Don’t Waste It

(Your Cancer, Your Tragedy, Your Problems)

 

The goal of life is not to live long, live healthy, get wealthy and leave all of it to great-great-grandchildren. But isn’t that easy to forget in our busy, goal-oriented lives?

Tragedy close to home

The school buses behind the hearse were a sobering sight. Though the vehicles from Wake Christian Academy said “activity bus,” the funeral was not an “activity” anyone had anticipated. The gravity of the situation stifled the noise on those buses to a Raleigh's Finestsilence they had never known. Even cars unaffected by the buses’ path pulled over in reverence to let the entourage pass. At each stoplight, Raleigh’s finest stood at attention, saluting the grieving students and the hundreds of cars’ drivers in the line that went for miles en route to the cemetery where Madison’s grave awaited.

My son’s classmate, Madison Pearce, did not survive when her car crossed the centerline and hit a truck head-on last Saturday, seven weeks before her seventeenth birthday. Being a small class of 2015 with only seventy-seven students, there was not one who did not know Madison: her smile; her unconditional love; her ability to light up a room. She was the captain of the cheerleaders – whether on the sidelines or just in life. She seemed to personify letting Christ shine.

“Things can change in the blink of an eye,” one of her last Tweets had said. Every student and parent from the school couldn’t agree more…now.

The pastor who spoke at the funeral was Madison’s uncle, Reverend Ben Pearce. He fought the tears just like everyone in the room. I loved what he shared in what must have been the most difficult speech he has ever made, “Don’t let her death be in vain.”

I think in a way, he was saying, “Don’t waste this tragedy.” John Piper had similar sentiments in his sermon, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer” which I summarized in the post-script below.

Go ahead and think about what happens when we die, because, we all are dying.

Now is a good time to recognize that we are sinners and deserve Hell, but receiveHope Parkway forgiveness when we ask through Christ alone.

“Mom, it just makes me realize that you never know when you say goodbye if it will be the last time you see someone,” my fourteen-year-old said he learned.

“She is the lucky one; she is in heaven with no more tears, no more pain,” my seventeen-year-old resolved.

As I watched Madison’s parents in the visitation line, I saw them hug each person. They comforted the long line of teenagers whose hearts were broken like their own. “She was so excited to have you singing in Chorale with her again,” the mom comforted when she saw my son. “Oh, I remember your name! You are the ‘smart’ one,” she said to another, repeating words to the teens that Madison must have told her.

The scheduled visitation hours were from 6-8pm, but people stayed – even the grieving family – until well past midnight. They gave as much comfort as they received while the crowd grieved together. Pastor Doug Bookman often says that God does His best work when we are at the end of ourselves. As I saw strength in that family to stand for so many hours: smile, cry, smile, cry and still have something to give to the next person in line, I couldn’t help but see God at work. They were at the “end of themselves” long before the line had even formed.

A friend recently mentioned how wrong it is that people quote, “God won’t give you anything you can’t handle,” because of course He does! He knows we can’t handle it – except through Him. When we cry, “I can’t handle it!” maybe it is just our final battle getting to the “end of ourselves.”

“My tears have fed me day and night; while men have said, ‘Where is your God?’” David wrote in Psalm 42. How real. Tears are real. Grieving is real. It’s what we do with it that could “waste” its purpose.

Bitterness knocks at the door. Answer with trust.

Resentment and anger take their shots. Kick them with praise.

Depression tries to check-in; Tell it that gratitude has already taken that room.

Drugs and alcohol invite to numb the pain; Remind them they only prolong it.

Despair tries to suck us into the black hole, but we can remember what even Madison knew, as her Twitter account quoted a song earlier this year:

“All I know is I’m not home yet, this is not where I belong. Take this world and give me Jesus, this is not where I belong.”

Heaven is not the consolation prize; it’s the destination. Don’t waste the journey.

in love,

Terri

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P.S.  John Piper in his article Don’t Waste Your Cancer, was quoted by a guest pastor, Scott Kellum, at a small church near our lake house. The words were too good not to take notes. The notes were too good not to share. Whether it is cancer, death of a dearly loved one, or another form of storm that hits our lives, the words aptly apply: “Don’t waste it.”

The below list was originally posted as Don’t Waste Your Cancer, but it could be, “Don’t waste your problems,”  “Don’t waste your tragedy,” “Don’t waste your hurt,” or “Don’t waste your today.”

When we truly believe that there’s nothing outside of God’s hands that happens in a believer’s life, this list is incredibly poignant.

