It Is Well With My Soul: April 12, 2022

It Is Well With My Soul

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” – Philippians 2:5-7 (emphasis mine)

Verses 6-11 of this passage are said to be a hymn about Christ, and it is part of verse 6 that I have emphasized above. It just renders me speechless to know that Jesus “did not view equality with God as something to be exploited” and that he chose to be born in human likeness, giving up all of the powers that He had as the second person of the Trinity. He chose to be born in an occupied land to people who had no power or prestige. He was born in a manger, in a filthy place instead of in a castle. He worked as a carpenter, which I have heard was more like a construction worker of sorts at that time. The Son of God chose to give up everything he had and to live among us. How amazing and earthshattering is that?!?!?

A few years ago on Maundy Thursday, I was kneeling in prayer while the altar was being stripped, and my mind went to Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. He was praying that he wouldn’t have to die on the Cross. He knew it was part of the plan, He knew it would be excruciatingly painful, and He was having what seemed to be a moment of fear. What came to me that night was that Jesus is present with us in those liminal times when we are about to face some kind of transition. Those kinds of times are really scary for me because change is scary. Yet, Jesus emptied Himself and became human to understand the fear that we face, and He is there with us as we are facing it.

How amazing is our Lord!

Lord, we thank you for choosing to give up equality with God so that you could come and live as one of us, die in our place, and make it so that death is not the end. This gift of love is more than we can fathom. Amen.
-Jen McCabe

It Is Well With My Soul: April 11, 2022

It Is Well With My Soul

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, treat each other with humility and honor.” – Philippians 2:5

Something was growing in my body that did not belong there. Not only that, but it could spread, and eventually could kill me. It was the dreaded “C” word, the one that had claimed my mother and my friends, Marilyn, Susan, and Jane – among others.

My prognosis was good; surgical removal of my reproductive organs and associated lymph nodes should completely take care of it. That was good news, but I mourned the loss of the parts of my body that helped define me as female, wife, and mother.

I experienced Philippians 2:5 as I approached family friends and co-workers with my diagnosis. I was treated with humility and honor as others shared their, often similar, experiences. My sons and their families all came to visit on Christmas before the surgery. Members of St. Paul’s created a prayer quilt and prayers for my recovery were tied into the quilt. Medical professionals helped me understand the various options that were available and listened to my concerns and fears.

At the hospital, while waiting for my surgery, I sat with my prayer quilt and several of the medical workers stopped to ask about it and to wish me well. As I waited for the appointed time, I was apprehensive but calm. I could feel the prayers surrounding me and upholding me. All was well with my soul.

After the successful surgery, friends and coworkers continued to provide prayers and support with food, texts, cards, and messages. The community lived out the mind of Christ in treating me, and one another, with humility and honor.

Dear God, help us to have the mind of Christ and to treat one another with humility and honor. Bless all those who are ill and be with their families and caregivers. Give us grateful hearts, for we pray in your most holy name. Amen.
-Cathey Frederick

It Is Well With My Soul: April 10, 2022 (Palm Sunday)

It Is Well With My Soul

“…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…” – Philippians 2:10b

Every morning, and again every evening, I genuflect at the foot of my bed, saying the simple prayer, “Bless us, Lord, this day we pray/Bless us, Lord, this night we pray.” I have been doing this since I was a young girl. It reminds me, the first thing each morning and the last thing each night, to bend my knee in adoration and confession and thankfulness and supplication in Jesus’ name.

And here, today! The Prince of Peace rides in again into our hearts and our lives, atop a donkey. If I were to line that palm-strewn path, my eyes moist and hands uplifted, I would sink to my knees at the sight of Him. “Hosanna!” I would cry out in the humid air, my robe puddled at my bare feet, my tongue parched.

Picturing history is easy; I’m a historical novelist. But my books are filled primarily with fictional characters who live and laugh and love and lose, a mirror of readers’ lives. Placing ourselves in history is different, and radically intimate. Today, I see Him, I hear Him, I reach out to Him, reflecting on His Holiness as He rides toward His death for you and me.

