Monthly Archives: October 2013

Battle for the mind -2-

A huge part of overcoming the battle for the mind is being aware and focused on the reality we face each day. We have to stay vigilant without becoming paralyzed by the struggles that confront us. We have to stay alert without losing sight of the joys and the call of God on our life. Reminding ourselves of who God has equipped us to be, victors not victims, we become skilled warriors into whose hands the victory has already been given. The fight is not ours, we simply need to stand firm, equipped in God’s armor. He fights for us and has in fact already won the battle!

Even knowing this, it’s easy to stray from God’s perfect plan, not far, but enough to remind it is a battle to stay focused and remain positive, content and satisfied in God alone. We need to remember to not let circumstances consume us, to keep focus on living fully and well today, without worry for tomorrow. I need to continually ask God to remind me to be intentional and compassionate in what I do, think and say and to not get upset with myself and others over small things, reminding myself of who I am in his sight, his precious and beloved child.

Every day God is faithful to draw me back, to remind me that he is my refuge, my strong tower, my faithful and merciful and powerful God who loves me, pursues me, and desires his best for me. This ‘best’ is my heart’s desire and it is found only in him, through the cleansing and the guarding of my heart and the daily renewal of my mind.

How do you and I become victors in life’s daily battle for the mind? Draw close to God and maintain a thankful heart throughout the day. He inhabits our praise. Trust him and obey his voice. “He will also keep you firm to the end.” 1 Corinthians 8a

Perfect Timing

Have you ever been convinced that a certain circumstance was a problem, only to discover that it happened in perfect timing to achieve a greater purpose…maybe even to save your life?

I recently bought a stair stepper – cross trainer at a garage sale. Perfect timing: the person selling it was one who went on one of our post-Katrina missions to New Orleans. This (not) ‘chance’ meeting revealed that she too has Leukemia and provided opportunity to share about God’s goodness in the midst of trials we all face.

On the ‘heels’ of my recent hiking progress, I started using the cross trainer last week, being cautious to not extend the cardiac part of the workout as doctors advise my body is not yet ready for that. I completed only 50 ‘steps’ the first day, 75 the next, and 100 on day three. On Saturday, day four, my legs completely locked up in severe pain, severely limiting my walking. I nursed the muscles for two days before going to the medical clinic on Monday.

I was supposed to see an ARNP on Monday, but she asked if I’d like to see the new doctor instead. Agreeing to this, I told Dr. Hamid how I was sure I had strained my muscles on the cross trainer. I was wrong (again). He immediately suspected the exercise had nothing to do with the pain. He ran a D-Dimmers test for DVT (blood clot), and then sent me immediately to Mercy Hospital ER, where an ultrasound confirmed the presence of a dangerous blood clot. Two other doctors confirmed that it was almost certain that the blood clot was caused directly by the Leukemia itself and that it was essential that I got treatment immediately (blood thinner injections twice daily for a number of months). Perfect timing: while there wasn’t a room available on 8 South oncology, I was finally admitted at 3:00 a.m. to 8 North, where Marcia and I had walked four times daily to encourage the staff when I was at Mercy for two months last winter. During today’s short twelve-hour admission we were able to reconnect with several staff with whom we had formed relationships on both units, and testify to God’s goodness through trial. . . All because of the perfect timing of pain. (And it did our souls good to see their smiling faces again!)

Back home already, Marcia and I reflect on how many times God uses one seemingly untimely and unwanted circumstance to achieve a greater good for us, for others, and for his kingdom. . . and how he accomplishes this in his perfect timing.

I wonder, what pain or sorrow is God using today to achieve his greater purpose in your life and in others, according to his perfect timing?

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Battle for the mind

What trials have you faced or are you now facing that pose a battle for the control of your mind? Is it a serious illness, the grief that accompanies a serious loss, a deep disappointment with how life has turned out, a continual longing for satisfaction that always escapes you, or a temptation you can’t seem to escape? Each of these and others affect the way we perceive and respond to our circumstances. Unattended and unresolved, they influence how we perceive ourselves and lead us to question our very identity and how we perceive and respond to others and to God.

This is the spiritual battle for the mind. It is a battle we will each fight all our life. But although we enter the battlefield each day, it is not God’s intent that we are defeated by it. On the contrary, although we won’t fully escape the battle until he calls us home to heaven, he equips us to overcome the battle while we live now. He desires us to experience victory and abundant joy each day, even as we face our battles.

