PastorJohnsBlog.com

A Stroll At Leisure With God

Still Struggling

Just about the time I finished writing the blog yesterday, it hit me—more anxiety. I struggled with it for most of the day and on into the evening.

Last night, before we went to bed, Marilyn and I prayed together. We were careful to lay before the Lord every possible thing that could be a worry—just to turn it over to the Lord.

Marilyn made a great comment as we prepared to pray—when faced with worry, you cannot reason your worries away—they are too strong and powerful—you must PRAY them away. Isn’t that what Philippians 4:6-7 says? “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns” (MSG).

This is a discipline. It is a choice, often a very hard one to make in the heat of the moment.

So, today, I have an appointment with an Ear, Nose, and Mouth specialist that Dr. Ali recommended. I hope she can give me some help with my hearing issues. Please pray for some resolution there as they are very annoying.

I fully expect to hear from CBCI to set up an appointment with them. I have no idea what will occur over the next few days, but if they give me an opportunity for questions, I have a bunch to ask them.

Back to the Word, I came across these words from Psalm 31. “Love GOD, all you saints; GOD takes care of all who stay close to him, But he pays back in full those arrogant enough to go it alone. Be brave. Be strong. Don’t give up. Expect GOD to get here soon” (Psalm
31:23-24 MSG).

Lord, I can’t go this alone. No way. Thanks for everyone who is praying. Give me the bravery and strength to turn to You in prayer before I default to worry. I pray the same for each of my dear readers. Amen.
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The Call of the Kingdom

I have to tell all of you that I really appreciate these days of reprieve. I have no idea what is ahead of me this coming week in terms of pre-transplant, but I do plan to talk to a couple of people about it. One has been recommended. The other is a family that used to belong to our fellowship—just to get some information and learn some things. We will see.

In the meantime, just another day to hang out, asking the Lord to prepare me for what is ahead. He is the main one with the capacity to do so.

For some reason, I am very drowsy this morning … so I want to move on to share something I read in the Word for today.

In Matthew 21, Jesus shares a series of parables aimed at the religious leaders. One has to do with the vineyard. Back to Isaiah 5, this has long been a metaphor of Israel. Here, the owner tries to recruit folks to work in His vineyard, (you know the story), and they all refuse. Finally, he sends His Son but they kill him too. Then, Jesus makes this statement:

“Jesus said, ‘Right—and you can read it for yourselves in your Bibles: The stone the masons threw out is now the cornerstone. This is God’s work; we rub our eyes, we can hardly believe it! “This is the way it is with you. God’s kingdom will be taken back from you and handed over to a people who will live out a kingdom life. Whoever stumbles on this Stone gets shattered; whoever the Stone falls on gets smashed’” (Matthew
21:42-44 MSG).

Here is the statement that captures my attention: “the kingdom will be taken back from you.” For those who don’t respond to the call of the kingdom, they will lose their opportunity to be involved in it. I realize that even now, even with this disease and transplant, this is a call for me to be involved in kingdom work.

Help me, help us, never to forget this, Lord. Amen.
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Struggled a Little Yesterday

Yesterday was a long and difficult day. Looking back, I realize I struggled because I allowed myself to worry about the unknown future a bit. The truth is that the folks at CBCI have told me very little about the whole transplant process.

Marilyn and I talk about it a lot. We are trying to prepare ourselves, but still …

Please understand: I am NOT justifying myself at this point. This is a call back AGAIN to the verse the Lord gave me when I was first diagnosed in 2010: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matthew 6:34, MSG). Please pray that I will stick with this as one of the tools the Lord has given us as believers—living in the moment—and not venture off.

Two passages I read this morning also help in this regard. First, notice the litany of promises God gave Moses as he faced the task of leading Israel out of Egypt:

“But now I’ve heard the groanings of the Israelites whom the Egyptians continue to enslave and I’ve remembered my covenant. Therefore tell the Israelites: ‘I am GOD. I will bring you out from under the cruel hard labor of Egypt. I will rescue you from slavery. I will redeem you, intervening with great acts of judgment. I’ll take you as my own people and I’ll be God to you. You’ll know that I am GOD, your God who brings you out from under the cruel hard labor of Egypt. I’ll bring you into the land that I promised to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and give it to you as your own country. I AM God’” (Exodus
6:6-8 MSG). These are promises to bank on.

Second, I read the story in Acts 27 of Paul’s adventures at sea. God assures him that He will rescue him and everyone on board if they will follow His instructions. And He does.

Promises, promises, promises.

Lord, help me to bank your promises in the vault of my heart so that I might trust You in the days ahead. Help Bart as he preaches today. Strengthen Connor as he leads worship. Take care of Your church today, Lord. I choose to continue to pray and not worry. Amen.
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"Terrific"

Late yesterday afternoon, I got a phone call with a Texas area code. I ignored it as I do all calls I don’t recognize. Turns out it was Julie calling on her personal cell.

Her voice seemed very upbeat, “John, just wanted you to know that the results of your PET scan were terrific, just terrific. We will talk next week about next steps. As you know, Dr. Ali is on vacation. When he gets back, we will talk, but in the meantime, those PET scan results were terrific!”

My heart is full of gratitude as I weep out my praise to Him. Doctor, thanks for this great report. Wow.

Thanks to all of you for praying as well. All of you are a huge part of this.

I’m so thankful for this report for many reasons—mainly that it looks as if I won’t have to expose myself to too much more chemo.

The other day, at the doc’s office, Julie reminded us that even if I got a good report with the PET scan, I would still have to do more chemo in the pre-transplant stage. I don’t understand that totally, but that is fine. Whatever.