Don’t Waste Your Cancer (from John Piper)

  1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.th-1
  2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift. (The blessing comes in what God does for us, with us, and through us.)
  3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your “odds” rather than from your God.
  4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
  5. You will waste your cancer if you think that beating cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ
  6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
  7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepening your loving relationships with others. (Some dig a hole and start pulling in dirt on top of themselves, blocking everyone out.)
  8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope. (Grieving is perfectly legitimate, but not as if we have no victory.)
  9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before. (Today’s the day to make it right with God.)
  10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

Feel free to go back and read that list again, making the substitution of the deepest struggle in your own life, which may not be cancer. “You will waste your…[past hurt] if you…”

“Tending” to Forgive

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Dear Lindsey

I recently wrote about our family’s trip to the state fair: A car – which had been left in neutral – had coasted through the parking lot, barely missing my husband and other pedestrians as it reached its destination: crashing into a parked car.  The “unattended car” rolling in neutral to whatever destination the slope led reminded me of many “unattended lives” who coast along in neutral, letting external circumstances determine their destination: a crash.  (See that post, Unattended Vehicles, here.)

PRNDLWhat if instead we put our PRNDL to “drive” – to reach our highest potential for God’s glory?! Purposefully tending to our lives (with God’s will) is the only way to fight our natural tendencies of decline.

When thinking of self-attending, we most likely think of the “eat right and exercise” driving that may avoid a health crash. Or maybe we think of driving the budget to avoid the slide toward excessive debt and bankruptcy. The media will often drive “unattended lives” down their slippery sin-sucking slope toward alcohol, infidelity or pornography among the rest. If we don’t attend to our children, the culture around us will gladly pull them.  Although the list of driving needs is endless: diet, budget, media, parenting, etc, I have recently come to admire the “skillful driving” that some Christians do in the area of

Forgiveness.

It is strange to think of someone driving forgiveness, but at the same time, unless purposefully attended, forgiveness will be lacking and lead to a major crash every time. A natural tendency to being wronged is taking offense, holding the offense, and even wanting revenge for the offense- THAT is the slope of the world in which we live. Lying awake all night unattended, the emotions drive the will of their possessor and result in bitterness, anger, negativity, broken relationships, physical problems and even rage.  I have massive regret when I think of the glory robbed from God every day that I have lacked forgiveness toward someone else.

One author says forgiveness is: never repeating the offense again – to the person it involves or anyone else.  Telling the story or thinking the story only gives the emotions new birth in their old state, removing the benefits of forgiveness altogether. Best selling author, Orrin Woodward once said, “To forgive doesn’t mean we think the snake will never bite again. It means we don’t have a desire to hurt the snake.” We pity the snake. We want to help the snake to become a new creature in Christ. I have often had to force myself to forgive someone who is at the same time holding an incredible grudge against me! But didn’t Christ already show me that it is possible through His own death, when He prayed about his killers, “Forgive them. They know not what they do.”?

Martin Lloyd Jones, in his book, Life in Christ, says that when our pride is in order, no one can insult us. “Whatever the world may say about me, when I know myself, I know that they do not know the truth about me – it is much worse than they think.  When we see ourselves in the light of this glorious gospel, no one can hurt us, no one can offend us.”

I truly believe that the condition of my heart – not the size of the offense – determines the level of difficulty in forgiving the offender. In essence, if my heart recognizes that I have needed forgiveness in the past, I am more likely to give forgiveness today. If my heart is full of pride as though, “I have never needed forgiveness;” “I am holier than they that offended,” or “I would never have done that,” then I am more likely to take great offense at the action and have more difficulty forgiving.  In other words I hold myself in a prison, while limiting the freedom of those around me. It is best said as the old saying: “Not forgiving is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Those who forgive not only give themselves the gift of freedom from the past, but they bless everyone they meet with the same feeling of freedom.

My 13-year-old son recently read The Hiding Place, a book which details Corrie ten Boom’s time in a

Cover of "The Hiding Place"

concentration camp during WWII. (I highly recommend listening to an audio recording Ms. Ten Boom made a few years before her death. Just hearing her voice again this week brought tears to me, knowing the impact she had on my life when I first heard her on a recording a couple of decades ago.  My 13-yr-old and I listened on the way home from soccer, and sat in the driveway to finish it, because he didn’t want to turn it off.  Download the MP3, or order the CD, “The Greatest of These is Love”  Here. Although the audio recording is appropriate for all ages, the book shares details that may be best for older adolescents.)

