Do We Actually Want Rest?

Many followers of Jesus know Matthew 11:28-30 by heart. At least the first part,

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

It sounds amazing! Most of us identify with the words weary and heavy-laden. We live in a culture that almost prides itself on being weary and heavy-laden. We tell one another stories about how busy we are, how tired and overworked and important we are. Weariness happens to us just by association, and we also allow it to happen.

I like the sound of Jesus’ voice here. His words echo like cool water on a fresh burn after touching something hot. Many of us hear his words and we want what he is offering, or we think we do. Some of us even cry out to Jesus begging him for this rest He promises,  yet way we structure our day, our week, our month, our year in such a way that it doesn’t fit our plea. Eugene Peterson’s version of verse 28 is quiet the invitation from Jesus, “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.”

How often do we really come to him and get away with him really? If we want what He is offering, this almost unimaginable rest that our bodies, minds and souls crave, then we have to accept the invitation. We have to actually carve out time and space in our day to get away with him and him alone.  Jesus goes on to say,

“I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (v 29) If I am reading this correctly, Jesus is actually going to be the one who teaches us how to rest. We certainly need that! We need to be taught how to rest.

The unforced rhythms of grace. What a great translation! Eugene, or should I say Jesus is offering something incredible here. It is a rhythm that we can lean into or reject. Jesus is offering us rest, offering to teach us how to rest. Will we take him up on his offer?

Advent Week 4: Joy as a Choice

Mary had a choice to make when her life drastically changed the night the the Angel Gabriel visited her. Would she remain in a state of fear or choose joy? According the Gospel writer Luke, Mary’s first response to the angel was fear in the moment, makes sense. But, Mary did not remain in a state of fear. Verse 38 says “the angel left her.” Being there in the room alone with the news of having a child out of wedlock, rehearsing the speech to tell Joseph that she hadn’t slept with another man, trying to figure out what to tell her parents…that reality sounds very scary to me.

After the visit from the angel, Mary soon leaves to be with her cousin Elizabeth because Gabriel told her that Elizabeth was pregnant. It seems that Mary wants to be with someone who might understand what she is going through. The two pregnant women see one another in Elizabeth’s home and the response is joy. The first words out of Mary’s mouth are, “My heart is overflowing with praise of my Lord, my soul is full of joy in God my Saviour.”(v46) Had Mary chosen to remain in a state of fear her response could have been much different. She could have focused on how her life would never be the same again, how she was going to have a baby that she didn’t know how to care for. She could have also obsessed about the possibility of being stoned to death when she went back home pregnant. She could have started the conversation with Elizabeth stressed about where they would live, how Joseph would earn money, or any of the other fearful things that come with having a kid. Instead Mary chose joy.

Some might say, of course she chose joy, she was going to give birth to Jesus. The Messiah was inside her. Isn’t that what has happened to us as well? “that sacred mystery which up to now has been hidden in every age and every generation, but which is now as clear as daylight to those who love God. They are those to whom God has planned to give a vision of the full wonder and splendour of his secret plan for the sons of men. And the secret is simply this: Christ in you! Yes, Christ in you bringing with him the hope of all glorious things to come.” (Col 1:25-27) 

Choosing to believe this mystery that Christ is in us could be the way for us to join Mary this Christmas and chose joy over fear, no matter what we are going through.

Advent Week 2: Suffering as a Teacher

As followers of Jesus, we don’t really like to talk about suffering. We tend to like to praise God when good things happen, when we land the big deal, our kids succeed at something they worked hard for, or when God provides in some overt way. But if things like perseverance, character and hope are desirable traits, then why are we so surprised when suffering comes?

Jesus’ parents knew suffering. There is one very understated line of Jesus’ birth story in Luke that hints of the suffering of his parents, especially his mom. “…Mary, now in the later stages of her pregnancy. So it happened that it was while they were there in Bethlehem that she came to the end of her time. She gave birth to her first child, a son.” (Luke 2: 5-6) As a man, I know nothing about the suffering of being in the later stages of pregnancy. I have, however, been a witness to the suffering. Any husband who pays attention can see that there is a lot of suffering, especially in the last few weeks before the child comes. I can try to picture being Joseph, traveling 90 miles with Mary by foot or donkey through rough terrain just days before my son’s birth. But, think about the suffering of this teenage girl Mary is almost unimaginable.

Our family has experienced quite a bit of suffering the past three years as we continue to walk through this journey with Anna’s cancer. Similar to when our kids were born, I know nothing of the day-to-day suffering that Anna experiences in her body, but I am a witness to the suffering. I am also experiencing my own suffering as her husband, and as a parent who is raising our three young kids with Anna in this reality.

Paul writes, “…suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint” (Rms 5:3-4) After years of suffering, our family is slowly seeing perseverance, character and hope building in us, especially our children. We also see these traits in our extended family and community of friends who love Jesus and love us. They are suffering through this cancer journey with us, and we are learning together how suffering is a teacher.

“Suffering is not so much about pain as it is about giving up and losing control.”           -Dan Bruner

Anna Cancer Update: On Hope and Suffering

It was late fall 2017 that we last titled a blog post: “Anna Update.” For months there just wasn’t much to report. Anna was feeling good and we were encouraged by her progress. Her December scan showed that her tumor and lymph node activity was the same as the previous scan at the end of the summer. It wasn’t until her scan in early May that we received new news. The news was such that a blog post was the last thing on our minds. The news was that the tumor had grown in size and beyond the original location of the body. After we gathered ourselves and considered viable next steps, we decided together for Anna to begin a 3-6 month regimen of chemotherapy. We are 5 treatments in, and are just now beginning to catch our breath.

