A Writer’s Waterloo

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                                                     To write, or not to write, that is the question:
                                                     Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
                                                     The slings and arrows of outrageous critique,
                                                     Or to take arms against a flood of insecurity
                                                     And by opposing end it.
                                                     To write – to proclaim Who He is!
                                                     Cancer Diagnosis 3 Blog Post 1
                                                     (Based on Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. II Corinthians 12:9

Starting a blog site seemed like such a wonderful idea. People had been praying for me and God had been teaching me so much and taking such good care of me that I really wanted a means to share His Truth and encourage others. Such pure motivation should have resulted in action, but it has been over four years since I completed my one and only post.

That one post was written in the middle of the night before I was to attend a writers group meeting. Although I love to write I always feel emotionally naked with the level of transparency required. I left for New Jersey that morning not knowing whether I would attend the meeting or not. There was a funeral I could attend instead, and it was to be held in the same vicinity. Facing what I considered a sort of Waterloo, another kind of funeral, I decided to attend the meeting. I decided to fight despite the possibility that my dream might lie dead on the field, or maybe at least exiled to some distant part of my heart, like a kind of Never-write-again Bonaparte.

Awaiting my turn on the front line, I listened as the work of far more gifted writers suffered the volley of criticism. When it was my turn, the wounds were minor, I was still standing, and my tears were in response to the shock of sincere and genuine encouragement. So why have I not written? Perhaps I suffer from CWLTAD, Cannot Write Like That Again Disorder! Maybe that one post is the best I will ever write.

On March 25, 2019 I learned that my breast cancer is now in my liver. It is terminal, but treatable. My condition has allowed me to further consider my original writing goals in order to use my remaining time wisely. Three main reasons have gained clarity resulting in amplified motivation.

The first reason is perhaps the most prominent.  I am compelled to share the joy the Lord has given me and the great things He has done for me. I am reminded of the shepherds who, after seeing the new-born Jesus and being told His true identity, shared the good news with others and “returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:18 & 20) God is a wonderful Father and I have experienced His care and provision. He continues to demonstrate His character and love. It is my prayer that others will be encouraged and join me in celebrating Who He is.

Secondly, I am aware that each of us will leave a legacy to those who follow. When I lived in Down East Maine I would often stop at the Evergreen Cemetery in Cooper, Maine, a very small rural resting place for many generations of my mother’s family. As I walked among the stones identifying many I will first meet in the next life, I felt a connection with a legacy of faith and fidelity. I would wonder how many of those ancestors had prayed for my mother, or even for me. Admittedly this is a melancholic endeavor, but one from which I drew encouragement. My grandfather, Lindsay Clarke, for example, is one whose life continues to inspire me with its goodness, gentleness, integrity, and intellect, although I lost him when I was a very young teen. Often, I am reminded of a line from Mark Antony’s funeral speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “The evil men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” Although this is often true, this is not true of my dear “Grampie” Clarke and I pray that this would not be true of me. When I am with the Lord, I hope that any memory of me will provoke a recounting of His strength being made perfect in my weakness. Perhaps posting to a blog will bring this wish to fruition.

The third of my reasons is the maintenance of a positive mindset in order to promote inner emotional health. Having recently embraced classical education I have developed a passion for seeking the good, the true, and the beautiful. All of these are sourced in my great God Whose Word includes instructions for doing so. Although it is completely contrary to the temperament with which I was born I do find myself “addressing [myself] in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with [my] heart.” (Ephesians 5:19) In the privacy of my own home my dancing heart is sometimes accompanied by dancing feet. Such joy is not inherent; it is a gift. He has also told me that I am to think about things that are “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8) As His Spirit diverts destructive self-talk and silences unproductive “ear worms”, my heart is stronger, and I can concentrate on His goodness, truth, and beauty. I have a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11) and they are both found in, through, and with Him. (Acts 17:28) His song is eternal! “Let me be singing when the evening comes!” (from 10,000 Reasons, by Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman)

To blog, or not to blog? I unsheathe my favorite writing instrument, prayerfully mount my trusty steed of inspiration, and ride into the battle against insecurity. Faith is my shield! His presence brings strength. May His goodness, truth, and beauty bring victory, and may His banner be lifted high! (Psalm 20:5 & 7)

 

 

 

When the Music Stops

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The viewers watched in amazement at the 1973 World Figure Skating Championships as the Russian pair, Aleksandr Zaitsev and Irina Rodnina, continued to skate without hesitation although their music had stopped in the middle of their program. As they completed their routine the crowd rose to their feet in admiration. Through their endurance the pair pleased the judges and won the competition.

Music is so much a part of my life that it sometimes seems there is a soundtrack accompaniment to my daily life.  During especially difficult times the Spirit appears to bring just the song that is needed to provide encouragement, hope, or perspective. This has been demonstrated repeatedly during my recent cancer experience when I find myself expressing worship, praise, and surrender by songs that flow through me. Then early one morning the music stopped!

At 4:00 AM on Sunday morning after my first round of chemotherapy I awoke with extremely intense bone pain in my feet, legs, and hands. Next came acute intestinal distress. In the midst of my agony I became very aware that the music had stopped. The songs which had brought such peace were replaced by one word – “endure.” Next came the assurance that God would enable me to do so. The discomfort prevented sleep and brought a lack of focus on anything I tried to read. Endure! That was all. Relief finally came on Monday evening at about 6:00 PM when I was able to sleep in two-hour intervals. Through God’s enablement I was back at work on Tuesday, in spite of lingering pain.

Throughout the entire experience I never thought that God would in any way find pleasure in my endurance. In fact I have come to realize that my desire to please Him often puts more emphasis on avoiding displeasing Him. Could it be that in continuing with a routine of trust and faith in spite of the interruption in the music, I had actually brought pleasure to the One Who loves me best?

God seemed to communicate that through my pastor, John Torres, who shared his thoughts on Psalm 147:11, “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His steadfast love.” He quoted the Olympic runner, Eric Liddell, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast.  And when I run I feel His pleasure.”  Could it be that my endurance actually brought pleasure to God as I continued in the lane to which He assigned me, even though I know He was the one who empowered and propelled me forward to complete the program without the music?  Prayerfully trusting Him, may I “run with endurance the race that is set before [me]” – even when the music stops.