Jul 19

Does Following Jesus Make Everything OK?

 

 

 

 

“Why I Follow Christ”
Reprinted by permission from Believe in Miracles, But Trust in Jesus by Adrian Rogers, Crossway Books, 1997. (Taken from a letter Dr. Rogers’ friend wrote to his own daughter–Emphasis mine.)

I have not seen clear statistical evidence that fewer Christians die of cancer than nonbelievers, or that they are immune in greater degree from the diseases that afflict the human race.  Some of the kindest, most selfless persons I know have had more than their share of bad health.  The fact that they belonged to Christ did not insulate them from disease.  Therefore, I will not follow Christ for promised healing.

I will not deny or dispute evidence of restoration of health.  I will rejoice at every recovery from what seems to be hopeless, threatened death.  I will not hesitate to pray for recovered health for my loved ones and acquaintances.  I will set no limits on what God may do.  But I will not follow Christ for promised healing.

I see no sign that Christians escape disaster and accident more than others.  I have helped dear friends empty muddy water out of dresser drawers and new appliances after a disastrous flood.  I remember as a child taking clothes to a widow with five children whose house had burned to the ground.  A bullet makes no detour around the body of a believer.  Therefore, I will not follow Christ for any promised protection from disaster.

I will not scoff at amazing survivals, nor deny providence has and continues to work for the good of God’s own.  I will continue to pray for protection from wicked men and tragedy, but I will not follow Christ for promised protection from accident or catastrophe.

I do not observe that Christians are especially favored with prosperity.  Like James, we have all seen the rich oppressing the poor, and justice is rarely perfect in this world.  The psalmist has said that he had not seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging for bread, and in the deepest needs of this life that is certainly true; but all of us have known people of integrity who have not prospered.  Therefore, I will not follow Christ for promised freedom from physical want or the hope of affluence.

I am not certain that Christians have stronger personalities or fewer neuroses than nonbelievers.  I do know that there is no bitterness like religious bitterness and no arrogance more insufferable.  I have watched Christians suffer emotional and mental disabilities.  And although it may seem heretical, I am not sure that I would really enjoy living in the same house with either the apostle Paul or Peter.

God wills that the mind of Christ be formed in us, and there is no doubt in my mind that the Christian’s attitudes and actions will be improved by his Christianity.  But I will not follow Christ for any promise of personality enhancement or perfection.

Why then follow Christ? Why be a disciple of Jesus when life becomes more complicated, as He so often warned?

For one reason alone.  In Jesus we behold the face of God.  He is the truth, the everlasting truth, God in the flesh.  I know that in His life, death and resurrection I am reconciled to God, the Giver of life.  I believe that nothing can separate me from the love of God.  He has all power and goodness.  I trust Him in His promises.

To Him I offer my life, damaged or whole, brief or full of years.  It matters not.  He is the one certain thing in an uncertain world.  He is to be worshipped, not so something will happen to me or the world (something already has happened to me and the world) but because He is God, who through Christ has reconciled the world to Himself.  He saves me; He is my justification; He is the center that holds.

To worship the God of our salvation, to offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, that alone is our vocation.  We offer our lives to God, not so as to be healthy, wealthy or wise; not even so as to gain strength to do great things for Him.  We offer our lives to Him because He alone has claim on us.  God is not a means.

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Jul 12

A Prayer for Healing

 

 

 

 

A Cancer Patient’s Prayer for Healing
(Ed. note–substitute any disease/trial for “cancer.”)

          Father God, I choose to believe that you are the same yesterday, today, and forever.  I believe that you healed people in the Bible, that you have healed people in history since then, and that you are still healing people today.  You are all-powerful.  For you, cancer is very easy to heal, if you so choose.  And your love and compassion for your people is very great.

God, I confess to you that I have fallen far short of your demands for my life.  I have sinned in thought, word, and deed.  I have not given you the thanks and praise you deserve, nor have I treated my family and neighbors with the love they deserve.  Show me, God, if I have an unforgiving heart.  Give me the grace to forgive those who have wounded me.  Show me if there is any other bad attitude or habit in me that you have wanted me to deal with.

