A Stroll At Leisure With God

Along the Lines of Who I Am

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14 NASB).

I’ve always struggled a bit with trying to understand in practical terms what praying “in the name of Jesus” is all about in practical terms.

I love Peterson’s rendition of this passage. It helps me in this regard: “Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do” (John
14:11-14 MSG).

We must be careful to pray along the lines of who Jesus is and what He is doing.

This is everything that a signature is. When I sign my name to a check or document, that is ME, and it signifies an intention—what I want to do.

Likewise, the name of Jesus means that Jesus can sign who He is to what I pray and it lines up with what He is doing in the world. THAT is the kind of praying I would like be a part of, especially now.

Thanks again for praying for me as I get started with pre-transplant “stuff.” The Lumbar Puncture is in the morning at 7:00.

Yesterday, Nicole called to ask if, when I am done with it, I can come up to CBCI for some labs. Apparently, I need to do this sooner or later in order to help those who are working with the donor. Okay. No problem.

This morning, as I sit here, I have a measure of peace knowing that things will be getting started tomorrow. The Lord has allowed me to get cancer. The Lord has allowed me to get to this point, IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

Lord, let me continue today to pray and live along the lines of who You are and what You are doing. I’m thankful for Your NAME. It is powerful and carries weight to get things done. In the name of Jesus, please take care of this test tomorrow and everything that follows, Lord. In Your name, Amen.

Good News!

Hey, everyone, I got a call from Nicole at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute yesterday. She told me that donor #1, the 23-year-old young man has stepped forward! Hooray! He is ready to go through all the necessary procedures to donor his marrow to me. It looks as if the transplant is tentatively scheduled now for July 28th. Nicole said it might be the 29th if there is any sort of hold-up in the delivery process.

I asked her if the young man has to fly to Denver to go through all these processes.

She replied, “Now, wherever he is (and of course we don’t have that information), they can work with him and then send the cells to us in a timely way so that they are fresh.”

Well, okay. There you go.

I have to say that I attribute all of this to the prayers of God’s people—all of you. Thank you so much.

In the meantime, I have tests and procedures to go through myself. Thank you for continuing to pray for those as well.

We talk a lot about the necessity of serving Jesus in our relationship with Him. Of course, this is vital and important, never to be diminished, but John 13 shows us how the Lord is ready and willing to serve us, teaching us how to serve just as He did.

“Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was on his way back to God. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron” (John
13:3-6 MSG).

I continue to be amazed as I envision this scene—the Son of God disrobing to put on the apron of a servant in order to wash feet. This signifies the lowliest of servant activities, and Jesus did it for His disciples and is available to do it for us, ever the Servant He is.

Jesus, thank You for answered prayer. Thank You that this young man finally came forward. Thank You for doing that, Lord. Help me now as I prepare for the other tests and prep work for this transplant. Thank You Jesus for being the Suffering Servant. Pre-eminently you suffered on the cross in order to “serve” salvation to all of us. Amen.

Lumbar Puncture

Yesterday, I got a call from Colorado Blood Cancer Institute. Nicole left the message that she was emailing me a schedule of pre-transplant tests and procedures.

When I received it, I noticed that the first thing on the list is a “lumbar puncture” this Friday morning at the hospital at 7:00 AM.

I was visiting with a friend when I received this news. He went online and looked it up.

I have told all of you in the past that I CAN’T do this because I find out things I would rather not know. He shared some things with me about the procedure. GULP. If you know more details about it, please don’t share them at this point. Thanks but no thanks.

Needless to say that I need you to pray for me. I’m not going to try to learn more, just trust God more and turn it over to Him.

The bottom line is that the wheels are moving on this transplant. Still no word from the 23-year-old donor. I’m not sure what they are going to do about him, but we will see.

In the meantime, notice these words from Jesus in John 12: “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal” (John
12:24-25 MSG).

The challenge for me over the next few days as I begin the process for transplant is to “let it go”—turn things over to Jesus. I need to turn things over to the One who died, was buried, and rose again for me so that He can live in me and I can live through Him.

So be it, Lord. So be it. Amen.

Spiritual Warfare

A “situation” occurred last week. I’m not going into detail, but it was an instance of spiritual warfare. Weird. Like all examples of satanic attack, it came out of the blue.

I would ask that you continue to pray for us because it is my experience that, when you are down, Satan kicks you. He knows when we are vulnerable, and he takes advantage.

I need to remember that. Oftentimes, I have the mistaken notion that since I am sick and since Marilyn and I are dealing with a lot of stuff right now that Satan needs to give us a break.

Do you realize that Satan doesn’t give “breaks,” ever! I am reminded of what the Bible says after the temptation narrative in Luke 4: “The completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity” (Luke 4:13, MSG). Even the Son of God was not immune to temptation and trial (temptations come from Satan allowed by God; trials or tests come from God also).

Please, as I write this, I don’t want anyone to say, “John thinks he is special. This is why he is writing about temptation.” No way! As a pastor for twenty-seven years, I have seen this scenario repeated over and over as I have witnessed people going through tragedy and having to deal with an intensification of warfare at the same time. It just doesn’t seem fair, but it comes from God ultimately, and He has a plan and purpose through it all.

One lesson for me is that I need to be continually alert to and aware of the fact that it is coming. I need to be ready through prayer and the Word.

Today, in the Solid Life Plan, I read one of my favorite chapters—John 11—the story of Lazarus. And this famous verse: “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’” (John
11:25-26 NASB). As you can read for yourself, Mary replied with some affirmation of the future, but that was clearly NOT what Jesus was talking about. He was talking about NOW.

