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A Stroll At Leisure With God

Two Witnesses

What an awesome picture of the church in Revelation 11—the two witnesses!

In the Solid Reading Plan today, one of the readings was from 1 Kings 20 and 21. These chapters tell of the atrocities that Ahab and Jezebel perpetrated as king of Israel, including the theft of Naboth’s property and his subsequent murder. At first Ahab, evil as he was, didn’t think of this, but his “lovely” wife Jezebel challenged him to steal this man’s property. It was a huge travesty of justice.

The Lord appointed Elijah to go and confront the king of his evil deed and pronounce the judgment of God on him.

Anyway, what dawned on me as I read this story, is that most Old Testament prophets worked alone, for the most part. I know that, later on, Elijah mentored Elisha before he passed the prophetic mantle to him. I also remember a statement somewhere in the Old Testament about the “company of the prophets,” but again, for the most part, they worked alone.

Back up a couple of chapters in 1 Kings (I talked about this passage yesterday) and you find Elijah hiding out in a cave, discouraged and ready to give up. This is an easy trap to fall into if you are what I call a “lone ranger” believer.

It is interesting and significant that when the Lord sent out His disciples, he sent them out two by two. In Paul’s missionary journeys, he NEVER went alone.

Why am I saying all of this? Well, two days removed from my resignation as pastor, I realize more than ever that God designed us to be a part of the body of Christ as believers. Marilyn and I are realizing that we need to find a church home and soon. She will be able to go to church, no problem. It will be a challenge for me. I’m going to talk with the doctor about going in late, sitting in the back row, and leaving before the end of the service. This will be very difficult for me to do, but for now, it will be the only way I can go to church, if the doctor allows even this

But back to Revelation 11 and this picture of the church—the TWO (not one) Witnesses. “Meanwhile, I’ll provide my two Witnesses. Dressed in sackcloth, they’ll prophesy for 1,260 days. These are the two Olive Trees, the two Lampstands, standing at attention before God on earth. If anyone tries to hurt them, a blast of fire from their mouths will incinerate them—burn them to a crisp just like that. They’ll have power to seal the sky so that it doesn’t rain for the time of their prophesying, power to turn rivers and springs to blood, power to hit earth with any and every disaster as often as they want” (Revelation
11:3-6 MSG)

The book of Revelation speaks of the persecution of the church—the great opposition the church will face and the power she has at her disposal—the references above recall the ministries of Elijah and Moses. This is even more reason for individual believers to be a part of the body of Christ.

Lord, thank You for this weird time in our lives. For the first time in over twenty-seven years, I will have to be just a church member SOMEWHERE. I thank You for the body of Christ. We need the church and fellowship now, more than ever. Amen.
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The Service Last Sunday

Prior to Sunday, I talked with Dan on the phone. I said, “Dan, I am really having a hard time with resigning. It is a huge struggle for me in spite of the fact that I reluctantly know that I need to do it.” Dan characterized my feelings as grief. I think he was right on target. I’m still grieving…

And he rightly recognized that the congregation, once they heard the news, might be grieving as well. He didn’t mean that comment as a boost to my ego. That isn’t it. I think it is an astute observation about what happens with churches when any change of leadership occurs.

Anyway, we arranged for me to share some things with the church as I resigned. Then, Dan pulled up a chair near the platform, invited me to sit in it, and then asked Bryan to carry a microphone to folks who might want to say something they were thankful for about me.

Several people did share, including Marilyn, who added her thanks to the church. It was very encouraging, but as I sat there, I found it very difficult to keep my emotions in check. When the sharing time was over, I added, “Congregation, thanks again. I am not dropping off the face of the earth. I’m still going to be around.”

At that point, Dan prayed and I just walked down the middle aisle, got my things, and stopped a few moments to hear Connor’s testimony and prayer. Then Marilyn and I slipped out.

I don’t know. I have to tell all of you that this whole thing seems weird. Sometimes I feel as if I am on a different planet. It is just hard to come to grips with it in my mind and heart. This is just one more thing in this trial that it is proving to be overwhelmingly difficult …

In a conversation with a friend yesterday, he told me that it is going to take a while to process everything. I’m sure he is right.

I love this passage in 1 Kings. In fact, this was the text of the very first sermon I preached at Calvary Baptist Church of Englewood in the summer of 1979. Here are some key verses: “Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before GOD. GOD will pass by.” A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before GOD, but GOD wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but GOD wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but GOD wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper” (1 Kings
19:11-12 MSG).

In these crucial days and for the rest of my life, I want to be in a position to meet the Lord and to hear the “gentle and quiet whisper,” or as the KJV puts it, “the still, small voice.”

Lord, thank You for Sunday and Dan’s leadership and the responses of people. This is hard Lord … thank You also for your leadership in my life. I still don’t understand it … probably never will. I choose to be quiet this morning—just to hear your voice. Speak, Lord, in the stillness. Amen.
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Resignation

Yesterday, I resigned as pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Northglenn, after 27+ years of ministry—the only church I have ever served as pastor.

It was (how many times have I said this the past few months) one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

BUT, I believe that this was one of those times that God’s direction found me.

Over a week ago, I alluded to a “momentous” conversation with Dr. Ali, but at that time, I didn’t go into detail. Now, I will.

All along, the doc has been careful not to give me any information prematurely. I have asked about my job before, but I got no real solid answer until a week ago Thursday.

Again, I asked, “Dr. Ali, when can I go back to work?” The answer he gave was shocking. “John, it will be at least six months because you are still on the immune-suppressing drugs. You are/will be very susceptible to viruses and infections. Then, when you do go back to work, you will be very limited. It will take one to two more years for recovery, but even then, you will never be like you were ten years ago.” Gulp. Wow.

He went on to tell Marilyn and me about a patient who is two years removed from transplant who is in the hospital with pneumonia. His story told us that I will always be vulnerable to infection. My new immune system will never be as strong as the one I was born with.

I have to tell all of you that this conversation hit me like a baseball bat, right between the eyes. Up until then, I had thought that it would not be long before I would return to “normal.”

I learned that “normal,” for me, is forever different.

Since then, I have been praying and struggling with what I need to do.

Over these past few months, the church has been so gracious and patient with me, giving me a “leave of absence.” Over the course of two rough chemo treatments, the transplant, and 100+ days of recovery (today is T+123), I have been away from the church since April of 2016. There is no way I felt that I could ask for an extension of the leave of absence.

I believe that this was God’s way of telling the church and me: “it is time to move on.” And, even though it seemed rather abrupt, I felt that I needed to do this yesterday. So, Marilyn and I drove up to First Southern, and I resigned.

It was an awesome service yesterday. I will tell you about it tomorrow.

In the meantime, please pray for the church as Dan leads them in this transition.

Here is one of the verses I felt led to read to the church yesterday: “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NASB).

Lord, again, I thank You for cancer and for the transplant and for this long recovery (not over yet). This was not what I wanted, nor what I planned, but Your plans and purposes are greater than ours. I lift up the church. Thank You for the years You allowed me to serve there. I know You have great plans for the church. For me, this magnificent adventure continues. “What’s next, Papa?” Amen.
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On the Alert

Always on the Alert

Marilyn and I had a very low-key day yesterday. It was good for both of us because we both felt very tired. Perhaps it is because neither of us has been sleeping very well these days. I know I am not.

Once I hit the pillow, my mind starts racing, thinking about everything.

When I don’t sleep very well, I tend to run out of gas mid to late afternoon.

