March Madness

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“March Madness” originated in 1939.  The phrase was coined by Henry V. Porter, assistant executive secretary of the Illinois High School Association.  You can read about the history at this website: March Madness

There are much hoopla and fanfare about the basketball games and guessing (and betting) about the final four and the final two.

March invokes another reaction for me.  It is the anniversary of my date of remission.  March 21, 2014, I completed my last chemotherapy treatment and officially declared cancer free.  Though I have come to know that we are never cancer free, it is comforting to know that my body can now deal with the wayward cells that choose to grow free range without my personal permission.

It is a maddening time for me because I am forever reminded of my cancer journey and the frenzy of activity that followed diagnosis, occurred during treatment, and the anxiety that arises every time I sense a change in my body since then.

In three short years, my life has changed in ways that I never thought.  The most delightful, yet critical change was my decision to enter the ministry.  I remember waking up the morning after my trial sermon thinking – “What have I done?”

Yes, – what have I done?

I choose to follow the call of God on my life.

I choose to take being a disciple of Jesus seriously and not play God or try to be my own little God.

I choose to give up control of my life and follow Jesus.

I choose to act in a manner that reflects my love of Jesus and my true desire to follow his commandments.

I choose to give thanks, daily, for my provision, salvation, mercy, love, and grace of God.

I choose to work for Jesus.

I choose to let my light so shine that others will see my good works and glorify God.

So while the world is in a frenzy over a basketball game, I am in a frenzy over my new life in Christ.

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The Word for 2017 – Thankful

Focus on gratitude message

“Give Him thanks, if you please, with me, for His great goodness towards me, which I can never sufficiently admire, for the many favors He has done to so miserable a sinner as I am. May all things praise Him. Amen.”  ― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

Since 2013 I have chosen a word to frame my year.  Selecting a word defines my approach to my daily expectations.  Last year my word was Joy.  I spent much of 2016 living in expectancy of joy.  Even when faced with challenges and disappointments, I found joy in the simple pleasure of giving thanks to God for all blessings.  My words from the previous years:

2013 – Embrace

2014 – Grace

2015 – Faith

2016 – Joy

Some people chose a word at the end of the year to define their past experiences.  I opted to choose my word at the beginning to set expectation and intent.  Each December I start the process by reviewing the words from past years, looking at my life to date and deciding how I would approach each life event I encountered.  The year 2016 certainly brought many life challenges – confronting a recurring health issue, a major move from Santa Rosa to Sacramento, selling my home in Santa Rosa, reconnecting with old friends, making new friends and finding a church home.  With each test, I was able to go deep and find the joy, the silver lining in each situation.

Choosing a word also required me to do additional study on the spiritual meaning of the word.  I study the word and what various scholars say about living in such states of being.  I cross check the writing against the Holy Scriptures to ascertain for myself what God says to me about the word.  God has the final say.

I also create a Pinterest board for the word to capture scriptures, sayings, and quotes that best resonate with me about the word and the current life situation.

An Attitude of Gratitude

This brings me to my current word for 2017 – Thankful.  In my search for a deeper understanding of joy and how it differed from being happy, I learned that joy is an offshoot of being thankful.  It was almost impossible to find joy without first giving thanks to God for every opportunity.  Giving thanks embodies the fact that I live in the grace of God.  Living in God’s grace is a place of joy.  This year instead of trying to first seek joy, I would first give thanks and let God’s grace guide my intents for the year.

The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace.” Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy. – Ann Voskamp, Interview from the High Calling,

1,000 Gifts

Along the way, about midyear, I stumbled across Ann Voskamp and her book, 1,000 Gifts.  The book is about her journey of transformation as she created a list of 1,000 gifts.  It was a daily practice and moved her focus from darkness to beauty through recognizing all the gifts from God – big and small.  It took her about a year to complete.  I found the project to be moving and started my own list of 1,000 gifts.  I got to about 250 gifts on my list this month and lost the journal.  This prompted me to select my word for 2017 and begin my journal anew January 1, 2017.

