First, my heartfelt thanks to all who, at my invitation, have visited http://network.socialmedia.mayoclinic.org/ — the Mayo Clinic website which is featuring an essay scholarship contest which I entered. In my essay, I shared how social media has allowed me to tell so many of God’s goodness to me in my cancer storm through my blog, Cancer Comfort website, those who visit my Facebook page, linked with me through Twitter, etc., etc. The contest closes today, so if you visited the website, signed on, found and read my essay (on page 5), then “liked” and/or “commented” — you have helped perhaps send me to Minneapolis later this year for a conference on how to use social media more effectively in reaching others. Let’s see what God might do with this! I’ll keep you posted. If you have not signed on and would like to join the effort, you may through today, Friday, August 9. Follow the instructions I listed above and join the fun!
But today, what’s on my heart is a memory of something said by my professor in one of my seminary leadership classes. In her lecture that day, she was talking about what happens when leaders confront real problems. The analogy she gave was walking with a cup of hot coffee and someone coming along and literally “bumping” you. What happens to that cup of coffee? Well, when you are bumped, it undoubtedly spills out.
Along with my entire congregation, I got “bumped” on Wednesday, August 7. We have been in a nine-year legal battle to keep our church property at 3209 Via Lido in Newport Beach, California which we purchased, maintained, remodeled, and where we have worshiped and lived together as Christian family for over 70 years. Our former denomination says that property belongs to them (!!!) and after nine years of legal struggle, in April a judge agreed with them. We are appealing that decision but in order to remain on the property during the appeal, the judge determined we must post a “bond” of nearly one million dollars. That is not reasonable or possible.
And so, our precious congregation must leave its beloved property in 45 days, turning it over to those who oppose us by September 21. When my dear Prince Philip asked me on Wednesday how I was feeling after this news, I told him I was feeling like when I was diagnosed with cancer. And there are similar feelings — that middle of the gut nausea that cries out, “Really, God?” The heartfelt, to the bone marrow sadness that such an injustice has occurred and there is nothing you can do to correct it. All that is left is to face forward into the wind, and walk through the storm, looking for Jesus and believing His promise that He will show up and that ALL THINGS will work together for good because we love Him and are called to serve Him.
So on Wednesday, Philip and I rehearsed what cancer has taught us. That God is never surprised. That, no matter what it may look like at the moment of severe crisis, He is always in charge. That He is always on time. That He will make a hard journey not just bearable, but beautiful. That suffering is good for us because it draws us ever nearer to His heart which has known immense suffering and so He understands, completely. And that at some point down the road, we will look back, as we do now with my cancer, and say, “Even if I could, I wouldn’t go back. I wouldn’t trade this suffering for anything.”
And that’s what I’m trying to “spill out” as I am bumped over and over again this week since Wednesday. Yes, there is sorrow and sadness that spills out too, but more, there is a confidence which I learned during the cancer storm. These next weeks and the transition to the “new normal” of meeting in a Christian school auditorium for Sunday worship and finding temporary office digs for day-to-day church business during the week … well, it’s going to be hard for sure. But so was a double mastectomy and chemo and radiation. And so has this year been with reconstruction surgeries.
BUT — and it’s a big BUT — God is faithful. Hard will not kill us! “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” Philippians 4:13. Yes, I learned exactly that in the worst of days of my cancer storm. And now, I get a chance to practice again what I learned then. And I get a chance to “spill out” that truth to others who may not have been through a difficult crisis of this level before.
So now that I have been bumped, what am I spilling out? Three things:
- CALM in the midst of the storm. No need for fear or anxiety or anger or amped-up emotion. Calm is good. Calm is of God, after all, He is the Prince of Peace.
- COMPASSION for others. There will be lots of tears to dry when we walk, for perhaps the last time, across that lovely brick patio or remember where babies were baptized, mamas and daddies were buried, and where we first experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit. I want to spill out extravagant compassion for the feelings of my flock in this time of loss and transition. Jesus would give that to them. So shall I.
- CONFIDENCE that though the future is uncertain, it is held in the hands of a God who loves us with an extraordinary love and who WON’T LET US GO! As He showed me in life-threatening cancer, He had better things planned for me and I am CONFIDENT this is true for St. James Anglican Church.
We’ve been bumped … badly bumped. Pray for us, please. And pray that we may spill out together CALM, COMPASSION and CONFIDENCE in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. After all, it’s not about us anyway. It’s all about Him and His glory.
May it so and forever be!