I looked back at that last “Anna Update” post and the subject was Waiting and Hoping. Turns out we may not be very good at either. We thought we had learned a few things over the years about waiting and hoping, and perhaps we have, but we know very little about how to actually do it. How do you wait and hope? There is a section of Romans 5 on hope that I have not ever liked,

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not disappoint…” (Romans 5:1-5a)”

The part I don’t like is suffering. Paul says that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Anna and I want to learn to hope but we don’t want to suffer. Who does?!

Suffering isn’t a popular word in our culture. According to Dan Bruner, “Becoming Christ-like will involve suffering. Suffering is what causes us to trace our lives after the example of the suffering King. Suffering is not about pain. Suffering is about giving up and losing control.” Maybe that is what it means to wait and hope. Maybe it’s about embracing suffering, releasing control. And perhaps that is why Paul mentions suffering as the precursor to endurance, character and hope. We want all of those things, but we pushback against the suffering.

So, as I mentioned, we are just now beginning to catch our breath. We don’t know what the days and weeks ahead hold, but we are certain that God is with us in the suffering, in the hoping. The learning process this past year since Anna’s diagnosis has been so valuable for us. We have asked God from the beginning to direct our steps, and to specifically show us the next step along the way. This has been a source of comfort as He has answered that prayer over and over this past year. We see this current treatment as the next step of trusting God in the process.

It’s almost hard to type because it doesn’t make sense on paper, but we are finding ourselves more and more grateful – grateful for the suffering; grateful for the hope that we have in Jesus. And, grateful for the many friends and family who are with us. We have been overwhelmed at the care and support of so many who love us. We are not in this alone, not by a long shot!

Thanks be to God!

Anna Update/ Shawn Book Release

For the past 10 years I have primarily used this blog as a place to write, an avenue to process what I am learning about who God is and who I am. For the past 6 months I have blogged about Anna’s cancer and how our family is walking through this season of life. Today, I would like to update you on both fronts:

Anna update

It’s been seven months since Anna and I heard those dreaded words from the doctor, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have cancer.” We have experienced every emotion multiple times over since that surreal moment. Anna continues to feel pretty good physically, and we remain hopeful that she is slowly healing from cancer. It is still scary, surreal, and often very difficult for Anna, our kids and me.

Shawn book release

As you may know, for the past 3 years I have been working on a book titled, Am I Loved? Literally, one hour before that moment in the doctor’s office seven months ago, I was on the phone with the editor finalizing a chapter titled, Redefining Belief. Little did we know that our own belief was being redefined as we received Anna’s diagnosis.

During the past seven months we have believed more than ever that we are loved by God. Anna and I desire many others to learn to believe this truth as well. That’s why I have continued with the book project, even in the midst of this crazy season of life. I am pleased to announce the launch of the website along with the book, Am I Loved? for pre-sale on Amazon today!

In Matthew 25:27 Jesus says this about himself, “Just as the Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life to set many others free.” (Matthew 25:27) Anna and I have been set free, totally free, over the years through learning to believe the truth that we are loved by God. We desire to continue to partner with Jesus in his mission to “set many others free.”

Anna and I would love to have you joining us in this work of Jesus to set many other people free. This includes participating with God in Him setting each of us free, and helping others do the same. Am I Loved? has the capacity to be more than a book. It is the central message of God! You and I are loved!

Would you join this movement with us and dare to believe together that we are all loved by God? Way to join us:

  1. Pre-order the e-book (paperback release January 9th)
  2. Click here to read Chapter 1
  3. Recommend this book to others
  4. Visit AMILOVED.org

Petree_cover_front-1

Thanks for your continued prayers and for being in this belief journey with us. We truly do believe that God can do this, whatever His version of this is with Anna’s healing, and with each of us joining Him in setting many others free.

#amiloved

Cancer: Staging

We got a crash course in cancer staging our first few days after Anna’s tumor was discovered. We were told that an MRI and CT Scan were needed to determine staging so we scheduled her appointments. Here’s a pic that gives an overview of the Stages:

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Stage 1 is the hyperplasia; Stage 2 dyplasia; Stage 3 in situ cancer; Stage 4 Invasive cancer

We were hopeful for Stage 1 or 2, as surgery only is standard protocol. We were disappointed to learn from the doctor that Anna has Stage 3 colon cancer. The recommended protocol is 5 weeks of chemo and radiation to shrink the tumor, followed by surgery. As you might imagine, this was hard news for Anna and me both.

The morning after staging was complete and we talked to the doctor, Anna and I did our Pray As You Go together and found these words of Jesus appropriate and comforting:

“I leave behind with you—peace; I give you my own peace and my gift is nothing like the peace of this world. You must not be distressed and you must not be daunted. You have heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you really loved me, you would be glad because I am going to my Father, for my Father is greater than I. And I have told you of it now, before it happens, so that when it does happen, your faith in me will not be shaken. I shall not be able to talk much longer to you for the spirit that rules this world is coming very close. He has no hold over me, but I go on my way to show the world that I love the Father and do what he sent me to do.” (John 14:27-31 JBP)

“You must not be distressed and you must not be daunted.” Those words hung in the air as we listened to the reader say that statement of Jesus. As this reality of staging sets in we are doing our best not to be distressed and not to be daunted. Please continue to join us as we lean on the peace that is nothing like the peace this world offers.