Mar 22

A Sneak Peek at My First Chapter!

 

 

 

 

 

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive;

and to do it with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

MAYA ANGELOU

 

I remember going in for my five-year cancer checkup and gleefully announcing to my oncologist, Dr. Marc Hirsh, that I wouldn’t be seeing him professionally anymore.

“Where did you get that idea?” he responded.

“It’s five years; I’m cured!” I told him, surprised he was unaware of such a momentous occasion.

“Well, the chance the cancer will return has diminished greatly, but you still need to be checked for the rest of your life,” Marc replied.

I felt as if my winning lottery ticket had been declared a forgery. After five whole years of waiting to be proclaimed cured, there was going to be no such official announcement.

Of course, back then I thought there were only two alternatives regarding cancer: sick or cured.

Thankfully, I learned there’s a crucial third distinction: survivor. The National Cancer Institute says that’s what we become “from the time of diagnosis until the end of life.” So survivors include folks who have just found out they have cancer, people who used to have cancer, and those who can expect always to have it. I’m pretty sure that includes everybody who has ever heard those three dreaded words: “You have cancer.”

As I write, there are an estimated 14.5 million people in the United States with a history of cancer, and about the same number of new diagnoses is expected worldwide this year.

That’s an incredible total of survivors, but I wonder how many fit only the first dictionary definition of survive: “to remain alive or in existence”? And how many also portray the second meaning: “to continue to function or prosper”?

Functioning and prospering sound a great deal better to me than simply being alive and existing. If you agree and want to see how you or your survivor loved one also can be a “thriver,” keep reading!

I think bestselling author and poet Maya Angelou’s mission statement is a perfect one to apply to our post-diagnosis lives. I’ve been living as a survivor since 1990, when I was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of thirty-six. My girls were eight, ten, and twelve at the time, and now I’m a grandmother to six. In the ensuing years, my mission, like Ms. Angelou’s, has been not only to survive, but to thrive, and I’ve dedicated my life to helping cancer patients and their caregivers do the same.

 

Some of the people you will meet in this book are in treatment or have finished treatment with the hope that their cancer will be cured and never come back. Many (like me) were told there was a high chance the cancer would reappear, but guess what? No one on this earth really knows. (I’m still here, cancer- free, defying the 40-percent survival rate given me.) Still others you will encounter here have been told the cancer is “treatable, not curable” or will never go away. Despite that grim prognosis, some of those folks are in remission, and a few even have no signs of cancer!

And all of these survivors and their caregivers are peace seekers.

They are people like you who want to experience tranquility and contentment no matter what the diagnosis or prognosis. I’ll share their peace-seeking, peacekeeping stories so this book can become a volume of “portable peace” for you. Take it with you to read during treatment or while waiting at doctors’ offices or before you put your head on the pillow each night.

You see, I truly believe finding peace requires a two-pronged approach. It will take effort on our part. There are specific things we can do or not do to help create calm in our homes, our minds, and our hearts.

And it will take trust on our part because there are amazing things that only God can do for us and in us.

 

Here’s what I think is going to happen as you read this book:

Because of God’s tender mercy,

the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,

 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

and to guide us to the path of peace.  Luke 1:78-79

 (If the music video doesn’t automatically load below, please copy and paste this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FPBEyfQVts )

Mar 15

Is Heaven on Your Mind?

 

 

 

 

How much do you think about Heaven? A lot? A little? Not at all?

Whether your earthly life is close to it’s end or you have many decades still in front of you, I hope your thoughts turn often to Heaven because that eternal perspective lifts the weariness we all face. One of my dear friends who thought well and often of Heaven was named Melina.

Melina was a dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty (think, full-blooded Italian parents!) She and her husband Brian met in 1988 and married a decade later. Together their love produced two adorable little girls, Cecilia and Olivia. Melina was a mortgage broker and Brian worked as an electrical engineer.

It was a beautiful world.

But that was before October of 2003 came. And with it a diagnosis for 33-year-old Melina of colon cancer. I had just met Melina’s younger sister Rina through a mutual friend and I sent Melina a little note of encouragement when I heard about her diagnosis. I knew how important it was to hear from other survivors of “your” kind of cancer. I reminded her that I was still alive after having colon cancer spread to five lymph nodes (she “only” had it in two).

