PastorJohnsBlog.com

A Stroll At Leisure With God

Chemo Pill Today?

I think I have dodged this bullet as long as possible. We will see. We are headed down to the clinic this morning to see the doctor, and I feel pretty sure they are going to start me on this pill.

A couple of things I need to share at this point. First, please pray that the side effects are minimal to non-existent. I’m a little concerned about this since even the drug company itself called me to make sure I knew all of these prior to starting this pill. I guess that is normal for many medications. Maybe they are trying to protect themselves in case I get sick and decide to sue them as if my little lawsuit could have any effect. Ha.

Second, I’m still having a struggle starting ANY kind of chemo. When my transplant was finished about this time last year, one of the greatest things they told me was, “John, hopefully, you are done with chemotherapy forever.” Never any promises. They don’t do that, but just the possibility.

But I have learned that the “what ifs” of life will drive you crazy if you let them. Obviously, it is in the Lord’s plan for me to have this brain tumor. He has a plan in it, and if that plan is different from my plan, I will choose God’s plan EVERY TIME. So, here we are.

I just thank the Lord for a pill. I’m grateful that I don’t have to sit at the clinic for hours per week. I’m thankful that they can give me a pill.

Here is another thing about thanking God. The Lord deals with concrete things; Satan deals with speculation. When one is thanking God, his/her mind is focused on the tangible and real.

Today, I like the focus of this verse. It is fairly typical of the way Paul opens his letters. Guess how? You got it—with thanksgiving. “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater” (2 Thessalonians
1:3 NASB).

How about this? Marilyn and I are so grateful for all of you. It humbles us greatly to think people are thinking of us and praying for us. We value all of you greatly and NEVER take your Christian love for granted. THANK YOU.

Lord, help us in this next step of the journey. I confess some anxiety at this point. Thanks again for everyone who reads this blog and prays for us. We love each person. We love You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Thanks be to God Who Gives Us the Victory

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:56-58 NASB).

I can’t imagine a more triumphant chapter than that of 1 Corinthians 15. It is worth a read in several different versions, over and over again. Especially for someone in my shoes right now.

It is so easy for me to get buried in where we are right now. My physical recovery from all of this seems to be going painstakingly slow. I’m still so weak. It is still difficult to get up from a chain or out of a car.

We are both so tired. Each day is more and more of a reminder of weakness.

This passage is a blatant reminder that, thanks be to God, this life and this weak old body is NOT all there is. Regardless of what happens to me through this (and I definitely have a lot of hope that eventually my strength is going to return), I know that, as believers, we all have a resurrection body awaiting us in eternity with Jesus. THIS BODY will not be subject to cancer and the other maladies of human life. Thanks be to God!

So, this is a very good reason to plug through another long day, because He hands us victory through Jesus. I believe this victory triumphs over every “downer” aspect of life in these weak human bodies here on earth.

Lord, thank You for bringing me to these verses this morning. Thanks be to You for giving us the victory. Help us all to stay on the path, serving and following You even today, because we know it is not in vain. I love You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Rehab

I’ve been trying to think this morning … Have I ever been in a position where I had to go through an extensive rehab? I don’t think so. This is my first real experience, I guess. It is repetitive. By nature, it is long and hard. I’m having a big challenge of adjusting to it.

The other day, Courtney, the visit Physical Therapist, noticed that I was frustrated. I told her that I always want to get up and go, but most of the time, I don’t feel like it. I’m just too tired.

She replied, “John, you’ve got to understand that this is going to take a while. Get up and walk when you can, but cut yourself slack the other times. Don’t push yourself.” Good words, but hard for a “doer” like me to hear.

Obviously so, because I think this continues to be a frustration. Sometimes, I feel as if I am going to come out of my skin, as I sit here. I so want to get up and do something, anything, but it quickly dawns on me that I am just too fatigued at the moment. Weird stuff.

As you can see now, most of my battles these days in this journey are mental. I would have to say that these are more difficult than the physical.

I think the same is true for Marilyn. Please continue to pray for her. Yesterday, she just didn’t feel that well, and on a couple of occasions, had to lie down.

I know all of this sounds like a broken record, but these challenges continue to call us back to the perennial challenge of giving thanks. How about this verse in Romans?

“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans
1:21 NASB).

Romans one is a poignant reminder that if we don’t thank God, we open ourselves to idolatry that darkens our heart and takes us down the road to depravity. This chapter makes it clear that failure to give thanks means lostness. This is what Paul is talking about here. Very sober stuff.

Lord, thank You for saving us and calling us to a life of giving thanks. I continue to do so this morning as Marilyn and I face the challenges of another long, hard day of rehab. We need you more than ever today. Thank You for everyone who continues to pray. We love each and every one. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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The Great Dividing Line

Yesterday afternoon, we drove down to PSL for an appointment with the neurosurgeon who actually performed the operation on my brain to take out most of the tumor that was growing there. His name is Dr. Johnson. When we first met him at the hospital, we immediately liked him. He is soft-spoken, no nonsense, and straight-forward, but it is obvious that he cares.