But if we ignore or neglect the tools God gives us to fight the battle, we bring even more distress to our minds, and confusion that prevent us from experiencing victory over the struggles that confront us. In absence of relying on God, we trust in our own abilities or we wallow in self-pity, so consumed by the wounds we experience, we find no strength to seek the healing touch of the great physician.

What are we to do in such a daily and life long struggle? First, we need to remind ourselves that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood…but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) Your fight is not with your spouse or child or coworker, it is against evil forces that war against healthy relationships. If we want to live a victorious life, we must be aware of this reality so we can be vigilant of the real dangers before us. We have to know the enemy before we can defeat them.

Second, we have to equip ourselves with God’s tools for surviving the battle. How foolish it would be to walk into a real battlefield without protective armor. “Put on the full armor of God.” The armor includes truth, righteousness, peace, faith, the Word, and salvation. (Ephesians 6:11-18) “Take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) Let’s not idly walk into minefields unaware of their danger.

Third, we have to renew our minds daily. “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” Romans 12:2 “Put off your old self. Be made new in the attitude of your minds. Put on your new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24) “The mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)

The daily battle may rage on. Trust God and you will be able to stand firm, and victorious!

Bad news or good news?

A Chinese farmer gets a horse, which soon runs away. A neighbor says, “That’s bad news.” The farmer replies, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”

The horse comes back and brings another horse with him. Good news, you might say. The farmer gives the second horse to his son, who rides it, then is thrown and badly breaks his leg.

“So sorry for your bad news,” says the concerned neighbor. “Good news, bad news, who can say?” the farmer replies.

In a week or so, the emperor’s men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. The farmer’s son is spared.
Good news, of course.

This Chinese parable illustrates a basic truth we’ve discussed before: light overcomes darkness. Blessings sometimes travel in disguise, even embedded in trials. The path to peace and contentment sometimes winds through a valley of discontent. The apostle Paul revealed that the “bad news” of his imprisonment and suffering actually served to advance the “good news” of the gospel. (Philippians 1:12)

Disciplining your mind to habituate to a positive “good news” attitude will help you see problems as opportunities. This is an ongoing challenge that requires daily focus to maintain this perspective consistently. For sure, this life view will rescue you from the paralysis of inward focus to find the freedom of focusing on what God intends to reveal.

There was a cartoon of a turtle on its back; with clear view of the sky, he concluded, “I’m flying!” Hilarious as the image was, his delusion about flying offered absolutely no help to overcome the fact that he was in fact STUCK on his back. Positive thinking helps us to FEEL better about our ‘bad news’ and to temporarily escape the pain of our circumstance, but eventually we have to come back to the reality of how to actually deal with the problem.

The really ‘good news’ is that God knows us – and our ‘bad news’ situation – perfectly. Furthermore, he cares deeply about us. He offers his perfect perspective and counsel by providing his Spirit, grace, strength, and power to rise above our circumstance…to become victorious over them. Now THAT’s good news indeed!

Here’s to seeing the “good news” God intends for you to see and share with others today!

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach my good news to all creation.'” (And use words if you have to!) Mark 16:15

Keep your eyes on the path

Bryan and Marcia Thayer

Bryan and Marcia Thayer

We recently took a relaxed, 3 day agenda-free back roads trip to view the autumn leaves of northern Iowa, southern Minnesota bluff country, and SW Wisconsin. Our goal was to celebrate life together, redeeming the time we have by making life memories, and enjoying God’s creation.

There is something both exhilarating and calming about being surrounded by the beauty of nature. Not just the beauty of the changing leaves, but of the immense creativity and variety of things God has created for his and our pleasure. The trees and flowers, the wildlife, the warmth of holding hands as we hiked, the sound and feel of the gentle forest breeze, Marcia’s loving patience with me as I slowly made my way along the challenging paths… All these speak to a gracious and generous creator who loves us so much to bestow such gifts upon us. Even a walk through a completely spent prairie restoration area, now basically a field of ‘weeds,’ spoke a certain peace to our souls.

On our forest hikes, our eyes were constantly on the watch for the wildlife but also focused on the trail to keep from stumbling over exposed roots and rocks. It served as a reminder to maintain vigilance and awareness of God’s abiding presence all throughout the day’s journey. Our constant awareness of his presence in our lives provides us with his protection with each step we take.

Where do you find real restoration? How does God’s creation speak to your soul? And how does he speak to you as you step through the paths of a common day? May he use those steps to remind you of his abiding presence and how much he cares for you. And may you, in his presence, find great satisfaction!

“Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” Proverbs 4:26

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

“Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” 1 Chron. 16:11

Medical Update: What would you do without an experienced guide?

This morning as I was unable to sleep, I found myself thinking back on the white water rafting trip our family took in Colorado years ago. As first time rafters, we were both excited and apprehensive about the moment by moment thrills of the experience. Our experienced guide, having been down this river many times, had both the mindset of being calm – because he knew what was around the bend – and also vigilant, because he knew the potential dangers that could arise at any moment. That’s how it is with me and my medical team. Being my first (and hopefully only) time down this river, I tend to see things through the experience of my current symptoms. My experienced and caring medical team is concerned with saving my life. The team agrees that my recovery is well ahead of the curve (thank you God and prayer partners!); but they have their eyes somberly set on what’s around the bend, especially in the next 6-18 months. This is the time it will take for my body to fully rebuild the immune system and regain strength and deal with oncoming threats.

An interesting component of the treatment plan is that while the goal is to grow the immune system, the approach is actually to suppress it in the beginning so my donor cells don’t attack my body. This is called Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) and was what led to my Failure To Thrive diagnosis the three summer months when I couldn’t eat or get much beyond bed or recliner. So I take daily medications to prevent my immune system from functioning even as optimally as it could with currently limited resources. The team monitors the degree of ‘fighting’ that goes on in my body, trying to maintain a balance. Some fighting is good; too much is dangerous. Gradually, they will reduce the suppressing medications to let my body take on more of the fight on its own. I am also working to get off the steroids that have helped me overcome the Failure to Thrive condition but have also wreaked havoc with other mental and physical functioning. Nearly seven months post stem cell transplant, I still make trips every two weeks to the U of I Hospitals for blood tests, lung treatments and follow-up consultation.

What’s around the bend? Continual protection against infections and increasing endurance and strength, and hopefully regain mental capacity; and trusting our loving God to guide us through the waters as we also journey into our new mission field. It is an amazing journey! I pray yours will be less dramatic but no less exciting and rewarding.

We have known great joys together

“We have known great joys together. If Aslan gave me my choice I would choose no other life than the life I have had and no other death than the one we go to.”
(From The Last Battle, The Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis)

The commonality of great books and inspiring quotes is that they speak to us in ways that both our mind and our heart recognize as having lasting and essential value. They cut through the distractions and frivolity of life and lead us into the presence of eternal truths. Like the life saving beacon of a lighthouse, they guide us through rough waters to the safe harbor God intends for us. They remind us our purpose is not to drift aimlessly through life, but to be guided by a secure and firm hope of living well and finding satisfaction in our journey’s end. Like the CS Lewis quote above, they keep us focused on living life honorably and without need for regret, because we have known great joys together. In this quote, the word ‘together’ refers to the Christ-character of Aslan. In our life, it is the joy of sharing in the joy of Christ himself; the same Christ who freely offers to live in the hearts and lives of his followers.

I hope you will take time today to celebrate the joys of living well, with God and with others, so that we may one day die well too and enter a new prosperous life that lasts forever. How else will your light shine in the world?

“You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Psalm 16:11

Finding space for three words

Which set of three words would have more impact on your life?

“You have cancer.”


“God loves you.”

Could you fit all six words together? (Feel free to substitute any other trial of cause of suffering for ‘cancer’.) What happens if we refuse to reconcile the apparent paradoxes of life: good and evil, free will and the sovereignty of God, the presence of unwanted and painful circumstances with a great and loving God? Do we not miss out on life by only accepting that which easily pleases and satisfies us, that which we think we can handle on our own? Does avoiding the tensions and conflicts presented by real faith cause us to retreat to a ‘safe comfort zone?’ A place that seems safe but that in actuality leads us to a dangerously mediocre life?

The truth is, we all face trials in life. No matter what you believe or how fervently you live out your beliefs, there doesn’t appear to be a “Get out of suffering” card that is universally available. However, God does provide a “get out of being controlled by our circumstances” card. It has the words, “Trust me,” inscribed on one side of it and “I will give you peace,” on the other.

Trusting God in difficult situations creates a space between the painful circumstance and our response to it. In this space, we seek and find God just as he promised. (You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13) In this space we find refuge from the control our circumstances might otherwise have on us, dragging us down in self-pity, away from the joy God would have us experience. It is the space where we remember who we are in God’s sight and who he is. In this space we find his light shining into the depths of our sorrow, our pain, and our disappointment.

If we choose instead to trust ourselves to solve our own problems, we find it impossible to find this peaceful space. We strive and we pursue, but our efforts do not bring us peace. They do not make us victorious.