Dear Lord, I bend my knee to you today and every day. Amen.
-Ashley Sweeney

It Is Well With My Soul: April 9, 2022

It Is Well With My Soul

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death…” – Philippians 3:10

Many travels have led to this town, to this road; rough, steep, all uphill. Arrogance, stiff necks, ignorance have brought this about. People line the road crying, laughing. Why are they milling around? What have they come to see? Wild eyes look expectantly, then turn away. The human river pulses as it stares. Horror truly is fascinating. Could they walk this road? Can I? I press on.

Clamoring voices, strident demands, churning fears swirl by their own energy, going nowhere. Arguments are countered, fists are held higher and higher, faces contort into ugliness, molded by hate and fear. But still, I press on, dragging a burden forced on me, but shouldered by my own will. No matter the lies, the temptations, the derision, I press on. This is too hard a thing to do! This is too great a thing not to do. And so I press on. Surely, there will never be another time when one person sacrifices another for their own sake! So I press on. The noise of the crowd fades. Tears and blood blind my sight, the burden crushes me and I fall. A face, a cloth, the tears of another offered to me, so I can press on. Sound diminishes, feeling is numbed, spirit surrenders utterly to final blows. I am lifted, and all is dark.

Resting peacefully in the arms of the One, all fear and pain subside. There are no sounds now but that of gentle breaths, no motion but the heart softly beating.

Blessed One, “help me press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” Amen.
-Carol Treston

It Is Well With My Soul: April 8, 2022

It Is Well With My Soul

“…this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13b-14

Every now and then, there’s that unhappy 3 a.m. awakening with my mind spinning over past occasions in my life where I was rude, or cruel, or insensitive, or thoughtless, and there’s nothing I can do to fix it now: recipients of my worst self’s thoughts and behaviors are not available for my apologies, confession, correcting, reconciliation.

So, what can I do at 3 a.m.? I think my choices are limited. But I can confess my failures to God. I can ask for forgiveness. That’s a start. And if I print out this excerpt from Philippians and tuck it near my pillow, I can practice “forgetting what lies behind” and press on toward the goal, trusting God (see above). In the morning all things can be new.

Dear Lord, help us to press on, despite our past shortcomings, as we are moving toward the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Amen.
-Tom Worrell

It Is Well With My Soul: April 7, 2022

It Is Well With My Soul

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death…” – Philippians 3:10

Thirteen years ago today, at 3:47 a.m., my son Daniel was born by emergency c-section at 29.5 weeks gestation. I had developed HELLP Syndrome, a nasty variant of preeclampsia (a pregnancy complication), and both Daniel and I would have died if they had not delivered him immediately. I was completely blissed out during my first 24 hours of motherhood due to all of the medications I was on to save my life, but everything became very real once all of those medications wore off. I then spent the rest of my weeklong hospital stay suffering from PTSD from the trauma surrounding the birth situation as well as postpartum depression (PPD). My mother had flown up to Montana from northern California to be with me, and it was really hard for me when she left the hospital each day. My former husband Jon and I spent the next two months commuting two hours each way to and from Great Falls to visit Daniel in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) as he finished growing and developing enough to come home.

When I was ready to come back to work to conserve part of my maternity leave, my primary care physician made the mistake of letting me read my surgical report. At that point, I learned exactly how close I had come to dying that night, and I was really angry at God. I had tried to eat the best I could while pregnant, had changed up my medication to avoid things that would hurt Daniel, and had really tried my best to stay healthy. Yet, I had multiple serious respiratory viruses, strep throat, and they had done a chest x-ray for bronchitis the night my HELLP Syndrome went into overdrive. Why had I been forced to suffer so much?

It turns out that my HELLP Syndrome was likely a genetic issue because they had been watching my mother for preeclampsia when she was pregnant with my twin brother and me. We found out 10 ½ years later that I have a clotting issue that is stress-activated, and that probably contributed to why I was so immunosuppressed during my pregnancy. Emotional healing came when I got involved with the Promised Walk for Preeclampsia in 2011, and I became the survivor speaker for the San Jose event in 2014. I started being vocal about what had happened to me, and the lives of a few of my friends were saved when they were diagnosed early and able to get as close to full-term with their kids as possible. Knowing that other people avoided my fate because they knew the symptoms helped me to find a context for dealing with my suffering.

Lord, you suffered on the Cross so that death would not be the end for us. Be present with us in our sufferings and help us to know that you understand the pain we feel. Amen.
-Jen McCabe