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Celebrating the Abundant Life

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 KJV)

Yes, I am celebrating the abundant life, in spite of my current health issues and fragile bank account. Unlike popular beliefs, the abundant life Jesus promised doesn’t center on health or wealth. If it did, we’d eventually lose it, simply because our bodies are temporary and feeble. And Jesus never intended for us to lose that abundant life. It begins here on earth and extends throughout eternity.

Besides if Jesus’ idea of the abundant life meant health and wealth every one of His disciples missed out. None of them enjoyed a luxurious life.The beloved John, for an example, was exiled to the island of Patmos because of his testimony. All the other disciples were executed for believing Jesus was the Messiah. Paul lived with a physical infirmity and imprisonment. How did any of their lives line up with the abundant life many Christians claim Jesus wants for us today?

While we’re at it, consider all the believers in third-world countries; does Jesus promise not apply to them? How about all the dear saints you know who have serious health issues, have their conditions disqualified them?

The real problem lies not in Jesus’ promise for an abundant life but in our interpretation of His meaning. The wealth and health doctrine stems from an earthly view of our temporal lives. We want to live this life without the struggles that come with it. Eliminating financial difficulties and declining physical conditions would certainly ease the pains of this world considerably. But is that what Jesus promised?

Luke 12:15 states something entirely different: Then he [Jesus] said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Now either Jesus contradicted Himself in these two statements, or we’ve misconstrued His meaning. I’m betting on the latter.

So if Jesus’ promise of abundant life does not refer to health and/or wealth, what was He promising?

  1. Contentment in all situations. Paul found this to be true, even from prison. He wrote: I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12).
  2. Peace that passes all understanding. Jesus gives us peace even in our most difficult situations. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
  3. Joy unspeakable and full of glory. When Jesus’ peace permeates our lives, we have unspeakable joy. Nothing can disrupt that kind of joy. Now read what Peter said on the topic of joy, “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:7-9).

These are just three of the aspects of the abundant life Jesus promised. Whether you’re rich or poor, the picture of health or crippled with disease, these benefits never fade away. They grow stronger and carry the promise of eternal life.

Jesus’ reference of an abundant life was never the same as our mortal minds imagine. It was far more superior, more valuable, and more enduring. His plans and promises always are.

How about you? How are you celebrating your abundant life in Christ?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

The Right to Cry

Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed. (Psalm 6:2)

July 3, I cried nearly all day. Couldn’t stop myself. I was facing my last chemo treatment with a great deal of reluctance. Each treatment thus far had brought more nausea, dry-mouth (accompanied by nasty, muddy-metal taste), and other discomforts that lasted longer than the previous treatment. I simply did not want to go through it again, not knowing what the side effects would entail.

So I wept. I pleaded with the Lord to stop this madness, to tell me I didn’t have to go through it one last time, to rescue me.

Finally sometime that evening, I recommitted the situation to the Lord. I knew there was no way out. I had to face the gauntlet one more time, come what may. And trust. Isn’t that where true faith lies—trusting without knowing what’s beyond the next summit?

July 5, I walked into the clinic with the most cheerful disposition I could muster. Gene’s presence brought comfort even though we talked little. He was there. And so was my Father. I wasn’t as much aware of Father’s presence at the time … a little preoccupied with my surroundings I suspect. But I know He was holding me closer than Gene could’ve.

Here’s what He did for me the week of my final treatment:

  1. Very little side effects. This was the mildest of all my treatments. God wrapped His loving arms around me and kept the nasties away. I’m believing the medication accomplished even more because of it.
  2. The Saturday after treatment, my family walked in a march against breast cancer. What support and love! Plus, we had a picnic at my sister’s house afterward. The event boosted my spirits tremendously.
  3. The next day, almost every lady in our church wore a hat! Their expression of love and support … for ME … overwhelmed me. At the onset of my diagnosis, I told my daughters I thought it’d be cool if someone would have a hat party for me. No one in the church knew that. I can’t begin to tell you how much those ladies showed the love of our Father to me that day. I pray I never forget the power of His love through His faithful daughters.

More tears flowed that Sunday than on the previous Monday. For the past two weeks, I sang His praises and cried … because of His merciful love He showed me through this last treatment.