After surgery, Melina started chemotherapy, availing herself of the new anti-colon cancer drugs that had not been available to me back in 1990. But in August of 2004, three weeks after doctors told her there was no evidence of disease, she developed terrible abdominal pain: a grapefruit sized mass was on her ovary. Then a PET scan showed tiny cancerous spots in both lungs.

Melina quit her job to stay home with her daughters and for the next nearly three years, Melina fought back against the cancer, enduring such things as a clinical trial that left her bedridden for five months and a trip to Germany for a new laser procedure to remove the lung nodules. She spent two weeks in California learning about organic and whole food nutrition, and traveled to cancer centers in Philadelphia and Virginia to see what they could offer.

Each new approach seemed to knock down the cancer for a while, only to have it rear its ugly head once again.

Like many cancer patients do during their fight, Melina started a web page. She called it “Melina’s Hope.” As an author who appreciates a really great opening thought, I loved the way Melina began the first page of her site: “You might think my hope is to preserve my earthly life…”

That’s exactly what I was thinking her hope would be. But that’s because I was thinking of her cancer diagnosis as the beginning of her story. She set me and all her readers straight right away by explaining “My story begins one Sunday morning in August 2002.

“What a beautiful day,” she writes. “It was the day I accepted the Lord Jesus into my heart. With that acceptance came a promise: if I trust the Lord with all my heart and acknowledge Him in all my ways, He would direct my paths—and that He did in my journey with colon cancer.”

And that is why Melina said her strongest hope was not to preserve her earthly life, “but more important than that, is my hope that my story changes but one heart to accept the love and protection that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5

That was Melina’s favorite verse—the one on which she firmly staked her life and the one by which she squarely faced her death.

“I can’t abandon the one true healer, Jesus Christ,” she wrote about five months before her passing. “It’s His decision where my healing will take place, here on earth or with Him in heaven. That is where my hope and comfort come from. I trust completely that the Lord will do what is best for me, my family and friends.”

Even though Melina grieved that she was going to leave this earth and not see her little girls grow up or grow old with her husband, she had hope because she knew this life is not all there is.

Hope that she was not saying goodbye forever.

Hope that she was headed to her real Home: Heaven.

Hope that in Heaven she would get a new disease-free body.

Hope that one day there would be a grand reunion of all her family and friends who also trusted in the Lord.

Near the very end of her life, she told her distraught adult family members: “I know you guys don’t want to hear this, but I know where I’m going and I can’t wait to get there!”

Then she added with a smile: “You’ll see me again.”

One of my favorite daydreams is to imagine that upon my arrival in Heaven, Jesus greets me and then takes me to a long line of smiling people: Melina and all of the faith-filled cancer patients I knew. I see that they are physically healed just like we prayed for so many times. We embrace and while there are no sad tears in Heaven, in my daydream I am filled with tears of joy.

But my dream is not just wishful thinking. The promise of Heaven for all who believe in Jesus is real and I know that reunion will really happen.

Another one of the people I look forward to seeing in Heaven is someone I never met on earth: my paternal great-grandmother May Andrews Peirce. She was a prolific poet and I’d like to think my writing ability came down through her genes. In 1928 when she was nearly 60, she wrote a poem she called “HOME.”

In childhood’s days, our thoughts of Heaven

Are pearly gates, and streets of gold.

But in the gathering years,

When time, within its fading leaf

With eyes, perchance be-dimmed with tears,

And hearts oft’ overwhelmed with grief,

We look beyond the pearly gates,

Beyond the clouds of sin’s dark night,

And see a place where loved ones wait,

A place all beautiful and bright.

And over all, we’ll see the face of Him

Who’ll bring us to our own—

Not to some far-off, distant place.

For Heaven is, after all, just HOME.

Today’s song is a real OLDIE (but goodie) from a live performance by Keith Green in 1977. Five years later he was killed in a plane crash at the age of 29. I’ve also included a “bonus,” more contemporary song about Heaven. (If the videos don’t automatically load for you, please copy and paste these links to hear.)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbzJYqj2xC4https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1lrfjmSFkU

Mar 08

A Boy, a Dad and Some Pizza

 

 

 

 

My 4-year-old grandson Benjamin may look more like his mother, but he is a total Daddy’s boy—as in, the best time of day is when Daddy comes home and the worst time is when he leaves.