He came to see me quite often in the hospital, just to check on me. We really appreciated that.

Oh, and the other thing: there is practically no trace of the big incision at the back of my head. He did such a great job with that as well.

Anyway, yesterday was a follow-up appointment, and it didn’t take very long. He asked us a few questions, looked at the back of my head, and urged me to get a follow-up MRI in four weeks.

We thank God for him quite often.

Speaking of which, that I have been doing over the past few weeks is just going through a list of verses in the search mode of my YouVersion app on my phone. These verses contain the phrase “give thanks.” I urge you to do the same at some point. I did this at the hospital, and it is an interesting study.

Here is the verse for today: “To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, For You have given me wisdom and power; Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, For You have made known to us the king's matter” (Daniel
2:23 NASB).

It dawns on me as I read this verse that giving thanks is the great dividing line. Daniel and his three buddies differentiated themselves from everyone else because they worshiped God. At the heart of that worship is giving thanks. This separates “the men from the boys,” so to speak.

I hope you are seeing how pervasive this is in scripture. Why, then, do so many of us neglect it?

Lord, once again today, I give You thanks for another day. These days seem particularly long and difficult. I choose, however, to continue to rejoice, to continue to pray, and to continue to give thanks to You. I love You, Lord. Amen.

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Perfect Faithfulness

Thanks for praying for us yesterday as we headed down to the clinic to start the chemo pill treatment. One of Dr. Ali’s assistants, Hannah, asked how we were doing. I replied, “I’m as fatigued as I have ever been. Just exhausted.”

At that moment she texted Dr. Ali. He responded quickly. “Tell him to hold off on starting the chemo drug until Monday.” WOW. Marilyn and I thought this was awesome. He gave us another few days of reprieve, and we are so grateful that the Lord worked this out.

She took me off more of my other medications as well. This was also a huge and glad relief.

Thus, we thought yesterday that things went very well. Again, thanks for praying.

I continue to learn things about walking with the Lord in times of difficulty. It is so easy to get caught up in the immediacy of how I feel at the moment and to get buried in it.

Thanksgiving broadens our perspective. Notice this verse from Isaiah: “O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness” (Isaiah
25:1 NASB).

The phrase, “plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” It is not as if all of this has caught God by surprise. It has been in the plan from the beginning of time, and the Lord made these plans, as difficult as they are, with “perfect faithfulness.” He made them in accordance with His mercy and love.

Lord, I thank You again for your mercy and love and grace. Thank You for all that happened at the clinic yesterday. We give You praise and thanks for it all. Thank You for Your plan of the ages, and your perfect faithfulness. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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The Chemo Pill

We are kind of on the run for an early appointment at the clinic.

Yesterday, after the last radiation treatment (yes, indeed, it was the last and we are thankful that they are over) we met with the radiologist, Dr. Dorn. We asked her about what we should expect now. She replied, “Well, John, you are going to get more and more fatigued over the next couple of weeks, but at some point, you should feel that you are getting your strength back.”

Yikes. Yesterday, I felt as tired as I ever have. I can’t imagine … but oh, well. It is what it is.

Today, at the clinic, the doctor promised that he is going to start me on the chemo pill. For one thing, I’m glad there is a pill. I’m glad I don’t have to go into the hospital to get this through my port. He just warns us that one of the major side effects of THIS pill is fatigue as well. Ha. Double fatigue! We will see. There are other potential side effects as well. I’m praying those could be minimized since I think the plan is to keep me on this pill indefinitely.

They want to stay on top of this cancer so that it doesn’t return. I’m grateful for this. I don’t want it to return as well.

Lord, I’m thankful for You getting us through the radiation treatments. Thank You for this day and this new step in the journey. We trust You as always to take care of all the “what if’s” and uncertainties at this point. Thanks again for everyone who so faithfully reads and prays. Amen.
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The Last Day of Radiation?

We are so hopeful that today marks the end of this stage of the journey. Yesterday, the nurses at the clinic did give us this indication—that today would be the last day. So, we will see.

Then, tomorrow, the plan is to go to the clinic in the morning and start that chemo pill. I have a lot to say about this (of course!) but I will reserve my comments for tomorrow. Hopefully, I will have some time to write a bit. Our appointment is early. We have to scramble and go.

Back to radiation, I appreciate all the comments and words of wisdom that some of you shared with us before it began. They helped me a lot. I will say that I was almost terrified of radiation before it began. I don’t know why. Maybe it is some of the horror stories I had heard in the past.

Be that as it may, the doctors warn me that I will still be fatigued for at least two more weeks before the effects of this treatment “wear off.” He has warned me about this on several occasions, so it must be significant. I continue to need to take care of myself. It won’t be difficult. I still feel very fatigued.

Yesterday, as Marilyn and I were driving back from treatment, we noticed that in the car, the temperature read 107 degrees! It was the hottest day I can remember and it was oppressive, even for us here Colorado.

