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A Stroll At Leisure With God

Day T+95: "You Have Been Booed"

Imagine how shocked I was yesterday morning when I came around to our front yard and noticed that someone had TP’D us! There was toilet paper in the big tree in front of our house and in some of the bushes as well. Our main question still is: who did this?

As we left the house later in the morning to go visit my mom, we noticed a small bag right near our front door that had some candy and goodies in it along with a copied note that said, “You have been booed. Pass this on to someone else. Put this note in your front window so that if someone wants to “boo” you, they will see it has already been done.” (This is a paraphrase of what the copied note said).

We still have no idea who did it, but the note and the bag cast a different light on it. It was just kind of a shock. We are so “out of it” we don’t know quite how to take this. Maybe someone wanted to encourage us?

Oh, well. Marilyn and I are getting used to things happening that we did not expect. We are learning to take things in stride (a little more).

Sundays are still by far the longest day of the week for us. Without church and worship, the day seems so empty. I don’t know how people make it without contact with believers. Corporate worship and just plain old fellowship with the saints is absolutely essential. I’ll never take it for granted EVER again.

Betty called Marilyn yesterday evening to give a report on the Trunk or Treat event. Things went very well. And the pictures I saw on Facebook almost made me want to cry. I’m so thankful for my church family. People in our fellowship looked like they were having fun, all dressed up in their various costumes, with the trunks of their cars full of goodies. It is a huge encouragement to me. I’m glad that we were able to share the gospel of Jesus with some folks in our community.

Today, in my reading, I came across one of my favorite chapters in the Word—Hebrews 12. Notice these exhortations: “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Hebrews
12:1-3 MSG)

It is a challenge. It seems more difficult than ever, but I am going to keep my eyes focused on Jesus, especially during this LAST week of the 100 days. I have three appointments. It is going to be a very busy week. I’ll tell you more about them tomorrow.

Lord, thank You for whoever “booed” our house the next before last. Thank You for the Trunk or Treat event and the folks we reached. Thank You most of all for Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Could not make it one step without You, Jesus. I love You. Amen.
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Day T+94: Where We Are Right Now

First of all, before I get into the topic for the day, I saw the great pictures of Trunk or Treat online, and it looks as if the outreach event at First Southern went well. I will look forward to hearing more about it this week.

Okay, well, yesterday, as Marilyn and I were eating lunch, we received a text from the lady that cuts our dog Joe’s hair. She mentioned that she had found a swollen lymph gland in Joe’s neck and was concerned that it might be something serious.

At the moment Marilyn received that text and read it to me, we both looked at each other. It felt like the straw that broke the camel’s back. We both feel so overloaded that one more thing is just too much. I share that with all of you because that is where we are, and I frankly admit that we need prayer more than ever before.

As it turns out, when we took him to the Vet, she doesn’t think it is serious. So we were glad about that.

Anyway, this isn’t about our silly dog. This is about where we are right now.

After I was released from the hospital, I initially felt, as they 100 days progressed, things would get better and better and easier. Unfortunately, in many ways, the opposite is true.

Now, I don’t discount the good news on the transplant front and getting off that pain med, but I am talking about emotions and stamina and endurance. We are low on those fronts.

Today, I read two passages in the Solid Life Reading Plan with which I can identify. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the
cruel edges of the world” (Hebrews 11:36-38, MSG, emphasis mine).

And the second passage describes the people’s response to Jesus actually bringing a dead man back to life: “They all realized they were in a
place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them. They were quietly worshipful—and then noisily grateful, calling out among themselves, “God is back, looking to the needs of his people!” The news of Jesus spread all through the country” (Luke 7:16-17 MSG).

“The cruel edges of the world” and “a place of holy mystery”—I would say that, for the believer, this is where we really live, especially in this time of year when Satan gets so much press.

Our job is to love God so much that we are radically different from the world, even though we can never “figure God out.” We must continue to pray and to share, just as my church family did yesterday.

Lord, we do cry out to You for help. We need you more than ever. Thank You for the folks who were impacted through Trunk or Treat yesterday. For us as believers, give us the grace to live “on the cruel edges of the world” as we trust You, even in “a place of holy mystery.” Amen.
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Day T+93: 95 Percent

Yesterday, as I wrote this blog, I failed to mention the good news from my visit to the clinic on Thursday.

But before I do, I want to go back to one thing: in the past, whenever my lymphoma re-emerged, there was always some type of swelling somewhere. As of today, I have no swelling anywhere, so that makes me doubtful that my elevated LDH level is due to lymphoma. But that is simply speculation on my part and not worth much of my time to dwell on. I’d rather keep praying and trusting the Lord.