So it wasn’t surprising when we were all at a local pizza buffet restaurant recently and Benny looked up and asked:  “Where’s Daddy?”

“He’s at the buffet getting salad,” I replied. “Remember, he told you he was going there and he would be right back?”

“No, I can’t see him,” Benny said as his inside “restaurant” voice got a little louder.

“I can see him, Ben,” I calmly told him. “He’s right there,” I said, gesturing to the salad bar at the end of the room.

Benny surveyed as much of the room as he could see from his height advantage and frantically announced: “I can’t see Daddy!”

Quickly he jumped down from our table calling for his father: “Daaaaaaaaddy!”

“Over here, Ben!” his Dad quickly replied, as the little guy followed that familiar voice to the salad buffet, where, surprise, surprise, Daddy stood smiling. The two joined hands as Ben swallowed his tears and waited patiently for Daddy to finish and walk back to the table with him.

Poor little Benny: he was worried and afraid because he lost sight of his Daddy.

Do you know how he felt? Have the struggles of this world—in your life or in someone’s life that you care for—weighed you down so much you’ve lost sight of your heavenly Father?

You’re straining to see how it’s all going to pan out. You’re wondering if God really can work all things together for good. You really need to feel His reassuring touch.

I suggest you follow the steps my worried little grandson took.

  1. Tell a trusted friend/relative that you’re having trouble seeing God in your/your loved one’s life right now. Make sure it’s someone who will listen to your feelings and not belittle them. Someone who loves you and will pray for you to see God again.
  2. Listen to your heavenly Father’s words about where He is in times of trouble. Psalm 34:18 “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. ” Psalm 145:18 The LORD is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.”
  3. Call out to Him. Psalm 61:2 “From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety.” Psalm 10:17 “LORD, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.”  Psalm 34:17 “The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.”
  4. Listen for your heavenly Father’s familiar voice. John 10:14,16c “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep and they know me…They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”
  5. Run to His open arms. Isaiah 40:11 “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.”  Psalm 63:8 “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”
  6. Let Him love you. Jeremiah 31:3-4 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt.” Zephaniah 3:17b “He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love.”

It was wonderful to watch my son-in-law Frank quiet Benjamin with his love. It’s even more wonderful to feel God quiet us with His great love. May you see your Abba Father today and let Him love you as only He can.

(If the music video doesn’t automatically load below, please copy and paste this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzfPHnoT0-0 )

 

 

 

 

Mar 01

How to Encourage the Discouraged

 

 

 

 

I remember so well the first cancer support group meeting I attended at our community  hospital. It was the summer of 1990. I was a reporter for a local newspaper and recently had interviewed Mary, the new group’s facilitator. When I showed up at a support group meeting just eight weeks after my story ran, Mary naturally assumed I was visiting the group as a follow-up to my published article.

“How sweet that you would come to our meeting,” she said with a big smile.

“Actually, I was diagnosed with colon cancer last month,” I told her as her jaw dropped.

It was an incredible irony. I had to talk myself into attending that meeting because I wasn’t sure I really wanted to be with a bunch of people with cancer. As introductions were made around the table, I happened to be the most newly diagnosed and the last to introduce myself.

I burst into tears before I could even get out my name.

I felt really silly for falling apart like that, but I had been trying to hold it together in front of everyone else for so long that it seemed good to let down my feelings with others who had “been there, done that.”

 

After my friend Ken was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2002, he believed for a while that he wouldn’t need things like support groups.

“I assumed that because of my (spiritual) faith I wouldn’t need other forms of support such as groups, family counseling and massage therapy, but I was dead wrong,” Ken explains.

Many years later and still cancer-free, Ken urges newly diagnosed patients not to try and go it alone.

“Circle the wagons—family, friends, co-workers and anyone else who can and will be an available asset in your battle,” he says. “You can never have too many assets!”

 

Before I retired as a patient advocate, I always  was inviting cancer patients and their caregivers to my support group meetings* (see note at end) and I heard a lot of reasons why they didn’t attend. Often people told me “I’m not really that depressed that I need to come.”

