t ready for all of this. A possible death sentence at 46 was wrong. I was much too young!

Yet there it was in front of me. This time, I wouldn’t be able to ignore my cancer, and its effect on me. This cancer was much too real.

More to come…