Incurable Cancer and God’s Goodness

If you ask my dear friend Pat Magness what’s getting her through a nearly three-year journey with incurable cancer–and remission from it–she will tell you: God’s goodness and Lee’s encouragement.

Both God and husband Lee were in Pat’s life long before the sobering diagnosis, but her love for each has grown much deeper.

Pat and Lee, college sweethearts and retired college professors, have been avid travelers for all their 57 years of marriage–visiting about 50 countries.

But their cancer journey has been the most difficult they’ve ever faced.

“I was diagnosed in July 2021, but I had terrible back pain for months,” Pat recalls, “so I knew something was really wrong.”

An MRI finally revealed the problem: two spinal fractures.

She was directed immediately to another hospital for emergency  surgery to stabilize her back and avoid any paralysis. Meanwhile, Lee was admitted to a different hospital with a “scary” cellulitis (bacterial skin infection)!

Pat’s extensive blood work and bone marrow biopsy revealed the culprit was multiple myeloma: a blood cancer that develops in bone marrow plasma cells.

With two short rods implanted in her spine, Pat left the hospital in a fitted back brace she wore for three months.

When both were released from their hospitals, they spent the next month with younger son Ethan and his family, who live in the same town.

“We had been independent, traveling the world and all of a sudden we couldn’t even take care of ourselves in our own home,” Pat explains.

Chemo began shortly and the cancer responded almost immediately. Soon doctors were discussing a stem cell transplant, even though at 74 Pat normally would be considered “too old.”

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center decided Pat was a good candidate for the procedure, designed to restore the body’s ability to produce new blood cells after treatment with the very high chemo doses.

A transplant is an ordeal lasting several weeks and includes constant monitoring and high risk of infection. Pat and Lee stayed at a nearby apartment and every day Lee insisted they walk back and forth to the center.

“It got really tough,” Pat remembers. “I would say ‘I don’t think I can do that’ and Lee would encourage me to try. We walked every day for six weeks and there was only one time he had to drive me.

“I credit Lee with saving my life,” she continues. “He made the beds, did the cooking and the driving–everything for me.”

Celebrating 2nd transplant anniversary

Follow-ups tests show the cancer to be in complete remission and Pat continues on a bi-monthly “maintenance” treatment. She admits it gets tiring to be “constantly confronting your own mortality–you can’t pretend there’s nothing wrong.”

But in those discouraging moments, Pat recalls the hope promised in Romans 15:13:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

When I asked what got her through the toughest times, Pat says it was “songs in the night” (Job 35:10)

A former church pianist, she “began to hear worship music, especially at night–it was so unusual.”

“No anxiety,  I just felt gratitude for life and for treatment,” she adds. “The song I heard most was ‘Goodness of God’.

“When you enter the cancer world, it helps to have things to live for and I just had so many things.”

Grandchildren’s high school and college graduations.  A new ministry praying for cancer patients. International traveling again. And last month accompanying us on our Mississippi riverboat cruise to belatedly celebrate our 50th anniversary.

Yes, the goodness of God.

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Open in your browser to hear Pat’s favorite song in the night–“Goodness of God” with CeCe Winans.

Finding Serenity

“The Serenity Prayer” was always a favorite of my father–who would have turned 99 this month–and I love it, too. A framed needlepoint of that prayer hangs in my office and was made for me in  the ’70s by a dear friend in our first pastorate in western New York State.

Connie sadly passed away in her 20s from ovarian cancer after we had left the area. At that time “cancer” was just a scary word to me and I had no inclination that cancer support ministry would become my life’s calling.

Last week as my husband and I were leaving Florida– in spite of five wonderful days of speaking and relaxation–I felt overwhelmed by my mental to-do list.

 Upon returning home, we would be traveling AGAIN! This trip is for our rescheduled 50th anniversary celebration riverboat cruise. (Remember the one I had to cancel the day we were supposed to leave for Paris because I was in the hospital with a small bowel obstruction and about to have a 12-day hospital admission including a horrible NG tube and surgery? Yeah, that one. )

So much to be done in a week–unpacking/repacking, catching up on all the emails and messages, paying bills, preparations for the two Bible studies I would miss, etc…Oh, and finally STARTING our taxes! (Yes, I know I’m late to that party!)

