Mar 01

How to Encourage the Discouraged

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 22

How to Handle Stupid Remarks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 15

No more bad news!

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Feb 08

Wanna see my first selfie?

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Shalom.

 

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

 

 

Feb 01

Can You See Your Shadow?

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The shadow of the Almighty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan 25

Praying when You Just Can’t

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

But it did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Jan 18

Why not start a HOPE collection?

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heaven
Offers
Peace
Eternal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jan 11

Happy endings only, please!

 

 

 

 

 

If this hasn’t happened to you yet, I’m pretty sure it will.

Someone finds out you or your loved one has cancer–or some other serious diagnosis–and begins to tell you a story about a relative or friend of theirs who had a similar one. I’m sure it’s an attempt to try and identify with what you’re going through, but unfortunately as the story unfolds, it’s not what you really want to hear.

People used to come up and tell me gruesome stories about their neighbor who had the same kind of cancer I did and just “wasted away” or their grandmother who was “wracked with pain.” I hated hearing these stories, but at first I tried to be polite and listen.

Finally, I decided I could take it no longer and when people started a cancer story, I would interrupt them, smile, and say, “Does this story have a happy ending? Because if it ­doesn’t, I don’t want to hear it.”

That reply ­really stopped people in their tracks, and I ­didn’t have to listen to any more hopeless cancer stories.

You may want to adopt my approach as well. Many patients tell me they have and that surprisingly it worked quite well even though some folks’ mouths dropped open at the shock of being asked to stop talking midstream! Eventually, you may be fine to listen to any and all stories, but at first I think it’s best to stick with the happy endings.

All the patients in the office where I worked as a patient advocate for nearly two decades knew that when I started to tell them a story, they could relax because it was going to have a “happy ending.” Either the person got cured or went into remission or lived much longer than predicted. You also can trust that all my books are filled with endless hope and not hopeless endings. There are plenty of books with formulas which promise that if you do this or ­don’t do that, your prayers will be answered just the way you want them to be. I know such books exist because cancer patients and their families in our office often wanted to talk with me when such a prayer formula ­didn’t work for them.

The truth is that some people get cured of cancer–or other life-threatening illnesses–on this earth and some ­don’t. I join you in hoping and praying for your cure, but I want to remind you that no matter what does or doesn’t happen to your health, you do not have to be a victim.

I hate the term “cancer victim.” It somehow implies cancer is the victor. It wins; we lose. While we can do little to choose whether we get cancer (or most other serious diagnoses), I believe we can do a lot to choose whether we are its victims. I don’t just mean whether we live or die. I mean how the diagnosis affects us in the deepest parts of who we are.

I urge you today, whether you are the patient or the caregiver, not to choose to become a victim of cancer or any other illness/condition. Do not let this disease seem more powerful than it is. Do not let it fill your mind, steal your peace, invade your soul or destroy your hope. It has no power to do those things unless you allow it to.

As you take this unwanted journey, I believe you are going to discover two things:

You are a lot stronger than you think
and God is a lot greater than you think.

If you had told me prior to June 1990 that I was going to be diagnosed with cancer and have to endure major surgery and six months of weekly chemo, I would have said there’s no way I can face that. If you had a crystal ball and showed me the terrible side effects I would suffer because I was allergic to the main chemo drug and no other alternative existed at that time, I would have said: I can’t do it. If you told me I would have to live with the knowledge that if my cancer came back, there was no second chance at a cure and I would die very quickly, I would have told you there’s no way I can live like that.

But that’s because I didn’t have a true appreciation for how great God really is. Oh, I’d believed in Him and even served Him faithfully for many years, but until I suffered personally, I’d never experienced how powerful He really is. Now I’ve seen firsthand the amazing strength of the human spirit and the incomparable greatness of the Almighty God.

The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust him. Nahum 1:7

If you ­don’t want to be defeated by this diagnosis—no matter what it does or has done to you or your loved one, you need a supernatural touch from God.