So, why do we hold back tears as though they’re forbidden? Why do we choke on them as though they’re shameful? Why do we mask them as though they represent weakness?

We have the right to cry out to the Lord. He hears and answers in unexpected ways.

How about you? How has Father responded to your cries?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Give Me an Inch

And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? (Luke 12:25-26)

Exchange Wishful ThinkingMeasuring in at five feet, three and a half inches tall, I was not only the youngest in my family, but the shortest—not by much mind you, but still the shortest. My next-to-the-oldest sister towered over me by two whole inches, while our older sister beat me by a mere quarter of an inch. Our brother, nearly six-feet tall, looked down on all of us.

Wish as I may I never could grow that extra quarter inch to match my older sister.

Then we entered the mysterious land called the Change of Life where women grow chin hairs and skin tags. We learn to tan one pixel at a time. (Some call these tanning marks age spots.) And, we shrink! Thus, my sisters began their slow decline in stature, each losing three or four inches of their adult height.

Now, I tower over them. I can’t begin to explain how weird this feels to me. You see, I haven’t lost so much as a quarter inch yet. In fact when the nurse measures me at the doctor’s office, she tells me I’m now five feet, four inches tall … in my stocking feet, no less. What? How did that happen? A delayed answer to prayer? No one grows in the Land of Change. And I’m not claiming the extra half inch. Something’s amiss in the equipment is my guess.

I firmly believe God assigned to each of us a body code in our DNA the moment of conception, which no one can alter. It regulates our bone structure including our height.

Here’s the thing:

We must embrace many things in this life, whether we like them or not. We grow to a predesignated height. People cut us to the core with unkind remarks during our greatest need for encouragement. And our bodies fail us.

Jesus confirms this assessment with these words, “In the world ye shall have tribulation. But He didn’t stop there. He added the most encouraging words ever spoken, “but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

If I am to be of good cheer and stand with Jesus as an overcomer, I have to embrace my current health issues. The oncologist said I’ve done nothing wrong. Nothing could’ve prevented me from getting cancer.

Perhaps it was written in my DNA. I don’t know. But here it is. I have to accept it and learn to deal with whatever that may entail. It’s my new norm, part of my new territory, and definitely a piece of something bigger than I understand.

Nevertheless, I’m holding the hand of the One who wrote my DNA, knows the plans He has for me, and promised to give me a future and a hope.

How about you? How have you accepted your current troubles?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Words—the Power to Change Lives

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Colossians 3:15-16)

My hatA couple of weeks ago, I wore this hat to my doctor’s appoint and received several favorable comments. Later that day, someone made a negative dig. It shattered the positive remarks—all of them. I wrestled with my response for hours. Why had one ill-mannered knock overridden the many positive reinforcements? Why do we take such disagreeable tones into our spirits and allow them to push out what brings peace and assurance? Why did I?

It took a lot of self-talk to overcome the potential destruction. Did the offender mean to cause me hurt? No. I really don’t think so. Although her remark stabbed me like a knife, she thought she was being funny. I held back tears as I struggled to put things into proper perspective.

Here’s the thing:

  1. This person has always enjoyed making crude remarks just to get a reaction from her target (by her own admission). I had to consider her nature.
  2. Forgiveness is the only key to unlocking the chains that can enter our spirits from such attacks. I had to count her as innocent … as though she didn’t know what she was doing.
  3. I had to reassess all the positive input. Sure, some people give compliments as unthinkingly as others give insults. Nevertheless, there are just as many sincere people who, not only want to make us feel good, but truly are pleased or impressed with our choices of style. I worked hard to latch onto those comments, allowing them to nurture my spirit instead of permitting the condemning statement to tear me apart.

I need to move on from this experience, keeping in mind I’m not the only one sensitive to sarcastic comments. And my friend isn’t the only one prone to make them. I can’t change her. But I can bridle my own tongue.

God has given us a tremendous power and responsibility through words. Whether written or spoken they can destroy or build a life.

I want to be a builder.

How about you? How can you build someone else’s life with your words?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

Bald–Bitter or Better

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10).

The nurse told me the type of chemo treatments I’m having would cause my hair to fall out. She was fairly accurate in the timing. Two weeks after my first treatment, I noticed the beginning of the end of my hair. By Wednesday, I swiped handfuls of hair off the back of my head. I decided to shave it off rather than watch it fall out.

