He Knows

“I hate this place,” I couldn’t help but blurt out to Laurel.

We had just checked in for her ultrasound appointment last week, and had seated ourselves in the comfortable brown leather chairs that dot the large, modern lobby of the radiologists’ office.  It was tastefully decorated in neutral tones.  A towering stone fireplace stretched from floor to ceiling, the dramatic focal point of the room.

“Why do you hate it?  I think it’s nice,” she responded, a bit surprised by the intensity of my reaction.

If you’re a woman over 40, you’ll know instantly why I dislike this place.  This is where I go for my annual mammograms.  And I had just scheduled one for the following Monday.

Later that evening at my Thursday night Bible study, teacher Beth Moore transitioned into the closing of our DVD session with these words:

There’s no such thing as a ‘routine’ mammogram.”

I scribbled this on the bottom of my notes with a silent “Amen.”

She knows.

Beth went on to describe her visit to a similar radiologist’s office in Houston for some follow-up tests from her own recent mammogram.  Her daughter Melissa had accompanied her for moral support.  As they waited, Melissa scanned the ominous titles of the cancer brochures on the nearby rack and couldn’t help but exclaim, “This is brutal!”

Then she turned to her mom and said something profound:

Jesus knows it’s scary to be us.”

I jotted this down in my notes as well.

Because, yes.  It is.

The news this week brought fresh reminders of just how scary.  In case you missed it, tornadoes, floods and sinkholes wreaked havoc from Arkansas to Florida.  CNN reported that since Sunday 38 lives had been claimed by these deadly weather-related events.  I’ve mourned as I’ve read some of the stories of heroism…and loss.

It’s scary to be us.

Jesus knows.

I love the way The Message puts Hebrews 4:15:

We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. (Hebrews 4:15, The Message)

He knows what we’re going through.  He is with us.  He will help us.

I liked the King James rendering of this verse as well:

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities… (Hebrews 4:15a, KJV)

He feels our pain.  He knows our frailty.  He understands our fears.

A God who can be touched is a God who can be trusted.”

(That last quote was mine.  Feel free to copy it in your notes if you like.)

It was scary to answer the call from the radiologist’s office yesterday.  They want me to come back in this afternoon for additional images.  So, for the third time in eight days, I will walk through those foreboding automatic doors and taste that familiar fear as it rises and fills the cavernous waiting room.

Jesus knows it’s scary to be me today.

But with Him by my side I can face all my fears.

Jesus hands

*Update:  I’m grateful to report that all is well!  The technician showed me the spot they were concerned about and took two additional images of the area.  She left the room to go talk with the radiologist to see if he wanted an ultrasound.  It felt like she was gone a long time, maybe 15 minutes.  I just kept praying, and prayed specifically that God’s presence would fill this place and replace the fear with His peace.  Not just for me, but for the many other women who would sit in that room waiting and wondering.  When she finally returned she said the spot had “disappeared” and that even the radiologist hadn’t expected that outcome!  I don’t know what happened, but I’ll take it!  Thank You, Jesus!

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Guarded

Antelope are a sight I see every day.  Hundreds of these agile creatures call the Wyoming community where we live home.  They are beautiful animals; their dark horns and eyes a striking contrast to the tan and white stripes on their necks.  The pronghorns, as they are also known, form larger herds in the winter, frequenting our residential areas in search of a blade of grass or a pile of leaves poking up through the snow.  In the spring and summer, when food is more plentiful elsewhere, they spread out.  From what I understand, they are rarely solitary.

So I thought it was peculiar when I first spied the lone buck that May.  I’d notice him in the field adjacent to our house, sunning himself or munching on some foliage.  He was a majestic figure.   His horns towered above his head like a crown, and, judging by their size, he was not young.  I was inspired by his nobility and quiet strength.  He seemed unrushed, content.

I, on the other hand, was anything but a picture of calm.  An unanticipated personal storm had recently descended upon me, and my stress levels were high.  It was an emotional time, and my anxiety manifested itself in physical symptoms ranging from eye twitches to chest pain.  I had never been through anything quite this intense before.

I began to notice that the antelope was often nearby.  He seemed to appear just when I most needed a reminder that I was not alone.  I felt strangely comforted, protected, and guarded.  (With the exception of the night my daughter called to inform me that the antelope was eating my newly-budded daisies!  I told myself that a few flowers were a small price to pay for the pleasure of his company.)  His presence became to me a symbol of the nearness of God.

Spring stretched into summer, and my trial persisted.  But so did the daily antelope sightings.  I found myself watching expectantly for him, peering through the windows to see what side of the house he might be on.  The rest of the family even got into the action and shared in the fun of spotting him.  We affectionately dubbed him “The Lone Antie.”

One night in late July, feeling especially stressed, I opened my Bible and turned to Philippians 4:6, a familiar passage:  “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything.”  I could recite it from memory.   But it was the following verse that really struck me:  “…then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

I had never paid much attention to the word “guard” before, but that night it seemed to flash like a neon sign.  The study note in my Bible below the verse read:  guard…a military concept depicting a sentry standing guard.” I could picture God’s peace, standing like a military security guard at the gate of my heart, denying access to worry and fear.

The very next morning I noticed my antelope friend, bedded down across the street.  Wanting to savor the moment, I poured a cup of tea and settled into a chair on the porch.  Just then I observed something about the buck that I had previously overlooked.  He was lying in the shade of a pine tree directly in front of our house, but I hadn’t paid much attention to his position.  He actually had his back towards me, facing out, as if he were guarding our house!  I was moved to tears by yet another reminder of the Lord’s vigilant presence.

I pondered this vivid picture God had given me that summer of His protective care. I felt surrounded by His peace and enveloped in His love, overwhelmed that He would go to such lengths to provide tangible evidence of His nearness during a trying time in my life.

God never promised to insulate us from heartache and storms.  But He did promise to be with us, and to guard our hearts and minds with His peace.  “The Lord Himself watches over you!” declared the writer of Psalm 121, “The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.”  If you find yourself in the middle of a difficult season, know that God is always close at hand, and then be on guard yourself!  He may “show up” in the most unexpected places.

“The Lone Antie”

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