Buddy Trusts Me

There’s a big difference between how well I can look after my dog and how well God can look after me. But I have learned some important things about trusting God from my experience with how my dogs have learned to trust me through the years. That’s what this story is about.

Important information before reading further: This story is about Buddy the Dog, and not about Jake the Desert Bone Dog! You may know Jake from my Facebook page or my Instagram account . Buddy was a Cocker Spaniel mix rescue dog who was a very big part of our family from 2003 to 2014. Jake is an English Springer Spaniel who has been a very big part of our family since October 2015. There will no doubt be some Jake the Desert Bone Dog stories in my blog posts from time to time, but this is about Buddy!

A few years ago, my dog Buddy had to have surgery on his left rear knee (who knew dogs had knees?). Buddy loved to run and while running like a crazy dog in the desert, he had badly torn the ligament that holds the joint together. He had been lame and in a lot of pain for a few days as we processed him through visits to the regular vet and referrals to a veterinary orthopedist and arranged for his operation. The vet surgically replaced the torn ligament with monofilament nylon line and patched in some tissue from another part of his leg to repair the joint. Buddy stayed in the veterinary hospital overnight and I picked him up the next morning.

Poor little guy! His hindquarters were shaved on one side but he was still his hairy self over the rest of his body. He had a bright blue hard and bulky bandage that covered the length of his left back leg, a pain meds patch on a shaved part of his back right foot, and a bandage on his right front leg where the IV needle was inserted for the operation. He just didn’t know what to do or think about his situation!

The veterinary surgery technician sent me home with dire warnings of what could go wrong if I let him run, jump, climb stairs, jump into the car, or do any of the other things he loved to do and was apt to do suddenly and without notice. So for a few weeks, Buddy was severely restricted for activity. He had to be on leash all the time he was outside the house. I had to lift him in and out of the car and carry him up and down stairs. That really changed things in our household for a while!

For the first few days home, Buddy was not in a running and jumping mood. He was lethargic from the medication and he moaned softly from time to time from the pain. It hurt me to see him hurt! I so wished Buddy could tell me how he was feeling and when he needed to go out to relieve himself and when he was thirsty and when the pain was just too much! But he couldn’t. He was a dog and didn’t speak human. I’m a mere human and couldn’t read his mind. The fact is, if I had known what he wanted or needed and had the power to do it, I would have done most anything, because I love my dog!

I remember sitting in my red recliner chair early in the morning, doing my Bible reading and journaling and Buddy lying on the floor right beside my chair, as close to me as he could get. Buddy was getting as close to me as he could, because Buddy trusted me! He was in pain, he didn’t know what was happening and what the outcome would be, he didn’t know what to do, so he simply wanted to be near me because my behavior toward him had always been consistently for his benefit. He trusted me!

Think about this:

    • Even though it was action on my part (vet, surgery, bandages) that caused his immediate pain…
    • Even though there was no way I could explain to him that the pain and discomfort was for his good and that it would lead to healing…
    • Even though there was nothing I could do to help him feel better except scratch behind his ears a little…
    • He wanted to be near me. He pressed closer instead of moving away. He trusted me!

Then I thought about me and my master – my Father God. I wished that I could be as good a master to Buddy as God is to me! I cared for Buddy during his injury and recovery. I paid for Buddy’s diagnosis and surgery. But I couldn’t fix him or stop his pain or explain to him what was going on! I could only do my best to see Buddy through the necessary recovery process. I could only restrict his running and jumping and watch him carefully and try to read his little doggy mind to figure out what he needed. In spite of my limitations, and based on a few years of interactions and my behavior toward him in all sorts of other situations, Buddy trusted me.

You know, trust is not really effectively commanded or demanded. Trust is developed through relationship and interaction. When a person (or a dog) (or God) acts consistently in a certain manner over time, you begin to think in terms of that (person, God, or dog) as being trustworthy. Worthy of trust. Trustable. And you begin to assume, expect, trust that given a certain situation or set of circumstances, that person, dog or God will continue that expected action. You feel you can trust them.

