December 26, 2008

Merry Chemo Christmas

"Have yourself a merry chemo Christmas"...somehow that lyric doesn't jive right with the melody. Yet here I sit in the Fred Hutchison Cancer Center in Seattle as mom receives a 5 hour chemo treatment.

Mom is still alive this Christmas. Is it chemo or is it Christ? Doctors had thought the multiple myeloma cancer would have taken her by now. Instead they are saying she's going to be around awhile...that's the best gift I got this Christmas.

Should I thank the Doctors or the great Physician? Of course the answer is both. The book of James makes it clear that EVERY good gift comes from the Father above. The gift of MEDICINE and the gift of MIRACLES are ULTIMATELY from the same source. So while I thank the doctors, I praise our God.

As mom and I sat in the waiting room waiting for room in the "inn of chemo", I watched the hairless cancer soldiers as they bravely marched through. Some looked as if the fight had taken flight and they were merely walking zombies waiting for the end. They needed a bigger dose of Christmas pumped into their hearts.

Christmas is the only effective drug for our death sentence. Our eyes can stay full of life, even if our life is ebbing away. For those who know Christ, chemo is not their real hope. Christ is the one who gives life to those that Isaiah said live "under the shadow of death".

Christmas shatters the darkness with the light of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Even Chemo is transformed by Christmas truth.

December 23, 2008

Christmas Ashes

Yesterday I picked up Len. Nothing unusual about that, right?
A month ago that statement would be ordinary. Today it is strange and sad.

You see, the great leader and CEO of ProMark Financial Services has been reduced to a 14 inch by 8 inch box. A small pile of ashes is all that physically remains of one of the most extraordinary human beings I have known. Yesterday I brought Len to our house.

On the way home with Len, I had to stop and do some Christmas shopping. It was surreal to think here I was buying presents and Len was no longer present.

As I pondered the reality of this sorrow, I began to feel a heaviness invade my soul. Life is so fickle, so superficial, so capricious, so unpredictable, and then it's reduced to a few ashes.

Christmas songs were playing in BARNES & NOBLE...but "Here Comes Santa Claus" wasn't giving me much hope...but then right there in the liberal aisles of books on "How to Make a Million" and "How to Seduce a Woman" and "How to Become Your Own God"....the truth of Jesus began to pierce my melancholy meditations.

As the song "Joy to the World, The LORD has come" rang out it hit me Jesus was born in a BARN and He is NOBLE!

His regal nobility shatters the darkness of death, it reframes life from a few short years to an eternity of glory. His coming breaks the curse!! Ashes are not the end of us. They are only the evidence that we were once here, but have left for heaven forever.

As the song goes on to say:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

My SORROWS will not GROW, for HE has broken the curse! Let the blessings flow!
This is the message of Christmas! Ashes are not the final word. Jesus Is!

December 16, 2008

My Misery, His Majesty

Sometimes there is a part of me that would prefer to sit in the crow, instead of stand on the platform...that would rather be a griever instead of a comforter...that wished I could be the listener instead of the speaker...that could be poured into rather than pour out...that would rather simply be the weak one instead of be the rock.

But note the words "sometimes" and "part of me" which start the above sentence. I feel honored and fulfilled to lead, to speak, to reach out, to lift up, to be able to point people heavenward.

Yesterday was a mixture of MISERY and MAJESTY. My friend, Len's funeral was the hardest one that I have ever led. Len was a close friend, a partner in dreaming about kingdom building, still a young believer whose spiritual trajectory was just really launching upward, a man with a profound influence, brilliant intelligence and fearless generosity. Saying goodbye was MISERY.

Today I am simply exhausted fromr carrying the grief of so many people on top of my own grief. Questions, fears, doubts, sorrows flood my soul.

Last week I literally touched death 3 times in 5 days. 3 friends and church members died in one week. All had something wonderful to offer, something that will be profoundly missed in the days ahead. It has been MISERY.

"YET"..."YET" what a great word...the word "YET" does not negate what has gone before it, but rises above it to declare what is true.

Consider the Christmas song, "O Little Town of Bethlehem":
YET in they dark street shineth,
The everlasting light
The hopes and fears
of ALL the years
Are met in thee tonight!

It is TRUE...into the darkness of my MISERY a brilliant light dawns...the light of Jesus' love and truth and promises and comfort penetrate my misery and visit it with undefeatable MAJESTY!!
MY hopes and my fears are met in the CHRIST of CHRISTMAS!
MY MISERY is overwhelmed by HIS MAJESTY!

His MAJESTY is the reality that lifts my humanity into glory, into hope into certainty.
The apostle John wrote, "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our FAITH!"
The misery the world visits upon me, canNOT overcome or defeat me, IF I take my stand by FAITH in His MAJESTY!
So here I stand today by Faith!...Faith in the babe of Bethlehem who is now the KING of heaven!

Merry Christmas is a shallow holiday greeting, UNTIL we realize the reason we can be "MERRY' in the midst of MISERY is the MAJESTY of CHRISTmas!!