I’m just taking the victories the Lord gives me step by step.

Notice this reply from God to Moses at the Burning Bush as Moses continue to throw out excuse after objection after argument, “GOD said, ‘And who do you think made the human mouth? And who makes some mute, some deaf, some sighted, some blind? Isn’t it I, GOD? So, get going. I’ll be right there with you—with your mouth! I’ll be right there to teach you what to say’” (Exodus
4:11-12 MSG). How about that?

Lord, I’m grateful for this good report. You get the credit for it. This is no time to stop praying. In fact, I feel more compelled than ever. I’m thankful also for this army of prayer warriors. I’m humbled. Keep up the good work as we pray for each other. Amen.
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Still No Word

Upfront, I just want all of you to know that I did not hear from CBCI yesterday. I still don’t know the results of the scan.

And can I hasten to say at this point—no problem.

I want to know. Please don’t misunderstand but yesterday felt like a little break, and somehow, it feels as if I need some of those. I hope this makes sense.

The tech at the hospital the other day—the nurse who helped me with the scan—told me that it usually takes a couple of days to read the scan and send the report. So, I should hear today, but if I don’t, it won’t be the end of the world either.

I guess another thing you are seeing in these words is that I am learning to take things in stride, to trust God’s timing in stuff like this.

I did receive a brochure in the mail about transplant late yesterday afternoon from an organization called “Be the Match.” It contains some helpful info about the process, information I am glad to receive just because, up to this point, I have received very little. And I know that a lot of that is intentional since the focus now is the cancer, not the transplant.

Anyway, that is where things stand. As I continue to wait, one thing about which I have no doubt is the character of Almighty God. As I was getting my scan the other day, one of the “tools” that Lord brought me to was a reminder of his character. It was as if He was saying, “John, no need to fear this test or the outcome, I love You. Haven’t I taken care of you to this point?” Trusting THAT. Trusting Him was a great comfort.

It was, in effect, LIKE a burning bush experience. I’m now in Exodus in the Solid Life Plan. Here is what God said to Moses: “Many years later the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery and cried out. Their cries for relief from their hard labor ascended to God: God listened to their groanings. God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw what was going on with Israel. God understood” (Exodus
2:23-25 MSG).

How about those DECLARATIVE sentences? God remembered. God saw. God understand. Three rings upon which to hang my hat today, no matter what the results are or when I receive them.

God, I trust YOU and YOUR never-changing character. I give You the results. Whatever. I love You. Amen.
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Waiting for Results

The other day, at CBCI, Julie said that she would call to let us know the results of the PET scan by the end of the week. I’m glad we don’t have to wait until the Memorial Day weekend is over or any such craziness as that.

Thanks for all of you that prayed yesterday. That PET scan caused me not a little bit of angst. But I am glad that it is over.

I’ve had several folks ask me what the alternatives are as far as results are concerned. First, they could tell me that I am still not in remission and that I need to do more chemo treatments. The other day, Julie was quick to comment on that, “John, if we have to do more chemo, please don’t think you are a failure or the process is.” Okay.

The concern with that alternative is more damaging side-effects. They are going to be particular cautious not to cause more hearing damage. I’m glad about this.

By the way, my hearing seemed to be a little better yesterday. I praise God for this!

The other alternative is to start the pre-transplant process. If that is the choice, I really don’t know what the timeframes are because they haven’t told me.

So, there you have it. I will be sure to let all of you know as soon as possible.

One more note, yesterday, Betty, Patti, and Jim went to see my mom. I talked with Betty yesterday after we got home from the scan. Betty said my mom seems to be doing well. This was great news for Marilyn and me, especially Marilyn. With taking care of me and driving me all over the place, she has not been able to see my mom for a few days.

Somehow, this morning I am drawn to what God says as Peter babbles away on the Mount of Transfiguration. Notice these words: “While he was going on like this, babbling, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and sounding from deep in the cloud a voice: ‘This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him’” (Matthew
17:5 MSG).

The Son—Marked by God’s Love, Focus of God’s Delight. Does it make sense that if I am in Christ and Christ is in me—that the Lord looks at me in the same way.

Lord, yesterday proved it again. There are no second-class citizens or step-children in Your family. As you kids, we enjoy Son-status—marked by His love, the focus of Your delight. Amen.
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PET Scan Today and More Challenges

Once again, Julie helped Marilyn and me yesterday. The Lord is using her and we told her so.

I said, “I’ve had a lot of PET scans in the past. I don’t know why this one seems to be causing me more anxiety.”

“John?” Julie responded, “It is not as if you don’t have a lot riding on this particular scan.” Oh, yeah, right! That is not an exact quote, but it is the gist of what she said. Right.

Back up a bit. Of course, one of my major concerns was my hearing issues. Ryan, the Physician’s Assistant, looked me over a bit. “John, I am afraid that some of the issues occur as a result of chemo. Hearing loss is common. Some of these may be permanent.” Huh?

I have to tell you that word hit me like a ton of bricks.

Let me just stop right there. Later on in the day, Marilyn and I looked at each other and stated, “Who is Ryan? He is certainly no hearing expert.” We decided right then and there that ALL DIAGNOSES ARE IN THE HAND OF THE LORD. We are going to trust Him with this and find a doctor or several who will address this issue one way or another.

In short, we both agreed that with everything that comes down the pike, no matter what, we are going to trust God. How about that?

Including this test today. Again, please pray for me as I take it at 1:00. Julie said she would have the results on Thursday so I am glad we don’t have to wait the whole weekend.