Well, here’s the thing: I want to have the same attitude towards my Father God as Buddy had towards me! I want to so simply and completely trust God that when I’m in pain or confused or afraid, I’ll instinctively get as close to God as I can and simply trust God to do the right things and be with me in the pain and arrange the best outcome possible. And I’ll do that because I trust my Father God – not because I’m commanded to trust God and not because God demands that I trust him – but because I’ve learned to trust God through years of interactions and situations.

God loves me even more than I love my dog. He does know what I’m thinking and he understands my moans and groans perfectly. And not only that, he has the power to do what needs to be done.

I don’t want to be preachy here, but you and I both know that trust is not effectively demanded or commanded, it’s developed in relationship and experience. So here’s what I do and I’m strongly encouraging you to do some form of trust development with our Father God. I know you trust God, but what I’m aiming for here is some attitudes and practices that relationally grow and develop your God-trust so it will be the kind of trust that makes you move closer to God when the pain hits, when you’re confused or discouraged. Here are some suggestions:

    • Develop constant God-awareness. Our Bible-derived theology tells us that God is always present. God is near, not far. I see the value in places: sanctuaries, church gatherings, rituals. But bring your God-awareness into every part of your life. Think lots of God-thoughts.
    • Talk to God conversationally and often. I’m in favor of formal prayer practices, but I carry on a running conversation with God as I go through my day. I ask a lot of questions. I “run things by” him. I make suggestions and then listen to try and see how God thinks about my ideas. Engage with the God Who Is There!
    • Develop your own God-awareness, your trust developing attitudes and practices, and tell me and others what works for you. Share your insights.

I’m determined to learn to trust God like Buddy trusted me. Even when the pain passes through God’s hands to me…

    • Even when there’s no way God can explain to me why…
    • Even though there are factors at work that only God understands…
    • I want to, I will press closer to God and not turn away.

How about you!?!

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.

There’s an update on my health and cancer situation here.


The Cemetery

It was a bloody battle in a wood outside a small French village, near the end of WWII. When the battle ended one young American soldier knelt beside the body of his best friend and wept. The thought of his friend lying in an unmarked grave was not acceptable and he lifted his friend’s body to his shoulder and began to walk toward a village nearly four miles away.

As he neared the village he saw the steeple of a chapel rising above the trees and turned his weary steps toward the church. He soon saw that it was a monastery and that beside the chapel was a little cemetery surrounded by a white picket fence. The graves were marked with stones and the grounds were well-tended. The young soldier thought, “If only I can bury my friend here in this little cemetery, I’ll know I can return to visit his grave someday.”

He approached the chapel and gently laid his friend’s body on the ground, then stepped up to the rough wooden door and knocked. Almost immediately the door opened and a monk, a young man about the age of the soldier, stepped out and greeted him. As he was about to ask if he could help the soldier in some way, the monk saw the body of the dead man lying on the ground just at the cemetery gate.

The soldier said, “Please Father, may I bury my friend in your cemetery? He was a good man, a good friend, and I can’t bear to think of his body lying in an unmarked grave here in these woods, so far from our home in America.”

“Was your friend a Catholic?” the monk asked?

“No, Father, he was not Catholic but he was a Christian and he loved God with all his heart.”

The monk looked at the soldier with obvious regret and said, “I’m sorry, friend. The rules are clear and I don’t have the authority to make exceptions. Only Catholics can be buried in the cemetery. I’m so sorry!”

As a look first of disappointment and then pain passed across the face of the soldier, the monk continued, “Would it be alright with you if we buried your friend just outside the cemetery gate? We could put a nice stone at his head and clearly mark the grave.”

The soldier said, “Thank you, Father. You’re kind and I appreciate it so much. I’ve just got to be able to find my friend’s grave when I return after this terrible war is finally over.”

Together they dug a grave just outside the fence. Together they laid the dead soldier’s body gently in the ground. Together they carried a heavy stone and placed it at the head of the grave. With bowed heads they stood and the priest prayed for the young soldier’s safety as he endeavored to find his way back to Allied lines through dangerous enemy territory.