Caught in the act of hiding Jews, Ms. Ten Boom’s father, sister and she were taken Ravensbruck_camp_barracksaway to a hell on earth at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp that took the lives of both her father and her sister, while daily threatening her own. Mistreated, starved, and witness to unfathomable atrocities, she somehow was released days before the rest of her camp was marched into gas chambers to their death. I cannot imagine the bitterness that must have crept into her skin, thinking of the good she was trying to do for the Jewish people out of love, and the punishment she endured. I cannot conceive the haunting dreams that must have stolen her nights.  How must she have ached in mourning over the loss of her family, due to those purposeful acts of evil?

Somehow though, she was able to stay in the “driver’s” seat and “attend her life” anyway.

She steered her life with the Word of God, as she miraculously snuck a Bible into the concentration camp, though she was stripped naked and was watched by armed and vicious guards. (Would I have risked so much? Would I have even wanted the Bible enough to even try that?)

She accelerated her days against the negative slope with gratitude. At one point, she and her sister, Betsy, thanked God for the lice! Yes lice! Because they kept the guards from entering her sleeping quarters, and allowed them to study God’s Word together. (Am I as grateful even out of such grave circumstances?)

She shifted into higher gears by serving others. Instead of wallowing alone, or even just praying alone, she invited other prisoners to study with her, sharing her Bible – page by worn out page. (Do I have such a habit? – serving others instead of just meeting the needs of my family and me?)

She stayed on the right road, when she pitied the abusive guards and their lack of relationship with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She focused on where she was headed, not where the slope of the world wanted to take her. With her eyes on Jesus, she could follow His example of “forgiving those who know not what they do.”

She didn’t focus inward on the downward slope of self.

She chose to heal.

She drove to forgive.

She glorified the God who attended to her all along.

Then she did even more. She recognized the “unattended lives” in the post-war community – even including the concentration camp guards themselves. She didn’t watch them ride downhill to their destined crash, but began telling them about the Word of God, the salvation in Jesus Christ, and how and why she was able to forgive. She famously was approached by one of the very guards from the concentration camp that took her father and sister.  Even though years had passed, you can imagine her hesitant feelings when she saw him.  Did it bring back horror and begin nightmares again? Did her eyes lock with his and cause trauma deep in her heart? Did she think of the force with which he struck, or recall the harshness of his words? Did bitterness surface at the memory of him with a full belly while surrounding prisoners went weeks without food, and were severely punished or killed if they took even a bite of the potatoes they were forced to pick?  After she thought she had forgiven, did emotions resurface when she was face to face with the offender?

Anguish over her sister’s and father’s deaths in that camp must have wrenched her insides to want to run… or shout… or hurt!

…but she dropped her emotions and embraced that very man, as he embraced the Christ she represented.

“In that moment,” she later wrote, “something miraculous happened. A current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.”

She proved the Father’s forgiveness of sins when she looked beyond this stranger’s sins and was able to forgive.

Oh, to attend a life so well!

Corrie ten Boom would not have had a testimony, if at the beginning of the story, her “car” had been in neutral.  She would have followed a country’s leader, coasting on the pavement of his plans for evil, riding to whatever crash they led. She also would not have had a testimony if after all of the atrocities, she had “parked” in the prison of bitterness.

Her “attended life” before I was even born influenced my own to make sure I am

–       Steering with the Word of God

–       Accelerating with gratitude, culling surroundings for even the tiniest of blessings

–       Shifting into higher gears by serving others

–       Staying on the right road and pitying those who are not

–       Keeping my eye on the destination: in Christ Jesus.

We can drive forward, my dear friend!

In love,

Terri Brady

A scar is not all bad; it shows that a once open wound is now healed.

Romans 5:5And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Micah 7:18-19Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.  You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Related Posts:

Book References:

Audio Source

  • Corrie ten Boom’s story in her own words: “The Greatest of These is Love”  Here.

Stop in the Name of the Law

Dear Lindsey,

“Gasp!”

Ok, now that you got that out of the way, I can share the story that made you do it.

As we continue this series on symptoms of pride/ego, I can go back a few decades to high school again. Unfortunately, I can probably think of more recent examples, but my pride couldn’t handle sharing those 🙂 ; it’s easier to think it was only a problem of my youth.

Next symptom: Thinking I am above the law.

My high school’s shop teacher, a former Army Colonel, was my neighbor and he had a cute little poodle, “Cocoa.” For easy cash, I often took care of Cocoa when its owners were out of town. Rather than walking down the block to my house when he returned from his trip, “the Colonel” (as we students called him) chose to pay me when he saw me in the school cafeteria on the Monday after my pet-sitting.

