Dancing for “Stable”: My oncologist has cancer (Part 10)


As an adjective, Merriam-Webster defines it as “not changing or fluctuating” and gives it synonyms like firm, solid, steady, secure, fixed and strong.

Those words have positive connotations and especially when applied to a disease not considered curable. Like the very large, very rare, neuroendocrine carcinoma of thymus origin lurking behind the heart of my oncologist and dear friend, Dr. Marc Hirsh.

When I got the good news last week that his scan at Hershey Medical Center once again showed the tumor was stable, I was elated! However, as you can see, my text response was decidedly understated. That’s because I was sitting at a nice restaurant with three women who had driven half an hour to meet me and discuss broadening their cancer support ministry–so, it didn’t seem appropriate to be scrolling through my phone for just the right celebratory emoji!

Marc’s Hershey visit was with a new oncologist (his former one retired) who had mountains of records to read regarding this incredible journey which began in late May 2020. Marc was so sick and the prognosis was so poor back then that he immediately closed his three-decade old, solo-oncology practice.

Because no effective treatment was known, Marc devised his own protocol consisting of monthly hormone injections, daily radiation and an oral chemo.

“So far your regimen is working,” the new oncologist told him.

Marc isn’t ready to give the treatment all the credit because he also believes in the healing power of God.

“Whatever the reason (the tumor is stable), I’m just grateful to have the time,” he told me me on the phone.

So I asked this 72-year-old beloved physician, husband, dad, and grandfather how he uses this gift of “extra” time (besides enjoying family!).

“I read four or five hours a day–books on medicine, philosophy, science and theology; newspapers and magazines,” he replied. “I exercise an hour or two a day, play piano about an hour.”

Oh, and he’s rereading the entire Bible–something he first did in 1973 at the age of 29 after a  good-looking lifeguard at his apartment pool promised him that “if you pray and read the Bible with an open mind, God will reveal Himself to you.”

Marc and the lifeguard have now been married 42 years and shared the ups and downs of life together–including both being diagnosed with COVID-19 in December after attending Marc’s family reunion in New York.

Elizabeth’s symptoms resembled a mild cold. But with the nearly 2.5-inch tumor behind Marc’s heart and one of his lungs damaged from an initial collapse, he fared much worse.

“I had very serious symptoms and was surprised how much pain I had,” he said.

Flat on his back for two weeks, his oxygen levels dropped, but never so low as to need intervention. Both are grateful for vaccinations and boosters, which they feel may have saved his life or at least prevented hospitalization.

Marc admits that he was “slightly worried” heading into this last checkup because of lingering COVID-19 symptoms. But after he and Elizabeth got the good news of “stable” they celebrated.

“When we got home, I poured us each a glass of Moscato (wine) and we danced to some old 45s,” he said. “It was nice.”

Marc, we rejoice with you both that the tumor is “unchanging” and most of all that our God is too.

Jesus Christ never changes! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. –Hebrews 13:8

As always, I close with a song by Rich Mullins, Marc and Elizabeth’s favorite Christian artist. This one is called “You’re My One Thing” and based on Matthew 5:8 in the Sermon on the Mount, one of Marc’s favorite passages.



The Queen of Recycling

Probably not many people outside of my immediate family know this, but…I am the Queen of Recycling!

Yes, it’s true. I attained this title by memorizing what’s recyclable and then fanatically making sure nothing gets missed. I even bring home all the plastic containers from fast-food restaurants so I can rinse and toss everything into the recycling bin (also eases my guilt a little for eating fast-food).

My daughters know that I will be looking in their kitchen trash and recycling containers to make sure items are in the correct bin and will lovingly move them if necessary. However, I do refrain from inspecting friends’ kitchens and making the same adjustments. (Well, maybe I’ve moved a few items at our good friends’ house across the street.)

My obsession got a huge boost a few years ago when our local trash hauler built Total Recycle, a  multi-million-dollar “groundbreaking state-of-the-art single-stream recycling facility.”

Since then we have been able to recycle all kinds of flexible plastic packaging like candy bar wrappers, drink pouches, plastic wrap, and all those bags for chips, pet food, groceries and food storage,

We have weekly, curbside recycling pickup and our big blue pail always is full, sometimes spilling over into two smaller containers. (Disclaimer: I don’t always wear my crown when I take out the bin, but I wanted you to know my royalty is legit.)