One of the things really stressing me was that my bi-weekly blog was scheduled for today and I had no ideas, no interviews done, nothing, nada, zilch. I couldn’t see how I could possibly find the many hours needed to write, along with choosing thee right scriptures, photos and song. Delaying a week wouldn’t help because we would be gone for two Wednesdays.

Then The Serenity Prayer popped into my mind. This is something I can change! It’s my blog, I make the rules and I will  just skip it.

But while waiting for our airport Uber ride, God gave me the idea of blogging about the prayer, including what photos and song to use–while assuring me I could finish it quickly.

I changed my attitude and began writing in my head. I also asked my husband to take a photo of me right then and there as a testimony to the fact that sometimes God changes our circumstances and sometimes He changes us. Either way, we find serenity.

The Serenity Prayer as most of us know it is the shorter, revised version adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous almost 100 years ago. But here’s the original prayer as written by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), American pastor, theologian and political commentator.

God, give us grace to accept with serenity 
the things that cannot be changed, 
Courage to change the things 
which should be changed, 
and the Wisdom to distinguish 
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time, 
Enjoying one moment at a time, 
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, 
Taking, as Jesus did, 
This sinful world as it is, 
Not as I would have it, 
Trusting that You will make all things right, 
If I surrender to Your will, 
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, 
And supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

Dear friend, I pray today for you to have courage to see any hardship you face as a “pathway to peace.” To have faith in God’s timing to “make all things right.” And with Him to be “reasonably happy” now and “supremely happy” forever.
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Open in your browser to hear the incredibly beautiful “The Serenity Prayer Song” by the Serenity Prayer Project. 

“God was using my hurt to heal others!”

When I met Bre Valenzuela last summer in San Diego at the Bob Goff retreat for cancer survivors, one thing was clear: she exuded joy…in spite of her circumstances.

In the fall of 2022, life had been good for Bre.

She was less than a month from celebrating her 29th birthday and the birth of her first child.  She was happily married since 2017 to husband Cody, whom she met while working at Disneyland.  Together they attended a great church where she was a worship leader, sharing the gift of her beautiful alto voice.

But then she found the lump.

It was a large one on the side of her neck, so she headed to urgent care, which sent her to the ER.  The doctor there told her she had Hodgkin lymphoma (despite the fact there was no tissue sample to diagnosis), but the oncologist she saw next thought it might be simply an infection. When tests ruled out an infection,  doctors decided to induce her at 39 weeks and get a biopsy right after the delivery.

A healthy baby boy named Jace arrived…along with a diagnosis of Stage 3 Hodgkin lymphoma and plans for chemotherapy.

“They let me be a mom for a week,” Bre recalls. ” I was allowed to breastfeed for a week and then I wasn’t allowed.”

Immediately Bre simultaneously began two ernormous tasks : fighting a life-threatening illness and raising a new, little life in her arms.

Worship team members shaved her head!

It was her faith in Jesus–which she “found” in 2019–that saw her through those really tough months.

“Faith showed up in a million ways!” she explains. “People from church would come over and just hold Jace for an hour so I could nap. They brought meals and went to chemo treatments with me so Cody could stay with Jace.”

When I asked Bre in our recent phone conversation how it felt to be a young, new mom facing cancer, she replied : “I had a sadness because I definitely want to see Jace grow up…but I realized I had to surrender all of it (to God) even if the outcome didn’t turn out to be what I wanted.”

It was while singing worship music that she experienced peaceful surrender.

“In the realm of worship, I felt perfectly held by God,” she recalls.

One of the most amazing ways that God showed up for Bre came through some advice given by a mentor-friend , who also is a cancer survivor.

“She said I should view my chemo chair as ‘holy ground’,” Bre remembers. “That seemed really strange, but she said it was the ground where God was sending people to heal me.”

At one point during her 12-treatment protocol, she was hospitalized for a week with a life-threatening sepsis infection.  Soon her hospital room also became holy ground.

“I ended up having four different nurses come in to my room to have me pray with them,” she says. “One even said she switched her shift so she could be with me.

Now God was using my hurt to heal others.”

Life is good for Bre–follow-up tests show her to be cancer-free and she’s looking forward to her 30th birthday in October.