All of this fits right into a famous reply Jesus gave to the disciples in Matthew 16. Here it is: “Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the
driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?’” (Matthew 16:24-26 MSG, emphasis mine). How about that for timing today?

Driver’s Seat God, I trust you today by running headlong into whatever Your plans are for this moment, this day, this trial, whatever. I trust You with this scan and the results. I love You, Lord. Amen.
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God as a Cover

An interesting phrase in the text I read this morning, but before I get to it …

Marilyn and I had another good, long, peaceful day. Again, the following concerns are on our hearts:

--Please pray for Mother’s adjustment to her new setting. In some of the responses I have received on Facebook, some of you have mentioned something like a period of adjustment—very encouraging. We just pray now that it occurs soon.

--Please pray for my hearing. I have a doctor’s appointment today. I’m going to talk with them about it further. Plus, I received a call from a hearing doctor. I have an appointment scheduled for next Tuesday. I feel as if it is continuing to improve, little by little, but still, it is a concern.

--Please pray for the PET scan—day after tomorrow at 1:00—going through the test itself and of course the results. I will say more about this tomorrow. I talked with Betty on the phone yesterday. She had asked about the exact time of the scan. I just wanted to get it out there. Thanks.

--Finally, please pray for Marilyn’s health. She has had quite a load on her taking care of both of us. Pray that she rests at night and that her days are exhausting. We can never neglect the caregiver in our prayers for folks. I never will again.

Thanks so much for allowing me to get those “out there” again.

I was talking with a good brother yesterday about all of this and the word “tools” came up. As believers, God gives us the tools to navigate our way through trials. We have personal tools in our walk with God, but we also have tools on a relational level. And I don’t mean to imply that we EVER USE PEOPLE for our own advantage or for selfish reasons. NEVER.

However, now, whenever I meet a believe who is ambivalent for one reason or another about church, I really like to say, “You may not think you need church NOW, but someday, you will.” We need community for mutual prayer and support always. I will go to my grave with this conviction.

Another major reason why we need church is that all of us need a place where we can go to hear the unadulterated Word of God preached in the power of the Holy Spirit without compromise. When we don’t operate that way, we are hypocrites. Jesus castigated the “religious” folks of his day for just this reason—using God as a covering for evil.

But Jesus put it right back on them. ‘Why do you use your rules to play fast and loose with God’s commands? God clearly says, “Respect your father and mother,” and, “Anyone denouncing father or mother should be killed.” But you weasel around that by saying, “Whoever wants to, can say to father and mother, What I owed to you I’ve given to God.” That can hardly be called respecting a parent. You cancel God’s command by your rules. Frauds! Isaiah’s prophecy of you hit the bull’s-eye: These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it. They act like they’re worshiping me, but they don’t mean it. They just use me as a cover for teaching whatever suits their fancy” (Matthew
15:3-9 MSG).

Lord, thanks for the body of Christ. Let us forever hold up the standard of truth and pray for one another. Lord, it gives me great comfort to know that an army of prayer-ers is praying for us. I love You, Jesus. Amen.
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Reunions Galore!

Sunday is the longest day in the year every time I am not able to go to church. Marilyn and I had a very quiet and calm day around here. I could tell that Marilyn was very tired and needed the rest. But what a long day! Oh, man. I don’t see how people make it through this day without the regular and consistent HABIT of going to church to worship.

I tried to lay low as well, drinking tons of water and hoping that my hearing would improve. I think it has a little, but I am going to talk to the cancer center about it. Please continue to pray for this issue. It is starting to be a concern, but I just can’t but help believe that as I recover from the chemo treatments, it will improve.

Yesterday afternoon, Dan and Michelle called. I love this couple so much. We visited about the day and caught up on some things.

As far as today is concerned, I’m thankful for another day in which I don’t have to go to the cancer center. Again, I am just going to lay low and pour water down myself.

Anyway, one of the common characteristics of the passages I read today in the Solid Life Plan is REUNION. In Genesis 44-45, Joseph finally lets the cat out of the bag, revealing that he is indeed their long lost brother! Wouldn’t you have liked to be a fly on the wall in that room?

In Acts 21, Paul is reunited with the brothers in Jerusalem, but they are worried for his life in the face of angry opposition.

Finally, in Matthew 14, there is a reunion as well. When Jesus lifts Peter up out of the sea, guess what? They walk back to the boat TOGETHER to meet the rest of the disciples! Wow. I love that story—the only time in human history where a man (other than Jesus) actually did walk on water!

Father, I feel we are in one of those times—walking on water times! Once again, I give you my hearing stuff and this scan on Thursday. Take care of both. Thanks for Dan and Michelle. Thank You for the church and everyone who continues to pray. Miracles are what we are asking for and NEED. Thanks for the ultimate REUNION of all believers in our Eternal Home forever someday. Amen.
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Emotions

Yesterday, it took me three times, calling on the phone to reach Mother at Sunrise. It was a little disconcerting, even though I know they are busy there, and one of the times, I called during dinner. So, no big deal.

But every time we talk, she insists on coming home. Marilyn gets the same type of response. Again, it is just hard … she often cries and pleads with us, “All I want to do is go home. That’s it.” Of course, we know it isn’t.

Anyway, thanks again for praying for us in that regard. In spite of everything we know—that she has dementia and she is in a good place—it still pulls on us. And I know all of you understand.

Please also pray about my hearing. It seems to be doing a little better, but it is still an issue. Michelle told me that it would be better on Friday as I continue to drink water and my kidneys improve after the chemo. I’m hoping that things will get better. If not by tomorrow, I will tell them at the cancer center.

