It has taken me awhile to figure out what I wanted to post this week. I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have the desire to sit down and write. Many thoughts and topics crossed my mind but for different reasons, I ruled them out. It finally dawned on me a couple days ago that I was having a hard time being thankful. How can one post on a blog about being thankful in all things when you don’t feel thankful? Gratefully, I came across this devotional thought from my friend Tom. “One of my “Thanks” this year is finding my Joy in God. ” The joy of the Lord is my strength,” Neh 8:10. This crisis makes me go deeper into my relationship with the Lord, and the deeper I go the more thankful I am for him. This trial has me seeking him constantly, where he becomes, “my joy and my delight.” Ps 43:4. My friend’s words stopped me from focusing on the sadness of knowing there would not be 35 family and friends (pictured below) packed around tables for Thanksgiving. It provided another lesson learned that adversity makes me lean in and go deeper in the trust I have for the One who created and wants only the best for me. Proverbs 23:18 reinforces this affirmation by saying, “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”
If that wasn’t enough, Facebook reminded me of a prayer I wrote last Thanksgiving. My Thanksgiving poem-
Gratitude for which I strive
Instead of stress eating me alive
The world wants us to never be content
Achieving much, asking what’s next.
So on this another Thanksgiving Day
Lord I ask that my heart does stay
Focused on you and all that You give
Abundance abounds and in that thought I’ll live
So my encouragement to you is this simple exercise. Stop focusing on what you don’t have, where you can’t go, or who you can’t visit. Instead, take the time to look around you and take in all the abundance you have in your life. Once you have gotten yourself refocused with an attitude of gratitude, find some ways to bring thankfulness into others’ lives knowing this season will indeed pass and another Thanksgiving will be here before we know it. I can’t wait to celebrate it with the folks pictured below 😀
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Last week I played my annual 100 holes of golf to raise money for FCA and AIA. When the person I played with found out about my recovery from Guillain Barre, his 1st response was “that had to be really scary.” My answer, in all honesty, is nothing scared me once it was determined I would not need to go on a ventilator. That in itself was a blessing as the doctor gave me a 78% chance of that happening within 24 hours of being admitted to UVA. It was the only time I cried. I have thought a lot about not being scared and it boils down to one thing. My faith allowed me to trust God in as Paul writes in Hebrews 11, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I also trusted a good friend who is a doctor when he said, “this is going to get worse but you will get better” But why did I have such a trust?
The trust came from being able to look back over my life to the significant moments where God met me in that place and showed me the way forward. As I shared my GBS story with my golf marathon partner, the book “Hinds feet in high places” by Hannah Humard came to mind. The author titled it based on Habakkuk 3:19, “The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds‘ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” and also from Psalm 18:33 “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.” I was not scared because I believed my strength would return, I would walk again and yes, even be able to play golf all day long for FCA/AIA. “Much Afraid” in Hinds feet “had the feeling that somehow, in the very far-off places, perhaps even in far-off ages, there would be a meaning found to all sorrow and an answer too fair and wonderful to be as yet understood.” I have experienced that same wonderful meaning in my life.
Elizabeth Elliott expressed where rest is found in marathons or any challenge we face: ”God is God. If He is God, He is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere but in His will. and that will is infinitely, immeasurably, unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to.” Pamela Bunn writes in her blog https://astherainandsnow.com/author/astherainandsnow/, “Though Elijah had his weak moments of discouragement and fear, Elijah would learn by experience that the Lord would never ask him to do anything for which He was not enough. Repeatedly, His adequacy came forth out of lack and impossibility, and that is where it best shines. (1 Kings 17:11-16; 18:32-39)
Prior to GBS there have been many times in my life that like Much Afraid in Hinds Feet, God met me which gave me the strength and courage to persevere in the midst of the adversity. Each time it made me stronger having gone through it. Little did I know I would need those times to not be afraid when lying in a hospital bed with GBS unable to move. Here are some things I learned from a sermon by Chip Ingram at https://livingontheedge.org that I hope will help you the next time you come up against a challenge.
God uses adversity to make us more mature because we are forced to depend on God rather than on our own power
We are weaned from the worldly and temporal things and made to realize what is really important In our lives
We get to witness the reality and Power Of God.
God gives us the privilege of showing others what it looks like to trust in God.
Finally, going through a struggle gives you the ability to help others who are experiencing some kind of trial in their life.
Paul sums it up well in 2 Corinthians 9:8. “It is in these very hard circumstances that His enough is the most welcome, satisfying, and glorious, showing forth the bounty of His nature toward us.” I pray you will find joy in knowing God is indeed enough. Be blessed!
The theme of this blog post is “Lessons learned in my journey through adversity” I am grateful for how so many of you have shared what this blog has meant to you. It won’t come as a surprise when I say we all face adversity and deal with it in different ways. I thought you might like to read how one of my good friends, Tom Trevillian, is dealing with his wife’s serious health challenges. The following is what he sent me when I asked him, “What does it mean to remain Thankful in all Things?