I told them about this at the clinic last week. Courtney expressed concern, “John, sleep is very important to your recovery.” That’s all she said. I’m glad she didn’t ask me if I would like some sleeping pills. I’m just NOT going THERE.

In light of all of this, I thought it was interesting to read a statement from 2 Chronicles in the Solid Life Reading Plan this morning:

“Just after that, Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said, “Because you went for help to the king of Aram and didn’t ask GOD for help, you’ve lost a victory over the army of the king of Aram. Didn’t the Ethiopians and Libyans come against you with superior forces, completely outclassing you with their chariots and cavalry? But you asked GOD for help and he gave you the victory. GOD is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are totally committed to him. You were foolish to go for human help when you could have had God’s help. Now you’re in trouble—one round of war after another” (2 Chronicles
16:7-9 MSG).

Most of us get frustrated when we don’t sleep very well, but unlike us, God doesn’t sleep (Psalm 121:3-4 reminds us of this), nor does He need to! In fact, “God is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are totally committed to him.” Wow! Amen!

I’m so thankful that, when I wake up in the night, I can cry out to the Lord (I don’t need to try to wake Him up!) and He hears my cries and is always on the job, ready to help and rescue us!

Lord, I praise You this morning that You are always on the job, 24/7. I do recommit myself to you today. I lift up the services at First Southern this morning. I pray for Dan and Connor as they lead. Take care of folks who are traveling back home after the Thanksgiving holiday. Amen.
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So Many Changes ... One Who Hasn't Changed

Both of us got to see Mother yesterday. Marilyn brought her out to the front porch of the nursing home. I had found a spot in the sun. The three of us sat there and visited. My mom seemed to be doing a little better. She asked a lot of questions about how I was doing.

When it came time for our visit to end, we looked each other in the eye. She said, “I’m praying for you all the time.” Marilyn and I said the same thing to her.

The holidays will never be the same without her. We anticipate some very rough days ahead.

And yet … the Lord brings encouragement just the time we need it. Over the past couple of months, I have distanced myself from my cell phone. The main reason is that I just don’t feel like talking on the phone or keeping up with texts. I don’t have the energy for it … for some unknown reason. I try to check it at times … I know this is frustrating for folks. I’m sorry about this. Maybe someday I will be able to do it …

Anyway, for some reason yesterday, I picked up my phone just as it was ringing. My caller ID showed an unfamiliar number. I’m getting so many sales calls these days … but, again, for some reason, I answered it. A voice on the other end said, “Yes, can I speak with Pastor John, please?”

Turns out this was a young pastor from northeast Colorado. He had met a guy in our fellowship who told him about my illness. He called to tell me that the guy in our church had really encouraged him AND he wanted to find out more about me so that he and his church could pray for me. When I we finished our conversation, I was very emotional as I thanked God.

Back to the conversation: as we were about ready to end the call, this young man said, “John, as you were telling me about your illness, some verses came to mind. Is it okay if I read them to you?” Sure. Of course. Please.

I think he read to me out of the Message version but I am going to cite them for the NASB: “I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD. How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood. Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, They would be too numerous to count” (Psalms
40:1-5 NASB).

Often, Marilyn and I speak of all the things that have changed in our lives during this past year. The list is long. It is weird, really. The world is just not the same. Nor are we. I am a different person. I’ll never be the same. But praise God! Someone hasn’t changed.

O Lord, thank You for letting us visit with Mother yesterday. Thanks for the phone call from that pastor and the verses he shared. Thank You, Lord, most of all, that you are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.
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In a Hospital or Nursing Home Over a Holiday

One of my vivid memories of my time in the hospital getting those two very rough chemo treatments prior to the transplant was sitting in a little waiting room down the hall from my room. The windows faced south, overlooking one of the entrances to Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Hospital.

I sat there long enough to see dozens of people drive out of the hospital parking garage and head home. I longed to be one of those folks. But I felt so bad that I knew I wouldn’t be, at least for the foreseeable future. This occurred during my first stay. It lasted eight days.

Now, whenever we leave the hospital, I think of those times. I literally feel it in my gut. But I try to remember to thank God that I can leave the hospital.

As painful as that experience was, at least there was a window that allowed one to look outside. During the transplant, I was in a ward where there were no windows, except the one in my room that looked over the roof and into a parking lot. Not a very good view.

Anyway, a couple of days ago, as Marilyn and I were going up the elevator to the waiting room for our appointment at the clinic—the day before Thanksgiving—I thought of everyone who was in the hospital over the holiday. My heart went out to them.

Yesterday, we went to see my mom. For some reasons, I was not able to see her (hopefully I can today). I’m glad Marilyn was able to visit with her.

During the time of her visit, I took a walk (I usually try to do this) around my mom’s facility and around another nursing home that is adjacent to it. The other nursing home has one outside door with a window in it. Yesterday, I saw several folks just sitting in wheelchairs in a long hallway.

I wonder how many of us will be in that “boat” someday? Somehow, the holidays would make it worse.

If and when we are, if we are part of His family, we are NEVER alone and we can cry out to Him as the Psalmist does: “Help, GOD —the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy” (Psalm
130:1-2 MSG).

O Lord, I lift up hospital patients and nursing home residents who are sitting alone looking out a window or in a long hallway. O God, for those who don’t know You, let their experiences drive them to you. For believers, let them know that You are there. Perennially there. Always there. There. Amen.
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No Play-It-Safes

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of you!

I forgot to mention in the blog yesterday that I had an appointment at the clinic. It was in the late afternoon and seemed to take much longer than it usually does. I guess they had a lot of folks there because of the holiday.

Yesterday, Courtney, another one of the doctor’s assistants, came into our waiting room to visit with us. She expressed concern about this BK virus (the one that causes me to go to the bathroom all the time) I have been dealing with since I was in the hospital.

They took more blood, looking for a particular count to see if I am even eligible, but she recommended that I take this particular kind of med that is administered through the catheter. She went on, “John, this may help the BK virus, but the main purpose of it is to build you up a bit and help you avoid any kind of infection. The only thing is that it takes four to five hours to administer it—makes a long day once a month.”

When she said THAT, I was a little resistant at first. I just have no desire to sit around for long periods of time these days. However, as she continued to talk with us about this and urge me to do it (if my counts indicate that I can), I felt more predisposed to it. Again, I don’t want to catch anything and end up in ICU in the hospital for 90 days. Talk about sitting around! Ha.

So, we will see what happens. I will find out next week if I am eligible for this.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I want to share two passages. The first comes from Psalm 125: “Those who trust in GOD are like Zion Mountain: Nothing can move it, a rock-solid mountain you can always depend on. Mountains encircle Jerusalem, and GOD encircles his people— always has and always will. The fist of the wicked will never violate What is due the righteous, provoking wrongful violence” (Psalm
125:1-3, MSG).

Notice also these words of Jesus at the conclusion of Jesus’ famous parable of the three stewards: “He said, ‘That’s what I mean: Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag’” (Luke
19:26, MSG).

I know it sounds like a broken record, but again, these verses in the Psalms remind me that I need continually to trust God. Every week in this road of recovery seems to present a new challenge—something else the enemy can use to cause worry. Unless I choose NOT to listen to him.

One of the misconceptions of the life of faith is that it is a very passive life where one just sits back and lets things happen. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The life of faith is a life on the move, stepping out, risking, “playing the market,” (so to speak), and realizing that obedience always involves faith. Always. This is the life I choose TODAY.

