Core Strength

Encouragement, Exercise

Tuesday morning I was laying on the floor in my office for the second time that day. My lower back had gone out so I carefully navigated to a space on the carpet to stretch. I spent a few minutes looking up at the ceiling tiles trying to figure out how to roll over gracefully. My arm was wedged under my left shoulder against a box on the floor. I tried turning on my side to get on all fours to hoist myself up into a cat stretch. My foot was stuck behind a roller on one chair. My boss opened the door to ask how I was doing. Awkward. She felt bad for me. We both laughed.

We think we’re so… independent… self sufficient… and in ten seconds of a wrong twist we’re flat on our backs and helpless.

“Are you okay?,” asked a lab tech. I had made it out of the office and was clinging to the wall on my way down the hallway to fax something. I felt like I was moving on ice and bent over balancing a bag of rocks on my back.

walking buddy golden doodle walking buddy puppy

My walking buddy and core strength tester, Max.

“Oh yeah, thanks, this is nothing!” I meant it. No IV’s, ICU, surgery, chemo, radiation or colostomy bag involved. A complete breeze. No problem.

I called my chiropractor because I was supposed to travel and it would only get worse.

“Well,” said his receptionist. “He can see you December 20th.”

“Uh, you mean, like, three weeks from now?” It was November 29th. “I’m in pain and I’m a current patient. He saw me three weeks ago for the same problem and I must travel.” I also have a fifty-five pound puppy to walk every morning to keep him and me happy. I had to be able to move.

“Can’t you fit me in?” Ten minutes. I just needed ten minutes of his time and an applied adjustment of the correct vertebrae.

“I guess we’ll ask his nurse and call you back.” Alrighty then.

I felt this meant good news for the nurse to be contacted about my problem. The nurse typically is the one who can make things happen because she reviews your history. Appointment spots used to be reserved for patients like me with problems. Piece of cake.

“Mrs. O’Connor? Hi there. Yeah so he can see you December 20th. Sorry but he’s fully booked until then.”

“Really?” Silence. “So, no way to get in when I’m a current patient with a history of back problems? I’m sure he’s busy, I mean, he’s a great chiropractor…” Compliments sometimes work when pleading does not.

“No. He said if you are in worse pain to go to the ER.”

You know how the old cartoons would use the sound of a record scratching to get across that, “What in the WORLD?” sound. That was going on in my head. Chiropractors are the antithesis of “just go to the ER”. ER’s mean muscle relaxers and maybe physical therapy for weeks when a ten minute adjustment and a few follow up appointments would do the trick so quickly. I was back down on the floor staring at ceiling tiles and pondering options.

On Wednesday morning I saw my new chiropractor.

We were chatting about my history of falling off horses years ago and a twisted pelvis and that cancer thing with multiple surgeries and my current problem with standing straight.

“Where are your scars?”

How odd. No one ever asks about those abdominal cancer surgery scars. They couldn’t have any impact now on my body, right? They had done their job of healing me up. The chiropractor went on to spend a lot of time testing my muscles and pressing on sensitive points in my back that I had no idea existed.

“I want you to breathe and push against my hand so I can test the strength of your diaphragm muscles. You’re singing this weekend with your daughter, right?” Then the chiropractor pushed into some of those scars around my abdomen and had me breathe deeper.

It hurts to breathe deep when those scars are pressed. Scars protect those old wounds.

“Your left shoulder is compensating along with your right lower back, and you really need to work on your core strength. That’s an underlying cause of the lower back problems.”

“Ok. I’ll work on the breathing control for the muscles in my abdomen.” It was so basic and I had known the importance of core strength but you forget until you’re flat on the floor.

Sometimes you can’t breathe easily with scar tissue protecting your best efforts to move forward.

That unseen scar tissue felt reignited with discomfort as it was loosened to give me more strength and range of motion.

It hurts to work on loosening scars from old wounds that sapped your strength. Maybe it would be easier to leave them alone.

I walked away from the appointment sore but also better able to stand upright and move forward.

Are you dealing with physical or emotional scars from some battle?

You’ve gotta go right to your core. Jesus is the core for me spiritually. When I ask him to be the center of my life and focus on allowing him to work through me (even in the areas that hurt) things all work better.

Colossians 1:17 says, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” The “him” is Jesus. God’s Son. ALL things in this universe are held together by him! If you want to walk upright and straight you need to ask Him to forgive your sins and walk with you. He knows about scars, too. He died on a wooden cross to pay for my sins and yours and he still has the scars from all he went through to rescue us from sin.

