The Call

Phone Ringing

I wrote last week about waiting for the results of two biopsies.  It’s not the first time I’ve waited.  My first melanoma was diagnosed 7 years ago.  My second diagnosis was last fall.  So, every 3-6 months, clothes come off, robe goes on, for an exam.

More times than not, a suspicious spot is found (My dermatologist and his staff love me.  They want me around as long as  possible, so they are super-thorough and super-cautious.  I’m sure they feel the same about all their patients but I like to feel that I’m special!)

So, I’m used to waiting for the call.

Waiting.

Waiting to see if I have cancer – freaking cancer!

This waiting was a bit different.

This time I was waiting while trying to practice… “The Power of the Now.”

…to “Give my entire attention to what God is doing right now, and not get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34).

It’s not easy.  But it can be done.  I need practice.  Lots of practice.

This waiting was also different because of a procedural change at the doctor’s office. They would only call if the news was bad.  Clear biopsy – no call.  Cancer biopsy – call.  So I kept one eye nervously on my phone and one eye on what God was doing right now.  What God was doing was trying to get me to not focus on the phone!

Well, last Tuesday, July 24, the phone rang.  It was them.  The doctor’s office.  “Well, that’s it!  I’ve got cancer. Another melanoma.”

Nope. It was the comforting voice of the PA.  “Phillip, I want to personally tell you that the biopsy came back clear.  It’s not melanoma. It’s… ( Some long word that for the life of me, I cannot remember  – I should have written it down.)

But the only words that stuck were “clear” and “not melanoma.”  Good to go.

Not everyone receives that message.  I haven’t always received that message.  I hurt for those who receive a different message.  A hurt that knows the hurt through experience.

In that hurt, I can’t offer people religious cliches or simple solutions.  They are empty. 

In the hurt, I won’t quote the Bible and say that it’s all part of God’s plan.  I don’t really think it is.  

I can and will be present with the hurting.

That’s what I’ve learned and continue to learn.

Richard Rohr suggests that we use Psalm 46:10 as an entranceway into the now:

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am.

Be still and know.

Be still.  

Be.  

Thanks to my dermatologist and staff for working hard to keep me around.

Thanks to Richard Rohr and Eckart Tolle enlightening my understanding of Jesus and for guiding me into living now.

 

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Trying to Live in the Now

Garth Live in the Now

 

“If we don’t call you in a week, that means the biopsies came back clear.  We now only call if the biopsies come back as melanoma.”

So I’m waiting.  It will be a week tomorrow.

This is nothing  new to me.   Every 3-6 months for the last five years, I’ve waited for a call.

Five years ago I had a melanoma removed from my arm.  Four months ago I had a melanoma removed from my face.  “Scarface” is my new nickname.  The doctor says that eventually the scar won’t even be noticeable.  He’s good at what he does so he’s probably right.  Although, honestly, I wouldn’t mind having a bit of a scar.  It adds some character. Makes me feel tough.

They used to call whether the news was good or bad.  Now they only call if it’s bad.  I get that.  Calling takes a lot of time because there are a lot of patients.

It used to be that when I saw their number pop up I wondered, “What will it be?” Now, if it pops up, I’ll know without even talking to them.”

So I’m waiting.

I’m watching the phone.

I’m wondering.

And yes, I’m worrying.

I know I shouldn’t worry.  So I’m also worrying about worrying!

I’m remembering Garth’s advice.  I’m reading The Power of the Now by Eckart Tolle.  Tolle nails it, “This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now.  You are in the here and now, while your mind is in the future. This creates an anxiety gap.”   You think?

“You can always cope with the present moment,  but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection – you cannot cope with the future.”  

“Now” is the key to the dimension of peace.

Then there are the sayings in the Bible.  I’ve preached them more times than I can count! But I haven’t learned to practice them.  I haven’t moved into that dimension of transformation.  I want to.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.  God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes (Matthew 6:34 The Message).  

“And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, ‘Today – at the latest, tomorrow – we’re off to such and such a city for the year.  We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money’  You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow.  You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing.  Instead, make it a habit to say, ‘If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.’  As it is,  you are full of your grandiose selves.  All such vaunting self-importance is evil.  In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for  you, is evil” (James 4:13-17 The Message).  

Did you catch the drift?

“Give your attention to what God is doing Right Now…”

“You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow…do the right thing now. If I don’t do now what I know is right, that is sin (Yes, I paraphrased it).

What is happening now?  What is God saying and doing now?  What is the right thing to do now?  I don’t know tomorrow.  I don’t know the next minute.  So I will live now.  I will love now.  I will do right and do good now.  At least I want to.

Oh, that phone call?  Believe it or not, I forgot about it while I was writing.  That’s good.  Maybe I’m making progress.

 

 

 

A Christian Nation?

Statue of Liberty

 

Happy Birthday USA!

This time of year we hear both preachers and politicians talking about America as a “Christian nation.” They like to say that the United States was, is and always should be a “Christian nation.”

Many churches have held “God and Country” or “I Love America” worship services.

Other churches are uncomfortable with such services, wondering “Who or what are these services worshipping? The United States or Jesus?”

Do these services fit the Constitution with its separation of church and state?

Do these services fit the Bible with its distinction between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the planet?

The debate will continue.

In my teaching last Sunday, I asked this question, “What does it mean to be a Christian nation?”  “If a ‘Christian nation’ is what we were, are or should be, what does that look like?”

How would you answer the question?

How about this question?

“What does it mean to be a Christian?”  “If a person is a Christian, what does that person look like?”

Is this a fair answer? “That person would look like Christ.”

John writes this,

“whoever says, ‘ I abide in him,’ ought to walk just as he walked” (1 John 2:6 NRSV).

“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did (1 John 2:6 NIV).

I think most people agree with John.  If a person claims to follow Christ then that person needs to live like Christ, to walk in his way.

“Christian” means “little Christ.”  People who follow Him look like Him.

So, should nations who follow Him – Christian nations – look like Him?  If a Christian person needs to at least want to and try to look like Jesus to be considered a Christian person, then why wouldn’t a Christian nation need to want to and try to look like Jesus to be considered a Christian nation?

What does Jesus look like?  What is his way?

“But I say to you, Do not resist an evil doer.  But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also” (Matthew 5:39).

“You have hear that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ But I say to you, Love your enemies…” (Matthew 5:44).

“Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42).

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16).

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword’” (Matthew 26:52

“When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her’” (John 8:7).  

What does that say about capital punishment?

If we were serious about being a Christian nation wouldn’t we use the colors of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)?  These are the colors that speak to, give evidence of the life of Christ in us.

If we were serious about being a Christian nation would we elect leaders who were patient, kind, never boastful, never rude, who would never hold a grudge, never be irritable, never insist on their own way (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)?  Doesn’t Paul say that love is the “greatest thing?”

Throughout our history, we, as a nation, have believed and behaved in ways that are not Christian – if we define Christian as “like Christ.”  Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist said,

“I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, 

for calling the religion of this land Christianity.” 

What are we doing as individuals, what are we doing as a nation, that Christ would not be doing?

I’m not certain what people mean when they say they want the United States to be a Christian nation.

But part of me thinks that they don’t mean to “be like Jesus.”