The soldier made it to safety and he survived the terrors of the war and at war’s end he returned to his home town in America.

Over twenty years had passed before the not-quite so young man managed to save up the money to visit his friend’s grave just outside the little cemetery near the French village. His ticket bought, he flew to Paris and traveled by train to the village. As he left the station, he could see the spire of the little chapel in the woods near the town. With the steeple as his guide he walked quickly to the monastery and rushed over to the fence of the cemetery and walked quickly along to the gate.

He looked all around – the grass was still carefully tended – but he couldn’t find the headstone. He couldn’t find his friend’s grave. He soon realized that something was wrong! The grave simply wasn’t there!

His initial confusion turned to disappointment and disappointment to pain as he walked quickly to the door of the chapel and knocked again as he had so many years before. Almost as quickly as before the door was answered – answered by the same monk he had met after the battle that took his friend’s life.

He hardly greeted the monk and then his disappointment tumbled out in a torrent of words, “It’s gone! My friend’s grave is gone! You helped me bury him after that awful battle so many years ago. We put a stone at his head just outside the fence so I could find the grave when I returned. But it’s gone! What has happened to the grave?”

The monk gently took his arm and led him toward the cemetery gate. “You’ll find your friend’s grave just inside the fence. Go ahead, it’s just over there. Do you see it now?”

“Oh Father,” he cried, “Have you moved my friend’s grave?”

“No, friend,” the monk replied. “I moved the fence.”

I was raised in a segment of Evangelical Christianity that specialized in fences. We had fences that were put in place by the rules we made, kind of like the fence around the little cemetery in France that was put in place by a rule to only allow a certain kind of person to be buried there. Our fences and rules weren’t about who got to be buried in our church, but were certainly about who got to be counted as part of our church. And I suppose that can be a good thing. But our rules and fences were pretty technical. Not so much about heart condition but more about things one should or shouldn’t do, places one should or shouldn’t go, and doctrinal belief requirements that were pretty far from the basics on simple faith in Jesus.

I know, “broad road to destruction and narrow road to life”, but this wasn’t really that. I guess we thought it was, but it wasn’t. So there were a lot of really genuine Christians, Christ-followers, that we didn’t fellowship with because they baptized differently or had a different approach to church structure, or whatever.

Later, when I was in the Army and met other kinds of Christians and when I was in Vietnam and worked with a chaplain of a different denomination, and then met and learned from a Vietnamese Catholic priest who had established a refugee village near our battalion HQ, I realized that my fences were too narrow and had been put in place by the wrong kinds of rules.

Anyhow, I’ve been moving fences for quite a few years now. I realize I could get carried away with fence moving or maybe even tear the fences down altogether and it could lead to a bad result. But so far, I have no regrets about the fences I’ve moved. There’s room for a lot more diversity than I realized in those early days.

Here’s a thought: Is there a fence that you could move to make a little more room on the inside of your heart, in your circle of fellowship?


Father, I’m so thankful that when I don’t quite measure up to Your standards and there is nothing I can do to help myself that You find a way to satisfy Your righteousness and to manifest Your mercy toward me. Thank You that in Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins, you “moved the fence” to include me.

 Please help me to be willing “to move the fence” for others as You have for me. Fill me with Your compassion and grace that I may never exclude others simply because they somehow don’t  measure up to the requirements of “the rules”. May I always look for creative ways to bring others in and not fence them out.

 For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.  (John 3:16-17 NLT)

 As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.

Fifty Eight Years

Today, August 17, 2021, is our 58th wedding anniversary!  As I look back it just doesn’t seem possible it’s been 58 years since twenty-year-olds Jim
Stephens and Jean Storey got married in Othello, Washington, and began a new life together.

We spent our first married years in Richland, Washington, where Jean got a job before I did. She worked at the Bob-A-Lou Drive In cooking and serving Atomic Burgers and Cokes and Shakes. (I tried selling Encyclopedias door to door for a couple of weeks and soon learned that door to door selling was not going to be my career of choice!) Then through a recommendation from my policeman friend Walt Marsh I got a job at Wascher’s Mobil Station at $1.35 an hour (25 cents above normal starting pay!). After about two years Don, one of my co-workers, and I bought the station from our boss, and began a sweet partnership running a well-established neighborhood gas and service business. We didn’t lose any business in the changeover because our customers saw the same smiling faces every time they drove in.

