Katie & Briscoe

Katie & Briscoe

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Global Connection.....

I am fairly computer savvy. Not brilliant. Not by a long shot. No one will ever have to worry about me turning into a computer hacker or programmer. I missed that boat by a few years. I come from the generation that grew up right when computers were just starting to become available to the general public. An Atari was as close as we got. I was out of high school and living with my husband when I finally got my first home computer. It still used big ol' 8" floppy discs and had no internal memory to speak of. Then again, it was a clearance special from an outlet store. LOL

Had I come along a few years later, I might have grown up with a personal computer in the house. I might have learned to type on it instead of the ancient typewriter my mother kept in a closet. [DING!] I might have learned BIOS right along with English. But, I didn't. I missed it by a few years. I can actually remember an article in a "3-2-1 Contact" magazine that predicted how we would all have home computers one day and that we would actually use them to shop, to order things without ever having to leave the house. I was in such awe of that. I can remember telling my mother all about it, being so amazed at the very idea of being able to connect with the local Piggly Wiggly or Wal-Mart from home. (Not sure if Piggly Wiggly is even still around. We had 2 of them in my home town and Mark still laughs about it to this day.) As a kid, the notion of connecting to a store across town was fantastic. I couldn't even imagine being able to connect to the entire world.

These days most of us are indeed connected. We have home computers, not even desktops any longer, but laptops that we move around with, that give us the freedom to make and maintain connections from almost anywhere to almost anywhere on the planet. And laptops are probably on their way out, too, as they get smaller and smaller, hold more and more memory and speed and technology. Net books are rising fast, never mind things like iPads. (Lord, above, I LOVE my iPad!) I've had my iPad for over a year now (it's a 1st gen) and it has made me ignore my laptop a lot. I use the laptop for stuff like this, because let's face it, typing on a screen even as large as the one on a iPad is a pain. And I'm just too cheap to pick up a keyboard for it, especially when I have my laptop and when a big part of what I love about my iPad is its portability. If I start adding a bunch of accessories like a keyboard and mouse, then it ceases to be quite so portable.

Add a smart phone to the laptop and iPad and I guess I'm as "plugged in" as the next person. Yet, even with all this, I am still not as connected as many out there. I have a Facebook page. I use it to keep up with family and friends that are scattered all over the country. My husband's Facebook friends are global. Places like England and Dubai. I am a member of an online Christian community called Worthy Christian Forums that has members from all over the globe. Australia, Canada, South Africa, England, Israel, America. We come together to share thoughts and testimonies about our Christian beliefs and walks. We pray for each other, uplift each other, learn from each other, all without having ever once met in person. I share photos I take online at Flickr, and in turn enjoy the incredible photos of others. Obviously, I have this blog that allows me to ramble on about whatever is on my mind which others can then read and comment on if they so choose. I read blogs of others. All people I don't actually "know." How incredible that we can reach out and "touch" each other no matter how far apart we are!

Finally, I have a Twitter account. This is, however, one social networking tool that I have ignored for the most part. I'd say it's mostly because I'm cheap and as such, do not carry a texting package on my phone. ;-) If I could send and receive texts without having to pay for them, then I'd probably be just as into Twitter as all the rest. Though, seriously, I do wonder why anyone thinks we would care about the mundane minutia of their daily lives. There's some of this on Facebook, with status updates that tell us someone is eating popcorn, or watching TV, or sitting in a park, or something else that means nothing at all. But Twitter is the home of inane, pointless drivel. I do follow a few people, though I don't know why, since I only stop by my Twitter account once every month or so. That pretty much defeats the entire purpose of having Twitter. Especially since at least half the people and/or organizations I follow are news related. LOL Still, I recognize the power of Twitter and the potential it has to be an incredibly useful tool.

