Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wednesday, December 13th -

A long time ago, 12 spies were sent on a very important mission from God to do recognizance work in a foreign land. They were supposed to scout the region and its inhabitants to decide whether or not they and their people could move in and settle; to make a life for themselves. Upon completing their mission, 10 of the 12 reported that there was no way that they could survive in this foreign land. The odds were stacked way too high against them. According to these ten, the land was tempting, the opportunities were inticing, but the inhabitants of the land were too big and powerful. These foreigners appeared shifty and seemingly could not be trusted. There was no way that these ten spies could reccommend that their own people could move in, establish themselves, and survive. The fear of the unknown paralyzed the ten spies with a debilitating mistrust that they passed on to their superiors who had initially sent them on the mission.

But what of the other two spies? What was their report? They had witnessed the same things that the other ten had seen. Their hearts had been gripped with the same fears that had gripped the hearts of the other ten.

However, where their other ten comrades viewed the glass as half empty, they saw the glass as half full. The other ten believed that their mission had yielded lemons; these two took the lemons and made lemonnade. The skepticism of the ten was challenged by the optimism of the two.

These two spies believed that God was on their side. These two spies believed that with God, anything was possible. These two spies had faith. They had faith in God. They had faith that God would see them and their people through seemingly impossible odds. They had the kind of faith that moves mountains. Eventually, the testimony of the two outweighed the testimony of the ten.

God used Joshua and Caleb to encourage the Israelites to persevere. God is using Tom and Margaret in a similar fashion. They have blindly moved into a foreign land where all odds have been stacked against them. They have moved away from a comfortable place where they knew that they were loved and cared for. They have moved to a place that is unfamiliar. They have moved because God told them to. This move required faith. It required a faith that was as strong as the faith of Joshua and Caleb. With reservations, they made the leap to Tennessee, but just like with the Israelites in the Old Testament, God has provided!

Margaret, for the time being, is cancer free. Blood work and CAT scans have confirmed this. Her new and highly respected oncologist has told her that she does not need to come back in to see him until March. No one really knows what this means exactly, but that is okay. Is it really gone, or is it just hiding? Is she cured or merely in remission? Who knows? All we know for sure is that God is good, and that she and Tom have the faith of Joshua and Caleb. May the rest of us grasp the same type of faith in our own lives so that God might work similarily with us. Giants are indeed frightening, but the will of God is suffecient!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sunday, December 10th -

Friends from Jackson, MS came up a couple of days ago to help Tom and Margaret unpack boxes and get organized. With some luck, they will be living in their new home sometime next week! Tom is still waiting to get in to see a new doctor here in TN. They have some inside connections, though, and hopefully, he'll get in soon. Margaret is doing well. She had a CAT scan this past Thursday and the results have been sent to her new oncologist in Memphis. We all go to the oncologist this Monday to see where she stands.

Tomorrow afternoon, Tommy and Margaret are going to cook dinner for the session of 1st Pres. Tom will be on hand to taste and assist. I guess you could say that Tom and Margaret have moved back south and are getting pretty acclomated. Of course the weather here the past few nights have been very un-Californian! 14 degrees Thursday night and 11 degrees last night! Brrrrr!

Things are going well so far. More posts later.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wednesday, December 6th-

I recently received a card from a former client of mine. Six years ago, I had counseled him while he was going through a messy, messy, divorce. I never met his wife; their relationship had reached the point of no return by the time he came to me and there was no hope for reconciliation. Therefore, the time I spent with him centered around coping, starting over, and hopefully learning how to forgive.

As I read his card just the other day, I remembered how bitter (and frustrating) he had been during our sessions together. He had been absolutely unwilling to accept any responsibility for the decline of his marriage. His wife had been the culprit; she was the evil one, and the man she had found was equally as sinister. He swore that he hated both of them for what they had done to him. I remember him telling me that he would make it his life's mission to make sure his ex and her new husband's lives were miserable. He told me once, "My goal in life is to make sure that my ex-wife and her new lover constatntly look over their shoulders so that they will never be able to make a comfortable life together for themselves!" (Thank goodness there were no children involved)!!!!!

There was one word that always surfaced in my mind after sessions with "Jay:" sad. Sad, because Jay never believed that he had done anything to contribute to the decline and ultimate demise of his marriage. Sad, because he relied on blaming others to keep himself afloat. Sad, because his hatred denied him the ability to forgive himself and his former wife so that he could make a fresh start. Sad, because he considered himself to be a man of faith, and his crusade to ruin his ex-wife's new life had disabled his ability and desire to rely on the comfort and reassurance that came from the love and grace of Jesus Christ - the very same love and grace that could have guided him through this terrible crisis in his life.

My relationship terminated with "Jay" before we had completed the course of our therapy. I accepted a new job out of state, and I left town. Until 2 weeks ago, I never knew what wound up happening with "Jay." To be honest, if I had been obsessed with this case after moving out of state, I would have worried that "Jay" had ruined his life with his pathetic quest to blame other people for his problems. You see, when marrigaes end, 9 times out of 10, to be cliche, it takes two to tango! But I digress . . . .

