May 17

How to Fly into (and out of!) a Hurricane

 

 

 

 

 

The more I talk with my cousin Jim about his days of flying with an Air Force weather reconnaissance team, the more I believe that the trials of life—cancer included—are a lot like flying into a hurricane…both require an inordinate amount of trusting.

Jim agrees with my observation and says it was difficult at first for him to trust he was going to be okay as his plane flew right into the eye of a storm.

“There’s a lot of trust going on when you’re going into harm’s way,” he explains. “You have to trust in the plane and the people who made it. You have to trust in the people who maintain the plane and that it won’t fall apart. And you have to trust the other crew members that they know what they’re doing. And they all have to trust in you—that you will do the right thing, too.

“But the more you do it, the more you know it’s going to be okay,” adds Jim, who has flown 44 times into the eye of hurricanes and typhoons.

Jim says the scariest part of the team’s mission to gather weather data is the five or 10 minutes just before the plane actually flies into the eye of the storm.

“You usually have to fly right through thunderstorms—which of course you normally would never do—and the turbulence is sometimes so severe you’re really glad you’re strapped into your seat,” he explains.

But what happens next is so incredible it helps keep people like my cousin flying again and again into the eye of the storm.

“When you break through the eye wall, dramatically and suddenly the turbulence stops,” Jim explains. “What was black and bleak is now calm, sunny, quiet, beautiful and really awe-inspiring. There’s blue sky above you and you’re like a little fish in the bottom of a bowl. You’ve found the exact calm center.”

 

Now I fully realize that unlike my cousin Jim, you have not chosen to fly into a hurricane. I also realize I can’t change the fact that your life has been touched by an imperfect storm, that your world has fallen apart and that you are trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. But I believe with all my heart that when God meets your pain, the Creator of the Universe is able to lead you to the exact calm center. I don’t really understand how He does it anymore than I understand how the middle of a hurricane can be beautifully quiet. But my cousin Jim has been there so I believe him and God’s Word promises it so I believe Him.

 “Be still, and know that I am God!…” Psalm 46:10

That’s where we find the exact calm center. It’s the place where we can relax in the tight grip of a sovereign God. We relax not because everything is okay, but because we know the One who is in control…and will one day in Heaven make everything okay.

Here’s how some other Bible versions translate that verse:

“Cease striving and know that I am God;” NASB

“Desist, and know that I [am] God.” Young’s Literal Translation

“Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God.” Amplified Bible

God says, “Calm down, and learn that I am God.” Contemporary English Version

The word translated “still” in Psalm 46:10 is the Hebrew word “harpu.” I’m no Hebrew scholar, but I did some research and found it conveys the idea of being weak, letting go, surrendering or releasing. It’s the opposite of striving with our arms up, ready to fight or at least defending ourselves. When we are “harpu,” our arms are at their sides, relaxed.

There’s a great story in the Old Testament that I think illustrates this idea. It’s found in 2 Chronicles 20. The short background of the story is that the Jewish King Jehoshaphat was told that some great armies were coming to attack him. His response was not atypical from what ours might be—he “was terrified and begged the Lord for guidance.” (2 Chronicles 20:3) Shortly, God answers his prayer by sending His Spirit to speak through one of the king’s men:

 He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!” 2 Chronicles 20:15-17

The king and his people believed God and began to worship Him, praise Him and sing to Him. At the very moment they did this, the Bible says God caused the approaching armies to fight amongst themselves and kill each other. The Israelites won the battle without a fight because God fought for them.

Standing still does not logically sound like a good way to win a battle. But then God’s ways are not our ways, are they? The armies coming against Jehoshaphat were way too large and powerful to be defeated by him. The situation was hopeless from his perspective—but it was hope-filled from God’s vantage point.

I know you or your loved one are in a difficult battle. Perhaps you at times feel the problem is too large and powerful for you and your situation is hopeless. But it is not really your battle—it is the Lord’s. Sometimes He will fight through you (when you need to push on through the pain) and other times He will fight for you. At those times, you can do as Jehoshaphat and the Israelites did: stand still and watch the Lord’s victory.

Be still, dear friend, and know that He is God.

(Today’s music video below is an instrumental with the lyrics–I hope you’ll sing along! If it doesn’t automatically load, please copy and paste this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dl6h3ML2ut4 )

 

 

May 10

When Your Prayers Aren’t Answered the Way You Hoped

 

 

 

 

May is a tough month for me. It’s the month of mournful memories—difficult prayers which were not answered the way I hoped.

