Things that delight the heart of God…

In my reading through the Scriptures, I have been paying attention to those passages having to do with things in which God takes pleasure; in which he delights. This is not so I can accumulate interesting little bits of bible knowledge for future use, but so I can presently better understand my Heavenly Father and show my love for him. Perhaps you can add to this list:

Psalm 104:31- He delights in his works; his works of creation, which reveal his glory. So, as I praise him for a beautiful morning or stand awed by a gorgeous sunset, I am glorying in the very things that give him pleasure.

Psalm 149:4- He takes delight in his people, especially those who are afflicted. “… he will beautify the afflicted with salvation.” What an amazing thought, that my Father delights in me even when I feel lost in my suffering! In fact, he takes pleasure in me especially when I face the unloveliness of affliction. (I’m going to write a separate blog on this.)

Psalm 147:11- God delights in those who reverence him and trust him and put their hope in his unfailing love. God does not delight in strength (v.10) but he delights in us when we acknowledge our weakness and our need of him. What an encouragement to come into his presence in those times when I am overwhelmed by all those things that I cannot control.

Proverbs 11:1- He takes delight in honesty and dealing fairly with others. Hmmm… what a novel thought in our world, where the end justifies the means in personal, national, and international affairs.

Proverbs 11:20- “… he delights in those whose ways are blameless.” Blameless does not mean perfect, but it describes a person who strives to keep the way of God’s Law as the standard for right living. Job wasn’t perfect, but he strived to live uprightly and with integrity. King David wasn’t perfect, but in Psalm 25 where he acknowledges he is a sinner, he also prays that his integrity and uprightness will protect him against the criticism of his enemies. My Father takes delight in my attempts to walk in obedience to him, just like I rejoiced in the first steps of my children before they fell down again.

Proverbs 12:22- God hates lies but delights in those who tell the truth. But the implication here is that God delights in those who are “trustworthy” (ESV). People whose lives and dealings, as well as speech, are characterized by truth-telling. Are you being a little shady in that business deal? Are you telling the whole truth to the bank when they ask about how you are going to use that equity loan? Do you have a financially addictive hobby that you are not telling your spouse about? At those times, just think how much your Father takes pleasure in you when you simply tell the truth and do the right thing!

Jeremiah 9:24- God delights in loving-kindness, justice, and righteousness. Rejoice when you see these things evidenced in this world and in your life because you know your Father is very pleased.

Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Isa 42:1- God delights in his Son, Jesus. It is little wonder then that God will use the difficult circumstances in our lives as a whittling tool to cut away things in us that do not resemble Jesus. Romans 8:28 indicates that “all things work together for good for those who love God,” and 8:29 defines “the good” as being “conformed to the image of his Son.” God delights when I think and act like Jesus, so he is in the process of reconfiguring me to make that happen. It’s a painful process and I have a long way to go, but one day, when Christ returns, it will be completed. “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we will see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

Teach me to number my days so that… (part 2)

In my previous blog, I referred to the Psalm 90, the magnificent song of Moses:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Moses here acknowledges that there is something terribly wrong in the world because we who were the crown of God’s creation are fallen and finite creatures. Our lives are short and filled with trouble, and our death is inevitable. In the face of this inevitability, Moses prays, Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. We must learn to number our days properly so that we can live our lives wisely.

Let me give you a few things to ponder which will go a long way in living wisely. I am only going to name a few things; they are pastoral and very simple, and yet incredibly important. I would invite you to add to the list and teach them to your children.

1. Make sure that those closest to you know that you love them. In fact- today is the day to learn to say “I love you” and to say it regularly. These are the most profound words you could leave as a legacy to your loved ones. Many a child has grown to adulthood and been left with words such as, “you’ll never amount to anything,” “you’re a mistake, we never really wanted you.” Many a wife or husband has been left wondering if she/he was really loved. And so, one of the ways to create a wise and lasting positive legacy is to make sure your loved ones know you love them. Today is the day to begin…say it, don’t assume it.

2. Make sure that you keep short accounts. Today is the day to learn to say “I’m sorry” and to say it often. Grudges are built up over time; unforgiveness turns to bitterness and to resentment; unreconciled relationships separate us and can be passed on to future generations. How many of the world conflicts today find their root in generational grudges and tribal revenge? And how many issues in our families are rooted in the hearts of people who refuse to forgive and seek reconciliation – until it’s too late, and all they have left is regret. You don’t always have to be right, but you should always be sorry. It is hard to die in peace when you are overcome with regret. It is not too late to begin to wisely learn to say, “I’m sorry.”

