October 7, 2013

A 6-week study with Susan Cady

A Story of Being Filled with Beauty and Truth 

Fill your minds with beauty and truth.
Philippians 4:8 (The Voice)
Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise – dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8 (HCSB)
What does a life characterized by beauty and truth look like? What does it mean to fill our minds with beauty and truth? What does this look like on a daily basis in the midst of doing ordinary life with our ordinary tasks and daily to-do lists? What does it look like when life throws us a curve ball we weren’t expecting?
So often as women, we measure our worth and the substance of our lives by our accomplishments, perfections, performances and a constant striving to be accepted and approved by others. I don’t know about you but for me that is e.x.h.a.u.s.t.i.n.g! If this is the basis for our identity then, what happens when one season of life that has so defined us, ends? What happens when circumstances take a turn and we find ourselves in a place we did not expect nor want to be? I have shared many times before that the true measure of who we are is based solely on who we are in Christ Jesus. But how do we learn to live out that identity on a daily basis in the midst of our busy lives and unexpected circumstances? So much of how we view our worth and the basis for our attitudes, reactions and responses are based on what is going on inside our heads.I don’t know about you, but for me that is battlefield and the “off” switch never seems to work! Philippians 4:6-8 offers us some answers but first I want to share my friend Lori’s story with you and the inspiration for this study.
I want to introduce you to my precious and long-time friend, Lori. We first met when our children were young (and we are now empty nesters). Chris and I had just purchased our dream home right next to Lori and Blair. We were their “unchurched” neighbors and they loved on us and invited us into their lives without judgment. We became fast friends. That year Chris and I both surrendered our lives to Christ. They poured into us and showed us what it meant to be the hands and feet of Christ. Although we ended up losing our house (consequence of my shopaholic days), we remained friends and they continued to minister love and grace to us. When we both began homeschooling our children, we’d take field trips together, do projects together, and just hang out. Later Lori and Blair gave up suburban life and Blair’s engineering job to move back to their home state of Pennsylvania and become organic farmers. They settled into life on the farm. We missed them terribly, but we each took turns making visits to one another.

Then in 2005, Lori and Blair’s lives changed in an instant and dramatically! Blair stood to teach on a Wednesday evening at their church and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage caused by an arterial venous malformation. Life changed drastically that day for Blair, Lori and their girls. Life as they knew it would never be the same. Long story short, Blair was told he would never fully recover. At one point Lori was told he would probably spend the rest of his days in a full-time care facility. But God had other plans! Blair came home. He was granted permanent disability by the state. They began to try to find the new normal with Lori taking on most of the responsibilities for which she used to rely on Blair. But God had other plans. In 2011, they began considering a move back to Georgia where their girls wanted to attend college. Unbeknownst to Lori, Blair had begun applying for engineering jobs. He was offered a job in Atlanta. After seven years of being on total and permanent Social Security Disability, Blair is now working again as an electrical engineer. It is amazing how God works! The portion of Blair’s brain that contained all that engineering knowledge and skill remained intact. In the years following Blair’s episode, Lori began to feel lost. 
Listen to her words:
“It was at a time when I was starting to rebuild my faith.  Blair’s illness and our church experience at the time had left me floundering around and feeling unsure of what I really believed and what was really true. I saw how quickly life can change and I didn’t want to continue living the same old way. So I asked God what it meant for me to really live. His answer was 1) walk without fear, 2) love unconditionally, and 3) embrace beauty, which I think means in others, in ourselves, in nature, in our homes, everywhere!” – Lori Fink

When Lori shared this with me across my kitchen table last year, it resonated powerfully with my heart and soul. All weekend, I could not get those three statements out of my mind. God brought reminders from His Word as I contemplated Lori’s statements. After several months, her words continued to ring true in my head and heart as I thought about what it meant to really live for the Lord and to find my identity completely in Him! So I asked Lori if she would grant me permission to use her three statements, and the truths I had begun to uncover in the Word, to write a study to encourage others in living the abundant life in Christ. She agreed! So pull up a chair at the kitchen table with Lori and me and listen in on our conversation. We’ll be having a cup of hot tea and maybe some tea cookies or scones. You grab a cup of tea, coffee or whatever you’d like and join us! 
Over the next several weeks, I will be sharing more of Lori’s story and will unpack what it means to:
  1. Embrace Beauty
  2. Love Unconditionally
  3. Walk without Fear
  4. Know Truth
Philippians 4:8 will be our guiding verse as we seek to live out these powerful statements by filling our minds with beauty and truth!
Susan Cady is a Women of Warren Bible Study teacher and a speaker for All For His Glory Ministries