Monday, May 19, 2014


I had the privilege of spending this past weekend up at Hume Lake Christian Camps, leading worship for their Mother/Daughter retreat.  People came from all different cities and different churches and different backgrounds for a weekend away with their loved ones and with God.  

A highlight of the weekend was on Saturday night when we all gathered at Victory Circle - an outdoor amphitheater where you sit in a huge round circle, with a fire pit in the middle.  There were about 300 women at this retreat - all moms and daughters ranging in age from 7 - 87.  As we sat around the campfire,  the women were invited to stand up and share with the group one thing that God had impressed upon their hearts during the weekend.  What was one "take-away" you had?  What was one thing you heard or learned or experienced that changed you?  It was a beautiful time as women of all ages began to stand up and share how God had revealed Himself in a new/deeper way to them over the weekend.  There were lots of tears.  And lots of women listening, nodding their heads, and thinking, "Me too."  As I sat and listened, I couldn't help but see there was a common thread through much of what was shared.  
"I realized this weekend that God loves me, regardless of my past."  
"I realized that there is nothing I could ever do to make God love me less."  
"I learned that God's grace is greater than my sin."
"I realized that no matter what, God loves me."

Over and over again.  Statements of the beautiful Truth that God's love knows no end.  That His grace covers all.  New realizations.  Said through tears.  Tears of relief and gratitude.  Tears that seemed to release the pent up shame they had been weighed down by for years.  


Reader, I don't know your religious background.   I don't know what you think of Jesus.  Or who you believe God to be.  But I want you to know that if you were to read the Bible and get to know the God of the Bible, you would find this beautiful story of God Himself coming here as Jesus.  And the life of Jesus reveals to us who God is, what His heart is, and how we should live.  And if you study the life of Jesus, you will find that Jesus never, I mean NEVER shamed people.  Ever.  The adulterous woman brought to him?  John 8 says his response to her being caught "in the act" was, "I do not condemn you...go and sin no more. "  In fact, not only does he not shame people, but Hebrews 12:2 says he despised shame.  His grace doesn't just overcome shame.  His grace despises shame.  

John Piper describes it beautifully as he imagines Jesus on the cross:

Jesus spoke to shame like this:
Listen to me, Shame, do you see that joy in front of me? Compared to that, you are less than nothing. You are not worth comparing to that! I despise you. You think you have power. Compared to the joy before me, you have none. Joy. Joy. Joy. That is my power! Not you, Shame. You are worthless. You are powerless.
You think you can distract me. I won’t even look at you. I have a joy set before me. Why would I look at you? You are ugly and despicable. And you are almost finished. You cover me now as with a shroud. Before you can say, ‘So there!’ I will throw you off like a filthy rag. I will put on my royal robe.
You think you are great, because even last night you made my disciples run away. You are a fool, Shame. You are a despicable fool. That abandonment, that loneliness, this cross — these tools of yours — they are all my sacred suffering, and will save my disciples, not destroy them. You are a fool. Your filthy hands fulfill holy prophecy.

Farewell, Shame. It is finished.

HA!  How awesome is that?
So if Jesus gave up his life to offer us forgiveness of sins, and He himself despises shame, why in the world do so many of us live with shame?

Here's what we are to do:

1. Acknowledge God's intimate love for you and His sacrifice on the cross for your sins.  (sin just means the ways we mess up.  Meaning, everyone.  Cuz if you think you've never messed up, then you just did by thinking that.  BOOM.)  ;)  
2. Confess your sins to God and accept His gift of grace.  (to the God who loves you (His creation) and offers forgiveness from all your mess ups.  Yes, All of them.  Yes, even that one.)
3. Live in freedom.  Live as a follower of Jesus.  Live your life free to love extravagantly.  Free to offer grace just like you've received.  Live your life free from the weight of any and all shame.  

Once we receive God's gift of grace, our sin is forgiven.  Done with.  Want to know just how "forgiven and done with" it is?  Psalm 103:12 says, "He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west." So basically, our sin is taken as far away from us as possible.  That. Is. Awesome.  

So here's why I'm writing this:  Many people live in shame, thinking it's just a part of life.  Like, if you mess up, even if you stop and change your ways.... even if you confess it to God... even if you know that God has forgiven you... that shame is still just a part of life.  That shame is just a natural consequence.  But God's Word says otherwise.  Jesus' life says otherwise.  

Let's say you have something in your past and you've done #1 & #2 (above)... 

*If you still feel shame or hear a voice in your head that shames you, that is NOT God.  
*If you feel shamed by someone in your life, do not give that person's voice more weight than God's.  Let God's voice rule your heart.
*If you feel shamed by your church, find a new church.  No really.  I'm serious.  Find a new church.  If Jesus despised shame and your church dishes it out, you're in the wrong church.  