This was a case in point concerning what I am talking. Just getting from the car to the front door was a labor for me. I had to be extremely careful just to avoid falling over. My legs seemed as weak as ever.

Anyway, all of this impresses me that I still have a long way to go in recovery.

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well” (Psalms
139:14 NASB).

Lord, I’m thankful that it looks as if this stage of the journey—the radiation stage—is coming to a close. Once again, we have no idea what to expect, but we thank You that You are still on Your throne and in charge of the past, present, and future. Thanks again for everyone who continues to pray so faithfully for us. Amen.

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God's Accomplishment

Thanks to all of you for praying for us. The Lord got us through a couple of very long and rough days.

Now, we face the prospect of the end of radiation in a couple of days—hopefully. Both of us chuckle a bit at saying this, given what happened last time. We hope that they don’t tell us that there are still more to go! Ha. But that is in the Lord’s hands.

Today, a nurse from Halcyon, the Palliative care company is coming over for a visit. It will be good to see Meagan. Then, this afternoon, we are headed down to Rose Medical Center for the treatment.

Anyway, back to yesterday, Marilyn came across an article about Joni Eareckson Tada. Apparently, this year marks the fiftieth since her accident and paralysis. I have so much respect for her. I have read several of her books and continue to derive a lot of encouragement from all she continues to go through, including cancer on top of everything else!

This article details her early days of depression. She was suicidal, and her friends worked very hard to care for her and encourage her. One friend made a comment that seemed to start her on the upward path. Here it is: “God permits what he hates, in order to accomplish what He loves.”

She began to see that the Lord might have some purpose in her accident and all her troubles. WOW.

I have to keep coming back to this. Why would the Lord allow all of this in my life? It does feel like a lot! Why didn’t He just take me home? Well, I have to conclude that He is not done with me yet, that there are still things He wants to accomplish through me, right? I don’t know … we will see. It is hard to keep this in mind when I feel so tired and weak and wonder if this stage in the process will EVER end.

In the meantime, “Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart, In the company of the upright and in the assembly” (Psalms
111:1 NASB). This is the goal the Lord has laid on my heart, just like Joni. I can’t hold a candle to her, but I can share my testimony and try to “the upright in the assembly.”

Lord, thank You that everything we go through is ALLOWED to accomplish Your purposes. Thank You for Joni and her awesome testimony. Thank You for the opportunities You have afforded me. Give me the grace and strength to testify in the assembly and anywhere else You put me as long as I still have breath. Amen.

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Another Sunday

If someone were to ask me what is the most difficult day of the week, without question, I would say Sunday, for all the obvious reasons and for some that may not be quite as obvious.

Of course, I miss preaching. I have not preached an oral sermon (I am still preaching in this forum) since April of 2016. I miss the fellowship with the body of Christ, although, when we are able, Marilyn attend a church near our home. Plus, I still have interaction with other believers and with all of you.

Those two things are vital, of course, but this is more of logistical issue. For most of my life, we have just gotten up on Sunday morning to go to church. It became a habit, one of those good habits. When we got there, we were usually on the dead run in some area of service. It was usually a long morning, followed by lunch with somebody in the church. By mid-afternoon, we drove home exhausted. Now, this was certainly not every Sunday, but it seemed to be a usual routine.

Sitting here this morning, I think this routine had some serious flaws in it from several different standpoints, as I am able to look back with perspective. A lot of it was over the top and I honestly don’t miss it, but it was what it was.

Now, my Sundays are a polar opposite—very little activity and a long day of isolation and rest. I would say that this is what I need right now. Don’t get me wrong, but this whole shift has been very challenging.

This whole subject too falls once again under the rubric of thanksgiving. “Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O LORD, And I will sing praises to Your name” (Psalms
18:49 NASB).

This verse captured my attention this morning. There is no where we can go where thanksgiving is not appropriate, including days and times in the week. The Holy Spirit prompts me again this morning to thank Him for releasing me from the rat race that church can sometimes be. I just need to quit battling it and rest in the Lord. How about that?

Lord, thank You for these very unusual days for me. They are a struggle at times, but this is the life You have chosen for me FOR NOW. I lift up the churches this morning and the folks who are serving and worshiping You. I love You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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This is the Day the Lord Has Made

Yesterday afternoon was rather busy once again. We had a 2:30 appointment for radiology and then a 3:15 appointment at the clinic. We raced down early and thankfully they got us in early at Rose Medical Center, so all the pressure was off to get to the clinic on time.

What I remark about yesterday is that, when the radiation treatment was done, I felt as tired as I have ever been. I could barely shuffle along to get into the clinic. When we finally got to our room and the nurse had taken my blood, I asked if I could lay down on the examining table. They brought me a pillow and a blanket. It was great. I almost went to sleep right then and there.

Soon, Dr. Ali and Tina came into the room. They asked how I was doing and checked on me. We talked more about the chemo pill they want to start next week. The doctor said, “Well, John, I’m afraid as I said before that one of the main side effects is more fatigue. As you are ending radiation, you are also going to be tired.” He went on to name many other potential effects. Again, we will see.