In the midst of the storms of life, how do you find strength for your journey?  One of the ways I calm the seas is to live with intent and that begins by giving thanks to God for every aspect of my life.

The Bond

avatar

I watched the Avatar recently.  I love that movie.  It speaks to me on so many levels and each time I watch it I learn something new.  I especially enjoy the Na’vi, the sentient creatures that live on the moon Pandora.

The Na’vi has a distinct body image.  They are on average, approximately 3 meters or 10 feet tall, with smooth, striped cyan-colored skin, large amber eyes, and long, sweeping tails. Their bodies are more slender than humans.  Na’vi has a queue at the top back of their head which hangs down to, or below, the waist.  The queue is an external bundle of nerve endings protected inside a braid of hair. The queue allows the Na’vi to tap into the collective, planetary psionic emanations of Eywa (the Goddess) and enables them to “commune” with the moon’s flora and fauna.  While not adding to intelligence, it allows them to share a deep connection and also communicate telepathically with the Tree of Souls and any animals who have a similar nerve cluster. The Na’vi calls it Tsaheylu, or “the bond.”

I liken this bond to the spiritual connection I find necessary to make daily with God. 

During this season of my journey, I have a need to stay connected to God on a regular basis – daily in fact.  There is so much going on right now – the election outcome and the uncertainty of the future of this country, continued health challenges, new career adventures, the loss of friends and family, relinquishing the old and outdated, accepting the new.  It’s crazy making stuff that would leave me in a state of high anxiety if it were not for the bond I make with God.

Making the conscious connection with God brings comfort and joy to my day.  I feel a sense of peace that calms the anxiety experienced on the physical level.   Though I don’t have a queue, I embody a spirit that forms the bond with the Holy Spirit of God.  I poise myself to connect and hear from God through the Holy Spirit.   I allow the Holy Spirit to lead me through my day.  When that bond is weak or threatened, I reconnect by quoting scripture or saying a short prayer or singing a song of praise or worship.  I open the channel for God to continue to pour unconditional love to me.  It is in that love I find peace and comfort.

God never leaves us, but we so often leave God.  With that connection severed we wander around frantic, lost and in a state of powerlessness. 

When connected with God, we know that no matter what happens, good or bad, it is a part of God’s divine will for our lives.  God loves us and only wants the best for us.  God’s love is sufficient.  There is the peace that comes from knowing we are loved unconditionally.  This love is the fuel that motivates us toward pursuing that best God has for us.   The love of God brings joy to life.  The Love of God provides strength for the journey.

 

 

 

How to Ride the Storm: Control, Acceptance, and Surrender

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“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  Ephesians 6:13

I remember the day I got the diagnosis – you have cancer.  I went home and sat, staring out the window, not thinking much about things, certainly not saying much.  There were things that transpired between the diagnosis and my first treatment.  The most transformative were my release of control, acceptance of the situation and complete surrender to God.

Fast Forward

I have not spoken since Trump captured 100 electoral votes. I have re-posted comments that I thought prolific and of substance. I wanted FB F&F to know I was alive. But I have not spoken. I couldn’t speak. I was transported back to ta day of diagnosis.  I couldn’t speak then. I could only accept, give up control, and surrender all power to God. It’s not that I did nothing to combat the disease on the human level, but on the spiritual level, I knew there was a much deeper battle taking place within me: A battle that only God could fight and win, as it is with our country.

There is a much deeper battle taking place in this country.  It is beyond walls, abortions, rape, religious beliefs, and place of origin.  It is a battle for the very soul of this country, deadly cancer that will kill if you lack the protection that only comes with the full armor of God – truth, salvation, righteousness, peace, God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit. The President-elect states that he will solve the problems.

Only God is Sovereign.

Only God will solve our problems.

Only God will heal the land.