December 10, 2008

Len and Zoe

As I sit grieving I watch dawn begin to paint golden pink hues across the black sky. The darkness cannot restrain the light, death cannot keep life pinned to the mat.
Len and Zoe are unconquerable.

I touched death yesterday. Len, one of my closest friends, walked through the shadowed valley of death. After being removed from the respirator he inhaled three final times as if to say, “Father, Son, Holy Spirit”. I had only a few minutes earlier invoked the power of the Triune God over his fading life.

He did not struggle, thrash, or gasp for air to hold onto this life. With a profound peace, he stepped into life. Len and Zoe were beautiful.

In the courageous manner in which he chose to die, he gave ZOE to at least 6 other people. Len and Zoe were unstoppable.

Who is Zoe? Zoe is the Greek word in the New Testament for life. It carries 3 dimensions…physical life, spiritual life, eternal life.

I was not there the day Len was born and given PHYSICAL ZOE. But I was there the day he was given SPIRITUAL ZOE. In one of our final conversations, Len thanked me several times for helping bring him to Jesus. And I was there yesterday when he was given ETERNAL ZOE.

Len’s life is not finished, his life has been relocated. The heavenly moving van showed up and took him up. He is not dead, but more alive than ever. Len and Zoe are dancing.

One of Jesus' greatest invitations was to come meet ZOE. In John 10:10 Jesus said “I have come that you might have ZOE (LIFE) and ZOE (LIFE) to the full!”

This morning as day breaks on my broken heart, I rejoice in Len and Zoe.

John 6:47 "I'm telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life (ZOE). - Jesus

December 08, 2008

Fast Life, Slow Dance

My friend may die today. He is fighting for his life with advanced lung disease. After attending a Christmas Party at my publishers in Ventura, I may have to stop at UCLA and say the final good-bye to Len. He just turned 50.

While the below poem has circulated on the internet under the false pretense of being written by a young girl dying with cancer, nevertheless, it expresses simple wisdom that all of us should hear, especially at Christmas time. As I think about Len, I think about life and how to live it. Here's to slow dancing to the music of life.

Slow Dance

Have you ever watched kids
On a merry-go-round?

Or listened to the rain
Slapping on the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?

You'd better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.

Time is short.
The music won't last.

''Do you run through each day
On the fly?''

When you ask "How are you?"
Do you hear the reply?

When the day is done
Do you lie in your bed

With the next hundred chores
Running through your head?

You'd better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.

Time is short.
The music won't last.

Ever told your child,
We'll do it tomorrow?

And in your haste,
Not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch,
Let a good friendship die

Cause you never had time
To call and say "Hi"?

You'd better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.

Time is short.
The music won't last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift....Thrown away.

Life is not a race.
Do take it slower

Hear the music
Before the song is over.

December 03, 2008

The ICU Blues

With three folks I love living in ICU land, it's been a bit difficult to "Deck the Halls with boughs of Holly".

One of them is one of my closest friends - we've vacationed together, skied together, experienced fabulous meals together, dreamed about the kingdom together, and watched our wives be best friends together. But now we are not together...he is fighting for every breath waiting for a lung transplant because of a rare mold disease of the lung. He is lying in an ICU bed for his 12 days of Christmas and I am throwing Christmas parties. We are not together.

I have the ICU blues...

But here's the times like these Christmas only shines brighter. Without Christ, suffering is empty, lonely, cruel, and meaningless. Because of Christ, I can look at my friend and know Christ is doing a work in him, touching lives through him, preparing him for his real life in heaven, rewarding him for every ounce of suffering, and all the time whispering his strong presence to his heart.

Christmas is not nativity scenes in malls next to the "buy one get one free" sign.
Christmas is Jesus, the babe all grown up, standing like a strong carpenter and regal King next to a bed in ICU stroking the brow of his best friend and saying, "It's going to be ok, I am Emmanuel".

The "Hallelujah" Chorus really is an antidote for the ICU blues!
And He shall reign forever and ever...!!

December 01, 2008

Thanking God for the FLEAS!

The barracks where Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy were kept in the Nazi concentration camp Ravensbruck were terribly overcrowded and flea-infested.

They had been able to miraculously smuggle a Bible into the camp, and in that Bible they had read that in all things there were to give thanks, and that God can use anything for good.

Corrie’s sister Betsy decided that this meant thanking God for the fleas.

This was too much for Corrie, who said she could do no such thing. Betsy insisted, so Corrie gave in and prayed to God, thanking Him even for the fleas.

Over the next several months a wonderful, but curious, thing happened. They found that the guards never entered their barracks. This meant that women were not assaulted. It also meant that they were able to do the unthinkable, which was to hold open Bible studies and prayer meetings in the heart of a Nazi concentration camp.

Through this, countless numbers of women came to faith in Christ.

Only at the end did they discover why the guards had left them alone and would not enter into their barracks.

It was because of the fleas.

God is often blamed for the very things that He should be praised for. Our short sighted, earth bound perspective distorts our vision and destroys our praise.

My commitment is to be a man of praise IN all my African-American sister says, "If God brings me TO IT, He'll bring me THROUGH IT!"