Friday, June 15, 2007

Another in Christians with the Heart of a Servant Series

Meet Catherine Painter

Author, mentor and outstanding woman of God.

I first met Catherine Painter in the lunch line at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer's Conference. That's been three years now and from the first moment I met her, I fell in love with this straight forward woman. Not only has she mentored me over the past few years but she has high expectations for me. I think the sign of a real mentor and teacher is when they do set expectations and standards for us to meet.

Catherine Painter has a gift for teaching which goes beyond amazing. She is able to take wonderfully complex issues and simplify them so the average reader can grasp hold. I love this woman, not only because of her gift as a writer or for her friendship, but for her amazing example in the face of serious disease.

Catherine is a cancer survivor and one of the most unique parts of knowing her was keeping in touch with this amazing woman as struggled through the wake of cancer and into the smooth and peaceful waters of health. God has blessed her.

Her willingness to offer herself to God as a tool in writing and in mentoring shows she has the true heart of a servant. Meet my friend and mentor, Catherine Painter.

Catherine, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to share your ministry. I know you are in the process of meeting writing deadlines. I am thrilled and honored that you have have taken me under your wing. Let's chat.

We met at a writer’s conference where I was drawn to you by your zeal and zest to proclaim the Word of God through this book. Tell me how the book has been a blessing for you?

A Many blessings come to mind. My personal relationship with Christ grew while I wrote So, You’re a Christian! Now What? The spiritual growth I experienced “living” the book eighteen months was a tremendous bonus.

I had accepted Christ at 19 during college; yet, years later, I still felt like a new Christian. After maturing in my faith, I wrote So, You’re a Christian! Now What? to help others new to the faith avoid the pain of doubt I experienced concerning my relationship to God, even while being married to a minister!

Someone asked, “Why didn’t your pastor husband give you answers?” I replied, “I didn’t know the questions.”

Down at the church, I juggled so many religious “duties” that everyone, including my minister husband Jack, assumed that I was spiritually mature. Every year my “juggling” improved, but looking back, I realize that much of my church work was accomplished in the power of the flesh—as if the Holy Spirit were not involved at all. I was a perfect picture of the fleshly Christian Paul described in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3.

After leading two groups of believers through So, You’re a Christian! Now What? since the book was released, I’ve discovered that my experience was not unique; that even many long-time Christians also failed to master the basics of Christianity, remaining stuck in spiritual infancy.

Q You have a tender and giving heart. You’ve mentored me through the last couple of years without really KNOWING me. What inspires you to take others under your wing and guide them?

A Two things perhaps:

*The nurturing inclination that most women, especially mothers, possess; and

*The gift of teaching given to me on my spiritual birthday.

The Spirit especially inspired my writing So, You’re a Christian! Now What?

God networks through us, transferring our gifts to others He wants to bless. This was true throughout Christian history. Think about it: What would King David have been without a friend like Jonathan, or Moses without Pharaoh’s daughter, or Paul without Barnabas who believed in Paul when others mistrusted him? And what would young Timothy have accomplished without Paul’s shoulder to lean on?

Q I know you’ve recently ended a long battle with cancer in which you came out the winner. Can you tell us how God has used that experience to strengthen you?

A So, You’re a Christian! Now What? was released January, 2006. In March I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I suffered a year of treatment that prevented my promoting the book to the fullest. However, in spite of chemo and radiation, I held 26 book signings last year. My cancer is now in “persistent remission.” My oncologist explained, “Persistent remission” means “it’s not coming back!” I don’t know how he can be so sure, but I love believing him!

You asked how cancer strengthened me and what I learned from it.

  • I learned how fragile life really is. One day I was presumed well; the next day

I was knocked down and blown off course by a wind I didn’t see coming. Cancer is humbling. So sick from chemo, I often walked, holding on to walls, furniture, or my husband Jack’s hand.

  • I gained a new outlook on life. With a possible death sentence staring me in

the face, I decided to view “life’s glass half full.” Totally at God’s mercy, I held on to His love and the prayers so many friends (and strangers) offered on my behalf. Prayer literally carried me through the most difficult year of my life.

  • My prayer life changed. Whereas I once prayed “Dear God” prayers, cancer

taught me to pray “Oh, Lord!” prayers, crying out to God. The great prayers in the Bible are “Oh, Lord!” prayers. I read God’s Word aloud, cherishing Scriptures that praying friends suggested. Now I no longer “enter God’s presence;” instead I remain there. I recall desperate times when I mentally crawled into God’s spiritual lap, and allowed Him to hold me while I cried. I learned that regardless of one’s faith, enduring and overcoming cancer is a lonely journey.