Anyway, back to the visit to the clinic the other day, Ryan, Dr. Alie’s assistant, shared with Marilyn and me the results of the Bone Marrow Biopsy: everything is good. He added, “John, this test notes that your marrow reflects a 95 percent donor-related mark.” Wow. So, a little bit more to go, but it does appear that the transplant “took”! Praise God!

One other thing: Ryan said I could stop using my portable IV. I’m so thankful for this. The constant flow of saline, potassium, and magnesium was only contributing to the BK virus that compelled me to go to the bathroom so often. These past few days have seen the number of trips to the bathroom drop.

However, he was careful to tell me that I need to continue to drink water and lots of it to wash that virus out of my system. I will be glad when it goes away forever. It has been a huge source of aggravation as you can imagine. Enough said there.

Today, in my reading, I came across a familiar verse, one that is appropriate for this election time of year: “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
(2 Chronicles
7:13-14 NASB).

These past few months, as I have been recovering from this transplant, I feel as if I have been an outsider looking out on the world I live in. I feel that our nation is moving now rapidly away from the Lord.

On my walks in the morning in this neighborhood, I notice that more and more folks have decorated their front yards with “ghosts” hanging from trees, gravestones, spider webs, and many other types of Halloween “stuff.” It almost makes me ill.

I’m glad that the brothers and sisters at First Southern, my church family, are having a “Trunk or Treat” event this afternoon. The purpose, of course, is to reach families in the community. Jesus is our nation’s only hope.

Lord, thanks for the good reports I received at the doctor’s office the other day. I lift up our nation to You. Have mercy on us. May we all witness the day when the Lord Jesus Christ is more prominent than Satan and all his paraphernalia. I lift up the outreach event at church today. Use us to save some people. Amen.
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Day T+92: LDH Level and Weight Loss

Yesterday, as Ryan, the doctor’s assistant, left the room, he looked back at Marilyn and me, “John, you are doing great. See you next week.” I wanted to put that statement out there because overall, I am doing very well.

However, two things emerged from yesterday’s doctor’s visit. First, my LDH level is a bit elevated. Ryan explained that it could indicate the presence of lymphoma, but he quickly went on to tell us that there are a lot of other reasons why it is up a little bit. They just want to find out. This is why the PET scan is so important. It will show the presence of cancer or the lack thereof. Of course, I opt for the latter alternative! Ha.

As a matter of fact, they were finally able to schedule my PET scan. It will be next Wednesday.

Second, I always know when Kaitlin, one of the nutritionists, comes into the waiting room, that they are concerned about my weight. As always, she was very understanding about some recent “issues” I’ve been experiencing that could cause weight loss, but as she concluded, she stated, “Well, John, we just want to see you have consistency and no more weight loss, okay?”

As I have been thinking about this, it is hard not to laugh. At no other time in my life has anyone EVER had to tell me to eat more! I’ve never had a problem with eating and eating a lot! Honestly, my appetite has diminished a bit because of everything that is going on with me, but now, I have to force myself to keep eating.

Thus, those are the two issues that are on the table now and yet another opportunity to trust Dr. Jesus.

This morning, in 1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 5, I read about the dedication of the Temple. Here are a few prominent phrases from Solomon’s prayer of dedication: ““Blessed be GOD, who has given peace to his people Israel just as he said he’d do. Not one of all those good and wonderful words that he spoke through Moses has misfired. May GOD, our very own God, continue to be with us just as he was with our ancestors—may he never give up and walk out on us. May he keep us centered and devoted to him, following the life path he has cleared, watching the signposts, walking at the pace and rhythms he laid down for our ancestors” (1 Kings
8:56-58 MSG).

Through all the ups and downs of recovery from this transplant, it is very hard not to get distracted and allow worry to creep in. The answer is to stay “centered and devoted to Him.” As Solomon prays, this means following Him at the pace and rhythm He has established.

Lord, thank You for the doctors and their meticulous care. I turn these two concerns over to You. I choose to continue to stay on the life path You have set before me. Amen.
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Day T+91: No Popularity Contest

Yesterday, I felt pretty good, and I’m so thankful for it. As you know, if you have been reading this blog, I didn’t fare that well over the weekend, but since then, I’ve had a couple of better days and I think I may have gained a pound or two back! Thank You, Lord.

Today, I have an appointment at the clinic later on this morning. It will be interesting to see what he has to say on several fronts. First, will he continue to taper me off some of my medications? Second, will he tell me that it is okay to stop my portable IV that I have been using since I came home from the hospital? Third, I wonder what he is going to say about what lies ahead at day 100 and beyond?