Christmas 1980

And why am I so committed to recycling, you ask? I’ve decided it’s in my DNA.

My mother, born during the Great Depression, was the oldest of nine and learned from an early age to salvage, safeguard and save everything possible.  (In photo: my Barbie doll clothes she  made from fabric scraps and I handed down to my girls.)

Mom’s thriftiness carried over into my marriage, especially during those years of me staying home to  raise a family on a not-very-large pastoral salary.  I don’t need to scrimp and save like I used to, but repurposing, reusing, and restoring things (especially OLD things!) just seems to be in my nature.

And that got me thinking about the God I love and serve.

He doesn’t just recycle…He refreshes. He renews. And He restores.

It’s His nature.

And the One sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”
-Revelation 21:5

And while much of that promise refers to the final restoration of a new Heaven and a new Earth, there are still plenty of promises that God makes things new right now.

What would you like to see restored in your life? Relationships? Health? Peace of mind? Hope?

What needs renewing in your world? Your marriage? Your thoughts? Your words? Your attitude?

Hear God’s message to you:

Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin anew every morning.
–Lamentations 3:23

So after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support and strengthen you,
and He will place you on a firm foundation
–1 Peter 5:10

When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs.
–Psalm 84:6

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
–2 Corinthians 4:16

Perhaps  Psalm 51:10 could be your prayer today: Create in me a clean heart, O God; restore within me a sense of being brand new.

And whenever you recycle something, don’t think about me, the Queen of Recycling. Instead stop and thank the King of Creation who can renew, refresh and restore your walk with Him.
I hope you’re blessed by the song “You Make All Things New” by Big Daddy Weave ©2019 CURB/Word Entertainment .

Shock, Despair, Peace and Hope

Carolyn and Mark, Vermont vacation a few weeks before diagnosis

Last year when my friend Carolyn took ornaments off the Christmas tree, she wondered what changes would come to her family before she unpacked them again.

Never could she have imagined what 2022 would bring.

But neither could she have foreseen what God was going to supply for one of the most difficult years of her 59-year-old life.

First, in May of last year, a freak boating accident claimed the life of her brother-in-law, a respected radiologist.

Then in July after returning from a wonderful Vermont family vacation, two weeks of random stomach pain led her to consult a doctor, who thought she had a gallstone. But a scan showed something much more ominous: advanced pancreatic cancer related to an inherited gene mutation.

“Shock, tears and wrestling to understand, ” Carolyn recalls. “My daily life–and our family’s–as we knew it was over.”

This diagnosis was her “worst nightmare” as her mother died from ovarian cancer when Carolyn was only 9.

Carolyn’s genetic BRCA mutation, (which was found through testing I did with her many years ago at my oncologist’s office) is associated primarily with increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer. She had taken great pains to lower those risks, but now found herself among the 1-to 3-percent of carriers  who develop pancreatic cancer, for which no reliable early detection exists.

Multiple complications and severe chemo toxicity early on in treatment landed Carolyn in the hospital for extended stays three times in only two months.

“One night as I lay awake in the hospital, my left leg twice the size of my right and throbbing from a blood clot, I was trying to pray… pleading with God,” Carolyn recalls.” Was He even there? Had He abandoned me?

“Then these words came into my mind: ‘Are you willing to suffer for My glory?'” Carolyn says. “I knew immediately this was the Lord speaking.”

She didn’t have to think long before whispering: “Yes, Lord, of course.”

The words “for My glory” lingered in Carolyn’s mind because as a longtime journalist (we actually met in 1988 while covering a civil trial in a Harrisburg courtroom), she always has said “my mission with my writing is to use it for God’s glory.”

“Could it be that the best story I would write to showcase God’s glory would be my own?”

Much has changed since the first oncologist didn’t seem to think treatment could help. Seven months later, Carolyn’s tumor marker has decreased by more than 90-percent, the liver lesions have shrunk, and her current oncologist gives her something crucial: Hope. This month she starts a clinical trial with that Philadelphia oncologist who specializes in BRCA-related pancreatic cancer.

“I have come a long way since last fall when I told Mark to put me on hospice,” she says. “I had lost all hope in the midst of intense physical suffering…but God broke through and I was able to feel Him and talk to Him again. I was filled with a wondrous peace that sustains me still.”