Peterson brings this out: “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?” (John
11:25-26 MSG). I AM. Right now. I get to enjoy the resurrection life of Jesus, not just when I die, but here and now. Right now. Mary and Martha got to see it as well.

Lord, in these days of trial and temptation, I thank You for being, as You originally confirmed with Moses, the great I AM. You ARE the resurrection and life. My heart goes out this morning to the persecuted church—men and women across the world who are dealing with physical suffering and imprisonment and all sorts of difficulties AND satanic attack. Oh, Great I AM, take them through and do it through the power of the resurrection. Amen.

Forever Young

In the Solid Life Reading Plan for today, the editors placed Psalm103 in the queue for today—one of my favorites. The Psalm consists simply of a list of declarative sentences describing what the Lord has done:

“He forgives your sins—every one. He heals your diseases—every one. He redeems you from hell—saves your life! He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown. He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal. He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence” (Psalm
103:3-5 MSG).

The phrase that captures my attention this morning is the final one of verse five— “forever young in his presence.” Wow. What does that mean?

Well, I am reminded of Jesus’ statements about discipleship. Unless we become like children, we will never be able to enter the kingdom of God—the whole idea of child-like faith.

We cannot work up this perspective on our own. The Spirit of God within us does this. He takes over, renewing us every day as we yield ourselves to Him (Romans 12:1-2).

I believe this means that we can come to Him and allow the Spirit of God to work in us in such a way so that we pray “young” prayers and believe that He can work out of a “young” perspective.

Marilyn prays this way, and the Lord has used her to encourage me so much as we continue to pray together.

By the way, this is the benefit of praying with others. I really miss praying with the guys on Sunday mornings. The Lord used them to inspire youth in the presence of the Lord.

Lord, today, I’m grateful that it is possible in our lives in the Spirit to get younger and younger each day as our physical bodies with all their ailments and disease get older. Thank You for enabling us always to be young in Your presence. May that continue to be true in my life, in Marilyn’s, in the lives of those guys at church, and all of us. Amen.

No Cause and Effect

At the beginning of chapter nine, upon seeing a man blind from birth, asked Jesus, “Who sinned? This man or his parents for this terrible thing to have occurred?”

Here is Jesus’ response:

“You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light” (John
9:3-5 MSG).

I’ve always appreciated Jesus’ response here.

As humans, we are always looking for logical explanations of illness and tragedy. The operative question is, “Why? Why is he or she sick? Why did that earthquake and the thousands of deaths that followed, occur?” Et cetera. You get the idea.

Unfortunately, the Bible never answers that question.

Here in John 9, this is essentially what the disciples are asking, “Why?” Jesus gives no neat and packaged explanation, one, after it is given, the inquirers state, “Oh, okay. Now I get and I feel so much better.”

My dad died of cancer when he was forty-seven, right in the middle of his prime years as a husband, dad, worker, leader, witness, et cetera. I could go on and on. Often, over the years, I have asked, “Why? Why Lord did you take him?” No answer.

However, notice what Jesus says, “Look instead for what God can done.” This goes back to what Al in our church says, “The question ‘why’ leads to speculation; the question ‘what’ leads to action.” Amen.

I’m asking the Holy Spirit to show me WHAT He wants me to do through this disease and also WHO He wants me to share with. It has been interesting, to say the least. Yesterday, I got to share with two guys named Joe and Ron.

Lord, there is no way in the world that I can answer the question why in so many arenas. It just ties me up in knots. But I do thank You for WHAT and WHO. I pray that Joe and Ron can get saved. Show me WHAT You want me to do today, Lord. I love You. Amen.

The Final Day of Sports Camp

I am so excited to share that this week at church, we have sponsored a sports camp. And here is the amazing and incredible thing: I have had nothing to do with it except pray. How about that?

Mike and Athina “took the ball” so to speak and ran with it, so to speak. I’m very thrilled about this.

I was talking with a friend the other day, and we both agreed that most churches have the concept that the pastor should do all the ministry and the lay people in the church ought to help or support him or whatever. This is a false perspective.

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that there is an element of activity, leading by example. As a pastor, I should never lead people to do something that I personally am not willing to do. But this is a long way from DOING EVERYTHING.

I have to tell all of you that I was concerned how the church would respond if I go through another period of illness where I am away for a long period of time. Would things just fold up and shut down? I’m so glad to report that I believe just the opposite is occurring and Sports Camp this week is a primo example.

Please pray for today as the gospel is shared again. If my memory serves, Betty told me that they are going to have an opportunity for the boys and girls to respond to the gospel and then have a barbeque at noon today to close things out.

Lord, I do thank You so much for Mike and Athina and all the adult volunteers and boys and girls and families. Thank You for each and every one. Lord, I am grateful that once again, you have shown that the church is not one person; it functions as the body of Christ. I also lift up Jim this morning. Last night, I noticed on Facebook that he shared that he had a fall going after a fly ball yesterday. Please take care of him and everyone else on this the final day. I love You, Lord, and I thank You for Your church. I pray that some boys and girls would profess You today. Amen.

Selling Snake Oil

“There was a lot of contentious talk about him circulating through the crowds. Some were saying, ‘He’s a good man.’ But others said, ‘Not so. He’s selling snake oil.’ This kind of talk went on in guarded whispers because of the intimidating Jewish leaders.”
7:12-13 MSG).

There has always been a division of opinion when it comes to Jesus. Jesus recognized this. So did the gospel writer as the Son of God prepared to go to the great feast in Jerusalem.

Back to Peterson’s translation— “selling snake oil.” This reminds me of one particular episode of the Andy Griffith Show in which a smooth-talking elixir salesman came into town and duped Aunt Bee.

Somehow, the moniker of “selling snake oil” cannot be a positive one for sure.

