Five Cancers Can’t Stop their Joy

Bill and Pat Shifflet have faced five cancers in their 80+ years–some cured, others not–but please don’t feel sorry for them. The very happy couple doesn’t spend time bemoaning their own struggles; they’re too busy helping others.

“Everyday I pray ‘God, show me a need’,” explains, 82-year-old Pat, who loves to pray for people, send encouraging notes, and serve behind the scenes.

She describes her almost 84-year-old husband Bill, as an “avid giver.”

“If there’s a need,  he’s ready to open his wallet,” she adds.

The couple married in 1995–she, after an abusive marriage and he, after 55 years as a confirmed bachelor.

Pat was a non-practicing Catholic and Bill says he was “raised in faith” but his lifestyle did not show it. In 2000 he agreed to visit a  new congregation worshipping in a local movie theater only because he heard they had free coffee and a band.

“If they bring out any snakes, I’m leaving!” a skeptical Bill warned his wife.

No snakes appeared and the couple embarked on a spiritual journey of becoming committed Christ-followers.

It was that newfound faith which would strengthen them for what lay ahead.

A couple years earlier, Pat had encountered cancer via a malignant colon polyp. But her real trial came in 2005 with invasive breast cancer requiring a mastectomy, chemo and radiation.

Amazingly, my beautiful white-haired friend looks back happily on the whole ordeal.

“To me that was a blessing because that’s how I met Melissa and got to share Jesus with her,” Pat explains.

“Melissa was a nurse at the hospital and before my mastectomy she said ‘you must be frantic’,” Pat recalls. “‘Absolutely not; I gave it all to God,’ I told her. The next day she came into my room and said ‘When you’re well enough, can I go to church with you?'”

A few months later Pat helped baptize both Melissa and her boyfriend.

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Bill’s “turn” with cancer came in 2013–a fairly low-grade prostate tumor treated with “watchful waiting.” This year he was diagnosed with a spot of melanoma. But the toughest news came in 2018: incurable multiple myeloma.

“The MRI showed cracks in my spine and my ribs looked like Swiss cheese,”  Bill recalls. “The first year, I was a mess. Besides the terrible back pain, I lost 30 pounds and shrank 2.5 inches.”

After completing his initial chemo and radiation, Bill expects to remain on a bi-weekly “maintenance” drug for the rest of his life.

“It doesn’t bother me or make me worry,” he said. “I just try to put it in God’s hands.”

But he does admit disappointment over not being allowed to downhill ski anymore.

Skiing in Salida, CO

“I always wanted to ski until I was 80, but I made it to 78,” he says with a grin.

The couple spent 14 winters skiing in Colorado. Bill, an Air Force veteran and commercial pilot for 40 years was a lifelong downhill enthusiast. Pat came to love the sport in her 40s after a friend’s invitation to help at a winter Special Olympics in the nearby Pocono Mountains.

Pat volunteered despite the fact she had never put on a pair of skis! Eagerly, she watched the handsome instructor with a foreign accent patiently teaching the special needs kids. He invited her to stay after class for some personal instruction and Pat soon was flying through the soft powder. Only later did she learn that the handsome instructor was none other than champion French alpine ski racer, Jean-Claude Killy!

So while their skiing days are over, their serving days are not.

“Our lives are not defined by cancer; our lives are defined by our relationship with Christ,” Pat insists.

They offer rides to medical appointments for those in need, collect toiletries to be distributed at a local soup kitchen, volunteer at their no-snakes-church and regularly invite people out to lunch.

“God always provides, there’s always money,” Pat says with a smile. “We may have had bad times. God never promised us a rich life without cancer, but He did promise us eternity. We’re both ready to go and pray we go together.”

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Please enjoy the short music video “Press On” by Selah.

Contentment: My Oncologist Has Cancer (Part 9)

If you’re tired of hearing good news about people with little-to-no medical hope who are amazing doctors by how well they are doing, don’t even bother to read this.