Lord, my heart is full of gratitude. Thank You for your love and mercy and grace. Thank You for CBCI and for using them in my life in significant ways. Where You call me to obey you today, help me not to hesitate to risk. Really, the biggest risk is DISOBEDIENCE. May today—and not just today—be a day of gratitude. Amen.
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Coming to Grips with Aging and Death

One of the things that the doctor said last week has been on my mind “heavily” these past few days. He said, “John, you will never be what you were ten years ago.” Whoa.

This statement blew me out of the water. Somehow, I felt, through this long process of recovery, that I would somehow return to “normal,” whatever that is. His statement impressed upon me the magnitude of what I have gone through these past few months. One could rightfully call it a “life altering event.” Normal is forever different. Somehow, I had lost my perspective of this. I am too close to it. His statement was a slap in the face.

Last night, as Marilyn and I were talking about it, she interjected, “Well, John, you have to remember that, without this transplant, you would probably be dead.” She went on to confess that in August of 2015, when my neck swelled up and I was so sick, that she was worried that I was going to die right then and there.

Again, all of this is very sobering, but really, the truth is, that as each of us age, whether we have cancer or not, none of us will EVER be what we were ten years ago. Right? Aging and all that comes with it, is inevitable and so is death.

This is what “Qoheleth” realizes in the book of Ecclesiastes. “Qoheleth” is the Hebrew word for the main character of the story. This word is translated in various ways, depending on the version. I prefer the translation “seeker” or “quester.” This is a man (maybe it is Solomon; we don’t know) who tries everything in life as he searches for answers. Nothing gives him the fulfillment he is seeking except the fear of the Lord.

Along the way, here are his conclusions about aging and life and death:
“You who are young, make the most of your youth. Relish your youthful vigor. Follow the impulses of your heart. If something looks good to you, pursue it. But know also that not just anything goes; You have to answer to God for every last bit of it. Live footloose and fancy-free— You won’t be young forever. Youth lasts about as long as smoke” (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 MSG).

Over the past few months and years, as I have been in the midst of this cancer pilgrimage, I have been coming to grips with these statements. Frankly, I feel more of a sense of urgency than I have ever felt. Life is so short. “Youth lasts as long as smoke.”

Lord, thank You again for using this transplant to save my life and give me a few more years. Who knows how long? Before the “smoke” is gone, give me grace to live for You, in You, and through You—this is the only thing in life worth living. Amen.

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Floored by Roofers

Pun intended! I mentioned this the other day: because the hailstorm last summer damaged our roof, we found a company who coordinated things with our insurance. Last week, they brought their supplies and deposited them on our roof. I had thought that the work would begin last week, but because of the cold snap we had, it was delayed.

Yesterday, they showed up to begin the work, and immediately I was floored. Why? Well, for one thing, the crew slated to do the work had about twenty guys in it (maybe more). They hit the ground running. By mid-morning, they had torn off all the old shingles. By mid-afternoon, they had a lot of the new shingles already installed.

Marilyn and I went out late afternoon to eat and run a few errands. By the time we returned, it was dark, but this company was still there. They had finished the work except for installing the new gutters! Wow!

Basically, they finished the work in ONE DAY. How impressive! Somehow, this was a huge encouragement to us.

Why do I comment on this? Because this contrasts dramatically with the on-going construction in our home. After several months, it is still not completed!

In addition to everything else that has happened in our lives over the past few months, this has turned out to be an additional “stressor” that we didn’t need. Marilyn and I both can hardly wait to get this done and over with.

Meanwhile, in the midst of everything, we are still called to be faithful. Note the benediction in Jude. I love this! “And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes” (Jude
1:24-25 MSG).

Another passage. After Jesus taught his disciples about prayer with the parable of the widow and the evil judge, He made these comments: “Then the Master said, “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?” (Luke
18:6-8 MSG)

“Persistent faith”—this continues to be the call of God for Marilyn and me through this multi-faceted trial that the Lord has allowed in our lives. Somehow, as we often step back and look at everything, we wonder if we are going to make it.

However, with God on our side—the prayer-answering God—there really isn’t any doubt. Is there?

Lord, thank You for enabling the roofers to finish so quickly. We continue to pray that the other project would be done soon. Please give all of us the “persistent faith” to continue to appeal to Your throne of grace. Amen.
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Soul Prosperity

Soul Prosperity

There is a phrase in a couple of the passages I read this morning that I want to share but first, a few words about yesterday.

For some reason, I just felt very fatigued for most of the day. By mid-afternoon, I could barely keep my eyes open, so I sat down for a while and dozed off to sleep.

Prior to the transplant, when I got home from church, I would normally sit down in front of the television to watch football or golf (depending on the season) and fall in and out of sleep for a few hours. But after the transplant, unless I have a day like yesterday, I find that I don’t want to sit in front of the television. I would rather be up and moving around and taking a walk or sitting on the back porch, anything to enjoy the day.

Of course, if the Broncos are playing, I “tape” the game to watch it later, but why waste a nice day sitting inside? This is just one of the adjustments I have made in my lifestyle on a challenging day like Sunday.

Anyway, I would like to cite two of the passages I read this morning in which the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart. Here is the first: “Don’t shoot off your mouth, or speak before you think. Don’t be too quick to tell God what you think he wants to hear. God’s in charge, not you—the less you speak, the better” (Ecclesiastes
5:2 MSG).

Let me go ahead and give you the second. “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth” (3 John
1:2-3 NASB).

I’m thankful for the reminder that God is in charge. Ecclesiastes reminds us not to make rash promises and not to multiply words in God’s presence. I believe that learning to listen in prayer is a lot more important than giving God our “grocery list,” saying Amen, and we are done. At this point in my life, I’m realizing that my greatest need is hearing from God, having a “listening ear” as Solomon prayed for, more than just about anything else.

Plus, it is just so easy to focus each day on my physical health, while neglecting “soul heath.” Is my soul healthy today? And if it is not, what should I do about it? Those are two very important questions that the Holy Spirit is asking me this morning. Hmm.

Lord, thank You for these two poignant reminders today. I thank You for being in charge of the universe and of me. May today be a reflection to everyone I see of how great You are. Search me, God. If there is anything that is a barrier to “soul prosperity,” please show me today. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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"A Dark and Loveless World"

In an email I received yesterday, this is how a friend describes how he is feeling about things these days given some things that have recently happened in his life—“a dark and loveless world.” Somehow, I can’t get this expression out of my mind. I know he is not alone in this perception. For many people, the holidays are the most depressing time of the year.

Marilyn and I can relate on a lot of different levels. Unfortunately, just about everything we see and hear these days—things that relate to Thanksgiving and Christmas—remind us of Mother. And somehow, it seems that we have already lost her … It is difficult—very difficult—not to be overwhelmingly sad.

In light of this, when we feel we are going down for the count, we are learning to stop right then and there and make the decision to thank God for everything we can think of. And, when we do this, the Lord lifts us up. I’m finding that I need to thank Him several times a day these days.

When I thank Him, my perspective shifts in many ways. One of the things I can’t get out of my mind is the number of folks who are genuinely depressed this time of year. Instead of focusing on myself, I’m asking the Lord to give me eyes to see with a heart of compassion for others. The Lord could use us literally to save lives.

I say that because, a few years ago, there was a rash of suicides at Thornton High School. This school is relatively near the church. It breaks my heart to think of high school students, with their whole lives ahead of them, getting so down that the only thing left for them is suicide. I wish these kids knew Jesus and the Word of God.

I want to share two passages from my reading this morning. Here is the first: “Every God-begotten person conquers the world’s ways. The conquering power that brings the world to its knees is our faith. The person who wins out over the world’s ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John
5:4-5 MSG).