I am also reminded of Franklin Graham’s book
The Name where he chronicles his own personal experiences with the ridicule and contempt associated with the name of Jesus.

What should we do in light of this common attitude? Our natural tendency is to clam up and be quiet, avoiding any hint of controversy.

Jesus could have done that. He could have lingered in the countryside, but He didn’t. Just continue to read John 7. In spite of what He said to His brothers initially, He did go into the city and did confront the people who didn’t believe.

We must do the same.

It is interesting and significant that this disease and what I am going through right now gives me plenty of opportunity to tell people about Jesus. One of mother’s nurses, after we talked about my situation said, “Well, we just have to think a lot of positive thoughts and send them your way.”

She, like many, just didn’t know what to say, but all the positive thoughts in the world won’t help me. I simply said, “Well, I trust Jesus and believe in the power of prayer. A lot of people are praying for me.” And I am praying for her to meet Jesus personally.

Lord, I praise and exalt and lift up the NAME of Jesus today. This is no elixir or snake oil. This is the real thing. Jesus, You are the real one. I praise You today. Amen.

Waiting on God

As these days go by, I realize that I am not waiting on the doctors or potential donor. I am waiting on God.

Why is this important? Why emphasize it?

Well, many reasons, I guess, but a couple stand out. Recognizing that I am waiting on God helps me cope with things a little better.

To be honest, there is part of me that is glad for the delay. I’m glad for these days, except for the cancer of course.

But on the other side, I do struggle with frustration as to when we are going to get this show on the road. I do share Marilyn’s concerns about my cancer re-emerging in these days as we wait. Or, I could develop something else???

Anyway, waiting on God keeps me on the solid ground of trusting His sovereignty in all of this. Whatever happens, whenever it occurs, it is in God’s plan. By His grace, I have to keep this in mind. It is not easy. Only God’s grace can enable one to do it.

As I read John 6 this morning in the Solid Life Plan, I recognize that the people of Jesus’ day shared these same struggles. Jesus was pointing the folks to the fact that He was the Bread sent from God, but they missed it and missed Him.

“At this, because he said, ‘I am the Bread that came down from heaven,’ the Jews started arguing over him: ‘Isn’t this the son of Joseph? Don’t we know his father? Don’t we know his mother? How can he now say, “I came down out of heaven” and expect anyone to believe him?’” (John
6:41-42 MSG).

Back to waiting on God—these folks missed Jesus as He was standing right in front of them as the present provision of God. They were too wrapped up in their limited perspective of His family and life in the village.

Lord, give me the grace to continue to wait on You, to trust You and recognize You in the present and to acknowledge that You are in charge of all of this—the transplant, the donor, my health, everything. That includes the Sports Camp that starts today. Thank You for Mike and Athina and everyone else involved in serving. Bring the boys and girls and families You want us to meet. We WAIT on You for this as well. Amen.

My Mom Had a Fall but is Okay

As Marilyn and I were sitting here yesterday evening, the phone rang. It was Sunrise. They called to tell Marilyn to come, pick up my mom, and take her to the ER because she had fallen down with another resident and actually hit her head. Their protocol requires that the family take their loved one to the hospital.

I was worried about Marilyn. She was exhausted already and has been experiencing some back pain. I am the Amateur Doctor here, but I think her pain is stress related.

Anyway, I was concerned about a long night for Marilyn.

I started praying and enlisted others to pray as well. Praise God! It turns out that all the tests came back positive. She is all right. Plus, Marilyn got home before 10:00. I praise the Lord for this as well.

I want to thank all of you who prayed and the rest of you as well for continuing to pray for my mom.

I also take a lot of comfort in the fact that the Great Physician is at work. He works on the Sabbath and at night and all. This caused no little bit of controversy among the religious establishment.

You know what? One would think that they would rejoice when a sick person is made well, but no, they are more worried about their rules and norms. How deeply saddening! Jesus responds, “’My Father is working straight through, even on the Sabbath. So am I’” (John
5:17 MSG).

I’m so glad, Lord. So glad.

Lord, thank You that You are always on the job, 24/7. Thank You for the brothers and sister, part of this vast army, that are available as well. Thank You for Your power unleashed through prayer. I count on it. I count on You today. Amen.

The Generosity of God

You know the story of the woman at the well. When she meets Jesus and starts to engage him in conversation, she is curious as to why a Jewish man would take the time to talk with her. That just wasn’t done in that day and time.

Jesus replied, “’If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water’” (John
4:10 MSG).

I’m not sure I have ever noticed that phrase— “the generosity of God”—before in this passage. Do I believe that God is generous? Absolutely. But I believe it that He is generous in certain and times and places. This was the woman’s challenge—believing that Jesus was generous at the well in the middle of the day.

You know the story. Jesus makes an impact on her life, so much so that she forgets about getting water for herself and goes back in the city to tell folks. They come out of the village in droves!

Back to the topic of the day: here is that question again. Do I really believe that the Lord is generous? As I struggle with cancer and treatment and the prospect of this bone marrow transplant, I do ask questions and wonder what God is up to. But generous?

Lord, in the abstract, I can thank You for your generosity, but like the woman at the well in her situation, I struggle sometimes in my own. But I do choose to thank You for your generosity. I thank You for cancer. I thank You for what You are doing right now and for the gift that it is. Give me the grace to continue to recognize and thank You for everything You are doing. I love You. Amen.

The Overwhelming Contrast

Well, here we are: another Sunday is upon us, and once again, I am “out of pocket”—hard, very difficult. I am praying for Dan as he preaches today and Connor as he leads worship.