Our business partnership was cut short when I was drafted into the Army in February of 1966. After basic training at Fort Campbell, KY and specialized training in Fort Eustis, VA, I was sent back to Fort Campbell to 20th Transportation Company (Aircraft Direct Support) to await deployment to South Vietnam. Jean joined me and we lived off-post in Clarksville, TN for a few months. Our daughter Stephanie was born at the Fort Campbell post hospital on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1966.

1966 was my “getting drafted and getting my military training” year, but Jean and I managed to be together for quite a bit of that year by living off post in Newport News, VA and Clarksville, TN. We were together for the birth of our daughter Stephanie in November. We were together for Christmas. We were together for our third anniversary in 1966. We were not together on our anniversary in 1967, because that was my Vietnam year. I was just thinking about that as I was writing this paragraph… August 17, 1967 is the only wedding anniversary we haven’t been together! So I guess 57 out of 58 isn’t bad!

Close to the time I got out of the army to return home from Vietnam, Jean moved back to Richland, WA and that’s where I came home to. When I first got home I worked part time at the Mobil Gas Station I had previously owned and I attended Columbia Basin College in Pasco, WA. But the gasoline and oil must have been in my blood because by the time my first semester of classes finished, we had bought another service station in partnership with my friend Walt Marsh who didn’t want to be a policeman anymore. That partnership lasted a year or so, then Jean and I bought out Walt’s share and took on the business on our own.

Those were good years! From about early 1969 to 1975 we built the business, learned a lot of lessons about business management, and felt we’d found something we wouldn’t mind doing for a long time. There were financial struggles during the fuel shortages in 1973 and after the introduction of self-service gasoline sales about the same time. I could write pages of stories about how God faithfully worked through our hard work and determination and even through the financial mistakes and miscalculations we made. By 1975 the business was solid enough that we were looking for an additional station to buy and move from being “farmers” to “ranchers” in the gas station business.

Church was a big part of our lives in those days. But we were hungry for something more and we found some of what our hearts longed for in home Bible studies with friends and in close, strong friendships with other young couples in their twenties like us. Then the Jesus People Movement came to our little corner of the world and the hunger in our hearts for more of the experiential reality of faith quickly drew us in. In our late twenties by then, we were older than most of the others and began to lead and influence. Our daughter Melissa was born in September of 1971 and at about that time we transitioned from our church to the new Jesus People church in Richland.

Life was good! Did I say that already? Marriage, kids, friends, God, our business, ministry… it was all flowing together nicely and it seemed like we were kind of in a good groove! But our hearts were still stirred and in a few years, we sold the business and became “full-time” in ministry. Then five years later we moved from Richland, WA to Medford, OR to start a new church! That was exciting and also probably the hardest and most challenging thing we’d ever done! And then four years later, God reconnected us with friends and ministry partners we’d served with in Jamaica in the late 70’s (I know, I didn’t write about that! Maybe another time!) and we moved to Linstead, a market town in Jamaica’s Central Highlands to pastor a church. That worked well.

Then we moved to Kingston, Jamaica’s capital city, and helped a team start a Bible Training Centre. After a year or so, the other ex-pats on the team moved on and Jean and I stayed to develop the Bible Training Centre and transition it from a ministry by “missionaries” to a ministry of the Jamaican church. That worked well.

In the meantime we’d traveled to the UK in 1990 and again in 1991 to explore taking the Bible Training Centre ministry and concept to London. In London where we connected with heart-hungry people from Africa and began to connect with a similar need for training in Ghana and Uganda. That worked well, too!

Anyhow, as I’ve been writing this, I’ve realized that Jean and I have celebrated a lot of wedding anniversaries! We’ve celebrated more of our anniversaries in the US than anywhere else. And more in Oregon than in any other part of the US. But we’ve celebrated wedding anniversaries in Jamaica, in England, in France, and in Uganda as well.

