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.

(If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy, paste and click on this link to enjoy ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5eMMmKpJCo&list=RDz5eMMmKpJCo#t=51 )

 

 

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.

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

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.

If the music video below doesn’t automatically load, please copy, paste and click on this link to enjoy  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewD9aRxnzec )

 

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 )

 

 

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 )

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