I am kind of drowsy this morning. I will probably just nod off to sleep again after posting this blog—very weird stuff for a Sunday morning but it is all I feel like doing. This is one overwhelming contrast between what I used to do even a couple of months ago and NOW. But that isn’t the only contrast this morning.

Today, in the Solid Life Plan, I read three chapters from Leviticus—2, 3, and 4—as well as John 3. The thing that strikes me about the very elaborate instructions of sacrifice in these chapters is that they really had no efficacy as far as forgiveness, real forgiveness, is concerned. They pointed ahead to the One who was to come.

Plus, and here is weird deal, they were only good for folks that had sinned unintentionally. For those who sinned with intention, there is no sacrifice. Just writing those last four words sends chills up and down my spine.

In John 3, however, there is a lot in this famous chapter about simply putting faith in Jesus— “whosever believeth in Him will not perish”—to use KJV language of that famous verse we all should know—John 3:16.

This morning, I’m just so glad that, when I repent and place my faith in Jesus, His blood does indeed cover my sins—intentional and unintentional—from here on out. Praise God!

Lord, I do thank You today for grace and forgiveness and love, all readily available to me through the One who came to die and rise again so that I might be born again. Praise God! On this Father’s Day, I can truly call God my Heavenly Father. And You REALLY are through Jesus. Amen.

Detailed Obedience

Well, yesterday, was a pretty good day, as I am adjusting to another waiting period for the transplant. And that is fine.

Marilyn and I spent some time together running some errands and eating dinner. When we returned home from dinner, I sat down to rest a second and promptly went to sleep for at least an hour. I will try to be more sensitive to fatigue levels in my body in the future.

Anyway, something dawned on me as I read the final chapter of Exodus, normally a part of the Word of God in which I develop the skill the “speed-reading.” (Come on! All of you know what I am talking about here! Ha). Somehow, I noticed a refrain in the verses. It is speaking about Moses. I am just going to quote one:

“He set the Altar of Whole-Burnt-Offering at the door of The Dwelling, the Tent of Meeting, and offered up the Whole-Burnt-Offerings and the Grain-Offerings
, just as GOD had commanded Moses” (Exodus 40:29 MSG, emphasis mine). Moses is setting up the Tabernacle in the wilderness. The description of the detail is rather monotonous except as one sees it as an expression of total obedience.

Monotony, if you stop and think about it, can be a rather insidious temptation, one in which you and I or Moses might be tempted to leave out a detail or two or eleven. As the old expression goes, “The devil is in the details.” But Moses did not. Not one. What a challenge to obedience!

But what about Jesus. I read John 2 this morning—His first miracle in Cana. Jesus was meticulously detailed in His obedience to the Lord, even though He received a little “prodding” from His mom. This is the pattern of His life and ministry to the end.

Lord, I am so grateful for the opportunity for obedience that this disease AND this extended time of waiting on You is providing for me. Thank You for the example of Moses in obedience, detailed obedience. Thank You for the empowerment to obedience that the Perfectly Obedient One, Jesus, provided. I trust You today, Jesus. Amen.

July, Mid-July, Late July

Yesterday, finally, Dr. Ali along with his assistant Callee and new assistant Nicole entered the waiting room. It was good to see them because, up to that point, I wasn’t sure we were going to get any answers about what lies ahead and the transplant.

The doctor checked me over and before he left said, “Is there anything that you want to ask me?” Marilyn had come prepared with questions. I had not. I was sort of sitting there in a daze.

Marilyn’s main concern was about my cancer, now in remission, possibly coming back with all the time that has gone by since the PET scan. The doctor nodded his head, looked at Callee and asserted, “We need to get John another PET scan here in a week or so, just to make sure.” He had checked my neck, his hand moving up and down it. “John, I can’t feel anything here at all. I think you are doing well.” Great. But Marilyn did have a legitimate concern, but I think they are going to watch things carefully.

Anyway, as the doctor left, Callee and Nicole sat down to talk specifics about the transplant. First, she showed us a chart that had the three top matches listed along with the blood information they have about them. Callee pointed out candidate #1—the 23-year-old man that I mentioned before.

“Right now, we have put out the word that we would like to have this young man come in for a check-up so that we can confirm that he is a good donor. As of right now, we are still waiting to hear from him. Who knows why it takes folks so long to respond? It could be a myriad of reasons. Actually, we are really not involved in the contact process at all right now. It is the National Blood Donor Registry. They work with the donors directly at this stage. So, we are waiting.”

Marilyn jumped in, “How long will you wait? And eventually, will you just go to the second candidate?”

Callee nodded her head, “No, we won’t wait forever. Yes, we will just move to the second person on the list who is also a very good prospect for you John.”

Callee went on. “John, it looks as if we will be starting you in July with some tests. Before we do this transplant, we run extensive tests just to make sure you are okay before we begin this process.” She went on to list the tests and described some of them in detail.

The bottom line in all of this is that it will be mid-July and maybe even later before things get going.

How do I feel about this? Well, honestly, I have mixed emotions because in some ways, I am ready to get this show on the road, but in other ways, I’m glad they are going to be so thorough. I am committed to their process so … it is what it is.

In the meantime, I have these requests for all of you, my army of prayer:

--Pray that the young man who is top on the list would respond
--Pray that all the tests will go well
--Pray that my cancer would stay in remission through this lengthy process

Lord, I thank You for CBCI, Dr. Ali, Callee, Nicole, and everyone else who is so diligent through this process. All times and all timing issues are in your hands. I trust You today and thank You. I continue to pray for Rowan. I love You. Amen.

Strong Enough to Make You Strong

Of course, I am a little anxious this morning, but overall, I am glad to be able to see the doc today. My appointment is this afternoon. I have a lot of questions for him at this point. We will see what he says and how things go.

