Now is the time of year when we consider all that the past year held for us, and ponder what the year ahead will bring. This can stir up a vast array of emotions . . . hope, worry, excitement, fear, gratitude, fatigue, doubt, peace, longing, joy . . . sometimes several at once.
Peace… a short, one-syllable word. It even sounds soft as it rolls off the tongue. Yet to my mind, its meaning is elusive. At least it was before writing this piece.
As a writer, I always have my Merriam-Webster dictionary close at hand, and, over the years, I have accepted and oft-quoted its definitions as unquestionable truth. Until now.
With its hundred-mile course and cumulative elevation gain of 7,636 feet, the Gran Fondo New York challenges the fittest of cyclists. Athletes endure months of training in preparation for the bike race, and Shannon Fogarty is ready--both physically and mentally. This May 17th, he will take on the Gran Fondo in support of Inheritance of Hope.
He wasn’t always a biker, but in the past few years Shannon has lost 100 pounds and changed his lifestyle to become healthier. A bike that once just sat in the garage now logs up to 90 miles each weekend and a few more during the course of each week. It shares space and road time with a professional Cannondale racing bike. Arguably, Shannon, like the other racers, is in the best shape of his life. He also has an inoperable brain tumor. He is riding not just in spite of it, but because of it.
Kristen Milligan passed away one year ago tomorrow. She was a truly amazing person and my very best friend. One of her favorite verses is found in James 1:2-4 and she referenced it often in her speaking engagements, books, and daily life. This is what it says in the modern day Message translation of the bible:
"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:35, 37-39
What good news! Nothing in this life
Earlier this week, my family and I were walking on the grounds of a chapel in St. Augustine, FL. While strolling through this beautifully manicured piece of our nation's history, I came across a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, who is highly revered in the Catholic church. Next to the statue was a prayer that is often associated with St.Francis. As I read the prayer, my heart was immediately grabbed by how closely this prayer parallels the heartfelt service offered by Inheritance of Hope volunteers.
Peace. It does not mean being in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
How do you do that? When there are true storms pounding down on us and looming in the distance how do we remain calm in our hearts? How do we "dance in the rain"?
A few weeks ago we returned from the May 2012 retreat in Orlando, Florida. This was a special retreat for me because it was the first time I was able to invite a family I knew personally to come on a retreat & see them be cared for & enjoy a few days together outside of their normal routine fighting cancer. Amy & Adam Patwa, & their adorable daughter Charis, attended this retreat and blessed me & so many others with their transparency & hope in the midst of a life-threatening illness. Something really amazing happens on these retreats. Staff & volunteers love families. Families love each other. Everyone ends up serving each other in some way, shape, or form... maybe without even realizing their impact.