Did you ever think of “thanking” as a discipline? One could say, “Is it genuine thanking if I have to conjure it up like an appointment to actually thank someone.” “It needs to come from the heart.” How we have learned to have an attitude of gratitude becomes apparent when life takes a turn for the worst. I have been learning what it looks like to have a thankful heart. Can we be joyful in our suffering? Is this really possible? We know God knew we would experience trials and temptations because His Word spends a lot of time teaching how and why this is possible. James, the brother of Jesus wrote, “Count it all joy when you encounter various trails.” I found myself asking what does this mean?
My wife of 43 years and best friend had a near fatal brain hemorrhage in January. She has been besieged with pain and suffering are part of the human experience. Most of the time we struggle to find the reason God would allow the event(s) take place. We know trusting that He wants what is best and is with us has to be our focus. One of the Bible’s main subjects is suffering and pain and how to deal with it. James encourages us to be joyful in our suffering. Job learns to accept God’s sovereignty without any explanation. Pain and suffering leave us with a lot of questions but also with our greatest opportunity.
In this opportunity God removes our weaknesses and builds us up. It will humble us, remove self regard and pride. We begin to examine ourselves, seeing our weaknesses. Suffering will turn us toward the more important things in life such as family and faith. Most importantly it should renew and strengthen our relationship with God. John 15 exhorts us like a branch to a vine, If we cling to Him it will strengthen us and create a new and deeper understanding of His faithfulness.
The Bible spends as much time on this as any other subject. Romans 5: 1-5 and James 1:2-4 tells rather bluntly that suffering has its rewards. It both reminds us of the benefits of perseverance: our character. Romans 5:5 says that pain and suffering produces perseverance and character, and then provides hope for life. It produces the wonderful fruit : love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control. Without the trials when faced with adversity, true perseverance and character can’t be developed.
As mentioned earlier, it’s impossible to dodge pain and suffering in this life. Gayle almost died that night in the UVA Hospital. Gayle struggled for five weeks to get out of ICU and into rehab. After progressing well in rehab, she suffered multiple seizures setting her back to her first rehab days, totally dependent on others. These type of setbacks are so hard.
Gayle is my best friend, my soul mate. We were a young 70, married 43 years, with no serious health problems. We had good genes and were thinking we would make it to 90 years old. Our kids were grown with their own kids. We were enjoying grandkids, traveling and retirement. This was not supposed to happen. Rising every morning for 40 plus years to read our Bible and pray together I now know prepared us for this time. We are learning the hard way that we have what it takes to face a life of disability. Pain and suffering are a school unto themselves but God continues to remind us of His presence. Both are teaching perseverance and strengthening the character in me, Gayle, and her amazing sister, Pam. Please pray that Gayle. Pam and I will hang in there. Pray I serve her with unconditional love, patience and that as CS Lewis writes, “that I might be Surprised by Joy.” There are great life lessons here. I am learning that, to work through difficult times (persevere), God shows us we can accomplish more than we can ever imagine and our hope must be in Him. There is no doubt, Suffering will give you this opportunity.
My Quarantine version of Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. As I navigate the lonely paths of Covid19, The Lord will be my guide and His presence is all I need Whether I think it is needed or not, I will use this time for rest and quiet reflection. So that my soul can be refreshed As He guides me where He wants me to be used bring Glory and honor to His name. Even though I walk through the valley of people wearing masks I will fear no evil, He gives my faith confidence so that I can go or do wherever He feels the need to send me. Knowing even in self-isolation you are with me and won’t forsake me. Like the shepherds’ rod and staff, your Word and the Holy Spirit will teach and comfort me. Even in the midst of my adversity, You will abundantly provide all that I need so that I will it be afraid. Like an anointing, You will bless and protect me from whatever evil that wants to prey on me. You will fill me with your spirit so that cup of love you want me to share overflows. I count and trust on the contentment of your love for as long as I am to live. This assurance brings joy knowing that I will be welcomed and will forever dwell in the house that you went and prepared for me.
Quarantine is hard. I started writing this Friday. What happened to TGIF? Hello! Who else finds themselves asking, “What does it matter that is the weekend? It is another day just like yesterday and the day before, and the day before.” I then ask God, “in the midst of all that is going on, how am I to remain, “thankful in all things?” A friend’s family recently spent a week on the eastern shore of Virginia for what I found out was their annual spiritual retreat. I loved the idea of it yet realized, that is something I have never intentionally done for an extended period of time. The key word I realized was intentionally because my circumstances have now provided two recent seasons of spiritual retreat. Last year, Guillain Barre Syndrome stopped me in my tracks physically. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/michaelguthrieThis year my Covid19 self-isolation due to my GBS compromised immune system has provided another 5 months of elongated down time for introspection of who I am before God. I read Isaiah 40:31 differently this week. “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.