When she reflects on 2023, she says: “I didn’t know they made years this hard or this rewarding. Cheers to living life open-handed and finding joy even in the darkest of moments!”

Amen, my beautiful, joyful friend.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
For you know when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 
James 1:2-3

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Please open in your browser to hear the great song “See You Through It” by Brandon Heath. The words speak of trials, and yet the music and whimsical video are full of JOY–just like my friend Bre. (I think the lyrics are clear, but if you want to read them, here’s a link see me through it lyrics.

 

 

 

For Days When You Can’t See the Sun

On a recent, dark, foggy morning, my husband and I were riding in the car with our youngest grandchild. As we drove past the nearby Limerick nuclear power plant and its steamy twin towers, 6-year-old Mathis made this observation:

“Those cloud-maker buildings are really working hard today…I can’t even see the sun!”

I had to smile at his description of “cloud-maker buildings” hiding the light.

 

Do you ever feel as if some “cloud-maker buildings are really working hard” to darken your days?

I recall an awful time in 2017 when all of my normal “support team” was either knocked out of commission or otherwise occupied:

  • My youngest daughter’s 2-year-old had the flu, her 6-month-old had a double ear infection while her husband and 4-year-old were recovering from the flu.
  • My middle daughter was tending to her two preschoolers, both with the flu, following her own (and her kindergartener’s) bouts with it.
  • One of my oldest daughter’s best friends was run over by a car while jogging and in trauma care fighting for her life.
  • My prayer partner of many years had a hacking cough from the flu and couldn’t even talk on the phone.
  • My closest friend from church was unreachable in another country.
  • My poor husband still was having trouble with his knee replacement and couldn’t walk or drive  without severe pain.
  • And while working on our 2016 taxes—much too late—I discovered a clerical error with a tax bill resulting in several thousand dollars of unpaid taxes, penalty fees galore, and a possible lien on our home.

As I stressed over deadlines for FB book launch posts, blogs, magazine articles, and speaking engagements, as well as concern for so many loved ones in dire straits, my heart was overwhelmed.

So I tried to be extra “good” to myself. I got a massage. I went for walks.  I sat in my hot tub. I ate big bowls of popcorn. I drank a root beer float with the popcorn.

I prayed. I read my Bible. I listened to worship music.

But I still couldn’t “see” the Son.

Finally, I texted Gigi, my friend of many decades in Colorado, and asked her to call me that weekend.

Within moments, my phone beeped.

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

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

And then I dumped it all on my dear friend. Everything I wrote about here with much more detail and weeping.

I’m not going to share exactly how Gigi responded, but she calmly and prayerfully led me into the presence of Jesus so that I could feel His love for me.

In those few moments absolutely nothing changed in my circumstances and yet everything changed inside me as Psalm 61: 2 came true before my eyes.My friend’s prayer lifted my eyes off all the “cloud-maker buildings” and focused them on my Rock and my Redeemer who is above it all and could take the burdens I was never meant to carry.

You light a lamp for me. The LORD my God, light up my darkness. Psalm 18:28

Dear friend, I don’t know how or when God will lead you to the high rock, but I believe with all my heart that He will. Keep crying out to Him and when you can’t hear His voice, ask a trusted friend to cry out with you. He’ll take the burdens you never were meant to carry. +++

P.S. A few updates from the 2017 crises: My oldest daughter’s friend miraculously recovered from the accident. My husband’s knee was infected and had to have a second (and thankfully, successful) replacement. I got the taxes straightened out without going bankrupt. Gigi now lives across the street so I can just holler out the door when I need her! 🙂

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Please open in your browser to hear the incredible song, “Great Reward” by Tim Timmons, longtime stage 4 cancer survivor and my friend!

4 Things Not to Say to Suffering People

Two days after my cancer surgery in 1990 at the age of 36, a friend came into my hospital room  with a smile on her face as she announced: “God is going to teach you great things through this trial!”

I wanted to take the IV out of my arm, stab it in hers, and tell her to get in the bed and learn great things from God!

Instead, I smiled weakly and pushed the morphine pump button.

