Thursday, December 27, 2012

Week of December 29 - January 4

December 29

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.
     Romans 12:2

The world around us often brings us news that is both pessimistic and bad.  So many times the prevailing wisdom is cynical and lacks a promising hope.  Conventional thinking frequently limits our options and neither encourages nor uplifts us.   Always on this journey, we must look beyond this world’s limited vision to see instead the vision that God wants us to see.  God is not defined by negativity and limitation.  God does not conform to human cynicism or convention.  God instead has different ideas.  And it is to God that we need to turn – for understanding, for guidance, for discernment, for strength and for a better way beyond our current circumstances.  The answers of this world alone will limit us.  But the answers from God will set us free.

I need to move beyond any thinking that pulls me down or keeps me from realizing all the hope and promise you have created for me.
 Dear God, I’m calling on you to help me see things your way, a way of possibility, of healing and of peace.  Amen.

December 30

If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
     Romans 12:18

As another year comes to a close, it is a good time to resolve to let lingering animosities, bitter feelings and festering resentments end with it.  We don’t need them weighing us down, distracting us from the work of creating wellness and staying well.  The burdens of the heart and mind that we hold onto only hinder our healing and survival.  They serve no discernable good, but drain us of the energy we need, to grow in health with each new day.  As this year and all its challenges and frustrations begin to move behind us, make it a matter of course for the new year ahead to find a way to make peace where there is tension.  The journey will be incredibly smoother and better when we do.

Dear God, I say it all the time, letting go of the hurt that has been placed upon me is the hardest thing I have to do.  But I know I need to do it for my own well-being and peace of mind.
 Help me today, help me tomorrow, help me with every day ahead to do what you have already done for me – forgive.  Amen. 

December 31

… that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
     Isaiah 63:7c

Today, on this last day of this year, we continue to recall how generous God is to us. As we look back on the year and all that’s happened to us, there will surely be many mixed feelings. Certainly, we have had struggles and fears; we have had heartache and pain. But just as certainly we have been touched with rest and relief; as well as moments of joy and comfort, too. While it’s easy to focus on what has gone wrong, we must refocus on what has gone right. God has joined us and is accompanying us on this journey. God understands our distress and God is bringing help in every moment of need. Look back and you will see this to be evident and true. This is cause for celebration and relief.

As this year closes and another is about to begin, I resolve not to focus just on what has been hard for me. Instead I am finding encouragement and hope in recounting all that has blessed and uplifted me this year. There are more blessings than I can say. Thank you, O God. Amen.

January 1

… and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.
     Revelation 21:3b,4

On this first day of this new year we are given the centuries-old hope that indeed God is with us. We are reminded once again that God is with us to help take away our reasons for sadness and disappointment. We are reminded that death need not destroy us nor be the last word for us. We are reminded that no longer will grief consume us or lament and hurt be part of our lives. On this new day in this new year we are promised that all these things can be put behind us once and for all. These are words of triumph. These are words to bring us infinite hope today.

O God of new life, I come to you with great hope and expectation today for what this new year will bring. I pray with a vision of your great promises on my heart and in my mind. Amen.

January 2

For he has said, "Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely"; and he became their savior in all their distress.
     Isaiah 63:8

We all want to belong. We all want to know that we are valued, included and loved. We need the reassurance of belonging; it is a basic human requirement. Knowing we belong means knowing that we are cared for. It means knowing that others have compassion on our needs. It means knowing that we are not alone in our circumstances and distress. That wonderful knowledge is extremely powerful for us. It reminds us that we are never without help, never forced to face disease, disappointment or danger by ourselves. It means, above all, that God is always with us, always helping us and always reaching out to us – even when we do not realize it. This is wonderful news. This we must remember every day.

While there are many times when I feel as if no one understands or cares, ultimately I come back to the knowledge that you care and that you understand what I need. Dear Lord, I am glad that I belong to you and that you so deeply love me. Amen. 

January 3

It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them, in his love and in his pity he redeemed them.
     Isaiah 63:9

Ultimately, it is God who supplies us with everything we need. It is God who knows us infinitely better than anyone else. It is God who knows us far more intimately than we know ourselves. It is God who created us in a divine image. Because of God’s creation of us and God’s thorough knowledge of us, God’s love for us is profound and deep. In that love God desires nothing bad or harmful for us. God’s love compels God to only offer us hope, forgiveness, grace and peace. It is this knowledge that can inspire us on the journey with cancer. Because when the days get difficult and rough, we can find confidence in the assurance that God is working out a better way for us.