It is a time for prayer, rest, and healing. The real battle is upon us. Grab your armor and get ready. Ephesians 6:10-16.

Can You Be Happy and Joyful?

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This blog is taken from a previous post made on March 21, 2016 -The Practice of Being Joyful: On Being Happy –  www.transfromingdailymoments.org.

 

“I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”  Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

You’re sitting at home staring out the window looking for something, feeling the need for something else in your life.  Though you are surrounded by all the comforts and toys money, or at least your money, can buy – it’s not enough.  You’ve had this feeling for a while and can’t shake it.

You’re not happy!  You certainly are not abounding in joy!

It’s amazing how much we have studied the art of being happy.  What’s even more amazing is the various ways one can achieve happiness.  One Google search revealed the following:

40 Ways to be Happy

7 Steps to Happiness

10 Ways to be Happy

15 Habits of Happy People

8 Life Changing Habits to be Happy

10 Ways to be Happier

25 Science-backed Ways to be Happy

And this was only the first page!

Is being happy that complicated?

People have studied the topic.  They’ve created courses on the subject and offered seminars on the being happy.  There’s money to be made on being happy.  There is so much out there on the subject that one could become stressed and anxious simply trying to achieve the state of happiness.

I propose a much simpler approach to the subject: Choose Happiness.  You see, during the day our emotions ebb and flow dependent upon the circumstance.  You may not be able to control the circumstances, but you can control how you respond.  For example – you lose your job: A bad situation for anyone.  You can mope around creating a story for every bad thing that will result from the situation. Or you can count it all joy and be happy in the knowledge that it will all work towards God’s divine plan for your life.

Scripture teaches that happiness is a gift from God.  It is contingent upon us doing something – a sort of if/then.  If I love God, I will be happy.  If I follow God’s Law, I will be happy.  He commands us to be happy and do well for as long as we live!  But happiness is fleeting.

So What About Being Joyful?

Joy, on the other hand, is true contentment that comes from internal factors like our faith in the Lord. True joy is everlasting and not dependent upon circumstances.  The book of Philippians is a great study in the difference between joy and happiness. Written by the Apostle Paul while imprisoned in Rome, this book uses the words “joy,” “rejoice,” and “joyful” 16 times and teaches true contentment in Jesus Christ, despite our circumstances.  In the worst of circumstances, Paul talks about his faith and trust in Christ and how it had changed his whole perspective on suffering. In Philippians 1:12-24, Paul says that because of his two-year imprisonment, the whole Roman guard heard the gospel from him, and it had even spread throughout all of Rome.   Though this was not a happy time for Paul, it certainly was a time filled with much joy!

“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.” Philippians 4:18

Paul goes on to encourage others to have peace knowing that God strengthens us (Philippians 4:13) and “supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Make The Decision to be Happy and Filled with Joy

By 2016, I thought that the worse was over with my life challenges and that I could begin to make some return to normalcy of sorts.   I had weathered the storm of cancer, fought back from neuro-surgery and survived a loss of job.  Though I was not back to my starting place, I was on the way.

Then comes the summer of 2016 – the Rathke Cyst was back and so was the need for another surgery.  By this time it was clear that I could no longer remain isolated in Santa Rosa and needed to be closer to family and caregivers.  I had to sale my beautiful condo and move. Where was the joy in that?  How could I be happy with a surgery and move looming over my shoulder?

The Bible teaches that while happiness is fleeting because it often depends on things outside of ourselves, true joy is eternal because it is based on our relationship with Jesus Christ, which is itself an everlasting source of joy.

Because of my desire to be obedient to God’s word, I chose to be happy.  In the midst of struggle, I chose happiness because I know that Jesus saves.

Because of my unbinding faith in Jesus Christ, I am always joyful.  Because of my relationship with Jesus I have peace and strength for the journey.

Be happy and filled with joy!

 

 

Strength For The Journey: Forgiveness

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Can I forgive those who have betrayed me if they are not repentant?