Case in point:

I am have been vaguely familiar with Sherwood Baptist Church's Christian movie ministry for a while. These are the people behind the movies, Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof. Their newest movie, Courageous, is due to be released September 30th. They are a Southern Baptist Church located in Albany, GA. I recently saw them mentioned on the TLC show "19 Kids and Counting" when Jim Bob and his kids took part in filming while visiting the set. This was back when Michelle was still in Little Rock with Josie. Anyway, even more recently somehow, someway, through one of my social internet connections, I was told about the movie, Courageous. I went to look it up and did some browsing on the Sherwood BC site, read some of the stuff from their pastor Michael Catt's blog, and decided to follow him. I'm marginally better with keeping up with the blogs I follow than I am with my Twitter account since I use Google Reader to keep me abreast of the blogs and news and other things I take interest in. I do still sometimes let a few days go by without checking it, though.

Last week, Michael Catt posted "Oh Be Careful Little Hands What You Tweet." I don't follow him on Twitter because, well, I don't "follow" the people I already follow, so why bother adding anyone new? That's why I subscribed to his blog. Yet this post really spoke to me. It drove home just how connected we all are and how God can and does use technology to accomplish His purposes. It also reminded me just how careful we all need to be with what we say and do, whether online or in person, since we never know just who might be listening or who might read what we've said. In Michael's case, he posted a comment about the recent gaff by NBC where they absurdly removed the words "Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the 2011 US Open Golf Tournament. (That is a whole 'nother rant!)

He mentioned that if they couldn't get something that simple right, then how are we supposed to trust them on "big" things? Good question. And one that was picked up by the New York Daily News when they wrote an article about the omission. One must understand how Twitter works to appreciate what this meant for Michael. Twitter is driven by what is known as "trending." A topic or a person or an idea becomes popular with a few well-known or heavily followed members and suddenly, he/she/it is being commented on and followed by thousands more. Getting your name in the limelight is a good way to suddenly find yourself being followed by untold numbers of people across the globe. This is what happened to Michael Catt. He didn't realize it, though, until a few days later when, while sitting at home, he decided to post a thought that he'd been dwelling on.
“What if 1,000 pastors starting calling for prayer, repentance and revival? What we have is not working.”
So simple. So down to earth. An idea from one pastor to other pastors. A heartfelt query as to what could be done to change the growing apathy that seems so terribly rampant within our churches today. As leaders of our churches, our pastors guide us. If they devote themselves to prayer, repentance and revival, then call upon their congregations to do the same, what might it lead to? Michael Catt tossed this idea out there as it came to him and never expected the response he would get.

Within the first hour, he said he'd received responses from all over the U.S. and even from as far away as India. Pastors everywhere were responding that they were "in." They would join him in a call for revival in God's house. Michael talks about it far better than I could, so I encourage you to read his post.

I have no idea if this will become a true movement within the Body of Christ. I hope and pray it does, as true revival seems to be a thing of the past. What I am amazed by, however, is just how quickly and easily Christians from around the globe were able to read of this and respond to it. As Michael Catt says, we have become lukewarm as a people. We sit here and whine and grumble about the state of this nation, but ignore the states of our own hearts and homes. We follow the routine of attending church without more than a token thought for God or His Son or the guidance of His Spirit. Mediocre has become "good enough." We have not only lost our love for God, true, life-altering love and adoration of the One who created us, but we have lost our hunger for holiness. We talk a good game, but when push comes to shove, we place our own selfish thoughts and desires before anything else.

We are faithless in our service because it's inconvenient. We make excuses for why we can't or won't go beyond the traditional service "schedule." Heaven forbid we suggest that anyone devote even more time to God than Sunday morning, evening and a Wednesday night service. We have allowed the world and worldly thoughts and emotions to keep us from being true servants, from following after David and being men (and women) after God's own heart.

I'm not just talking about others out there. Though I've seen it first hand in others, I must first look at myself. I have failed God. I have allowed myself to stay out of His house, to avoid dutiful and fruitful study of His Word. I have allowed myself to become lukewarm in a time when we all should be on fire.