Speaking of which—my lab tests went well yesterday. My blood counts are where they want them to be at this point, so I had no need of a transfusion. Marilyn and I were glad to get in and get out of there with a quick appointment. We got home and sat on the back porch most of the afternoon, enjoying the very warm day.

All in all, a good day.

The thing that struck me this morning about the two passages I read in the Solid Life Plan—Genesis 42-43 and Acts 20—were the emotions as Joseph went off to cry as he met his brothers and as Paul and the elders wept, realizing that it is the last time they would see each other. Emotions. Real emotions.

Some in our church circles today would try to quell these as unspiritual or wrong. On the contrary, God made us to be emotional creatures. He uses emotions to move us (the Latin root of the word if memory serves) and to express our love for one another.

The sounds crazy but if I could, I would hug each and every one of you and I would do it with EMOTION. Marilyn and I love our Army of Prayer Warriors and depend on you a lot with all kinds of prayer requests from nursing homes to nausea to hearing problems to … well, anything. We love you for it.

Lord, thank You that we do not walk this pilgrimage alone as believers. I pray that YOU would give person who reads this blog a hug today. Let them know that You love them. Amen.
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Deceptive

I know I am slower than most in picking up things, but I am realizing that how I feel during the day (usually not too bad) is no indicator as to what is happening with the cancer at this point.

To get a true indicator, I need to tell you how I feel at night before I go to bed and in the morning shortly after I wake up—LOUSY.

Based on those indicators and not the deceptive ones during the day, I still have a way to go, but I am heading down, down, down into the “nadir.”

That is the purpose of the doctor visit today. They are going to check where my white blood counts are and if they are too low, they are going to give me a blood transfusion. If you will remember, I somehow dodged that bullet after the first round of chemo. We will see today.

The other thing that is going on is just the fact that I am getting a little “stir crazy” in this house. As a result, yesterday, Marilyn put me in the car with her while she ran some errands. I didn’t get out at any stop. I just sat there. It seemed to help a bit.

I love Joseph’s “get out of jail” story in Genesis 41. What that story teaches me is that—no matter how bleak things seem—continue to serve God and WAIT. I have no idea how long Joseph was in prison under false charges! Imagine that! Then, he just had to wait it out. Finally, at just the right time, God brought his servant OUT.

“Pharaoh at once sent for Joseph. They brought him on the run from the jail cell. He cut his hair, put on clean clothes, and came to Pharaoh. ‘I dreamed a dream,’ Pharaoh told Joseph. ‘Nobody can interpret it. But I’ve heard that just by hearing a dream you can interpret it.’ Joseph answered, ‘Not I, but God. God will set Pharaoh’s mind at ease’” (Genesis
41:14-16 MSG).

Think about it—at just the right time. God rescued Joseph AND used him to save the country. When we wait on God and trust Him, He does great things. THIS is where I am today.

Thanks for this encouragement, Lord, and again, for everyone who is praying as all of us WAIT on YOU. Amen.
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Sometimes, Things Hit Us

Yesterday turned into a hard day because after getting home from CBCI, I threw up several times, but more than that, once again, the reality of where Mother is, hit us both. It is just hard to think of her in that nursing home.

At times, what she says makes a lot of sense—all of which makes things even more difficult. For example, when Marilyn was visiting yesterday, many of the residents were sitting in the main room, working on a craft. Both of us know that my mom was never really into “crafts,” per se. My mom looked at Marilyn and said, “This is a waste of time. Please just take me home. All I want is just to go home and be with you and John.” Oh, man. That is hard to hear.

But we turn things around and thank God (when we are thinking right) for the good care she is receiving there. Plus, one of the other ladies seems to be making an effort to be my mom’s friend—a fact for which we are grateful to God.

I’m sure that every family that has a loved one in a nursing home deals with these emotions. It just seems more pronounced with us, given everything else.

But I am personally grateful to God because, now that my mom is cared for, Marilyn is available to take me to the doctor. I had to go back yesterday to meet with Diana, Dr. Ali’s nurse practitioner. She said that my blood counts were still going down, and she wanted to monitor me more closely. Soooo, I have to back tomorrow, Monday, and Wednesday. At least, though, I don’t have to go down there TODAY.

Anyway, when I got home, I threw up several times. I had thought I was done with nausea, but I guess not.

Well, sorry to ramble a bit—just wanted to let all of you know what is going on with us …

Notice these words of Jesus. He continually had to deal with nitpicking criticism of what He did and when He did it. As for us, in addition to everything else, we are dealing with Satan’s nagging thoughts and critical barbs, in addition to everything else. Again, I don’t think we are the exception.

“There is far more at stake here than religion. If you had any idea what this Scripture meant—‘I prefer a flexible heart to an inflexible ritual’—you wouldn’t be nitpicking like this. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath; he’s in charge” (Matthew
12:6-8 MSG).

Lord, it always comes back to this. I come back to YOU. YOU are in charge of all of this—the nursing home and the nausea—all of it is under your authority. We confidently place our faith and trust in YOU. Amen.
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Julie Cried

Yesterday, we had to go to CBCI for me to get my blood check and to receive a hydration treatment. Since Dr. Ali is on vacation, we met with Julie, one of his assistants.

From the second she laid eyes on me, I could tell that she knew I was really hurting.

I have to tell all of you and words are inadequate at this point, I cannot begin to tell you how bad I felt yesterday. I really can’t even look at myself in the mirror because it seems that I have aged 20 years these past few days.

Julie noticed it and she cried. “We did this to you, John. It is part of the process of breaking things down for this transplant.” I could tell that she really cares, and it does matter.