  • A miscarriage at three months into my first pregnancy on May 8, 1977—Mother’s Day of all things.
  • My father’s death on May 20, 2011, alone in his apartment except for a hospice nurse, as my family and I raced there from another state and as my mother—his wife of nearly 59 years—was being transported home after an extended hospital stay in another town.
  • My mother’s death May 31, 2014, just four months shy of welcoming two great-grandchildren.

And I’m willing to bet you have some months, holidays or seasons which remind you of prayers that were not answered the way you had hoped.

Even though it’s been years since these sad events touched my life, I still have more questions than answers about them.

Why, God, did I even get pregnant if the baby was never going to be born? Why couldn’t it have happened on another day besides Mother’s Day?

Why, Lord, did my Dad have to be without his family by his side? Why couldn’t he hang on four more hours until my mom got there?

Why, God,  couldn’t my mom’s infection have been found sooner and treated? Why couldn’t she have lived a few more months to hold these precious great-grandchildren?

I’m sure you have your own “whys.”

Why this diagnosis now? Why this recurrence? Why this financial struggle? Why this job loss? Why did they have to die now?

I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word.
But even if you don’t,
My hope is You alone.”

Those words are the chorus of the music video at the end of this blog. Usually I write my blog first and then spend sometimes an hour or more listening to songs and trying to find just the right message and music to share. But today I started with the song “Even If” by Mercy Me. I knew it had the message I wanted to share.

“They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul”

 Isn’t that what we all need? The supernatural strength to be able to sing “it is well with my soul” no matter what happens—or doesn’t happen—in our lives, our loved ones’ lives and in this world.

I can honestly say that even though God has not given me any real answers to my questions about the circumstances surrounding the losses of my loved ones, He has made it well with my soul.

The process actually started when I was in the hospital that May of 1977 following the miscarriage and D&C surgery. Alone in my room after all the well-wishers had left, I finally was able to cry. I know nurses and friends meant well, but their oft-repeated comment had not soothed my grief: “You’re young—you’ll have more children!”

Don’t they realize right now I didn’t want more children? I want the child I carried inside me for three months and already loved!

So in my despair and feeling as if no one really understood, I told God I needed to hear from Him. I randomly flipped open my Bible and looked a little ways down on the right-hand side of the page. (I do not normally recommend this method of scripture reading, but sometimes in desperate moments, we do things that aren’t exactly kosher!)

My eyes fell on James 1:2-4: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Reading those verses in James that Mother’s Day brought me a peace unlike any other time I’ve ever read them. I was still grieving my circumstances, but I knew the God of the Universe had heard my cries and was at work in my life. I could put my hope in Him.

“I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone”

 When my mother was in her last days resting peacefully in her own bed, I put a CD player on the headboard and a stack of CDs next to it—a mixture of music she loved: barbershop four-part harmony, instrumental jazz and worship tunes. I encouraged the nurses and aides to feel free to select and play a CD so that she always could hear soothing music.

She passed away just after noon May 31 as I was in the next room taking care of some bills. When I came into her room, I fell to my knees sobbing by her bedside and can honestly say it was the deepest sorrow I yet have known.  And then I heard it.

The CD playing was the “old” version of “In Christ Alone.”

In Christ alone
I place my trust
And find my glory in the power of the cross.
In every victory, let it be said of me.
My source of strength,
My source of hope
Is Christ alone.”

 It is one of the two songs I have instructed my family to be sung at my funeral (in case you’re wondering, the other is Andrae Crouch’s “My Tribute.”) I had not put in that CD and honestly didn’t remember that song was on any of the CDs I had hurriedly grabbed as we were leaving our home.

But God “remembered.” He knew how much that song means to me and He supernaturally arranged to have it playing as He took my mom Home. I still wished I could have her for one more day. Or better yet for a few more months to meet beautiful Callyn Joy and Abigail Leigh (who shares her middle name). Still it was well with my soul.

I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word.
But even if you don’t,
My hope is You alone.”

So take all your questions to your heavenly Father. He will either give you the answers you need or the peace you need to live with the questions. Either way, it will be well with your soul.

P.S. I’ve also included the music video “In Christ Alone” below too, in case you are not familiar with this beautiful song.  Alsothere’s a short ad at the beginning of “Even If,” but you can skip it after five seconds!

