Tuesday, October 9, 2018

You Can Walk Away...


 “As Jesus continued down the road, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to obtain eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except the one God. 19  You know the commandments: Don’t commit murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. Don’t cheat. Honor your father and mother.”
“Teacher,” he responded, “I’ve kept all of these things since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him carefully and loved him. He said, “You are lacking one thing. Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.” 22 But the man was dismayed at this statement and went away saddened, because he had many possessions.” Mark 10:17-22

“There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, 'All right, then, have it your way.’” C.S. Lewis
Big Idea: You can say no...  
There it is, your escape hatch. You can just walk away. Jesus won’t run you down and tackle you with your divine calling. He will just let you live a life that is less than it could have been. Less fulfilling. Less impactful. Less rewarding. Just less.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
I have often wondered how many others Jesus invited to follow Him that just could not let go of their past in order to embrace their future? In this scripture we give the young man a hard time when he is probably more like us that we would ever want to admit. He had responsibilities, possessions, and stuff. He was doing all the right things, living a “good” life, yet he knew there was something more. When he approached Jesus, Jesus showed him what was getting in the way with him living a life that matters.
Whenever you encounter Jesus, there is aways an invitation to follow as well as a challenge to let go of anything that is holding you back. For this man his possessions acted as a weight upon his soul, keeping him from fully following Jesus. The moment of decision came, and he walked away. He settled for living the life he knew rather than pursuing a life that mattered.
In life we learn to settle. We face disappointment or discouragement and eventually those, too, act as tethers that keep uf from fully following Jesus. We become concerned that Jesus may ask us to forsake comfort for calling so often we resist following too closely. We settle for settled instead of seeking significance. 
God is not a God who settles. God is a God that has something significant for you to do. God has a place where the Kingdom of God will be made more real, the people of God made more passionate, and work of God gain more ground if you will live out your divine calling. Are you ready to let go of whatever it is that holds you back in order to fully live a life that matters?
Gracious God help me to be fearlessly faithful. Give me the courage to lay aside anything thats in the way and follow you completely, in the name of the one who gave up heaven to die for me, Jesus, I pray, AMEN.
Reflection Questions
There are a few others in the Bible who resisted their calling. Look up Barak, Samson, and Balaam. How do these stories relate to your life?

Has there been a time when you were tempted to walk away from your divine calling and give up on striving to live a life that matters?

What is God calling you to that you have been reluctant to admit?

What is the cost God is asking you to pay that seems unbelievable?

Today's Tuesday Text is from a brief devotional I'm working on to hopefully be ready for the New Year, January 2019. Keep an eye out for release information. We are hoping it will come in a print and digital version. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Comparative Goodness

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job 1:21

During times of difficulty it is so easy to ask, “why me?” That is because we can always think, in our “comparative goodness” theology, that there is somebody far worse than me that deserve this more than I do. Yes, I’ve sinned, but I know people who are way worse sinners that I am. So when trouble,
sickness, and pain comes our way what we are really saying when we say “why me” is “why not them?”

When I got sick, I was in pain. A lot of pain. The kind of pain that makes you not fully aware of everything you are saying. The kind of pain where you don’t want anyone or anything to touch you. The kind of pain where it hurts to stand up, sit down, lie down, or walk around. There was no comfort. No escaping the presence of the pain. During that time of pain all I could think of to say was a breath prayer that has become part of my daily life for the past dozen years. I just kept praying, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Even in pain I knew that because of the sin that was unleashed upon the world I was just as likely to be the recipient of the unintended consequences as the next person.

I, too, have been guilty of asking God, “why me?” on occasion. What I am learning to ask, however, is “why not me?” When the torrent of suffering was unleashed upon the world. When the wages of sin, which is death, flooded our existence why do we think that we should live consequence exempt lives? In a world where genocide happens, where children are starving, and we flood our bodies with chemicals why do we think that the sin of the world will never penetrate our lives?

If you take the Bible seriously you see that even the saints of God were affected by the sin of the world. We see Lot losing his home because of the sin of the city. We see Paul being beaten, shipwrecked, and eventually martyred because of the sin of the presiding government. History even shows us the sins of our brothers and sisters where some of the greatest atrocities were done in the name of Jesus. Yet, still, we think that we should be exempt from the wages of sin. We are not. “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

I am going to die. Dying is part of living. Actually dying makes living all the more precious, No, I’m not angry at God because I am dying. I am thankful that, as the funeral liturgy reminds us, “even as we die, yet shall we live.” Today I choose to live, even though I’m dying.

