Stand Firm – Love Well

My church has been doing a sermon series on the book of Daniel.  At first glance you might wonder how a book written thousands of years ago has any relevance to today.  As I listened to the messages each week I found it clearly spoke to our current culture today.

As a Christ follower I often find myself in total disagreement with the values all around me.  Much of society speaks and acts in ways so opposed to the words of Jesus Christ.  Everywhere I look – entertainment, fashion and especially politics I find much to disagree with and can often find myself feeling overwhelmed.

How should I respond to my culture when I am so many times in disagreement with it?

Probably each generation thinks they are the first ones to face this perplexing situation – when our own values and lifestyle seem so different from the lifestyles about us.

But we are not the first.

Looking at Daniel we see a young man taken by force from his own home and placed forcefully into a totally alien culture.  The food was different, the religion was different, the customs were different.  Even his name was changed from a name that meant “God is My Judge” to Belteshazzar which meant “Bel protects his life.”  His very identity as a believer in the God of Israel was challenged by this new name honoring an idol god of the Babylonians.

I struggle with the friction between speaking the truth, not backing down from the principles I strongly believe to be right and showing the love of God to those whose beliefs are different than mine.

How do we “stand firm” but “love well.”

Daniel is a good example of that.

He and his friend stood firm on their foundation of faith refusing to bow down to idols and continuing to speak to God when the king said they could pray to no one but himself.  They were willing to lose their lives for their belief in God.

However, if you read Daniel’s interaction with the king he was always respectful and never spoke in anger or showed irritation with the king.  He served within the Babylonian government and obviously worked for the good of the government disobeying only when his basic belief in God was challenged.

We need to follow his example.

Stand firm – never compromise our principles even when it may led to persecution or difficulty.

Love well – never treat those who disagree with us with disrespect or hatred.

My pastor ended Sunday’s sermon with a powerful question:  Do we truly love our enemies as Jesus told us to do.  We often say to “hate the sin, but love the sinner” but in truth do we love the sinner?

A great example of this today I feel is how so many famous Christian ministers are calling for the church to pray for Donald Trump.  We should do so.  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who are in authority over us.

But where is the call for pray for Nancy Pelosi or Adam Schiff?  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who persecuted us.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum – which ever politician you would view as the enemy, I challenge you to pray for them.

Let us Stand firm but love well!

 

 

I’m Still Beautiful!!!

960131_10202167786509614_622897538_a

 

 

 

 

Every October I always reflect back on the time I was first diagnosed with cancer.  During the nine months of treatment, I kept a journal.  My first response to that dreadful word “cancer” is given in my post:     Cancer Survivor

As I read the journal every year, there is one entry I love to read over and over again.  Last February, I shared this article with our newspaper in a contest they were holding for stories of love and commitment.  It was exciting to have my story selected and once again, I want to share it with you.

On our wedding day, my husband spoke beautiful words to me as he shared the vows he had written for our special day.

“I pledge myself to you alone with a devotion that shall increase as we pass together through sorrow and joy, through darkness and sunlight.”

As I listened to his words and saw the love expressed in his eyes, my thoughts were more about the joy and sunlight we would experience together than on any time of sorrow or darkness.

For 18 years we experienced a lot of joy and sunlight. We rejoiced together as our children graduated, married, presented us with grandchildren. Then, suddenly, we faced the darkness as I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After the surgery which removed my left breast and almost all of the lymph nodes under my left arm, the surgeon told me the cancer had been very advanced and aggressive. He made arrangements for me to see an oncologist who told me “the odds are not in your favor.” I would need 16 chemotherapy treatments and over 30 radiation treatments. He basically told us to enjoy the days we had, because he did not think I would survive.

Now my husband’s promise to me that his devotion would increase through sorrow and darkness faced a hard test. Words are easily spoken. This valley would test the truth of those words.

Two days after the surgery, the time came to remove the bandages. How I dreaded that moment! I was confident in my husband’s love for me and I knew that he would stand by me and would say the right things. But I also knew that after all these years of marriage he would not be able to hide the truth from me. His eyes would reflect how he really felt as he looked at my deformed body.

Lovingly he helped me remove the bandages. Glancing down at the area where my left breast used to be, tears immediately filled my eyes. The left side of my chest looked caved in, as if I was hit by a big Mack truck. A bright red scar ran from the center of my chest across and under my left arm. Large staples held the scar together. There were plastic tubes under my arm with fluid draining into two small bags. It was unpleasant to say the least!

Slowly, with tears in my eyes, I glanced up at my husband. He smiled at me and his words are forever engraved in my heart. “You are still beautiful to me,” he said. Clearly those were the right words to say. What is priceless to me, however, was the look in his eyes. There was no hint of aversion, no sign of any disgust. His eyes reflected the love I had seen on our wedding day 18 years before. But, there was much more there now. The love on our wedding day had been love of expectancy for what was to come. This love had much more depth. It was love coming from 18 years of shared experiences, love that had found all it had anticipated to have been satisfied. There was a tenderness and compassion in those eyes that said, “I’m here. I’ll keep my vow.”  

After removing the bandages and getting a shower, I was exhausted. He helped me get into the new bath robe he had bought for me to wear while I recovered from the surgery. It was silky on the outside with lace trim across the top, but had a soft and warm fleece lining. He picked a color that everyone said looks good on me – a light aqua.   How thoughtful this gift was. The soft fleece lining was so comfortable, but the lace trimming made it look very feminine.

As he helped me back to bed, I looked once again in his eyes. He smiled at me and I knew I was still loved and beautiful in his eyes. I knew those words spoken to me 18 years ago were more than just words. They were the true feelings of this wonderful man I call my husband.