Atheists would call it laughable. Certainly I've heard it said all my life that we are rapidly approaching the final days. Perhaps we are already in them. Maybe this world is on the cusp of the final moments of its fallen life. So much of what we see seems to be indicating as much. And if we aren't, if God intends to allow this world to continue, then how much worse will it get? Every single day of the past week someone has been shot in the nearest large city. On one day, two different people lost their lives in violence.

There are copious warnings within the Bible about the coming of the end. In a nut shell, we are told that things will get worse and worse and worse. Everywhere I look, I see pain and grief and hatred and violence. Life has lost its value. And what are God's children doing in these troublesome times? Nothing. We're going to our churches, shaking our heads and clicking our tongues in dismay at what we see on the news, then flipping the channel to our favorite sport or sitcom and forgetting all about the state of the world.

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25 (NKJV)
Is the Day approaching? Are we nearing the end? I don't know when God will say, "Enough." I don't know when He'll look out upon His creation and say, once and for all, "It is done." I do know that we, as Christians, have shirked our responsibility to each other and to the lost. We are so lazy that we refuse to study the Word for ourselves and so simply repeat the dogma we hear others speak. We are so wrapped up in our own lives that we find it easy to justify skipping church whenever we like. We put our interests before God. We put our families before God. We rely upon our personal thoughts instead of letting God guide us into thinking as He does.

This post by Michael Catt struck home with me because it convicted me of my own failings. We are to lift each other up. To encourage and strengthen one another. A large part of this is done by the fellowship shared by attending church regularly. But how can we do this if we don't bother to show up?

The internet has giving us the ability to connect globally. We can seek out those who share our views or those who oppose them. We can share testimonies about our personal walk with God that can uplift and encourage people we will never meet this side of heaven. All of this is good and beneficial. But it does not take the place of the personal assembly of God's people. We need that one on one connection, the personal closeness gained only by assembling ourselves together where we can lift each other up and provide both spiritual and physical support.

We need revival. And it must begin within each of us. We must seek God's face alone so that we can have power when we seek him as a group. Revival cannot and will not begin because a group of pastors decides we need it. It won't even come if those pastors in turn spread the word that it is needed among their congregations. It will only come when every Christian opens their heart to God as an individual. When we seek His face and His will with no hesitation or reservation. Until that happens, we will just keep right on rolling down the path we're currently on. Weak, divisive, and lukewarm.

Monday, June 20, 2011

One Year Later...

It has been a year since my OB/GYN found the lump in my breast during a routine breast exam while I was in for my annual gynecological exam. Actually, it was a year on June 16th, but I went back for this year's exam today, June 20th. I don't mind saying that I was kinda holding my breath while she did my breast exam. I mean, I check myself regularly now. I didn't before the diagnosis, which leads me to see this as just one more time in my life (among countless others) when God showed me grace and protected me from my own idiocy.


Anyway, despite the fact that I do my own exams regularly these days, I was still a bit concerned that she might find something I hadn't. I mean, she's the one who found the last lump. It was an irrational fear, I know, but I felt it none-the-less. I should let you know how much I love my OB/GYN. I've been going to her for years and years now. When I first found her, I lived quite a bit closer to where her office is located. These days it takes me closer to an hour to get there, since we've moved in the intervening years. But I don't mind the trip. Not for her. She is a master at making you feel comfortable and at ease in spite of what's going on. We always chat like we're sitting at a cafe table instead of with me naked as the day I was born with my legs up in stirrups. LOL  So while she was doing my breast exam we just chatted as usual. She was very thorough this time and I appreciated that. Not that she isn't always thorough, but she took a bit of extra time today. And praise God, she didn't find anything at all out of the ordinary. There was one funny moment when she felt my port beneath my skin and got a worried look on her face for just an instant before she realized what it was. We were both laughing about that.