Let me go ahead and quote the second: ““When the Day arrives and you’re out working in the yard, don’t run into the house to get anything. And if you’re out in the field, don’t go back and get your coat. Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms” (Luke
17:31-33 MSG).

As the NASB puts 1 John 5:4, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” The thing that gets me here is verse five. This is no special kind of faith; it is the faith God gives us at the moment of salvation. In other words, this “world-conquering” is available to each and every child of God. This is called living life “on God’s terms,” not ours.

Lord, teach how to be overcomers, how live life on Your terms, not ours, especially this time of year. I pray that we would see no suicides of high school students this year. Save them, Lord. Show them that You are the way, the truth, and THE LIFE. Amen.
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Day T+114: Creative Survival

I just decided to include the number of the day of my recovery this morning … for some reason?? As I indicated when I reached Day 100, I am keeping track of these numbers.

Day 100 was a clear, unmistakable goal. Now, one of my challenges is that, as far as visible, tangible numbers or anything else is concerned, I don’t have a goal out there. Things are much less defined. It is a clarion call for more trust and dependence on the Lord.

Yesterday was a fairly busy day for Marilyn and me, culminating with a trip down to the hospital pharmacy to pick up a couple of prescriptions. As it turns out, there are some medications I am taking that only this pharmacy has the resources to formulate. Most of my other meds, we can pick up at the Walgreens down the street from our house.

The main one we picked up was one of the two medications immune suppressing medications I have been taking since the day I left the hospital. These two meds are call “Tac” and “Rap” for short. I’m still on them. This is one of the things about which Dr. Ali reminded us the other day.

He told us a story of another patient who is at the same stage of recovery that I am. He was doing very well, just as I am. However, right now, he is in the hospital with pneumonia.

This is a sober reminder for me that I must continue to be vigilant, doing everything I can to avoid infection. As time passes, and we enter into full-blown flu season (there are a lot of people sick right now), I must be more vigilant than ever. If I catch a cold, I could end up in ICU in the hospital for 90 days. It is STILL that serious.

On the other side of this, Marilyn continues to say that we must not live our lives in fear. Saying that, however, does not mean that we stop using our brains and being smart. With all of this having been said, I could still catch something and end up in the hospital. Another reason to trust God.

Here are Jesus’ comments after telling the parable of the “crooked manager:” “Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right —using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior” (Luke
16:8-9 MSG).

What a challenge— “using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival.” That is the new goal. We cannot measure this in numbers. We calibrate it in terms of our response of faith (or not) to every challenge we face, day by day, moment by moment.

One would think that after 114 days, I would be beyond concern for catching infections. Nope.

Lord, thank You for bringing me to day 114 in recovery. Thank You for continuing to call us, through the challenges we face, to “creative survival.” Show each of us what this really means as we continue to live in the company of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Momentous Meeting with the Doctor

Yesterday, we had another good appointment at the cancer center. Everything seems to be progressing well. Of course, things are not moving as fast as I would like them. For example, we told the doctor that last week, Ryan and Tina told us that it was time to take out the Triple Lumens Catheter.

Once we said that, we could see the hesitancy on his face. Marilyn asked, “What do YOU recommend Dr. Ali?” He replied, “I think you ought to keep it another month, just to be on the safe side.” Okay. Marilyn and I immediately agreed. No big deal. I guess I should say, “Still On with Ye.”

Anyway, we had a good talk with the doctor who shared some things with us I am still thinking about. I’m not ready to share them in this forum quite yet. Stay tuned. Ha.

We had our first snowstorm of the Fall yesterday. There was a temperature drop of forty degrees from that of the previous day—crazy! I think we got more snow than the forecasters anticipated, but things are slated to warm up today. My guess is that most remnants of the storm will be gone by the end of the day. That is Colorado for you. I love it—when the snow is gone, that is!

One more thing I need to mention: as a matter of fact, the roofers still have not come to start their work. Marilyn received a call late yesterday afternoon. They plan to come on Monday to start their work. Whatever …

There are two passages I came across in the Solid Life Plan this morning. The Spirit is impressing both of them on my heart. “Take a good look at me, GOD, my God; I want to look life in the eye, So no enemy can get the best of me or laugh when I fall on my face.
I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms— I’m celebrating your rescue. I’m singing at the top of my lungs, I’m so full of answered prayers” (Psalm
13:3-6 MSG).

“Full of answered prayers”—that describes Marilyn and me at this point, thanks to all of you who continue to pray for us. I will never take for granted a good visit with the doctor who continues to say I am doing well. Thanks be to God!

Here is the second passage: “But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own” (1 John
3:2-3 MSG).

“The glistening purity of Jesus’ life”—wow! As children of God, we share the life of Jesus, in all of his glory and purity! How could we ever lose? Plus, we have the certainty that Jesus is coming back at any moment and when we see Him, we will be like Him.

Come, Lord Jesus. I can hardly wait. Amen.
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"Off With Ye"

A couple of significant things are happening today. First the weather. From my perspective, this has been the best Fall EVER. October was beautiful. Just about every day in November has set a record for high temperatures—well into the seventies. If we haven’t set a record, we are close to it as far as the latest time in the year for our first snowstorm. Of course, there are those who always say, “Well, John, we need the moisture.”

Those folks should be happy after today. Highs will not get out of the thirties, and forecasters are predicting rain that will turn to snow. So be it. As Marilyn prayed last night, if we thank Him for the very warm weather, we must also thank Him for the snow. Amen.

Back to the warm weather—I continue to thank Him for these warm days simply because they have allowed me opportunity to get out and walk. I no longer try early in the morning—too cold. But I am able to walk mid-morning or early afternoon. Just being outside has been so therapeutic for me.

Anyway, in addition to that, I am getting the infamous “triple lumens catheter” taken out today because I don’t need it any longer. Praise God! Last week, I asked Tina and Ryan if this involved a surgical procedure. They said, “Oh, no, John. Just a couple of tweaks and it is out but you will have to go over to the hospital to get this done. We will schedule it so that this can happen right after your appointment next Thursday (today).” Ok, I say to that, “Off With Ye.”

I am also hoping that today, they will take more steps in tapering my medications. Hopefully this will help with the dry mouth and frequent trips to the bathroom—both are still “issues” for me.

One thing is certain. In addition to Marilyn and every one of you who prays for me (again, I can’t thank all of you enough), there is one more Person: “I write this, dear children, to guide you out of sin. But if anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus. When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world’s. I write this, dear children, to guide you out of sin. But if anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus. When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world’s. Here’s how we can be sure that we know God in the right way: Keep his commandments” (1 John
2:1-2 MSG).

I like Peterson’s translation of the Greek term for “advocate.” Indeed, Jesus pleads our case before the Father, pleading His own blood as propitiation for our sins and the sins of the whole world, but this is possible because He is perennially our High Priest and is on our side as a Friend that sticks closer than a brother.

Through all the ins and outs and ups and downs of my sins and failures and recovery, I’m so thankful that He is THERE.

Jesus, Advocate, High Priest, and Friend, I’m thankful for the forgiveness of sins that is only possible as You plead Your own blood to the Father on my behalf. I’m grateful that You are always there for me—I am in You; You are in me. I love You today. Amen.
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Looking the Other Way

In some ways, I felt as I turned a corner yesterday. Usually, by the time late afternoon/ early evening arrives, I really start to decline. I get a headache; the bones in my legs ache; my stomach is unsettled, even after eating; and several other symptoms. Believe it or not, I think part of the reason for this is still the residual effects of getting off that pain medication.