Becky, Olivia, Amy & Carolyn

Carolyn doesn’t know what her future holds, but she’s looking forward to May when oldest daughter Olivia gets married and middle daughter Becky graduates from law school.

“It’s pretty hard for a planner like me not to let my mind wander too far down the road,” she acknowledges. “But there is great relief and peace in being utterly at God’s mercy, one day at a time.

“Every day I approach the throne of grace with boldness, asking God to save my earthly life.”

She also ponders one of her favorite Oswald Chambers’ quotes:

“Are you in the dark just now in your circumstances, or in your life with God?
Then remain quiet…When you are in the dark, listen and
 God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light.”

I’m trusting that Carolyn’s words will be a “precious message” for someone today.

As soon as I heard the song “Desert Road” by Casting Crowns, I thought of my dear friend Carolyn.

Do You Have Home-Field Advantage?

Granddaughter Abby, 8, with her sign: “Go Hurts! You’re our #1 guy!”


And if you’re wondering what that announcement has to do with words to the weary, I must tell you that I started writing this blog in my mind as I lay awake in the middle of the night after the Eagles’ win. So it must be divine inspiration, right? (Keep reading to decide for yourself if that’s true!)

I was a big sports fan even before I graduated from THE Ohio State University. It’s fascinating how schools, especially ones the size of Ohio State and Penn State, have far better winning records at home. Their 100,000+-seat football stadiums filled with cheering crowds give them something called “home-field advantage.” Studies show home teams on average win 55%-70% of the time (and this phenomenon is not limited to football or colleges).

Several years ago the Boston Red Sox started the season 22-5 at home, with pitcher Roy Oswalt posting a 10-0 record at Fenway Park. When our middle daughter played basketball at Houghton (N.Y.) College, her team was 32-0 at home.

Which brings me back to “my” Eagles, who, as the top team in their division, competed at home for all their playoff games.

Sunday Tweet from former Eagle Chris Long

Eagles Head Coach Nick Sirianni predicted the advantage like this: “Our crowd inspires us. Our crowd makes it difficult for the opposing team with how much communication that has to happen…It’s going to be loud. We’ll feed off that…”

Sunday’s Philly crowd of almost 70,000 roared at 95 decibels most of the Eagles’ 31-7 win. (Not to brag, but our family’s “crowd” of 7 adults and 7 children hit 91 decibels during our off-key rendition of “Fly, Eagles Fly!”)

Sports psychologists don’t know for sure why the home team tends to win, but surmise that the presence of people who feel for us and with us helps bring out the best in us. Their cheers convey: “We care. We think you’re great. We’re proud of you.” And athletes respond by giving their best.

It’s the same way when we’re going through life’s trials, (which can bring out the worst in us). Having friends and family “cheer” us on can bring out the best in us: home-field advantage! 

It doesn’t matter how tough, strong, independent we are—the Bible says we shouldn’t try to go it alone.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.
If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble…
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.
Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”-
-Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Bethany’s first (and last!) marathon in 2018 with Bauer, 7, running the last mile while cheering her on

We need to be willing to allow others to come along side and help us even though we probably would rather be on the giving end than the receiving. It’s humbling to let a friend scrub your toilets, mow your yard, or drive you to a doctor’s appointment, but when we turn down acts of kindness, we’re robbing others the joy of giving!

I hope as you face sickness or other life struggles, that you’re welcoming friends and family as your “cheering” crowd. Otherwise, it’s like choosing to play all your games away—no home-field advantage!

And if you’re blessed not to be facing any trials right now, please ask God to show you someone whose load you could lighten by cheering them on–maybe you’ll even hit 95 decibels!
I hope you’re encouraged by this Michael W. Smith song “I Will Carry You.”

God’s Answer to My Unrealistic Prayer

I distinctly remember a day in August 1980 as one of the saddest of my then 26-year-old life.

August ’80 church going-away reception

My husband and I, our two little girls in our arms, watched the moving van pull away with all our worldly belongings. Tears streamed as I said goodbye to my dearest friend, Gigi, her husband George and their three little boys. I finally had a friend with whom I could share the ups and downs of mothering, marriage and ministry, but my husband’s new job was taking me away. (He later called that move one of his “worst decisions ever.”)

This is the story of how that decision led to God answering my seems-to-be-too-good-to-be-true prayer.