Julie is a middle-aged woman. She is very thin and slight. I would bet my bottom dollar that she has herself gone through this transplant business.

When we got home, I just seemed to get worse and worse. Finally, about midnight, I got some relief and started to feel a little better but that is relative. My energy is still very low as things continue to go down into the “nadir.”

This is one of those times where all I can do is run to Jesus. This well-known verse in Matthew 11 is a good reminder today: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew
11:28-30 MSG).

Lord, thanks for this reminder. If there were ever a time in my life when I needed You, it is now. Thanks again for everyone who is praying. May all of us—those who are praying and those who are prayed for—learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Amen.
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Touching Base Again

As you can see, these past few weeks have been more about me communicating with you than about me writing.

The truth is that’s about all I have felt like giving you is a few sentences.

Right now, I am dealing with this horrible hissing sound in my ears. It sounds as if am standing right in the middle of a yard with sprinklers all around me.

Plus, my voice seems very muffled. These two issues make it nearly impossible to talk on the phon. So, if you need to contact me, email is the best.

Well, we have ANOTHER doc’s appointment today. We will see what he has to so say.

Oh, and my mom. Marilyn went to see her yesterday. She was doing well, still adjusting to her new environment.

Lord, I continue just to give it to you one day at a time, sweet Jesus.
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The BIG 20

Lost in midst of my struggles having been released from hospital and sent me home, probably prematurely, was some REALLY good news

Before I get to that, (and I hate generic thank you notes, but is is all the writing I feel up to as this point), I wanted to mention how grateful I am for the “crew” the came over yesterday. We HAD a bunch of little projects we just weren’t getting to.

Plus, and this is very hard to admit, pride stood in our way, and it always cloaked in language of compassion but it is still pride, something like this, “Well, we need help, especially now, but I don’t want to buy them and have them drive all the way down … et cetera.” Sounds good, but it is pride. Yes, I did repeat myself three times.

Anyway, we are so grateful for all of you!

Back to the title for today.

At the start of my visit to CBCI for hydration, Dr. Ali came in the waiting room. “Well, John, the step is getting you for a PET scan to determine where things are with your cancer. Then, we will go from there. By the way, has anyone talked with you about possible donors?”

No

After leaving the room, he came back shortly thereafter, “Well, John, good news. In the donor bank, we have ready found TWENTY people that are a match! What? 20! We praise God for this because it allows the transplant folks a lot of leeway in picking a match.

As we were discussing this a rejoicing for my 20, Marilyn and I both at just about the right time, realized that some folks wait for months. My heart goes out to them all.

Lord, thank You so much for those 20 folks for me. I do lift up the others this morning. I lift up the services today. I thank you again for the servants who helped us out yesterday. I love you, Lord. Amen.
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Cooking Up Something Good

Marilyn made a suggestion. It is about 4:45 PM on May 10. “John, why don’t you write your blog NOW. You probably won’t feel like it in the morning.” Good idea. This may be something that I do the rest of the week when I know I won’t be feeling well the next day.

Before I go on, Marilyn is actually NOT the first to offer this suggestion. Frieda shared this idea with me several months ago. Back then, I just didn’t see how it could work. Now, I do.

Anyway, when we got here this morning, every bed was taken on the fourth floor where I stayed the last time. They said, “John, we are just going to get you in on the tenth floor. Then, later in the day, we will move you to fourth floor when someone checks out.”

Evie, my nurse for today, came in about an hour ago. “Well, John, we had some unexpected check-ins today—some new patients that needed to be taken care of. We cannot move you today. So you will be here tonight …” Her voice trailed off. I think she was expecting some controversy.

“No problem,” Marilyn and I answered in unison. She was relieved. “Okay, great, we WILL move you at some point—tomorrow or whatever.” Again, great. No problem.

In the meantime, they have given me my Rituxin treatment. The next drug will be pre-chemo at 5:30. Then, the “real” stuff at 6:30 or so—the start of the chemo drugs.

Let the games begin! Ha. Anything but …

I do seem to be doing better up to this point. But we will see.

One more thing—this is amazing. I first met Chef Luke on the day I was checking out after the first round. He came into my room to introduce himself. My friend, Daniel, had told him about me. He said, “I am the head chef of this hospital and I am changing the paradigm. We are cooking foods that the patients want not just handing them a menu of poorly cooked ‘hospital’ food.” Huh, what?

Luke was just in here “taking my order.” Can you believe it? I’m actually excited about eating in here. I’m anxious to see how he prepares what I have ordered. I believe this is an amazing provision of the Lord. I honestly still can’t believe it.

Well, even though you will get this in the morning, please pray that I can tolerate the chemo well tonight. Again, I am glad they are getting the show on the road. I love all of you. Jesus, YOU are the MASTER CHEF—cooking up ways to show us that You love us and care. I love You. Amen.

P. S. Update from overnight: I slept okay, I guess, for the hospital and feel knocked in the head so to speak, but so far, THANK CHEF JESUS, no vomiting YET. Again, thanks for your prayers.
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The Last Bastion ...

At first, last night, it felt as if I were sitting in some kind of spider’s web, but then, as I touched my hand to my head, there were an inordinate amount of hairs in my fingers—not clumps—just more hair than usual.

Oops. Then, it dawned on me: IS MY HAIR FALLING OUT? Dr. Ali told me it would happen. He was very definite. So far, I’ve been enjoying proving him wrong. Maybe he isn’t after all. Rats!

We will have to see as the next few days unfold.

