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Blessed Beyond Measure?

Same Song, Different Verse

Photo Courtesy David Balentine
Photo Courtesy David Balentine

During my tenure at Disney and Disney Institute, many wonderful people have blessed my life. They all say the feeling is mutual. Isn’t that perhaps the most amazing Grace that we can go through daily life and have glimpses of Heavenly comfort for life’s ordinary activities?

David says it differently here…

Same Song, Different Verse“, by Barbershop singer extraordinaire, David Balentine:

I recently saw a friend at the grocery store and asked the typical “how’s it going” when we passed in the produce section. He gave the generic response “same song, different verse.” He went on about not having any variety to his life and everything had the same, boring routine.

Fast forward a few weeks to a cold Sunday afternoon. On the second Sunday of each month a small group from our local church meets at a nursing home to sing hymns for the residents for about an hour. This is a benevolent work our congregation has led for over 25 years. The songs are familiar tunes that have been around anywhere from 50 to 200 years. Their tunes and lyrics evoking visions of rest, peace, happiness, home, joy, salvation and the like.

One of the hymns we sing is one of the most recorded in history. It is well known and has been for many generations. Most of the verses can be quoted even by the occasional singer. But not all of its verses are as familiar as others. It’s the words to one of the verses that give me the assurance that the temporary nature of our earthly body is just that . . . temporary.

“Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease
I shall possess within the veil
A life of joy and peace.”

There are times where we over look the importance of a different verse. It’s not that one verse is superior to the others. We get so caught up in our routine of only singing familiar verses that we overlook the entire message as intended by the writer.

What about the routine of the residents of this facility? Most of them are bound to a wheelchair, an electronic scooter or their own bed. Their eyes are tired and can no longer read the pages of a hymnal. But to see their eyes fill with tears when they hear a song from days gone by . . . well, it’s difficult to keep from crying yourself.

The gift of God’s amazing grace should make us appreciate every verse of every song, even if it’s the same song every day.

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Hope

Laura’s Cancer Journey Continues

Praying Another Day Of Hopefulness
Praying Another Day Of Hopefulness

As we age, we live long enough to see things that we never saw before. This means we see joy and we see pain. And we see them in many splendid variations.

Additionally, we see how others handle life’s events. A similar situation can happen to two people and their acceptance and handling of it is the opposite.

One might see dread, the other might see grace.

There are no one-size-fits-all answers to every life challenge.

There are choices we all have to make. And sometimes we might find ourselves in this scenario:

It’s a test we’d all like to pass, but none of us would ever want to take it.

The following story reminds me of this…

Good friend David Balentine sent an update from his friend, Laura, who’s been battling cancer for three long years. Just when you think you can’t go on, life piles one more seemingly unbearable thing in your path. And yet, Laura perseveres. Here she is, in her own words:

I am sad to report that yesterday my sweet mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. At this point, we don’t have any further information. They will spend the next few weeks meeting with doctors, receiving more tests, and learning her treatment plan. In the meanwhile, I would ask that you please pray for wisdom for the doctors and strength for Bill and Judy (Bill, my father-in-law). Please also pray for my precious sister-in-law, Elise, who just had a baby a month ago and now is facing this. And finally, for my wonderful husband, Bill. I can’t imagine living with the reality of having a wife with metastatic breast cancer and a mother that has just been diagnosed. Please pray that the doctors will be given wisdom; that Judy’s cancer will be small and treatable; and for the peace of God to surround the entire family.

Today when I took Gracy to ballet, I ran into my friend Betsy that I hadn’t seen for a while. Betsy and I were talking and she said, “How’s Bill?” I told her about his mother’s cancer. I told her we would have to tell the children tonight. I told her about my new treatments in Nashville and the toll that takes on him. I told her about his job. I told her about how well he had done in his MBA program — all of his hard work and dedication. And I told her that the only thing he feels like he has to show from it right now is an added financial burden because the loan pay back started this month. And after I told her all of this, I felt nothing but overwhelmed.

I got in my car, drove to a spot in the ‘A’ parking lot of Briarwood that looks out over the mountains, and just began talking to God. I told God that I didn’t like it. I told God that I didn’t understand it. I told God that it was overwhelming, and hard, and sad and difficult. And then I told God, “But you give, and you take away and blessed be your name.” And then I praised God because although I don’t know how, and I don’t see why, I know that he has us in this place and that it is a good place. I know that He loves us so much. I know that the purpose of the fire is refinement. And I know He will give us the grace and mercy to face each day.

