Tuesday, July 25, 2017

When You Want to Run Away

Does it ever feel 
like life is ganging up 
on you so much that you want to run away?

Get in line and take a number. You would probably be #89,427,893,973. That's eighty-nine billion, four hundred twenty-seven million, eight hundred ninety-three thousand, and nine hundred seventy-three.

We may feel as though we'd like to find the escape route, but others may not know it. People ask the standard question: "How are you?" And as long as we supply the stock answer ("Fine") we can usually get away with pretending to be fine. It is incredibly easy to cover up our true feelings, leaving people completely unaware that we're entertaining fantasies of a hasty escape from the pile-up of stress. 

I laughed and shook my head when I read this in my morning Bible study:
"I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest." (Psalm 55:8)

Hey King David, wait for me!

We are clearly not the first to feel so overwhelmed with the relentless pounding of life that we're looking for an "escape." This feeling of wanting to fly away is as old as the Old Testament. 

"And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest." (Psalm 55:6)

These words were written when the Psalmist was in the midst of so much trouble that he even described it as having a physical effect on his being: "My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me." (Psalm 55:4) Yes, adversity can actually cause physical pain, as well as the obvious emotional turmoil.

But it gets deeper: Our flesh adds fear to the mix, putting us in an almost unbearable position as we play that terrible mind game called "Worst Case Scenario." Again, this is nothing new, because the Psalmist fell into this trap as well: "Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me." (Psalm 55:5)

I can almost feel the shivering. When our thoughts run wild, we are adding torment to an already tough time.

Are we able to live like this? Temporarily yes, but permanently, no. All of these emotional responses were meant to be like a winter season in life that would come, last a little while, and then cycle away.





These emotions are real and not to be taken lightly. It is not unusual during times of intense pressue to want to stay in bed with the covers pulled up to the chin. I call them "pajama days," where your pajamas are your fashion statement, and your hair stays in the position it was in when you woke up that morning.

Thankfully, this is a temporary phase and we do have relief, if we'll accept it. We even have Someone to rescue us. Never forget that God has not lost track of us just because things have gotten outrageously difficult or discouraging. Tough times rotate, but we may forget this when we're in the midst of a longer form of affliction. Still, God weaves in periods of sweet relief and we'll experience these reprieves if we're paying attention. In fact, the very trial itself may be a beautiful gift...wrapped in ugly paper.

When will we comprehend the fact that God sees differently than we see?

What we see as terrifying looks like training to Him. 

What seems perilous to us is strengthening.

What looks utterly impossible to us is actually a miracle in progress.

Think about it: when we are living comfortably, is our prayer life as intense as it is when we're living in the discomfort zone? Not usually. Does that mean we need affliction to cause us to pray? This is not always the case. Often it's more an issue of the quality of the time we're spending with God. We all tend to run to the Lord in repeated earnest and fervent prayer when we need Him most. Have you noticed by now that neediness is a regular rotation in life?

It is very wise to spend deep and abiding time with the Lord daily, especially when life is calm. That way, we're already very close to Him when the thunder of adversity shakes our world. And we can cry aloud to God anytime, day or night: "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice." (Psalm 55:17) 

He shall hear my voice.

What can you do when  you wish you could escape the burdens of your life? Cast them over to God. "Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." (Psalm 55:22)

The word "cast" in this verse is not a light term. It's not like you're gently passing the basket of burdens. Oh no. This is more like what you would do if a venomous viper latched onto your hand! You wouldn't just pass a viper and say, "Here, take this thing. I don't want it."

You'd THROW it!

You'd HURL it!

You'd FLING it!

You'd SHED that thing as fast as you could!

That's what God wants us to do with our burdens. Throw, hurl, fling, and shed! He can handle the "venomous situations." We cannot. And God adds His sustaining grace to our lives in precisely the measure needed, at exactly the right time.

We may have days when we feel like running--or flying away, but the best place to go is straight to the Lord in prayer. Watch how He rescues you. Prepare to be amazed.

