Tag Archives: perspective

The Long Game

Sunday was a strange day for me. I spoke first at the 125th anniversary of the church I grew up in. They invited me back as the “Voice of the Past” which was very humbling and also horrifying. I do not know how I got to be the voice of their past when it seems like just yesterday I was a teenager there.

After that, I spoke in the evening at the church where I first served as a full time ordained pastor, 30 years ago.

Through the day, I saw people I hadn’t seen in 30-40 years. Some of those people looked exactly the same. Some I could barely recognize.

At both places, I essentially said the same thing: How did this happen? How in the word did life go by so fast? Shouldn’t someone have warned us?

At both places, I also saw something quite clearly that I was unable to see during my time in each place. Now, I can see the Long Game.

In churches, at work or school or in families, it is so easy to get caught up in the drama that is the present. We get immersed in that world, that microcosm, and it feels like these things have never happened before or that we will be here forever, spinning in this current situation.

When I went back to the places from my past, this time I could see the Long Game. I could now see that we are all in just a relay race. We are only here for a bit. Then we pass the baton to the next pastor or the next staff member and they continue the race.

God has a Long Game and we are only runners in a small part of it.

Maybe one of the most helpful things we can do when struggling with the angst or drama of our current situation is to Zoom Out, to try to see the Long Game, to look at it from God’s perspective.

At the second place I spoke, a young man emerged from the crowd when I was finished. I didn’t recognize him at first because he was a teen thirty years ago. He was one of my biggest challenges when I was a youth pastor. He once threw about 100 pencils successfully into ceiling tiles at the church. He always leaned too far back in his chair and fell out each week as the conversation began getting serious or prayer time began. I still  talk about him now as an illustration about problem children or challenging people. He knows that he made me think more than once about quitting when I was his youth pastor.

He reminded me on Sunday that he’s an emergency medical worker now, yes, the kind that saves people. He has led youth Bible Studies. He said he has two boys that look and act like he used to. He told me, “I would never miss the chance to hear you speak, you meant so much to me.”

When I was in the stressful situation, I could not see God’s Long Game.

Are you in the midst of something tough? Are you caught up in the drama of some present situation?  Zoom Out. Imagine the story 30 years later or a lifetime later or long after you are gone. Remember it is not all on your shoulders, you are part of a relay.

Run as hard as you can in your segment of life in this world, do your best, be kind, matter to others and then go where God calls you next and let God’s Long Game play out. Zoom Out.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor.      

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Night Verses Light

Our daughter has always had fun with words. She twists them, turns them and creates new ones that make more sense. When she was about three she told us she smelled a “Stunk”.  Skunk is a great word but, my goodness, stunk is better. No wonder she grew up to be a very good speech pathologist.

When she was young, she would tell me things her “Sleep Brain” was telling her. Not dreams really but crazy, untruths. She somehow knew, even as a girl, that her awake brain and her sleep brain had two different points of view.

Because of her use of language, I’m able, even now, to examine a thought or perception that happens in the night as just my “sleep brain” talking. Every once in a while, in that state between wake and sleep my brain will be insightful, useful or come up with the answer to a problem from earlier in the day. “Oh, my headphones are in my hoodie pocket!” “Her name is Mary Ann!” I always marvel at my brain to work on something long after I forgot to think about it anymore.

But most of the time my sleep brain is not logical. She magnifies and distorts reality. She makes me worry and dream about pointless problems. Because I gave my heart, soul and career to the church for thirty years, my sleep brain still does a stunning amount of church work even though I let that go almost two years ago. I’ve spent many a night trying to organize sermon notes, make it to the sanctuary on time and find my clergy robe.

Basically, there is a huge difference between night thinking and light thinking. I try to keep my thoughts exposed to the light of day. I journal every day so I can be real with myself. I write down night thoughts and dreams. Sometimes I’ve even recorded my “Night Thinking” and listed right beside it my “Light Thinking.”

The Bible is redundantly about light. Ephesians 5, selected verses from The Message translation, You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer, you are out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get with it! The good, the right, the true–these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours….Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busy work, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham that they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on…the darkness…see how attractive everything looks in the light of Christ.

Night verses Light. Which one do you choose?

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace and a breast cancer survivor who loves God’s Light.   