To which I replied, “I need people there who aren’t depressed to support those who are!”

I believe there are two reasons for people to attend support groups for whatever problem they face—either to be encouraged or to be an encourager. And I’m pretty sure you could fit into one of those categories!

What life difficulty are you facing or has God already brought you through? Divorce? Addiction? Weight issues? Prison? Special needs child? Relatives with dementia? Abuse? Loss of a job? Infertility? Grief?

The list of life’s trials is endless…and so is the grace of God to see us through.

“God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Don’t waste the pain you’ve encountered by failing to share your experiences with others. The troubles you’ve faced with God’s strength will be a comfort to those facing the same kinds of circumstances.

When the Apostle Paul was down and out, God sent his friend Titus at just the right time to him.

“When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside. But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy.” 2 Corinthians 7:5, 6

God knows exactly what you need to deal with today’s discouragement. Ask Him to bring a “Titus” (or two) into your life to encourage you. (He might even direct you to a support group with a bunch of Tituses!). Or ask how you can be the Titus-encourager someone else needs to meet.

 I pray that we each see one another through the eyes of God–the God who encourages those who are discouraged. Yes, Lord, “give me your eyes for just one second.”

If today’s music video doesn’t automatically load, please copy and paste this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mhpLjPslbM

*** If you are seeking a faith-based cancer support group, I’m compiling a state-by-state list on my website www.lynneib.com .  Or if you are thinking about starting one of your one in your area, there are free helps available there to do just that.***

Feb 22

How to Handle Stupid Remarks

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.”
Attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt

“Oh, my grandmother had that kind of cancer—she didn’t last long.”

“Just stay positive and you’ll be fine.”

“My neighbor had that—he was in a lot of pain.”

“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle!”

Heard any of these insensitive (dare I say stupid) remarks? I’ve heard them all and then some. I remember bumping into a church friend at the grocery store shortly after I began chemo back in 1990. She apologized for not being in touch with me.

“I thought I heard you were going to die. I didn’t know if that was true, so I just didn’t know what to do,” she quickly spit out.

She kept babbling for a while, and I remember I ended up trying to comfort her in the fresh vegetable aisle.

I think relatives, friends, and acquaintances are usually at a loss for words when they hear about someone’s diagnosis or recurrence, so they say something to either a) try to identify with the person or b) try to lift the person’s spirits. Often they succeed with neither, especially when they immediately begin quoting Bible verses.

My Arkansas physician-friend Tom has been dealing with prostate cancer since 2000. He knows exactly what I mean.

“When people told me ‘all things work together for good’ or otherwise dismissed my fear, anxiety, or sadness, it upset me,” Tom recalls. “It doesn’t sound good when you are in the midst of a tornado. It made me feel like they had no idea what I was really going through.”

That same verse from Romans 8:28 was quoted to my western New York friend Ken moments after he was given the devastating news of tongue cancer that required life-altering surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

“I only heard the first few words and wanted to scream at my friend, ‘Stop! Just stop!’” he recalls fourteen cancer-free years later.

I’m willing to bet you can remember some not-very-helpful comments made to you or your loved one. How do we handle such insensitivity?

I like former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice: To handle others, use your heart. We need to hear beyond people’s words and instead hear their hearts.

Do you think my friend at the grocery store saw me standing by the romaine lettuce and thought, I’ll walk over to Lynn and say something that will make her feel really bad? Or I plan to fall apart so much she’ll end up comforting me?

Of course not. I’m sure her heart was feeling love for me and concern over my well-being, however poorly she expressed it. And the same was surely true for the Bible-quoting friends of Tom and Ken.

Think about the last cancer-related (or any other life-struggle) conversation you had with someone that left you feeling worse instead of better. Ask yourself whether you think that was the person’s intention. If yes, I recommend you speak with someone who can help you establish healthy boundaries with a spiteful person! But if you answered no, then throw away that person’s words and just hear his or her heart for you. Replay the scenario like I did and consider whether the person really wanted to make you feel bad. (This also works well in other situations whenever people don’t act the way we wish they would; e.g. I had to ask myself today, Do I really think my husband wanted to annoy me by eating the last Planters Peanut Bar while I was busy writing a book to help people facing cancer?)