Thank you, Lord, that you are a God of forgiveness and compassion.  Thank you, too, for being a God who loves to bless the unworthy.  I ask you to send your supernatural power to destroy my cancer.  I believe that you work through doctors and medicine, and I pray that you will fill the doctors and nurses and technicians who work on my case with wisdom and love.  But I also ask you to do what doctors and medicine cannot do.  In your mercy, immobilize and paralyze the cancerous cells in my body that medicine cannot reach.  Dry up whatever is feeding those cells with life.  Put a stop to the spread of cancer in my body.

God, I trust that you will do whatever is best for me.  If it is your will, you will heal me.  Give me the strength and ability to keep trusting in that truth.  And if I am not healed, please give me the power to trust you then, too.  But most important of all, bring me closer to you.  Open my eyes and heart so that I may come to a deeper experience of your love for me.  Help me to do whatever is necessary to draw closer to you and to know you as my heavenly Father.  AMEN

Reprinted by permission from A Medical and Spiritual Guide to Living with Cancer by William A. Fintel, M.D. and Gerald R. McDermott, Ph.D.  Published 1993 by Word Publishing.

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Jul 05

An Amazing Story of the First Survivor I Ever Knew

 

 

 

 

“There is something you must always remember.

You are braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Christopher Robin to Winnie‑the‑Pooh in Pooh’s Most Grand Adventure

I love these words of encouragement from one best friend to another. They were the sentiment of a life-changing pep talk given to me in high school by my dear friend Cecil, who is the first person I knew who survived cancer.

We met in a speech class in the fall of 1968. I was a junior and he was a sophomore at Victor Valley High, where he was without a doubt the best orator. When he chose me to be his debate partner, I was thrilled. I didn’t know that the year before he had been diagnosed with fibrosarcoma (a rare cancer of the soft tissue), only that he always had a large Band-Aid on his forehead and that its self-described “flesh” color did not match his black skin.

I’m not sure if either one of us ever used the “C” word. In the sixties, cancer was something adults whispered about and doctors tried to keep from patients’ knowledge.

“Why do you always wear a Band-Aid?” I naively asked him one day.

“Because I’m very embarrassed about my scars” was his quiet reply.

The scars were the result of multiple surgeries—beginning when he was fifteen—to try to cut away the cancer and extend his life.

“The fibrosarcoma was eating through my skull,” Cecil explained as we chatted on the phone about this chapter.

Back then chemotherapy was in its infancy, and radiation therapy couldn’t possibly be safely aimed at a patient’s head, so his doctors simply sliced away, waited for the cancer to grow back, and then cut it out again.

By the fall of 1968, doctors were so pessimistic about Cecil’s future, they recommended he drop out of high school. “Once it hits the optic nerve, it will go right to the brain. Go home and don’t even worry about school anymore,” they advised.

But Cecil had other plans.

“Not only am I going to go back to school, I’m going to graduate,” he told them. “And not only am I going to graduate, I’m going to go to college. And not only am I going to go to college, I’m going to go to the best college!” he defiantly added.

His equally strong-willed mother approved, saying, “If you want to go back to school, it’s fine with me. I don’t want you to just lie down and die.”

So Cecil went to school, ran track, and played basketball and football, wearing a customized helmet to protect his forehead as he darted downfield with the ball. (Bet that wouldn’t be allowed these days!) Just about every Saturday for the next two years, we were together at a speech meet or a debate competition, eventually becoming the first students from our school to make it to the speech state championships.

But in the summer of 1970, right after I graduated, Cecil’s cancer came back, and more surgery ensued. The hole in Cecil’s forehead was getting rather large, so doctors stitched his left forearm to his forehead for six weeks in an attempt to graft skin there. However, in the fall of 1970, the relentless cancer returned.

Surgeons wanted to operate again and now sew his right arm to his head, but his mother refused. She moved him to another hospital, ignoring the doctor’s warning that if she did he’d be “dead in two weeks.”

Physicians at the new hospital did the same kind of surgery, without stitching his arm to his head. At Cecil’s first recheck, they were pleasantly surprised the cancer had not returned. Three months later, they were shocked to find no sign of it. Three more cancer-free months later, they were speechless.