Marc & Elizabeth Hirsh

Okay, because you’re still here, I could not be more happy–and thankful to God–to tell you that my oncologist and dear friend, Dr. Marc Hirsh, had another encouraging scan! This latest 6-month checkup at Hershey Medical comes almost 2.5 years after he was diagnosed with such a serious and rare cancer that he and every specialist consulted thought his death was imminent.

But the large tumor behind his heart has remained stable for the past two years.

“I’m really happy I got a good report–the tumor hasn’t grown and actually is a little smaller (about 5X3 cm instead of 6X4 cm),” Marc told me. “Now I can enjoy another ski season and have time for traveling.

“I’m delighted my short-term prognosis is excellent,” he added with his usual penchant for cautious optimism.

Contentment.

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That’s the word that Marc never actually used in our conversation, but I heard in his voice.

He’s a 71-year-old man  forced to close his successful three-decade-long oncology practice immediately after his diagnosis, and still living in the shadow of cancer…and yet he feels contentment.

“I’m enjoying my life quite a bit,” he said. “I know it (the cancer) may or may not come back, but I’m pretty much enjoying life a lot.”

“Life” includes another cross-country excursion out West this fall to visit older daughter Jessi and family, as well as regular trips to Maryland to help out younger daughter Sarah with her son and two little foster girls. And of course, plenty of physical activities like swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, jogging, and biking.

And music is still a huge part of Marc’s life. For the past 30  years, he has ministered in song at our Prayer Support Group concerts for area cancer patients, their caregivers, and those grieving someone lost to cancer. After Marc’s diagnosis in May 2020, I honestly thought there never would be another concert, but this past Sunday for the second time as a cancer survivor, he extended healing through his beautiful music and wise words. .

Marc, a Messianic Jew,  began by sharing his personal testimony through his original melody “Jesus Took Away My Blues” and ended with the words of the old song that always bring me to tears:  “And when I come to die, just give me Jesus.”

“Trouble is inevitable, (but) thank goodness we can have Jesus in our life,” he reminded the 65 folks in attendance.

Marc also shared from Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and salvation–so why should I be afraid?
The LORD is my fortress, protecting from danger, so why should I tremble?…
The one thing I ask of the LORD–the thing I seek the most–
is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life…”

Before the concert Marc mentioned to me that he really liked the new oncologist he saw at Hershey.

“When I asked him if he had ever seen anyone with my diagnosis who was doing well, he said ‘no’,” Marc recalled. “But he added that nobody has ever had the same treatment (radiation, chemo and hormone injections) that I prescribed for myself.”

And then the new doc reminded Marc of something he knew but was encouraged to hear again: “Even in the worst cancer, there are long-term survivors.”

Marc, we are praying that’s what you will be.

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Please enjoy the very short music video of “Hope to Carry On” by Rich Mullins, Marc and Elizabeth’s favorite Christian artist.

My “Filthy Wealthy” Cousin

My husband’s Cousin Marge, born a premie in 1919, came with a doctor’s warning to her parents: “Don’t get too attached because she’s not going to survive.”

Marge 1920

For years Marge loved to tell that story, including the detail of spending her first few months sleeping in a shoebox. That precarious beginning seemed to set the stage for nearly nine decades of perseverance and at times downright feistiness.

When Marge graduated from high school in 1937, she ignored her father’s advice that “girls don’t need to go to college” and enrolled at Slippery Rock State College (which she lovingly called “Slimy Pebble”). In ’41 she became the first person in her family to earn a college degree–hers was in Physical Education, which led to a job with a YWCA and a long career with the Girl Scouts.

Always ready for an adventure–planned or not–about 2 AM on the night of her 65th birthday, Marge was jolted awake by blaring fire alarms. The blaze destroyed the Gettysburg Hotel connected to her third-floor apartment, but for Marge, the middle-of-the-night scramble down the metal fire escape was confirmation of her favorite phrase: “Everything has a story.”

Thanksgiving 1983

Marge was a consummate volunteer–delivering Meals on Wheels, feeding nursing home residents, working with a center for peace and justice, helping out at Toys for Tots, and doing just about everything except preach at her local church.

When our girls were born, Marge treated them like grandchildren (instead of 4th cousins!) and always orchestrated special outings and fun traditions because she believed “it’s important to make memories.”