As you can imagine, lots of things have happened in the lives of Jim and Jean in 58 years of marriage that I haven’t mentioned here. When I started typing this I didn’t really know where it was going and now that we’re here I’m not really sure where it has gone! I mostly wanted to reflect on wedding anniversaries and the fact that being married nearly sixty years accumulates a lot of them!

My blog posts are usually about something and usually include reference to some things I’ve learned through life’s successes and failures and experiences. I don’t really have “three points” of application here, but some things have occurred to me as I’ve been writing:  (Big Disclaimer! These are not intended to be Prescriptive of the way to live your life and your marriage! These are Descriptive of some things Jean and I have realized about ourselves and our own life. Emulate these at your own risk!)

Divorce was never an option for us. I think the secret of our long and happy marriage is no more complicated than that we decided before we said all the “for better or for worse, and ‘til death do us part” stuff that divorce was simply not an option. We would not consider it, talk about it, or even make reference to it. Therefore, when hurts, offenses, misunderstandings, seasons of dullness, and whatever else occurred, if we didn’t want to be miserable, we had to work through the stuff. Because it didn’t make sense to be miserable!

We never had a master plan. We had values. We had interests. We had passion for things. But we didn’t have a plan for our lives other than to face each situation that arose and figure out what needed to be done and give it a shot. I remember at the end of high school, so many of the kids knew where they were going to college, they knew what career they would pursue, they had their lives sort of all planned out. I envied that! But not enough to do it. So I guess our life plan has been “do what needs to be done!”

We don’t like to see things fall apart. So when a business partnership dissolved, we assumed the responsibility, stayed with it, paid off the debt, and got it solid before moving on to the next thing. When a missionary left a mission church and moved on we assumed the responsibility, got it solid, found the right local leadership and put them in place before moving on to the next thing. When a team of expat missionaries started a Training Centre and then moved on, we stayed with it and got it solid and found local leaders to take it beyond the level we could take it. Then we felt free to move on to the next thing. We haven’t done this perfectly, but we’ve done it enough that it’s clearly a pattern.

We have never seen ministry as a job to do for pay. I know this is way outside the norm, but again, while there have been seasons of being paid a salary to do a specific set of tasks and fulfill a specific set of responsibilities, over a period of nearly sixty years our pattern has been to see a need and figure out something that addresses that need and do it whether there is pay for it or not. God has been gracious and faithful in ways it would take all day to tell about in bringing the resources and support we’ve needed to keep going. Some of you who are reading this are among the gracious, generous people God has prompted to be part of his support for us. That’s amazing to think about! Thank you so much!

So here we are on our Fifty Eighth Wedding Anniversary! We’re old as dirt! (Actually most dirt is much older, but we’re old enough.) And if health holds out, we’ll be celebrating our 59th a year from today! Grace to you!

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.

Emptying The Dishwasher

I learned something about myself recently. I learned that I’m usually more stressed and anxious over the details and the process than over the outcome of the situation. Let me explain what I mean. First, I’ve gotta say that this hasn’t been a “blinding flash of light revelation”, but more of a gradual realization that has clarified over time. But the recent experience of being Jean’s caregiver during the first few weeks after her fall/broken ankle/surgery really clarified some things for me. One of the tasks that fell to me during her immobilization is emptying the dishwasher.

The automatic dishwasher has always intimidated me. I understand it’s only a machine – a kitchen appliance. And I understand that it uses hot water under pressure to blast the dishes clean and then uses hot air to dry them. It’s not the mechanics of the thing I find intimidating. The intimidating part is the emptying of the beast. I open the dishwasher door and slide the top rack out and there’s all this stuff that I have no idea where it belongs! I know generally that it belongs in drawers and cupboards around the kitchen, but it just feels overwhelming when I look at all the glasses and cups and plates and stuff. I just want to slide the rack back in, close the door, and walk away.

