Beauty IN the Beast

“One act of thanksgiving, when things go wrong with us, is worth a thousand thanks when things are agreeable to our inclinations.”

Saint John of Avila

Enter into His grates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.

Psalm 100: 4-5

Many people I know have experienced (or are experiencing) deep struggles: death of loved ones, accidents, loss of jobs, illness, depression, failed adoptions, miscarriages, troubled marriages, troubled kids.

Daily I hear of of more suffering. What amazes me is the strength of character, the resolve, and the patience that is resulting from it.   I am encouraged and strengthened by the testimonies of  friends and family who are choosing to be thankful by  “counting it all joy when they fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of their faith produces patience, which has its perfect work in us.” (James 1:2-4)

I share with you today a journal entry from my dear friend and co-worker, Starrla Fowler, whose husband, Jef,  recently endured cancer surgery.  May her words bless you and encourage you to rest in the Father’s arms, and wait patiently for His perfect work to unfold in your life.

Starrla’s Prayer Journal – Wed, Nov 23, 2011

(Note: Jef serves as Head of School at Veritas Academy in Austin, Texas, where Starrla serves as Head of the Grammar School)

During this Thanksgiving season I have much for which to give thanks:  my husband, my children, family, friends, and cancer.  Yes, cancer.  Is that possible?  Yes, I choose to be thankful for it.   It is part of our journey.

Cancer … the “C word” … dark, mean, ugly, and deathly.

The “C word” that inspires fear in the hearts of many.  It is read instantly in their faces—their greatest fear—and now, they fear for us.  Fear and worry.  Many are anxious out of deep, sincere love.  They love us.  So, love … that is why I’m thankful for cancer.  Through this ugly, respecter-of-no-person disease, much love has been revealed.

I am thankful for the many who have gone out of their way to say they care and appreciate Jef, who he is and what he has done.  His job is often a thankless one, certainly one that few can fully appreciate.  But, God does not forget the loving labor Jef has poured forth in looking after his fellow Christians—both students and families (Heb 6:10), and now, the students and families are embracing us, pouring forth love and encouragement like we’ve never experienced.  Honestly, it’s overwhelming to receive and receive and receive.  We are used to giving.  Giving is easier, much easier, but to receive, now that takes humility.  But we are learning so that we may be a part of that beautiful circle of “blessed is the giver” and “give and it shall be given back to you, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.”  Oh my … are we at that point?  We have given and given and now we receive and receive and receive.  So through cancer, I’m thankful for love and for learning to receive.

Faith … do we truly know faith until we are tested?

I’m thankful for the cancer that will deepen our faith.  Do we have enough faith to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, to know (really know) that His rod and staff comforts us, (Psalm 23) and to not be anxious?  Isn’t anxiety, or fear, the opposite of faith?  It is, and God commands—not suggests to us—that we are not to be anxious (Phil 4:6).  God, we are not anxious.  We stand firm, completely trusting that you have us in your hands.  So, I am thankful for strengthening our faith but also that of others.

Others … the puzzled looks I’ve received when I’ve replied confidently and with a smile that we are okay and have faith, the weak smiles and wrinkled foreheads precede the pleading question, “No.  How are you really?”  Really?  Really, we stand firm in the shoes of peace and with the shield of faith.

I wonder, does our society view the amount of worry in direct correlation with the intensity of love?

So, if I’m not worried, is that indicative of a lesser love for Jef?  Ha!  Of course not.  From where did that crazy concept arise?  I love deeply and trust deeply, and pray earnestly for faith … to deepen in us … to arise in many …to truly believe without fear.  So, for cancer I am thankful that many will watch the hand of the Almighty move and will intensify their faith.

For the removal of sin in our lives I am thankful.

Now this is a big one.  Through cancer could God be shedding light on sins that must be removed—impatience, busyness, unkind words/thoughts too often shared, procrastination, lukewarmness?  Yes, I believe so.  Lord, may we not walk through this without major changes.  So, for cancer I am thankful for changes in our hearts.

And lastly I’m thankful for brotherly kindness and love that we will share with others with whom we come in contact at MD Anderson.  I pray for divine appointments.

I pause and reflect upon my journaling—faith, hope, love, and brotherly kindness.  I know these well.   I’ve spent time with these virtues, pondering their qualities, internalizing these.   Is it just by coincidence that last year’s focus for the Veritas community was on II Peter 1?  “Add to your faith…” yes, we stand in faith, so now we continue, “…goodness, and to goodness add knowledge.”

Could this journey of cancer be a test of our goodness, or virtue?

The Greek word for goodness, “arête” is defined as essential, intrinsic goodness or “who we are in the dark.”  Well, this could definitely be considered a dark period.  Then, who are the Fowlers “in the dark?”  Paul taught us to “Follow (him) as (he) followed Christ.”  We, the Fowlers, choose to follow Paul and to imitate Christ by knowing Him.  II Peter I reminds us that through “our knowledge of him” we are promised “everything we need for life and godliness” and “grace and peace” shall be ours  “in abundance through the knowledge of God and Jesus Our Lord.”  Will we and others come to “know” Him more–Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, and Jehovah Rapha, our Healer?

God, you are amazing and perfect in every detail and in all timing.

It was not by coincidence that II Peter was studied last year.  It was not by coincidence that you prompted me to dive even deeper in this study over the summer—to read further, to take detailed notes, to mediate daily on the meaning of each of these virtues.  For this very moment you were preparing us, the Fowlers, to “add to our faith.”  Not only will our goodness and knowledge of you, Lord Jesus, be needed, but also that of self-control, perseverance, Godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.  I see it now, and am in awe of our magnificent Creator who holds us firmly in the palm of his hand, knowing every detail.  So, through cancer, may our Veritas community grow in faith and in these seven virtues—goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, Godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.

I am thankful.  To God be the glory.

“It’s only when you live the prayer of thanksgiving that you live the power of trusting God.”

Ann Voskamp in A Thousand Gifts

4 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this Starrla!

    Reply
  2. Starrla, thanks for your incredible words of inspiration! You are such a role model and I know that many will be encouraged by your strong faith in the face of adversity.

    Reply
  3. Amen, sister! So happy to be in this journey of faith and joyfulness with you!! Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts…..and for learning to receive! To God Be the Glory!

    Reply

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