During my more than three decades of cancer support ministry I’ve known literally thousands of suffering people. Here are four things I’ve learned not to say:

1. You should…
However we might be tempted to finish that sentence, we need to stopSuffering people don’t need our advice unless they ask for it.  Suffering is overwhelming and becomes even more so when well-meaning people offer recommendations they believe will help. Most of us are “fixers” and can jump into that role as soon as we hear a need.

Chris Lawrence

Author and longtime stage 4 cancer survivor Chris Lawrence offers this insight: “There is something healing about another person affirming our situation–not just trying to ‘fix it,’ but instead being with us in it.”

Let’s affirm that we hear someone’s hurt. Offer a simple (non-preaching!) prayer. Give assurance of our love–and God’s–no matter what.

2. Something good/better will come from this.
Yes, God can turn mourning into dancing and trade ashes for beauty, but whatever good comes may pale in comparison to the losses and may not even happen in this lifetime.

My friend Marge whose immediate family–husband and two children–were killed by a drunk driver made this observation about suffering: “Grief has given me a perspective on life’s priorities, an appreciation of the significance of the moment, a delight in the distraction of the trivial and a fearlessness of death. But I would gladly give up all these insights to…have my family back.”

It’s not our job to make sense of someone else’s suffering. God may reveal that to them, but as He told Job, He doesn’t owe us an explanation.

3. You shouldn’t feel that way.
Saying this to a suffering person minimizes their pain and is like hitting them when they’re already down.

Remember Job’s friends? Before they started telling him what not to feel, they were great comforters.

When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. Job 2:11-13

Let us, too, sit in silence in those moments when a suffering loved one needs a safe place to vent.

4. Everything happens for a reason.
If this is a favorite phrase and you love to say it to yourself, please, continue! But others may not find the sentiment comforting because the word “reason” by definition means there is an explanation, a justification or rational grounds for what’s occurring. The implication is there’s a hidden “good” reason something happened.

What’s the good reason for suicide? War? Murder? Molestation?

Instead of offering platitudes, let’s offer our presence. NY Times bestselling author Rick Warren shares this personal recollection:

Our small group came over after (our son) Matthew died. They said, ‘We’re spending the night at your house. We’re not going to leave you here alone. We’re going to be with you.’They didn’t try to give us any words of wisdom. They just gave us the ministry of presence. They slept on our couches and on the floor. I’ll never forget how it held us up.”

My friend was right–I have learned great things from God through my cancer journey.

I just wish she hadn’t told me while my suffering was still too great for words.

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Open in a browser to hear “God of Comfort” by CH Worship.

Why did God let this happen?

When you believe in God, it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that He has allowed adversity to come into your life or your loved one’s.

In the book If God Is So Good, Why Do I Hurt So Bad?  author David Biebel says there are two truths suffering people have to reconcile:

Sometimes life is agony.
Our loving God is in control.

Think about it.

If God knows everything, this trial did not surprise Him.

If God sees everything, He saw the bad news coming.

If God has power over everything, He could have fixed it.

But He didn’t.

He didn’t prevent you or your loved one from getting cancer, dementia, ALS or a multitude of other afflictions.  God didn’t thwart the divorce, the job loss, the infidelity, the pay cut, the addiction, the waywardness, or scores of other struggles. Our loving Heavenly Father didn’t stop them from happening to you or your loved one.

Photo by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash

And so we ask, or maybe we even scream…Why did God let this happen?

My unsatisfying, but honest response is… I don’t know.

Yes, I know that “good” sometimes can come from “bad,” but the journey through the bad can be, oh, so difficult.

And yet the reality is that God’s Word never promises He will stop all bad things from happening to us.

On the contrary, it promises us that He is prepared for each battle and will equip us, too.

The Message Bible paraphrases 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 this way:
“We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles,
but we’re not demoralized;
we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do;
we’ve been spiritually terrorized. But God hasn’t left our side;
we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.”

When you’re being battered and thrown down, if you are like me, you just want God to take it away and give back your happy life!

Author Philip Yancey, who has written extensively on suffering, (including co-authoring Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants) revealed last year that a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis is causing him to put his written words into practice. Yancey admits he “would be delighted to have Parkinson’s magically removed” from his life, but also believes in God’s power to enrich our lives despite our circumstances.

“With some exceptions,” he says, “those who live with pain and failure tend to be better stewards of their life circumstances than those who live with success and pleasure.