Most of you who read “Notes From My Journey” know that in late March of 2021 I was diagnosed with a blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma. Multiple Myeloma is caused by a mutation of a type of blood plasma cell that causes these mutated and defective cells to begin to multiply in an uncontrolled manner in an attempt to take over the world (my world, anyhow!). They crowd the bone marrow, where blood cells are produced, and begin to interfere with the growth of other, healthy cells. Left untreated, they eventually take over and cause bones to deteriorate and cause death through failure of the kidneys or lungs or other organs. Multiple Myeloma is not curable medically, but it’s treatable.

Since mid-April I’ve been undergoing a targeted therapy of three drugs to combat my cancer; two taken orally and one given as a weekly injection. It’s working pretty well and I have fewer MM cells in my body than I had and they’re multiplying more slowly. If I continue this form of treatment, it is likely to achieve temporary remission for a season. There’s another treatment that is even more effective and it’s usually given after a few cycles of the treatment I’m currently doing, when the MM cell count is fairly low. I’m getting there, so we’re moving forward with this other treatment called a Stem Cell Transplant. A variation of this treatment is called a Bone Marrow Transplant (You’ve probably heard of that one). This treatment can produce a complete remission that can last a year or two or even more, along with providing a greatly improved “quality of life”.

I’m preparing for a Stem Cell Transplant. It’s a complex and somewhat drawn out process in which healthy Stem Cells (which are kind of magic in that they can grow into several kinds of cells as the body needs them) are harvested from my blood, frozen, and then reintroduced into my body. I know! Sounds like science, doesn’t it?! After the Stem Cells are harvested and frozen, I’m given a massive dose of chemotherapy over a couple of days that kills off most of the bad cells remaining in my blood and bone marrow (along with a bunch of the good cells). Then the Stem Cells are thawed out and put back into my blood and they get right to work making plasma cells that begin to rebuild my blood and my immune system in a much improved environment where nearly all the MM cells are gone. Actually, a few years ago that would have sounded like science fiction. But it really works! And it’s an exacting and complicated process.

Actually the preparation and follow-up treatment is more complicated than the transplant itself. The Transplant Center at OHSU sent me books and procedural documents and preparation and follow-up instructions, and cautions and warnings, and lists of potential side effects and links to instructional videos. There is so much stuff to learn and to keep track of and to think about that my brain just about freezes (Not like when you drink a Slurpee too fast! Worse!).

I’ve found that in preparing for the Stem Cell Transplant, it’s the details of the process that stress me more than the risks related to the outcome. Each time I read through all the details, instructions, and warnings, I just get overwhelmed. Kind of depressed. It’s given me opportunity to look inward and to work toward better understanding myself and how I respond or react to things. Processing all the details of the procedures, thinking about all the appointments I have for tests and procedures, thinking about all the things I have to stop doing, start doing, be careful to avoid, be diligent to perform just overwhelms me! I just want it to stop and go back to how things were before the diagnosis in March!

But if I just stop, if I don’t keep moving forward as the treatment of the disease requires, things will not go back to how they were. The result will be that the disease takes over and has its way in a relatively short time. So stopping is not an option. Avoidance is not an option. I simply must move forward and overcome the “overwhelmingness” of it and do what is required.

Here’s what I learned from emptying the dishwasher: When I open the dishwasher door and pull out the top rack and feel overwhelmed like “I can’t possibly figure out where all these things go!” I can’t just stop there, push the rack back in, and close the door.

I look at the drinking glasses. I actually know which cupboard they belong in. So I put them away. Then I address the coffee cups. I know where they belong. So I put them away. Then the small bowls we eat cereal or soup from. I know where they go. So I put them away. By the time I work my way through the top rack, I’ve only got a couple of things I can’t figure out where to put. So I turn my attention to the bottom rack. Plates. I know where to put them. Pots and large bowls. Pots go over there, large bowls over there! Silver ware (knives, forks, spoons): Hey there’s a drawer with compartments for these! This is going to be easy!