3. Make sure that you have thought deeply about where you will be 10 seconds after you die. Today is the day to get right with God. Since death is inevitable and we will all someday face our Maker, are you prepared? “I’ll deal with that when it comes”- you don’t know when it will come. I was talking to an old guy (older than me, so he was really old) two summers ago who wasn’t sure he believed in God, but he said “If there is a God, then he’ll know that I’ve done the best I could – He’ll understand.” I told him that the problem is our best isn’t good enough and God doesn’t grade on the curve. He demands perfection, which eliminates all of us from contention. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That is why we need a Savior. The old gentleman looked at me with a little smile on his face and said, “Hmm, well I’ll take my chances.” He’s right; he is taking a big chance… not wise!

Remember the 2004 Mel Gibson movie, “The Passion of the Christ”? The trailer was simply a dark screen with these words, “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities…” This is a verse from Isa 53 and it continues…”the punishment of our peace was upon him and by his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray…” Our Messiah took our sins upon himself so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God. Therefore, it is the one who believes in Jesus Christ and what he has done on the cross who is ready face life and death and to stand before God without fear… very wise.

“No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.” (In Christ Alone by Alison Krauss and Keith Getty)

The following words were found on a note by the bedside of a man who had died after a brief illness: “What shall I think when I am called to die? Shall I not find too soon my life has ended? The years, too quickly, have hastened by with so little done of all that I’d intended. There were so many things I’d meant to try, so many contests I’d hoped to win, and now the end approaches just as I was thinking of preparing to begin.”

Lord, teach me to number my days

Teach me to number my days so that…

In a play called The Proud and the Profane, a widow of a soldier who had been killed in WW2 became obsessed with knowing how her husband died. She had to know whether he died as a hero or coward. She saved her money and traveled to Europe to find his burial place. Visiting his grave on a French hillside, she noticed a brooding old man sitting in the cemetery and upon engaging him in conversation found out that he had been one of her husband’s comrades.

She asked him, “Did you know my husband?” 

“Yes.” 

“Were you there when he died?”

“Yes.”

“I need to know… how did he die?” 

The old man paused and finally said, “He died like an amateur, just like the rest of us will.”

General George Patton once said to the men of Baker Company as they were about to launch an offensive against a German position known as Fort Driant, “You are not all going to die. Only 2% of you right here today will die in a major battle. Death must not be feared, but death, in time, comes to all men.” 

Ernest Hemingway, the famous war journalist and writer, who eventually committed suicide once wrote, “Death is the sovereign remedy for my misfortunes. I live in a vacuum that is as lonely as a radio tube when the batteries are dead and there is no current to plug into.” (quoted by Billy Graham in World Aflame.)

Woody Allen said in one of his films, “Its not that I’m afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”  

The Greek poet Euripedes said, “Death is the debt that we all must pay.” This mirrors the New Testament Scripture which says that, “the wages of sin is death…”

Whatever your viewpoint is on the subject of death, I think that we can agree that death will claim us all, and  all of us will die as amateurs. 

Psalm 90 in the OT Bible directs our attention to this inevitability: 

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Moses, who wrote this, acknowledges that there is something terribly wrong in the world because we who were the crown of God’s creation are fallen creatures. Our lives are short and filled with trouble, and our death is inevitable. In the face of this inevitability, Moses prays, Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom

What the Palmist is implying is that most people don’t number their days. They think they will live for ever and because of that they do not live wisely. Most people think that life will keep going and then when they get old they can correct or make up for the things they have done- like an 11th hour conversion. The problem is that those who wait for the 11thhour usually die at 10:59. “So, Lord, teach us to number our days, to recognize that they are brief, so we can get a heart of wisdom, to live wisely while we still have time.”

As a pastor and a chaplain who has presided at perhaps a hundred or more funerals and memorial services – many for people I did not know- I am usually able to tell by meeting the families, those who lived their lives wisely from those who did not. You know the old saying about living your life so that people smile at your birth and cry at your death and not vice versa? It’s true. I can often tell by people’s responses at funerals what they thought of the deceased.