When our oldest daughter Danielle was 6 weeks old, the Gaffgas moved to our western New York village (think, one stoplight and lots of lake-effect snow!) . Their towheaded boys were 1 and 3. George pastored the Presbyterian church on one corner; my husband shepherded the Baptist flock on the opposite one. The church-provided parsonages were across the street from one another.

Our husbands enjoyed wonderful ministry between the two churches, as well as George’s practical jokes. A “For Sale” sign on our church lawn. A cracked toilet with a potted plant on our parsonage front porch…You get the idea.

In the spring of 1980, Gigi delivered a third boy six weeks after I delivered our second daughter. I had no car, no spending money, and no family nearby. But I had a friend right across the street who understood me, listened to me and prayed for me.

After our move to Connecticut, we stayed in contact mostly through letters–too expensive to call long distance! After they moved to Long Island and we moved (again!) to start a new church in Pennsylvania, we vacationed  together every summer at a free beach house on the Great Peconic Bay.

Our kids, summer ’88

Our kids (now numbering six after adding a third daughter in Connecticut!) swam and played Monopoly together while our husbands sailed the bay and Gigi and I played the word game Boggle.

Jamie’s high school graduation ’95

Through the years we occasionally reconnected at family graduations and weddings. Eventually technology made staying in touch much easier–texts, phone calls and online Boggle fun. Finally, we all retired–us to our current home and George and Gigi to Colorado.

When the frightening reality of the pandemic hit, Gigi became my steady contact with the outside world. We Boggled everyday to distract us from the isolation, FaceTimed while working on jigsaw puzzles, and encouraged one another that God’s love never fails.

Fast forward to early last year when my elderly neighbor across the street (in a one-story house exactly like ours) had another stroke and was hospitalized for months. Each morning as I sat at my dining room table reading my Bible and gazing at Paul’s house, I prayed for his recovery, but I added something else.

“Lord, if he can’t come home and be safe, please let George and Gigi buy his house and move here.”

It was quite an unrealistic prayer.

Even though Psalm 37:4 says that God “will give you the desires of your heart,” I know that doesn’t mean you always get whatever you wish for. But I do think God sometimes does put an “unrealistic” prayer on your heart because it is His desire.

So I prayed.  And when I found out in August that my neighbor needed to sell his house, I told the Gaffgas about my prayer.  Because they had been wishing they were nearer to their Philly-area son (a single dad with two young daughters), they started praying too.

Dec. ’22 and YES we laugh a lot!

I will summarize the next few months as a whirlwind of negotiating, planning, questioning, pleading and believing. But a week before Christmas, they moved into their new home–across the street just like nearly 45 years ago.

We have come full circle. (Except now we try to get our husbands to nap at the same time instead of our toddlers 🙂 )

We raised our children together and now we will dote on our grandkids together. We cared for our church families and now we will care for each other.

And we will pray the Lord uses our deep friendship to deepen His image in each of us…as together we praise the God who makes “unrealistic” prayers come true.
I pray my story has encouraged you to embrace the message of this song by Passion: “There’s Nothing that Our God Can’t Do.”


A Good Word (or two or three) for the New Year

Do you know the first word you ever spoke? Perhaps “da-da” or maybe “ma-ma?” I don’t recall whether my mother ever told me mine, but I know for certain what our oldest daughter initially uttered.

Lindsey, 8.5 mos. old, Jan. ’83

Danielle was 8.5 months old and crawling after my parents’ Siamese cat when my mother and I heard her say “kitty.” We both thought perhaps we were imagining, but she clearly kept repeating it and has impressed us with her vocabulary ever since!

(BTW our very articulate and youngest daughter Lindsey, born on Danielle’s 4th birthday, also  spoke the same first word, also at 8.5 months, also while crawling after my parents’ cat!)

I love words.

I love word games.

And I especially love the people who are willing to play word games with me (both of you)!

I know many of you select a personal word for the new year–something to inspire, encourage, challenge, or focus you. I was contemplating why I never have embraced this great idea and concluded it’s because I love words so much, I don’t want to stop at one!

Instead I’ve chosen three sentences on which to meditate as I walk with the Lord in 2023. I plan to say at least one of them each morning even before my feet hit the floor and perhaps even before I open up my eyes.

The first is: “God is God and I’m not.”