  • Scripture took on new meaning. I relied on Scripture such as Psalm 118:17: “I

shall not die, but live, and proclaim the Word of the Lord.” I especially claimed Paul’s testimony: “Whether I live or whether I die, I am the Lord’s.” Christians can’t lose; we’re in a win-win situation. I began to read Scripture, asking, “Lord, what do You want to teach me today?

Q Has God used you to minister to others through this experience?

A Yes, I’m ministering now to a friend undergoing chemotherapy. We email back and forth several times a week. I express encouragement and love, knowing she’ll get through it as I did and value her life and salvation more than ever. Because I’ve come face to face with death, I share my faith more openly than before, calling others’ attention to life after death and discussing where they plan to spend eternity. I’ve been amazed at the number of people who tell me: “I never gave life after death a thought.”

Q Were there times you felt you couldn’t get through?

A Yes. I didn’t doubt I would conquer cancer as much as I feared I would not survive the treatment. I endured surgery, and with the help of others’ praying for me (including you, Cindy), I survived the chemo. Radiation was the worst part; my heart went out of rhythm following every treatment until it finally raced to 217 beats a minute causing a mini-stroke. I saw double for three days and couldn’t walk for five days, but I’ve completely recovered. I’m a double miracle!

Through it all, I learned that nothing comes to the Christian except by God’s permission. The Bible declares, “our steps are ordered by God.” That means we do not walk alone or by chance. I see God’s timing more clearly now.

Consider this: Had I learned I had cancer two years ago (when my doctor told me it should have been discovered), I probably would not have written So, You’re a Christian! Now What? Sick and involved with treatments, I would at best have postponed the writing, and at worst I may have given in to the fatigue I still experience, not ever writing the book. God has a purpose for us, and controls even the smallest details of our lives, including dates on our calendars. What a mighty God we serve!

Catherine, you are an amazing woman. Thank you so much for sharing with the readers of Mountain Breeze. You are a charm and you've set the bar high. Do you suppose I can jump far enough? Congratulations on your current Bible Study. Let me encourage readers to check out the Hensley Publishing and check into Catherine's study. Our own Sunday school class went through this study and revived some of the emotions we'd lost. It's a great study. Great wishes to you as you continue your writing.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Whom Do I Serve?

"When I'm interrupted the most is when God can refine me the best."

I am awed at the quick discipline of the Lord. The closer my relationship comes to Him the clearer I see His movement in my life. Let me give you an example.

We take turns carrying the beeper from our office. Our line of business deals with the elderly and we must be accessible around the clock in the event of an emergency. My personal time of study is five thirty to six thirty every morning. This is the time I sit down and prayerfully approach writing devotionals.

This particular day began quiet as I headed into the office to write. It seems I’d hardly gotten started before the beeper kept sounding. Minutes passed as I handled call after call. My thoughts for the devotions quickly went out the back door. After completing the phone tasks, I turned my attention back to the devotional. That’s when reality hit. Every thought I had was gone. My mind was blank.

I leaned back in my chair and said, “Well Lord, perhaps we can do something about praying with scriptures. Maybe find a good scripture we can share that readers can pray with. My entire line of thought is gone and now I’m working against the clock. I have to be at work soon.” That’s when God impressed upon my heart a scripture I couldn’t deny.

Matthew 22:36-39 tells us, ‘“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied” Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Okay, so I get it. Interruption after interruption led me to want to cut corners – choose something that was fast and easy just to get the work completed. God quickly asked me, “Whom do you love and whom do you serve?”

“I love You, Lord and I serve You.”

“Then trust me and write.”

Wow, was I surprised. God took the very moment I was in and turned it into a lesson. In my morning of confusion, my first thought was to put my called work to the side or worse yet – skimp. The Father quickly disciplined me. It’s easy for us to lay Christ to the side when life happens. We’re all guilty of sidestepping at times. However, that’s not how God wants us to handle the rush of the moment. He wants us to focus strictly on Him and He will make the necessary adjustments. We simply have to push ahead as planned.

Placing Him first in every situation is always the right way of handling things. We falter when we try a shortcut or attempt to muddle through without His guidance. So, I ask – when life happens, what is your response? It’s not always the fastest solution, but when we continue to move God into the forefront, everything else falls into place.

The next time life rushes in to overtake you, stop and take a deep breath. Ask yourself, “Whom do I love and whom do I serve?” Now answer with scripture. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” You’ll never go wrong.

Prayer: Father, forgive us when we want to cut You short. Help us to always keep You in the lead.