Last night, however, I had none of those symptoms and I felt great! It was actually kind of weird. It is probably best not to make too much of it unless I string together some days in which this keeps occurring. But it was an encouragement yesterday! And, I will take it.

All of this reminds me of what Rachel, the nurse from Halcyon, the palliative care company, said a couple of weeks ago. I have cited it already. But it bears repeating here. She said, “John, over the past few months you have learned how to be sick; now you have to learn how to be well.” This is actually one of the most profound messages I have ever received. I don’t know where Rachel stands with the Lord, but the Lord has certainly used her.

Anyway, Marilyn and I keep plugging along. I got to see my mom again the other day. We had a very good visit, but we continue to be concerned for her. In addition, Marilyn has not felt well the past couple of days—she just has so much on her shoulders.

It is very easy to get buried in the “stuff” of life here on earth, especially these days, as the holidays approach, but the Apostle Peter counsels against this: “Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life? Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival. The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day—but we’ll hardly notice. We’ll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and the promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness” (2 Peter
3:11-13 MSG).

I definitely want to be a part of the group that is “looking the other way” when this old world comes to an end.

This extended illness along with the fact that my mom is in a nursing home have actually given impetus to the fact that I think about heaven and the return of Jesus more than I ever have. I’m so ready to be done with this human body that gets sick, requires more and more care (getting old is not for cowards, as my mom says), and eventually wears out.

This is going to happen to us all, whether we want to think about it or not …

Lord, thank You for a day when I seemed to feel better yesterday. In the midst of this old world, we wait with eager hope for the day of Jesus’ return and the time when we shed this body and take on our resurrection body to live forever with You. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.
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It is Not Over until It is Over

Ha. I normally try (not very hard) to avoid talking about the Broncos, but yesterday’s game featured an incredible finish that I just can’t get over.

The Saints scored a touchdown with about a minute to go to tie the game. They lined up for an extra point to take the lead. Slam dunk, right? No one in that stadium or watching on TV had any idea of what would happen next.

As the play started, Justin Simmons leaped over all the players on the line! If he had touched any of them in his “leap,” the Broncos would have been penalized. But he didn’t.

He blocked the extra point. That was incredible enough. You NEVER see that! But that was not all.

The ball bounced out to the side of the field and into the grasp of Will Parks. He took off down the sideline, almost stepping out of bounds, to score a safety and give the Broncos the victory in front of a stunned crowd. I was stunned also! Wow!

The Broncos have been on the other side of games like this plenty of times. I’m just glad they won this one.

This confirms Philosopher Yogi Berra’s famous comment: “It is not over till it is over.”

Somehow, I can’t get this incredible play out of my mind. It is a huge encouragement to Marilyn and me.

We had another long day. We were able to get out a bit, though, and that helped A LOT! But sometimes, it just feels as if what we are dealing with right now is just never going to end: my recovery and our mom’s suffering in the nursing home.

But the game is not over yet. This passage in 2 Peter affirms the Lord’s ultimate victory: “So God knows how to rescue the godly from evil trials. And he knows how to hold the feet of the wicked to the fire until Judgment Day” (2 Peter
2:9 MSG).

That statement “evil trials” is intriguing. I’m not sure that term applies to my situation. I believe that God allowed me to get cancer. This was out of my control and choice. Certainly, there is nothing good about the disease, but He has certainly used it in our lives up to this point. I guess the lesson of the “leaper” play applies in our relationship to the Lord.

These days are long and hard, especially Sunday, but God specializes in rescues. “It isn’t over till it is over!”

Lord, I am thankful for this reminder of Your ultimate victory and the rescue of Your people. Give us grace to trust all the way to the end. Amen.
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No Grass Growing Under Foot

Yesterday was a very low key day for both Marilyn and me. For some reason, these past few days, I seem to be having more and more trouble falling asleep at night. Weird stuff. I just can’t figure out why. Also, Marilyn was just thoroughly exhausted. This is no surprise given all the responsibility that is on her shoulders these days. I deal with a lot of guilt over this—I wish I could help her more …

Today promises to be similar. I didn’t sleep very much at all, and I hope Marilyn can rest some today. We will get out some today. That always seems to help.

Anyway, this is just one more challenge the Lord has put in our path. We will trust Him to take care of us, just as we always have.

It did help both of us to get to see mom yesterday afternoon, although it is a mixed bag. We visited on the sunny side of the front porch of the nursing home facility. Once again, she held my hand as we visited.

I say “mixed bag” because it is just so difficult to see her in that place. She keeps repeating that she just wants to come home while Marilyn and I tell her that she is in a good place where people love her and take care of her. She doesn’t seem to understand… It is gut-wrenching for Marilyn and me.

This morning, I came across this intriguing passages from 2 Peter: “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Peter
1:3-4 NASB).

Peter goes on: “So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books” (2 Peter
1:5-9 MSG).

The Holy Spirit says so much through Peter in these verses. The promises are the key to participating in the life of God, but at no time is this a passive life. As we actively obey, we keep moving forward in the purposes of God for our lives.

I’m particularly intrigued by the statement: “No day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience.” Even days when you are tired and exhausted fit into the grand scheme of things. God takes care of it all.

Lord, thank You for this new challenge Marilyn and I are facing, the end of our physical strength brings us to the beginning of Yours. On a typically difficult day—Sunday—we pray that this day will not pass without us receiving a reward as we mature in our lives in You. I pray for the services at First Southern and for Dan and Connor as they lead. We depend on You. Amen.
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Dog Days

This is a term that we typically associate with summer— “the dog days of summer.” By that, we mean a long series of very hot days.

Somehow, this morning, I can’t get that expression off my mind as I associate it with long-term illness and/or recovery. It describes very well how Marilyn and I feel at this point.

Don’t get me wrong. We had a lot of good news from our visit at the clinic this past week, and we have been thanking God for it. We will continue to do so, but when “the dust settles,” so to speak, I realize that I still have a long way to go.

I am still on most of the medications they started me on when I checked out of the hospital. I seem to have more days where I just don’t feel that great as opposed to days when I do. And, I think impatience is an issue: we just want to be done and back to “normal,” whatever that is, although I realize that this transplant has changed me forever. I’m not the same person.

This is a weird set of seeming contradictions, but it is part of dog days. I assume that this is typical for folks.

I have a lot more empathy than I had in the past. I know that I didn’t have much toleration nor did I even try to understand what long-term illness and recovery involved. I found myself saying (under my breath, of course), “Just get over it. What is your problem?” I regret that attitude now.

Anyway, just another part of this trial that the Lord is using to teach us. How about this as a biblical answer for “dog days”? “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does” (1 Peter
5:8-11 MSG).

Here I am griping about my situation, but there are believers here and all over the world that have been suffering intensely for YEARS. They are persecuted. They are in prison. They are going through hard times. And the challenge for all of us: “keep a firm grip on the faith.”

Lord, thank You for this word of rebuke and this challenge. We lift up the “persecuted church.” This term includes all of us here in the States. Thank You again for this trial You are allowing Marilyn and me to go through. Thank You that You have the last word. Yes. Amen.
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A Great Visit at the Clinic

When will I learn that worrying, besides being a sin, is just a waste of time? When will I finally settle this in my mind and heart?

We had a great visit at the clinic yesterday—on so many levels.

First, the scales indicated that my weight was about the same, if not a little higher than last week. After we had been in the waiting room for a while, Tina came in. She seemed very upbeat. Marilyn told her about my concerns for my weight. She replied, “John, you have to remember that your metabolism is working overtime with all these medications and everything that has happened to you. As long as you maintain your weight, it is good.“ She didn’t seem too worried.