Gracious God who gave us life, help us cherish life, even as we are dying. You who did not spare your only begotten Son, but allowed Him to come that we might have life, abundant life in this life, and life eternal, grant that we might live as those who are dying and die as those who will live eternally. Amen. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Five Fast Worship Location Options for the Freaked Out Pastor!


“Go and make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28:19

Fifty-two churches across the North Carolina Conference received some damage from hurricane Florence. For some of these churches I’m betting there are freaked out pastors (and maybe a few laity) wondering where can they worship when the building they’ve used for 50, 100, 150+ years is inaccessible for the near future.  Having served churches where the building was unusable due to storms busted pipes, or other unforeseen problems and having been a church planter without any access to a building, here are five fast worship location options for the freaked out pastor:

1. Other Churches: United Methodists profess to be “connectional” and yet sometimes we still operate as isolated islands of huddled Christians. Make contact with other churches, within and beyond, your own denomination that did not suffer from damage and see if you can worship in their space at an alternate time from their normal worship hour. I have found churches to be incredibly accommodating, at least in the short term, to those who had their facility suddenly unavailable.
File photo, not a NCCUMC church!

2. Have a Yard Party: Even if your building is inaccessible, perhaps your grounds are still safe? If so, have your folks bring lawn chairs and picnic blankets and make a party out of the problem. Sing camp meeting songs and meet under the brush arbor that the church may have been birthed from. Make sure you have insect repellant and citronella candles! This can become a longer-term solution with the rental of a large party tent and a few portable bathrooms. Not ideal, but doable.

3. Public Community Spaces: often parks, picnic shelters, and pavilions are cleaned up long before homes and churches are. Look into using (renting if necessary) a park shelter for a few weeks. Make sure you communicate the location of your new “pop up worship” space to your community and members. Don’t forget the hot dogs!

4. Schools, offices, and restaurants: of course some of the businesses in your community may have also suffered damage, however there may be some that would be willing for you to gather on Sunday morning. How about a local restaurant banquet room. For the price of breakfast you may be able to gather, worship, and have biscuits!

5.   One more radical option, be the church scattered instead of the church gathered. Find a handful of folks whose homes are undamaged and who would be willing to host weekly worship gatherings. There are multiple ways to do this, including having the pastor share the message for the day on a ZOOM Conference call to every home or even Facebook Live. The logistics might be a bit of a challenged, however with a little creativity you could live out Acts 2:42 in entirely new ways.
These are just a few ideas for you on where to worship when your building is suddenly inaccessible. Don’t freak out, remember the early church changed the world from the catacombs, not from cathedrals.

If you would like to arrange a coaching call to process where you can worship or any other storm related struggles, I’d be happy to talk to you. Go to https://martycauley.youcanbook.me and schedule a call. The NCCUMC New Faith Communities office is here to help you invite people into communion with Christ and to assist in any way we can to help your faith community flourish.

Live Passionately,
Marty

PS. Leave your favorite emergancy worship locations in the comments! Can't wait to see your ideas.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Being a Patient Patient is Trying my Patience

“I can’t help but remember and am depressed. I call this to mind—therefore I will wait. Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23

Dealing with a long-term illness is a lot about waiting. Waiting for scans. Waiting in waiting rooms. Waiting on results. It is a never-ending cycle of waiting. Usually I’m pretty good at this waiting game. I’ve become better over the last five years, especially since I wasn’t expected to last this long with my original prognosis. Now I’m waiting again.

If we have spoken in the last two weeks I may have seemed distracted. I am having serious focus issues. I am distracted even more than normal because two weeks ago I found out that the treatment I’ve been waiting for, PRRT (info in links below), is finally available at the Duke Cancer Center. This highly targeted therapy has been standard practice in Europe and Australia for years, and in January it finally received FDA approval. It has taken since January for it to go through the process of getting approved as a treatment that will be covered by insurance. Now, eight months later, it is finally becoming an option, eventually.

On August 16, 2018 when I had my end of summer scans and oncologist appointment, my doctor let me know that I could start the process to receive PRRT this fall. The first step is a highly specialized scan (oh the joys of having a rare disease) that is currently only available in North Carolina at UNC (it seems Duke had to send their machine back to Germany for repairs??). Since these two research hospitals work together well, it shouldn’t be a problem to get insurance approval and have UNC call me to schedule the scan. That was two weeks ago, or fourteen days, or 336 hours, or 20,160 minutes, but whose counting?