I have many questions to ask him. Perhaps today will be the right time. Who knows? We will see. That’s the physical “stuff.”

On a spiritual level, the Lord is continuing to teach me. I read this passage this morning in Luke 6: “There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular” (Luke
6:26 MSG).

This statement from the lips of Jesus hits close to home. I have lived most of my life for the approval of others, letting them set the agenda for me.

Through this long transplant recovery, I have had a lot of time to pray. I’m learning to go to God first and ask His “opinion” of what I should do and when.

“Your task is to be true, not popular.” Here, I believe that Jesus is saying that we should seek to love truth and live truth, first and foremost.

In the few short years I have left on this earth (no one know how long he or she will live, right?) I want to follow God first and foremost.

Lord, thank You for a good couple of days. I commit this visit to the doctor to You today. Enable us, by Your grace, to seek to hear You first and foremost and to follow You. Amen.
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Day T+90: Always on the Job

Ten more days! Hooray! Way back in August, if someone had asked me if I would make it to the 90th day of recovery, I would have told them that I wasn’t sure. I’m so thankful that the Lord has brought me this far.

I had a pretty good day yesterday, and I’m thankful to the Lord for this as well.

Yesterday, one of the realities of cancer treatment reared its ugly head. During my appointment last week, one of the nurses scheduled me for a PET scan tomorrow. All well and good, right? No. I received a letter from my insurance company over the weekend indicating that they had declined the doctor’s request for such an exam. What?

If I really stop to think about this, it makes me quite angry. Is the tail wagging the dog here or what?

So, I called the clinic and left a message for Tina, telling her that this scan had been denied. She called later on to tell me that she had canceled it, “Just to be on the safe side.” The reason she said this is that, without insurance approval, a PET scan will cost the patient over $8000 OUT OF POCKET. Ah, no way! So, I am still going to the clinic tomorrow, but there is no scan. I’ll just wait to see if they can work it out.

I hope they can. This is a crucial test to determine if there are any signs of cancer or not as I come toward the end of the 100 days.

I want to make this clear: I am NOT depending totally on the doctor for this. I have another Advocate on my side: “Earlier there were a lot of priests, for they died and had to be replaced. But Jesus’ priesthood is permanent. He’s there from now to eternity to save everyone who comes to God through him, always on the job to speak up for them” (Hebrews
7:23-25 MSG).

Ultimately, Jesus my High Priest is in charge here, not the doctors or insurance companies. I am going to continue to put my trust and faith wholly in Him.

Jesus, thanks for allowing another situation that compels me to trust You. I’m not a little frustrated in this situation, but again, I turn things over to you. Dr. Jesus—You are in charge of this whole thing and always on the job—24/7. Amen.
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Day T+89: A Concern

One of the things that happens when you have cancer—and this is something to avoid but we are human—is almost a paranoid perspective on everything in your physical life.

On the other hand, maybe this isn’t all that bad since staying ahead of things helps the doctors and you deal with issues.

I don’t know …

Yesterday, I discovered that I have been losing weight again. I do certainly know that the doctor does NOT want this to happen. So, it is a bit of a concern.

There are a lot of explanations for it: getting off the pain meds; I’ve been taking more and more Magnesium in pill form and my stomach has been upset; and finally, my dry mouth stuff has continued, making it difficult to eat at times. It could be any or all of those things or none of those things. Who knows?

When we go to the clinic on Thursday, I will talk with them about it. In the meantime, I’m going to continue to eat my meals and have my two snacks per day.

We will keep plugging along and continue to trust the Lord.

This morning, in the Solid Life Plan, I read Psalm 9. These verses stood out to me: “The day my enemies turned tail and ran, they stumbled on you and fell on their faces. You took over and set everything right; when I needed you, you were there, taking charge” (Psalm
9:3-4 MSG).

Here is another passage. I am sure you remember this story: “Some men arrived carrying a paraplegic on a stretcher. They were looking for a way to get into the house and set him before Jesus. When they couldn’t find a way in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof, removed some tiles, and let him down in the middle of everyone, right in front of Jesus. Impressed by their bold belief, he said, ‘Friend, I forgive your sins’” (Luke
5:18-20 MSG).

I do have concerns about my health all along, but here is what I have learned: God is there. He is in charge. I can believe in Him BOLDLY. I love that word.

Jesus, thank You for the bold faith You give us. Help us all to exercise it today, because You are there and You are definitely in charge. Thank You for a Bronco victory last night as well. Ha. Amen.
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Day T+88: Reservoir of Strength

Sundays are turning out to be the longest day of the week. Plus, I just did not feel well both days this past weekend. Even though Rachel declared me done with the pain medication, I think I am still withdrawing from it. Hopefully, I’ll be done with it completely soon.