Our world desperately needs to see and experience Jesus.  When we live our lives burdened by shame, we give our world an inaccurate picture of God's love and grace.  We show them a watered down, powerless version.  
By living in freedom, we join Jesus in despising shame.  We join Jesus in being grace givers.  We heal and we become healers to the world around us.  

Dear shame,  
We are done with you.
You have no power over us.
God's loved, forgiven and free children.
P.S. I mean it this time.
P.P.S. You're dumb. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hoag Hospital Results, Neuro Appointments, and Our Short Term Plan...

We've had a lot going in the Ramsay household...

On Thursday, Jon and I flew to Denver to sing at a conference called Convene, which was a CEO Summit.  Convene is a group for CEO's and business owners and Jon and I were flown out to lead worship for the conference.  This was a milestone event for Jon, as this was the first time Jon had led worship since his surgery 7 months ago.  This was the first time he was going to brave the stage with his guitar.  Jon manually closes his eye with his hand, so the idea of using both of his hands to play guitar and lead worship, was a scary and risky thing.  What if his eye hurt? What if he needed to use his hand to close it?  He bought special glasses similar to the sunglasses he wears, which have a foam lining to protect the eye from wind and debris.  These new glasses have clear glass so he can wear them indoors while still receiving protection from a draft in the room if the A/C is on etc..  He did need to use those glasses, but not while on stage.  While we were on stage, Jon said he felt no eye pain. Praise God!  Jon did a great job leading, sharing, singing and playing.  It was just the 2 of us (no band) so it was a great time for Jon to put his toes in the water again.  :)  I was so proud of him!  He came home so physically exhausted, which our Neurosurgeon said was to be expected since his brain is still recovering from surgery.  (and his brain will be "recovering" for 36 months!  Wow..)  Anyway, it was a great trip and an honor to be a part of such an incredible group/event!

Also on Thursday, after arriving in Denver, we got a phone call from Haog Hospital.  Thursday was the day the Neurosurgeons were gathering for a Board Meeting and were using Jon's file/MRI etc.. as their Case Study.  They reviewed Jon's case, his surgery notes, his latest MRI, etc.. and came up with a course of action they would recommend as a board.  We are so grateful for the time they took to review it and for the time they took to call us and brief us on the meeting.  Unfortunately, their bottom line wasn't what we had hoped to hear.  Basically, they called to say that they recommend that Jon starts Radiation now.  We were hoping they would say Jon didn't need it - at least not yet.  Radiation on the brain is not something we want to enter lightly or without absolute necessity.  We continued to pray for wisdom.

We flew home Saturday night and then on Monday afternoon (yesterday) we met with our Neurosurgeon to discuss everything that had happened since we saw him last, 3 weeks ago.  We hadn't had Radiation like he had recommended.  We had gone to USC for a 2nd opinion.  We had heard from Hoag Hospital for a 3rd opinion.   Our neurosurgeon was very gracious and humble - one of the things we have always loved about him.  He fully understood and supported our decision to get other opinions.  He was quite impressed that we had gotten in to see Dr. Giannatta at USC and agreed that Dr. Giannatta is the most well respected in this field.   Our doctor listened to our concerns and our ideas.  By the end of the appointment we had agreed on a plan that we all felt comfortable with, based on all of the data we have received: We will wait and observe.  For 7 more weeks, we will wait.  By the end of next month, it will have been 3 months since Jon's last MRI.  Jon would typically wait 6 months between MRIs, but because of how fast Jon's tumor appears to be growing, 3 months is as long as everyone is comfortable waiting.  By waiting, we get to double check his tumor growth after another 3 months.   If Radiation is at stake, we want to really see if it continues to grow at the fast rate it appears to have grown the past 6 months.  Just to be sure.  Since the tumor isn't at the size where it's pushing on Jon's brain again yet, we can safely wait these extra few weeks without serious risk.  (it can grow about 1.5 more centimeters before we're in hot waters with it causing big problems)  These extra weeks will also 'buy' us more time to research Radiation options.  Jon and I feel really good about this decision to be patient and conservative in our approach.

Our Neurosurgeon also gave Jon a prescription for numbing eye drops.  Jon's eye pain has been the biggest source of his discomfort since surgery, so we are open to anything.  The Dr is not certain this will help or work at all, but said it can't hurt to try.  We drove straight from the Dr to the Pharmacy.  :)

So that's the latest from the Ramsays.
7 more weeks of waiting.
In the meantime, we will go back in a few weeks to Dr. Levine in LA for another eye appointment and to have Jon's contact changed, etc..  We are trying as best we can to wait on doing any eye surgeries, but time will tell if that will be possible.  Jon's eye pain will determine that timeline.

Thank you for your continued prayers.  Prayers for wisdom, discernment, healing, patience... we need it all.  Bless you for being here with us.  Still.