This led to many jokes of which the Colonel was unaware:

He would approach my lunch table full of teens of both genders, hand me money and say, “Thanks for last night.” Or: “This is for the weekend.”

As he left, snickers would fill our table. Soon, they would see him coming and get silent to see what words he would use when he handed me cash:  “Here he comes to pay Terri for her ‘services.’ Be quiet!”

I never mentioned the torture to him, but I cringed each time he approached.

One weekend the Colonel had asked me to pet-sit, but after accepting the job, I realized I had a commitment to go somewhere with my family for the weekend. I forgot to tell the Colonel that I was unable to keep poor little Cocoa. I didn’t remember until Monday morning when the Colonel approached my lunch table.

The table hushed in anticipation of his words.

“Thanks for the weekend,” he said as he slid a ten-dollar bill into my hand in front of my friends.

I gulped.

I must have forgotten to tell him I couldn’t take care of his dog.

My heart raced, but my ego ignored the urge. “You’re welcome,” I said and took the cash, hoping the Colonel would disappear quickly.

He never asked me to take care of Cocoa again.

During my senior year, my parents (unknowing of my story) suggested I have the Colonel write a recommendation for me for college, since an Army Colonel would be a good advocate to have. “No, thanks,” I said.

How I wish I could go back and change what I did! The Colonel knew I hadn’t taken care

A brown standard poodle at five weeks

of that dog. I can only imagine the damage in his house when he returned. A starving, thirsty dog probably left messes all over and destroyed anything in its path.  I don’t know why the Colonel chose to see if I would be a big enough person to admit it; maybe he knew the years of guilt would be worse than the verbal confrontation. I have tried searching for him online several times in my adulthood so I could apologize- to no avail. God has forgiven me, but forgiving myself has taken longer.

I don’t know why I thought “Thou shalt not lie” (Exodus 20) didn’t apply to me, but I did.

I can remember the following week, justifying the fib in my mind:

  • What was I supposed to do? Everyone was listening!
  • I didn’t really “lie” per se; I just said, “thank you.” (note: It’s still “bearing false witness.”)
  • It was only $10.
  •  It’s just a dog.

Ugh.

Thinking a law (especially a law of God) doesn’t apply to me is a symptom of pride.

When telling a negative story, I prefer to use myself as the example, so I can use others as positive examples, but obviously in this world, there are many examples of actors, business owners and presidents who have had an ego that caused them to put themselves above a law…or two.

Huge scandals begin with a small thought in a heart. One little lie, because it was only $10, leads to millions unless the ego gets under control.

  • “I deserve to take these supplies home from work, because no one notices anyway,” is justifying stealing.
  • I can watch these movies because I am an adult now,” justifies adultery.
  • I am running late because of traffic,” (when really we left our house later than we should have and happened to also run into traffic) OR “I’ll be there in 10 minutes,” (when we know it is really 20, but we don’t want the appointment to leave) is still lying.
  • That rule doesn’t apply to me, because I am so important to this team,” is taking advantage of your blessings.

Thanks to an analogy from my husband, Chris, I have often imagined that one day God will play the movie of my life back to review my behavior, while I watch beside Him. My stomach churning would never allow for popcorn during that movie. I imagine that it is MY life and no one else can be seen in the film. My heart has a voice in the movie, so my thoughts, actions and words are of equal volume, but the circumstances around the words, thoughts and actions cannot be seen, only the deeds for which I am responsible. My legs weaken when I see the laws that I took so lightly, thinking I was only doing what “anyone would do.” I do not like myself in so many of the scenes of those home movies.

Thankfully, God is not done with me yet. We can repent of our sins and ask forgiveness from those whom we have hurt. (Acts 3:19) He can make us white as snow again. (Isaiah 1:18) Repentance begins with recognizing the need for repentance. Pride blocks recognition of our own sin and our need of a Savior.  Pride is the eclipse that blocks the Son from being seen. May I decrease that He may increase (John 3:30), and with that decrease, I can recognize that I am above no law.

Although God’s laws have no exceptions (Hebrews 10:16), neither does His grace. (Lamentations 3:22, Hebrews 4:16, Ephesians 2:4) Believe in forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31) Wow! God is amazing!

Although I chose to write about ego/pride during this holiday season because of its tremendous negative impact on relationships, I guess it’s becoming obvious that the ramifications go far beyond the family Christmas dinner and into eternity.  May we gain strength to live with eternal perspective, always.