I know that when I have had troubled days in the past, you, dear God, have carried me through them. You have always shown me a way out of my distress. I am deeply grateful for that and I will remember that in days to come. Amen.

January 4

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven: …
     Ecclesiastes 3:1

God has ordered this world and the life within it with natural rhythms and cycles, with beginnings and endings, that are time-honored and enduring. All too often our human inclination is to try to reorder those rhythms to suit our self-appointed desires. We are not good at waiting when we should. We are too quick to break into cycles, disrupting and subverting them. We are too slow to recognize the rhythms we should let play out and too slow to understand when we need to act in concert with them. In our journey toward healing we need to take time for discernment about what we can change and what we cannot. We need to become more sensitive to the natural order that God has established for our health and our well-being.

Dear God, one of the hardest things for me to do is to recognize when I need to act and when I need to step back and wait. Help me to know when I am getting in the way of your timing and seasons. I know that when I do understand your rhythms everything goes so much better. Amen.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Week of December 22 - 28

December 22

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
     Isaiah 35:5

There are days when we wonder if we will ever understand what is happening to us. There are times when we have serious doubts about whether or not we will ever really know when God is speaking to us and showing us the direction we need to go. As we go through our lives, and especially our lives with cancer, we often have more doubts and uncertain moments than we can number. Yet today we are reminded that our uncertainty shall not last. Today we are promised that our doubting will not linger. Today we can know that we will have the ability to see all we need to perceive and hear all we need to regard. Today we must trust that in God’s time it will happen.

My patience is usually not strong enough to wait, O God. I don’t listen as I should. I don’t see as I could. So today, help me to remember that you promise to show me and tell me all I will need. Amen.

December 23

…they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Isaiah 35:10c

There will come a day when all the fear and worry and anxiety can be put behind us. On that day, we are promised, we will experience wonderful elation and tremendous delight. On that day we will no longer posses a mournful spirit or a groaning, weary heart. What a day that will be. So why can’t that day start today? Well, it can. Right now, today, even as we live with disease, we can still experience joy – a feeling of well-being no matter what is going on around us. We can be glad - finding gratitude and goodness even as bad things confront us. We do not have to allow sadness and heartache to linger. Today we can act to change our outlook and our reactions. Today our world can be better simply because we resolve it to be.

Today, gracious Lord, my attitudes and my understandings will change. Today, with your help, I will modify the way I view my circumstances and things will begin to be more positive and hopeful. Amen. 

December 24

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all your people…
     Luke 2:10

The diagnosis of a serious disease like cancer will certainly take most of us aback. It’s shocking news none of us ever wants to hear. But we do not need to be afraid of the news. While our lives will definitely change because of it, the changes do not all have to be negative or bad. In fact, if we place our trust in God, who is the author of all hope and the source of all healing, we can find great comfort, strength and peace. This is good news. We are deeply loved by God. And God does not want any of us to be broken down by disease. God wants only for us to find restoration and renewed life. In this we have nothing to fear.

God of new life, I pray for renewal today. My prayer is to put aside all my fears, to have new confidence and hope, and to believe with assurance that I am held tightly in your loving, healing hands. Amen.

December 25

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
     John 1:5

Today we are reminded that there is always light to brighten our darkness. Today we are reminded there is always hope to encourage us to discover a better day. Today we are reminded there is always a way to find relief from everything that overwhelms us. Today we are reminded that God is indeed always with us, providing the answers we need just when we need them. Today is a day to celebrate the light that shines just for us, a light sent by a loving, compassionate and caring God who only wants what is best for us. Today is a day to look into the darkness that invades our lives – whatever disease or fears or threats – to remember and declare that we will not be overcome by any of it, ever again.

Today I thank you, generous God, for the warm and generous light of your goodness and love. Your goodness encourages me. Your love carries me through. You give me gifts beyond compare. Amen.