If the music videos don’t automatically load, please copy and paste these links to enjoy  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6fA35Ved-Y https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lx82Q3nDPc

 

May 03

“Some days you’re the pigeon & some days you’re the statue!”

 

 

 

 

I appreciate that many of you have told me you really like the quotes I used as introductions to each chapter in my new book Peace in the Face of Cancer. I spent many, many hours researching fitting quotes and trying to find firsthand sources to confirm their attributions. But there were many more quotes which didn’t make it past the “cutting room floor.” The above title quote from an unknown source is one of the ones I really liked, but didn’t end up using :-)

So I thought I would share some of these quotes as encouraging today words to the weary. I hope at least one or two lifts your spirits, builds your faith or causes you to ponder your relationship with God. (FYI I’ve verified them to some extent, but not with as much scrutiny as I would if I were putting them in a book!)

“Don’t pursue trials, but don’t flee from them in a panic either.”—Chris Tiegreen, One Year Walk with God Devotional

“The absence of fear is not courage; the absence of fear is some kind of brain damage.”—M. Scott Peck, Further Along the Road Less Traveled

“We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.” Martin Luther King Jr. in his sermon “Antidotes to Fear”

“Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear.”—Corrie ten Boom, Dutch Christian holocust survivor

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”—Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream” speech

“All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.” ― C.S. LewisThe Last Battle

“Thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”—St. Augustine, Confessions

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”—C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”—Corrie ten Boom

“Don’t waste your cancer.”—John Piper, pastor, written on the eve of his prostate cancer surgery

“If God be our God, He will give us peace in trouble. When there is a storm without, He will make peace within. The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble.”—Thomas Watson, Puritan noncomformist teacher and author

“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”—Robert Murray McCheyne, pastor, Church of Scotland, died at age 30

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”—C.S. Lewis

“The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.” C.S. Lewis

“(God) doesn’t say, ‘Into each life a little rain must fall,’ then aim a hose in earth’s general direction and see who gets the wettest. He doesn’t reach for a key, wind up nature with its sunny days and hurricanes, then sit back and watch the show. He doesn’t let Satan prowl about totally unrestricted. He doesn’t believe in a hands-off policy of governing. He’s not our planet’s absent landlord. Rather, He screens the trials that come to each of us—allowing only those that accomplish His good plan, because He takes no joy in human agony.”—Steve Estes, When God Weeps

“Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than we leave behind.”—C.S. Lewis

Missionary Jim Elliot prior to his martyrdom at age 28 by the Waodani tribe, whom he had befriended and attempted to share the gospel: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Amen.

I hope you will enjoy today’s song with actual video footage from the life of Jim Elliot, one of five missionaries murdered in 1956. His widow Elisabeth went back to the village and shared Christ with the Waodani–many of whom became Christ-followers. You can read this marvelous redemption and forgiveness story in her book “Through Gates of Splendor.” (The video also shows some of  Olympian runner Eric Liddell–“Chariots of Fire”–who refused to run on Sunday. )

(If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy and paste this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fkeXbti90Y )

Apr 26

How to Be Good to Yourself so You Can Be Better for Someone Else

 

 

 

 

 

So what’s the gauge reading on your emotional tank today? Getting low and searching for a fill-up? Half-empty and still draining? On fumes and slowly coasting downhill? I want to encourage caregivers today because the focus is so much on the patient that those standing by them often get forgotten. (If your’re not a caregiver right now, I hope you’ll read this anyway because you probably will be one some day and because it may help you understand how the “other” side feels!)

I first came across the idea of an “emotional tank” while raising our three daughters and reading How to Really Love Your Child by psychiatrist Dr. Ross Campbell. The book’s basic premise is that each child has a figurative emotional tank which gets filled by his or her parents as the child’s emotional needs are met. Only when that tank is full can children be expected to be at their best.

As we age we don’t outgrow our need to have our emotional tank filled. And just like kids, we only can be expected to be at our best when our tanks are full. All day long people and events make either withdrawals or deposits in our lives. Some of our tanks were so neglected when we were children that they leak easily, and we have trouble keeping them full as adults. Others of us have put lids on our tanks, hoping no one can ever make a large withdrawal again, but that also makes it difficult for anyone to make a deposit.

And then along comes cancer or a heart attack or dementia or some other diagnosis the life of someone you love. Forget about the lid. These life events can ram huge holes right in the side of your tank and quickly drain your emotional well-being, leaving you frantically searching for a refill.