To be honest with all of you, some of this “got in my head” a bit over the night to the point where I was dreading today, just continuing to feel bad, even though I don’t have a treatment today.

Along with our “theme” of thanksgiving, the Holy Spirit brought this familiar verse to mind this morning:
This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:24 NASB).

I’m more and more convinced that a HUGE part of thanksgiving is rejoicing as Philippians 4 reminds us. Today, I am just in a position to allow the Holy Spirit to bring this verse to mind over and over and over. He knows how many times. I quote it, letting the truth of it sink in my mind heart, and then, when He brings it to mind again, go through the same procedure.

Lord, I do rejoice in this day. Thank You for helping us yesterday. Thanks again for the good reports from both places. I thank You for this day and every challenge we will face. Thanks again so much for everyone who reads this blog and prays. This is very valuable to us. Amen.

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The Sheep of His Pasture

So far, this new round of radiation seems to be going well. Again, the major challenge is getting to the radiology clinic. We were almost late yesterday. It is strange why there is so much traffic at 2:00 in the afternoon, but it is what it is.

The treatments go okay. It is just the aftermath that seems to be getting more and more difficult. I am still so tired, basically all the time. The steroid helps with some of the side effects, but by the end of the day, I feel as if I am going to fly out of my shoes. I am so “amped up.” I have found, however, that food helps with this a little, so I am now trying to just force myself to eat more during the day and at night. We will see how it goes.

Even as I write all of that, I realize that this kind of minutia is very tedious and boring to most people. I get that. Let me hasten to say that it is to me as well, but as a visiting nurse yesterday explained, this is where I am right now. Courtney said, “All of us are impatient to move things along and get back to ‘normal,’ but this is where you are right now. Don’t push it. Don’t be in a hurry. You are doing well. Just keep plugging along.”

Her comments were actually very affirming because this exactly my struggle right now. I want to get moving. Let’s get this show on the road! Nope. Not quite time yet, I guess.

Her comments dovetail with another one of the thanksgiving verses in the Psalms. “So we Your people and the sheep of Your pasture Will give thanks to You forever; To all generations we will tell of Your praise” (Psalms
79:13 NASB).

Currently, right now, I am a sheep in God’s pasture. This means that I am well-taken care of. I don’t need to wonder what is going on and I don’t need to feel pressure to move things along more quickly.

God has His people right where He wants us as our Good Shepherd. Is there really any place safer and protected than His pasture?

Lord, I thank You, that even though I get frustrated with where I am right now in recovery from all of this, You are not frustrated. You have me right now and You have all of us, safe and fed and protected in Your pasture. We are in You, and You are in us. Amen.

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Report from Yesterday

I had the first of these new five radiation treatments yesterday. They had to take some x-rays first. Then, they started. I believe these are called “boost” treatments because they don’t focus on the entire brain as the other ten did. Instead, they are concentrated on the spot where the tumor was.

When we left, we headed north on Colorado Blvd, turned left at 17
th Ave., and sped over to the clinic for an appointment with the cancer doc.

I was glad we were actually able to see Dr. Ali. He asked how the radiation treatments were going. I told him that I was just so tired, so very tired, but I added that the steroids, at one and the same time, were making me so antsy that I just could not rest.

As I was speaking he was nodding his head, “Don’t worry about these things, John. This is normal stuff for what you are going through. It will probably continue for a couple of weeks after you are done with radiation. Plus, we want to start you on this chemo pill drug when the radiation is completed next week, and it will probably add to your fatigue. There may be other side effects as well. We will just have to see.”

These comments made me realize that, while I have made progress in treatment, I still have a long way to go in recovery. These pills they are going to start me on next week add another unknown to all of this. Oh, well … we will see.

This morning, I am going to cite the first verse of a Psalm that I highly recommend that you read in its entirety. “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Psalms
107:1 NASB).

If my memory from previous study in the Psalms serves me at this point, I believe this Psalm presents various scenarios that will occur to the people of Israel as they return from captivity in Babylon. Each situation presents an opportunity to give thanks to the Lord.

Once again, this where Marilyn and I are. And it seems even more difficult than ever because I am so tired of being tired, and I just want to start getting well. Marilyn wants this as well.

Lord, I thank You for THIS new stage in the journey. It seems more difficult than ever. But why should I assume otherwise. Thank You again for all the faithful who continue to pray. I love each one. Amen.

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Well, Not Quite Done Yet

Yesterday morning, Marilyn and I were so happy at the prospect of being done with the radiation treatments.

HOWEVER, about mid-morning, we received a call from the radiologist. “Hi, John, this is the doctor. I am sorry about the miscommunication at this point, but after today, we want to do five more treatments. These will be a little different than what you have been taking up to this point. They will be more focused on the area of the cancer. Just wanted to let you know this. Again, we are sorry about the miscommunication. See you later.”