December 26

Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you.
     Titus 2:15

Do not ever forget that you are the leader on your healing journey. Remember that this is your life, that it’s your well-being and that it’s your future you are working for. Always know that you have the right and the responsibility to set the agenda and direct the path on which you want to travel. While all the others who love you, support you and care for you have a role and a vital interest in the course of your journey, you are the most important person on it. Let your voice be heard. Let your feelings be known. Let your needs be shared. You know what you need better than anyone else. Don’t forget that. Now more than ever you need to acknowledge what gives you strength and joy.

Under gird me with your power, O God, and build me up with your grace. I need a confident presence today. I need you, who knows me best, to give me understanding and wisdom to establish a healing way. Amen.

December 27

I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord, because of all the Lord has done for us, …
     Isaiah 63:7a,b

Once again we are called from days of old to remember the goodness that God has done for us. We are encouraged to be ever mindful of the blessings God has given us day after day. It is so easy, when we are dealing with cancer, to get caught up entirely in seeing what is wrong and in recalling all that is challenging us. But when we do, we only find ourselves trapped in a downward cycle of frustration and negativity. Today it is vital that we renew our commitment to remembering and recounting the endless gifts with which God graces our daily lives.

I know that when I begin to name the ways in which you help and carry me, dear God, I realize the list actually never ends. Just to be reminded of your endless gifts is the first blessing on my list. Thank you for being so good to me every day. Amen.

December 28

… for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
     Psalm 6:8b

There is also no doubt that there are many times when it seems as if God isn’t listening, doesn’t care or won’t act on our behalf.  When we are in pain it is often difficult to see past the anguish to know there will be relief.  But we can be reassured today beyond any shadow of doubt that God does hear us when we are in distress.  We can be certain that God is listening to our fears, understands our worries and is already at work to help soothe them – before we know to ask.  Even in our darkest hours, when hope is fragile and confidence is lost, the one defining truth is that God knows us intimately, loves us unconditionally and reaches out to comfort us completely.  Our faith reminds us continually of that.

You know just how often I waver in my faith, O God.
 You know how much I falter in my trust.  You know how many times I doubt your care.  So remind me today, that your love and concern is deep and real.  Amen.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Week of December 15 - 21

December 15

We all growl like bears; like doves we moan mournfully. We wait for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us.
     Isaiah 59:11

Our complaints are many and varied. We seldom find contentment and peace with our circumstances and situations, especially when we’re sick. We are slow to see what is good and quick to list what we view as wrong. It’s been like that since the beginning of human time. But God is gracious toward us. And God understands us, because God has made us. In God’s intimate knowledge of our minds and hearts, God certainly understands our reasons for doubt and despair. And that is exactly why God takes care of us when we cannot see how to care for ourselves. While we are quick to grumble and complain, God is even quicker to begin to meet our needs before we even know what they are.

I am so grateful you understand my restless mind, patient God. When I get into a place where I fail to see how you are at work, you continue to work for my well-being – in spite of me. And I find immense comfort in that. Amen.

December 16

One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to harm you, for there are many in this city who are my people.”
     Acts 18:9-10

We may be utterly surprised how often God speaks to us to reassure us that on this journey we are protected and guided. But too often we listen and look for God in some grand way, when God is speaking and working through different ways. We easily overlook the quiet, gentle voice of God as it speaks to us of hope, help and healing. God’s voice seldom comes through in thunderous and outwardly dramatic ways, But it comes most often in a caring touch from a friend, in a word of comfort from a doctor, in a prayer from an understanding neighbor or in a forgiving gesture from someone who loves us. God is working in more ways than we can begin to know or count. God is working through many others, even those we do not know.

How easy it is to overlook the subtle and yet obvious work you are doing for me, dear God. I miss it by forgetting how you often act – in gentle gestures, thorough countless others, in infinite ways. Today I will remember. Amen.

December 17

Your gates shall always be open; day and night they shall not be shut …
     Isaiah 60:11

Long ago, there were those who instinctively understood that God never abandons or forgets about us. Long ago, wise and faithful people grasped that God is always attentive and always listens to our needs. Long ago, they spoke about God’s tireless faithfulness and endless patience with our disbelief. Long ago they wrote these words so that all of us today could be reminded, when we are apt that to forget, that we are never kept at a distance from God, that God always has our lives and needs intimately at hand. When we are inclined to question and doubt if God really cares, these words serve to call us back to the One who is always here even when we are uncertain.