We always want people to give us the benefit of the doubt or cut us some slack, but we have to admit, it’s not always easy to do the same for others—especially when our world has been rocked by a life-altering event. Our emotions are fragile, our bodies are hurting, and our spirits can be wounded easily. That makes it hard to be patient with well-meaning but insensitive folks. Nevertheless, if we want to find peace in the face of cancer (or any other difficulty), sometimes we will have to hear people’s hearts and ignore their words (and perhaps their actions, too).

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. –Jesus, speaking in John 14:27

We experience peace when we hear people’s hearts and not just their words.

If the video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy and paste this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BMIJHZSavo

Feb 15

No more bad news!

 

 

 

 

Would you believe I’m typing this blog at 11:20 p.m. the night before? I was lying in bed thinking about my day: naming things for which I’m thankful and praying for those in need when it hit me: I never wrote a blog for this week! AAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!

Part of me thought that I should just skip it–it’s not like the blog police are going to arrest me for failure to write.But I kept thinking maybe there was someone who really needed a Word to the Weary today. In just the last few days so many of my friends have gotten bad news–cancer recurrences, the need for more chemo, the death of a loved one, loss of a job, and the list goes on and on. Maybe you or someone in your family has gotten some awful news too. And even if you didn’t personally get such news, there’s been enough rotten world and national news to discourage even the most optimistic person–me included!

So I decided to get out of my nice warm bed and get my four typing fingers moving and at least write a few words of encouragement to all of us who are feeling the weight of so much bad news. (Now I know why I couldn’t get Psalm 112:7 out of my mind all day.)

They will not be afraid when the news is bad because they have resolved to trust in the Eternal.  (The Voice Bible)

Scripture never promises that those of us who love and follow God won’t get bad news. In fact, it pretty much assures us we will. We can’t really choose whether or not to get bad news–although turning off the TV and not reading newspapers or Facebook might help a little :-)  It’s when the bad news comes that we have a choice: we get to choose how we respond. And we can decide not to be afraid.

Why can we make that decision? Because we have resolved to trust God. The Google dictionary says resolved means that we have “decided firmly on a course of action.” The Amplified Bible translates that part of Psalm 112:7 as “steadfast, trusting [confidently relying on and believing] in the Lord.” Any way you put it, our minds are made up. We are not budging. We will trust God in spite of every negative, discouraging, evil, disease-filled, sad, depressing circumstance we come up against.

Well, it’s after midnight as I finish typing–I didn’t even stay up this late on New Year’s Eve! I’m not much for New Year’s Resolutions, but here’s the resolution I am making this night: I am resolved to trust in the Eternal God no matter what this life brings (or doesn’t bring). Won’t you join me today, and all the days that follow, in making that same resolution?

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If the video doesn’t automatically load below, please copy and paste this link to enjoy this song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXMPNXXnCls

 

 

Feb 08

Wanna see my first selfie?

 

 

 

 

True confession: I am 63 years old and this is my FIRST SELFIE. When I took it two nights ago and sent it to my three daughters, one responded that she wished more people my age had never taken a selfie. Hmmmmm……..not sure exactly how to take that.first copy

Nevertheless, here it is–didn’t comb my hair first, freshen my makeup, put on an lipstick or change my sweatshirt . Obviously didn’t know how to make sure there wasn’t a reflection on the cover. Nope, no preparation whatsoever. I just held it up, grinned and took the photo because I was SO excited to show the FIRST copy of my new book to my girls. (I am pretty proud that I actually knew how to turn the camera around to take the picture!)

However, the more I looked at the photo yesterday, the more I wanted to retake it, because it’s obviously blurry, my eyes look a little crossed and I really want some lipstick. It’s definitely not perfect, and I am a perfectionist. But if I retook it, then it wouldn’t be my FIRST selfie, would it? So I left it alone and I’m sharing it with you because you probably needed something to give you a little smile today.

 

I’ve noticed that the more books I write, the more I relax and the more of my personal–not just professional–self shows through. This is book number five, (not counting the inspirational commentary for the He Cares New Testament), so I’ve really chilled on this one.