And now, because you’re not a child, it’s your job to make sure your own tank gets filled.

 

I talked recently with my friend Cynthia about the crucial, but exhausting role of caregiver because 1.) she’s been one for more than a decade and 2.) she’s written a really helpful book on the subject.[1]

Cynthia says her role as caregiver to her husband, Jim, has endured much shifting throughout his thirteen-year journey with non-small cell lung cancer.

“The role of caregiver changes depending on what Jim’s doing and what’s happening with him,” she explains. “I’ve worn different hats at different times—I’ve been a cheerleader at times, and other times I’ve been called on to be a nurse.”

Because Cynthia has been a caregiver for so long—through seven lung cancer recurrences, one go-round with prostate cancer, multiple surgeries, and countless treatments—I asked her how she finds the physical and emotional energy she needs to care for Jim.

She recommends finding a support group, ideally one just for caregivers. “Then you can really express yourself instead of both trying to protect each other,” she says.

“That first year [after Jim’s diagnosis] I didn’t really do a good job of taking care of myself,” Cynthia admits.

But in the intervening years, she says she has tried to play tennis or do Pilates or yoga two or three times a week. “That really helps me with stress,” she explains.

Cynthia also joined a community singing group, which she says “always lifts my spirits.” Together she and Jim find stress relief by watching comedies and reading funny books on “hospital humor.”

For most of the past three decades I’ve been a caregiver for family members who were either physically or mentally unwell. I’ve had a relative with dementia living in our home for years, and I’ve made biweekly seven-hour car trips for months to be with a relative undergoing chemo. I’ve been so physically fatigued I had to literally crawl up the stairs, and I’ve been so emotionally spent I’ve spent hundreds of dollars to pour out my woes to a counselor.

Caregiving is incredibly hard. I get it.

But I also know we make the job even more difficult when we fail to take good care of ourselves. Do you know what Jesus said the two most important commandments are? First, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” and second, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matthew 22:36-39).

Don’t miss those last two words: “as yourself.” The Bible doesn’t just say to “love your neighbor,” it says we need to love ourselves. In fact, we can’t really love other people if we don’t love ourselves.

It is not selfish of you to do something refreshing, rejuvenating, or relaxing for yourself. You cannot “fill up” your loved one when you both are running on fumes. Somebody is going to stall and get rear-ended.

But an emotional tank doesn’t come with a loud, flashing warning when it’s getting low. You have to pay attention and notice the telltale signs in your life. Then when emotional refilling is needed, you have three ways to be replenished.

Firstly, make your own deposits by finding ways to “be good to yourself.” Watch a funny movie, enjoy a massage, go fishing, get a pedicure, take a walk, hit a bucket of balls, or catch a nap. What rejuvenates me may not do the same for you, but you can figure out what makes you feel better for the long term. (Don’t settle for the temporary fixes of alcohol or drugs because they will quickly drain your peace as soon as they wear off.) If you can’t leave your family member alone, this is the time to call in one of those offers of help others have made. Do something to lift your spirits so afterward you can once again lift someone else’s.

Secondly, allow your friends and family to do things for you and with you that will enrich your emotional well-being. You cannot be expected to be at your best all by yourself. But people cannot read your mind, so clearly tell them a specific way to make a deposit in your tank. If you don’t think you have friends who can improve your life, then pray and ask God to send someone your way. The apostle Paul described how God once sent someone to encourage him at just the right time.

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 7:5-7

And finally, spend time with God and ask Him to pour into you His supernatural hope, love, strength, and, yes, even peace in the face of caregiving.

The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace. Psalm 29:11

Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever. Psalm 73:25-26

“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

When your emotional tank needs refilling, you can do it yourself, let others do it, or allow God to do it. But I truly believe you’ll be most fulfilled when you rely on all three. The most loving thing you may do for your loved one today is to be good to yourself.

 

[1]
Cynthia Zahm Siegfried, Cancer Journey: A Caregiver’s View from the Passenger Seat (CZS Books, 2010). For her online support group, f.a.i.t.H. (facing an illness through Him), go to http://faithsupportgroup.com/welcome.html.

(If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy and past this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pEG7reKSf0 )

Apr 19

“Give Peace a Chance”

 

 

 

 

 

So if you’re too young to remember this John Lennon hit from 1969, I will tell you that it’s another one of those wonderful Beatle tunes with not-so-wonderful theology. The haunting refrain of “give peace a chance” was later explained by Lennon:It wasn’t like ‘You have to have peace!’ Just give it a chance. We ain’t giving any gospel here – just saying how about this version for a change? We think we have the right to have a say in the future. And we think the future is made in your mind.”