Surprisingly, I didn’t even cry while I cut my hair then ran clippers over my scalp. The prayers of all my family and friends kept me standing tall and brave at that time. Wednesday was a good day. I felt a sense of accomplishment and relief.

Thursday, however, all the expected emotions burst out of their cage and tumbled down my checks in the form of tears. Losing your hair because of chemo treatments is a bitter pill to swallow, even for men I’ve been told by some who’ve gone through it. Contrary to popular believe, the struggle is not so much about appearance and vanity.

The struggle stems from the outward sign of what’s happen inside my body. You see, other than the week of treatment, I don’t feel sick. I cannot even wrap my mind around the disease. But now … now that I’m bald, I can no longer live in the state of denial. Every time I look in the mirror, I face the monster living inside me.

Never too Many Hats

As dismal as that all sounds, I realized I was not without a covering. I had received a wig from the American Cancer Society a week before my first treatment. My sisters gave me a beautiful straw hat. My younger daughter gave me a white straw hat. My older daughter crocheted me a hat. A friend also offered to crochet me a hat. One cannot have enough head coverings at a time like this. Although I adore my wig, hats cheer me up and help me feel good about my appearance when it’s just too hot to wear the wig. I’ll never have to step out in public or even in my own backyard feeling shamefully exposed thanks to all the love people have shown me by providing hats for me to adorn myself.

As grateful as I am for the hats, I rejoice even more in my salvation through Jesus the Messiah. When the monster I’m facing threatens to unleash my bitter emotions, I’m going to remember Jesus’ beautiful robe of righteousness covering me so that I can approach God’s throne without fear. I know He’ll change the bitter into better as I praise Him for His mercy, grace, and love.

How about you? How have you changed from bitter to better through your trials?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Proactive: Partners with God

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,  And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. (John 9:6-7)

I apologize for my lack of contributing to this blog.

Since my last post, I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. The first diagnosis was difficult enough to hear. But then, it got worse. A pet scan showed the cancer had passed through my lymph nodes (our filtering system) into my blood stream. From there it invaded my lungs. The spots are small, which means it’s treatable and controllable.

I began chemo May 2.

Needless to say, a lot of emotions have been boiling up in our house. But God is faithful and is with me every step of the way.

When the doctor told me the biopsy tested positive for cancer in my lymph nodes, he said “it was a miracle they even found it. It never would’ve shown up on a routine mammogram.” Which I’ve had every year for the past fifteen years, by the way. My first thought was God has a plan.

He has surrounded me with a “cloud of witnesses” in every doctor’s office I’ve visited thus far, as He compels me forward through chemo treatments. Many believers ask why I’m going through medical treatments when God has the power to heal. Yes, I believe with all my heart that God could heal me immediately without an oncologist’s intervention. But which takes more faith to believe God can when He does? Or to still believe He can even when He doesn’t?

I’m not a super-saint by anyone’s standards. I’m simply trusting my Father to do what is best for me and what will bring Him the most glory. While I prayed about this, He showed me something quite amazing. During His earthly ministry, Jesus did not heal everyone who asked immediately. He told ten lepers to go and do whatever the law required. As they walked away in faith, they were healed (Luke 17:11-14). Similarly, Jesus made a mudpack, smeared it on a blind man’s eyes, and told him to go wash at the pool of Siloam. The man obeyed in faith and returned seeing (John 9:6-7).

Jesus wants us to be proactive in our healings and every other aspect of our lives. Yes, He can do all things. And He does them well. But He, more often than not, expects us to take an active part in His work within us. So I go to the center for my treatments. I try to follow the doctor’s advice. I even signed up for a Look Good, Feel Better class next month. But more than anything, I’m following Jesus’ instructions and trusting Him to heal my body, to strengthen my faith, and to hold me close when I’m overwhelmed with the process.

How about you? How are you actively participating in the Father’s work in your life?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Advent 2016

My apologies for falling behind on our Advent 2016 devotions. I’ve missed them. But sometimes life gets in the way of our good intentions, causing us to fail at the things we value most.

I have, however, found the time to create a short time-lapse art video to wish you a blessed Christmas.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

(Isaiah 9:6 NIV)