Notice it says those who WAIT. Webster defines wait this way. “stay where one is or delay action until a particular time or until something else happens” or “a period of time used to indicate that one is eagerly impatient to do something or for something to happen.” I am sure all of us in some way or another are experiencing the angst of waiting. I hear folks say all the time, “if I just knew when this would all be over it would be so much easier to manage”. Yet wait in this verse means something much more. The Barnes bible commentary unpacks it this way. “The word rendered ‘wait upon’ here (from קוה qâvâh), denotes properly to wait, in the sense of expecting. The phrase, ‘to wait on Yahweh,’ means to wait for his help; that is, to trust in him, to put our hope or confidence in him. It is applicable to those who are in circumstances of danger or want, and who look to him for his merciful interposition.“He refers to those who were suffering a long and grievous captivity in Babylon but this phrase is applicable also to all who feel, because of this uncertainty, that they are weak, feeble, guilty, and helpless.” God says wait and trust in Me. Waiting does not mean doing nothing, Barnes continues, “It does not imply inactivity or laziness, it implies merely that our hope of aid and salvation is in him – a feeling that is as consistent with the most strenuous endeavors to secure the object”. “What are you doing while you wait? Will you look back when (please Lord) this is over with a feeling that you used this time of waiting well?
There are so many stories out there of people who have done extraordinary things in periods of time out. Shakespeare wrote King Lear,’ ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ as London reeled from the foiled Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and an outbreak of the bubonicplague the following year. Paul wrote the epistles Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon from his Rome prison cell. Isaac Newton discovered gravity during an 18 month quarantine. I recently watched Glenn Lundy http://Www.glennlundy.com interview Joe Buckner who spent time in prison. He shared he had no idea that his journaling during his confinement would turn into 2 books and help him become successful in business.https://yorkathleticsmfg.com/blogs/loversandfighters/beautifully-savage-the-joe-buckner-story
It is up to you. You can succumb to feeling sorry for yourself wishing that things could be different or will you wait on the Lord? When we do, He promises to “lift you up with a renewed strength. Allowing you to soar high on wings like eagles. You will go out ready to serve without growing weary” even if it is from the confines of your home using Zoom, phone or mailed hand written notes. You might even drop curbside pick up things on people’ porches.
Who knows. Maybe you will write a book, a blog people read 😀, or invent the next greatest thing. What I can tell you is just commit to making a difference and your part of the world will be better for it. If you do nothing else, the time you spent waiting on the Lord will have been time well spent. It’s not too late. As in another place in Isaiah, wait and listen for “the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And be willing to say, “Here am I. Send me!”
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I was grappling with why this past week has been long and hard. It should have been one of excitement because it led up to yesterday marking one year from when I walked out of Albemarle Rehab. Ironically, today marks 43 days of self-isolation as well. Things started to come together when I heard a comment listening to a podcast. On a side note, there is a positive take away from my having and recovering from Guillain Barre Syndrome. For reasons I won’t go into here, I have never liked to be read to by others. Now I listen to books, sermons, and podcasts of interest regularly but I digress. 😀. The comment made was, “we can be infected mentally as well as physically by COVID-19. We all certainly need to protect ourselves and others from getting the Coronavirus. We also need to protect ourselves and others from allowing this pandemic to drag us down into a place of discouragement. This thought was reinforced by an excerpt I read from a Regent College class “The Great Conundrum” taught by friend Steve Garber. Here is what he wrote. “the word disease was created to communicate a state of “dis-ease,” its etymological origin from an old word for “ease,” for things being the way they are supposed to be. A life with no trouble, at ease, simply said. When we use the word, we are saying that human life has been disrupted, that we are in disarray, that sometimes something has gone wrong, terribly wrong.” I am guessing we have all felt this feeling that something is terribly, terribly, wrong but have had trouble putting our finger on the part that it has nothing to do with our health.
We can allow this discouragement to mentally weigh us down. Little did I know what I wrote here last week was to help me not to succumb to what I would experience this week. Webster defines succumb this way “ I realize that to not succumb into despair I must choose to focus and trust the One from where comes Hope. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5) A Charlottesville pastor, Pete Hartwig and his son Peter are doing an online daily devotional. I listened to one recently on one of my self-isolation walks. It was about the woman who Jesus healed in Luke 13. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Until Pete shared it, I never thought Jesus may have healed this woman from the mental burdens she was carrying vs a physical one. Did you catch it? He placed His hands on her and she immediately straightened up. He wants to do the same for each one of us.
What infirmity are you allowing to weigh you down like it did the woman in the story? What unnecessary baggage or burdens are you carrying through Covid-19? The Lord wants you to let go and give them to Him. He promises in Matthew 11:29-30 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” When dealing with GBS, I chose to do this very thing. I can’t speak for you but, Like the old ad for Alka Seltzer said “Try It, You’ll Like It”. Find the peace only God can provide. Like the woman, you will begin to straighten up as the burdens are lifted off of you. Go out now and find others to encourage out of their “dis-ease” and into the peace and contentment God promises even in the midst of this season of unbelievable challenge.