Ha. This makes me laugh just because a friend commented on it yesterday. He stated, “Wow, John. I half expected you to be bald, but you haven’t lost your hair!” It seems he was just a few hours short of being right.

Anyway, I will see. It doesn’t seem to be all that significant. Maybe just a few hairs are falling out and that’s it. I will certainly let you know and will take pictures if I can see that indeed it is.

We have to check into the hospital today at 9:00, and I hope they get things going.

If this round is anything like the last, I’m going to be pretty sick for the next few days. I hope Marilyn will be able to send out updates, but remember the rule of thumb: if you don’t hear from me, just pray.

And if I turn into “baldy,” I will definitely have her take a photo. Ha! I love you all.

How about this statement from Jesus on the day I am headed off to the hospital: “Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands” (Matthew
10:28 MSG).

Couldn’t be in better hands, Lord Jesus, bald or not. Amen.
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Show on the Road

As much as I dread going back to the hospital tomorrow, I’m glad to get moving on round #2 so that I can be done with it. The potential is this: this next week + in the hospital, could be the last chemo treatment I ever have in my life! How about that?

However, I’ve learned the hard way NOT to bank totally on statements like that or any other expectation. I hope I am done with this round after a week, but if not … I need to be prepared emotionally.

I hope this is my last chemo treatment EVER and they will test me after this to see, but if not … I need to be prepared emotionally. See what I am saying?

Back to the possibility that it is—and I am in remission—then it would be time to start the transplant process.

So, everyone, please pray that this round—round 2—is used of the Lord to put me in remission. Thanks.

Thanks also for praying for my mom. The nurses at Sunrise said she had a good night, the night before, and a good morning when we called to inquire. Marilyn and I are trying to walk a line of being there for her (I am much more limited in doing that than Marilyn, of course) and helping her adjust to her new surroundings. But it was hard not to miss her and think about her all day.

Anyway, we made it through the day. Thanks for continuing to pray for her.

I also had a real struggle NOT being at church yesterday. Missed it greatly. As I told Betty, Patti, and Jim, the other day—ANOTHER difficult thing in a long list of tough things is just not being in contact with the congregation. This sounds weird, but I miss the WHOLE church as individuals and families come to mind often. Oh, well, … I have to turn THAT over to Jesus as well.

The only CONSTANT through this trial and changes and heartbreak is the Lord, of course. I’ve learned to depend on Him more and more, just as Jacob did in all of his travels and difficulties. “Jacob told his family and all those who lived with him, ‘Throw out all the alien gods which you have, take a good bath and put on clean clothes, we’re going to Bethel. I’m going to build an altar there to the God who answered me when I was in trouble and has stuck with me everywhere I’ve gone since’” (Genesis
35:2-3 MSG).

As many of you know, trials have a way of weeding out idols and bringing you face to face with the Only One Who Matters.

Lord, thank You for that You and You alone are God. You answer me in my troubles and stick with me everywhere I go. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. You are perennially THERE. Amen.
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The Strangest, Hardest Mother's Day EVER

It is hard for me to come to grips with the fact that I won’t be able to see my mom on Mother’s Day. The fact is that I haven’t been able to see her for weeks now. With this cancer treatment and the lowering of my immune system, I just can’t risk going into a nursing home, a place notorious for illnesses and viruses.

I do hope to be able to talk with her on the phone today.

I was talking with Al yesterday and found these words coming out of my mouth, “Al, where I am with this disease and severe treatment and the unknowns ahead, it forces me to have to take one day at a time. I have to or I will go insane.”

Al chimed in, “Matthew 6:25 to the end of the chapter is one of my favorite in the whole Bible—very practical wisdom. The truth is that all of us have to live that way or we get into trouble. Today is all we are promised.”

True. So true. I guess I knew this in my head before, but now, the discipline of the Lord has forced it on me.

Back to this situation with my mom, as hard as things are for me, they are ten times as hard for Marilyn. I believe she has done a great job of getting my mom into a good place now. But it is just so hard to see my mom struggling so much.

Yesterday, as Marilyn was leaving to come home, she broke down and cried before one of the nurses who said, “Marilyn, please don’t worry. Go home. We will take care of mom.” Her words were redemptive for Marilyn. But she still struggles. Please continue to pray for her. This is a hard day for her as well.

But I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. From the beginning, as Paul and Barnabas started churches and worked with young disciples, they will clear to warn them about the essence of the Christian life: suffering.

Notice these final verses of Acts 14 in the Message Version: “After proclaiming the Message in Derbe and establishing a strong core of disciples, they retraced their steps to Lystra, then Iconium, and then Antioch, putting muscle and sinew in the lives of the disciples, urging them to stick with what they had begun to believe and not quit, making it clear to them that it wouldn’t be easy: ‘Anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through plenty of hard times’” (Acts
14:21-22 MSG). Yikes. Is that ever true!

However, we are not without resources: “Paul and Barnabas handpicked leaders in each church. After praying—their prayers intensified by fasting—they presented these new leaders to the Master to whom they had entrusted their lives. Working their way back through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia and preached in Perga. Finally, they made it to Attalia and caught a ship back to Antioch, where it had all started—launched by God’s grace and now safely home by God’s grace. A good piece of work” (Acts
14:23-26 MSG). Launched by God’s grace; brought home by grace.

Lord, saved by Amazing Grace and rejoicing in the grace of God after 10,000 years. I pray for Mother today. Give her grace and strength to live in a strange place. I lift up Marilyn today as well. I pray for the church and for Al who is preaching today. All of us—need your grace. Amazing Grace. Amen.
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A Little Better Today

Thanks for praying for me yesterday. I could tell that all of you were. I struggled with anxiety for most of the morning into the afternoon.