In her later years before she passed away at the age of 88, we had the privilege of caring for Marge after dementia robbed her of most of those wonderful memories. We took care of her activities of daily living and/or hired others to assist in the apartment where we relocated her very close to us.

Marge 1938

After I had been handling her finances for a couple of years, Marge confessed to me one day: “I don’t remember writing any checks to pay my bills and I don’t know if I have any money.”

“All your bills are paid and you even have money left,” I assured her as I pulled out her checkbook from my purse.

Marge took one look at the balance of a few hundred dollars and exclaimed with a huge grin: “Well, I’m filthy wealthy!”

We had a good laugh and whenever she mentioned money again, I reminded her that she was “filthy wealthy.”

I’ve often pondered Marge’s contentment in life and have decided that Marge, indeed, was filthy wealthy.

I have concluded that I also am filthy wealthy.

And if you know Jesus, I believe, you are, too.

The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:8 declared it was his privilege to share:

the good news about the immeasurable riches of Christ.

In Him we find peace, patience, provision, promises, power, purpose and so much more.

Riches…

Unlimited.
Unsearchable.
Unfathomable.

Infinite.
Incalculable.
Incomprehensible.

Plain and simple…His riches are more than enough for whatever we face.

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches,
which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
 Philippians 4:19

So the next time you find yourself lacking–strength, money, love, hope, or you name it–remind yourself as I did my Cousin Marge: In Christ you are “filthy wealthy.”

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Don’t miss the 
beautiful music video “More Than Gold” by Judikay.

What are your plans?

“Hi, my name is Lynn, and I’m a compulsive planner.”

That’s how I would introduce myself if I found a support group for people like me who believe they simply must plan everything. (I basically have to plan to be spontaneous.)

Image by inspireus from Pixabay

I told my husband (a compulsive impromptu person) that I was thinking of blogging about planning. His reply with a slight eye-roll: “So you’re planning to write about planning?”

I feel badly for him living with a compulsive planner, but the handwriting was on the wall–literally–when we started dating in college and he saw my day was scheduled in 15-minute calendar increments.

God is a God of plans, but I know that His plans and mine are not always the same. And more importantly, I’ve learned that sometimes I need to ditch mine so I don’t miss out on His good gifts.

I’m so rarely spontaneous that when I do have a spontaneous thought, I’ve discovered it’s often God speaking. Like the day I was doing my brisk, 3-mile neighborhood walk and coming up the big hill where I always go straight on that route. But that day, I “felt” as if I should turn on to a little cul-de-sac that I normally take on a different route.

I hesitated, veered right, and shortly saw a woman who is part of the same, large church as we are.

I slowed slightly to say “hi” and inquire how she was.

“I’m recovering from cancer surgery” was her reply, which stopped me in my tracks–literally.

I listened to her story, prayed with her and later dropped off 50 Days of Hope. She was so appreciative and marveled that I “happened” to walk by just before she planned to go inside.

Had I stuck to my very logical walking plan, I would have missed a divine appointment.

I’ve had many similar moments when an unplanned idea pops up.

Like the time our daughter Bethany was playing junior high basketball at a school an hour away so we didn’t plan to attend. But while at work, the clear thought came to me: “Go to Bethany’s game.” We drove to the school and joyfully witnessed her sink the winning basket.  Afterwards a beaming  Bethany explained she told herself “I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength.”

Another day at work, I spontaneously thought we should drive to daughter Lindsey’s  fast-pitch softball game despite the distance and the cold spring day. Wrapped in winter coats, gloves, and blankets, we cheered like crazy as she struck out the side three innings in a row–her best pitching outing ever.

I’ve never heard God audibly, but many times I have sensed Him urging me to:

Pray for a certain person.
Send a card to a specific friend.
Do something difficult (like start a support group!)
Love someone who doesn’t “deserve” it.
Trust Him when it doesn’t make sense.

I can’t promise how you will “hear” God’s voice–it could be a Scripture verse, a friend’s wise counsel, or an impromptu idea–but I can promise He is speaking.