For me, that has probably been the best part of my cancer journey. It has brought my faith to a place that has transformed the ‘hard knocks’ of life into ‘soft bumps’. It’s not easy, it’s not fun, it’s not what I would choose, but I know that wherever I am, it is in that very place that He will meet me. And I praise him for that.

When I finished praying, I turned on the radio and Steve Brown was speaking. He read a letter from a girl that is going through some tough times. The letter read, “God doesn’t love me like I want to be loved, but He loves me well. And I hate it.” Steve Brown laughed, and I laughed too, because I understand that sentiment completely. However, I would have to say, God doesn’t love me like I want to be loved, but He loves me well, and I love it. I love the hope. I love the peace. I love the growth. I love the closeness. I love the place where I am. I love the journey God has me on. I am ready to be healed, but I wouldn’t trade these past 3 ½ years for anything. I would do them all over again to reap the rewards of fellowship with the Father. But it has taken me 3 ½ years to get to that place. It has taken a lot of tears, a lot of prayer, a lot of sadness, and a lot of hurt to see the deeply buried treasures.

But now, as they are starting to appear, wow!, what utter richness and beauty.

Judy has been walking with the Lord longer than I have. Her faith is incredible. Her belief is solid. And I know she will find this road filled with treasure. However, the diagnosis is new. The cut is deep. The pain is real. The questions are unanswered. So please pray that God will pour out his blessings on her, Bill, Elise, and Bill. Pray specifically that God’s glory will be greater than all of our pain. And pray that God will wrap his loving arms around this amazing family that loves me as if I were born into it.

For His Glory,

Laura

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Hope

Update On Laura Black’s Cancer

As I write about Faith, Hope, and Love, other people have begun reading my blogs and leaving comments. This leads to conversations online and offline. And this leads to stories like this one…

Dear David & Jeannie Balentine,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wanted to share with you the good news that my cousin Laura recently received. For those of you that may not know about Laura, she was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was pregnant with her 3rd child. It has been quite a journey and at this time she is receiving experimental treatment in Nashville Tn. I couldn’t help but think about how at times when all seems lost, we can receive a ray of hope or in Laura’s case a rainbow.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:4

Laura writes:

Today is my birthday! For different people birthdays represent different things. For some, they are a time of remembering and reflection. For others, they are a time of looking forward. For me, they are a time to testify to the goodness of the Lord. When you are 32 years old and diagnosed with cancer, and 33 years old and diagnosed with metastatic cancer, a 36th birthday seems a near impossibility. But I am here! By God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and healing, I am here. I am here to tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, His power, and the wonders He has done!

In August, my largest tumor was 7 centimeters. You have to remember that a tumor is a spherical mass, not a flat one. 7 centimeters is about the size of an orange. The results of my last scan show that the largest tumor is now just over 1 centimeter. That’s about the size of the tip of your index finger. I’m here to tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, His power and the wonders He has done!

Yesterday morning, I wasn’t feeling well (no worries – totally not cancer related!) so I stayed home while Bill took the children to church. I was behind in my Read-through-the-Bible in a year, so I had some sweet time just catching up and being quiet with the Lord. Right now I’m reading in Exodus. Of course, Exodus is one of the places where you see a cluster of miracles. No matter how many times you read Exodus, it’s still amazing to see those miracles!

As I was reading through, I came across one of my favorite verses, Exodus 15:26 which ends with, ‘for I am the LORD, who heals you.’ The quiet, the Word, that verse, it all just made for some sweet, quality, close time communing with the Lord. As I began to pray, I was thinking about the fact that me even having another birthday is a tribute to His show of grace and mercy. So I told the Lord that for my birthday, I just wanted to feel especially close to Him. I asked that in some way, He would do something to make me feel like He was holding me close.

This morning I woke up and my sweet husband had prepared a birthday breakfast. The dining room table was set with a vase of red roses. My breakfast was on the red ‘You Are Special Today’ plate. My coffee was in the red, ‘You Are Special Today’ mug. There was a card and my favorite Dove dark chocolates at my place setting. We all sat down to breakfast and were just about finished when Caroline said, “Mommy! There’s a rainbow on you!” All of my family got excited as they looked at the rainbow that was across my forehead — my birthday present from God. I can’t imagine anything else that would make me feel more like I was especially close to Him. Bill took a picture, but he said, “It looks a lot better in real life.” I’m here to tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, His power and the wonders He has done!