The point is this: the card I received the other day from "Jay," was a breath of fresh air. He just wanted to wish me a Merry Christmas, and to tell me that he was hanging tough. He is not dating, he is not looking to date, but he is at peace. The pain of his failed marriage is still very real, but the difference now is that he has accepted the reality of his situation. He no longer is blaming others; he has honestly looked at himself in the mirror and has realized his part in the marriage collapse. There is no longer any bitterness, there are no more grudges, there is no longer a life-driving desire for revenge. It as if he is a new man!

The only credit I take for this about face is sitting for excruciating hours with him as he shoved blame on everyone from his parents, to his friends, to God, to the other man, and ultimately to his ex. During our sessions together, I believed everthing I said to "Jay" fell on deaf ears. In fact,they probably did!

In his card to me, "Jay" never said thank you. Not even once. He only sent that card to tell me how he was doing. That makes me believe one outstanding thing: it was not me that got through to him --- God did. God's voice finally broke through and softened the heart of a man who had been devestated. It was a voice that spoke clearly and convincingly enough to let "Jay" see that blaming others for his misfortunes was a dead end. His life had crashed, and he was furious. His fury blinded him to the reality of God's unconditional love and grace. His fury made him miserable and denied him access to God's healing and comfort. His fury exhausted his energies and left him in a pathetic heap of self-pity, gloom, and despair. Fortunately, however, God's love finally broke through into his life again!

Cancer. Parkinson's. Dementia. Forced retirement. Relocation. Unexpected new starts. Tennessee Volunteer football. All legitimate reasons for bitterness and blame? Absolutely! Tom and Margaret will have none of it, though! To God be the glory - whatever comes their way.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunday, December 3rd -

The moving van arrived in Jackson, TN this past Thursday. The movers began unloading Tom and Margaret's stuff around 4:30 p.m. They finished around 12:45 a.m. Don't worry, though! Tom and Margaret had turned in for the night long before that! Tommy finished up the move. Everything is in Tennessee now, and the next challenge is unpacking. Tom and Margaret have been taking it slow and easy getting settled in. The stress of the move is being offset by the fact that they don't have to get it all done immediately since they have a place to live in the meantime. Although, they really want to get settled in their own home, they are doing just fine at Tommy and Elizabeth's house.

Margaret will be heading back down to Corinth, MS tomorrow morning for her first chemo treatment with her new doctor. Tom and Tommy will be driving her down, and they will wait with her. The doctor said that it will be a five hour infusion process. We are all hopeful that the treatment will be successful and that she will be strong enough to sustain the duration of the prescribed dosages.

Tom and Margaret went to church today for the first time since arriving in Tennessee. As luck would have it, First Pres Jackson had a potluck dinner after the eleven o'clock worship service. Tom exclaimed afterwards that there just isn't anything quite like a good ole Southern potluck dinner! The congregation was extremely excited to see them in church today. They have been praying for Tom and Margaret for a long time now, and they have been anticipating their arrival. It was good to see them receive an open armed welcome to 1st Pres Jackson!

Baby Meredith is absolutely in love with her "Paw-Paw!" Tom sits on the couch in the den, and Meredith crawls straight up to him, pulls herself up on his leg, and grins and squeals with delight! Tom is in hog heaven! Friday evening, Elizabeth and the other kids were gone to a fundraiser at the school leaving Tommy, Tom, Margaret, and Meredith at home alone. At one point during the evening, Meredith got the hicups. Tom picked her up, gave her a little bottle with water, and worked on her until she burped. Hicups were cured. Nobody could tell who was more happy - Meredith or Tom!

This is a new time for Margaret and Tom. New town, new church, new faces . . . but rest assured, the transition is going smoothly so far. Tomorrow will present a new challenge with Margaret's treatment, but everyone is optimistic. Tommy and Elizabeth will be here to help Tom take care of her. They will be here to help Margaret take care of Tom. Isn't it funny how God works sometimes? Right when you think you know what God is doing, He does something different.

Years ago when Margaret and Tom first experienced the "empty nest" syndrome, it became abundantly clear that their family would not live in the same town anymore. Tommy and Marty began their own families and moved away, Tom and Margaret accepted God's call to California, and all of a sudden, the Suttle, Jr. family was spread all over the United States. Each member of the family, however, felt comfortable that they were where God wanted them, despite the painful separation.

Now, despite the undesirable circumstances, the Suttles have been pulled together again. Tom and Margaret have been afforded the opportunity to become a present force as the matriarch and patriarch of their family again. They live around the corner from their son, and they are a little less than a full day's drive of their daughter.

Human nature leads all of us to be saddened, worried, and upset about the hand that has been dealt to Tom and Margaret. Human nature, however, is also the reason that Jesus Christ was sent to us by our heavenly Father. Grace, forgiveness, deliverance, and hope is what God gave us through his Son. Believe it, brothers and sisters, the comfort delivered through Christ is the very thing to which the Suttle's are clinging. May all of you also hold fast to the promises of God made through the sacrifice and resurrection of his only Son. Godis in control. He loves and cares for his faithful servants Tom and Margaret. His will is sufficient. Believe this good news, and hold fast to the hope!