In the reading today in the Solid Life Plan, I read two chapters in Exodus—chapters 36 and 37. They are instructions to the craftsman as to how to build elements in the tabernacle. To be honest, these instructions, though very important, are kind of difficult to wade through.

Romans 16 is quite another matter. It is a list of greetings to folks in the church at Rome—a church that Paul had not visited up to the point of the writing of Romans. I find it very fascinating as he talks about people in the church, gives pertinent details in the relationship, and passes greetings along.

Here is how he ends this awesome chapter and book: All of our praise rises to the One who is strong enough to make you strong, exactly as preached in Jesus Christ, precisely as revealed in the mystery kept secret for so long but now an open book through the prophetic Scriptures. All the nations of the world can now know the truth and be brought into obedient belief, carrying out the orders of God, who got all this started, down to the very last letter” (Romans
16:25-26 MSG).

Strong enough to make you strong—that is pretty strong and makes the Lord radically different from any human. It gives me a lot of peace and comfort as I head into see the doc today.

Lord, You are strong, strong enough to give some of Your strength to Your kids for whatever we have to face. I love You for this. Amen.

A Brave New World

Yesterday, I went to have my hearing aids adjusted once again. It was a good thing because over the past few days, my frustration level was increasing. I was just having difficulties hearing well in certain situations—I won’t go into detail.

Honestly, one of the most difficult things I am dealing with these days is my hearing. It just feels as if it is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Just one more little thing that ends up being a big thing as we deal with a lot of stuff right now.

Anyway, back to yesterday, after the adjustment, I had a much better day, almost forgetting that I even had them on until …

I was taking the trash out last night as my new neighbor was taking the groceries out of her SUV. We said hello to one another and she made some comments and I nodded my head. When I went back into the house, I said to Marilyn, “I’ve really got to be careful when I talk to people and just nod my head when I have no clue what was said.”

So, as she was still removing groceries from the back of her truck, Marilyn and I went over to talk. Marilyn has already met her. Turns out her name is Erin (not sure of the spelling; I will just go with that). We explained my situation briefly. She understood. We had a good conversation.

So, in the future, I need to be careful with people. Just saying hello is one thing. Carrying on a conversation is another. I need to be careful, walking across the street or at least getting in understanding range. It is another adjustment for the gospel really because I am praying for my neighbors.

I like these two benedictions in Romans 15. I read them this morning as part of the Solid Life Reading Plan:

“Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice” (Romans
15:5-6 HCSB).

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans
15:13 HCSB).

Lord, thank You for allowing me to make a connection with my neighbor through my hearing issue. May Marilyn and I glorify You in our conversations among our neighbors. Continue to help me with this by the power of Your Spirit, Lord. Nothing can stop You. Amen.

Tend to Your Own Knitting

There is a delicate balance in the Christian life … but I will get to it in a moment.

Yesterday was not a good day for me from a physical standpoint. I did not feel well pretty much the whole day. I’m anxious to get to see the doctor on Thursday to see what his insight is concerning what is going on with me these days. As I have indicated, I have my own theories—and I am glad to share them—but I will be interested in his.

I also hope to find out more about the schedule I am on. According to Callee, as we talked the other day, I have various tests and conversations I must have as well, so I anticipate more time before things start, but again, we will see.

Please continue to pray for my mom. I haven’t mentioned her in several days. Yesterday, Marilyn and I talked with two ladies at Sunrise who are involved in her care. They indicated that she is doing better when it comes to making the adjustment to her new home. However, she still has difficulties on occasion. We asked about her health. She is better in that regard as well. So, again, thanks for your prayers.

Back to my original comment … one of the readings for today is Romans 14. In this practical section of the book that enjoins all of us to love one another, when we come to this chapter, we very quickly come to learn what love ISN’T.

“So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture: ‘As I live and breathe,’ God says, ‘every knee will bow before me; Every tongue will tell the honest truth that I and only I am God.’ So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God” (Romans
14:10-12 MSG).

That is a common expression in our family— “tend to your own knitting.” We must love people but give them latitude in matters that are not central to the faith. The Lord will reveal Himself to them in due time.

I’ve learned this the hard way. I have done my part in playing Jr. Holy Spirit. One of the things that this illness has taught me OR is teaching me is to turn other people over to Jesus. I’ve got enough to focus on with me.

Lord, thank You for dying for our sins. Thank You that someday all of us as believers will stand before You to give an account of our works. Help me today, no matter how I feel, to please You and follow You. Amen.

Another Long Day

I know I sound like a broken record on many of my Monday posts, but as each Sunday goes by, I miss church more and more. It is becoming much more difficult to do so.

Marilyn and I talk about this rather frequently: how do folks who don’t know the Lord make it through the day? Many just put in time with activities here and there. It is pitiful really.

And please don’t take these comments as legalistic in any way. Of course, going to church is not a pre-requisite for salvation. I’m not saying anything close to that, but it is just a huge part of the Christian life—that we are a part of the body for worship and fellowship and encouragement.

I was talking with someone about this not too many days ago. I think it was Connor and Jess. They told me that the folks at church think of me often (I’m glad about this; I know they pray as they do) and that the church is bigger than four walls. Great expression! I love it. I am thankful for it.

It is in light of the body that Paul makes a plea in the final verses of Romans 13. This is impetus to me in spite of the fact that I don’t go to four-walls church these days.

“But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!” (Romans
13:11-14 MSG).

I can see how easy it is to get wrapped up in daily obligations. This is easy to do IF one goes to church, much easier if one doesn’t.

Father, help me to continue to be up and about, involved in your work and your kingdom. Thanks AGAIN for all the love and support of my church family and friends. I wouldn’t make it without them! Amen.