      

Five Years

Five years ago today I found a lump in my breast. I was 49 years old and completely unprepared for the journey that would follow. For some reason, I never dreamed that cancer could happen to me at that point in my life.

In some ways I had it easy, only a lumpectomy, only one lymph node removed. It had not spread anywhere. No chemo, only radiation after the surgery and then a daily pill, Tamoxifen, since then. Mammograms, blood work and oncologist visits every six months. Some people go through so much more. I had it easy.

On the other hand, it completely rocked my world, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I realized early on that I would be fighting an emotional and spiritual battle along with the physical one. I had to deal with fear and facing my limitations. I had to call on God’s help. I had to depend on others.

I still deal with the side effects of the medication (weight gain, fatigue, joint pain, hot flashes, foot pain)  and I will not be getting it off of it anytime soon. My doctor says to count on several more years. I try not to glare at her when she tells me this because I know she’s on my team.

Despite my continuing treatment, five years is still a milestone for me and for cancer patients in general. It’s not a magic number but it is a marker that doctors use to breathe a sigh of relief. I wondered this morning if I’m allowed to count my five years from the day the journey started or maybe you are supposed to start counting it after surgery was over or radiation. Either way, I’m close.

I’ve heard some people say they are grateful for their cancer. I’m not there. But I am grateful for other things. I’m grateful that it helped me have a crystal clear perspective that life is short, fragile and that we only have right now. I’m grateful that I learned that I’m not invincible and that I need to take care of myself. I savor and celebrate more now.

In the last five years, our son graduated from college and got a big boy job. Our daughter got married, received her masters degree and gave birth to a beautiful boy. Our youngest son went from being a sweet 13-year-old boy to an amazing 18-year-old man. We’ve had holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, vacations and ordinary daily struggles. I count it all as gift.

My daughter has told me all along that she and I should get some kind of matching tattoos to commemorate the breast cancer battle and the victory. I told her I already have tattoos.  I have two scars and a whole set of black dot tattoos that marked me for radiation. I have a tumor marker implanted in my breast at the site of the lump. I am marked. I will not be forgetting this journey. No further tattoos needed here!

The devotional book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young sustained me daily these last five years. The entry for today, August 20, the beginning of my journey, has taken my breath away every single time I’ve read it because it is so spot on. “I am a God who heals. I heal broken bodies, broken minds, broken hearts, broken lives and broken relationships. My very Presence has immense healing powers….Your part is to trust Me fully and to thank Me for the restoration that has begun.”

Five years. Healing. New Life. Gratitude. Perspective. Trust. Thanks be to God!.

 

Seriously?

I’m not even a hard-core Dallas Cowboy’s fan.  I love watching them. I always have. I’m just not an over-the-top, paint my face blue, wear a Staubach jersey kind of fan. But even I had a major problem with what happened yesterday.  We Cowboy’s fans were robbed of a first down, maybe even a touchdown, on a very questionable call. Dez caught the ball.  In my opinion, it should have been ruled a catch due to his pure athletic ability alone.  Seriously.

And just like that, the game was over; the play-off hopes were down the drain; and the season suddenly ended–all under such questionable circumstances. “Not fair!” I said, along with several thousand other people.  I complained.  I lamented.  I asked if anything could be done to change it.  I felt bitter and angry.

The feeling of injustice took me to Twitter where I could commiserate with others.  It was there I noticed other things were going on in our world beyond football.  People were marching in France and in other places in an act of solidarity against acts of terror.  Acts of terror, now there’s injustice.

It reminded me of the injustice of racism and all the recent protests in response to recent events. That reminded me of how unfair and awful it was when those innocent police officers were gunned down in retaliation. All unfair and wrong.  Diseases are unfair.  Just ask anyone who has had one or lost a loved one to one.  Drunk drivers rob innocent people of their lives on a daily basis.  Talk about unfair.  Despair resulting in suicide and the toll that takes on family, friends and communities.  Unfair. That some are unlucky enough to be born into poverty and don’t have the opportunity to do life well-fed, adequately housed or properly educated. Unfair. This list could go on and on.  I won’t even discuss the unspeakable injustice of men being able to lose weight faster than women.

I’m not going to lie, it took me several hours to adjust my attitude and strong sense of sport’s fan indignation yesterday. But perspective helped.  Life is not fair on so many levels.  Forgive me, God, when I can’t see what really matters. Seriously.    .