When I told the nurse, Janelle, at CBCI when we went for my appointment, her immediate question was, “Are you still taking your nausea medication?” Well, no, as a matter of fact, I had stopped it a few days ago, feeling that I did not need to continue.

Bad decision.

“John, you need to keep taking it even if you don’t feel ‘nauseous’ per se. Just keep taking it.” I think she knows something (more than one thing) that I don’t. There is a connection between nausea and anxiety from a medical standpoint.

So, when Marilyn and I got home, I took my nausea medication and it helped immediately. Humm. Lesson learned.

Anyway, now just trying to prepare myself over the next few days for going to the hospital for round #2 of chemo on Tuesday.

Just another word: Marilyn moved my mom yesterday to her new memory care facility. Although yesterday was a rough day as she started there, we are hoping and praying that she makes the adjustment and even thrives there.

““Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention” (Matthew
7:13-14 MSG). Boy, is that ever true!

Lord, thank You for taking care of us in the ways you and thank You for answered prayer. Today, I do thank You for what you allow in our lives—never easy—but uniquely designed for You to get our total attention. You have mine today, Jesus. Amen.
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Dealing with Anxiety

Dealing with Anxiety

Dear Readers, for some reason, I am really dealing with anxiety this morning. I seem to be confronting it more often as my time for returning to the hospital next Tuesday draws near.

Marilyn helps me (in a lot of ways) but in particular with the reminder that my only responsibility is TODAY. That’s all I need to “worry” about.

Plus, I came to familiar spot in my reading today—the verse that the Lord gave me when I was first diagnosed back in August of 2010.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matthew
6:34 MSG).

Amen. Please pray as Marilyn moves my mom today to another memory care facility. We hope she will be able to stay there for a while now.

Lord, no accidents. Thank You for bringing me to THIS spot in the Word today. Help us we move my mom. Thank You for everyone who is praying. Today. Right now. Breathe. Trust. Amen.
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Kind of Short Entry Today

I didn’t feel all the great yesterday—a bit of a setback, maybe? Who knows? Anyway, I am a little drowsy this morning. I’m having a hard time staying awake, so I am going to give up trying to.

Thanks for your prayers. Still no word on an exact date to move my mom.

Lord, again, I affirm that our times and lives are in your hands. Amen.
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My Most Active Day in a Long Time

Yesterday, I finally felt well enough to leave the house on my own, running a few errands and then racing back, excited about being able to sit out in the sun on our back porch—one of the Chamber of Commerce Spring Days we all love here in Colorado.

One of my errands was to buy Marilyn a birthday present. We celebrated her birthday last night after Marilyn was able to do so with some friends yesterday during the day. It was very thoughtful of them.

All in all, a good day—May 3
rd. I realized I left off another great brother who had a birthday yesterday as well—Pastor Ilamarques Morais—a great brother. If you are reading this brother, I hope you had an awesome day. I love you friend.

Just some nuts and bolts news: a doctor from the new memory care place is coming to assess my mom today. This is part of the reason for the hold-up on getting her moved. This is just a rite of passage. Hopefully, they will approve her.

In the meantime, I am continuing to read the story of Abraham in Genesis—that story includes the stories of his son Isaac and grandsons Jacob and Esau and great grandson Joseph. Let me stop right there. Our lives are not complete, we are not done, until we have passed the legacy of what the Lord taught us onto the next generation.

It is interesting that Isaac adopted the same nomadic lifestyle that his day had. And it was not easy, but Isaac kept on moving, and eventually God brought him to a good place.

One more thing that needs to be said today is that while I am reading about Abraham in my Quiet Time, God is speaking to Marilyn along the same lines out of Luke. The other day, we compared Abraham’s story of putting his forty-year-old son on the altar (Genesis 22) to this statement that Jesus made in Luke: ““Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple” (Luke
14:33 MSG).

As Marilyn said last night, “I believe that through all of this with you and Mother, the Lord is calling us to grow in ways we’ve never done before—to move forward and not look back.”

Lord, this is by far the hardest thing You have ever led us to go through. Give us the grace to lay our most valuable relationships on the altar and leave them there with you. Onward, Christian soldiers! Amen.
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Thank You, Lord, for Marilyn

May 3 is a significant date. Not only is today Marilyn’s birthday, but also it is Shane Hagerott’s and Sam Drayton’s—two very awesome guys whom I love a lot. Happy Birthday to you guys as well.

Many have told me how amazed they are at Marilyn, especially now that she is taking care of two invalids in a family of three. No one agrees with that more than me.

Words cannot encapsulate the pressure that we have been under as a family since my mom had her stroke on March 31, 2016. Things have changed DRAMATICALLY for us. We had had a fairly well established routine and lifestyle, but all of it is different now.

Fast forward to this week: we found out yesterday that my mom is going to be able to move into a new facility. When I receive information about when that will be, I will let you know.

Anyway, the move will mark the fourth one my mom has made since her stroke: to the hospital, to rehab, to her current Memory Care facility, and to the new one sometime soon. Marilyn has coordinated ALL OF THAT—an unbelievable amount of logistical detail and paperwork and done it pretty much on her own. It gives me a headache.

Plus, she has done a great job of taking care of me through my hospital stay. When I was there, I was determined not to be a pain in the neck for her. Ha. It is hard for me! I have to work at NOT being a pain in the neck. I know I was, however.

And she has done great in my care since I’ve gotten home as well.

Back to one statement I made earlier in this blog— “family of three.” I think we have both learned through all of this that yes, as far as blood is concerned, there are only three of us, but in reality, our family is very large, and it includes our church family, the army of prayer, and special friends who have helped both of us out.