"The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace." (Psalm 29:11) 


Francie Taylor

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How to Make Your Husband Go to the Doctor

My Norman H

Our primary care physician said this to my husband:

"It's the best thing in the world that you ran that 5k in April, otherwise who knows how long it would have taken you to finally come in for a checkup."

My Norman had been complaining of pain since sometime in March, but then he'd joke about it. "This must be what it feels like to be 65," he'd say. And then we'd both agree that getting older has not been our favorite life task. I mean really--you go to bed age 25 and wake up age 65! Still, we have been active and in recent years, we've really seen the value of taking good care of these soul carriages called "bodies," so most days we feel younger than our years.

But Norman kept saying, "My bones hurt." I had never heard that before.

Hot Choc 5k
Fast-forward to the Hot Chocolate 5k, where a 59-year-old wife dragged her 65-year-old (almost 66) husband to run in the rain...in the clothes-drenching rain. Norman looked like he was having a good time, and we survived the crazy idea well enough to be able to shower and go out for brunch later that same day, so it seemed like we were going to be no worse for the wear. So it seemed.

But now Norman was saying, "My bones really hurt." When you're married to a man who never whines, this is cause for concern.

How many wives have a hard time getting your husband to the doctor? I wish I could see the raised hands joining mine. Norman's symptoms seemed urgent to me, so I called our doctor's nurse directly. When I described the places Norman said he had pain, the nurse was certain that our doctor would want to see him that same morning. 

"Can you get him here by 11:20? And don't let him drive."

It was 9:00 a.m.

(Cue up the old Mission Impossible theme song here...)

My strong man Norman H had gone to work in excruciating pain, so I was going have to use this appointment as a summons. I think I heard relief in his voice when I called and said, "Dr. Koch wants to see you at 11:20am, and she said I am supposed to drive you to the appointment." I used my official "Dr. Said So" tone of voice. Mission accomplished.

Our doctor has known our family for years, and we believe that God has used her multiple times to help us in various health crises. When Norman described his "bone pain" in her office that day and pointed to locations on his body," she turned her back and started typing into her computer, but not before I saw that look on her face.

She later told me that she already suspected what she was going to find. When the results came back from the various scans, there was a large mass on the right kidney, as well as multiple suspicious spots known as "lesions" throughout the body.

My Norman has two forms of cancer: renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) and multiple myeloma (bone cancer). 

According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, Norman is one of the 1,688,780 new cancer cases estimated to be diagnosed in 2017. That means he is one of over a million and a half people who are receiving phone calls from their doctors saying, "I need you to come back into my office..."

Epic Selfie Fail

Incredibly, the "bone pains" Norman had been describing are in the very spots where the cancer has mestastasized. Norman ran that Hot Chocolate 5k race like a serious competitor, aggravating the cancer symptoms to an unbearable point, which was why the doctor called our race adventure the "best thing in the world."

So what's next? I'm grateful that we only get the answer to that question in small doses. Norman will have some very intensive medical procedures in his future, and our lives will be directed less by our planners and more by the cancer treatment schedule. Truly, only God knows "what's next." "Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (James 4:14) Life is a vapor regardless of any diagnosis, so in reality, this did not change the number of days that Norman will live. That number was already known to God; it's just not visible on our calendar.

Pro Selfie by Norman H
So we only know what we're allowed to know, step by step, moment by moment. Next on the medical agenda is surgery, followed by aggessive treatments to battle this stage-four cancer. And we are taking this one day at a time, knowing that our lives have been dramatically altered. We don't pretend to understand all of this, but we trust God. His goodness is not changed by a diagnosis.

We have unfortunately had to cancel the remainder of the conference calendar for this year, and there may be additional changes that we'll need to make here at Keep the Heart as we focus on navigating our "rough patch," but we will trust God to guide us. As we've said before, God is never surprised by the events of life. 

We may count our age in years, but Scripture reminds us that we actually have numbered "days."  "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (Psalm 90:12) We deeply desire to live our numbered days wisely. Pray for our entire family as we embark on this journey.