I know that I close my eyes and ears and mind and heart to you, too often, O God. I know that it does me no good when I do. Today I strive to live more confidently in your help and in your grace. Amen.

December 18

…“What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.”
     Luke 18:27

In our humanness we give up all too easily. With our limited understandings and our finite vision we fail to see what God can see. Our shortsightedness causes us to give in to despair, to settle for flawed reasoning and to chase after uncertain answers. It causes us too often to devise our own solutions without waiting for God to show us a better way. Cancer is a frightening thing for all of us. For many of us it pushes us to think there is no hope, no way out, no good ending. But that is impossibility thinking. God is able to show us more. God’s possibilities can get us thinking with greater hope and broader perspectives. Remember that God opens us up to so much more than anything we can think of on our own.

God of limitless understandings, show me today a broader glimpse of your vision for my journey. When I try to look ahead on my own I can quickly get discouraged. But I know you will help me to see beyond my present troubles to a better day. Amen.

December 19

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence - …
     Isaiah 64:1

Why doesn’t God just enter this world of disease and distress and clean it all up for us? Why can’t God just assert divine power and take care of the problems and poverty of spirit we have? Why won’t God just declare enough is enough and put an end to all our suffering and pain? Why? The litany could go on and on. Where is God in this world of despair and disappointment? We often look for the dramatic event, the earth shattering blow that will change it all in an instant. But God usually works more quietly, more subtlety … and more constantly … than that. When we actually stop to look at what God is doing, we will see that God is already with us, shaking the foundations of the earth with healing and power and hope.

You are a constant presence in times of trouble, dear Lord, acting without fail to give us all that we need. Help me to look not just for the big, spectacular event, but also for the continuous healing you are offering every moment of every day. Amen.

December 20

Let anyone with ears listen!
     Matthew 11:15

Listening is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves. We need to:
• listen to our bodies - it can speak volumes about what we need;
• listen to our minds - it will help us to sort out the issues and areas where we need clarity and direction;
• listen to our hearts - it will reveal feelings and hopes that can guide us in the directions we need to go.
• above all, listen to our spirits - it contains the voice of God who is whispering words of love and peace to encourage us endlessly.
The way to finding authentic healing requires a willingness to listen – and then to respond to all we hear.

I find it incredibly hard at times to listen to myself and even harder to know when you are speaking to me, dear God. But in this season of darkness, I need to listen more than ever before. Help me to have the discipline to listen to everything I need to hear. Amen.

December 21

Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong and do not fear!...
     Isaiah 35:4a

It’s easy to feel strong when things are going our way. It’s easy to be confident when there is little to threaten or challenge us. But when we hear the words - It’s cancer - fear can suddenly debilitate us and strength can immediately abandon us. Then our hearts can lose hope and our lives are turned upside down. Yet we are encouraged to remember that God knows infinitely more than we do. God sees more than we can see. God understands more than we can ever comprehend. We are reassured that a bigger picture, a larger plan, is at work. And God is in charge. So if God is in charge, and God loves us, God will work through us to give us everything we need.

Fear gets in my way so much of the time. It paralyzes me, dear God, and throws too much uncertainty my way. I need to be confident. I need to be strong. I know you are helping me to be those things and I thank you. Amen.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Week of December 9 - 14

December 8

There are many who say, “O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”
     Psalm 4:6

Sometimes, when we ourselves doubt whether God is reaching out to us in our distress, there are others who encourage us. Sometimes, when the seeds of uncertainty are planted and we question our course and our direction, others can remind us of God’s care. Sometimes, when we are too close to our problems and fears to clearly see the way before us, others can help us to know more of the story and see the larger picture. When our own fears undermine our confidence and erode our assurance, the support of others, who remind us that God is in our midst, can give us the hopeful perspective we need.

O God, I thank you for those in my life who can see you at work when I just can’t. Help me to recognize their confidence in your actions and to follow their lead back to you. Amen.