“Pain redeemed impresses me much more than pain removed,” Yancey adds.*

I pray you are encouraged by knowing that your or your loved one’s diagnosis/crisis/problem has not taken God by surprise. He is in control and knows how to equip you for it. And if He doesn’t remove the pain–physical, emotional, mental and spiritual–please believe He can redeem it.

You may feel as if you can’t even face the situation, but I guarantee you that our God can!

* https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2023/february-web-only/philip-yancey-ct-parkinsons-diagnosis-gift-i-didnt-want.html

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Open in your browser to hear “My God Can” with Katy Nichole (featuring Naomi Raine).

An Amazing Answer to Prayer

Author Chris Tiegreen says that God writes stories with our lives to teach us deep truths. Here’s how I learned a big one.

In March 2007, an author I was reading suggested we thank the person who “walked across the room” and first invited us to faith.

Me 1972

I knew I needed to contact Dave Sheldon, who along with my my roommate Jackie invited me to a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting at Ohio State in January 1972. (I wasn’t really interested, but said I’d go because I didn’t want Jackie to look “holier” than me!)

At that meeting I surrendered leadership of my life to Jesus and have never looked back.

Although Dave and I were friends in college, I’d never really thanked him for taking that step of inviting me to a deeper faith.

So I prayed God would help me find Dave. The last I knew he was a pastor in Columbus, so I searched online through the OSU alumni directory, phone books and church websites. I even called a few numbers, but couldn’t find him. After a couple of frustrating hours, I gave up.

Okay, God, I thought You would want me to find Dave Sheldon. But if You want me to wait until Heaven to thank him, then I guess that’s what I’ll have to do. 

That Christmas when my husband, our eldest daughter Danielle and I visited my parents in Ashland, Ohio (1¼ hours north of Columbus), we wanted to see a particular movie and asked Danielle to research the day, time and place options. She chose an old theater downtown, but discovered the movie would be shown upstairs with no elevator for my Mom.

So, Danielle picked a theater in Mansfield, about 30 minutes away. We went out to lunch first and afterwards I wanted to go back to our motel and get my buttered popcorn jellybeans for the movie, but Ralph said there wasn’t time. (Amazingly, I didn’t argue.)

We drove to Mansfield arriving 40 minutes early! (Shockingly, I didn’t whine.) We bought our tickets and discussed how to kill time before the movie. Mom needed something at Walmart and  the GPS indicated one nearby, but after calculating our arrival time, I decided we didn’t have time. Instead I suggested we head into Bed, Bath & Beyond next to the theater.

With Mom on my arm, we walked very slowly up the store aisle looking at our youngest daughter Lindsey’s wedding registry dishes. After about 25 minutes, I started to head 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 to enjoy looking at some different things?” 

So we walked to the far side of the store and down the last aisle. Near the end, Mom stopped at a big display of Ohio State paraphernalia.

A man standing near all the scarlet-and-gray looked up and said: “Lynn?”

I answered “Yes” and he looked quizzically at my face. “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!   

The man grinned and said: “Dave Sheldon.”  

I was speechless as I hugged him for dear life. I managed to blurt out that I had prayed to find and thank him for inviting me to the meeting which changed my life. I learned he lived in Mansfield and was in the store killing time waiting for his family! (I still marvel that Dave recognized me after 34 years–undoubtedly a perk of never changing my hairstyle!)

That night I put my head on my pillow and my smile refused to disappear as I pondered the fact God somehow 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.

My prayer was not answered as quickly or in the way I originally had hoped. Instead, God wrote a deep truth on my heart: 

Excerpted from When God & Grief Meet ©Lynn Eib 2009

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Open in your browser to hear the song “In Jesus Name (God of Possible)” sung by Don Moen.

 

Happy Endings!

I have a confession to make. I’ve never even admitted it in public before.

I enjoy romantic Hallmark movies.

Yes, I know they all have the same plot: A beautiful, successful city girl visits her small hometown, where she meets/gets reacquainted with a rugged, handsome guy, who has nothing better to do than help her every day until they fall madly in love and drive off in his pickup.

I simply love happy endings.

In fact, I really don’t like to watch any movie that doesn’t have one. I guess it’s because I see so much sorrow and sickness in real life.

So, may I share a personal story with a very happy ending?