So what would be the profile of a person who has lived his/her life wisely? In my next blog I will suggest a kind of bucket list of some things that can be done to get a heart of wisdom in the face of the brevity of life.

The Goodness of Affliction…

As much as we hate to admit it, there is a redeeming factor to suffering. In fact, we could say that in some cases suffering is life-changing. A classic example is Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose writings probably did more to reveal the corruption and emptiness of the Soviet Communist system than any single political factor. He said of his time spent in a Soviet prison camp:

It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts…. That is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me: “Bless you, prison!” I…have served enough time there. I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: “Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!” (The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956, Vol. 2, 615-617)

Psalm 119:71, 72 “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.”

Job 23:10, 12 “But he knows the way I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold….I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.”

In these verses we have the experiential testimony of two more sufferers; the Psalmist and Job. I have read and pondered these verses for years and am just now coming to understand what they mean.

The goodness of affliction is known (experienced) when God’s Word reveals to us who we really are, and becomes more precious to us than all our investments and more necessary to us than our next meal.

One cannot know such goodness without affliction and one cannot benefit from affliction without God’s Word. Do not distain your suffering, but embrace it for you will nourish your soul there. Truly, it is “God’s megaphone.” (CS Lewis)

How do I know I am a Christian?

A teaching given for the Alpha Bible Study Series:

If I were to ask you to prove that you are married, you could do it in one of three different ways. First of all, you could show me your marriage license. This is an objective statement, signed by witnesses, that you were married to such and such a person on such and such a date. Secondly, you could introduce me to your wife and children. Thirdly, you could just smile and say “I know that I know that I’m married!”

Now, if you kept showing me your marriage license, but I never met your wife and kids, I’d start to get a bit suspicious. I might think to myself, “I bet he forged that thing!” Or, if you introduced me to your wife and kids, but I went down to the county courthouse and couldn’t find any marriage license on record, I’d probably conclude that you weren’t married at all, but were cohabiting. Or, if you went around with a big silly grin on your face declaring, “I’m married, I’m married, I just know that I’m married!” but no one could find your marriage license or your wife and kids, I would conclude you were either lying or crazy. To be able to prove that you were married, you would need to be able to display all 3 witnesses: your marriage license, your wife and kids, and your inner conviction. 

In just the same way, you would need the same three witnesses in order to answer, “How do I know that I am a Christian.”

1. First, you must have the witness of the truth of God’s Word. That is like the marriage license. It is an objective standard to which you can appeal. The Bible tells me I am a sinner who cannot earn God’s forgiveness, but that God in his great love sent His Son to die on the cross, for the forgiveness of my sins and to reconcile me to God.

Romans 6:23 – “For the wages sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Isaiah 53:5 – “He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our sins; the punishment of our peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, but the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

2. Secondly, you must have the witness of the fruit of the Spirit which is the evidence of new life. That is like introducing me to your wife and kids, the fruit of your marriage relationship.

2 Corinthian 5:17 – “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation old things have passed away; look, all things have become new!”

Matt. 7:18-20 – “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit…. Therefore, by their fruit will they be known.”

Galatians 5:22, 23 – “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (character change from inside out)  

Some other changes: new love for God and desire to worship Him, desire to read the Bible and pray, desire to forgive others, a desire to love and help others, a desire to meet with other Christians, to share Christ with others, etc.

3. Thirdly, you must have the witness of the Holy Spirit and the imbedded Word of God. This is like your inner conviction of knowing that you are married. 

Romans 8:16 – “The Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are God’s children.”  The assurance of our salvation comes from an inward conviction given us by the Holy Spirit based upon what God has told us.    

1 John 5:13 – “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  

Romans 8:15 – “We have been given a Spirit of son-ship whereby we cry Abba, Father!” JB Phillips translates this verse as “The Spirit himself endorses our inward conviction that we really are the children of God.” 

When the believer has all three of these witnesses, he/she has what the Bible describes as the full assurance of faith, which is the base-line confidence we need in order to grow in our faith. It is my prayer, that you will believe that Jesus died for you and that you will repent and ask him for forgiveness; believe that the Holy Spirit has transformed your life because you see some evidence; have the certainty that you are a child of God and a present possessor of eternal life. 