The work on the Denver Water Board field behind our house continues. Every day large trucks rumble down a makeshift road just on the other side of the back fence of our yard. It is very loud and dusty, prohibiting Marilyn and me from sitting on our back porch during the day. Oh, well, just another thing to deal with these days.

Having said that, something hit me yesterday as I peered out of a window of our house at the work. (Thankfully, they don’t work on Sundays; I guess that is one good thing). The work is going on because the Denver Water Board needs to expand its capacity to meet the need for water in a part of town that is growing population-wise.

I’ve seen architect drawings of what they are going to do. They are building three huge cement tanks to put in the ground. Marilyn heard that the day they actually build them, the Water Board will use every cement truck in the city of Denver. Great. Even more trucks!

Anyway, why are they doing conducting this giant project? So that I or anyone in this area can walk up to a faucet in our home, turn it on, and get water.

These huge reservoirs make the delivery of water at the point of need possible.

It finally dawned on me that this is a picture of the Holy Spirit in us. He is a huge reservoir of strength. He dwells in us so that, when we need help, He is right there. We have access to Him; He has access to us.

I really need the strength to keep going on. I know that the 100-day mark is almost here, but I will be honest, as each day passes, it seems more and more difficult, just to keep plugging along.

I am also thankful for the reservoir of Jesus Himself: “While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity and having been announced by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him” (Hebrews
5:7-10 MSG).

Jesus, my High Priest, thank You that You have “been there and done that” in suffering. You understand intimately what all of us are going through. You are the source of eternal salvation. I will trust You and access Your strength and grace for another day. Amen.
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Day T+87: "Don't I Deserve a Pass?"

Yesterday, Marilyn sent me a link. I will attach it to this blog this morning. It is a testimony from Scott Hamilton. Do you know that name? He was the Olympic skater.

Shortly after I was diagnosed, I read about him, and the Lord used his words to encourage me then. Yesterday, God used them to challenge me as never before.

Here is the link. Please take time to look at this. Scott gives some indication that he is a believer. I don’t know. Let’s leave that up to the Lord, but here is what he said:
https://www.facebook.com/peoplemag/videos/10154929851713132/

Oh, man. I just can’t get over this …. Let me explain.

These past few months have been the most difficult trial I have EVER been through. And it is ongoing. Who knows when it is going to end? But when it does, I have every expectation of being cancer-free, “cured” so to speak, but what if that doesn’t happen? It is a very real possibility.

A few weeks ago, the doc mentioned it, “John, this is a very hard cancer to get rid of. It could come back.” In addition to this, every time I go to the clinic, the doctor examines me. He feels my neck. He checks under my arms. He feels my stomach. He is looking for any indication of lymphoma.

Now, why do I say this? As you will see on this video, Scott has been dealing with a brain tumor. This is the third time it has emerged. I just can’t imagine … Makes me want to cry. The second time it came back, he said (ostensibly to God, although he doesn’t put it that way), “What is this? Don’t I deserve a pass?”

This is exactly what I have been thinking after this transplant, getting off the pain med, and this LONG recovery. Doesn’t this earn me some brownie points with God to keep cancer away for a while if not forever? I’ll let you answer that question.

Here is what I am learning: our faith is NOT in outcomes or circumstances or what we think ought to happen or not. Our faith is in God, no matter what happens.

Saying this does NOT mean that I don’t believe He can heal or heal me, but again, what if, in His sovereign plan and purpose, He chooses not to (and believe me, this is hard to think about and write), what will I do?

Notice David’s instruction to his son Solomon before he dies: “When David’s time to die approached, he charged his son Solomon, saying, ‘I’m about to go the way of all the earth, but you—be strong; show what you’re made of! Do what GOD tells you. Walk in the paths he shows you: Follow the life-map absolutely, keep an eye out for the signposts, his course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; then you’ll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go. Then GOD will confirm what he promised me when he said, “If your sons watch their step, staying true to me heart and soul, you’ll always have a successor on Israel’s throne”’” (1 Kings
2:1-4 MSG).

Lord, I lift up Scott and his family as they face cancer for the third time. Thank You for helping me and bringing me this far. Oh, God, my trust is in You. Thank You for all the prayers people pray for me and my family. We trust You for healing, but if not, we will still trust You. Amen.
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Day T+86: A Good and Encouraging Word

I know I have mentioned this on several occasions, but I first came into contact with the term “palliative care” while I was in the hospital. Mike was a nurse that worked with the team. He made the first contact with me. Then, he brought the doctor who was head of it at Presbyterian/St Luke’s Hospital to meet me. She is the one who convinced me that, while I was in the hospital, it was the perfect time to start working on getting off my pain meds.

