ocean pier transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

What’s Important. What’s Not Important.

I met my college roommate, Donna, in September of 1977, freshman year, fall term, first day of school. We were assigned a room together. I got the better roommate. She, not so much. She was a brunette with a sense of purpose. I was a clueless blonde. She was a Christian. I was not. We’ve been friends 38 years and counting. This month she was diagnosed with brain cancer. I’ve spent the better part of the month wondering, why this month? This is her birthday month.

She has several brain tumors that the doctors give a grade 4.

Tumors are graded on a scale of 1-4. 1 is good. 4 is not. Though they admit to a possibility of being wrong, they’re treating it like a 4. (It’s possible the grade is 2-3. Her’s is an unusual case.) Her doctor said when people get a diagnosis like this, life becomes about 2 things: What is important and what is not.

I’ve noticed that aging is moving me to the same conclusion, but with Donna, the thought process is accelerated. Her beautiful family, her faith, her most treasured friends, and the lost are now what’s important to her.

I did not become a Christian until age 32, and the word lost infuriated me. I wasn’t lost. I was an intelligent, capable woman with a college degree, a job, several boyfriends (yeah, let’s not go there), and lots of friends who thought and acted just like me. So, what was I lost from? That’s what I wanted to know. I didn’t feel lost. There are multiple ways to explain that, but for now, I’m only going to say that after I became a Christian, I was stunned at my lost self. I am still dumb-founded by that girl in her 20’s, and how she perceived and understood the world.

What strikes me, looking back, was my refusal of all Christian thought on the basis of how ridiculously stupid and intolerant I thought it was, but how quickly I accepted and made my own (without stopping to question), the world’s view on almost any subject–political to personal–especially if it leaned left and liberal. Please don’t read that, now, I blindly accept one thing while refusing everything else. I don’t. If anything, I question everything more. This includes my Christian beliefs and friends, and worldly wisdom. I may still be blonde, but clueless has left the building.

Our college, Furman University, would tell Donna and I that they taught us critical thinking skills, but they didn’t. They taught us worldly wisdom and worldly conclusions. I’m not talking solid-based research on, say, polio vaccinations type-worldly conclusions. There is much the world has discovered and applied in amazingly positive ways.

I’m talking life here. I’m talking what you do when you find out you have brain cancer with grade 4 tumors, and you’re facing radiation and chemotherapy.

If you’re my most beloved and treasured friend, you get on your knees and begin to pray with urgency for the lost.

Sure, she prays for herself. We have a list of healing verses that we’re praying for her. She wants to be healed. She’s my age, 56. She has an 18-month-old grandchild, an adoring husband of 30+ years, a house I am seriously jealous of (with the most charming garden), a beautiful daughter-in-law (in spirit and in person), 2 accomplished and loving children, a sister (they are so close), brothers, father, and friends. She has so much life ahead of her and we’re focused on that. We’re focused on taking our granddaughters (we currently have four!) to the beach when they’re old enough and their moms will part with them for a week. That’s been on our list for years; just the girls and the grandmas.

But, that doctor was right. For Donna, life is now about what’s important and what’s not. So, she prays fervently for the lost while she prays for her family and healing. I have prayed with her. Beside her couch, using her pretty, pillow shams to buffer the old knees.

If I made my what’s important and what’s not list right now, I’d have to admit that the lost don’t get top billing, though I “once was lost but now am found.” (Note to self: To whom much is given, much is expected.) But, as Donna has always known, we’ll spend way more time in eternity than this blip of life on earth, and how deeply the Father wants us all together. How deeply my dear Donna wants us all together.

I don’t for a second believe that Furman put that purposeful brunette and that clueless blonde together. I trust that the Lord made that roommate assignment. Someone had to pray for me. I was lost. That someone is still praying, and it doesn’t get anymore important than that.

donna and cinthia transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

 

sleeping child transplanted and still blooming cinthia milner

Being a Christian Because I Needed Some Real Answers

I’m going to talk about being a Christian this morning. (I know, some of you just clicked off.) But stay with me here for a few lines. I’ll keep it short. I’m going to tell you my story, and how I got here.

I wasn’t always a believer. In fact, I was 32 when I became one. I was on top of a mountain, all by myself, having gone for a hike that day, when I began to follow Jesus. He came to me there and asked, “Who do you say I am?” (Not physically for those who are literal like I am.) It was a heart thing and totally unexpected. Up until then, I had said Jesus was likely a good teacher or prophet or some such, but in that second, I said, “You are the Lord.” And, he’s been Lord in my life ever since. No, not perfectly so. I don’t submit to him in everything. I wish I did, and maybe I’ll get there.

As Ruth Bell Graham had put on her tombstone, “Construction is finished. Thank you for your patience.” Amen.

I was at a point that I didn’t want the world to tell me how to think or live anymore. I wanted God to tell me, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I was still looking for a savior in any form (guy on a white horse, a job, a new town, friends, a new dress). Yes, there’s plenty the world can teach me, but the first Sunday School class I went to after becoming a Christian was led by a guy who brought the Sunday newspaper in with him. The idea was that we’d read the headlines and discuss what we thought about world events. But, I didn’t want to know what the people in the class thought (though they were all nice folks), I wanted to know what God thought. Einstein said, “I want to know God, the rest are details.” I was right there with Einstein. I needed God. I needed God to tell me what to do. Other people are in the same boat I’m in. We’re all rowing terribly hard, and getting nowhere fast.

I needed real answers.

By following worldly wisdom, I”d made some superiorly ridiculous decisions. I was 32, exhausted and needed true help. I figured since God created the world, then he had a pretty good idea of how I should live in it.  I was tired of holding the world up. Maybe not the whole world, but, mine.

I remember coming across this verse:

It is vain for you to rise early, come home late, and work so hard for your food. Yes, he can provide for those whom he loves even when they sleep. Psalm 127:2

I read that and took a nap. I’d spent my life trying to maintain control while looking for something that would bring me happiness. Happiness in a world where suffering is the norm is hard to find.

Giving my life over to God, some say, makes me a wimp. Well, call me a wimp.

I got tired of controlling my own destiny, plus it just didn’t make sense. I didn’t even create this life that I live, so that argument is already out the window from the get-go. I came into this world with no effort of my own, it was beginning to make sense that living it as if I created it was even more superiorly crazy. Giving control of it to the one who did create it seemed the only reasonable thing to do. And so, that day on the mountain, I said, out loud, “Well, I’ve made a mess of this life, let’s see what you can do with it.” (Impertinent has always been an issue for me.)

I said I’d keep it short, so I will. The word grace is what I’ll end with. Grace is relief in spades. Grace is God’s way of saying I’ve got you covered. Your life, your screw-ups (hey, guess what, I’m going to use those!), your future (yes, I’ve got a plan), your eternal destiny (yes, eternal), and so you rest. Rest in the grace of knowing I love you and I will take care of you.

Deal.