Monday, July 2, 2012

Do What You Can, Not What You Can't

Yesterday I preached mainly from 2 Corinthians 8: 7-15. I really wanted to preach the Gospel lectionary passage, Mark 5: 21-43, but the Lord kept drawing me back to Paul's words to the church in Corinth. And He kept drawing me, not to the reading as it is in the New Living Translation that I usually use, He kept drawing me to the reading as found in The Message. Hang with me because this doesn't just relate to church or life, but these words and the advice they hold relate to our battle plan as we fight melanoma.

You do so well in so many things—you trust God, you're articulate, you're insightful, you're passionate, you love us—now, do your best in this, too.
I'm not trying to order you around against your will. But by bringing in the Macedonians' enthusiasm as a stimulus to your love, I am hoping to bring the best out of you. You are familiar with the generosity of our Master, Jesus Christ. Rich as he was, he gave it all away for us—in one stroke he became poor and we became rich.
So here's what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart's been in the right place all along. You've got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can't. The heart regulates the hands. This isn't so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you're shoulder to shoulder with them all the way, your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit. In the end you come out even. As it is written,

   Nothing left over to the one with the most,
   Nothing lacking to the one with the least. (2 Corinthians 8: 7-15, The Message)

Now, yesterday as I write, there was a message for my church, Warren Plains United Methodist, in this entire passage. And I'm not going to preach that here. Instead, look at the two sentences highlighted in red. 

That is applicable to life and it's applicable to our fight against melanoma. Hopefully and prayerfully we've got the commitment. We're fully committed to life and winning this battle. But what do we do with that commitment beyond this point? How often do we focus on what we can't do and don't have instead of focusing on what we can do and what we do have in our arsenal? Where are our hearts...really? Our actions really do follow our hearts and not the other way around. And where our treasures are is where we'll find our hearts (Matthew 6: 21). In other words, our hearts follow what we treasure and THAT is what we act on.

If we treasure what we cannot do and do not have then our actions will follow suit. I do not have hope. I do not have energy or strength. I cannot find a reason to get out of bed or keep going. I do not have anybody who supports me or understands. I cannot afford what I need. I do not have the best treatment. I cannot ever put a smile on my face because I do not have any reason to even fake a smile. I cannot ever be the slightest bit pleasant to be around. I do not see anything even remotely resembling a blessing in all this. I cannot get melanoma out of my head. ...Get the picture?

We all go these places sometimes. But if we go these places and take up residence and they become our "treasure" and our hearts start to focus on these things then...we become people that other people cannot tolerate being around and they do not have to be around us. We become complainers and whiners. Stop and think: in all honesty, how often are YOU drawn to someone that can only focus on the down and dark side? How much time do YOU want to spend with someone who complains all the time...even if they have something to complain about? Like you have something to complain about with melanoma?  How often do YOU try and understand what someone else is struggling with if all they do is talk about how "no one understands"? Everybody lives and struggles with something. And for them their issues may not be melanoma or any other cancer, but they are important and painful. Maybe even fatal or potentially lethal.

Often, when we complain about other people, we really need to stop and look at our reflection in the mirror. What do other people really see in us? What do they really hear when we open our mouths? Not just sometimes, but all the time? We don't just want other people to be around us. We need other people. What can we do? What do we have?

We can make decisions. We can choose to rise above ourselves, our situation, our moods. We can actually choose to put a smile on our face even when we don't feel like it. We can choose to say "thank you" when someone tries to help us instead of telling them everything they did  wrong. We can choose our tone of voice when it really is necessary to correct someone about something. We can choose how we conduct ourselves no matter how others conduct themselves.

We can make the most of what we have. We all have plenty of things we can't do. Those things become our "impossibles" and that's God's job. We aren't ever called to do what we can't do. We are called to do what we can. We are never told to use tools that we simply do not have. We're told to use what we've got. Use your own talents, gifts, and graces. You cannot use someone else's.

If you're reading this then you have access to the Internet. Not happy with your treatment? Research. You can assist your doctor. Aim At Melanoma, Melanoma Research Foundation, National Cancer Institute are great places for info. Think you might benefit from a clinical trial but your doctor isn't up on them? You can help with that as well and investigate what you may be eligible for.

We can each choose to be the blessing for someone else that we would like to receive. Funny how what goes around comes around. Why do we usually only quote that when something bad happens? It applies to life in general. It's not fool-proof. Good can arise from bad and often does. Bad can arise from good and often does. As a rule though, whether something starts off as good OR bad, and no matter if bad initially comes from it, give it time and be observant and good will have the final say.

Even with something like melanoma.  Do what you can, not what you can't.

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, wrote what he called The General Rules and they are as true today as they were over 200 years ago when he wrote them. And they are true for everyone, not just practicing Methodists. That includes those of us living with melanoma:

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.

As you are right now. With what you have at your disposal, right now.

And be grateful you can. And others will be grateful also.

God bless!