“We can’t take any credit for this, because we didn’t do anything different from the other doctors,” they told the then-eighteen-year-old Cecil. “The fibrosarcoma was like a runaway freight train on a dry, straight track, and it just stopped. In medicine we call it a spontaneous remission.”

Cecil finished high school, serving as student body president, and went on to graduate with honors from Harvard University, where he played football, ran track, and coached the debate team. As I write, he is a sixty-three-year-old longtime university law professor with many accolades and former students across the country who say his teaching expertise and friendship changed their lives.

“Despite all the dark predictions, I’m alive and doing just fine,” he says. “I believe to this day that God healed me despite all the gloom and doom. And it has never come back because He had other plans for me.”

 

I’m so grateful that meeting Cecil was part of God’s plan for my life. Before we participated in our first debate meet, I was scared and not at all confident in my speaking and writing abilities. I felt insecure because I was the youngest in my class (I graduated at sixteen) and because my father’s job had forced me to twice move midyear to new high schools. But Cecil shared words very similar to Christopher Robin’s with me, and I took them to heart. And as they say, the rest is history.

 

When we face the trials of life. including cancer, we discover the incredible strength of the human spirit as we do things we never thought we could. But I hope you also are discovering that the greatness of God is the reason you are braver, stronger, and smarter than you realized.

 

Find a mirror, look straight into it, and tell yourself: “I am braver than I believe. I am stronger than I seem. I am smarter than I think. God is much greater than I can imagine.”

And then share those words today with someone else who needs to hear them. You never know how God may use them to change a life.

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Jun 28

Do You Need a Good Cry?

 

 

 

 

You can beat this. Think positive. You can do it. Stay positive.

I know people mean well when they say those things to people facing serious tough times, but I must admit they often rub me the wrong way.

Many caring people uttered those kinds of “encouraging” phrases to me after my cancer diagnosis, but I always had the feeling that they did more for the person saying them than they did for me.

In fact, rather than being comforting and encouraging, those phrases often created more distress in me.

I’m feeling worried the cancer may return, but I have to think positive so the cancer doesn’t come back.

I’m feeling down thinking about all I’ve endured, but I have to think positive so I get healthier.

And the real kicker: If I don’t get cured, it must somehow be my fault because I didn’t think positive enough!

 Don’t get me wrong, I am by nature an optimistic person, but I am also positively positive that being positive all the time is not necessary for those living in cancer’s shadow and in fact I wouldn’t even recommend it for most of us!

In fact, trying to live life by being “up” all the time can create a new problem: “the tyranny of positive thinking.”

That’s the phrase used by Dr. Jimmie Holland, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In her excellent book, The Human Side of Cancer: Living with Hope, Coping with Uncertainty, she explains the phrase:

All this hype claiming that if you don’t have a positive attitude
and that if you get depressed you are making your tumor grow faster
invalidates people’s natural and understandable reactions to a threat to their lives.
That’s what I mean by the tyranny of positive thinking.”
[1]

The truth is, Dr. Holland says,

“stress, depression, and grief do not increase the likelihood that cancer will develop or
that it will come back if you’ve been treated before.” [2]

I can tell you for sure that if not staying positive made cancer recur, I would have been dead many times over.

Now if by some slim chance you are really the kind of person who likes to think positive all the time, copes with life by always thinking positive and finds it impossible to think any other way, I certainly am not going to tell you to stop thinking positive. But, please don’t expect that everyone else needs to be just like you.

I believe we were created to feel many emotions and that life is best lived when we acknowledge those emotions and express them in a healthy manner. Moreover, I believe tears are really a gift and that everybody—even positively positive people—benefits from a “good cry” now and then.

If you ever tasted a tear trickling down your face, then you know they are salty. But tears are much more than salty water. They’re actually a complex combination of proteins, enzymes, lipids, metabolites and electrolytes.

We all have three different kinds of tears: “normal” tears which continuously keep our eyes lubricated; irritant tears which wash away foreign substances; and emotional tears which we cry for reasons like sadness and pain. Scientists who study tears can look at these tiny drops of water and tell the difference between the first two types and the third kind because emotional tears have much more protein and less oil.

Some tear researchers theorize that emotional tears carry hormones from the brain, which release calming endorphins and flush toxins out of the bloodstream. This helps our body return to a reduced-stress state.