I don’t know who gets credit for this simple statement, but I’m certain that basically all my worries, fears and anxiety are centered on me wanting to be in control instead of me trusting that the Creator of the universe can handle it all. My health, my family, my finances, my future are all safe in the hands of an all-knowing, all-powerful God. I don’t have to plan it or even understand it. Instead I can respond as our Father commands:


The second is: “God says, ‘I loved you first and I love you best’,” (spoken by pastor/author Albert Tate https://alberttate.com )

If I truly believe this in the deepest part of my being, I can quit trying to earn God’s favor because He’s the one who began this whole love relationship. He loves me more than my dearest friends. More than my beautiful family.  More than my wonderful husband of nearly half-a-century.  And whenever I feel lonely, disappointed or unappreciated, I can find comfort in God’s declaration:

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”
Jeremiah 31:3

The third sentence is: “How shall I use my inheritance today?” (penned by my favorite devotional writer, Chris Tiegreen https://christiegreen.com )

“And since we are His children, we are His heirs.”
Romans 8:17

What do heirs get? An inheritance! The Apostle Peter describes our inheritance as “priceless”–and while some of it is still to come in Heaven–much is already available now, including the power of the Holy Spirit, participation in the Kingdom of God, and authority over the Enemy!

Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

Tiegreen suggests you “ask God if there’s any aspect of His authority, His Kingdom, His purposes, His resources that He wants to entrust you with today” and then “watch for opportunities (because) they will come.

“The owner of all that exists…has promised everything to His Son and the Son’s siblings.”

So as you face the new year, pick one word, or like me pick a bunch of words.

But whatever trials come your way, never doubt that God is God and you’re not.

That He loved you first and always loves you best.

And that from Him you have an incredible, infallible, and inexhaustible inheritance.
P.S. (If you’re curious about middle daughter Bethany’s first word, it was “ball” and foretold the great athlete she would become.)
Please enjoy the music video “This My Inheritance” by All Sons & Daughters


The holidays often are especially difficult for those who have lost a loved one.  How do we convey sympathy without saying something irritating or even downright painful? Have you ever felt helpless knowing what to say when someone has experienced a deep loss?


  1. I’m so sorry.
    It may not feel as if you’re saying much, but honestly, there are no words you can utter to take away grief. We comfort much better when we give up trying to say something to “fix” the sad situation–it can’t be done. Let your hug, your handshake, your tears convey that you are sharing in your friend’s sorrow. The best comforters simply feel another’s pain; they don’t try to explain it.
  2. Would it be helpful if I ________________________________?
    Fill in the blank with something practical: Brought a meal? Picked up your kids for a play date? Mowed your lawn? Helped you sort through paperwork? Took you out for coffee? Or whatever creative suggestion you think of–and then pick a date to do it. Concrete offers with a definite timetable are much more valuable than “Let me know if you need anything.” Grievers feel overwhelmed and don’t want to call people to ask them for a favor.
    If you know your friend’s “love language” (http://5lovelanguages.com), you can choose a sympathy expression accordingly. When my physical-touch-friend’s father died, I gave her a gift certificate for a therapeutic massage. My gifts-friend got a big bouquet of wildflowers (after the funeral bouquets had died.) When my Dad passed away in 2011, my friend Karen knew my primary love language is quality time, so she planned a “Pamper Lynn Day’ with manicures, browsing antique shops, eating Thai food and talking about parents. It was such an emotionally refreshing day, we created “Pamper Lynn AND Karen Day” and recently celebrated our 12th annual!
  3. A great memory I have of him/her is _______________________.
    Image courtesy Sandy Millar at Unsplash

    Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

    Mourners want to talk about their loved one and hear others speak of ways that person touched their life. I often wait a few weeks to send a sympathy card so I have plenty of time to write a meaningful note of memories. (And also because grievers are inundated with “sympathy” immediately after the death. Then everyone’s life goes back to normal, but the griever’s never will.) Don’t be afraid to say the deceased person’s name.Yes, it may bring tears to their eyes, but their fear a loved one will be forgotten is even sadder.

