The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies.

 Tony Snow:
‘Blessings arrive in unexpected packages, – in my case, cancer. Those of us with potentially fatal diseases – and there are millions in America today – find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God’s will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence ‘What It All Means,’ Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.

The first is that we shouldn’t spend too much time trying to answer the ‘why’ questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can’t someone else get sick? We can’t answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer.

I don’t know why I have cancer, and I don’t much care. It is what it is, a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.

But despite this, – or because of it, – God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don’t know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.

Second, we need to get past the anxiety. The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere.
To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life,- and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many non believing hearts – an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live fully, richly, exuberantly – no matter how their days may be numbered.

Third, we can open our eyes and hearts. God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease,- smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see, – but God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance; and comprehension – and yet don’t. By His love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise.

‘You Have Been Called’.  Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet, a loved one holds your hand at the side. ‘It’s cancer,’ the healer announces.

The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. ‘Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler.’ But another voice whispers: ‘You have been called.’ Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter,- and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our ‘normal time.’

There’s another kind of response, although usually short-lived an inexplicable shudder of excitement, as if a clarifying moment of calamity has swept away everything trivial and tiny, and placed before us the challenge of important questions.

The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies. Think of Paul, traipsing through the known world and contemplating trips to what must have seemed the antipodes ( Spain ), shaking the dust from his sandals, worrying not about the morrow, but only about the moment.

There’s nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue, – for it is through selflessness and service that God wrings from our bodies and spirits the most we ever could give, the most we ever could offer, and the most we ever could do.

Finally, we can let love change everything. When Jesus was faced with the prospect of crucifixion, he grieved not for himself, but for us. He cried for Jerusalem before entering the holy city. From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness, and begged for forgiveness on our behalf.

We get repeated chances to learn that life is not about us, that we acquire purpose and satisfaction by sharing in God’s love for others. Sickness gets us part way there. It reminds us of our limitations and dependence. But it also gives us a chance to serve the healthy. A minister friend of mine observes that people suffering grave afflictions often acquire the faith of two people, while loved ones accept the burden of two peoples’ worries and fears.

‘Learning How to Live’. Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God’s arms, not with resignation, but with peace and hope. In so doing, they have taught us not how to die, but how to live. They have emulated Christ by transmitting the power and authority of love.

I sat by my best friend’s bedside a few years ago as a wasting cancer took him away. He kept at his table a worn Bible and a 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. A shattering grief disabled his family, many of his old friends, and at least one priest. Here was an humble and very good guy, someone who apologized when he winced with pain because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable. He retained his equanimity and good humor literally until his last conscious moment. ‘I’m going to try to beat [this cancer],’ he told me several months before he died. ‘But if I don’t, I’ll see you on the other side.’

His gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn’t promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity, – filled with life and love we cannot comprehend, – and that one can in the throes of sickness point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms.

Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don’t matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?

When our faith flags, he throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. They change things, and those of us who have been on the receiving end of their petitions and intercessions know it. It is hard to describe, but there are times when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you feel a surge of the Spirit. Somehow you just know: Others have chosen, when talking to the Author of all creation, to lift us up, – to speak of us!

This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God.

What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don’t know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us who believe, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place, in the hollow of God’s hand.’     
 T. Snow

Athletes with Prosthetic Limbs – competitive edge

Wow.  This was in WIRED’s blog today.  Amazing.
By Jose Fermoso EmailJuly 29, 2008 | 9:07:04 PMCategories: Innovations, Robots, Science  
Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh recently succeeded in implanting sensors in the brain of a monkey, allowing it to move a mechanical arm with his thoughts. This is the latest breakthrough in the field of Neuroprosthetics, where implanted chips carry signals to the remaining limbs of an amputee, guiding movement.

If the research holds, breakthroughs like these could lead to a reassessment of disabled people as ‘bionic’ and fully able, and lead to a new era of mind-controlled gadgets.

Oscar145Don’t believe us? In fact, it’s already happening.

Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee, uses carbon fiber-composite legs and doesn’t define himself as disabled — he’s already considered one of the fastest men in the world. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) agrees: When Pistorius requested to participate in the trials for the Beijing Olympics, he was flatly rejected.

Why? According to Time, ‘more energy is returned to [his] upper legs from his blades than from ankles and calf muscles and . . . uses less oxygen.’ He was too physically advanced to compete against ‘non-disabled’ men.

Please pray for Pastor David and Jothi from India

Pastor David and Jothi had been outside of the country for some time, visiting the California,Nevada,Hawaii District and then attending the training in St. Louis and then the convention in Kentucky.  Word was received that Pastor David’s mother had died in India yesterday.  They have flown home to be with their family.  Please pray for travel mercies and also for consolation and comfort from the Lord.  They are such a blessing to their people and they were a blessing to us as we got to know them better during these last couple of weeks.  May God’s grace and mercy accompany you in abundant measure Pastor David and Jothi!  Please be assured of my love, appreciation and prayers…..and of the Lutheran Hour Ministries family too from around the world.

Feeling better and on my way home….yipeee!

Posting from the Business Center at the hotel in San Louis waiting for the shuttle to take me to the airport and then HOME.  I am feeling much better with just a raspy voice as the remnant of my illness.  Please pray for Miriam Sonntag our young director for CPTLN Paraguay who left this morning for two weeks of speaking engagements!  I hope she can get completely well…… Those of you who live in the Phoenix area (or know someone who does) make sure they make one of her talks.  Her energy, creativity and passion for the Lord will rub off on you and you will be blessed by hearing about the ministry in Paraguay, which is one of the most secular countries in Latin America and a very difficult mission field.

LHMinistries in Kentucky

Got sick and last night had no voice and piercing pain.  I didn’t have such a great day and decided to take up the offer to go to the Urgent Care.  We made it through the presentations on stage this morning.  Lovely sweet Jane, assistant to Larry Lumpe took Miriam from Paraguay and I to urgent care. I was worried about Miriam because she has 13 speaking engagements when we leave here around the Grand Canyon District in the state of ARizona.  We both got a super duper strong antibiotic mixed with some other good drugs in a very big shot on the hip.  Then some more antibiotics at the Walmart (at $4!!!) and I stepped into the convention hall just in time to make the presentation I was doing with a team of three other staff from international ministry and volunteer ministries.  It went well and then we went peeking in at the exhibits.  I found this WONDERFUL new bible with Luthers Small Catechism built in…..of course in SPANISH!  I was very excited about that.  If you want to support the LHM office in Tijuana please contact them and order some for us…… They are from the Lutheran Heritage Foundation and had an opportunity to speak to the new Executive Director, Rev. James Fandry.

We then went to the Kentucky Horse Farm. What beautiful farms for these high performance horses.  We were told some of the horse barns can be quite plush…..especially those housing the horses that have sold for up to $16million dollars!  Yikes!

Enjoy a few photos from my trip so far.

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Powerful message on Sunday

We attended Messiah Lutheran Church in the St. Louis area on SUnday. It’s mission is to be a church where “kids want to take their parents!”  The sermon message was a powerful word from God. If you do nothing else, hear the message on their website by clicking on the sermon podcast from Sunday the 20th.  You will be cut to the heart and you will be blessed.

www.messiahnetwork.org

Thank you Pastor Shultz for your ministry proclaiming the powerful Word of love and reconciliation through Christ! 

In this photo we were welcoming Cody to the family of God through the sacrament of baptism.

Just arrived in Kentucky.

Just arrived in Lexington, Kentucky.  We had a full day drive from St. Louis.  Travel times are good and useful when you can travel with your team and discuss many  ideas in detail or just get to know each other or catch up on each others’ news in the ministry and with the family.  We traveled with the latinamerican team ( our area director for latinamerica at the wheel) plus our area director for China and our international staff person for fundraising for international.  We got to hear wonderful music from all over latinamerica.  We listened to Christian music from Nicaragua and brasilian music from our director in Brasil.  This song especially grew on us.