I’m glad my dear friend Norma was willing to cry with me throughout my chemo ordeal. Norma, survived three different cancers before she passed away in her 90s. Her second diagnosis was just a few months before mine, and she called me every month to chat.

“Wanna have a pity party?” she’d ask.

I’d say sure, and for the next half-hour we’d trade poor-me complaints about the side effects of our treatments. Pretty soon we’d had enough moaning and started laughing at ourselves for all the complaining we were doing. (The moral of the story: pity parties are great occasionally; just keep them short and only invite friends who still like to laugh!)

People like Norma and me who don’t repress our tears may have better health, according to many “crying” researchers who think emotional tears may remove toxins from our bodies. Some even theorize that women on average live longer than men because they on average cry twice as much as men!

Many of us need to tell ourselves the truth: that weeping is not a sign of weakness or shame; that tears are indeed a gift to express our deepest feelings. The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35: Jesus wept. So if the Son of God can cry, I think we can, too.

Lord, I’m thankful that one day in Heaven You will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and until then, I’m positively happy that we don’t have to stay positive all the time! I pray in the Name of Jesus, who wasn’t afraid to weep. Amen.

[1] Jimmie Holland and Sheldon Lewis, The Human Side of Cancer: Living with Hope, Coping with Uncertainty (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), pg. 14.

[2] Ibid, pg. 30-31

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Jun 21

The Language of Cancer and the Language of God

 

 

 

 

 

Tumor markers. Monoclonal antibodies. Angiogenesis inhibitors. Stereotactic radiation. MediPort. Neutropenia. Micrometastases…So how are you doing with learning the cancer vocabulary?

Or how about the alphabet soup of acronyms?

CEA, PSA, KRAS, ER/PR, Her-2/neu, VEGF, and BRCA just to name a few.

Yikes! Someone please get me an interpreter or at least a dictionary! (Never mind the dictionary—I just hit spell check on my computer and it didn’t recognize most of the words in the first paragraph!)

I remember after my diagnosis I felt as if I was thrown into a whole new world I hadn’t even known existed and I would have been just as happy to stay oblivious about it! So many terms and phrases were tossed around and basically all I heard was: “You need chemo and radiation, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

But after a while I was forced to stick my head out of my shell and start to learn this foreign language. I discovered my colon cancer was classified back then as Duke’s C-2, meaning it had spread locally to more than three lymph nodes. I found out that 5-Fu was short for fluorouracil, a chemo drug that had been around for many years and no one in Marc’s practice but me had been allergic to it.

By the time I started working for Marc six years after my diagnosis, I had mastered a few of the oncology terms, but was still in for a real education as I worked for the first time in a medical office. I constantly had to ask the nurses for explanations of medical jargon I heard: What’s a DVT? I thought he had a blood clot?

“He does. DVT stands for Deep Vein Thrombosis.”

Why not BC for blood clot?

One day I noticed the nurse Ruth had written the initials “SOB.” next to a patient’s name on the daily schedule. I was curious why she would make such a disparaging remark about the gentleman as he didn’t seem that cranky to me.

Afterward I asked her and when she stopped laughing, she explained that “SOB” stood for “short of breath!”

My personal opinion is that doctors and nurses aren’t all that much smarter than the rest of us—they just have their own special foreign language so we patients don’t feel as bright! (To all my doctor and nurse readers—that was a joke!)

Anyway, I spent almost 20 years learning medical terms and especially oncology phrases so I could throw them around the evening dinner table with my husband: “So, we thought there was nothing we could do for the patient, but the immunohistochemistry showed KIT positive and it’s a GIST and we can use a tyrosine kinase inhibitor!  Isn’t that great news?!”

My husband barely could contain his excitement as he asked me to pass the salt.

Even though I may have gone a little overboard with learning the medical language, I have been amazed to learn about the human body’s intricacies. Our bodies are so complex that, in some ways, I’m not as surprised they break down, but am more surprised that they don’t break down more often!