I have gone on only one blind date in my life: April 6, 1973. I was 19 and finishing up my junior year of college. My friend Janet and her husband Tom set up a next-day double date for me with the assistant manager of the Christian bookstore that Tom ran. I already had plans to play table tennis with a guy who was perfecting my forehand slam, but I broke that date (another first).

We saw the movie Doctor Zhivago and had sundaes at Friendly Ice Cream afterward. I remember I ordered a junior hot fudge because I didn’t want my date to think I was a big eater.

Apparently, my small appetite impressed him because on June 4, after two whole months of dating, Ralph proposed. I immediately said yes–basically the first and last impulsive thing I’ve ever done in my 70 years.

We married Dec. 29, 1973, which makes this Friday our 50th anniversary.

We’ve had our share of struggles–trying to make ends meet while paying my tuition and Ralph’s seminary loans, as well as hospital bills from his late wife’s battle with ALS.  The ending of our first pregnancy with a Mother’s Day miscarriage in ’77. The diagnosis of my colon cancer in 1990  with a 40-percent chance to survive.

Ralph has endured replacing two shoulders and three knees (not a typo– one got infected and had to be redone after I gave him six weeks of daily IV antibiotics). Most recently I developed a small bowel obstruction, which could have taken my life, but thankfully was successfully resected.

We’ve weathered the ups and downs of more than three decades of pastoral ministry and spent years caring for aging relatives who had neither the strength nor the finances to care for themselves.

I married Ralph because I believed that together we could serve God better…and by His grace I think that has happened.

It’s incredible what one blind date has led to: three daughters, three granddaughters, four grandsons, two sons-in-law, and half-a-century of getting to know and love God more, while trying to help others do the same.

And that’s my happy-ending story.

Of course, we don’t know how it eventually ends here on earth, but praise God, we do know that an unending happily-ever-after awaits us in Heaven.

Please rejoice with our love story as you listen to this love song, which I’m dedicating to my husband…and to my Savior.

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How to Hear God’s Voice

Ralph and I were married Dec. 29, 1973, so our first husband-and-wife Christmas was ’74. I was an unemployed, recent college grad and he was making $5,000 as assistant manager of a Christian bookstore.

We were living in a family’s basement, but wanted to have our own tree, so Ralph went searching. There weren’t many left, but he found a tree lot with a few. The smallest, cheapest one was $4.

“I only have $3,” my forlorn-looking husband told the tree-seller as he held up three crumpled bills..

The gentleman thought for a moment, then agreed to the bargain price.

We decorated it with a single strand of lights, popcorn and cranberry garlands, a few ornaments my folks sent from Germany, and others I quilled from colored strips of paper.

It’s still my favorite Christmas tree memory.

Chuck & Pat in 2023

Our plans were to stay in the basement of Chuck and Pat, a local Baptist pastor and his wife, for a “a week or two” until the house we were going to rent became unoccupied. All of our furniture and meager belongings already were packed and stored in that house’s dining room.

But the rental fell through and we were pretty bummed because living in a house seemed quite preferable to residing in someone’s basement bedroom.

But of course God had a far better plan. Our “short” stay with our older and wiser friends and their two small children stretched into three months, forging a precious friendship which has endured for 49 years.

I loved learning about cooking, mothering, and serving God from my beautiful friend Pat. And I still remember the best piece of advice she gave me as we prepared to move in January 1975 to Franklinville, NY,  for Ralph’s first pastoral position.

“A lot of people in the church are going to have expectations for what a pastor’s wife should do,” Pat explained. “Don’t worry about them–just listen to God and do what pleases Him.”

That advice has been my mantra as I have tried to follow Christ all theses decades. A few times I’ve heard God loud and clear, but mostly it has been His “still, small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)

How about you–what are you longing to hear from our Heavenly Father? Encouragement? Direction? Comfort? Wisdom? Hope?

I love how British Anglican priest Nicky Gumbel explains five ways God speaks to us (listed from most common to least):

READING—We study the Bible, which shows God’s general will for all people at all times Psalm 119:105 says “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”

LISTENING–We quiet ourselves to hear the Spirit of God. The more we know God, the better we will recognize His voice while awake or sleeping!  (John 10:3 )

THINKING–We trust our rational minds, not just our emotional leanings. Romans 12:2  says “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Renewing of your mind, not removing!)