May I pray for you? Heavenly Father, this diagnosis feels very big right now. Please show Your power in my friend’s life and let him/her see that this disease/condition is very small and weak compared to Your amazing strength. Help him/her to choose not to be a victim. Amen

(If the music video doesn’t appear below, please copy and paste this link to enjoy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKLQ1td3MbE

 

Jan 04

How to Have a Close Encounter of the Divine Kind

 

 

 

 

I don’t know if this cancer diagnosis is the first one your family or friend has faced or simply the latest in a string of such bad health news. Lucky me…I was the first in our large extended family to find out my DNA had “slipped up” and allowed cancer to “slip in.” At the time, we had plenty of relatives with diabetes and heart problems, but always thought cancer wasn’t something lurking in our genes.

So, while some folks might suspect they may get a cancer diagnosis some day, I never did. Instead it seemed as if my cancer just came out of nowhere and struck when I least expected it. I hear many cancer patients say the same thing—some of them are even in their seventies and eighties, but have enjoyed such good health, they felt rather immune to cancer.

And then there are those whom I meet who already have had cancer knocking at their family’s door too many times—they’ve watched parents, spouses, grandparents or even their children wage cancer battles and now are discouraged that it’s their “turn.”

I think it’s hard to be the first in your family with cancer and it’s hard to be the latest one diagnosed. Either way this disease is a very unwelcome intruder.

I know that’s how my friend Guy felt when he was diagnosed in December 1993 with what his surgeon later would describe as “Stage D” prostate cancer (and yes, this story has a happy ending!). In 1991, Peg, Guy’s wife of thirty-four years, died from a rare, inoperable cancer, and his middle son, Mike, endured chemo and radiation for testicular cancer in 1992.

Now it was Guy’s turn.

“I ­didn’t get angry,” he recalls, “but I felt very empty and I said, ‘Why, Lord, why?’”

Even though Guy had a strong faith in God before his diagnosis, it ­wasn’t easy for him to face cancer without Peg at his side. But he was about to find out that this unwelcome intruder was no match for the Creator of the Universe.

A radical prostatectomy was scheduled for late January 1994 and Guy remembers the anxious moments before he went ­under­ the surgeon’s knife.

“Before I went into the O.R., they prepped me, and Mike’s minister was up to see me and he asked me if he could pray with me,” Guy says. “Then they took me out of the room and down the hall. Before we got to the [operating room] door, I said, ‘Stop!’” Guy recalls. “The guy pushing me said, ‘What’s wrong?’ but I just told him again to stop.

“I looked up and pointed up and I said, ‘Lord, You know me and I know You—do with me what You will,’” he remembers. “Once I said those words, I was so at peace and I said to the guy that was pushing me, ‘Let’s go!’

“I left [my cancer prognosis] up to God and I ­wasn’t afraid of anything. I had a peace that I can’t really describe.”

I would describe what happened that moment as a close encounter of the divine kind.

As Guy reached out to God, he said a simple prayer of surrender, giving the Master of the Universe permission to have His way in Guy’s life. He did what I believe we all need to do: agree to let God simply be God.

Let Him be the unfaltering, faithful God, willing to strengthen us for any and ­every­ circumstance.

Let Him be the incredibly sovereign God, wise enough to know how and when to answer any and ­every­ prayer.

Let Him be the mighty awesome God that He is, powerful enough to heal us at any and every­ level—powerful enough to heal my friend Guy, body, mind, and spirit.

Have you ever had a divine encounter with the Lord before? If you have, you’re probably already praying for another such special moment. But if you haven’t, you may be a little wary (maybe even a LOT wary!) Personally, I don’t think you have anything to lose—and a great deal to gain—by reaching out to God and saying a simple prayer surrendering your situation to Him. You could pray something like this: Dear God, You know me and I want to know You more. I surrender this situation to You and ask You to have Your way in my/my loved one’s life. I pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

P.S. If you want more of the happy ending to Guy’s story, you should know the surgery (which did not remove all the cancer) was followed by radiation and hormone treatments after which he was cancer-free until his death more than twenty years later. Up until that time, he sually could be found spreading cheer as he volunteered helping the “old folks” at a local nursing home!