The Human Genome Project completed in 2003 identified the 20,000+ genes in the human body and sequenced the 3 billion chemical base pairs that comprise our DNA or hereditary code of life. The head of the project, Dr. Francis Collins explains that the DNA in each human is 3 billion letters long and written in a “strange and cryptographic four-letter code.” The code is so complex, Collins says, that if someone were to read it out loud at three letters per second, it would take thirty-seven years!

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it! Psalm 139:13, 14

Collins is one of the world’s leading scientists and also a man of Christian faith who calls our DNA “the language of God.”

“We have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God,”[1] Collins said when the genome project’s completion was announced.

He later wrote: “Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced. God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible.”[2]

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. Psalm 139:15

So just maybe the next time you hear some multi-syllabic medical words that seem overwhelming, you can allow them to remind you that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by the Creator of the Universe and that your tomorrows are safe in His hands.

You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:16

Lord, Thank You for doctors and nurses and researchers who are trying to cure cancer and continue to write the new language of cancer. And thank you that our very DNA is “the language of God’  and speaks to us about how wonderfully we are made. In Jesus Name. Amen.

[1] Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, pg. 3, Francis S. Collins, Free Press, 2007

[2] Language of God, pg. 233.

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Jun 14

Finding Peace When You Didn’t Think You Would

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everybody reacts differently to the diagnosis of cancer or any other life-threatening condition. Your reaction or your loved one’s reaction and mine probably had many things in common, but no doubt there were differences as well. You might have feared this illness for years because other relatives already had been diagnosed. Maybe you checked for lumps and watched for telltale signs, knowing for certain your turn was next. Or you might have thought, like I did, that you had taken such good care of yourself you would never have to face such a diagnosis.

I’m guessing that neither of our reactions was completely peaceful. I’ve met literally thousands of newly diagnosed cancer patients and I’ve yet to hear one say: “As soon as I heard it was cancer, I felt total peace.” (Go ahead and write me if you said that!)

But even though peace is not a natural response to a life-threatening illness, it can be a supernatural one.

Over the years my dear friend Prudence let me bring hundreds of cancer survivors to her country tearoom for free or really inexpensive tea luncheons (with the world’s best scones and clotted cream). And then endometrial cancer struck her.

“That upset me,” she says. “I didn’t want to have anything inside me that wasn’t supposed to be there.”

But shortly after her surgery, despite the fact no one was guaranteeing a cure, Prudence says she amazingly “was at peace with it.”

“Christ gave me a wonderful release from worrying and obsessing about it,” is her explanation of the unexplainable.

In 1998 when forty-five-year-old Chrystine was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer, she was shocked and afraid she would die because she’d never heard of any survivors in her situation. But as she describes: “God showed up right away.”

As she was heading into surgery, a female anesthesiologist came over to Chrystine’s gurney and started prepping her.

“She told me she had ovarian cancer four years before and I felt such hope that she had survived,” Chrystine recalls.

What’s really incredible is that a few minutes later a male anesthesiologist came over to her gurney and told the other doctor that Chrystine was his patient and he took over her care.

“I went into surgery feeling totally at peace because God sent me hope in the ‘accidental’ meeting of an anesthesiologist who had survived,” Chrystine says.

It is one thing to read the Apostle Paul’s description of  “the peace of God, which transcends all ­under­standing.” It’s quite another thing to see it on the face of cancer patients and their caregivers.

It is a peace that makes no sense.

It is a peace that cannot be explained.

It is a peace that goes beyond our human understanding.

It is a peace that ­only God can give.

It is a peace I hope you’ll feel today.

I’d like to share with you the rest of the verse from Philippians 4 where Paul writes about this peace because I believe it shows us clearly how to get it.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in ­every­thing, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all under­standing, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ ­Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

We get peace from God when we take our worries to Him in prayer, all the while thanking Him for all our blessings. He replaces our worries with His peace and it is enough to fill our heart and our mind.

Would you allow me the precious privilege of praying for you to feel God’s peace that passes understanding today?

Lord, I have no idea what is troubling my friend today, but You do. By the power of Your Spirit please let Your peace come and settle down on her/his life as she/he trusts in You. In the Name of the Prince of Peace. Amen.

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Jun 07

Yes, there IS life after cancer!