Say what?

I’m not even going to try and dissect what that explanation means. I realize Lennon was mainly talking about peace in the world—as in the absence of war or conflict. But I’m pretty sure he also was looking for peace for his mind and soul–just as you and I do.

This week is extremely busy for me getting ready for two speaking engagements, a big radio interview and writing magazine articles from the new book. So I was thinking that I could share the “peaceful” verses I put in the back of 50 Days of Hope to save me a lot of time compared to writing a whole new blog.

And then I felt bad that I was “only” sharing verses. I felt I should almost apologize for not writing more.

Say what?

Apologize for “only” sharing God’s Word? Yikes! Where did I get that idea?

So without apology, here are some of my favorite “peace” verses. Meditate on them and give GOD a chance to bring His perfect peace into your or your loved one’s situation. I believe that at least one of these will be used by the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart and mind today. Feel free to comment which one it was!

 

May the Lord show you his favor

and give you his peace.

Numbers 6:26

In peace I will lie down and sleep,

 for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.

Psalm 4:8

I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying,

 for he speaks peace to his faithful people.

But let them not return to their foolish ways.

Psalm 85:8

A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body;

 jealousy is like cancer in the bones.

Proverbs 14:30

You will keep in perfect peace

all who trust in you,

 all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Isaiah 26:3

 

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

Jesus said:

“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.”

John 14:27

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.

 But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death.

But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

Romans 8:6

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely

 with joy and peace because you trust in him.

Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.

For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.

And always be thankful.

Colossians 3:15

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you

 his peace at all times and in every situation.

The Lord be with you all.

2 Thessalonians 3:16

P.S. Turns out this file had a  lot of special formatting which wouldn’t display on this blog and all had to be retyped and reformatted by me! Good thing I can have peace even if I didn’t save much time!

(If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy and paste this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls01XGV7oA0 )

Apr 12

An Amazing Story of Beating the Odds

 

 

 

 

 

Are you praying for yourself or someone you love to be cured? Are the odds stacked against that prayer? Or have doctors even told you not to expect it to happen?

I have an amazing story for you today about a man who was given no chance for survival, but is still beating the odds.

When my friend Jim was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme (translation—the deadliest brain cancer) in July 2006 at the age of 59, no one gave him much hope. The golf-ball sized tumor affected his left side and he had to learn to walk and talk again after surgery. When the tumor recurred just four months later, no one gave him any hope at all.

But Jim, a Vietnam veteran with two Purple Hearts was desperate to live as he was caring for his wife Jean, who had advanced cancer. When I saw him in our office, he told me the doctors at Hershey Medical Center thought he might have only three months to live. I suggested he “try to defy the verdict” and set some goals for himself.

“What would you like to be alive to see?” I asked him, thinking he’d choose something happening in the next few months.

“I want to see my son Travis graduate from college,” he quickly replied.

“OK,” I said. “What year is he now?”

“A freshman.”

Uh, oh. I suggested that perhaps Jim should pick a closer goal so we could celebrate sooner (while thinking there is NO way this patient is going to be alive in four years!)  So, we decided on his daughter Abby’s wedding in six months. Realistically, there was no reason to expect Jim to live even that short time, but it was a good goal and I told the radiation tech next door that Jim wanted to walk his daughter down the aisle in the spring.

“I don’t think there’s much chance of that after looking at his tumor,” the tech honestly replied.

Jim got radiation and oral chemo, but the mass persisted. Every time I saw him over the next few months, we talked about the impending wedding and prayed for Jim to be there—even if his hair wouldn’t. On May 12, 2007, the prayer was answered and Jim brought me the wedding photos to prove it!

Then a couple months later, he went on a clinical trial drug because there was no other treatment available and set a new goal of holding his son Ryan’s first child due in October. Both Jim and Jean got to hold that little grandson, and an MRI in January showed Jim’s tumor had decreased slightly. But the joy was short-lived as Jean passed away in August 2008. Our clinical staff bemoaned the fact Jean’s four children undoubtedly would be burying both parents in a short span of time. But Jim continued to defy the verdict. He set another goal of seeing Abby’s first child born (she wasn’t even pregnant yet!)

