Focusing on What Matters…Truth

Cancer, or a terminal diagnosis, tends to come with an amazing gift. The gift is…it allows the recipient to be in tune with what is truly important and it provides an urgency to focus on these things. In my experience this urgency isn’t forced, but it IS palpable.

Often, prior to the gift, it can be uncomfortable to speak truth into someone’s life yet, after receiving the gift, one realizes the person matters much more than the discomfort. Personally, I wish it was possible to receive the gift in some other way, however, I am not certain it is?

Amen.

Encouragement on Chemo Day! Church at Einstein Bagels!

Encouragement on Chemo Day! Church at Einstein Bagels!

Thursday night, following a day of chemotherapy, I received the following message from a Facebook friend…a friend whom I have never met in real life, I might add.

Greg, I just wanted to share a story with you.

I thought of you today, even though we have never met. I have read your stories about listening to God when he prompts you to act. I’ve struggled with that and ignored it many times. Cause let’s be honest. Sometimes it’s just awkward.

I have twin grand baby boys that are in the hospital with RSV and one has pneumonia. It’s a scary time because they are preemies. Although if you see their pics you can see that they have not missed any meals.

I am here in Texas helping my son and DIL with the babies. This morning I was at Einstein bagel waiting on my order. I saw a big group of men and as I walked by I heard one of them saying something about scripture. I feel like God told me to ask them to pray for Beau and Bennett. But I was like Lord that is super awkward. Why are you asking me to do this?

Keeping in mind I am new to this I was struggling. I looked over and there were 3 women at a table with their bibles out. I feel like God was like ok…how about them!?

I’m like ok Lord I can do this. I walked to their table and admitted how awkward I felt. But I felt like the Lord led me to them. I told them our situation and they offered me a seat and we held hands and they prayed for my precious babies.

I just wanted you to know this. I am wanting so much to be obedient and respond when prompted. Those ladies were so gracious and loving. The prayer they prayed gave me so much peace that our Heavenly Father loves us and is victorious in all things!

Friends, when was the last time you were interrupted by God to do anything? Prior to cancer I do not recall a single time I acted in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and that is because I was always moving too fast.

The fact is, God is offering you and me an opportunity to join Him on an adventure of a lifetime. Whether it is praying for someone, asking others to pray for you, buying someone a coffee or a beer or whatever?

Yes, it will be awkward at first, but when God prompts allow me to encourage you to do what He asks. When He does this He is inviting you to join Him in life that is truly life. I have discovered He is not a kill joy, He wants what’s best for us and in living this way I have never been more alive.

Join my new friend and me on our quest to follow Jesus and the prompting of the Holy Spirit and, if you will, lift a prayer for her grandbabies, Beau and Bennett.

Amen.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it in abundance.

Jesus of Nazareth

God’s purpose in suffering.

God’s purpose in suffering.

J.C. Ryle, the Bishop of Liverpool (Anglican Church) in the 1800’s endured the loss of the family fortune, a personal illness that assaulted his large frame, and the chronic illnesses and deaths of two wives. Rather than take the stance of “curse God and die,” Ryle embraced the abundance of suffering.

Let us mark this well. There is nothing which
shows our ignorance so much as our impatience
under trouble. We forget that every trial is a
message from God—and intended to do us
good in the end.

Trials are intended . . .

to make us think,

to wean us from the world, 

to send us to the Bible, 

to drive us to our knees.

Health is a good thing. But sickness 

is far better, if it leads us to God.

Prosperity is a great mercy. But adversity 

is a greater one, if it brings us to Christ.

Amen.

God does not make mistakes and He is not asleep at the wheel.

God does not make mistakes and He is not asleep at the wheel.

Today, I sit in our family room with aches and pains from the infection we are treating. Thursday will be round 66 of chemotherapy and already I don’t feel well.

Friends are prepping and planning for the new year. They are setting goals, dreaming dreams, envisioning successes, etc. and frankly, I feel as though I am missing out. To some extent I feel I am on the outside looking in.

