A Gem in Gold’s Gym

Meet Linda Owens, a brand new friend of mine.  I’m doing a blog post about her because she inspires me.  Why?  Because I saw her at Gold’s Gym pulling around an oxygen tank that helped her to breathe while she exercised.  I come from a family of people with lung issues… I’m familiar with oxygen tanks.  People who need them 24 hours a day don’t go to the gym.  So I wondered, what makes her different?  Why is she here, still trying to gain muscle tone and cardio fitness?  So we sat down and I asked her.

About 3 years ago, Linda was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF), a disease that causes scar tissue to build up in the lungs.  The scar tissue leads to increasing difficulty to get oxygen into and out of the body.  It’s a terminal diagnosis and there is no cure.  But the doctor gave her a plan of action to prolong her life and she went for it.

When I asked Linda why she chose to come to the gym, she said, “You can say ‘poor me, I have a terminal disease’ or you can choose to get up and go.  And I’m going!  Life changes when you get a terminal disease.  You look at life differently.  You put things into perspective.  You think about what has to be done – wills, emotions… And you live every day as if it was you last day.  It could be.  You don’t know.  With PF you can be feeling great one day and flat on your back the next.”

I asked, “What makes it better?”  She said, “To know the path you need to take and follow it.  For me, that’s exercise.  I do the treadmill, cable machines, dips, sit ups, stationary bicycle, and upper body.”  She figured out what exercises she should be doing when her son, Shawn, sent her to a personal trainer. And she is very determined.  “I’m going to fight.”  Linda’s doctor tells her she is the poster child for Pulmonary Fibrosis.

What’s the most important thing you want people to know about you?  Linda thought long and hard about it.. maybe as much as a minute of silence.  Finally, she softly said, “I want people to know I care.  I care about the person on the treadmill beside me.  I want to help and fix things.  That’s always been true of me but even more now, there’s a sense of urgency.  People need a smile, a ‘good morning’.  A hug.”

This soft-spoken, gentle spirited widow and mother of two grown sons is also strong in her faith in God.  She attends Warrenton Bible Fellowship here in Warrenton, Virginia.  “God made me better mentally and physically.  I couldn’t have done it without Him.  I hope if people are diagnosed [with PF], they will know it’s not a death sentence.  This is not the end, you can have some good years if you have a plan.”  Linda stresses over and over the importance of having a plan. “PF has helped me to be a planner and not a procrastinator.  There is a verse – Jeremiah 29:13.  It says that God has a plan and maybe this interview is part of it.  Maybe someone will read this and have a change of heart about their illness.”

She has had several people tell her, “You inspire me.”

Well, Linda…. You inspire me too.  Thank you.

 

Salt, Light, etc.

 

In a church class setting recently, some friends and I were studying ways to turn everyday conversations into gospel conversations (turns out there’s a book with that title).  This training involved role playing, which is awkward at best and terrifying at its worst.  We all struggled.  But then something eye-opening happened for me.  It was a not-new comment by one of the ladies in response to my encouragement to draw an oikos map with names of people nearest me who are not following Jesus.  This sweet lady, maybe in her early 70’s said she couldn’t think of anyone she knew who is not already following Jesus.

What surprised me wasn’t her comment, but my thought pattern as I reflected on her comment.  I wasn’t surprised because most of us who have been reared in a thick churchy culture tend to stay in that thick churchy culture.  I know we will find ways to be with others who are likeminded – even at work or recreational places.  I know that because I do it too.  I immediately commented that this is surely one of our greatest problems – that we hole up with our own.

Jesus told us we “are the light of the world, a town on a hill that cannot be hidden.”  He also told us we “are the salt of the earth.”  I’ve known those statements by Jesus for many, many years.  But for the first time, I really began to think about them practically.  How?

Well, if you are at the beach on a bright, sunny day and you turn on a flashlight – so what?  Who will notice?  Likewise, look at this picture… this is a rare picture the Morton Salt Mine located 2,000 feet below Lake Erie.  If you go in there with some salt of your own, what difference will it make?  Who cares?

You can see the point easily – I don’t claim this to be rocket science here.  That salt mine is like your holy huddle.  When we spend all of our time with light-filled, salty Christians, we will never advance the good news of Jesus Christ to grow the Kingdom of God.  The only way out of this predicament is to consciously, intentionally plan to be with people who are not following Jesus.  Once there, then we may let our lights so shine and season the environment with our salt.  We must share the gospel (good news) that people can be forgiven of their sins because of the work Jesus did for us.