When she left, Marilyn looked at me and said, “John, stop weighing yourself.” Ha. She is right. I hope I can just turn this “weight issue” over to Jesus.

Second, Ryan came in to see us. I’ve mentioned him before. He is one of the physician’s assistants (not sure I got his title correct). He greeted us enthusiastically. “John, the reason I was worried about your LDH level is because I was afraid it was indicating a return of your cancer, but since your PET scan was clean, I’m much less concerned about it. I now think it is just a reaction to medication and not as big of a deal.” Okay. Great. Thank You Jesus!

As we left yesterday, Marilyn stated, “You know. I think they were genuinely glad for you.” I agreed. Maybe I am saying this because it has just taken some time for me to get to know them, but it was very evident yesterday: Ryan, Tina, the nurses, and the doctor GENUINELY care about me. I know that it sounds weird for me to say it after all this time, but I finally realized this yesterday. This is another for which I thank Dr. Jesus.

As you can see, yesterday was a huge encouragement all the way around. As Ryan and Tina left, they reiterated, “John, you are doing great!”

PLUS, next week, they are going to take out my triple lumens catheter. How about THAT? Another blessing, proving these verses to be an accurate challenge: “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner” (1 Peter
4:12-13 MSG).

Can’t beat that, can you? Even through difficulty here, God is still at work and THEN we get to go home. I would call that WIN/WIN, wouldn’t you?

Lord, my heart is full of gratitude for all that YOU have done. Thanks again for everyone who prays for us. Thank You for the doctors, the assistants, the nurses, and everyone who works at CBCI. I’m grateful that You have used them in my life. Amen.

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Still Dealing with Weight Loss

No matter what I eat or how much, I am still finding it very difficult even to maintain my weight. I know they are going to talk with me about my weight in my appointment at the clinic today.

I am hoping that today, they will taper at least some of my medications back. I am still taking a lot of pills in the course of the day. My hope is that, when they do this, my appetite will start to come back. Who knows?

Marilyn continues to urge me NOT to worry about this. She is right.

Here is a prayer request. Please pray that my appetite will return and that I will be able at least to maintain my weight. Thanks a lot.

I also need to make a comment on the weather here in Colorado. I can honestly say that this has been one of the most beautiful Falls EVER. We haven’t had a trace of moisture (a concern for a lot of folks). The days have been clear and unseasonably warm.

Most years, by now, we have had our first snow, but this year is going to set a record for the “lateness” of the first storm. Forecasters are predicting that we might get that storm late next week. We will see.

I mention this because it is such a blessing for Marilyn and me. We couldn’t imagine making all the trips down to the clinic we have had to make through snowstorms. We had to go down there to the pharmacy across from the hospital yesterday as a matter of fact. Plus, this beautiful weather has made it possible for me to be outside and continue to enjoy the walks I am taking. I don’t go early morning any longer. It is just too cold, but I try to go mid-morning.

Anyway, I know there are more people in this world than Marilyn and me—ha! But we are thanking God for this blessing.

There is an interesting phrase in one of the passages I read this morning: “If with heart and soul you’re doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you’re still better off. Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master” (1 Peter 3:13-14, MSG).

“Keep your hearts at attention”—what a great phrase! When our troops stand at attention, they are acknowledging authority AND demonstrating that they are ready to go at any minute. When we praise Him through thick and thin, we, as God’s kids are doing the exact same thing.

Lord, thank You for another day. Thank You for these beautiful days You have made for us. We rejoice and are glad and will continue to do this, no matter what the weather does. Thanks for taking care of us. Thanks for being in charge even of appetites and food and weight. I love You TODAY, Jesus. Amen.
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I Got to See My Mom!

Since the doctor gave me permission to see her last week, we have been trying to work it out, but because of a number of factors, it just didn’t. Until yesterday …

Marilyn put a coat on her and covered her with a blanket and wheeled her out to the front porch of the care facility.

I haven’t seen her since July. It was a great reunion.

She immediately started to cry when she saw me. I cannot hug her or give her a kiss yet, but I grabbed her arm and held it.

She seemed to be having one of her better days. The three of us talked about what has been going on with me. At one point, she said, “I know that the Lord would take care of you through all of that, John.” I know she has been praying, right along with all of you.

We were able to talk about some things that are going on right now. At one point she said, “So, can I come home now?” What a question! We affirmed that she needed to stay there and get better.

This is so hard to say … it just tears Marilyn and me up when she indicates that she wants to come home … oh, man. I feel the swell of emotion right now. It is so difficult for both of us to see her there, but we know she is safe and the staff and doctor at this place are taking care of her. But still …

On another topic, I got a text from a college friend early in the day. He said, “John, no matter who gets elected today, we need to pray for him/her according to 1 Timothy 2:1-2.” Amen. As I wrote yesterday, I continue to believe that we need to pray for our nation, as never before and not stop.

Read this descriptive litany, describing us as the people of God: “But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted”
(1 Peter
2:9-10 MSG).

What hits me as I read these verses is that these are NOT descriptions of everyone—only God’s children. As such, we have a huge responsibility “to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you.”

Lord, I’m so grateful that You worked it out for me to see my mom yesterday. I continue to lift her up to You. I continue to pray for our nation today. Help us as the church to live out who You describe us to be: chosen, priests, holy people, Your instruments, and witnesses. No one else will do this. It is on us. Give us grace to do it. Amen.
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The State of Our Nation on Election Day

Over the past several months, I’ve had the opportunity to get perspective on where we are as a nation. Of course, the opinion I am going to share is anecdotal and not very scientific. But I think every pastor and every church leader should have the opportunity to acquire it in the course of his/her life.

As you know, if you read this blog on a consistent basis (and again, thank you for doing so), you have no doubt noticed that Sundays have been flat-out miserable for me these past several months. Without corporate worship and fellowship, they have become the longest day of the week. I actually dread Sundays.

However, I have to keep coming back to the fact that cancer, the transplant, and what is going on now has been orchestrated at the hands of a Sovereign God. He is in control of what is happening with me. Of course.

When my sister and I go out to eat or to run errands on Sunday, we get to observe what most people in this city are doing on that day, and I can tell you that it is NOT going to church. I will throw in a statistic at this point. I have heard that in Colorado, ninety-two percent of our population here is unchurched.

After my experiences, I would say that this stat is too low.

Anyway, as Marilyn and I are out on Sundays, we talk about what it would take to reach these folks who are driving around, jogging, walking their dogs, et cetera. I don’t think the answer is flashy church programs or clever sermon titles. That isn’t going to do it. I honestly think that nothing short of some kind of disaster is the only thing that will capture the attention of lost folks. We are in bad shape. Worse than that …

I continue to pray for spiritual awakening in our country and revival in the church. In the meantime, we need to continue to trust the Lord to do His work in our lives.

“I, Peter, am an apostle on assignment by Jesus, the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four winds. Not one is missing, not one forgotten. God the Father has his eye on each of you, and has determined by the work of the Spirit to keep you obedient through the sacrifice of Jesus. May everything good from God be yours!”
(1 Peter
1:1-2 MSG).

How ominous! “The Lord has his eye on each of us”! How glorious! It is the Holy Spirit who will “keep you obedient through the sacrifice of Jesus.” Wow! It doesn’t depend on us but on Him!

Lord, on this Election Day, the main prayer burden of my heart, besides the fact that Christians need to pray AND vote is: have mercy on us as a nation before it is too late! Have mercy, Sovereign Lord. Amen.
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I Lost It

As I wrote a day or two ago, I believe these next hundred days may be the most difficult EVER. Kind of weird to say, right? I seem to be feeling better and better. I have every reason NOT to struggle but I seem to be more than ever.