December 9

…I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
     Habakkuk 2:1b

Waiting to discern God’s answers to our prayers has always been hard for people to do. We wonder if God is really listening or if God really cares. Especially when things are going wrong and we grumble and criticize, we wait impatiently and often lose hope. This passage assumes God is listening and will answer. While assuming in any other way is dangerous and foolish, assuming that God will answer us is not. God will answer, no matter how difficult the request or how harsh the complaint. This passage conveys that promise. It asserts with confidence that all we need to do is ask and look – and God’s response will be revealed in just the way we need.

I have many doubts about whether you care or not, O God. On a regular basis I think you do not listen to my concerns. Yet on a regular basis you reveal to me over and over again that you do answer me. Remind my doubting heart of that again and again today. Amen.

December 10

O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.          
     Psalm 5:3

How have you started this new day? Are you beginning with an attitude of dread and regret? Are you looking ahead to the challenges before you with anxiety and fear? Are you looking back on yesterday with disappointment and discontent? With what attitude are you facing this date in your life? Do you assume you must face the road alone, without help or support, relying on your uncertain knowledge and strength? Or do you look at this day as an opportunity to put your trust in the certainty of God’s loving, caring hands, hands that are reaching out to you?

Before I try to go on one minute more on just my own power, I know I must look to you and your power to find the lasting help I need. You are a blessing to me and I need you more and more each day. And in my need I find I am more and more blessed each day. Thank you, O God. Amen.

December 11

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
     Matthew 5:9

Peace and healing are closely related. To establish peace we must mend the brokenness in and around us. To maintain peace we must create the conditions that foster a continuing healthy environment. To find healing we must create an atmosphere of peace in all parts of our lives. Within our minds, throughout our bodies and by our spirits, we need to foster a deepening sense of contentment and fulfillment. When we do we transform our circumstances and our pathway. We set ourselves on a better path, the more positive path we need.

The peace I most need, O God, is peace within my own soul. Help me to find the very real satisfaction I am looking for. When I do I know I will be on a brighter journey of healing and hope. Amen.

December 12

I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.
     Psalm 7:17

Cancer survivors understand that gratitude is at the very heart of creating an atmosphere of healing. Survivors know that it is essential to be in the right state of mind to focus on hope for the journey. They believe that living thankfully and appreciatively is a profound requirement for achieving the state of well-being they seek. Being mindful of the need to find goodness and count blessings is ever-present in a survivor’s life. They focus on what is right and what is good, what is positive and what is eternal. They look beyond temporary setbacks to seek evidence of lasting answers and help. When they do they find the evidence they need.

The more I look for the blessings you give me, dear God, the more I see signs and wonders of your amazing love. Every time I realize one good thing you do, I come to recognize there are so many more good things than I never knew before. Thank you for compounding the blessings in my life. Amen.

December 13

We grope like the blind along a wall, groping like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among the vigorous as though we were dead.
     Isaiah 59:10

When we attempt to make this journey on our own, we just cannot do it well. We have been created by a loving God who does not want us to carry the burdens all alone. God desperately wants us to rely on divine power to help us with those things that are too hard, too complicated or too vast for us to understand. We have not been created to be perfect or strong all the time. We do not know all the secrets of the universe, nor do we need to. God is big enough to handle everything we cannot. When we begin to understand and accept that – and to rely on God’s power for the things we are unable to do, we become free to enjoy the benefits of God’s guidance and the strength of God’s arms to carry us through.

All knowing God, in my ignorance and willfulness I try to do more than I am able to do on my own. But it only gets me in trouble and keeps me from being my best. I know you are here to help me. And today I know I need to trust more in you. Amen.

December 14

… “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
     Matthew 26:52

If our reaction to cancer or to trouble of any kind is to hold on to anger and to react with resentment and bitterness, we will reap much of the same in return. If we create an atmosphere of negativity and despair we will surely find negativity and despair filling our lives. But, if we choose – and it is a choice – to look at our challenges as opportunities to change, to learn and to rise above them, we can accomplish amazing things. Our lives and health can be transformed when we decide to create an atmosphere of joy, gratitude and well-being instead. We have been given the power to choose. What will your choice be?

Thank you, gracious God, for putting within me the power to live a life of thanksgiving and wonder. Thank you for allowing me to choose and for showing me how to choose what is good and best. Today I look for your wisdom to show me how to make the right choices for my life. Amen.