Bi-monthly MRIs continued to show Jim’s tumor shrinking and in May 2009, he joyfully announced that Abby’s little daughter, Lillian Jean had arrived. Then an unexpected joy came: the next month’s MRI showed the tumor was gone! That fall Travis entered his senior year of college and Jim set his sights on seeing that graduation.

In May 2010, despite all odds, Jim was there to watch his youngest son awarded his college diploma.

But then he faced a new problem.

“What’s my goal going to be now?” Jim asked me afterward.

“I guess you need to see Travis get married and have some kids,” I volunteered.

“Sounds good,” he replied.

And Travis did.

And Jim was there.

As I write it’s been almost 11 years since his diagnosis and Jim remains in an unexplained complete remission. I’ve honestly lost track of how many grandkids he has now and I’m thinking we may need to set a goal of him seeing his great-grandchildren!

When Jim was first diagnosed with a brain tumor, he was angry, disappointed and frustrated, especially over the fact he was told he had such a short time to live. What gave him hope, he said, was hearing about others who had survived brain tumors or had lived much longer than doctors expected.

“I thought if they can do it, why can’t I?” he recalls. “I was most thankful for people encouraging me and telling me there was still hope. And without my faith in God, I don’t think I would be here now.”

 

I can’t promise God will answer your prayers exactly as he did for Jim, but I can promise that He hears the longings of your heart and wants to show you His great love today. He may do the impossible in your or your loved’s one’s situation or He may do the impossible in your hearts about the situation. And as you face an uncertain future, whatever your goals are, “let love be your highest goal” (1 Corinthians 14:1 NLT) and believe that “the impossible is possible with God.” (Luke 1:37 The Voice)

 

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

 

Apr 05

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at My Not-So-Peaceful Life

 

 

 

 

 

My new book Peace in the Face of Cancer officially released yesterday and I thought I’d share a little behind-the-scenes look at my life—just in case you have any misconception I have it all together!

Last week I had three online podcast interviews.  The first two were on Skype, which I didn’t even know existed the last time I had a book published. As grateful as I am for the opportunities to talk about the book, I’ve concluded I do not like Skype interviews.  Why? Because people can see me!

I have to be dressed in something besides a baggy sweatshirt (although I did leave on sweat pants). I have to do something with my hair and my make-up and I can’t have a bunch of “cheat” sheets helping me answer questions about what I wrote in my book more than a year ago and don’t really remember anymore!

But by the time I got to the second Skype interview, I knew the drill. I moved my big black chair out of my office because I looked too businesslike seated in it. I shoved all my tax papers on the card table behind me out of the camera view. I fixed the lighting and the blinds just right. I spent about 35-40 minutes making sure both the room and I looked presentable before I made the evening call to the show’s producer.

“Uh, could you turn off your video,” was the first thing she said to me.  “It’s only an audio interview.”

Sure, no problem–at least I’ll look good for my husband when we sit in our La-Z-Boys afterward!

I verified the third interview definitely included video and even “practiced” a call with that producer the day before. However, when it came time for the real thing, she said I looked really “grainy” and laughingly admonished her viewers not to complain about the poor quality from my VERY OLD lap top!  (For the records, the graininess helps hide wrinkles.)

 

Anyway, those were the best part of my week. The worst part was that my entire normal “support team” was either knocked out of commission or otherwise occupied:

  • My youngest daughter’s 2-year-old had the flu, her 6-month-old had a double ear infection and her husband and 4-year-old were recovering from the flu.
  • My middle daughter was tending to her 2- and 4-year-olds, both with the flu, following her own (and her 6-year-old’s) bouts with it.
  • One of my oldest daughter’s best friends was struck by a car while jogging and in trauma care fighting for her life (still is!).
  • My prayer partner of many years was recovering from the flu and couldn’t get off the couch or even talk on the phone without hacking away.
  • My closest friend from church was on vacation in another country.
  • My other good church friend was supposed to be home from vacation but totaled her car.
  • While working on my 2016 taxes—much too late this year—I discovered a clerical error made with our tax bills resulting in several thousand dollars of unpaid taxes, penalty fees galore, and a possible lien being put on our home
  • And did I mention that my poor, weary husband still had trouble with his three-month-old knee replacement and could not walk or drive more than short distances without a great deal of pain?

 

Guess who wasn’t feeling much peace? That’s right, the one who’s read every single verse about peace in several different Bible translations and wrote a whole book about how to seek and find peace. As I stressed over deadlines for taxes, FB book launch posts, blogs, magazine articles, speaking engagement preparations, and concern for so many loved ones dealing with such difficult circumstances, peace vanished.