Yet, when I consider certain people, heroes of mine if you will, I realize they too struggle/struggled with loss and ailments of various kinds, yet they press/pressed on. They did not let their losses or ailments define them. No, they strive/strove in the midst of the loss and suffering and are/were used in amazing ways.

Who are these people you may be wondering?

Joni Eareckson Tada

Paralyzed from a diving accident. Cancer survivor. Confined to a wheelchair for 50 years. She is an author, painter, radio host, etc. Joni understands suffering and God continues to use her in the disability community and beyond.

Bob Buford

Lost only child, Ross, when Ross was 24 in an accidental drowning. For years, Linda and Bob have suffered this loss daily yet they have led the way as philanthropists investing in kingdom initiatives and activities that are changing the world.

Martha Croy

Martha was my friend, from my late teens / early 20s, who had ALS. Martha slowly atrophied, due to this terrible disease, yet she continued to write letters to the editor using a keyboard and her one functioning finger. Every time I visited her, in the nursing home, her room was full of people because she could bring others comfort and joy with all she had remaining…a simple smile.

“The shortest distance between two hearts is always the way of brokenness.”

Ann Voskamp

To some extent these ailments, these issues are gifts. If we are willing to live in a vulnerable manner sharing our struggles with one another, then it will provide the opportunity to take the suffering and brokenness and allow it to accomplish what God intended. Personal connection and encouragement to others.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I Thessalonians 5

Did the Apostle Paul actually mean to thank God in ALL circumstances? Really?

So, I am to thank God when I am hurting from the infection? Yes.

How about when I am lamenting I have another round of chemo to endure? Yes.

Even when I have diarrhea? Yep, even then.

The Apostle Paul offered no qualifiers in these verses. Why, I wonder?

See…I am learning there is more to life than health, wealth and prosperity. Real life is found in real stuff not just on the mountaintops. Friendships are forged deeply during hard times and families are drawn together during times of struggle and ultimately we are drawn to God when we have need.

God does not make mistakes and He is not asleep at the wheel. He knows our greatest joy will come when we are connected to him and others and this is more likely to occur when we are suffering.

So…yes…this is a gift and probably the reason we should give thanks in all circumstances.

Amen.

For God so loved that He gave…

Life is found when we give…not when we get. Jesus himself said in Acts, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Yesterday afternoon Tracey and I read chapter 5, “Becoming the Gift the World Needs – and You Need” from “The Broken Way” by Ann Voskamp. This chapter is about how she and her family spent her birthday – giving. It is amazing how far they went to bless their entire community.

Following is a list of things and ways in which they gave.

The gift of…Gladiolas to the residents of the local Nursing Home
“I fill it (the bucket) with water and glads and schlepp a bunch of jar vases over to the nursing home. The kids and I leave them in the doorways of the residents’ rooms, and there’s no missing the beauty of what these have held and what they’re containers for now— or how entire wings of the nursing home light up in these thousand-watt smiles.”

The gift of…song
“When we’re standing in Room 112 with Mr. Bender, he leans worn and tall over us and asks us to sing one more hymn, and I choke it back a bit when he says right at the end, just before we leave that Mason jar of glads with him, ‘Promise you won’t shed a tear when I finally come to the end of my run and I’m not here but have up and gone? You’ll know I am finally home with my God.’”

The gift of…cookies
“Leaving the nursing home, we pass the police car on Main Street in front of Chocolates on Main, and those crazy boys of ours want to leave a box of cookies there on the hood of a sunning police cruiser.”

The gift of…pie
“We grab a pie at Zehrs Markets and drop it off at our doctor’s office and thank him for catching babies.”

The gift of…coffee
“We head to the local coffee shop and pay for a line of coffees behind us (‘Yes, really. Yes, we’re serious. Yes, for real!’).”

The gift of…donuts
“We grab a dozen donuts to deliver to the fine folks at the town office.”