This is the time of year we all are consumed with gifts and how to afford them. The gift Jesus offers freely to you, right now, no matter how deep your scars? Himself. He is the only “Cure” that matters.

Read more about the supremacy of God’s Son, Jesus, here:

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[g] your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Colossians 1:15-23, NIV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weighty Decision

Cancer, Encouragement, General Thoughts

Do you ever get weary of decisions?

Do you ever follow God through some wild battle and then almost give up the loving victory He has provided, or promised, in a short tangle of exhausting weariness?

Do you ever wonder, like I do, why we have to choose, some days, to embrace life on this earth and truly live? I mean, isn’t the fact that we’re “here” evidence that we’ve conquered the need to prove anything about forging ahead with life? Can’t we just exist in a calming place of easy duress-free comfort?

What if Heaven is not a place of lulling peace but joyful discovery and forging ahead using the trust and expectant victory we have learned to wield during our time on earth, through salvation in Jesus, to accomplish God’s plans for our eternity?

What if living on earth is preparing us to fully embrace and thrive on Heaven’s incredible shores?

Shouldn’t there be an Easy Button for simply being here?

What if we fail the day’s test and come close to falling apart under some dull persistent pressure?

Tom and I were watching an old Christmas movie and Robert Mitchum’s character said to the female lead, “What are you trying to do, crawl into a cave, and hide from everything that may stir you up?” Yes. Sometimes, I just may be trying to do that very thing. Show me the nearest cave, please!

I’ve been thinking a lot this week on something Jesus said about burdens and rest and learning.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Maybe we’re to walk among the weights of this world but let Jesus do the lifting of them. Connected to him constantly. Not removed. Not scrambling to fix and figure it all out (guilty). Choosing to rely on his strength and wisdom. Not flinching from the next burden because he stands ready to help us carry and move and set it safely down.

Maybe our burden is to lift the powerful Gospel Light. High. To push back the weight of darkness and despair creeping all around.

More friends this week are making decisions about their or their loved one’s cancer journey. The world’s in chaos more conspicuously than usual. The weight of earth’s difficulties seems almost unbearable if I strain against it on my own.

And the potential to help people in greater need, because of the ungodly troubles? Incredible.

What if these troubles, that Jesus told us would come, are simply a greater chance to draw closer to him under the yoke and work together to bear these earth-bound burdens and invite more people to join us on the journey towards our eternal Home?

What if he is waiting with urgent patience for all of us who love him to make a decision?

Did you see The Help? Skeeter’s mother had been fighting cancer of the stomach and the cancer of the culture throughout the movie. Ultimately Skeeter is freed to leave and chase her dream by the words uttered in her mother’s long southern drawl.

“Skeeter? I, have made the decision, to live.”

So what’s the solution on days we want to crawl into a safe cave and escape the bone-weary worries? In the moments when we’ve been stirred up enough for a lifetime and feel crushed by the weight?

Every day we are given breath we must make a decision. To step into the burden-bearing Light-lifting yoke with Jesus. And decide to live.

Romans, Romans 5, hope, endurance, perseverance, encouragement, attitude, Christ Jesus, God and Father,

 

 

 

 

Hanging in.

Books, Cancer, Encouragement, General Thoughts, Spiritual Care

deer, deer in woods, three deer, doe and fawns, deer photos

A few days ago I walked in our woods looking for my deer friends. They don’t think of me as their friend so it’s clearly a one-sided struggle to find them. Leaves crunched loudly under my bare feet. A squirrel hurled acorn bombs and screeched from the branches above. I didn’t see the deer (the picture above is from another morning when for some reason they humored my attempts to capture their photo) but the walk was perfect.

A leaf twirled in front of me suspended by a cobweb. On its way to the ground it had been caught by one single string and twirled there between heaven and earth.

How long is God’s arm? Can he catch a leaf as it plummets towards earth? Can he save me, and you, from the awful challenges we sometimes face? Of course he can. But what if he doesn’t spare us from pain on this earth?

My mom gave me a book by Elisabeth Elliott titled, “Keep a Quiet Heart” (Revell, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1995). Today’s reading was titled “How Long is God’s Arm?” She writes on page 55, “How do we reconcile God’s promises for protection with the fact that so many evil things happen in our lives? Can we believe God for protection?”

Can we believe Him when we’re holding on by a string?