God bless,
Terri Brady

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That’s not the Right Seat!

Dear Lindsey,

When my son was four, he sat quietly at a table and dumped the pieces to a puzzle, spreading them out to begin. He said to me, “Mom, pretty soon you are going to hear a big ‘TAH DAH!’ but first… there’s going to be a lot of work!”

I wonder if that is what God thinks when we first recognize our desire to follow Him.

As I continued my walk in my journey of pride diagnosis, I came to the next symptom:

Wanting to Correct

I don’t believe the Bible mentions the “gift of reproach” as one of the spiritual gifts, but girl, I think I lived much of my life thinking I had it! Maybe it was growing up with three brothers (who certainly had a lot to learn from me. Tongue-in-cheek.) or being blessed with talents, A’s and no cavities, but somehow along the way, I developed a critical eye: a sign of pride.

How do I tell her she needs to dress differently?

I need to write the school about that teacher.

How can a deacon of the church let his child do THAT on Sunday?

Galatians 6:2-5 says that we should bear one another’s burdens and every man bear his own burden.

If I am thinking of ways to correct someone, I am hardly carrying their burden. In fact, every minute I think about correcting someone is a minute I have not spent worshipping the Lord, or improving myself.  I love the saying that if 80% of the problem is my husband’s (or friend’s or teammate’s) and 20% of the problem is my own, then I need to spend 100% of my time working on the 20% that is my own! Every minute spent on stressing “rules” to someone else is often a deterrent from allowing them the “relationship” with God.

(note: The Bible does talk about reproof (James 5:20 for example), and there is a proper time; this “pride” about which I am talking is not Biblical reproof. The recommended reading below clarifies the difference.)

Each morning before school, I try to read to my children from a devotional book.  The following story comes from A Wisdom Retreat (book 1), by Stephen Davey.   On Day 19, entitled The Aisle Seat, Davey best describes someone who chose to worship God instead of correcting His people:

————-

“Rebecca Pippert, in her fascinating book entitled Out of the Salt Shaker and into the World told the story of her arrival in Portland, Oregon, where she met Bill, one of the students on the campus where she served. He was a brilliant young man with messy hair and, as she recalls, he was perpetually shoeless. From outward appearances he was a little strange, but inwardly he was inquisitive and incredibly bright.

One day Bill decided to attend a middle-class church that was across the street from the campus. He walked into this church of well-dressed people in his tattered jeans, tee shirt, and, of course, barefooted.  In truth, this was the first time he’d ever been inside a church sanctuary.

People looked a bit uncomfortable, but no one said anything as Bill walked down the aisle looking for a seat. The church was quite crowded that Sunday and as he came to the front pew he realized there were no seats left. So without any hesitation, he sat down on the carpet in the middle of the aisle, the same place he sat when his Christian friends invited him as they met for Bible study. He casually crossed his legs and waited for the service to begin.

The tension was palpable as people murmured, craning their necks to see the stranger in the aisle. Then one of the elderly deacons – a man who was well-respected in the church – began walking down the aisle toward the student. Rebecca’s friends who witnessed this scene told her that they whispered to each other, “Well, you can’t exactly blame him for scolding the guy…he is a disruption to the service!”

As the well-groomed deacon neared Bill, the church was deathly quiet. All eyes were glued front and center to see what would happen next. With some difficulty, the old man lowered himself to the floor and sat down next to Bill. He crossed his legs and shared his hymnal with the college-aged boy. The crowd was stunned.

That Sunday the deacon not only worshiped there on the floor, but he reminded the congregation how to worship.”

———–

C.S. Lewis says that the greatest enemy of Christianity’s growth is …Christians. What?! “The greatest enemy of Christianity’s growth is [sinful] Christians.” (OK, I added a word.) Well of course we are!  I bet I stunted the growth with my very own lips at times, correcting people for things that didn’t even matter to Jesus himself. Prideful people take the light off of the Lord and put it onto themselves.

God doesn’t need me; I need God. Anytime that role is changed, my pride is in the way and those around me suffer.  (Aside:  PLEASE, if you have been hurt by one of these “special people with the gift of correcting,” look beyond them, and rise above to forgive. God has a bigger plan for you! Christians are not perfect (not even your spouse!), or they would not need a Savior Who is!)  May we follow that deacon’s example and worship God instead of working on His people in our hearts and actions today.

In love,

Terri Brady

Psalm 19:14 May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, o Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Recommended reading:

Instrument in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp

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