The treatment is a rather aggressive infusion radiation therapy that will require ten to fourteen days of contact isolation after every treatment, and I may receive three to five treatments. Because of the contact isolation issue, I have been reluctant to make any plans for the fall. I have turned down several speaking requests since, if it happens on one of the weeks I’m radioactive, I don’t want to expose an entire congregation to my personal microwaves. I also don’t know how I’m going to react to the treatment. Some of my “cancer friends” who have had it bounced back really quickly, others had some serious fatigue. “Therefore I wait…”

The people of God should be experts at waiting by now. From their time in Egypt waiting for a deliverer, to their time in the wilderness, and even now as we wait on Christ’s return we wait. This time of waiting has taught me a few things. First, waiting is an active vocation, not a passive one. Secondly, waiting doesn’t mean God isn’t working. Lastly, waiting clarifies and intensifies my motivations.

Waiting is active. When I read the Isaiah 40 passage, “Those that wait upon the Lord…” recently I began to realize that waiting could be an active verb. It is more like waiting tables in a bustling diner than sitting around twiddling our thumbs hoping for the best to happen. While we might not be able to do what we want to do, we can do something while we wait to do what is next. The world doesn’t stop while we wait, and neither should we!

Waiting doesn’t mean God isn’t working. It is so easy to allow waiting to devolve into worrying. Even in my case, I know (because I’m regularly annoying them) that my doctor and her PA are nudging the process forward as fast as they can. While they can’t control the billing department or make Blue Cross Blue Shield work any faster (I’m not sure anyone can), they are advocating on my behalf. I also believe that God is working on me, preparing me for what comes next.

Lastly, waiting clarifies and intensifies my motivations. We have all said, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” This is a similar idea. This waiting has caused me to seriously begin to reflect on how I will order my life if this procedure is effective and it adds another decade or more to my life expectancy. I’ve been living the past years trusting in God and also uncertain of how much time I had left. This could open the door to a significantly better prognosis. What is God calling me to for the new and improved “long-term?” What new rhythms do I want to reintroduce into my life? How can I gather in intentional community more regularly? All of these thoughts have been part of my prayer and thought life for the first time in five years. I have a renewed since of what is possible!

Meanwhile I’m still waiting. I appreciate your prayers. Please pray that I will continue to actively wait, that I will trust that God is still working, and that God will continue to help me get clarity and intensity about the next chapter God is calling me into. I will keep you posted, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see with me.

Brief video explaining the basics of PRRT







Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I Thought I'd Be Dead By Now...

For the record I thought I’d be dead by now. I know that is an odd thing to say, and yet it is true. When you expect to die fairly quickly and you keep living it requires a reframing of your reality. In July this year I will take the last marble out of my “five year jar” and then have to start putting them back in I guess. Meanwhile I’m trying to figure out how to keep living and making it count.

When I got my diagnosis of stage IV cancer in July 2013 my prognosis was not particularly good. Actually it was bad, like go and make your final arrangements bad. Stage IV means that you have distant metastasis. That means that no matter where the cancer started it has spread far and wide, usually to other vital organs. In my case it is fully involved in liver metastases, as well as some other places. What we didn't know until I had several more tests was that I had neuroendocrine cancer. Neuroendocrine cancer, or NETS, is slow-growing and moderately controllable with proper treatment. So every other week I spend a half a day or more with my friends at the Duke Cancer Center to receive an infusion (drugs pumped directly into your veins through a port permanently installed in my chest). Additionally, every twenty-eight days I receive a deep subcutaneous monthly
shot (yes it hurts). Every three months or so I go for a set of scans to tell me one of three things: either cancer has gotten worse; it has gotten better; or it has stayed the same.

The good news is that the treatment is basically working. With the exception of a few setbacks over the last four and a half years requiring a change in chemo, the treatment is holding the cancer at bay. It is not really getting any better, but it isn’t growing by much either. My marker tumors, the ones they measure for a baseline, usually grow by just a few millimeters every few months. This doesn’t seem like much until you multiply it over time. Just this week I realized that all of my tumors have more than doubled in size since July 2013.

The treatments are not without some side effects. There is the fatigue you get when you pour a bunch of cancer inhibiting chemicals into your body every two weeks. There is the loss of some muscle mass, delightfully called cancer wasting, that occurs when you battle this kind of illness. There is always the shadow of depression that hangs around the edges as you realize all the things you can't do. There is a cost.