By the time I’ve taken it a step at a time and put away the things I can actually figure out a place for, there’s not much left. Now it’s a challenge I can manage. And I can take the two or three things that remain and ask Jean where they go and before I know it, the job is done! No longer a dark mystery. No longer overwhelming. No longer a fearful, complicated, impossible task! It’s done!

This probably seems kind of silly to you, but Emptying the Dishwasher has taught me a lot about myself, about what makes me feel overwhelmed, what gets me stuck. And it’s taught me that if I’ll just start; if I’ll just find one thing that I know how to do and do it, I get unstuck. Take the first step, then the next step, then keep going, eventually what was looming darkly over me and discouraging me is done.

I remember my friend Lance Powers saying, “Just do the next right thing!”  This is like that. Just do the next thing that needs to be done, then do the next thing after that, and keep going until you’ve done all the things that have to be done. Let God take care of the outcome! The outcome of my Multiple Myeloma is out of my control, it’s above my pay grade, it’s not in my hands. But there are plenty of steps of action, of “next things” to do to keep me busy for a while. So I’ll do that.

Today I was at the dentist’s office. The Transplant Team at OHSU sent me a form to take to the dentist to get a complete set of x-rays and a complete exam to make sure I had no cavities and no gum disease or infection prior to the transplant. Well, it turns out I do have some infection and a small cavity. So I’m scheduled to spend a good part of tomorrow in the dentist’s chair! Not what I wanted to be doing. But I took it in stride, made the appointment, I’ll show up on time, and eventually it’ll be done and I’ll move on to the next step in the process. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but I’m not going to worry or stress over it tonight. I’m just going to get up in the morning and go do it! And that’s progress for me!

Friends, I hope you can find something helpful in my Emptying the Dishwasher experience! Grace to you today!

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.

This Is My Life!

I remember a television program we watched years ago when we lived in the UK called “This is Your Life.” In each weekly episode the host made a surprise visit to the subject for the week’s program at work or home and presented them with a big red-covered book engraved with the title, “This is Your Life.” Then they were taken to the television studio where for the next hour friends, co-workers, and family members told of events and experiences in the subject’s life that had special meaning to them. There were always emotional moments as surprise guests were introduced and happy, memorable, and even bitter-sweet experiences were relived. It’s as if they were able to bring together friends, family, experiences, humorous occurrences, and accomplishments, and take a snapshot of it all and say, “This is Your Life.”

This Is My Life! I certainly don’t need a surprise visit from a TV Show host, but sometimes I really need to slow down, sit quietly, and take a little time to take a snapshot of myself, my relationships, my activities, my accomplishments, my failures, and my frustrations, and simply and honestly say, “This Is My Life!”

This Is My Life! (And it’s not quite what I had imagined it would be!)

When we were young we had dreams of “what I want to be when I grow up.” To a greater or lesser degree we dreamed of what we might accomplish, where we would live, what our lives would be like by now (whenever and whatever our current “now” is!) The life I now have may not be what I had imagined, but it is the real place from which I am going forward into a future that I cannot see but which I have firmly committed to God.

This Is My Life! (And it’s never going to be “just right!”)

I’ve always had a tendency to think that “things will be just as they should be someday.” Someday it will all be just right. I’ll have the perfect situation and all the problems and pressures will be gone. But I know that’s just not realistic.

From the time I was a kid in the 50’s the expectation in western society was that things would just keep getting better. There were so many improvements in technology and medicine and communications that it seemed we would eventually solve all our problems and have a near perfect life. It’s true that there have been remarkable advances in practically every area of life. The fact that I can sit here at my desk and have almost instantaneous contact with people I know all around the world is remarkable! That I carry a “phone” in my pocket that is not only a phone, but a camera, a computer, a library, an entertainment center, and much, much more is remarkable! Actually, take a minute and think of some of the other ways technology has made our lives remarkable!

There are also a lot of things remaining in our imperfect world that technology and communications and medicine haven’t been able to fix. People are still dying of cancer, being killed in road accidents, and willfully harming each other. There are wars and earthquakes and famines. It’s not a perfect world, and sometimes it seems as if it is not even a very good world, but it is our world and it is the real world. It’s what we have. It’s how things are. It’s where God put us to make a difference.