I have been meaning to pass this on the last few days, but I just haven’t. Bad on me.

I received a prayer request from Karen, one of my friends who regularly reads the blog and responds to it. She is a nurse and lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Anyway, not long ago she wrote me about Rowan. Here is what she said:

“I ask for your prayers for my precious 9-year-old friend, Rowan, who has no matches yet for his transplant. He has a mixture of syndromes-- primarily Shwachman Diamond so it will be difficult. Rowan loves the Lord and shares his faith as he is able. He is aware of the benefits and possible consequences. He just looks at death as an opportunity to meet Jesus and to see his friends again. Shwachman Diamond has a component of bone marrow issues so he has met many others in the pediatric hematologist/oncologist office as they received treatments, some losing their battle. His other issue is that they have to move to Seattle, WA as that facility has been determined the best for him--minimum of 6 months. Tough on his parents and siblings.”

This breaks my heart in many ways. The Lord has blessed me with 20 good matches for the transplant. I’m so grateful for this, but this young man … and many others all over the country and world are still waiting for a donor match.

Jesus, we lift Rowan and his family up to you RIGHT NOW. Take care of him. Bring him a donor and let that donor match perfectly. I pray for his family and siblings as they have to move. Strengthen and encourage them as they go through this. Amen.

Ulcers From Playing at God

Well, finally, yesterday, I got a call from Callee, Dr. Ali’s transplant coordinator. She said, “John, good news. Out of the twenty, we have boiled your donor list down to three. The top guy is twenty-three years old and seems to be a particularly good match. Number is also young. Number three is a little older—he is forty-five—but all three are very good. We are going to check out their compatibility and make sure.” This is not a verbatim quote, but it is close enough. Very encouraging.

I also have an appointment with Dr. Ali next Thursday. I’m going to talk with him about this cycle that I have been experiencing and my theories about it. I talked with Callee about some of this. She did not seem all that impressed with my medical knowledge and theories—ha! We will see what happens.

In the meantime, I continue to wait on God. Callee did not give any information about when the transplant is going to begin or anything, so we will continue to plug along.

Paul continues to make interesting comments about Israel in Romans 11—one of the chapters I read today in the Solid Life Plan. God hasn’t forgotten Israel, not pushed them aside on a permanent basis, but the truth is that they blew it. When they did, it allows Gentiles access to the God’s vineyard for a designated time, but even for Gentiles, we need to be careful that we don’t make the same mistakes that Israel did or we will be out of pocket as well.

“And then what happened? Well, when Israel tried to be right with God on her own, pursuing her own self-interest, she didn’t succeed. The chosen ones of God were those who let God pursue his interest in them, and as a result received his stamp of legitimacy. The ‘self-interest Israel’ became thick-skinned toward God. Moses and Isaiah both commented on this: Fed up with their quarrelsome, self-centered ways, God blurred their eyes and dulled their ears, Shut them in on themselves in a hall of mirrors, and they’re there to this day. David was upset about the same thing: I hope they get sick eating self-serving meals, break a leg walking their self-serving ways. I hope they go blind staring in their mirrors, get ulcers from playing at god” (Romans
11:7-10 MSG).

That last phrase—“ulcers from playing at god”—really stuck with me this morning. This whole process continues to bring me back to trusting God and doing it day by day by day. I don’t know anything about what is in store REALLY, so there is no need to get ulcers trying to know things that only God knows, at least for now.

God, You are God; I am NOT. I rest on You. I trust You. Thank You for the good report. I trust You with the rest. Amen.

More Prayer Needed

Hey everyone, just another plea. I seem to be making them all along, and by the way, I am grateful that you do and are praying.

Yesterday was a particularly rough day, as I felt bad most of the day into the evening.

Let me back up: earlier in the day, I contacted Julie, told her about my symptoms, and asked if she could recommend anything. She wrote me back, telling me that she would try to get me in for an office visit, but as the day progressed and ended—nothing.

I just don’t think they are going to budge off their schedule of when THEY want me to come in prior to transplant. My concern is that how I am feeling right now could affect it. I say that … of course, I don’t know anything and I am no doctor, but I do know me.

Well, we will see what happens today … I will let you know. Thanks.

In the Solid Life Reading Plan, I read about Moses’ encounter with God on Mount Sinai—a signal moment in the history of Israel where God gave the law to the people on stone and even before it reached them, they had broken it!

This must have been in the back of Paul’s mind as the Holy Spirit penned these words through him in Romans 10:

“The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it’s not so easy—every detail of life regulated by fine print! But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story—no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah. So what exactly was Moses saying? The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” (Romans
10:4-10 MSG).

What a great word for me to read this morning! God, I’m crying out for salvation this morning. When I was nine, You saved me from sin, making me a new creation in Jesus. But now, Lord, I’m crying out for more salvation—save me all the stuff I am dealing with these days with this disease and what is ahead. I love You, Lord. Amen.

Calling God into Question

I have to be honest to tell all of you that I have wondered what is going on over the past couple of months. I have questioned God. “God, why have You allowed all of this in our lives?”

“All of this” is my mom’s situation AND the Bone Marrow Transplant. One or the other would be a lot, right? But both of them, to have deal with them at the same time … is a lot.

And we have questioned and wondered, but I have never found it to be a particular useful activity. As a brother in our fellowship says, “Asking why leads to speculation; asking ‘what for’ leads to action.” Something like that. He is right.

Paul in Romans echoes the same sentiment. I’m going to cite some verses from a chapter in the reading plan for today—Romans 9: “Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn’t talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, “Why did you shape me like this?” Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right?”

Speaking of the Jews, he goes on: They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together: Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion, a stone you can’t get around. But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me on the way, not in the way” (Romans
9:20-33 MSG).