Listen carefully to what God the LORD is saying,
for he 
speaks peace to his faithful people. Psalm 85:8

Your own ears will hear him.
Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,”
whether to the right or the left.
Isaiah 30:21

I’m planning to listen for God each day to direct my steps–literally and figuratively. Seems like a good plan for a compulsive planner. 🙂

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Enjoy this peaceful 2 1/2-minute music video, “Open Our Eyes” by Steffany Gretzinger.

Are you an “agent of blessing?”

My parents 1952

My mother grew up in the days when gentlemen drove and ladies rode, so she didn’t get behind the wheel of a car until well into her thirties. Fortunately, she loved to walk and I have happy memories of us walking, talking, and playing “Twenty Questions.”

I still love to walk. My jogging days are over, but nearly every day for more than two decades, I have hiked three miles.

Since we moved to a neighborhood with sidewalks seven years ago, my daily steps have been a great way to meet people.

“Are you going to talk to someone today?” my introvert husband asked as I tied my Hoka athletic shoes.

“I never know,” I replied with my extrovert smile.

 

But I do know that I’m praying to be an “agent of blessing.” 

That’s a term I read in a devotional by Chris Tiegreen based on Proverbs 11:11:

“By the blessing of the upright, the city is exalted.”

Here are some answers to my traveling prayer:

A bright, summer morning I saw a forlorn-looking boy sitting on his bicycle blocking the sidewalk. As I got closer, he moved to the grass.

“Thank you–that was really thoughtful of you!”  I told him. ” You are a kind young man. I hope you know God loves you very much. Never forget that!”

He cheerily responded: “Have a nice day!”

One cold afternoon as I approached a middle-aged woman getting off a bus, I remarked: “That red coat is a beautiful color on you!”

She smiled broadly, confessed she was lost, and asked if I could help her find her destination. I Googled it on my phone and pointed out the building to her.

Image by Bryan Clayton from Pixabay

Just today I overheard two lawn care workers speaking Spanish during their water break. I smiled and said, “I have a blessing for you–OK?”

They both nodded yes, while one took out his earbud and the other removed his hat. I spoke the Español blessing I memorized when I traveled to Mexico for the Spanish edition of my first book many years ago: “Les mando mucho saludos y bendiciones en el nombre de Cristo .” *

“Muchas gracias!” was the grinning reply.

The ways God uses me as an agent of blessing may look very different than how He uses you, but I believe each  of us “upright” people can be a blessing-deliverer.

You may not be a talkative people-person like I am, but as Christ-followers, the same Spirit who guides and empowers me lives inside you as well! He will use your distinctive personality and gifts to be an agent of blessing no matter what path you’re on–physically or metaphorically speaking.

You might be at the office offering smiles or compliments to co-workers.

You might be home dishing out warm hugs and delicious dinner to children.

You might be sitting on the couch signing a card of encouragement to a struggling friend.

You might be flat on your back in bed picking up the phone to check on another hurting person.

You even might be in a doctor’s office or chemo room silently praying that healthcare workers and patients see Jesus in you– despite the dread you feel.

We may never know this side of Heaven how our blessing touched another person. But whether our travels are happy or hard, planned or pushed upon us, we can trust God to use us as agents of blessing in a world longing for His loving-kindness. 

* (For my non-Spanish speaking friends, “I bring you many greetings and blessings in the Name of the Christ.”)
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Enjoy the words of the old hymn “Make Me a Blessing.”

The One Cancer Patient I Didn’t Like

In my nearly two decades as a cancer patient advocate for Dr. Marc Hirsh, I met (and liked) 3,000+ newly diagnosed patients.

This is a story about the only one I didn’t like and the miracle God did in both our hearts.

That patient was told he always would be under cancer’s shadow. He was told there was no hope of a cure.

What he wasn’t told was that God had other plans.

Image by Axel Mellin from Pixabay

I met “Frank” in January 1997, however  I knew of him already because his wife was our patient and often confided how little support she felt from him on her cancer journey. Her sorrowful stories shaded my opinion before I ever laid eyes on her husband

I still can picture him in our waiting room–the unkempt hair and the long, dirty fingernails. His wife was trying to help with his  new patient paperwork and he wasn’t cooperating.