Here is more from Elliott’s writing: “We must be careful to interpret Scripture with Scripture, and if we examine the record we find that God did not by any means always protect His people from harm. He has absolute power to keep us safe, both physically and spiritually, but His engineering of the universe made room for man’s freedom to choose – that is, freedom to will to obey or to disobey Him. This is a deep mystery. Man’s disobedience brought evil into the world, and all of us are subject to it. God does not cancel out its effects, even for His choicest servants (John the Baptist, Stephen, those nameless victims of Hebrews 11:35-57, for example). Nevertheless, we have the promises. Romans 8:35-39 is one of my most reread passages. I believe we can rest assured that we are invulnerable so long as God does not give permission for us to be hurt. If He gives that permission, He will not leave us alone. He goes with us through the valley, the deep water, the furnace. He will never, absolutely never, leave us or forsake us.”

The leaf was in a desperate and lonely spot for certain. But there was beauty in its predicament. A story to tell. There is beauty in your challenges, and mine, too. Jesus’ great love and strong arms keep us safely and securely in place.

Hang in there, friend. God is going to do something beautiful.

hanging in there by a string? sing Ephesians 5:19a-20 sing and make music, encouragement for cancer patients,

 

 

You’ve Just Got To…

Encouragement

I’m tired of writing about cancer.

I decided that when I was laying flat on my back in a fresh cut field a few weeks ago. There’s nothing quite like that smell. Earth. Grass. Saddle leather. Horse. Sunshine. One arm was cradled gently across my chest. Puffy white clouds floated across the blue sky. I thought about how sometimes we’re lulled into silly assumptions about life always staying as we know it. As we like it. Which leads to conversations with God. Like the one I was having there on the soft ground.

“You know, God, I’ve been through a lot. And you’ve been really faithful. Amazingly so. I try not to take it for granted. But sometimes, I guess I do.”

Wispy clouds crept across the vibrant  blue stage high above. It seemed a bit hazy. It may have been the sun, or tears in my eyes. The situation had completely taken my breath away.

“You’ve restored my health. And you threw in horses for me to enjoy riding. That was clearly a gift from You – that special thing you’ve provided all through my life through family and friends at different times.”

It was true. When I was six or seven, I prayed in my aunt’s living room on Canisteo Street and asked God to give me a red barn with horses in it. We lived on the outskirts of town and my dad was a hard working auto parts guy by day and gifted musician by night. Horses were a dream on Spencer Avenue. A few years later, God gave my aunt a husband and me an uncle. And he came with a barn, and horses. And more cousins. Blessings all.

Eventually I got bucked off enough to have a healthy fear of riding. “You’ve got to get back on,” my uncle would say. I was afraid. But love of riding outweighed the fear.

Love does that, doesn’t it? Draws us past the fear of life’s hurts to climb back on and finish the ride?

“So, Father God,” I continued. “You certainly wouldn’t let my horse spook today, lurch violently to the side, and leave me in mid-air, only to crash to the ground and break a bone, right?”

Silence and blue skies all around. It had been 27 years since I was separated involuntarily from a saddle. I was trying to remember where my, “You’ve-Been-Through-Enough-You-Can-Pass-Go” card was; instead all I could come up with was, “Be-Glad-You’re-Alive-to-Realize-You’re-Old-Enough-to-Be-More-Careful-What-Were-You-Thinking”. saddle

Moments before my conversation with God began, my friend and I rode happily out of the corral. I was relaxed and had just settled into the Australian saddle. It’s really comfy and has these great leg guard things that sit you down good in the seat. I’m always on high alert when riding. Careful. Good at staying on even when the horse jumps sometimes, and…. well, then. I was in mid-air watching my horse lunge to the right, taking my comfy saddle with him. He had spooked and was in a dead run, over a ditch, up a bank and into the field. He passed my friend. She was on another spooked horse, but masterfully stayed in the saddle.

In between painful gasps for air I noticed my wrist had an awkward lump. Weeks later I’m told the broken wrist is healing nicely. I’ve graduated to a short cast and can put a waterproof sleeve over it to swim. It’s awkward. But I can get in the pool and cruise around slowly. That makes me happy.

One day last week a co-worker stopped in my office doorway. She had kindly asked me about the wrist and about the horse. I looked up from paperwork and spreadsheets.

“You’ve got to get back on, Sharon; you’ve just got to.”

I know. I’m not quite ready to; but I know. For me, today, it’s about getting back on a horse. For you it may be climbing back into life after cancer. Or coping with the loss of a loved one from cancer. Or choosing how you want to deal with cancer.  Or some other life bruise that has thrown you and left you broken.

I don’t want to write about cancer anymore. But I do want to write about life.

You’ve got to get back on. john 10:10 life more abundantly