In short, since God is God, He has the right to do what He wants and with whom. AND, when we fail to recognize that, then in our questions and speculation, we have the tendency to miss God right in the middle of the road.

Lord, I don’t want to miss You today. Open my eyes and ears. I love YOU. Amen.

Our Pregnant Condition

Yesterday was another long and very difficult day. However, toward the end of it, Marilyn and I started to figure out some reasons why I have been feeling bad. I need to talk with the doctor about them. Hopefully, that will be able to happen soon. I still haven’t had any news about the transplant as yet, and I don’t want you to read any frustration with that.

Back to my situation, please pray that I can at least start to get it addressed soon prior to starting the transplant process.

I’m sorry for not being more specific at this point, but I think I would rather NOT talk specifics right now. Please just pray.

NO, it isn’t pregnancy! Ha.

Pregnancy is the wonderful metaphor that Paul uses for contemporary human life in Romans 8. What a wonderful comparison it is.

“All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy” (Romans
8:22-25 MSG).

I love this metaphor and the statement that waiting does not diminish us in any way; as a matter of fact, it enlarges us. I feel that enlargement is exactly what is happening to me right now as I continue to WAIT for this transplant process. I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m going through tough times. All of this has an enlarging effect.

Oh, Lord. Thank You for the wisdom and direction You are giving Marilyn and me at this point. We thank You. Thank You for our current pregnant life that someday will result in glory. I love You, Lord. Amen.

Promises Rejuvenate

A friend of mine commented on this blog the other day: “It seems that your daily writing is getting shorter and shorter.”

Yes, that is true for a couple of reasons. First, every morning, I just feel so drowsy I can barely hold my head up. I’m not exactly sure of the reason for this.

Second, my time has shifted a bit. I tend to spend more time in prayer AND in meditation on the Word—especially the promises of God. Somehow that has taken on more relevance in these days because, as you can discern as you read, I am struggling with anxiety more. The main thing that gives me relief is simply to focus on the Word.

So, that is what is going on … I still haven’t heard from the doc. I continue to wait …

Notice these words from Psalm 119: “Remember what you said to me, your servant— I hang on to these words for dear life! These words hold me up in bad times;
yes, your promises rejuvenate me. The insolent ridicule me without mercy, but I don’t budge from your revelation. I watch for your ancient landmark words, and know I’m on the right track. But when I see the wicked ignore your directions, I’m beside myself with anger. I set your instructions to music and sing them as I walk this pilgrim way. I meditate on your name all night, GOD, treasuring your revelation, O GOD. Still, I walk through a rain of derision because I live by your Word and counsel” (Psalm 119:49-56 MSG).

The Psalmist goes to the Word for comfort, but as he notices others NOT going to it, it makes him angry. I believe that this is the same kind of anger that Jesus experienced as He cleansed the temple.

Lord, thank You for the rejuvenation that occurs through Your Word. I am experiencing it more and more as each day passes. I need a promise to claim for today. I trust You and love You. Amen.

80 Birthday Cards!

Imagine how Marilyn and I felt when we returned home. We went out for lunch yesterday on my birthday. When we go home, we noticed these balloons on our porch. Underneath them was a bag full of cards—birthday cards all hand-written. Wow!

I called Betty to thank her and that is when I learned that there were 80 cards! The original goal was 58. That is how old I am now, but as if ended up, there were 80. I am slowly working my way through the cards, savoring each one. I’m so grateful for this outpouring of love. Thanks so much to my church family!

Yesterday was a good day. The weather was awesome. I didn’t feel that well, but today I seem to be doing better. It was awesome to get to spend it with Marilyn and just “hang out.”

One of the passages I read came from Psalm 119: “Let your love, GOD, shape my life with salvation, exactly as you promised; Then I’ll be able to stand up to mockery because I trusted your Word. Don’t ever deprive me of truth, not ever— your commandments are what I depend on. Oh, I’ll guard with my life what you’ve revealed to me, guard it now, guard it ever; And I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for your truth and your wisdom; Then I’ll tell the world what I find, speak out boldly in public, unembarrassed. I cherish your commandments—oh, how I love them!— relishing every fragment of your counsel” (Psalm
119:41-48 MSG).

How do we know the love of God? We know it as we experience it in the company of God’s people—the church. I’m so grateful for my church family and the way they love me.

Lord, thank You so much for allowing me to live another year. Thank You for Marilyn. Thank You for my church family and their love and the way You use that love to shape me as I obey your commandments. Give me the grace to do so. I love You, Lord. Amen.

Another "Strange" Day

Thanks for all the birthday wishes already. I appreciate them all very much. This is a rather strange day for several reasons. First, I won’t be in church AGAIN this morning. Second, it really doesn’t feel like my birthday. Third, as these days march by, I find it more and more difficult to take one day at a time, using that tool that the Lord has given us.

But by God’s grace, I will choose to live by grace.

Paul talks about this wonderfully negotiated time down here as we anticipate the future:
There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” (Romans 5:3-5 MSG).

I like that phrase “passionate patience.” These times of trial and difficulty develop passionate patience as we learn to wait on God. That is what the Lord is doing right now on my 58th birthday as I await this transplant.

By the way, my first day with the hearing aids went pretty well. It is quite an adjustment. I’m hearing things I haven’t “heard” since the onset of this hearing problem began. I’m grateful for this.

Lord, I thank You for what You are doing right now in my life. I do pray for an alertness and awareness of what You are going to do on this day and NEXT in my life. Thank You for passionate patience. I love You. Thank You for the blessing of another year of life. If someone had told me on my birthday last year that I would be sitting in this position, I never would have believed them! Ha. Amen.