I’ve gone ahead and let my quirky sense of humor show. For ages I’ve used it with cancer patients and their caregivers as a way to lift spirits during difficult times (#yesimayhavetakenafartmachinetothechemoroom), but that’s easier done in person than in a book. So I hope when you read this book, those meant-to-be-humorous  comments make you smile and not just wonder about my sanity.

I  also wanted the format of this book to be different from my other books, so I began each chapter with a quote from a famous person or character. You’ll hear encouragement  from Snoopy, Anakin Skywalker, Bob Dylan and Steve Martin to name a few. Don’t worry, I’ve also included some more traditional founts of wisdom like Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Corrie Ten Boom. Of course, as always, the main source of inspiration will be the very Word of God.

 

Because I’m a newspaper reporter turned author, when I write I like to start with facts and let them create feelings. I am not good at making things up. (How people write fiction is beyond me!) In my books I tell true cancer survivor stories and share true biblical hope. I like to think of myself as a passionate encourager who always is a truth-teller.

At the end of this book, I’ve added three bonus chapters for those facing cancer that is not considered medically curable. I know so many people in this situation of “chronic” cancer/cancer-for-the-long haul that I wanted to address some of their particular needs.

Each chapter in the book also ends with what I call a “Path to Peace”–a few words intended to pour truth into your mind and peace into your heart. My prayer for all who will read this book is that you’ll discover how to foster peace in your own home and life, as well as how to find God’s supernatural peace in your heart and mind–regardless of your or your loved one’s medical prognosis.

 

Peace in the Face of Cancer will be released next month and available in bookstores and online. I’ll be posting excerpts in the coming weeks and asking some of you to hep me launch its release.  Thanks for reading today and I hope you join me in thanking God for what He has amazingly done with a four-finger typist who never really wanted to write any books.

 

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from Heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. Luke 1:78-79 NLT

Shalom.

 

If the video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy and paste this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbrNFxiHuYg

 

 

Feb 01

Can You See Your Shadow?

 

 

 

 

 

There I was staring right into the steely eyes of a hammerhead shark. Then another shark swam toward me. Over my shoulder, I could see a third heading my way.

I never flinched. I didn’t even attempt to run. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

Why? Not because I still have chemo-brain and didn’t remember that sharks can be very dangerous. No, it was because I was completely protected from them.

The experience took place at the aquarium in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and I was standing on dry ground watching the menacing-looking sharks swim past me in a huge, wraparound glass saltwater tank. They couldn’t have touched me even if they had wanted to. So you see, it is possible to be surrounded by something life-threatening and yet feel very safe!

The shadow that cancer–or any difficult; trial–casts on survivors and loved ones can at times seem very menacing.

In grade-school science, you may have learned that a shadow is caused by the absence of light when an opaque (not see-through) object has absorbed the light. When the trials of life becomes a shadow in our lives, I believe they’re blocking the light from reaching us.

Another truth about shadows is that they fall opposite their light source. That’s why your shadow is in front of you if the sun is behind you and vice versa. The way we’re facing determines whether or not we can see the shadow easily.

I know this is a simple scientific fact, but it is a profound spiritual truth for those facing tough times. You have to keep facing the light in order not to see shadows so easily. You must keep turned in the right direction.

Do you remember in 1998 when the Galaxy IV communications satellite malfunctioned and rotated out of position, turning away from the earth? In an instant millions of pagers went silent, TV and radio stations couldn’t transmit, and even some gas pumps couldn’t accept credit cards. It all happened because just one satellite in the heavens turned the wrong way and couldn’t communicate with earth.

Perhaps when you first heard the diagnosis or found yourself in a really difficult spot, you got out of position spiritually. You couldn’t figure out how a loving God could allow this situation into your life or your loved one’s. Maybe you even felt at times as if He didn’t hear your prayers. I hope you will check to see which way you are facing. I believe the way to communicate with God is to be turned toward Him, pouring out our hearts to the One who hears, understands, and has the power to respond.

Once we’re facing Him, talking to Him, and listening to Him, we also can choose to live under a different shadow. Now I know it sounds strange that you could find light by being under a shadow, but it’s true.

The shadow I want you to move under—or stay under if you’re already there—is a much, much bigger shadow than any illness or trial’s shadow. It’s a safe, secure, protective shadow. There’s no other shadow that can eclipse this one. And underneath it, we’re not in the dark; we’re supernaturally in the light. You see, while the Bible describes God as light, it also refers to Him as a shadow, protecting us in His shade.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

The shadow of the Almighty.