By the way, if your husband has symptoms that concern you, make your husband go to the doctor. And if it's been a while since you've had a checkup, make an appointment for yourself, too.

"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God." (Psalm 42:11)

Pic by Taniya's Photography

A very important P.S.
If I sat in front of my computer and replied to every note until I was 85 years old, I wouldn't put a dent in the Facebook Messages Inbox. Please, PLEASE do not message me on Facebook. Keep the Heart is already flooded responding to our daily business emails, so we simply cannot reply to private notes (try to imagine what it looks like to have hundreds of messages and then maybe you'll stop typing). Please honor this request.

If you have a question related to your order, write to us at keeptheheart@gmail.com. Customer service will respond, but there may be delays due to the changes in the health of our Norman H. We will do our best to keep operations running.

Finally, while we know that we have many treatment options, we are not seeking medical advice or alternative medical advice from the Facebook community. We have access to all of this and more, so please, PLEASE do not attempt to contact us with remedies. Honoring these requests would be such a kindness. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Run with Patience in the Rain

I asked Norman just as he was leaving for work one morning, five measly weeks prior to race day, "Honey, could we do a 5k in April?" I know that he answers quickly when he's on his way out the door. (Translation: He only half-heard me.) 

"A 5k, huh? Okay." But it wasn't the usual "okay." It was the long "Okaaaayyyy" that Norman uses when he's wondering what his wife is plotting this time. I am the spontaneous one in our marriage. He is...


A few days later, I handed him his new race swag (you know, the fancy logo shirt that makes it look like you're a runner even if you're not), and then announced, "We need new shoes. Our old tennies won't do."

Norman H
Armed with large coupons, we bought new running shoes and were soon decked out like wannabe-runners. I was training in earnest, following a chart printed from the Hot Chocolate 15k/5k official racing website. Things were coming along fairly well for someone who hasn't run competitively since her hair was in pony tails. Norman didn't always feel like training, so he joined in now and then. I had this thought as I observed my Norman's casual attitude towards race prep: "He is going to be burnt toast on race day." 

That's what I thought.


Francie runs for chocolate
Race day arrived, and it brought a thunderstorm with it. Norman heard the rain pounding on the roof and said, "I'm not running in this. I'll end up getting sick!" It was two hours before race time when he made this announcement.

"Well, we've paid for it, so I'm running. You can drop me off and be the race photographer," I said with resolve. I really wanted to run this race together, but oh well. I laced up my five-week-old shoes and rode the short distance to the race. Norman parked the car and met me at the starting gate: "I've changed my mind. I'm going to run." 

Team Taylor for the chocolate!

The Bible has plenty of "run the race" verses. The parallels between running and living the Christian life are inescapable:

A race may have an unexpected outcome. "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." (Ecclesiastes 9:11) 

One would assume that the race would always be won by those who trained for it, but "time and chance" can change that. I trained as diligently as possible, but I came in 116th-place in my age category! My Norman trained when he felt like it, then took off like a 6-foot-four cougar and I never saw him again until I crossed the finish line...several minutes behind him. We never know how a person is going to finish until the end of their race.

With Patience

A race requires patience. "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us," (Hebrews 12:1) 

Running is placing one foot in front of the other, over and over again. This is so much like the repetitive nature of the ministry. We lather, rinse, and repeat our various duties every week. It would be easy to become weighted down with cares and distractions (life is so full of them). If you feel like quitting, confide in someone who will be your spiritual "cheerleader." It did me a world of good to look out into the crowd of spectators and see my sister Janelle and brother-in-love Dennis, cheering us on. Running with patience is easier with support. 
Sis Janelle

That Ye May Obtain

A race has a prize at the end. "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain." (1 Corinthians 9:24) 

The top ten are an elite group in any race, making the rest of us noble participants. My Norman told me how his head shifted into high gear once he realized that he was in a real race. The "old athlete" was called into service and he ran to win. Amazingly, he came in 9th place for the 65-69-year-old men's category! (And this was the man who wasn't going to run. I'm still saying "humph" over that!) Are we running our race as Christians with real goals of honoring the Lord, sharing the gospel, and serving others with our lives, or are we just strolling towards the finish line? 