 

 

 

 

This past Sunday was National Cancer Survivor’s Day— a holiday to celebrate survivors and remind them and their caregivers that there really is life after a cancer diagnosis.

So when do you know that you or your loved one is a cancer survivor? When the scan comes back clear? When the tumor marker is normal? When the treatment is finished? When there’s no evidence of any cancer?

I was diagnosed June 26, 1990, with Stage 3 colon cancer. I still am cancer-free and count myself as a very blessed survivor. But even if the cancer had returned, I would still count myself as a survivor because I agree with the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship when it labels cancer patients as survivors “from the moment of diagnosis and for the balance of life.”

I didn’t always think that way.

I used to think that you if you lived five years cancer-free after a diagnosis you were a cured cancer survivor.

I remember going in for my five-year oncology checkup in the summer of 1995 (before I started working in Marc’s office) and gleefully announcing to Marc that I wouldn’t be seeing him professionally anymore. (I’m not quite sure how I got that notion, but I hear many others say the same kind of thing. We’ve probably made that association because statisticians often give data on five-year survival rates for different types of cancer.)

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

It’s five years; I’m cured!” I told him; surprised that he didn’t realize it was such a momentous day.

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

Talk about bursting someone’s bubble!

I waited five years to be proclaimed a survivor and there was going to be no such official announcement.

Thankfully, a short time after that day I read the above-mentioned survivorship definition from the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship and proclaimed myself a survivor.

So I hope you’re not waiting for some mythical five-year mark to earn the label of cancer survivor. Anyone who has survived even one minute since diagnosis already is a survivor! Believe it!

Before I retired in 2015, I loved watching and listening to those survivors in my support group who had medically incurable cancer, but still found much happiness. Because of their circumstances others might say these folks have the right to be fairly fearful. But these “incurable” survivors have come to realize—as have those of us who are cured—that we don’t need the right circumstances to be happy, but we do need to believe the right things about our circumstances to be happy.

It’s important what you believe about yourself and your loved ones. When I finished treatment for my cancer, the odds the cancer would come back were greater than the odds it wouldn’t. That doesn’t sound like a situation that would make a person very happy. But what I believed about my circumstances did give me joy.

I believed the truth that I was already a cancer survivor.

For as he thinks within himself, so he is. Proverbs 23:17

And I believed the truth that nothing, including cancer and its treatment, can diminish God’s great love for me.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today or our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. Romans 8:38

I also believed the truth that God didn’t need good odds to heal me, that there are people everywhere surviving despite their odds.

For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37

You and your loved ones have survived a cancer diagnosis. God obviously has plans for your life or you wouldn’t still be here. Ask Him to shine His light on your path and then don’t be afraid to follow where He leads.

Will you pray from Psalm 119 with me? Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again: I will obey your wonderful laws. I have suffered much, o LORD, restore my life again as you promised. Amen.

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May 31

Are You Wearing Out or Falling Apart?

O, Mr. Tentmaker
(Author unknown) 

It was nice living in this tent when it was strong and secure

        and the sun was shining and the air was warm.

But Mr. Tentmaker, it’s scary now.

You see, my tent is acting like it’s not going to hold together;

        the poles seem weak and they shift with the wind.

A couple of the stakes have wiggled loose from the sand;

        and worst of all, the canvas has a rip.

It no longer protects me from the beating rain or stinging fly.

It’s scary in here, Mr. Tentmaker.

Last week I went to the repair shop and some repairman

        tried to patch a rip in my canvas.

It didn’t help much though, because the patch pulled

        away from the edges and now the tear is worse.

What troubled me most, Mr. Tentmaker, is that

        the repairman didn’t even seem to notice that

        I was still in the tent;

        he just worked on the canvas while I shivered inside.

I cried out once, but no one heard me.

I guess my first real question is: Why did you give me such a flimsy tent?

I can see by looking around the campground that some

        of the tents are much stronger and more stable than mine.

Why, Mr. Tentmaker, did you pick a tent of

        such poor quality for me?

And even more important, what do you intend to do about it?

 

O, little tent dweller, as the Creator and Provider of tents

        I know all about you and your tent, and I love you both.

I made a tent for Myself once and

        I lived in it on your campground.

My tent was vulnerable, too, and some vicious attackers

        ripped it to pieces while I was still in it.