  4. Is there an especially difficult time of the day/week when I could pray for you?
    When I asked members of my Grief Prayer Support Group this question concerning the hardest time of day, their responses varied. Many said they dreaded too-quiet evenings without their spouse. Some hated mornings with no child to wake up for school. Still others trudged through Sunday afternoons because that was then they always visited their parent. Discover your grieving friend’s difficult time and promise to pray for them at that time—you could even text to let them know you’re praying, or send a short prayer to them.
  5. If you would like to attend a grief support group, I’ll go with you.
    It’s hard to walk into a roomful of grievers, but so much easier with a friend by your side. Many churches hold 13-week Grief Share programs (www.griefshare.org). Stephen Ministries, funeral homes and hospice organizations often offer bereavement support. I’ve compiled a list of grief care organizations and resources in the back of my book When God & Grief Meet http ://lynneib.com/index.php/my-books/#anchor5.
  6. I care…and I’m here.
    Your presence speaks much louder than your words. If at all possible, be present physically. Otherwise, “show up” in phone calls, texts, cards or whatever means you have for connecting. You can be the kind of friend Aaron and Hur were for Moses in Exodus 17.  Moses held high the staff of God for Joshua and the Israelite army because whenever he lowered it, the enemy prevailed. But “Moses’ arms became so tired, he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands.”

Grieving is exhausting work. Ask God to help you find a sitting “stone” for your mourning friend and then show you how to hold up his/her weary arms.

For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted onesIsaiah 49:3


I hope you are blessed by the music video “Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day.



Is there anyone you’ll be missing this Christmas? I know so many who have “lost” loved ones this year. A spouse of 55 years.  A  43-year-old father of two teenage girls. An 88-year-old amazing grandpa. A 22-year-old son killed on a motorcycle. A best man from a long ago wedding.  A 9-year-old little girl tearfully taken off a respirator.

How can we offer sympathy in the face of such sorrow? Let me start with what not to do.


Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

  1.  God must have needed him/her more than you do.
    God is self-sufficient and needs nothing. He is not made greater, stronger or better by anyone or anything. Yes, He loves our loved ones even more than we do, but He does not take them Home out of His own necessity.

2.   At least you have other children.
I remember when I miscarried our first baby at three months gestation on Mother’s Day of all days. A nurse came by my hospital room that night and commented: “You’re young—you’ll have other children.”

Her words did not comfort me. I didn’t want a “replacement” baby—I wanted the one I already loved. I needed to grieve the baby I would hold only in my heart and never in my arms.

And as devastating as a miscarriage can be, the death of a child is even more so.  A parent burying a son or daughter is so unnatural, I believe this is the deepest grief to bear. And having other children still alive does not diminish the loss. The less said by onlookers, the better.

3.    At least they lived a long life.

If this thought gives you comfort when your loved one passes, by all means say it to yourself, but it’s not a phrase to share with grievers. Simply because someone was 80, 90 or even 100 doesn’t mean it feels OK that they are no longer in this world. In fact, when a loved one has been in our life for a long time, it can feel really difficult not to see/call/take care of them each day.

My Mom passed away at the age of 82 after many health struggles and I mistakenly thought that because she had been in my life for six decades, I wouldn’t grieve as much. It has been eight years and I honestly still could cry every day.

Photo by Claudia Wolff on Unsplash

4.    You’re young—you’ll find someone else.

Even if this comes true, such a statement minimizes the special love relationship two people had. Those burying a spouse/life partner do not need to run out and find a new mate. They may indeed experience love again, but first need to grieve what they had and lost.

5.    I know just how you feel.

I remember when someone said this to me shortly after my 86-year-old father passed away. I wanted to shout: “Really…your dad died a few hours before your mom got home from a 2-week hospital stay for cancer surgery complications? So the day that was supposed to be your parents’ happy reunion became the date your brother had to drive three hours and break the news to your Mom? And meanwhile you hurriedly drove seven hours in a vain attempt to say goodbye to your dad? Really…you had all that happen to you, too?”

Every grief has it’s own uniqueness, including how it affects those left behind. So while you may have an inkling, you do not know exactly how someone feels.


6.    I thought you’d be over this by now. 

People do not get over grief. They get through it. There is no universal timetable for grieving and grief work is not a linear progression. “Getting over it” is what we do when someone we’re dating breaks up with us, or we lose a job, or someone hurts our feelings. The idea of “getting over” our grief implies that we’re never going to miss that person or be sad again. It’s simply not true because when we love deeply, we grieve deeply.

In two weeks I’ll share “SIX THINGS ALWAYS TO SAY TO GRIEVERS.” In the meantime, here’s a prayer to lift to God for yourself or for those who mourn:

            Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless.
      Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.
                                                                                 Psalm 10:17

If you haven’t ever experienced a deep grief, I especially recommend listening to the song “I Will Not Say Goodbye” written by Danny Gokey, contemporary Christian artist–and former American Idol contestant– after the death of his 27-year-old wife.