Ann shares, “And there’s this moment, a glance catching my reflection in the coffee shop window, and this grinning, birthing thought: learning the art of living is learning the art of giving. For God so loved that He gave . . .The art of giving is believing there is enough love in you, that you are loved enough by Him, to be made enough love to give.”

The gift of…dinner
“When you walk into a diner across the street and tell the waitress you’re paying for that family’s dinner, it’s a thing you don’t forget, and it feels like an act of re-membering. The waitress laughs and you wink and leave before they’re finished at the all-you-can-eat buffet.”

The gift of…tennis balls
“The boys gift the tennis court with a whole bunch of tennis balls (‘Don’t you think some kids are gonna be surprised, Mom?’).”

The gift of…service & groceries.
“…then the whole lot of us circle over to the grocery store on Mitchell Street, put away grocery carts, grab a few bags of groceries, and drop them off at the food bank.”

The gift of…bubble gum
“Stick quarters into bubble gum machines at Walmart.”

The gift of…groceries
“Scope out the grocery store to buy a cart of groceries for someone.”

The gift of…parking fees
“Tuck parking fees into envelopes, and slide them under windshield wipers for those in the hospital parking lot.”

The gift of…dollars at the Dollar Store
“I don’t even know who has the audacious idea to go up to the dollar store and leave dollars up and down every aisle, but our kids watch unsuspecting kids wander in. Smiles break up every aisle.”

The gift of…lollipops
“This boy in a ball cap stops at the counter and picks up a lollipop we’ve taped a note to: ‘Here’s a dollar. Pick any color. We’re Giving It Forward Today. #BeTheGift.’ His face explodes in this smile.”

Ann goes on to share her daughter, “Hope-girl leans into me, smiling at the sucker-licking boy, and whispers, ‘Don’t you think giving is the greatest?’ She’s smiling like her heart might burst. ‘Look at him! I mean— giving is the most beautiful of all.’”

“I reach over and find Hope’s hand. ‘A good day, Mama, a good birthday day.’ She swings my hand high like those kids at the park. Her smile feels like grace. ‘Nah.’ The Farmer (Ann’s husband) grins, Shalom swinging from his arm. ‘A great day. The best day.’ ‘The kids at the park, at the dollar store, the family in the diner,’ Shalom singsongs the day back to us, all our boys ahead of us walking back to the van. ‘That old man behind us at the coffee shop, those mamas with the babies in the strollers, the family at the grocery store we surprised by buying everything in their cart, and Mr. Bender at the nursing home and all his songs.’”

“We lost the day in love. You can be glued to a screen or glued to your schedule or glued to your stuff— and maybe that’s just a bit of lost living. You can be a slave to getting ahead, a slave to the clock, a slave to convenience, a slave to some ill-advised American dream— and maybe that’s a lot of lost living. Maybe even in a bit of brokenness, grace moves in you to get up and give to people you love and people you’re learning to love, to go to the park and laugh with your kids or any kids, to give an elderly woman a hand and a listening ear and the gift of presence— that’s large living. The greatest living always happens through the givenness.”

Earlier today Bob Goff shared the following quote on Facebook,

“The way we love each other today, lets everybody know the baby in the manger wasn’t just a decoration.”

What if those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ picked an afternoon, between now and when the kids have to go back to school, and went on a gift blitz? What if we prayed for God to open our eyes to how we could be a blessing to others and we went for it?

The Murthas will do this in Brentwood over the next few days and then we will report back what we experienced. Will you join us? Let’s let everyone know that Jesus is much more than a decoration.

Merry Christmas, friends! Merry Christmas, indeed. It is not too late to give.

Amen.

A lot of today’s post is from – Voskamp, Ann. The Broken Way (with Bonus Content): A Daring Path into the Abundant Life. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Over the holiday’s Jackson, Tracey and I have received Christmas Cards, texts, FaceBook messages, framed lyrics and stories, emails and calls from family and friends and we have loved every one of them. As a matter of fact, they are still arriving.