One friend in particular, Paula, deserves a shout-out. Both of us are grateful to her because of all the help she has given us in direct care for my mom—she has spent many nights with her—and we deeply appreciate it. Paula, if you are reading this, THANKS A BUNCH!

Lord, from the bottom of my heart, thank YOU for Marilyn—the greatest sister and my best friend in the world. Give her a smile or two or fifty today on her birthday. Thank YOU for our family and all the help and support people like Paula have been. Love you all, from The Pain in the Neck Himself. Amen.
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Near Disaster

One would think that I wouldn’t get into too much trouble just sitting around in this house, right?

Wrong.

Yesterday, the phone rang as I was in the basement doing something. As I ran to answer it, I took a pretty severe fall. I mean, I wiped out! No big deal under “normal circumstances,” but of course, where I am these days is anything but normal.

At first, I was sore in a few places, but as the morning wore on, I realized that my elbow was swelling up to gargantuan proportions. Kind of grossed me out.

Better to be safe than sorry, I called the main number at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute (CBCI) to talk with the on-call doctor. Dr. Tees was the guy. He had actually been the doc who released me from the hospital last week.

I told him what had happened. He asked a couple of questions about my elbow. Then, he sighed, “John, be careful. In the future, just let it go to voicemail and catch it later. You have to be careful.” I was so glad that he saw no urgent need to get my elbow checked out on Sunday. He urged me to monitor it. AND to take care of myself.

It is overwhelming to think about the fact that, with my immune system in its current condition, a minor cut—could cause me to bleed to death. A head cold could kill me. … I can’t think about it, except to be careful.

I have an appointment at CBCI today for a blood test only, but I am sure they are going to want to look at the elbow. It is actually a lot better today.

The Lord spared this IDIOT again.

A couple more things: first, please continue to pray for us as we try to negotiate my mom’s situation. It is just so hard to see or hear her (in my case) in this memory care place. As I mentioned yesterday, we hope to move her again for the last time to another facility, one that is covered by her long-term health policy. We hope she will like the new place a little more.

In the meantime, pray for Marilyn as she sees my mom; pray for me as I don’t. I can’t go near any facility where there is danger of infection. It is just hard not being able to see her. We talk for a few minutes on the phone, but it is not the same.

As this disease started growing again, the Lord had me in the book of Job. I received a lot of comfort from that book. These past few weeks, I have been in Genesis, reading the story of Abraham.

This morning, I came to that famous test in Genesis 22. When God tests us, what is He looking for? Here is what I learned today: He wants to see and know that we love Him more than anything or ANYONE on this planet, including a son for whom he had waited 25 years. I believe that Isaac was a 40-year-old man in this story in chapter 22.

So, think about it: Abe had invested 65 years in this promised child and then God says, “Put him on the altar before me.” In other words, let Me have him. I can’t imagine how tough that is. You parents know. All of us with family know.

I know it tore his guts out, but Abe did it, and this was the lesson he learned about God when he did: “Abraham named that place GOD -Yireh ( GOD -Sees-to-It). That’s where we get the saying, ‘On the mountain of GOD, he sees to it’” (Genesis
22:14 MSG).

I want to be very clear. The lesson is patently NOT the ram in the thicket. The lesson is: in times of trial, the Lord will see. Jehovah Jireh. Application to my family and me? Humm. Amen.
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An Answer to Prayer

First of all, thanks to all of you for praying for me. After a few weeks of trying to eat and continuing to throw up, I was getting very frustrated and much weaker.

However, yesterday, at noontime, I found that I had an appetite. I ate half a sandwich and it went down and STAYED down. What a relief! The same can be said for my dinner as well. I was careful to eat very bland food for both meals—I still can’t taste anything—and it seemed to do the trick. Praise God!

In the meantime, I continue to be grateful to the Lord for these days of reprieve. It is so good just to be home, sitting on my own couch and sleeping in my own bed.

One of the nurses at the hospital coined the term “hospital sleep.” Any of us who has ever been in the hospital or visited anyone there knows that sleep is at a premium. You just don’t get that much of it. The same was true for me.

Every night, somewhere between midnight and 1:00, a nurse came in to do my bloodwork. Even if I had been sound asleep when she entered, I was never able fully to go back to sleep. Then, she usually came back at 3:00 to 4:00 AM.

One of the most difficult things about my previous hospital visit were the dreams and nightmares. Isn’t that weird to say? The same thing over and over. They almost push you over the edge of sanity. I know it is the drugs, but just knowing that doesn’t alleviate one of having to deal with them.

Again, I am reminded that this is severe treatment, heavy duty poison intended to kill cancer cells. And, as a doctor explained, it doesn’t discriminate. It kills a bunch of healthy cells as well.

Yesterday seemed to be a good day for Marilyn as well. She stayed home all day and rested. I was so glad she did this, especially after the very long day she had spent before. Both of us sat here on pins and needles a bit. We expected someone to call from the Memory Care Center to tell us that my mom was not doing well, but, praise God, that call never came. We continue to pray that she would thrive and actually make friends where she is. Will you join us in that prayer? Thanks.

It looks as if we are going to have to move her again in the near future—issues related to the insurance. I will let you know when that happens and we hope that it is sooner, rather than later. When it does occur, I will let you know so that hopefully she can have visitors. That would help her and us out greatly.

Father, thank You for another day. Thank You for answering the prayers of Your people on our behalf. I lift up Al as he preaches this morning and Connor as he leads worship. Take care of Your church today as always. Amen.
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