Justice or Wisdom?

One of the reasons why our suffering can become unusually difficult is because we often look at our situation through the single lens of God’s fairness and justice. We are told that righteousness and justice are the very foundation of God’s throne (Psalm 89:14), but that is not always evident when we look at our world or at our own difficulties. Perhaps we are not tempted to curse God and die like Job’s wife counseled her husband, but it is hard not to question God’s fairness especially when we suffer. Is it really worth serving him and trying to be an upright person? There seems to be plenty of people in this world who do not love God and yet they look like they are healthy and flourishing. Does he really care for me?

In my last read through of the book of Job, I zeroed in on a truth I had not before noticed. It wasn’t a truth found in the raging argument between Job and his friends, who essentially threw Job under the bus of God’s retributive justice. Their singular theme was that people suffer because they have done something wrong and are being punished for it by a God of justice. Their counsel, was pretty simple: “Job, fess up and repent and God will have mercy and restore your health and prosperity.” (11:14; 22:21-23)

Neither was my attention caught by a truth found in the argument of the younger man, Elihu, who also suggested that God was just but that Job’s suffering was remedial. In other words, God uses suffering to wake us up, to save us from walking the wrong path, to correct us, and to lead us to repentance. (36:16)

All of these arguments were not wrong in themselves, but were wrong in their application to Job’s situation. Neither these men nor Job were privy to the context of Job’s suffering that was introduced to us at the beginning of the book. They did not know what took place in the secret chambers of God’s wisdom. Hmmm… could it be that we also fail to accurately assess a situation because we do not know what lies beneath or behind it — the wisdom of God?

The truth that caught my attention was found in Job 28, often called the Great Interlude. The entire chapter is about wisdom (the book of Job is considered wisdom literature) and is the entry-way that leads to God’s appearance in chapters 38-41. And guess what? When God does show up, he does not defend his justice but displays his wisdom!

Application: Let us not believe that my cancer or your suffering have been allowed by God as a punishment for some sin that we’ve committed, or else you and I would have died a long time ago. God is not our enemy, but we do have one. In the book of Job he is called the Accuser, and he wants us to curse God and die, or to question the fairness of God, or his care for us.

We have a choice here and I choose to trust God for his great wisdom. “Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and unfathomable his ways!” (Rom 11:33) Yes, I believe that God is just and fair, but I also believe that his judgments are unsearchable. How can I even begin (like Job and company) to challenge the way God runs the universe or ask why he has allowed something to enter my life that seems to run contrary to his love, mercy, and justice? In the face of his unfathomable wisdom, I have no place to stand; no footing from which to argue. Instead, I must fall down and worship, like Job eventually did (42:1-6), and submit myself to his unfathomable wisdom.

This is not a pathway of resignation nor is it merely the passive acceptance of things over which I have no control. Submission to the unfathomable wisdom of God is based upon the reality of my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. My place to stand* is based upon the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the establishment of an eternal relationship with the God of the universe. I may never know or comprehend all that is happening to me, but I believe that Jesus is my Redemer and God is my Father. Therefore I trust that nothing will ever come into my life that has not first passed through his Fatherly hand.

Thus we need to understand our suffering and hardshp through the bi-focal lens of God’s unfathomable wisdom and his great love for us in Christ.

Though darkness hides his lovely face, I trust in his unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. His oath, his covenant, his blood, support me in the whelming flood, when all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay. (Edward Mote, 1834)

*It should be noticed that Job also had a place to stand; a place that grounded him in the face of all he did not know or understand. See Job 16 and 19.

My feet had almost slipped…

Have you ever felt such deep disappointment that led you to believe that God was no longer there or had forgotten you?  Perhaps it was a situation where you didn’t particlarly like the way He was running the universe?   Maybe it hadn’t yet come to head, but you were simmering inside even though carrying on as if everything was fine. Maybe you are feeling like that now. You’ve noticed that your passion for God has started to ebb, you are beginning to lose your desire to be in the Word and pray; you’ve started to fall asleep in church; you’ve become critical and hard to live with, and you just don’t care much about the things of God.

If you feel this way, or think that you ever might, Psalm 73 is very important.  It is a tale of how a true believer became isolated from God through a crisis of faith.  It also shows the process that person (the psalmist) used to restore himself to fellowship.