To be honest, we were both a little angry about this, but this is one of those occasions where you can “go into orbit,” or in the thanksgiving of God, just roll with it and do it. Not much choice here. I’m not going to turn them down and refuse to go, but it is still the inconvenience of it all. Ha. What medical procedure is NOT inconvenient? I should know that by now, right?

So, we continue to be headed down there for the next five business days. Today, after our appointment, we move immediately over to the clinic where today, they may start me on that chemo pill. I’m a little apprehensive about it and its side-effects, so we will see. They may continue to wait until after the radiation is done. We will see.

Once again, there is the challenge of giving thanks. “I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders” (Psalms
9:1 NASB).

I know we all realize that not a day, not a moment, not one event goes by where we don’t have a choice: get angry, bitter, frustrated, et cetera (things I am very prone to do) versus humbling thanking God.

This particular change of schedule is for my good, after all. I’m thankful that the doctors are on top of things and working to help me get better.

Lord, thank You again for this frustrating and rather discouraging schedule change when the both of us were thinking we were done, but You are in charge of all of this. You have brought us to this point. You are continuing to take care of us. Thank You so much Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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The Last Day of Radiation

Thanks to all of you for your prayers through this ten-session process. Again, we are so grateful to the Lord that we do not have to go in for five weeks, as we originally thought.

These treatments have been better than we thought they would be in some respects, a little tougher in others. First, as many of you said, the drive down to the hospital has been one of the biggest challenges—just getting there, but once we are there, they usually get us right in, do the procedure, and we are out of there in only a few minutes.

Second, there is no pain at all, no big deal.

On the other hand, as the day progresses, I seem to feel worse and worse—fatigue, stomach upset, and headache are the norm. Yesterday, after the treatment, Marilyn and I came home and crashed once again. That seems to help a little bit for both of us.

The challenge now is: what is next? We are going to see the radiologist today, so we have a lot of questions.

This is another one of those transition times where trust and total dependency on the Lord are paramount. I know the Lord is up to the challenge, for sure. Marilyn and I are anxious to see what is ahead. My sense is that it is going to take a while fully to recover from these treatments, but we will see.

Another verse for today: “In God we have boasted all day long, and we will give thanks to Your name forever. Selah” (Psalms
44:8 NASB).

We certainly can’t boast in ourselves—nothing going on there. But we can continue to boast in the Lord. He is awesome, and He can continue to take care of us in this new twist and turn of the road. Why not? He brought us to this point!

Lord, thank You again for these treatments, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Thank You for getting us through them. Thank You for the unknown that lies ahead, whatever it is. Thanks again for everyone’s prayers. We value the folks that are praying greatly. We love You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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A Long, Hard Day

As I sit here tonight, I feel compelled to write the blog for July 17 here in the evening of the sixteenth.

This has been a very long and lonely day.

Now let me quickly say that we are not alone. We have our friends and dear folk like all of you, actively in contact and praying for us. And, as I keep sharing, we are deeply grateful for each and every one of you.

No, I’m learning that this is one of the chief characteristics of long-term illness. Even when I am in a crowd (and especially so) I feel very alone and so does Marilyn. I think the allusion is that everyone in the world feels spry and chipper, everyone except me. Here I am shuffling along barely able to navigate, while everyone is running, laughing and having grand old time. Are things truly that way? Of course not, but it FEELS so. Satan uses these circumstances to try to pull both of us down very quickly.

Of course, this calls us both back to rejoicing, prayer, and giving thanks. “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13 NASB).

So, all of this hardship and pain and difficultly is not new. “God has chosen us from the beginning for salvation through the sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” Wow. Thank the Lord for this.

This blog today is just another request for prayer for Marilyn and me. Those of you who have experienced long-term health problems will readily understand, I am sure. Those of you that haven’t, just pray. We both need God’s help more than ever before. Thanks a lot!

And this is one of those times when I feel the need to be transparent and to share my heart.

This is also why I need to write tonight and not in the morning, while I was sitting right in the middle of another opportunity to thank God. This challenge never stops.

Lord, this is difficult. Thank You that You are charge of all of this, since You have chosen us from the beginning. You have been working on us as Your kids for a very long time. We need You now more than ever. I pray for all these dear readers and pray-ers as well. We are all desperate for You. Some of us just don’t know it quite yet. Amen.

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This is God's Will for You in Christ Jesus

Thanks to all of you for praying for us yesterday. We could feel your prayers and deeply appreciate them all. I felt a little better, and when days like that come along, I am even more grateful to God for His mercy.

I am never going to take health for granted, ever again, FOR SURE.

Back to the topic of giving thanks. I’m not sure I’ve ever shared this, but I feel compelled to do so this morning. When I was in the hospital, I could not read (I’m dealing with Graft vs. Host Disease in my eyes); I had no interest in watching TV; and basically I didn’t feel like doing much of anything but just sitting there. This was for many days. That is all I could do—to sit there with the Lord, praying and thanking Him for everything I could think of.

This is a very stark life, but it is the one the Lord led me into.

