Monday, September 26, 2011

A Rainbow Reminder

I was reminded tonight of God’s faithfulness in a very simple way. I looked outside and saw a beautiful double rainbow. It reached all the way across the sky. After a few weeks of daily trials and hardships it was such a beautiful reminder of the promises that God gave to Noah. After 40 days of rain, God promised He would never flood the earth again, and the rainbow was the symbol of that promise. The rainbow was also the sign of the covenant relationship that God had with Noah and his descendants. In Genesis 9:13-17, God says,

“This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

Our God is gracious, loving, faithful, and stronger than any trial in this life. And I am so thankful that He gives us reminders of those truths, even visible reminders like rainbows, just when we need them.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Voices and Faces

God has given me a really neat opportunity to share the story of my cancer journey. As you may know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Each October the American Cancer Society of Savannah sponsors a breast cancer awareness campaign called Voices and Faces of Breast Cancer Survivorship, which highlights the stories several local women who have gone or are currently going through cancer treatments for breast cancer. The campaign kicks off October 1st with a luncheon and fashion show, and commercials featuring the survivors will run on W-SAV throughout the month.

A few months ago I was chosen to be one of the survivors featured in the campaign. When the people at W-SAV filmed my interview for the commercials, I was able to emphasize how my cancer journey has been all about God's love and faithfulness to me and my hope of true life in Jesus Christ. I was also able to tell the story of how my dad's cancer journey has shaped my cancer journey. I will post the video of that commercial when it becomes available.

For now, I think I need to prepare my runway walk for Saturday's fashion show so that I don't end up like some of the models in the video below!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Ultimate Metastasis

As I have mentioned before, my father, Rodney Stortz, was a pastor in St. Louis, Missouri, and battled with liver cancer for several years before dying in March of 2003 at the age of 52. He was such an amazing example to me in so many ways, especially in how to go through suffering with deep faith and true joy. And in God’s providence, he kept a diary during his battle with cancer that has been a continual encouragement to me during my battle with cancer.

But my dad was not our only family member who was a pastor that died of cancer. Matt’s uncle, Dan Fray, was a pastor in Red Wing, Minnesota for several years and died of stomach cancer in 1988 at the age of 38. A few days ago, one of Matt’s relatives sent me a copy of an article that Dan wrote for his church newsletter that was later reprinted in the Covenant Companion magazine. It is a wonderful reminder of what gives me joy in my journey: not the promise of physical healing, but the promise of spiritual life through Jesus Christ.

“The Ultimate Metastasis” by Daniel B. Fray

Metastasis. An ugly, fear-filled word referring to the transfer of malignant disease from one part of the body to another – part of the cancer jargon all too familiar to victims of the dread disease. It is a word I have had to hear concerning my own body, and a word I pray I will not soon hear again.

Metastasis. A word I never thought could carry any but the ugliest of connotations has recently taken on for me one clear facet of hope.

It happened as I was scanning my Greek New Testament one day (anyone impressed?) in search of sermon material. The passage was Colossians 1:13,14, which reads in the Revised Standard Version: “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

The emphasis on transferred is mine. The Greek verb took me by surprise – delightful, pleasingly ironic surprise! It comes from the same root as that ugly word, metastasis. Ultimately, God has in mind to work a total metastasis in our bodies, changing the status of our mortal bodies to something full of life and totally beyond our understanding! But even now, the transfer already complete in the spiritual sense for God’s children. We have redemption, we have forgiveness, we have been “metastasized” into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son.

Cancer has the power to take us captive on a metastatic journey from life to death. Only God can reverse the process. All of us are on that journey to death, some farther along the way than others. The unspiritual person draws comfort from the illusion that death is only “natural,” even asserting (despite the logical contradiction) that death is just a stage of life. The spiritual person labors under no such illusion. We know that death is the intruder, the last enemy, the usurper, the product of sin and not of God’s good plan.

Edith Schaeffer, in her book, Forever Music (Thomas Nelson, 1986), makes the point well. “How can anyone say that death is natural? The natural thing is to have a person be a whole person. The silent body, the unmoving body, the unbreathing lungs are unnatural to family members who have just felt the pressure of a hand (pressure commanded by a brain), who have just heard a communication verbalized (also by a living brain) so short a time before. Death is a part of death. Death is abnormal to a living person; it is not a part of life.”

The point of Shaeffer’s book is that there is a “forever music” to be enjoyed by God’s people in a “forever life,” a life death cannot cancel out!

So let us praise God for our great inheritance, our redemption, our forgiveness, our “ultimate metastasis” from darkness to the light of God’s kingdom!

Friday, September 9, 2011

After the Last Tear Falls

I have been thinking a lot about the events of 9/11 over the past few days. My husband will be preaching a sermon this Sunday (the 10th anniversary of 9/11) about how Jesus commands us to love our enemies just as God loved us when we were his enemies. And so this week we have been watching a lot of the documentaries on TV related to 9/11. It is so amazing and sad to realize just how many people have been effected by just one event on one day. Once again I have been reminded just how much suffering there is in this world! 

In comparison to a big event like 9/11, I feel like my health issues are so small. Of course, everyone has their struggles - and no matter the size or intensity of the struggles, they are equally real for those who are experiencing them. It all makes me long for the day when pain and death will be no more and every tear will be wiped away. I was reminded of that promise by a friend this past week: "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4)."

The song, "After the Last Tear Falls," by Andrew Peterson really captures the truth of that promise, and our longing for it, so clearly. I encourage you to listen to it and read the lyrics (below). 

"After the Last Tear Falls" by Andrew Peterson
After the last tear fall, after the last secret's told, 
After the last bullet tears through flesh and bone,
After the last child starve, and the last girl walks the boulevard, 
After the last year that's just too hard.

There is love; love, love, love.
There is love; love, love, love. 
There is love.

After the last disgrace, after the last lie to save some face, 
After the last brutal jab from a poison tongue,
After the last dirty politician, after the last meal down at the mission, 
After the last lonely night in prison. 

And in the end, the end is oceans and oceans of love and love again.
We'll see how the tears that have fallen, were caught in the palms,
Of the Giver of love and the Lover of all.
And we'll look back on these tears as old tales.

'Cause after the last plan fails, after the last siren wails,
After the last young husband sails off to join the war,
After the last "this marriage is over,"
After the last young girl's innocence is stolen,
After the last years of silence that won't let a heart open. 

Finally, thank you for all of the prayers for Hudson's surgery. It went very well and he is making a smooth recovery!