Handling Life’s “Setbacks”

I don’t know about you,  but my life has been full of a lot of “setbacks” lately.

Our friends’ new home (before the landscaper arrived)!

For a couple of months we’ve been helping some very dear friends in Colorado purchase the house across the street from us. I’ll share more about this long-distance adventure in a later blog, but suffice it to say it has been a real roller coaster fraught with tons of setbacks. One minute the four of us were cheering and thanking God, and five minutes later (after another upsetting communication from the house’s previous owners), we were in tears and ready to forget the whole idea.

Now, I realize that in the whole scheme of life, my setbacks right now are fairly minor. But I have several good friends who are experiencing major setbacks–life-threatening health issues, painful difficulties with teenagers, unsettling hitches in important plans, and overwhelming problems with terrible anxiety. Each is facing a huge setback and trying to find hope and peace in the midst of it all.

I’m curious…what is your first reaction to setbacks in life?

Complaining? Obsessing? Blaming?

Depression? Avoidance?  Maybe anger?

“When we suffer a setback,” author/teacher/historian Chris Tiegreen* says, “our first instinct is usually to lament about it, analyze it, wonder what we did wrong, and try our hardest to get out of it.”

However, a “better instinct,” Tiegreen says, “is to ask God what He is doing in it and open our eyes to the opportunities it creates.”

Let me be the first to say that I don’t find this kind of response comes quickly and easily. But I do agree with Tiegreen’s assertion that “whatever situation we find ourselves in, there is some way to reflect God’s face.”

“Does it give us a platform to show God’s mercy? His power? His compassion, patience or love?” Tiegreen asks.

When our friends and we were dealing with the many setbacks in their home-buying process, we all prayed that God would shine through us.

Was it easy? No way. Did we still have to fight against the urge to get back at the wrongs done to us? Absolutely. But in the end, I’m so grateful that God’s Spirit empowered us to exhibit our heavenly Father’s patience, offer His compassion, and show His mercy (after all, the latter is undeserved for all of us).

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

“Train yourself to think differently about your hardships,” Tiegreen recommends. “See them as opportunities for God to manifest His character and His kingdom. Pray toward that end and step through the open doors.”

We can do this with assurance and trust in our faithful God because as Tiegreen concludes: “Everything that happens to you is under His hand–and somehow useful in yours….Our crises are usually His stage.”

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.
You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.
So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.
Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

–James 1:2-4 The Message paraphrase

Ask God to let your crises–your setbacks–be His stage to reveal Himself through you. It’s a prayer He longs to hear…and answer.

*Quotes are from The One-Year Heaven on Earth Devotional by Chris Tiegreen, my favorite devotional author. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
I hope you’re encouraged by this music video from Casting Crowns. God is the “God of all My Days”–especially the ones with setbacks.

Are you a Titus? Or do you need one?

I remember so well the first cancer support group meeting I attended at our community  hospital. It was the summer of 1990.

Fall 1990 reporting on a P. Buckley Moss art show

I was a 36-year-old reporter for a York, PA, newspaper and recently had interviewed Mary Flinner, the new group’s facilitator. When I showed up at a support group meeting a few weeks after my story was published, Mary naturally assumed I was visiting the group as a follow-up to my 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 remember that I had to talk myself into attending that meeting because I wasn’t sure I really wanted to be with a bunch of cancer patients. 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.”

Daytime Cancer Prayer Support meeting

Before I retired as a patient advocate, I constantly invited cancer patients and their caregivers to my support group meetings, but often people told me: “I’m not really that depressed that I need to come.”

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


What life difficulty are you facing or has God already brought you through? Divorce? Addiction? Cancer? Special needs parenting? Relatives with dementia? Abuse? Job loss? 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

Courtesy MorningbirdPhoto

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

I think each day that you and I fit into one of two categories: someone who needs to be encouraged or someone who needs to be an encourager. Which are you today? If it’s the former, ask God to send a “Titus” your way and if it’s the latter, ask God to show you who might need you to step in and be their “Titus.”

 I pray that we each see one another–family, friends and even strangers–through the eyes of God.  As the beautiful Brandon Heath song below says“give me Your eyes for just one second.”