 

I am embarrassed to say this, but I decided right then and there I didn’t like him. will be cordial, but nothing more, I told myself.

Later that day I discussed Frank’s diagnosis/prognosis with Marc and added, “Did you see the tattoo of the naked lady on his arm?”

“No,” Marc replied. “I was too busy looking at the swastika on his other arm.”

He laughed. As a Jew the symbol was offensive to him, but he wouldn’t allow it to alter the way he treated Frank.

“He probably got it a long time ago and wishes he didn’t,” Marc added.

The next day I dutifully sent Frank a note, slightly exaggerating that it was “nice” to meet him.

A few months later Frank’s wife passed away, and I wondered why he got to live and she didn’t.

It wasn’t long before I got my answer.

In the spring of 1998, Marc told me he was admitting Frank to the hospital because of an accidental chemotherapy overdose. I was very distraught to hear this—not so much for Frank as for Marc, because I knew he was extremely upset. Frank took an oral chemo at home and through a series of errors by him, the pharmacy, and our office, he took a lethal dose.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

“What’s going to happen?” I asked Marc.

“He’s going to die,” he answered matter-of-factly. “I’m putting him in the hospital, but there’s nothing I can do to stop this.”

Frank’s white blood cell count, which should have been between 4,000 and 10,000, had plummeted to 300. Marc read all the medical literature, which predicted it would take two weeks for the count to bottom out. No way Frank could survive that long with no white cells to protect him from infection.

“Well, I’m praying that he won’t die,” I firmly told Marc. (I think I was praying more for Marc than Frank.)

A couple of days later I (finally) went to the hospital to visit this destined-to-die man. Frank spoke  warmly of his late wife and I had to admit he seemed pretty likable in spite of my jaded opinion of him.

At the visit’s end, I asked him if he would like me to pray with him.

“Sure,” he said with a big smile.

So I did, but contrary to the hundreds of times I’d prayed with patients, I did not offer to hold his hand .

Right after that first visit, Frank’s white count started climbing–up to 1,200—still not good, but a whole lot better.

I kept visiting, his count kept rising, and our conversations kept going deeper.

“Are you afraid of dying?” I queried one day.

“Nope,” he replied. “Everybody has to go sometime.”

“What do you think happens to people when they die?” I ventured a little further.

“You either go up or you go down,” he quickly answered.

LifeHopeandTruth.com

But Frank didn’t know which way he was headed, so I shared John 3:36: “Anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life.”

I asked Frank if he wanted to follow Jesus and have that assurance of Heaven. He agreed,  so I took his hand in mine– long, dirty fingernails, offensive tattoo and all—and we prayed.

At my next visit, Frank talked freely about many subjects, including his tattoos, which he said he got many years ago and deeply regretted. (I hate it when Marc is right!)

At the end of our time I asked him if he wanted to pray and he immediately held his hand out to me. He asked me to pray for him to quit smoking and to grow closer to God. We held hands long after the “Amen” and I savored the moment as God filled my heart with more love for Him and for Frank.

A couple of days later Frank’s white count was high enough to leave the hospital. At his first office recheck, he arrived clean shaven, fingernails trimmed, and with a hug and kiss on the cheek for me.

One of the last times I saw Frank was in the spring of 1999 before he moved out West to be near family.  Still in complete remission from his cancer, we talked about the amazing way God had saved him physically and spiritually.

There were tears in Frank’s eyes because knew he had done nothing to “deserve” a miracle. But there were more tears in my eyes because I knew it was only by God’s loving grace that I got to witness His awesome power in the life of the one cancer patient I didn’t want to like.

Excerpted from Finding the Light in Cancer’s Shadow © Lynn Eib 2006 ++++++++++++++++++++

Music video “Oh, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” by Audrey Assad, feat. Fernando Ortega.

Does Following Jesus Make Everything OK?

 

“Christus Consolator” (The Divine Healer) statue at John Hopkins Hospital. Photo credit Max Boam.