These cards and messages remind me of the basket Uncle Billy carried into the Bailey home at the end of the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” When, at the end of the year, the Savings & Loan was thousands of dollars short and faced potential foreclosure. As you already know…word got out and everyone in the community stepped up, wealthy or not, to help George Bailey and his family.

The more I live the more I understand the greatest gift anyone can give, or receive, is the gift of friendship. Consistently I go back to Clarence’s note to George…

Dear George,
Remember no man is a failure
who has friends.
Thanks for the wings!
Love,
Clarence

Why is this movie so moving to me? Why do I cry every time I see Uncle Billy arriving at the Bailey’s home with that basket of money? Why? It’s, I assume, what the money represents.

The money represents a life filled with generosity, service to others and faithfulness. A life of passing on trips, passing on college and passing on moving to more exciting places. Instead, George chose to serve those in his community who may have been stuck under Mr. Potter’s thumb if he hadn’t been faithful to his calling and the Savings & Loan hadn’t existed.

George Bailey stayed in Bedford Falls and he loved and served others in a way that truly made their lives better. He was a friend to all and he believed in his neighbors. It was natural for him to serve others in this way…it was a way of life, if you will.

Was he as wealthy as Sam Wainwright? Not in dollars and cents, but I would venture to say he was the wealthiest man in Bedford Falls and candidly, that’s how I feel.

This year my family and I have had people invest in my health by praying and by giving through a GoFundMe account, set up by friends, to help offset the expenses we incurred pursuing alternative forms of treatment. We have also had friends invest their talents and treasure in helping us start, “Leading with a Limp.”

While it would have been easier to avoid treatments for cancer and the two heart attacks I experienced in 2016, I can honestly say, I feel as though this suffering has placed me exactly where I am supposed to be. It has given me a story of God’s faithfulness and his ultimate provision.

If Uncle Billy hadn’t lost the deposit, there wouldn’t have been a crises. There wouldn’t have been the opportunity for family and friends to step up and let George and his family know how they felt about them. Often the trial and suffering serves as a conduit for blessing…my suffering certainly has.

Today, on December 28, 2016, I am a blessed man.

Yes…I have lost my hair, I no longer have olive colored skin, it is difficult for me to breathe deeply, I have lost the feeling on the bottom of my feet and I have round 66 of chemo scheduled for January 5, but I am blessed. I am blessed with family and friends and opportunities to continue to follow Jesus by acting in obedience to what he asks me to do in service to others.

You have the same opportunity. Allow me to encourage you to listen to Jesus and do what he asks. There is no greater joy this side of heaven.

It truly is a wonderful life!

Amen.

Following Jesus…that’s the plan.

Monday morning at 10:45am my friend Gary Jones said, “I would never run a business like this, but I think we’re over complicating this issue. As we move forward I’m going to suggest Greg listens to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit and does what He says. That’s the plan.” This comment was made during the first “Living with a Limp” board meeting.

For almost 5 years I have been listening to God, asking what He would have me do and then, to the best of my ability, acting on His promptings. Then, when moved, I have written about my experiences so others see how God works in my life and how He can work in theirs as well.

While living this way, I have never been more alive. Instead of operating against a plan, with numerous goals and objectives, I have simply served the next person God happened to place in my path. It hasn’t been any more complex than that.

These activities have come as an invitation from God to join Him in His work. His work which happens to be the most fulfilling activity I have ever experienced. It has been a joy, a party…if you will. Joining God, in His work, isn’t labor; it is not an arduous task; it is not a list of “shoulds.” To the contrary…it has been an utter joy.

Since January 2012 I have met numerous people who have needed a prayer, a word of encouragement, an understanding ear, a glass of wine or a cold beer. These encounters have occurred in places as opulent as the lobby of a 5-star hotel in Beaver Creek, Colorado to a convenience store in Lexington, KY. The same God has used me to love the black man in middle America and the wealthy developer in Dallas, TX and most every encounter has ended in tears…my tears.