It was a terrible experience, but you will be glad to know

        they couldn’t hurt Me;

        in fact, the whole occurrence was a tremendous advantage

        because it is this very victory over My enemy that

        frees me to be  a present help to you.

 

O, little tent dweller, I am now prepared to come and

        live in your tent with you

        if you’ll invite Me.

You’ll learn that as we dwell together that real security comes from

        My being in the tent with you.

        When the storms come, you can huddle in my arms

        and I’ll hold you.

When the canvas rips, we’ll go to the repair shop together.

 

Some day, little tent dweller, some day

        your tent is going to collapse;

        you see, I’ve designed it for temporary use.

But when it does, you and I are going to leave together.

        I promise not to leave before you do.

And then free of all that would hinder or restrict,

        we will move to our permanent home together, forever,

        we will rejoice and be glad.

Think about it…Jesus, the very Son of God, took on an earthly “tent” in order to identify with us who live in bodies which fall apart and wear out.

  “The Word became ·a human [T flesh] and lived [made his home; pitched his tabernacle; C God’s glorious presence dwelt in Israel’s tabernacle in the wilderness] among us.”  John 1:14 (Expanded Bible)

But Jesus’  tent didn’t just fall apart or wear out, it was ripped apart while He was still in it. Whatever physical ailments we or our loved ones are facing–however poorly our tents seem to be holding up…Jesus understands  And to all of us who are Christ-followers, He promises to live inside our tents and to one day come and take us to a new Home which will never decay.

“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Corinthians 5:1 New American Standard Bible

Today marks four years since my mother, a two-time cancer survivor, left her earthly tent at the age of 82. The last non-relative to visit with  her was a 97-year-old woman named Ruth, who lived at the same assisted living residence. The two were lifelong attendees of the same church and had enjoyed many Bible studies and women’s groups together.

Ruth sat on a chair near my mom’s bed and they held weathered hands, reminisced about decades of friendship, and giggled like school girls. I heard my mom tell Ruth: “Lynn just reminded me that we get new bodies when we get to Heaven.”

Ruth giggled again and replied; “Oh, won’t that be wonderful!”

Two days later my mom passed away and two months later, right after turning 98, Ruth’s earthly tent wore out too. I can only imagine them clasping hands once again and rejoicing together in Heaven!

I guarantee you that each of us is either going to wear out or fall apart one day. Aren’t you glad that these earthly tents are not our real home?

(If the music video doesn’t automatically load, please copy, paste and click on this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twL3v5r8s6o )

May 24

Waiting for God to Answer Your Prayer

 

 

 

 

Last week I wrote about finding the exact calm center in the middle of a hurricane—not just literally as my retired Air Force Major Jim Perkins knows well from his days on a weather reconnaissance team—but figuratively as we all face the storms of life.

And the verse I suggested we all need to hang on to is Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”

I don’t know about you, but I tend to be an organized, driven person who tries really hard to get things worked out and doesn’t do as well being still and “just” relaxing in God’s control.

So today I have a really incredible story to share of how God a few years ago drove home this point for me. Please hang in there with me as I share all the details because I believe the ending will amaze you, as it did me.

The story begins in March 2007 when I was teaching Bill Hybels’ book Just Walk Across the Room in one of our adult classes at church. Hybels suggested we contact and thank the person who “walked across the room” and first invited us to faith. I knew I needed to contact Dave Sheldon, a guy at THE Ohio State University who invited my roommate Jackie and me to a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting in January 1972. When he invited us, I wasn’t interested at all in the meeting or in spiritual matters, but said I’d go because I didn’t want my roommate to look “holier” than me (yes, I am a competitive person!).

That night I surrendered leadership of my life to Jesus and have never looked back since. Although Dave and I were friends for a while before I moved away, I’d never really thanked him for taking the small—but crucial—step of inviting me to a deeper faith. Besides, I thought he probably would be excited to hear all God had done in my life in the past three decades since he walked across my apartment room.