When three words, God loves me, become a reality to your everyday living, this space of peace, not your circumstances, determines your life. In this space you find freedom you’ll find nowhere else. Without the space, peace is ‘nowhere.’ With the space, peace is ‘now here.’ Ah the difference trusting God makes, by creating space for his peace in our lives!

Enjoy seeking God and responding to his amazing three words. Enter into his presence throughout the day and enjoy the space his peace creates.

An irrational life

JD Blom writes a good WordPress blog on Christian living. In a recent post on irrational living, Blom takes a look at the irrational mathematical value of Pi, an infinite, non-repeating, and irrational number used to determine the circumference of a circle with relation to its diameter. I think Blom poses an essential question and reflective answer worth our consideration:

“What if our lives could be expressed as the result a mathematical equation such as Pi? Consider if every moment of our existence were represented by a Pi like digit. If our individual existences could be expressed as a mathematical equation, would it be considered rational or irrational?

As a rational number, there will be a final digit. The long series of digits will come to a calculated end; one last digit and then no more. There are many people who believe their life is rational. It has a beginning and it has an ending. They believe that their experience on this world is all that there is. However… what if there is an infinite existence beyond our experience of beginnings and endings? By faith, I believe what the scriptures tell us. The digits of our lives will continue without end, just like Pi. All of mankind was created as unique irrational numbers. Just because our bodies may die does not mean that our unique calculation does not continue to generate another digit. Man was created for eternity with a brief period spent on earth with purpose in every digit. Every digit of Christ’s life had purpose. (Each) of the digits of Christ’s life would reveal the names of all He touched, all He showed love, all He condemned, the date of the cross, His resurrection and His ascension. There was purpose and intention in every digit of Christ’s life.

If God created the equation of Christ’s life on earth with precise meaning and intent in every digit, then why would we think that our lives are random and purposeless? We were created to be uniquely irrational. We were created with purpose; a string of digits full of meaning and intention.

We are the product of the great Mathematician. He created the uniquely irrational equation that describes you and me. He prescribed in us every digit, in the precise order that He intended. We were created for the infinite.

I often forget that reality. I often don’t live for the infinite.

Everyone who is in Christ has to come to that point in time when they relinquish themselves to the irrational. We call it faith. Our hope resides in the irrational mysteries of Christ. We need to let our hope be a reality in our daily lives. Our hope should lead our lives. Christ came to do the will of Him who sent Him. As irrational creations, we were created for the same purpose; to do the will of Him who has called us. Let’s start living the irrational lives that we were created to live!”

(Thanks for the wise counsel, JD!)

Starved for solitude

“We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy, and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory

My first thought in reading this quote is just the opposite; how much we need each other. I found this to be so true in the first nine months of leukemia treatment. Suddenly pulled from my normal routine of vibrant interactions with dozens of people daily, I found months of relative solitude to be a rather ‘painful’ experience. In fact, Lewis does address this earlier in his message. “We are forbidden to neglect the assembling of ourselves together. We are members of one another.” The Christian experience, without the building of true community is an oxymoron. We are meant for one another.

But what is it about our soul that leaves it starved also for solitude and meditation? We live in a world that makes constant demands for our attention. A steady flow of never-ending electronic beeps calls us to tasks, appointments, and endless access to news, social information, and status updates.

God designed us not only for activity, but also for stillness. “He MAKES me lie down in green pastures.” (Psalm 23) He prompts us: “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) “Meditate on (His Word) day and night so that you may be careful to do everything in it…to be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8-9) The psalmist writes, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

Probably, the busier we are in our current season of life, the more we need to take time to find an oasis throughout the day where we can find restoration and peace. Reformer Martin Luther commented, “Work, work, from morning until late at night. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer!”

Imagine going for days without any food or water. Soon you will discover the depleting effects from lack of nourishment: weakness, lack of productivity, confusion, irritability. The more you work, without replenishing your resources, the less you will accomplish. The less you accomplish, the more you will be tempted to work harder and longer. But it will not satisfy. The vicious downward spiral always works against us.

Meditation and prayer nourishes our soul. They lift us out of the depths of despair, refresh our perspective, and lead us on the path to wisdom and understanding, to peace, and renewed strength. God describes it like lifting us as on the wings of eagles! (Psalm 91)

The truth is we need both the solitude of meditation and the true friendship and community with others. We cheat ourselves when we neglect one or the other. I hope you will intentionally pursue both of these today. It is the path of experiencing God’s best for you.