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

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

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

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

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

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

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

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

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

For one reason alone. 

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

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

Image by Aaron Cabrera from Pixabay

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

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

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Enjoy the beautiful 3-minute medley of  “Turn Your Eyes/I Have Decided/I Surrender All” by Anthem Lights Band.

The Power of “Even If”

This past weekend my husband and I traveled to western New York for my first in-person speaking engagements since the pandemic began. (I’ve only been doing Zoom events so it was a little more work figuring out what pair of nice pants to wear 🙂 )

Ralph’s ordination 1975

While in the area, we had the joy of worshipping with the little Baptist church where Ralph was ordained and first pastored.

I was only 21 when we moved to Franklinville and the wonderful church ladies taught me how to bake. Pie crusts made with an electric mixer. Apple pie served with a slice of NY State sharp cheddar. And pecan pie sweetened with locally made maple syrup.

On Sunday we visited with our very dear friend, Conrad (nicknamed “Toad”), who was the head of the pulpit committee which called us to that church in 1975. He’s still has his delightful sense of humor in spite of deep grief over the recent loss of Dot, his wife of 59 years, whom he lovingly cared for through many years of dementia.

Conrad & Dot at  grandson’s wedding 2018

We reminisced over lunch about the trials they had faced.

We remembered Dot’s frightening ectopic pregnancy and arrival at the ER with no vital signs . Miraculously, she survived.

“That was the greatest miracle I ever had, but why didn’t God heal her this time?” my friend asked.

We recalled the devastating car accident that took the life of his middle son, while his critically injured youngest boy miraculously recovered.

“Why didn’t Rick get spared, too?” Toad wondered aloud.

He knows there are no satisfying answers to his tough questions and I certainly didn’t attempt to provide any. Instead I affirmed him for continuing to love, trust, and serve God– even if His actions didn’t always make sense.

The prophet Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meschach,, and Abednego–ordered to be burned alive for refusing to worship the Babylonian king–understood the power of  “even if.”

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18

The prophet Habakkuk also understood the power of those two small words.

Even if  the fig tree does not blossom and there are no grapes on the vines,
If the olive trees fail to give fruit and the fields produce no food,
If the flocks die far from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls;
Then I will still rejoice in the Eternal! I will rejoice in the God who saves me!” Habakkuk 3:17-18

The theme of “even if” trust is a common one in scripture.

LifeHopeandTruth.com

Psalm 27:10Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.”

1 Peter 3:14 “But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it.”

Philippians 2:17 “But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God…”

Psalm 139:11 Even if I am afraid and think to myself, ‘There is no doubt the the darkness will swallow me,’…You can see in the dark, for it is not dark to Your eyes.”

And finally, this amazing promise from our Heavenly Father in Isaiah 54:10:

Even if the mountains heave up from their anchors, and the hills quiver and shake,
I will not desert you. You can rely on My enduring love;
My covenant of peace will stand forever.”

Never doubt the power of “even if.”
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I love this song’s message SO much: “Even If” by Mercy Me–it’s only about 4 minutes long.

 

 

 

 

Is Jesus Really Enough?

My cancer diagnosis  in 1990 was especially crushing to my husband because he had lost his first wife nearly 20 years before to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) while they were still newlyweds. To watch me face a life-threatening illness and such an uncertain future was like a recurring nightmare.

One day as he was riding home from the hospital after visiting me during my post-surgical stay, he came upon a car with a bumper sticker that read:

As he drove behind that bumper sticker, my exhausted husband pondered its message.

Of course, as a seminary graduate, my pastor-husband theologically knew it to be true statement. But that day he was so overcome with worry and fear of burying yet-another wife that he finally wondered out loud: “Is He really?” “Is Jesus REALLY enough?”

Have you asked that same question?

If I lose my job…is Jesus enough?

If my marriage doesn’t survive …is Jesus enough?

If the cancer comes back…is Jesus enough?

If the pain doesn’t go away…is Jesus enough?

If I lose a loved one…is Jesus really enough?

Two weeks later my husband answered that question for himself when he stepped into the pulpit on Sunday morning and preached one of his most powerful sermons ever. The title…“Jesus IS Enough.”