The psalmist began by confessing that God is good.  This is important.  While he didn’t understand the ways of God, neither did he stop believing in God.  He began with what he knew to be true about God before he proceeded to address the things he didn’t understand. Many people are not successful with faith-crisis issues because they do not have a firm footing from which to deal with them.  Do yourself a favor and don’t reinvent the wheel every time you struggle with God.  Start your struggle by confessing those things which you know to be true and then proceed from there.

 The psalmist then proceeded with his compliant.  The psalmist (Asaph- writer of 12 Psalms) was a singer and chief musician in King David’s court. Asaph wasn’t engaged in a scientific study.  He merely looked around and saw the lives of those who did not have a heart for God and it seemed to him that they were getting along just fine, maybe even better than he was.  He wondered if it was even worth it to be righteous. He began to get the sense that things just weren’t fair and this began to distance him from God.

We do the same thing on a human level.  I know some people, for example, who go to church and make the observation that they are the only ones who aren’t happy or have it all together. Therefore, they feel out of place and stop attending.  It is not abnormal to make unsubstantiated assessments about people or situations which cause us to feel a certain way about ourselves. The psalmist did this as he looked around at the health and prosperity of those who did not love God, and it destabilized him.  He could not make any forward progress in his relationship to God.  Notice how he put it in v. 2, “my feet had almost slipped”. 

A number of years ago, when we lived in New England, I went up on my roof after a snow storm to shovel off two or three feet of snow along the edge to prevent an ice build up.  It was melting, so as soon as I shoveled a section it became very slippery.  I had to be extremely careful and deliberate with each step because I felt I was about to slip.  Finally, it got so bad I could no longer move in any direction, I was completely immobilized.  So it is when the feet of faith feel like they are almost slipping- we cannot move in our relationship to God.

And so Asaph poured out his complaint before God; he did not broadcast it to others.  He realized the effect that such spiritual turmoil could have upon the believing community, especially upon those who were less mature in the faith.  Instead, he kept pondering the issue and struggling with it before God until something happened. In v.17 we read, “till I entered the sanctuary of God and then I understood…” We’re not told what happened when he went to church that day. We know that he was on the church staff, being the chief musician in the Temple.  Maybe he was leading a worship song that he had sung a million times before, when all of a sudden he gained a new perspective of the Lord.  He ceased dealing with God as an object of speculation and began to see Him as the subject of worship.  He bowed himself before the majestic greatness of God and his whole perspective changed.  He bowed and then understood — that God was just and that the wicked and their wealth would be destroyed. 

 The psalmist also confessed his own humiliation and brokenness, v. 21, “when my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant, I was a brute beast before you.” This is a biblical response when we recognize the presence of God – like Isaiah, “Woe is me for I am undone!  For I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the KING, the Lord Almighty” (Isa.6:5).  Or Peter, in Luke 5, after he had questioned Jesus’ authority and then witnessed his power in the great catch of fish; he fell down before Jesus and said,  “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man.” Also, Job’s experience, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know… but now my eyes have seen you.  Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:3, 4). 

Similarly, the psalmist confessed his humiliation and something else (v. 23-24); He also confessed the realization that God had always been with him, even though he felt far away.  God was present with him and would be even in death (“and afterward you will take me to glory”). You can sense the psalmist’s growing passion for God in v. 25, 26, Asaph turned from the wealth of the wicked that he once envied to his true wealth.  “And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. God not only satisfies completely, but He remains the true treasure that even death cannot take away.

Do you remember that I told you about being stuck on my roof, feeling that my feet were about to slip?  The only way I got out of that predicament was by falling back into the unshoveled snow on my roof. The very thing I tried to get rid of became the very thing I turned to in the end.  The psalmist did the same thing with God.  He pushed God away and his feet almost slipped.  He fell back into God and he found his refuge.

Stay at worship, my friend. Keep in the Word and maintain your prayers, regardless of how you feel because this is real faith. Hang onto what you know to be true: God is good, He will always be with you, He will never fail you, He is your refuge, He is enough!

[Note to my readers: I am going through chemotherapy. Therefore, if I have made any glaring grammatical or spelling errors, please be gracious and attribute it to my chemo brain and not to my ignorance, which is far more likely.]