I love that word picture. Can you see yourself with a dark cloud of pain–physical, emotional, mental or spiritual–over your head, as you move under the huge shadow of God Himself? Standing underneath His shadow, you can barely even see the little shadow-speck of the struggle you’re facing.

He has hidden me in the shadow of his hand. Isaiah 49:2

Have you ever put your arms around a child during a storm and drawn him/her close to you, protecting that little one from the rain and the noise? Have you ever seen a mother hen spread her wings and gather her little chicks to safety as danger approached? Those are the pictures that the Bible gives us of God’s love and care for us.

How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter
in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7

May I pray for you? Almighty God, please help my friend to live not under the shadow of illness or any trial, but under the protective shadow of Your hand. And there let my friend feel your unfailing love and find rest. Amen.

NOTE: I don’t usually post songs from live performances, but this was the best version I could find of this song I wanted to use. If it gets too long for you, you can always stop it :-) Lyrics also are in SPANISH for all my Spanish-speaking friends to sing along! (We used to sing this at a Messianic Jewish synagogue we attended, so it brought back really nice memories for me.)

If the video doesn’t automatically load here, please copy and paste this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stjOIflP_1g to enjoy!

Jan 25

Praying when You Just Can’t

 

 

 

 

 

It’s pretty easy to thank God when ­every­thing’s going well in your life. When you feel good. When you have your health. When your loved ones are doing fine.

It’s a lot harder to praise Him when things—sometimes most things—are not going well. Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I always enjoyed singing in worship, praising God and thanking Him for all my wonderful blessings. Prayers came easily to my lips, especially prayers of thanksgiving, because I had a lot for which to be thankful. In fact, if you had told me there would come a time in my life when I ­wouldn’t be able to pray, I would have laughed at the suggestion and insisted it could never happen.

But it did.

In those first dark days after my diagnosis, I literally ­couldn’t pray. When I would read my Bible and then try to pray, the words simply would not form. Instead, tears rolled down my cheeks, sometimes just a trickle and sometimes turning into heavy sobs. The ­only thing I felt like I wanted to pray was a desperate cry for healing. What else was there to say?

And then I read a verse in the Bible—one ­I’m sure I’d read many times before, but it never had seemed that significant:

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. Romans  8:26-27

Two wonderful verses about how to pray when you feel you ­can’t pray. They were right there in the Bible, sandwiched between Paul’s discussion of suffering and his explanation of how we can be victorious even in difficult times! (Read the whole chapter and you’ll see what I mean.)

It was okay that I felt I ­couldn’t pray. The Holy Spirit would pray for me. He would take my “groans” that were too deep for words right to God Himself. And even better than that, the Spirit would know what to pray for me. He would pray accord­ing to God’s will. I love how The Message renders Romans 8:26: If we ­don’t know how or what to pray, it ­doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.

That’s one amazing God! He knows that at the times we need Him most, we may not be able to express ourselves to Him, so He has His own Spirit do it for us! After I found that verse, I would often just sit, my hands on my lap, palms toward heaven, tears rolling down my cheeks . . . praying.

I never said a word. I ­couldn’t even form cohesive thoughts in my mind, but I prayed. I ­didn’t worry what or how to pray. I simply allowed God’s Spirit to take my innermost thoughts, my deepest fears to God and pray for me.

In time I was able to pray again myself, but sometimes even now I still practice the kind of prayer I learned when I had no other way to pray.

Another amazing thing I learned about prayer during my cancer ordeal is that God has given us prayers we can pray when the pain is too deep.

I spent the entire six months of my chemo in the Psalms. I ­don’t think I opened my Bible up anywhere except to the middle, where my eyes would fall upon a psalm that expressed my need to God.

I remember one day telling my husband how much the Psalms were blessing me as I dealt with the struggles of chemo treatments.

My surprised husband reminded me that in years past I had commented that those who wrote the sorrowful psalms seemed to be “a bunch of whiners.”

“Well, now ­I’m a whiner, too!” I explained.