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In it, he reminded all of us—and himself–that God has given us His one and only Son, and in Him we have everything we need to cope with this life and every promise for eternal life–no matter what else does or doesn’t happen to us.

There is simply nothing else God needs to do for us to prove to us that Jesus, indeed, is enough.

Would you allow me the privilege of praying with you today?

Dear Jesus, It feels unfair to have to face this trial after I’ve tried to live for You. And then I remember that You lived completely for your Father and life still was very unfair to You. I’m glad You understand what I’m feeling and most of all, I’m so grateful that Your presence living in me is enough for me. Please help me deal with the changes that this trial is bringing into my life/my loved one’s life. I pray they all will be temporary struggles. But even if they aren’t,  I pray that my soul will be satisfied in You alone. Amen.

Today’s Tip: Listen for the word “ENOUGH” in conversations and when you hear it, remind yourself that Jesus IS enough.

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Don’t miss the beautiful music video “Christ Our Hope in Life and Death” by The Worship Initiative featuring Shane & Shane.

Mountaintops & Valleys: My Oncologist Has Cancer (Part 8)

Dr. Marc Hirsh has walked some deep valleys since he was diagnosed in 2020 with such a serious and rare cancer that he and every specialist he consulted thought his death was imminent.

Within days he was forced to close his busy, solo practice of more than three decades and then undergo a painful thoracotomy to biopsy and de-bulk the nearly cantaloupe-size tumor behind his heart. That was followed by six weeks of radiation, daily oral chemo and monthly hormone injections. Just a few weeks later came the deep valley of  having to say goodbye to his very sick, beloved rescue-dog Jake who had accompanied him to the office every day and greeted patients for 10 years.

But then the valleys started leveling out.

Camping in Oregon with grandchildren

The tumor shrank to about the size of an egg. The terrible pain, constant headaches, and difficulty breathing disappeared. He resumed his rigorous exercising—swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, jogging, biking, punching a heavy bag, and backyard sports with grandkids.

And then came a definite mountaintop: turning 70 and celebrating one-year as a survivor last May.

And now nearly a year later, more mountaintops–the first being another stable scan last month.

“I still have a tumor, but it’s not growing,” Marc explains. “I have a little chest pain and shortness of breath sometimes, but I’m able to pretty much do anything I want.”

The second followed shortly after and was a literal mountaintop experience.

After the good news at the Hershey Medical Center check-up, Marc and wife Elizabeth headed out West to visit older daughter Jessi and her family. As Elizabeth drove through Idaho, Marc commented that they  were “only” about 100 miles from Sun Valley, where he had heard the downhill skiing was incredible.

Cell phone photo by Marc Hirsh 3/22

“So Elizabeth gave me an early birthday present and drove all the way to Sun Valley,” he explains.

They arrived about midnight and secured a room at the lodge so Marc could celebrate his soon-to-be 71st birthday with his first ski in the West. (Normally he skis near his south-central PA home where the mountain vertical drops are about 400 feet or enjoys trips to Vermont with slopes of about 1,000-2,000 feet.)

An avid skier since his early teens, Marc got up early the next day and boarded the shuttle to Bald Mountain. When he got to the top, he could hardly believe his eyes.

“The vertical drop is in excess of 3,000 feet and I was looking down on snow-covered peaks!” he explains.  “It was amazing!”

Three hours later and  completely exhausted from plowing through the white powder, Marc came down from the mountain.

But that thrill remains.

“While I was up there I was thinking about this whole (cancer) experience,” Marc says. “Two years ago I was at the lowest point and now I’m on top of a mountain. I have a special gift just being alive–God didn’t have to give me this, but He did.”

LifeHopeandTruth.com

“I’m just blessed to think of the whole experience,” he adds. “I have less distractions in my life so I’m more appreciative, more grateful. I still don’t know what’s in the future, but I’m not afraid of it.”

Happy birthday, dear Marc, with prayers for many more.
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Don’t miss the short, music video of “Calling Out Your Name” by Rich Mullins, Marc and Elizabeth’s favorite Christian artist.