Hot Chocolate prizes
This race was yet another experience that had many scriptural similarities. I see lessons everywhere: in the garden, by the ocean, and now, on the running course.

At the end of the race, the runners were handed large mugs filled with hot chocolate. They also gave us hot fudge fondue, giant marshmallows, bananas, and Rice Krispy bars for dunking in the fondue. The proceeds from the race will go to the Ronald McDonald House, providing housing for families with a hospitalized child who have to travel far from home for the hospital stay.

Running for a cause is a "work of heart." It is also a picture of life in the ministry. Run with patience.

"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3:18)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What I Learned Over Pizza and Baby Carrots

I love teaching at conferences, and I especially enjoy going to Pensacola Christian College for the Enrichment Retreat. Even though I am one of the workshop speakers, this teacher ends up on the learning end every time. Isn't it funny how those of us who serve to refresh others have often been refreshed as well?

While the sessions and workshops were spot on, my favorite time was with the students. I have a tradition of sending a text backed up with a Facebook message, alerting the Minnesota students to meet me for a pizza party while I'm on campus. I'm a "face from home," and they are my "research subjects." I never tell them about the research in advance. It would spoil the party.

We had five large pizzas, two bags of baby carrots, and one bottle of yogurt-ranch dressing. We also had a bakery box of chocolate chip cookies, but we forgot all about them until the end. That would never have happened with homemade chocolate chip cookies.

I have a pre-planned question for every visit. This year's question: "Why are so many students graduating from Bible College and then leaving church?"

Consider these responses:

1. Adults make the ministry look uninviting. 
Why would they want to "sign on" with us if we're always looking so stressed out and unhappy? Suggestion: If you love the ministry, let it show. "Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing." (Psalm 100:2)

2. Problems are not properly addressed.
Too many young people are carrying wounds inflicted by heavy-handed adults intending to "correct" them. And even when it is known that a situation was mishandled, apologies are rare. Inconsistencies from authorities have caused untold damage. Is it any wonder that some students are just counting the days until they can move on?
Suggestion: Instead of staging a cover-up or pretending that problems don't exist, deal with things properly. Otherwise, we may find that some are unwilling to stay in a place where offenses are ignored rather than handled appropriately. "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle." (Proverbs 18:19)

3. The family comes last.
Long hours in the ministry were mentioned as so common that some students had friends who were in the church building seven days a week (unwillingly). 
Suggestion: Remember your own family while serving others. Sacrificial love and attention are needed at all stages, for all family members. "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." (John 15:12)

The students mentioned other things as well, but the overall direction of the dialogue was this: "We don't want something that looks so user-unfriendly."

Is it time for us to make some adjustments?

If we're not too proud, we'll carefully consider these observations without taking it personally. The Scripture reminds us that "Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom." (Proverbs 13:10) If we imagine that these young people "don't know what they're talking about," pride is winning and reason is losing. These students weren't condemning adults (and they are also adults themselves, even though we struggle to see them as such). They were answering a question.

The responses of these young adults were delivered thoughtfully. Not one student had a tone of whining or accusation. I asked a question, and in the limited time that we had they answered honestly. My guess is that they would have had even more to offer if they had more time to think about it. Are we open to suggestions, or do we just demand compliance?

I don't want to have my home church become the First Baptist Church of No Young People, and I'm guessing that it's not your goal, either. I was grateful for the candid feedback, so I'm sharing it with the hope that it may provide some beneficial insights for more than just my research files. 

When was the last time you had a good conversation with someone outside of your peer group? There's a lot that could be learned by opening up a dialogue and hearing another point of view.  Order some pizzas, launch the discussion with a thoughtful question and then just listen. Suggestion: Skip the baby carrots.