I started this transplant process back in April. Since then, I have pushed down a lot of my feelings and emotions as I focused on getting the transplant and then going through the 100-day period.

Last night, all those pent up emotions, all my struggles came out in a blow-up. I am not going into more detail at this point because I am still processing everything that happened and what I need to do.

But there you go.

Last week, a good friend counseled me to ask the doctor, “Now that the 100-day mark is behind us, what goals should I have now?” Good question.

I think the doctor is hesitant to answer that type of question because, at this point, he doesn’t know. I think it all depends on how I respond as he gradually and slowly (not fast enough for me, believe me) takes me off most of these drugs I am taking.

Thus, unlike the last period of time, I’m entering a new era in which there are no goals “out there.” I just have to keep plugging along, and I feel as if I am so tired of this. I just want this whole thing to be OVER.

Well, anyway, I am going to keep praying and asking for wisdom and seeking the face of God, knowing that He is in charge of all of this, as He always has been and loves me, as He always has.

“Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time” (James
5:7-8 MSG).

Right now, I am even a more impatient patient.

Lord, I am crying out to You for help AGAIN. Please give Marilyn and me stamina in this stage of the process. Thanks again for everything You have done. No reason to doubt you NOW. Thanks for everyone who is praying. I love them all. Amen.
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Still, The Same Focus

Yesterday was a great day of celebration. We were thanking God all day long. It is an important milestone, but as I said yesterday, I still have a long way to go. Yesterday, late afternoon, we went to our favorite Mexican restaurant for an early dinner.

We go early because this place gets crowded in the “normal” times people usually eat and we are still trying to avoid big crowds and the perennial danger of infection. I’m still on immune suppressants. But back to Mexican food—this is a category of food that I seem to enjoy eating, and with my need to gain weight, we go to places where I hopefully will eat more?!?

Anyway, enough of that. I want to give you an update: I still have not been able to visit with my mom for several reasons, but we keep working on it and are confident that the Lord will allow it to happen soon. As I indicated before, I will certainly let you know when it does happen. Thanks for continuing to pray for her. Marilyn and I appreciate it greatly.

This proverb reinforces some of the things I was saying yesterday about numbering our days: “Make hay while the sun shines—that’s smart; go fishing during harvest—that’s stupid.”
(Proverbs
10:5 MSG).

Again, and I don’t want to be repetitive, “making hay while the sun shines” is still very heavily on my heart these days.

I have felt led first of all to pray and then to make a list of the things that I feel the Lord is leading me to do in my life. There is nothing magical about it. These are just things I’ve always wanted to do, but as yet, for one reason or another, I haven’t done but I want to do before my life is over.

Honestly, a lot of it involves writing … but I will go into detail about that later.

Another Sunday and not in church—UGH. I was telling a good brother yesterday about how much I have come to dread Sundays. He assured me that I would be back and able at least to go to church soon. I pray that he is right.

Lord, thank You again for bringing Marilyn and me to this point. I continue to pray for my mom. Please help her as she is really struggling these days. I lift up the services at First Southern. I pray for Dan as he preaches and for Connor as he leads worship. I turn around and ask Lord that you keep me focused—one day at a time, sweet Jesus. Amen.

Duh, it just dawned on me that daylight savings is over today—Fall back one hour. I wondered why my clocks were one hour ahead?!?! As you can see, I still need prayer! Ha.
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Day T+100: Number Our Days

“So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, NASB).

Don’t get me wrong. I am rejoicing today and celebrating the fact that the Lord has allowed me to come this far, but even now, I am realizing that what is ahead may be the toughest challenge yet. This makes me more quietly reflective today.

The other day, Rachel, the nurse from Halcyon, made a statement that I have been thinking about for the past two days. “John, for these past seven months, you have learned how to be sick. Now, you have to learn how to be well. Give yourself some time to do this.” Actually, the truth is that I have been sick for fifteen months—I have not felt well for that long.

Now, that I am starting to feel a little better each day, what do I do?

I honestly think the greatest tragedy in the world is for us to waste experiences that the Lord allows us to go through. I am speaking as if I am done with the recovery period from this transplant. I certainly am not. I have also realized that I have a long way to go there.

At the orientation for all this, one of the nurses said, “Plan on the fact that it will take one to two years before you are able to get back to work.” When I heard that, I laughed and said to myself, “Not me.”

Isn’t that prideful? I hate even to admit who arrogant I was about my “health.”

Anyway, the verse that is above has been on my mind these past few days. “Number our days.” What does that mean exactly? I realized that numbering is EXACTLY what this recovery period has FORCED me to do.

I want to tell all of you that I am going to continue to “number my days.” I’m not going to put the numbers in the blog any longer, but I am going to keep track.

Have you ever stopped to think about the significance of the numbers of our lives? When each of us was born, God gave us a number. We don’t like to think about it, but God knew then the EXACT number of days in our lives and each day we live moves us closer to that number.

Numbers are finite and so are we. From Day T+1 of the transplant, I wonder what the number is for me. I wonder how many days I have left. My day could be today. It could be day 105, 328, 491, or whatever.

I hope I have made my point. Most of us live in the dream world of nebulous thinking that we have forever HERE on this earth, but we don’t.

I’ll tell you—numbering days increases the significance and the urgency of life here and now. I want to learn to rejoice in each day. I want live NOW, really live. And, if there is anything that the Lord has laid on my heart to do (and there is plenty), then I need to get to the list NOW.

I was talking with a great brother the other day. He mentioned something he wanted to do when he retires. A few days after our talk, I felt compelled to email him, “Don’t wait until you retire to do what the Lord has laid on your heart. You may not make it to that age. Do it NOW.”

I challenge each one of you to start today numbering your days. You can just start with today as number one and go from there or, if you think about it, it is not that hard to start from your birthday. Go to epochconverter.com. I discovered that June 5 is day 157 of the year. I was born in 1958. In 1958, there were 208 days to go after my birthday. From 1959 to 2015 is 56 years times 365 equals 20440. So, 208 (the remaining days of 1958) plus 20440 plus 310 (the number of 2016 equals 20958. This is day 20958 or thereabouts.

I’m sure someone would quibble with me on my calculations with leap years and so forth. I get that this number may not be totally accurate, okay? But please don’t miss the point.

Lord, I thank You so much for bringing me to THIS day. I give You all the praise and glory for allowing me to live almost 21000 days. I’ve wasted too many of those days already. No more. Thank You for everyone who has prayed and is celebrating with me. I love them all. Please help us not to waste any day, as long as You allow us to live. Teach us how to live.

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” (Romans 8:15, MSG)

AMEN.
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Day T+99: PET Scan Results and No Marching Band

“No trace of cancer,” said Dr. Ali as he read my PET scan report. Praise God!!!!!

He then went on to say, “I have been out of town. I have not looked at the actual pictures yet. I want to do this and then I will show them to all the doctors.”

As he made that statement, I replied, “Oh, okay, but would you or Tina call me and let me know what you discover?” I was thinking, “Does he doubt the written report or what?”

Dr. Ali responded, “No need. You can go with this result.”

I had to pause right at that moment because my heart was ready to burst. I felt like crying and laughing at the same time. It is just one of those times in life …

Later on yesterday, I met with the nurse from Halcyon. She celebrated the results of the PET scan with Marilyn and me. I then asked her about the weight loss. She answered, “Well, we worry about the kind of weight loss you have been having because it usually is an indicator of disease, but if the PET scan shows no disease, then we don’t worry as much.” Again, thank You Jesus.