We spent some time talking about my treatment, how it had gone and what I still had left to do. We talked about my not being able to take birth control pills ever again. This is an issue that has kind of confused both Mark and me since I was first told it by my Oncologist last year some time. My cancer was not hormone receptive. Most breast cancers are. So we kept trying to figure out why I had to avoid taking hormones of any kind since my cancer was negative for progesterone and estrogen. She said she'd heard it explained thus: If you think of breast cancer as a weed, then the hormones act kind of like a fertilizer. Since I have shown the ability to grow cancer, the last thing we'd want to do is "feed" my cells something that the cancer likes to eat. What a simple explanation!

Needless to say, I walked out of the office feeling a lot better this year than I did last year. The next big date will be my mammogram. That's coming up next month. It'll be my first since shortly before I got my official diagnosis last year. I've been x-rayed and scanned half to death plenty of times in the past year, but the mammogram is a big deal. One of my favorite sayings I've seen since I started my treatment is, "One more MRI and I'll stick to the fridge." I also like, "Any more radiation and I'll glow in the dark." There's also, "My oncologist does my hair." I put all these on t-shirts in my Zazzle store. There's a lot more than that, but these are some of the ones that still crack me up when I see them today.

So, what's happening a year later? What have I learned? Honestly, I don't know that I necessarily learned anything, other than the obvious experience of having gone through all the treatment. I went into it knowing I was going to need God to get me through it. And I have to say that He did. By His grace, I came through it all with flying colors. I don't know that I learned anything, per se, but I do know that I recognized a lot of things. I have spent this entire journey marveling at how much God has blessed me. Every step of the way, He supplied my needs, as He has promised us He would. But He went further and gave me so much more than just what I needed.

He didn't merely provide Mark with a job that would supply us with insurance. He gave Mark a job with the best insurance we have ever had, bar none. And this job also started out as a day shift job, working a schedule that allowed Mark to be off 2-3 days each week so that he'd be able to not only take me to my treatments, but be home on the first day or so afterward to take care of me. God didn't just supply me with treatment options, He blessed me with the option to get all my care at a location that was less than half an hour from home. He didn't just allow the medications I took to fight my cancer, He allowed me to take those medicines without enduring anything close to the worst of their possible side effects. God didn't just give me a husband who does his responsibility of providing for my physical needs, but He gave me a husband who loves me more than any other person on earth. One who made incredible sacrifices without complaint or reluctance. The list could go on and on and on.

I've recently taken part in an online conversation with a young man who in an atheist. He, like so many others, wanted us to explain to him, intellectually, how we came to believe in God. How we know God is real despite the fact that we have no proof. I wasn't the only one who responded that we do have proof. Aside from the fact that the Bible says that Creation itself is evidence of God's existence, I know God is real because I have seen the evidence of His hand touching my life. Oh, I know that atheists would call it coincidence or good luck or fate or a whole host of other things. But I know God is there. I have felt His touch on my life, heard His whisper in my ear, and witnessed His grace more times than I can count. There's a song that has been sung by many artists. I learned it courtesy of The Florida Boys. It's called, "My God Is Real."
There are some things I may not know, there are some places I can't go, but I am sure of this one thing, my God is real for I can feel Him in my soul.

My God is real, He's real in my soul, my God is real for He has washed and made me whole, His love for me is like pure gold. My God is real for I can feel Him in my soul.

I cannot tell just how I felt when Jesus washed my sins away, but since that day yes since that hour, God has been real for I can feel His holy power.

My God is real, He's real in my soul, my God is real for He has washed and made me whole, His love for me, is like pure gold. My God is real for I can feel Him in my soul.
Here's a video of them singing it, if you're interested:
As I recently told the young atheist, we can't provide him with scientific proof of God. For us, we believe God is real by faith, but countless experiences every day of our lives also confirm our faith. We see God everywhere, in everything. I know I certainly do.

And so, a year into living life as a woman with breast cancer, what I can say I have learned is that God is still real. He is still on the throne. Nothing happens by chance or luck or fate. Everything is part of His grand plan and He is never, ever far from our sides. I am so grateful for what He has given me. For His infinite love and patience and blessing, even when I don't deserve it. My God is real. And He's indescribably great!