The Hearing Aid Era Begins

Well, yesterday, I went to Echo Hearing Center. Nathan fitted me for my new hearing aids and the beginning of a new era.

My first emotion honestly was fear. What happens if I have major problems over the weekend with them? What do I do then? I could tell that Nathan was getting a little exasperated with my anxiety and my questions. Finally, he said, “Well, John, I just want you to wear them and to try to get used to them. If you have major problems, you can always just take them off for a period of time or the whole weekend, and you can call me Monday.”

But I just have to say that the adjustment period has not been as bad as I thought. I’ve worn them for several hours and seem to be adjusting to them well. Some sounds seem MUCH louder than they did before. Of course, I asked Nathan about this as well. He smiled, “Well, of course, you need to expect that in some ways since we are amplifying sound with these hearing aids.”

Oh, yeah. Right. Duh.

After a long day of waiting in the room with my mom, Swedish Hospital finally released her late afternoon, and Marilyn took her back to the memory care unit at Sunrise. It was a long day for Marilyn. She was totally worn out. The week was long as well. Hopefully, she can rest up for the next couple of days and get back on her feet.

Still not sure what happened with my mom, but we are both glad that she is better.

What is going on? Neither one of us can “figure it out.” In this situation, we are in the same boat as Abraham as Paul describes him in Romans 4.

“When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, ‘You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!’” (Romans
4:17-18 MSG).

How on earth could God possibly use two senior adults—way too old to have children by any scientific measurement—to be the parents of a multitude of peoples? No logical answer to it.

Marilyn and I have given us trying to figure out why all this is happening to us at the same time—it makes no sense and it is frankly overwhelming—but it calls us back to faith and HOPE. I’m learning just to start praying and thanking God when the overwhelming feelings start to hit me.

Father, help me to learn the lesson of Abraham—to learn to live on what You said You would do. Your promises. Not my understanding or ability. Thank You for the technology of hearing aids. Thank You for taking my mom back to Sunrise. Thank You for getting us through this very tough week. Amen.

Faithful Even When We Are Faithless

First of all, I want to give a report on my mom. She seemed to do better as the day progressed so much so that they are talking about releasing her today. Marilyn will be taking her back to the memory care facility if everything continues to be okay as the morning progresses. Thanks again for your prayers.

As for me, I had an opportunity to talk with both Julie and Callee at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute (CBCI). Julie told me that all the doctors had met as is their custom, and they looked at my PET scan. She repeated that it looked good and that I am ready for transplant. Julie went on, “John, I’m going to be passing you on right now to Callee who is our transplant coordinator. I’ll try to catch her today and have her give you a call.”

Sure enough, she did. Callee told me that they are currently in contact with several potential donors, asking for blood from them. This process takes some time, but apparently, it should be well on its way to be completed next week at which time they will get me in to check me over and run some tests on me.

I asked, “Callee, what type of time frame are we looking at here before transplant begins?”

“Well, John,” Callee responded, “we really can’t make any sort of a plan until we find the right donor, so it should be at least two more weeks. I understand you are getting a hearing aid (I had told Julie this). This is a good time to get adjusted to it and to rest some more. We will be in touch soon and get you in here to get checked out just to make sure everything is still okay.”

I thanked her, and we ended the call. It really did help me just to get more information about where things are.

Here is a passage that I read this morning in the Solid Life Plan from Romans 3, speaking about the Jews and their sin: “Do you think their faithlessness cancels out his faithfulness? Not on your life! Depend on it: God keeps his word even the whole world is lying through its teeth” (Romans 3:5, MSG).

Lord, I thank You for continuing to take care of my family and me. As the hymn lauds, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Amen.

God Will Fight the Battle for You

As you could tell, yesterday, I was overwhelmed with the two challenges ahead of me—my mom’s illness and getting hearing aids. Thank the Lord. He helped us with both!

The doctors still can’t figure out what is wrong, but they ran a series of tests and still did not discover the source of the bleeding but my mom is better. She might be able to go back to memory care today.

The Lord also helped me get a pair of hearing aids. They are not cheap! Yikes, but the Lord has provided the money. I ordered a pair and they will be in on Friday, so I thank God for this as well.

Back to me and yesterday, I really had a hard day and did not deal well with these issues.

But I am grateful for the passage of scripture the Lord gave me today—a familiar one—the Exodus story in Exodus 14. Moses gave instructions to the people and they freaked out as the Egyptian army was in hot pursuit. Then, they started to complain and longed for the life they left behind.

“Moses spoke to the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today…. God will fight the battle for you. And you? You keep your mouths shut!’” (Exodus 14:13-14, MSG). I have to laugh at the last part. That is me. So ready to grip and complain and not ready to trust.

Lord, thanks for these words. Help me take them deep to heart today. Thank You that the battle, THIS battle is Yours and You will take care of it. Amen.

Two More Challenges

Yesterday, just about the time I finished the blog, Marilyn let me know that an ambulance had come to pick up my mom at the memory care center. She is having rather severe bleeding.

Marilyn met the ambulance at the hospital. They spent the day checking my mom out—not sure even now. More tests today. Please pray for her. Obviously, this is very upsetting to us both.

In addition, Jim took me to an appointment with an ear, nose, and mouth doctor. She and her assistant spent some time checking out my hearing. Apparently, my last chemo treatment did do some damage. We talked about it a bit, and both decided that a good course of action would be for me to check out hearing aids. I have an appointment this afternoon to check them out.

I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that having to get hearing aids is very discouraging to me but I just can’t hear that well without them. Please pray for wisdom and direction as I do this today.

Lord, sometimes it feels as if the difficulties are piling on. Help us, Lord. We are crying out to you today. Amen.