Back to the meeting with Dr. Ali, he once again expressed concern about my weight. He looked at the record: I have lost about eight pounds since I left the hospital. I weigh 147 pounds. I haven’t weighed this much (or little) since Junior High School, so it still is a concern, but not as much now, with the results of the scan. I’m just going to turn this over to Jesus!

In addition to this, I asked Dr. Ali if I could see my mom. He hesitated. I went on, “We were thinking that we could bring her outside to the front porch of the nursing home and I could visit with her there. Would that work?”

He said, “As long as you don’t go inside, that is fine!” So, this is another HUGE answer to prayer. Again, my emotions were running high with this answer. I have not seen her for months. There has been a lot of flu and sickness at the nursing home, so this may not happen for a few days. But I will certainly tell you when I see her, but in the meantime, PRAISE GOD!

One more thing: I was expecting some huge celebration at the center when I reached the 100-day mark. Balloons. Marching Bands. Billboards. What did I get? Dr. Ali said, “I will see you next week. I still want to see you every week.” He did taper one of my medications, but that is it! Well, okay. So be it. No problem. I’m just thankful for what did happen.

I love this statement from the lips of Jesus. “Jesus said, ‘I know. I saw Satan fall, a bolt of lightning out of the sky. See what I’ve given you? Safe passage as you walk on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the Enemy. No one can put a hand on you. All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you—that’s the agenda for rejoicing’” (Luke
10:18-20 MSG).

Lord, my heart is so full of gratitude for the results of this scan and for the fact that I can finally see my mom. I’m right in line with Your agenda. Thank You for all You have done for me AND for everyone who has been praying. You are a prayer-answering God. “You have done great things; You have done great things; Bless Your Holy name,” as the hymn says. Amen.
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Day T+98: The Worst Headache EVER

Yesterday, late afternoon, I started to get a headache that got worse and worse. The only thing I could do was just go to bed, and even that didn’t help.

I got up for a while, at Marilyn’s urging took some medication, tried to get comfortable, but found myself going back to bed. It took a long time, but eventually, around midnight, I finally fell asleep. What a nightmare!

As I sit here this morning, I am wondering what was going on. My best answer at this point is that the PET scan threw me off my normal eating and drinking regimen, and as the day progressed, it caught up to me. I’m not sick… I just don’t know.

But I am thankful that I feel better this morning. I’m really going to be careful today as I go to the clinic for an appointment later on this morning. Marilyn and I have a lot of questions to ask the doctor.

I had been looking forward to watching Game 7 of the World Series. Even if I didn’t have a headache, I wouldn’t have been able to watch because Comcast, the main cable TV company here in our area, was down. No one around this neighborhood unless they had Direct TV or another provider, was able to watch anything. So, I missed one of the greatest baseball games EVER, because of the worst headache EVER, and the biggest goof up EVER. This can’t be good for business at Comcast!

Last night reminded me that even though I am coming up on the 100-day mark, I still have a long way to go until I have fully recovered.

Normally, this would be very discouraging, but these words from Jesus put things in perspective: “Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: ‘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 good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God’” (Luke
9:23-27 MSG).

Jesus says, “You are not in driver’s seat—I am.” Wow. Jesus is still in charge of transplants, recoveries, headaches, and Comcast.

Lord, thank You for getting me through last night. Thank You for Marilyn and all her help. Thank You that You are still in charge, no matter what. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Day T+97: PET Scan Today

We have to leave for hospital at 6:00. We have to be there at 6:30 to 6:45. On the days I have a PET scan, I’m not allowed to eat anything six hours prior to the scheduled scan. So, if I seem a bit out of it this morning (more than normal—ha), that is the reason.

I know I don’t even have to ask, but please pray for this scan today. This scan will show them if I have any trace of cancer going on in my body. I just pray that they don’t find anything.

Yesterday’s visit to the endocrinologist went well. We met with Dr. Leslie. She looked at all my levels and said that I was doing great.

She focused on bone health. Apparently, that is a concern for two reasons. As you will remember, I have chronicled my mom’s falls and the cracked vertebrae she has experienced. Marilyn and I feel that bone health is a definite issue with her.

In addition, with all the chemo and medication I have taken, bone health is a real concern for me as well.

How does one strengthen his or her bones? Dr. Leslie told Marilyn and me that weight bearing exercise is one of the best ways. Riding a bike and swimming are great aerobically, but these exercises and others like them are not the best for bone health. A little piece of advice there.

Several years ago, Betty told me that, when Seniors fall and break a hip, many times what happens is that they break their hip and THEN fall.

Anyway, enough of my medical advice. Thanks again for praying.

Here is a good word (they are all good) from James: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (James
1:2-4 MSG).

“Don’t try to get out of them prematurely”—humm. Interesting. Food for thought and prayer, especially as I approach the 100-day mark.

Lord, thank You for these tests that show the doctor what is really going on. Again, Lord, I trust You with the results. Thanks for the good visit with Dr. Leslie yesterday. Thanks for everyone who continues to pray. Can’t make it without You or the army of prayer warriors. Amen.
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Day T+96: A Visit to the Endocrinologist Today

Today marks the first of three appointments I have this week in the final week of my first 100 days of recovery. What does an endocrinologist do? I’m not exactly sure. I looked it up yesterday. The brief definitions I read indicate that he or she deals with the glands in the human body.

I think that Dr. Alie just wants to be very thorough in checking out all aspects of what is going on with me as I move into this new phase of my recovery. I’ll let you know what happens.

In spite of all my disparaging comments about Halloween, I see nothing wrong with kids dressing up in a costume. I thought our neighbor’s kids looked awesome last night. They stopped by. Marilyn gave them a lot of candy. We visited a bit and they, along with their folks, went on down the street. They were having a lot of fun.

After they left, we turned out the front lights and closed down for the evening. I don’t think any other children came by anyway.

However, as we were coming home after eating dinner, we did notice that part of the street was blocked off. Many of our neighbors along with their children were having some type of Halloween event. It looked as if everyone was having fun.

Even though much of Halloween seems to exalt the devil, I still believe that other aspects of it have an opportunity to share. Events like the neighborhood party and Trunk or Treat are an awesome way to share. I just wonder if we as Christians can be more involved in our neighborhood stuff, ready to share the gospel?

Well, it is still hard to believe that today is Day 96. Not too many more days to go until the Lord gets me to 100. This has been a very long process—the most difficult period of my life. I’m looking forward to this landmark.

I love this prayer and benediction from the last chapter in Hebrews: “Pray for us. We have no doubts about what we’re doing or why, but it’s hard going and we need your prayers. All we care about is living well before God. Pray that we may be together soon. May God, who puts all things together, makes all things whole, Who made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus, the sacrifice of blood that sealed the eternal covenant, Who led Jesus, our Great Shepherd, up and alive from the dead, Now put you together, provide you with everything you need to please him, Make us into what gives him most pleasure, by means of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah. All glory to Jesus forever and always! Oh, yes, yes, yes” (Hebrews
13:18-21 MSG).

As Marilyn and I are about to make another transition into unknown territory—the days AFTER 100 days—this is a helpful prayer request and testimony. “All we care about is living well before God.”

Lord Jesus, I give you this appointment to the endocrinologist today. I really don’t know what to expect. Thank You again for our neighbors. We love them. At the start of a new month and new season in our lives, by Your grace, we choose to live wisely and well. We need You now more than ever. Amen.
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