There will always be challenges and difficult things to deal with. There will be difficult people to deal with. (I wonder if sometimes I’m one of someone else’s “Difficult People!”) And even if somehow everything else were to get fixed, I will always have me to deal with. I’m not what I ought to be and not what I’m going to be, but thank God, not I’m not what I used to be!

This Is My Life! (Some of the factors that have contributed to form the present reality of my life are):
• Good things that others have done. Parents, spouse, teachers, friends, others who have helped and supported me. For these I need to thank God and appreciate and thank those people.
• Wrong things that others have done. People who have betrayed me, people who have abused me, people who have taken advantage of me and let me down. For these things I need to forgive these people and release them from blame and judgement. I need to ask for and by faith receive God’s grace to heal wounds, memories, and relationships.
• Good things that I have done. Development of good character qualities; good stewardship of talents, resources, and relationships; achievements in school, work, or ministry. For these things I need to continue to apply the same principles of wise use of opportunities, good decision making, and practical self-discipline to the life I now have.
• Wrong things that I have done. Wasted opportunities; poor stewardship of time, talents, and resources; sins against God and others by words and actions. For these things I need to acknowledge my mistakes, my poor stewardship, my willful wrongdoing, and ask for God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of those I have wronged. I need to make restitution where possible. I need to accept God’s forgiveness and cleansing and allow Him to change my heart and mind.
• Circumstances and events that seem to have no basis in fault or moral consequence. Financial reversal, sickness, disappointed expectations, unexplained tragedies. How often these things lead to depression and discouragement. You know, when good things happen to us we tend to accept them as blessings from God and we may even see them as rewards, as if we deserve them. When bad things happen we tend to think of them as totally unfair and sometimes attribute them to an attack from Satan or even blame God as if He doesn’t love us. I almost shudder as I write this because I know my own tendency in these matters only too well.
• Sometimes in these challenging and difficult things, God reveals a cause or purpose and we seek to understand. Sometimes He reveals nothing and we seek to accept the unfailing love of Father God.

This Is My Life! (And this is how it is!)

• I don’t fully understand how it got to be this way (some things I do understand – see the first four bullet points above) and I don’t know all that I will need to do in moving forward from this point. But this is where I am now, this really is my life, and God still loves me and He does have a purpose for my life.
• These are the things I have to face and deal with. If I deny it, excuse it, complain about it, blame others for it, it just stays the same or gets worse. If I accept it, take responsibility for my part in it, seek God in the reality of it, things can begin to change for the better. God’s faithfulness will see me through.

This Is My Life! (So what do I do next?)

• Living by faith means having hopes and dreams. It means seeking a desired future and praying and working towards that future. God’s power can bring it to pass.
• Living by faith also means accepting that things are as they are. I will accept that things are as they are. I will pray and exercise my faith for things to be the way I want them to be. I will trust God to bring me through.

This Is My Life!

Paul said “I have learned to be content.” Contentment is an attitude that affects everything about how we see the world around us. Contentment is learned, not born into us.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV)

Paul also said “I press on toward the goal…” I believe that an important part of growing to maturity in faith and Christian character is learning to live a life that balances acceptance and contentment with an unwavering determination to press on in Christ.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14 NIV)

I wrote a series of blog posts in May of this year on Thankfulness and Gratitude. If you missed any of those, here’s a link to Part 1 of my Thankful Series.

This Is My Life! (Is This As Good As It Gets?)

There’s a scene from the movie “As Good As It Gets” where Jack Nicholson’s character steps into the waiting room of a psychiatrist’s office and says to the room full of neurotic and troubled people, “Have you ever thought that this might be as good as it gets?” What do you think? Is this as good as it gets? By God’s grace and power this is not as good as it gets. But this is how it is right now!

I hope these thoughts have been helpful. I hope most of all that these thoughts have stirred up your soul to think thoughts like these about your own life. At any stage of life, in any situation of life, there’s so much to be thankful for and so much we can do to move forward in Thankful, Grateful Faith!

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.