"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." (Proverbs 9:9)

Francie Taylor is the Editor-in Chief at www.keeptheheart.com. Read more on the website and in the popular quarterly eMagazine, Keep the Heart.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

How (Not) to Become a Crabby Lady

Just what you needed today: three steps for becoming a Crabby Lady. It doesn't take much effort, because crabbiness comes naturally or is easily mastered.

1. Have adult temper tantrums when things don't go your way.

2. Keep telling yourself that other people are really the source of all your problems.

3.  Catalog your hurt feelings. Be sure to alphabetize them for easier access.

Crabbiness is such an easy habit to develop, but it's not a desirable way to live. Just like that crab on the sand, we could hurt someone with our snappiness. When we pinch people with words, they move away. Are we really intending to become repellant? Crabbing at people will achieve this goal, even if it's unintended.

It's not a problem when we have an occasional day that's just a bit "off character," but when it becomes our only mode of operating, it's time to evaluate what's truly bothering us.

Are you sniping because you hate your job?

Are you snapping because your calendar is overbooked?

Are you snarling because you don't feel well?

Are you being snarky because you're really upset about something else?

What's really bothering you? If it's changeable, are you working on it? If it's unchangeable, have you prayed for the grace to live within your situation? 

Life is so much like roses: it comes with thorns. The Apostle Paul had a "thorn in the flesh" that he didn't describe in detail, but he did mention that he prayed "thrice" (three times) that the thorn might "depart" from him. 

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
(2 Corinthians 12:7--9 KJV)
Did you see God's response to Paul's request? God didn't rush in and provide instant thorn removal, but reminded Paul that he already had an unlimited supply of God's abundant and all-sufficient "grace." The Strong's Concordance describes this "grace" as follows: ...merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

Whether you are in a changeable or unchangeable circumstance, handle matters wisely if you want things to turn out well. Dancing around the issue just keeps you from getting to the point. Hiding our feelings in a cloak of crabbiness is an unsuccessful tactic that usually ends in increased unresolved conflicts.

Don't pile on the crabbiness. Get to the source of what's wrong, and deal with it. Gently. Wisely. Prudently, with carefully chosen words. You don't want to become a permanent Crabby Lady. Graciousness is far more becoming.

Wise handling of matters leads to a good outcome.

He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he. (Proverbs 16:20)

Writer's Block-Breaking Clogs

I am in the final stages of completing a ladies' devotional book, and I hit a WALL constructed of "Writer's Blocks." This happens for all creative types, and we have to be equally creative at breaking down the wall.

Today, I'm wearing my Mom's old clogs to break my writer's block. 

I took them out of the back of the guest room closet where I had tucked them away. I often forget where I've put things, but I was completely aware of their presence at all times. I opened the closet, reached for the clogs hidden behind a stack of boxes, and then hugged them.

"There she goes about her Mom again." If you've read my blog or Facebook posts since May 2015, you know how much I miss her. Can't hide it. Won't try.

The clogs were dusty, so I polished them and then I slipped them on. I've never been a fan of clogs, but Mom liked them because she could just walk into them and slip them off with ease. This means a lot when your mobility is limited.

Do you miss someone who has passed away? Do you have to stop yourself from reaching for the phone to dial their number?

I hope that you have something that allows you to remember your loved one. At first you may remember with tears, but try to remember some of the joy as well. As I wear Mom's clogs at my writer's standing-desk, I can recall how many times I thought to myself: "Clogs don't go with every outfit."

But my Mom was so classy, she could pull it off. 

Here's to finishing a devotional book, in Mom's clogs, with her photo on the wall next to my desk. I am so eternally grateful for the powerful influence Mom had in my life. I hope to honor her by doing a few simple things: I want to live justly, with mercy, and walk humbly with my God. 

That would honor both God and Mom.

"He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8)

When You Want to Run Away

Does it ever feel  like life is ganging up   on you  so much that you want to  run away? Get in l...