So – where are you strategically placing yourself to be in the world?  If we are more intentional, maybe those conversations would happen more and more frequently and take the edge off our awkwardness.  Maybe?

Who are you? THAT is the question.

So, I was doing some thinking today. I had this thought of when I was in HS and I was taking German. The teacher taught us something that has stayed with me. In English we say “Practice makes perfect”. Instead, in German the phrase is “Ubung macht den Meister”, the last word being translated as “master”. That day he taught us that perfection is a journey, not a destination. In the end, we strive every day to master something, but perfection is simply an intangible.

The next thought I had was what do I want to master? What do I want to do? Then it hit me, that I’ve spent my entire life trying to “do” something. I do for my job, for family, and even for myself. But, I should really ask myself; who I want to be. How many can answer this, or at least express in words what they really want to be. How many spend their lives chasing the next “to do”, hoping it will fill their void. In the end, it is nothing more than an achievement. An object that is gone as soon as it is reached.

What we should wish is to alter our goals. Instead of pursuing a “do”, we can work for who we wish to be. Instead of pursuing perfection, simply desire to improve each day and be a “master” at who we are.

As Christ taught, “be ye therefore perfect”, Peter taught the process comes through changing who we are, the “being” in and of Christ.
2 Peter
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is what we teach people. This is what we represent to those who are seeking. When they knock, will we answer? ~ S.E. Brisbane (thank you for letting me steal this!)

Do Hard Things

We’re all created in a unique way… for His divine purposes, God created me with a desire to do hard things.  This has been a fun, but too often lonely characteristic.  Seriously, look around… how many women are purposely choosing to do hard things?  To challenge themselves to do things that are outside “the box” of normalcy and stream of thought?  In short, I was created to be different.  Just writing that sentence brings a sigh of relief.. as if I’ve finally given myself permission (again) to be who God created me to be.

How long have I known I was different?  Since shortly after God saved me when I was 10 years old.  As young as I was, I knew I was completely different than I was before (duh… read 2 Corinthians 5:17) but I had no clue why.  So I went about telling everyone who would listen about my decision to follow Jesus and give my life over to Him.  I was quickly short-circuited by a few people who responded to my news with a blasé attitude.  Like “Yeah, yeah, kid.  That’s nice.  Good for you.”

Since then, I’ve pursued and pursued and pursued, even when my pursuit flew in the face of the church culture in which I’ve lived since my conversion.  Church Culture is the experience held by the vast majority of self-proclaimed Christians everywhere.  This is how we do it, Stephanie.  I don’t care what the Bible says, Stephanie, we have ways of doing things and you’re out of line.  Lord, help me, I’ve ALWAYS been out of line.  I’ve always asked the questions that make people squirm and feel awkward and exposed.  Ugh.  Did I mention it’s lonely round here?

But… though my intentions have not always been righteous, they have mostly been an effort to get back to who we are – Christ followers.  We don’t live like the world lives.  We don’t talk like the world talks.  We don’t love what the world loves.  We are the light of the world!!!!  A city on a hill!  The salt of the earth!  We are like salmon in Alaska running hard against the stream to get to a prize, a goal because of the upward call of the living God.

Thanks be to God it won’t be a culture-bound human I’ll stand before one day to give an account for my life.  It will be God Himself, who sees and knows the depths of my heart, the good, the bad and the ugly.  He’ll know how much I loved Him and tried to do hard things for the cause of Christ as a response to his command, “Follow Me.”

My Carelessness

Trying to be funny on FB, I made a stupid remark on a family member’s post.  That was 9 months ago and his wife, one of my dearest friends, is just now speaking to me again.  Yes, I apologized way back when I realized I’d blundered, but I just couldn’t get all the dirt back into the hole, I had struck a heart blow to a dear, precious soul-sister.

So this afternoon, I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit and His conviction.  He convicted me of my careless words and I did go into repair mode very quickly.  But he also convicted my friend for harboring anger and sailing away in a boat directly opposite of Ninevah.  Because of God, we are now mending our relationship and I will work tirelessly to re-establish lost trust.  I’m thankful for the model God has given us to work toward reconciliation and restoration of relationship.  Even daft, thick-headed, insensitive people like me have hearts that can be molded away from self and toward Christlikeness.

So, thank you, Lord.  Thank you for modeling forgiveness and issuing grace.  Help me to be like you.  I love you… thank you for loving first.