I tried to put into practice what I “preached” in my book and I made efforts to be “good” to myself. I got a massage. I went for walks.  I sat in my hot tub. I ate big bowls of popcorn. I drank a root beer float with the popcorn. But I still wasn’t feeling it.

I prayed. I read my Bible. I listed to Jordan Smith sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” on my iPhone. But even The Voice Season 9 winner couldn’t deliver my elusive peace.

So I texted my friend Gigi who lives out West, told her I was really stressed and asked her to call me that weekend. We’ve been friends for nearly 39 years and she always can make me laugh.

Within moments my phone beeped (while I was on it talking to the tax debt collector!). I called Gigi back as soon as I finished with the Tax-Man.

“You must be really desperate to want me to call,” she said with a laugh.

“I am!” I responded as the tears welled up.

And then I dumped it all on my dear friend. Everything I wrote about here with much more detail and many more tears. I just unloaded it all into her ears.

 

I’m not going to share exactly how she responded, other than to tell you that she calmly and prayerfully led me into the presence of Jesus so that I could feel His love for me and He could take the burdens I was never meant to carry.

In those few moments absolutely nothing changed in my circumstances and yet everything changed inside me. I trusted that God could do the impossible… and I found peace.

It happened because I put into practice something else I wrote in the new book:  “it will take trust on our part because there are amazing things that only God can do for us and in us.”

So go ahead and come to the end of yourself. When you do, He’ll supernaturally be there with His peace that doesn’t even make sense. He has done it for me time and again and He can and will do it for you, my friend.  And if you need help with your peace-seeking, do as I did, and call a trusted friend with listening ears and a warm Jesus-filled heart. You’ll be glad you did.

 

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you,

                All whose thoughts are fixed on you!  Isaiah 26:3 NLT

P.S.  Gigi did eventually make me laugh when she later texted: “I’ll trade you a guy who walks and drives and talks to himself aloud (and a lot) for a quiet guy who doesn’t drive or walk.” (I told you we were really good friends and yes,  I’m still considering the offer. :-)

(If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy and paste this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttEgZLg-2-Y

 

 

Mar 29

Nothing Surprises God

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t think most people are truly prepared to get bad health news. Instead we hope against hope that things will not turn out as we fear and the whole nightmare will go away. Right up until I saw the look on my gastroenterologist’s face after my colonoscopy in June 1990, I had hoped—and believed—there was nothing wrong with me. So much for the power of positive thinking!

I don’t know if your or your loved one’s diagnosis has taken you by surprise, but I guarantee it has not taken God by surprise.

 

He is all-knowing.

He is all-seeing.

He is all-powerful.

He is in control of ­every­thing.

He knows what you need and when you need it.

You may feel unprepared, but God is prepared and He is preparing things for you—good things—things that you can’t even imagine.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9

And I believe He literally goes before all of His followers into each new day to provide what we’ll need for that day. Hear His promise through Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 31:8 (as expressed in three different Bible versions):

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” NIV

God is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t worry. The Message

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” NLT

Authors Henry and Richard Blackaby explain God’s promise this way:

“God never sends you into a situation alone. He always goes before His children as He did with the children of Israel when He led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. . . . He always precedes you in any situation you encounter. God is never caught by surprise by your experience; He has already been there. He is prepared to meet your every need because He has gone before you and knows exactly what you will need for your pilgrimage.”[i]

And the really good news is that He doesn’t just go on ahead of us, He stays with us, too, ensuring we are never alone.

“Not only does God go before you, but He also stands beside you and behind you, to provide protection and comfort,” the Blackabys add. “If you are going through a difficult or confusing time, know that the Lord has gone before you and He is present with you. He is fully aware of what you are facing, and He is actively responding to your need.”[ii]

God knows exactly what you need to be prepared for today.

It’s okay if you feel disbelief or shock or unprepared for whatever’s next. Perhaps you would like to pray with the Psalmist today from Psalm 25:5:

Lead me by Your truth and teach me, for You are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in You. Amen.

 

[i] Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby, Experiencing God Day by Day: Devotional (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 1998),  94. The story of the Israelites being led by God with a cloud and a fire pillar is found in Exodus 13:21.

[ii] Ibid.

If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy and paste this link to enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=by6no4QTU_g

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

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