It was true. For the first 36 of my life I had it ­really easy. A wonderful, loving home growing up; a good education; a great marriage; super children—nothing to whine about. Life had been so good that I had never needed God the way I did after I found out I had cancer.

Quite to the contrary, the psalmists had plenty of trouble in their lives, plenty of times they desperately needed God’s help. So I read the Psalms. Day and night I read the Psalms as my prayers to God.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Psalm 25:1-2 niv

I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word. Psalm 119:81

However you pray, your prayers are reaching the Father’s ears. The scriptures tell us that in Heaven there are “gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” (Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4) Your prayer is a sweet fragrance to God. Here’s one more from the Psalms you could pray today: Lord, sustain me as you promised, that I may live! Do not let my hope be crushed. Amen. (Psalm 119:116)

Don’t miss the INCREDIBLE song here. If it doesn’t load automatically for you, copy and paste this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Te0hy2YcLgg

 

 

Jan 18

Why not start a HOPE collection?

 

 

 

 

 

Not many 77-year-old women are upset about having cancer because they won’t be able to tap dance, but my friend Linda sure was.

The lively great-grandmother was diagnosed with primary peritoneal cancer (a rare female cancer usually treated similarly to ovarian cancer) in October 2010 and faced major abdominal surgery and chemotherapy. She knew those treatments were going to put a crimp in her active lifestyle.

“I was a bit disappointed I was not going to be able to attend my once-a-year visit to my daughter’s first-grade classroom and help the students make applesauce and tap dance for them,” explained Linda, who started tap dancing when she was about eight and in her mid-60s still performed with a local group of senior ladies—ages 50-something to 80-something—called “The Glitter Bugs.”

But even worse than not being able to dance was Linda’s worry that she wouldn’t be well enough to take care of her 92-year-old husband, who was on hospice care.

“My husband always thought of me as a ‘spring chicken,’ who would be there to care for him and when all this happened, he realized I might need some care, too,” Linda recalled.

So from the start of her cancer journey, Linda realized how much she was going to need her faith, her family and her friends. Fortunately, she was surrounded by hope—literally.

That’s because several years ago she started collecting items with the word “hope” on them–books, plaques, candle holders, Christmas decorations, flowerpots and garden stones all proclaiming hope. In fact, everywhere she turned in her house or her yard, she saw hope! Four freestanding, silver letters—H, O, P, E—about five inches tall became her favorite decoration because she could easily move them to any area where she wanted a visual reminder not to give up.

“I can’t remember exactly when I started collecting, but I know there came a time when I realized our HOPE in God is what allows us to believe in something we do not see,” Linda said.

And Linda didn’t just collect hope; she studied it, too (and capitalized it when she wrote about it!).

“I had a ladies’ Bible study on HOPE,” she recalled. “Before the ladies came, I asked them to write down a list of things they HOPE for. We shared some of our hopes and kept others to ourselves. Inevitably somewhere on each list was the HOPE of Heaven.”

At the end of the study, Linda gave each participant a handmade bookmark with her acrostic on HOPE:

Heaven
Offers
Peace
Eternal

“If we believe that, fear is diminished and even wiped out!” she said. “What peace we find in that HOPE!”

I agree completely with Linda that the promised hope of Heaven for all believers is what gives lasting peace. I love how The Message describes this hope in Hebrews 6:18:

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us.

That is the hope in which Linda continued to walk on her journey with cancer. When I wrote about her in my 50 Days of Hope book, it only had been seven months since her diagnosis, but follow-up tests showed her cancer-free. She knew the odds were not in her favor, but thanked God “for my remission time however long it may be.”

Perhaps you might want to embrace Linda’s hobby and start “collecting” hope? Look for it and listen for it each day. You’ll probably be amazed at how often it pops into your life. And I hope like Linda you have grabbed on to the promised hope of Heaven with both hands and that you never let go. Then you will be able to pray today as King David did: No wonder my heart is glad and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. Amen. (Acts 2:26 quoting from Psalm 16:9)

P.S. I’m happy to tell you that Linda did tap dance again the next year after her diagnosis and made applesauce with her daughter’s new first-graders. In 2016 she passed away and is now tap dancing on streets of gold!

If the music video doesn’t appear below, please copy and paste this link to enjoy the song “There’s Hope”

 

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