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

Dec 28

When You’re Not Really FEELING Thankful…

 

 

 

 

When I was getting chemotherapy, my friends at church usually were excited that I was being treated by a physician who had strong spiritual faith and they often asked me, “How did this little town manage to get a ­Jewish oncologist who believes in Jesus and is so well-trained and respected in his field?” I used to reply jokingly that God sent him here just for me.

Now I know there was much more truth to that statement than I could have fathomed at the time.

A diagnosis of cancer, or any difficult trial normally brings with it many emotions. Thankfulness is not usually on the list. When I found out my cells had gone awry and allowed cancer to grow inside me, gratefulness was the last thing I felt.

But I kept thinking about the admonition in the Bible to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV). I knew enough to ­understand that did not mean I had to be some sort of masochist and praise God for ­every­ awful thing that happened to me. Instead, I believed it meant I could have a thankful heart no matter how depressing my circumstances were.

So a few weeks after my diagnosis in 1990, I began to look for something for which to be thankful. It was one of those conversations between my head and my heart.

Let’s see . . . I have cancer at the age of 36 after taking good care of myself physically. No, ­can’t think of anything worthy of thanks there.

My three little girls may have to grow up without a mother. Nope, that ­doesn’t work either.

My husband already has buried one wife and now has a 60-percent chance he’ll outlive another. Naw, that isn’t inspiring any words of praise.

­I’m going to have to take toxic chemotherapy, when I ­don’t even like to take an aspirin. Not much there to feel grateful about.

Finally, it came to me.

Dr.  Marc Hirsh! I have a Messianic ­Jewish oncologist—who knows, maybe the world’s ­only Messianic ­Jewish oncologist—practicing medicine just seven miles from my home. I humbly bowed my head and heart and for the first time since hearing the dreaded news “you have cancer” and I thanked God in the midst of my circumstance.

“Father, you know I ­don’t feel any thankfulness about my situation, but I want to thank You for leading Dr. Marc Hirsh here to be my doctor.”

I can ­only imagine God smiling and saying, “Now you’re getting it. Just wait to see how ­really thankful you’re going to be for him when you see how I am going to use this doctor to change your life.”

After that prayer, the rest is history, as they say. (If you want to read the incredible story of Marc’s spiritual journey to faith in Jesus as his Messiah, you’ll have to read my first book, When God & Cancer Meet.) But the short story of our “doctor-patient relationship” is that my family became close friends with Marc’s family and in 1996 he and his wife Elizabeth offered me a position in his office as a patient advocate providing emotional and spiritual care to cancer patients and their caregivers.

“Having a patient advocate makes so much sense that I wonder why we ­didn’t do it sooner,” he told me shortly after I started working with him, adding that he “­can’t imagine” practicing medicine without having someone in a position like mine.

I ­can’t imagine what my life would have been like without being a patient advocate for nearly 20 years. It’s incredible to me what one small prayer of thankfulness produced.

If you or your loved one have a cancer diagnosis or are facing some other unwanted difficulty, I’m wondering if you have found anything for which to be thankful in the midst of your circumstances. You probably ­don’t have a Messianic ­Jewish oncologist (if you do, I’d love to know!), but I believe there is something or someone for which you can say a prayer of thanks today. It may be just the prayer God wants to use to begin to bless your life.

I think the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk penned a wonderful example of thankfulness even when everything around him was going wrong:

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
And though there are no grapes on the vines;
Even though the olive crop fails,
And the fields lie empty and barren;
Even though the flocks die in the fields,
And the cattle barns are empty,

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD!

I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! Habakkuk 3:17,18

Go ahead, be thankful in all things—even when the hair follicles have no “blossoms,” even though your strength “fails”” and even though your dreams “lie empty and barren.” Go ahead and rejoice in the Lord because a prayer of thanksgiving can unleash the power of God in our lives in truly amazing ways.

Lord, give me the strength to do as it says in Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in affliction, be faithful in prayer.” Amen.

If the music video doesn’t appear below, copy and paste this link to play it : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lw9CcLGjouM

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