Nobody really tells you the how much it costs to survive. With my first treatment every January I am billed for my annual maximum out-of-pocket for my health insurance. Then it takes me the next few months to pay that off. Prior to having cancer we had a great house in the mountains of North Carolina. The back porch overlooked the Pisgah National Forest. In the fall you could smell the crisp autumn leaves and feel the coolness of winter approaching. In the winter the stars were so clear and so close you thought you could touch them. In the spring, the mountains burst alive with color in celebration of new life. When the cost of treatment began to set in, we realized that we couldn't keep the house in the mountains and pay for cancer treatment. Cancer treatment won. We sold the house and with it our dreams of retiring in the mountains.

Don't get me wrong. I am one of the lucky ones. I have good health insurance, an understanding employer, and a job that is flexible enough to allow me to be gone every other Friday for cancer treatment. I have a supportive spouse. We have the income to pay for the treatments without causing complete financial devastation. I've sat in the waiting room at the Duke Cancer Center many times and heard stories of families on the brink of financial collapse due to the cost of cancer. And that is just the financial cost.

Cancer breaks you. It also breaks the people who love you. There is an emotional and psychological cost that goes far beyond the financial one. You simultaneously carry with you a sense of hopefulness and the reality that the struggle will never be over until it is finally over. When you lay in the MRI machine or the CT scanner every few months you wonder if this will be the time when things go very badly. Sometimes even hearing good news is more like waiting for the other shoe to drop than a reprieve.

Over the next few months, I am going to return to blogging. This time it will be about reflections of taking the long way home. Realizing that the journey that you thought was going to be brief and intense is actually a long, slow climb. I am going to reflect on the great blessings, and some of the struggles. I am going to talk to other people who are taking similar journeys and hear what they have to say. I hope you'll stick around as we take the long way home.

Live Passionately,
Marty

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Getting to Know The Candidates

You don't really get to know somebody by roadside signs. Even trying to Google them you may come up short. So you can get to know me as a person before you vote for Rocky Mount City Council on Tuesday, October 10. I invite you to download a free, digital copy of my book. It can be read on the Kindle App on your phone, tablet, or computer.





Dying to go on Vacation: A journey of discovering life while facing death. - Kindle edition by Marty Cauley. Self-Help Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Raising the Ethical Bar



Like many of you I have been concerned by the recent allegations made about the ethical conduct of a few Rocky Mount City Council members. Conflict of interest, especially within government or non-profits, has been in the news a lot lately. Every business, non-profit board, or community agency I have ever had the privilege to serve required the signing of a "conflict of interest policy" document. Recently I discovered that the Rocky Mount City Council members are not currently required to sign a binding conflict of interest document. A conflict of interest policy, rather than being a burden, is a great asset. It provides transparency for the leaders, helps identify conflicting motives for their actions, and increases trust of those who are served.

Transparency of processes is essential for democratic government to work. A recent Fast Company (link below) article revealed that people are drawn to places where transparency is practiced. Transparency allows for open and honest communication which increases morale. Transparency removes the suspicion that there is always something going on outside of the official meetings and processes where some one is striving to game the system. It allows for open, respectful, and thoughtful discussion. Transparency, essentially, creates a healthier community. I believe that is what we all want from our city and its leaders.

A wise man once said, "A man cannot serve two masters, he will love the one and hate the other." A clear and binding conflict of interest policy allows for decision makers to make it clear about their motives. It should be known during ever vote if anyone on the city council, their family, or any organization they represent will benefit directly or indirectly. It would then be appropriate for that councilperson to recuse themselves from all debate, discussion, and any voting about the item or issue. In the event that it is later discovered a conflict has occurred, appropriate action outlined in the agreement can be taken.

The primary reason a conflict of interest policy is essential is that it increases trust. After reading countless minutes and notes from city council meetings it seems that there is an undercurrent of mistrust. The first step in raising the ethical bar is to improve trust. The first step in improving trust is by inviting every council member to sign a clear, binding conflict of interest statement (similar to the one used by The Gates Foundation below).

Rocky Mount has incredible potential for growth and progress. After years of stagnation momentum and change are starting. All of this can be undone unless there is transparency and trust. It is time to raise the ethical bar for our leaders and require they sign a conflict of interest policy document as a first step.

Serving in government at any level is a privilege, not a right. Serving requires selfless dedication to the community and should never be used as a platform for personal gain.

Remember you do what you can do. I will do what I can do. Together we can change the world.

Live Passionately,
Marty



Sample Conflict of Interest Policy from The Gates Foundation
Fast Company Article on Transparency