Then, after a week or two, the Holy Spirit compelled me to get my phone out and I started looking up verses on giving thanks. These are the verses I have been producing in this forum.

I’ve got another set of verses that I want to share this morning: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians
5:16-18 NASB).

I believe all three of these commandments go together: rejoice, pray, and give thanks—all three, added up together, are the will of God in Christ Jesus.

I believe that rejoice means to be glad in God no matter what is going on, and again, the Holy Spirit does this in us. This is not human manufactured or manipulated.

“Pray without ceasing” is the challenge—continuing to talk to the Lord. Thanks all I could do anyway, and I just decided to talk with Him about any and every thing that came to mind.

Finally, IN EVERYTHING give thanks. Once again, there is the challenge but it is linked with the previous two commands. You can’t have them without the other.

Lord, thank You for those long hours in the hospital where all I had was You and the Word and our time together. Thanks for the extended time of communion and prayer—very valuable. Continue to help me and all of us to stay in the center of Your will, no matter where we are—rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks. Amen.

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A Case in Point

After writing all these glowing words about giving thanks, I find myself in a position this morning to “walk the talk.”

Over the past few days as these radiation treatments have continued, I have felt worse and worse. At first the steroids seemed to help. Now, as the day progresses, I go downhill in several physical categories. It is depressing.

But I don’t think this is something that needs to cause us to beat ourselves up. We are human! Life has ups and downs! This is another satanic ploy that isn’t worth the time or effort to pull us down. He loves that.

Instead, here is where giving thanks needs to kick in. I feel the Holy Spirit compelling me to do so even as I write this right now.

I came across another verse in the hospital that I want to share: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews
13:15 NASB).

Notice what the Holy Spirit says— “continually.”

I also like the phrase “the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

Here I sit in my home on another beautiful day. I only have two more radiation treatments to go. The Lord has brought Marilyn and me this far. He is not going to drop us now. I don’t have a treatment today. I’m thankful for this as well. Et cetera.

I have learned that the cycle goes either way. Once one starts to go down, it is easier to keep going that way, but if one starts giving thanks, it doesn’t take long for it to grow and grow and grow, overtaking evil and worry and anxiety. So much to thank Him for. So much. “The fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” YES!

Right?

Lord, I do continue to give thanks to Your name today, this great new day. Teach me more and more about this very significant “moment by moment” concept in Your Word. I choose to do it again today and to sing to You as well. Thanks again for everyone who is reading this blog and is praying as well. Each saint is a blessing to me. Give them grace to thank You as well. Amen.
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Moment by Moment Christianity

Yesterday, we had another early appointment at the clinic. It took a little longer than usual as we talked to Courtney, one of the Dr. Ali’s assistants about what lies ahead. I finish the radiation treatments on Tuesday of next week. Praise God!

Then, the day after, we have to go back to the clinic to start chemo again. This therapy is not an IV and does not require that I go into the clinic to receive it. It is a pill. And it looks as if I tolerate it, I will be on it for the foreseeable future. So, we will see what happens.

Back to the topic for today—giving thanks. I just need to say this upfront: I think pastors like me have done a poor job of teaching how to live when one’s life is as close as the hands, when the burden is right there with you and it keeps hounding you and it doesn’t let up. It could be anxiety over illness or someone else’s illness or whatever. But it dogs you very close and won’t seem to let up.

Over the past several months, especially before the transplant last year, I have had this experience several times, whether it was before a scary test or waiting for brain surgery. Again, as I have said before, the tendency is just to go down in the pit of despair, but I learned very quickly that this helps no one, especially the patient, and it just gives you one more thing to deal with—no need.

These are times to allow the Holy Spirit of God to bring to mind thanksgiving over and over and over. He is our inward Comforter, remember. He is there for just these kind of times.

Lost folks, I’m so sorry to say, do not have this resource. “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans
1:21 NASB). This is so sad to have to cite this, but NOT for believers. We can rejoice that He is there in us and for us in the toughest times of life.

I believe we ought to cultivate this kind of relationship when we are NOT in crisis—learn it, develop the habit, and thank Him continually for the good as well as the bad. How about that?

Lord, thank You so much for the resources to live life in its ups and downs. You are perennially there in us and for us, and I am so grateful. Teach us all how to walk with You and talk with You, moment by moment. Amen.

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Divine Forgetfulness

Evening before last, I literally did not sleep a wink. We had to get going to the clinic rather early yesterday morning, and our appointment lasted nearly all morning. The doc said I was doing well but as he checked some of my balance and coordination, I was still a little off.

We raced home after getting some lunch. We stayed for a bit and then turned around and headed to Rose Medical Center for the radiation treatment. I have these treatments at Rose, not a Presbyterian/St. Luke, I guess simply because that is where the radiologist is, but it sure is a hassle to get down there. As I have said before (and Lindsey mentioned), it takes longer to get down there than it does for the treatment.

Anyway, when we finally got back home again, we both crashed for a while—both Marilyn and I were so tired.