So, I came home that Sunday and prayed God would help me find Dave Sheldon and began searching on the Internet for him. The last I knew he was a pastor living in Columbus, Ohio. I searched the OSU alumni directory and on-line Columbus phone books, but no Dave Sheldons. I broadened my search to all of Ohio and called a couple of numbers, but couldn’t find him. I searched church websites, but to no avail. As an ex-reporter I pride myself on being able to locate hard-to-find people, but finally, after a couple of hours I gave up.

Okay, God, I thought you would want me to find Dave Sheldon. I asked You to help me find him. All I wanted to do was thank him and tell him all You’ve done for me. But if You want me to wait until Heaven to thank him, then I guess that’s what I’ll have to do.

End of praying, end of trying. I didn’t think about Psalm 46:10 right then, but I basically ceased striving and acknowledged that God was God and He didn’t have to help me find Dave Sheldon.

Fast-forward nine months to Christmas when my husband, our eldest daughter Danielle and I visited my parents in Ashland, Ohio (about 1¼ hours north of Columbus). There was a movie we wanted to see so we told Danielle to pick a day, pick a theater and pick a time for us to go. She researched our options online and chose an old theater right in town, only to later discover that the movie would be shown upstairs and there was no elevator for my Mom. So, Danielle chose a new time and a new theater in Mansfield, about 30 minutes away. We went out to lunch first that day and afterwards I wanted to go back to our motel to get my buttered popcorn jellybeans for the movie, but Ralph said he didn’t think we’d have time. (Yes, I know it’s “illegal” to sneak them in, but they have so many less calories than real buttered popcorn.)

Amazingly, I didn’t argue with him about going back for them (a small miracle in itself). So we drove to Mansfield, found the new theater—arriving about 40 minutes early! Thankfully, I didn’t whine about the fact we would have had time to get the jellybeans (another miracle). We bought our show tickets and discussed how to kill some time before the movie. My husband’s new GPS told us there was a Wal-mart nearby so we decided to go there and pick up some things my Mom needed. But after the GPS calculated our arrival time, I decided we probably didn’t have time to get everything done. I looked around and noticed a new Bed, Bath & Beyond store and suggested we take my Mom there so she could see the dishes in our youngest daughter’s wedding registry.

With my Mom on my arm, we walked very slowly up the store aisle and looked at Lindsey’s registry items. After about 25 minutes, I said we needed to get back to the theater. I started to take my Mom back down the same aisle because it was the fastest way out, but a little voice in my head said, “Why don’t you relax and take her down another aisle and let her enjoy looking at some different things on the way out?” So we walked to the far side of the store and down the last aisle. Near the end of that aisle, we stopped at a big display of Ohio State paraphernalia (Pennsylvania stores never have such wonderful displays of my alma mater!)

A man standing near the display looked up and said: “Lynn?”

I answered “Yes” and he looked quizzically at my face and said, “You are Lynn, aren’t you?”

Again I said, “Yes” while thinking: I’ve finally been recognized by a complete stranger who read one of my books—this is so cool! (Afterwards my Mother and Danielle both confessed they thought the same thing!)

Then the man said with a big smile: “Dave Sheldon.”

I was speechless as I hugged him for dear life. Finally, I managed to tell him that I had prayed to find him because I wanted to thank him for inviting me to the meeting that changed my life. We talked for a few moments before exchanging email addresses. I learned he is no longer a pastor in Columbus, but lives in Mansfield and was in Bed, Bath & Beyond killing time with his son-in-law while his wife and daughters were at a nearby Target store! I marvel that Dave had last seen me 34 years ago when I was 20 years old, yet still recognized me (I knew it would pay off someday not to change my hairstyle!)

 

If I initially had found Dave Sheldon on the Internet that day I prayed to find him, I would have been very happy. But God had a much better plan. He somehow, someway managed to put Dave Sheldon and me in the same state, the same city, the same store, the same aisle, at the same display at the exact same moment in time. When I put my head on my pillow that night, the smile refused to disappear from my face. As I said my prayers I was very still and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that He was God.

God hears your prayer, dear friend. I can’t promise how and when He will answer, but you can cease from striving and believe that just like God knew how to lead me to Dave Sheldon, He knows how to work out your circumstances to accomplish His will.

You can be still and know that He is God.

(If today’s music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy and paste this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrPPJCu22ZI )

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 )

 

 

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