TALKING–We seek out the counsel of other Christians. Proverbs 12:15 explains: “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.”

WATCHING— We look for circumstantial signs–coincidences may be divine interventions!  (Acts 16:6)

God still speaks to us today, my friend. May you read, listen, think, talk, and watch for His voice of truth, hope and peace.

P.S. I’m pretty sure the tree-seller on that December day in 1974 heard and responded to the voice of God …whether he ever realized it or not.
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Hear Nicky’s teaching “How Does God Guide Us? from his Alpha course https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luiosjkvUlo

Open in your browser to hear “Let Me Hear Your Voice” by Francesca LaRosa

When Hope Walked into the Room

At age 37 Chris Lawrence looked to be the picture of a happy, healthy life.  He had a loving wife and a beautiful 6-month-old daughter. He led outdoor adventures for a large Christian ministry and spent his free time enjoying strenuous activities like rock climbing, whitewater rafting, downhill skiing, backpacking, long distance running and mountain climbing.

But then came the searing back pain and eventually an MRI, which in the spring of 2016 revealed bile duct cancer spread to his liver, ribs, back and pelvis.

“I had been running triathlons and doing well, only to find out my health was bankrupt,” Chris told me in our recent phone conversation.

He and his wife Elizabeth  met with three oncologists  and each physician issued the same dire message: stage 4…incurable…no hope any treatment will help…maybe a year or so to live.

“One doctor said ‘we’ll put a metal rod in your back to help with the pain, but you’re pretty much going to die’,” he recalls. “It was the most depressing, worst thing ever.”

The first oncologist was near Chris’s Colorado Springs home and the next two were in South Dakota, where he had relocated so his parents could help care for his family. It was there in his hometown of Sioux Falls, Chris decided to make an appointment at Avera Cancer Institute–expecting to hear the same depressing news.

After getting blood work for “genomic sequencing” to identify the unique DNA fingerprint of Chris’s cancer, the couple and his parents met with oncologist #4, researcher Dr. Brian Leyland-Jones, Chief Medical Officer of the National Foundation for Cancer Research.

“We received the results of your genomic sequencing and in short, it’s good,” said the British doc with white wispy hair . “I know how to treat this.”

Chris’s reaction was “Wait…what??? He knows how to treat this? Of course, he made no promises, but it felt like hope walked into the room.”

His elated father scribbled “HOPE” across a nearby white board, signaling its arrival for the devastated family.

After a couple months of a multi-drug experimental treatment guided by the genomic testing, scans showed all the tumors were dying. More than a year later, Chris was declared in complete remission, where he miraculously has remained for seven years, even resuming his former athletic lifestyle.

Chris always will remember the moment when medical hope walked in the door, but he is clear that he already had deep spiritual hope. In fact, his favorite verse is Psalm 71:14 “But as for me, I always will have hope.”

“I  still was terrified about dying and leaving my wife and daughter,” he says. “It was incredibly difficult and there were no guarantees, but I had this hope God somehow would take care of my family.

Unbeknownst to Chris, shortly after scrawling “HOPE” on that board, his dad also reserved the website address https://www.hopehasarrived.com

And in 2018 Chris founded Hope Has Arrived, a nonprofit dedicated to helping cancer survivors and their families through hope-filled stories, practical resources and prayer. To date they have assisted more than 3 million people.

Our mission is to help you find hope, strength and peace against cancer,” explains Chris, who serves as the unpaid executive  director, along with a team of volunteers.

“When your life is threatened and you’re in the pit, you realize just how vital hope is,” Chris says. “And for me, I found that it was the key to facing cancer.

That’s what I want for other people facing cancer: to find hope—to find hope like I have.”

I pray the God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.
Then you will overflow will confident hope though the power of the Holy Spirit.–
Romans 15:13

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Contact Chris at https://www.facebook.com/hopehasarrived or https://www.hopehasarrived.com And here’s the link to his newly published devotional, Called to the Wild, a 40-day journey of biblical reflections on faith, perseverance and surrender… written from one adventurer to another https://www.seaharp.com/calledtothewild

Open in your browser to hear “Hope in Front of Me” by Danny Gokey.