Today I am sitting in Brentwood, TN, in my home office, listening to the “Give Me Jesus” channel on Pandora. My stomach isn’t right and it hasn’t been for weeks – diarrhea. My feet and fingers are splitting because the new chemotherapy is really harsh on my skin. Tracey and I are trying our best to encourage Jackson in his education. Life is NOT perfect, but it is the life I have been given and I am not only ok with it I am thankful for it.

Yes…following Jesus is the plan.

A few months ago, I believe God asked me to form a 501c3 and we did…He even provided the attorney, at no charge, to make it happen. He asked me to form a board of directors and we did and they are some of my most favorite people in the world…people I love, respect and truly enjoy doing life with. He asked me to write a book and He provided an editor and coauthor and the funding for this book to become a reality.

What is God asking you to do? He is not a slave driver…He actually wants what’s best for you. Trust Him. Do what He asks you to do and in so doing you will experience life that is truly life.

Amen.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
I Timothy 6

This world is not our home.

This world is not our home.

Interesting how, when you receive a diagnosis…a death sentence, initially you don’t think about how you are going to live. Instead, you ponder how you are going to die. At first death feels imminent and receiving the diagnosis feels like a curse.

For me the diagnosis came with introspection. It came with tears. It came with an understanding of the fact that this world is not my home and that none of us get out of here alive. A few years ago my friend Bob Muzikoswki said, “The sooner we realize this is Hotel Earth the better off we will all be. This world is not our home.”

After receiving the diagnosis, you become the one whose number has been called, but with cancer, or even heart issues, it takes a while to die. It doesn’t happen immediately, or at least it hasn’t for me.

A few years ago, at a friend’s funeral, it dawned on me what a gift it was for me to have received a diagnosis. My friend had died of an aneurism and it was completely unexpected. See…none of us get out of here alive and I know I am sick and as a result I have been able to adjust the way I am living.

As a result of knowing I have been able to adjust the amount of time I work. I have been able to adjust where I invest my most valuable asset – my time. I have been able to plan my own memorial service (Party) and invest in things that really matter.

Knowing has been a gift not a curse.

Today a fraternity brother of mine was buried. My brother Zac shared, this morning, his father in law died last night and an old cheerleader friend of mine posted on Facebook a fraternity brother of his had passed away sometime today.

Friends…we are not leaving this planet alive.

When I was diagnosed I was 46 years old, I was in the best shape of my adult life and at the tail end of an 11 mile run I realized there was a problem. If I had not received the diagnosis my life would have remained the same and I would have been investing a lot of my time in things that don’t really matter.

My diagnosis and my struggles have been a gift. Personally, I am not certain it is possible to warn people, who haven’t received the negative report, of what is really important. Until it is you receiving the life altering news it just doesn’t seem to have the same impact.

Are you focusing on things that matter? Is there anything you need to say or is there anything you would regret if your life was cut short tonight?

Allow me to encourage you to address these issues. Allow me to encourage you to make things right and focus on things that matter.

The fact is…this world is not our home and none of us will get out of here alive. Our only hope is in the sacrificial life and love of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He came so that we may have life and have it in abundance.

Allow me to encourage you to embrace this truth and allow it to impact the way you are living your one and only life. Ultimately, it will make all of the difference.

Amen.

Round 63 – I am blessed!

Round 63 – I am blessed!

Hello from Vanderbilt Medical Center where I am enduring round 63 of chemotherapy. Yet today…I am blessed. Why, you may ask?

I am blessed because…

Doctors & Treatment
I have the best doctors & treatment the world has to offer. If I had been born at a different latitude and longitude, I am almost certain I wouldn’t still be here.

Family & Friends
I have a loving wife and son and extended family & friends who love and thoroughly support me.

Purpose
My life has purpose, on numerous levels, and I feel a real reason for being…for that I am thankful.

Hope
I have hope for the future while I am on this planet and beyond. It is more than hope though…it is confidence in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Thank you all for your prayers, for your support, your continued encouragement and for loving my family and me well.

Yes…I am blessed!

Amen.