I’m thankful that I slept better last night. Both the cancer doc and the radiologist adjusted my medications slightly. This helped.

Back to the topic of thankfulness … Here is one of the main things that I want to share about it. Let me see if I can explain it. When we are obedient to thank the Lord in and for everything, there is an element of divine forgetfulness about it.

What do I mean? Well, think of a difficult circumstance or situation. I know it is easy for me to start going down into the pit with my questions and anger. Lord, why is this happening? Why am I in the hospital again? Why am I not done with cancer? What is going on? Et cetera. It is not long before one is embroiled in questions, and it does not help at all.

But here is what I found: thanksgiving stops all that and focuses us on the Lord! It literally causes us to forget all that worry and to think of the Lord! Praise God! No wonder the Lord commands us to do it all the time.

Our focus needs to be on Him, not on speculating about our circumstances.

“I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations” (Psalms
57:9 NASB).

Lord, thanks again for the practical benefits of obedience. Thank You for saving me from going down into the pit during that hospital stay with all its challenges. Help us all, Holy Spirit, to allow You to do this work in our lives, today and every day. It is You, not us, not human effort. Rescue us from ourselves and our own speculation. I love You Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.

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A Day of Rest and Walking

I’ve been so thankful for this two-day reprieve from the radiation treatments. Yesterday, Marilyn and I visited with a friend and rested in the afternoon a bit. Then, after dinner, we went to a mall for a walk.

As most of you know, I love hot weather, but the mid-90’s is just too hot for me to be outside walking around. I often feel faint when I am outside for a fairly long period of time, so we just walk in a mall. This seems to do the trick.

Today, for the only time this week, I have a rather early time to get radiation. We have to head down there after a while.

But I would like to return to the “subject” of giving thanks and back to the hospital to tell a bit more of the story.

After the brain tumor surgery and after contracting spinal meningitis, they finally moved me out of ICU. I had been in there a few days. They moved me up to a room on the third floor of the hospital. I stayed in there one night.

The next day, the nurse came in and said I had to move again because they needed the room for someone who was more ill than I. This was rather inconvenient FOR ME, but in thanking God, I realized that if someone sicker than I needed that room, I prayed for them and realized this was a way I could help in some small way.

Thus, they moved me to the fourth floor of the hospital. This is where I stayed for the next 20 days or so.

I honestly don’t remember a lot about those early days of transition. I was so “out of it.” I had a hard time figuring what time of day it was and just staying awake and alert.

Here is another verse to share for today:
“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17 NASB).

The mark of real thanksgiving is this: can Jesus stamp His name on everything I do or not? Sometimes it is the little things like changing rooms that push us over the edge in our thanksgiving and witness, but the Holy Spirit is always there to prompt the right response and witness.

Lord, thank You for this coming week of radiation. Thanks for every move and transition in the hospital. You orchestrated each one. Thank You that You are in charge of every space we inhabit for any reason. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Sing with Thankfulness in Your Heart

Thanks be to God! I felt a little better yesterday. Marilyn and I went on a walk. Then, after dinner, we took a rather lengthy drive around town. It was refreshing. I enjoyed getting out of the house and actually being able to relax without the usual symptoms I have been experiencing.

Such a contrast from those long days in the hospital.

As we were driving along, I thought of the days immediately after the brain surgery. Dr. Johnson (an excellent doctor Marilyn and I liked from the start) in his surgery on my brain, did not get all the cancer. He did not want to dig in there very much further. He got seventy-five percent of the golf-ball size tumor; twenty-five still remained.

So, my cancer doc decided to give my chemo through my spinal cord. Plus, I had to have another one of those lumbar procedures. Anyway, somewhere, in the course of all of that, I contracted Spinal Meningitis. I guess it is rather easy to have infections in the spinal when one starts dealing in that area.

However it happened, I got even sicker. I don’t think I have ever felt more poorly than I have with that virus. One rather small thing compared to all the rest: my back was sore. I was too sick even to lift my head, but my back made it difficult to lie in bed as well.

Anyway, I thank the Lord, not only for brain cancer, but also for Spinal Meningitis, especially now for the fact that the Lord has taken me through it. When I came home, I still had to take a rather strong anti-biotic, but even that is over now.

On to the passage for today and this idea of giving thanks. Again, I want to stress that this is a key concept in scripture and it is NOT some kind of manufactured “self-help” formula. We are commanded to do it, as Al said yesterday, in ALL circumstances. But how?

Here is another verse I would like to share: “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians
3:16 NASB).

One of the best ways to give thanks is to sing! I’m no singer but this doesn’t matter. The passage reminds us to “sing with thankfulness IN YOUR HEARTS” to God. I was so grateful for one song that kept running through my mind and heart through all of this: Andre Crouch’s song “Through It All”—now even more so one of my favorites.