There has been much conversation of late on forgiveness in politics.  If one where to watch and believe what is being said, one would think that true forgiveness is for a select few good men, not open to all that have sinned and fallen short.  It does not require true repentance, but just an obligatory apology will suffice.  There is no need to show remorse and certainly no requirement to ask God for forgiveness.

I am frankly at a loss because this is part of my Christian journey for which I have limited practice.  I mean, I have learned to forgive myself.  I apologize to God and to myself for my transgressions and I move forward with my life a better person, a transformed person.  I deal with the consequences of my sin, but I know that God’s grace and mercy will help me endure.  I find strength and courage in this knowledge.

But when faced with forgiving a person that has hurt me, betrayed me lied to me or about me – it is much different. It’s hard! I find it natural to initially want to reach out in some state of revenge and exact the same level of pain upon their lives that I have felt.  I want immediate swift revenge, losing touch with my Christianity and having the need to exact every indecent thing I gleaned from my youthful days out in the street. However, my Christian upbringing says no, that I should turn the other cheek and forgive them: that any vengeance will be exacted by God.

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”” – Romans 12:19.

Besides, most people don’t even know that they are the source of the pain, and so to wait for an apology might take an eternity.  In the meantime, we walk around carrying the weight of the hurt and anger, filled with vengeful thoughts.  It seethes and boils within, leaving us restless and anxious, unable to fully love and enjoy life.  The result of it all is that I get stuck and I block God’s blessings in my life.

To unshackle myself from the chains of this affliction I always move to forgive.  I don’t wait for the other person to apologize.  I ask God to help me with this endeavor. I know that I too have been the source of betrayal or pain to someone.  I know that I probably didn’t apologize either to the hurt person.  But I at least acknowledge it and ask God for forgiveness.  I feel lighter and find more joy and peace.  It takes the burden off of me and places it squarely in God’s hands.

I can’t wait for the other person to grasp betrayal and offer an apology.  I certainly do not want to waste time trying to seek revenge.  I forgive them and keep it moving.

An article by R.T. Kendall in Christian Today ( March 9, 2005) answers the question of whether it’s possible to forgive without repentance.

Forgiving The Unrepentant

 

 

Enough Already!

 

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“There’s a magic beyond us that works in ways we can’t understand. We can’t game it. We can’t 10-point list it. We can’t control it.” – Jamie Varon

I am forever reading, taking online classes and listening to videos on how to improve my work, life or how to be a better version of myself.  I have come to the conclusion that I am not satisfied with my current situation. No matter the volumes of information I digest to make a new and better version, it is not enough. I thought that by the time I reached this point in life, it would be over, done, complete.  But here I sit, trying to build a better Teri.

A couple of days ago, a dear friend who happens to be a minister, shared this article from Huffington Post by Jamie Varon, “To Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind.” I found this article refreshing and calming to my soul.  It reminded me that I am unapologetically human and my only limitations are those that I place on myself, and that’s ok!

To Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind

Even when it comes to writing my blog I have found numerous articles on steps to increase productivity, readers and money – the greatest motivator (not). They all include writing it weekly at a minimum, including lists, writing great titles, linking to other writers, blog content planners, SEO, monetizing, and other sure-fire activities. It is guaranteed I will fail if I don’t follow this plan. it is also guaranteed I will suffer from a major anxiety attack. Enough already! Can you imagine my state of mind when I am not led to write anything, nothing, zero for weeks on end?  Or better yet, I don’t like the ideas I created in my Blog Planner.  I write from my heart and life experiences.  I can’t control or forecast what that will be.

Which brings me back to this point.

Stop with the lists and productivity tools, and just be human.  Let the magic of the Holy Spirit work through you, and rest in the peace and comfort that it will get done, by someone at some time.  What I know for sure – I do my best work when I am led by the magic of the Holy Spirit, not some productivity chart created months in advance. Trust your journey.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens – Ecclesiastes 3:1