Lord, through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus; I’ve learned to trust in God. Father, thank You for the help you gave us and the good day yesterday with the walk and the drive and with feeling better. Thank You also for those long and sick days with Meningitis. Both/and. Love You Lord and thank You again for everyone who was praying then and continues to pray now. Amen.
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Radiation 2 and 3 and Be Thankful

Again, I want to thank all of you for praying. These treatments have been a bit of a bumpy ride for me. I’ve had a headache, stomach problems, and dry mouth, but yesterday, we had an early appointment at CBCI where the Physician’s Assistant Maggie helped me out with a change of medication.

Then, before the radiation treatment, the doc at THAT clinic gave me a new med also. I’m hoping all this change helps me feel better. So, again, thanks for praying in that regard.

The other day, I mentioned some of the things that the Lord has been teaching me since the hospital. In order to do that, let me set up some things to tell you. When I got there in early June, it was a whirlwind of activity as everyone was discovering exactly what was wrong with me. When the determination was made that I had a brain tumor and that they needed to operate immediately, I was very nervous. What on earth is this? A brain tumor? Seven hours to operate? Yikes.

Now, my question is: when these types of thoughts start bombarding us (and it doesn’t have to be brain surgery), what does one do? Has does one approach this flood of thoughts and worries? Let me quote another verse that is fairly similar to the one I cite a couple of days ago:
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15 NASB)

I want to say more about this, but literally the only thing that gave me relief from this barrage of thoughts was literally thanking God for each and every issue that came up in those thoughts. Pausing. Reflecting. Stopping the panic. And right then and there, thanking Him for everything.

Thanksgiving is not just a holiday. It is a way of life. I would not have survived had it not been for thanking Him for literally anything and everything. The Lord did it. It is nothing humans can accomplish. AND, the Lord is teaching me to continue this practice even out of the hospital.

This is not something we work at, first of all. It is a work of the Holy Spirit who draws us to this even we don’t feel like or necessarily want to do at any particular time.

Anyway, more later, but that is it for now.

Lord, I thank You for that hospital experience and everything involved with it. I know I am not done. I thank You for this radiation and all the side-effects as well. Thank You again for everyone who is reading this and who is concerned and is praying. Amen.

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Answered Prayer and More

Before we head down for the second treatment, I wanted to share what happened yesterday. I could literally feel all of you praying. Thanks again for all the advice and wisdom you shared about the radiation treatment. Thank you, Sheila, and everyone else.

As many of you said, it didn’t take that long at all. We were there a half an hour only because they took a lot of x-rays this time, but the treatment itself lasted two to three minutes (I didn’t beat your record of 68 seconds, Lindsey!).

For the rest of the day, I was a little fatigued and had a headache, but otherwise, I didn’t feel that bad at all. I’m just so glad for the advice all of you gave me. Thank You, Jesus.

Well, we finished and the tech handed us the schedule. It had only ten visits on it over the next couple of weeks. Marilyn went to her, “We were told that this was going to five days a week over the next five weeks. Where are the other appointments?” The tech looked at her with a quizzical gaze. “Those are the only appointments you have.”

Marilyn started to protest again and stopped herself in mid-stream. “Thank you. See you tomorrow.”

Does the old saying, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” apply here?

We are still rejoicing that they basically cut the number of appointments from 25 to 10. The doctor must have made that determination, changing from everything they told us in advance. We believe the Lord handed us that miracle!

The phrase “exceeding abundantly beyond” comes to mind from Ephesians three. This is the way the Lord works and again, we thank Him for it.

Lord, thank You for answered prayer and more than we could have even expected. You are awesome and we love You. We also love all these dear folks who read this blog and continue to pray. Bless them, Lord, in return. I’m confident of Your continued help and grace along this new road. Amen.
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With Thanksgiving

Happy Fourth of July to all of you! I felt compelled to drop a note to everyone on this great day.

Where do I start? First of all, I want to thank all of you and Marilyn who have continued to write and read over this past month. It has been a huge encouragement and I deeply appreciate it. Thank you all so much.

Second, the truth of the matter is that I am still in shock—going along and a month ago today finding out that I had a brain tumor and then along the way contracting spinal meningitis, but the Lord continues to be faithful. Not easy, any of it, I am thankful that the Lord has brought me home.

Home has been a big adjustment because, as Marilyn said, I have been so weak. We had a Physical Therapist come to the house yesterday (CBCI arranged this). I have a lot to work on just to be able to get around the house here. It is going to be a long process just building up strength and walking without a walker.

Please pray for this week as I start up radiation treatments for five weeks in a row. I so appreciate the encouragement from Lindsey and Jonann in this regard. We will see how this goes. I do not know whether I will be able to write during these treatments or not.

Anyway, the Lord taught me a lot in the hospital. I will share this at some point, but this morning, I just want to cite this familiar verse:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:6-7 NASB.

The “with thanksgiving” part. THAT is the key, but more on this later.

Lord, thank You again for Marilyn—couldn’t make it without her—and everyone else who reads this blog and prays faithfully. Thank You, Lord, for the hardest month of my life and it is still hard, may get harder. I love You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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