So, they started the process, but when I was released, they handed things over to an outpatient company called Halcyon. This company sent a nurse to my home. Her name is Rachel. She has been working with me now for a couple of months. I’m so impressed with her. She is knowledgeable and very caring. She has continued the work the hospital team started. She has offered good support and encouragement.

We met yesterday afternoon. One of the questions I asked her was, “Rachel, what should be my reasonable expectations for the time when I am done with this pain drug?”

She replied, “Oh, John, you are done with it now. It is history!” Wow. I can’t tell all of you who grateful to God I am to get this monster off my back. It has been a huge source of pain and suffering the last several months. Yes, I said that. Here is a medication that has the purpose of relieving pain but it ultimately causes it. This is the irony and difficulty with pain medication (of course, I am speaking in general terms here).

Rachel explained that pain meds are helpful and necessary at times, but one should not take them if there is no need to do so.

Well, anyway, back to her statement—I’m so glad she said I was done. I’m still having issues, each and every day, but they seem to be diminishing gradually.

All of this points once again to the character of the One who is ultimately taking care of me through all of this. Notice what Hebrews says about my Doctor: “So, my dear Christian friends, companions in following this call to the heights, take a good hard look at Jesus. He’s the centerpiece of everything we believe, faithful in everything God gave him to do. Moses was also faithful, but Jesus gets far more honor. A builder is more valuable than a building any day. Every house has a builder, but the Builder behind them all is God. Moses did a good job in God’s house, but it was all servant work, getting things ready for what was to come. Christ as Son is in charge of the house” (Hebrews 6:1-6 MSG).

I love these designations about Jesus. He is faithful over God’s house. We are the new temple, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us as believers, if we continue to believe all the way to the end. This is NOT works salvation; it is just the demonstration of true faith.

Centerpiece Jesus, thank You for that word of encouragement from Rachel yesterday. Thank You for all the help You have given me these past few months. I thank You for the help you have given to others as well. I’m naming them now. I love You, Lord. Amen.
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Day T+85: Every Detail of Human Life

Thanks for praying. Yesterday’s biopsy went well, even though today, it feels unusually sore. I figure that I had my sixth or seventh bone marrow biopsy since my original diagnosis in August of 2010. Basically, what it involves is that they cut out a piece of your hip bone and examine the marrow to see if it contains cancer. I already heard that I am going to have another one on day 180. So, get ready, huh? Ha.

The above comment leads me to say that Day 100 is going to be a banner day, but again, I wonder how much is really going to change. I think basically the frequency of visits to the clinic is the main thing. But we will see.

Everything checked out to be okay yesterday. They are concerned about one of my levels, but the blood test yesterday showed that it had leveled out.

Marilyn and I walked out of the clinic thanking God again for His grace and mercy through this whole process. We also thank Him continually for all of you who pray so faithfully. Again, I am so grateful. I know it is hard to keep praying as the days and months get extended. Thanks for doing it, however.

I’m also grateful today for the way that Jesus identifies Himself with His kids. Notice these verses from the Hebrews 2: “It’s obvious, of course, that he didn’t go to all this trouble for angels. It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed” (Hebrews
2:16-18 MSG).

Jesus entered into every detail of human life! Wow. I love that. That means that He can understand and relate to long-term illness and recovery. He has “been there and done that” in the incarnation.

This also means that the incarnation is essential to salvation. He HAD to become human so that He could become our High Priest, understand EVERYTHING we go through, save us from our sins, and give us HELP in the family of God.

I know it is hard for people who have never had cancer or a bone marrow transplant to understand what it is like, but we can all pray to Someone who understands EVERY human condition as our Savior and Lord.

Jesus, I can’t begin to thank You enough for Your incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection—all that You went through in order to be not only my Savior, but also my High Priest. I am not alone. You are with me AND totally understand. Every detail of human life. Amen.
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Day T+84: Surprise! Bone Marrow Biopsy Today

Usually, the folks at Colorado Blood Cancer Institute warn me well in advance if I have a scan or test or procedure. Plus, I get a reminder call the day before.

Yesterday was different. I got the call, but the nurse informed that I was going to have a Bone Marrow Biopsy today. Huh? What? That was the first time I had heard it. In fact, I had to call her back just to make sure of some things and get more information.

We have to be down at the hospital this morning at 7:30.

This will be the third such biopsy I have had in this transplant process. I had one before the transplant. I had one at day 30. I was supposed to have one at day 60, but the doc decided I didn’t need to do it. This is the final one at day 90 (or, in this case, close to it).

We will do the procedure, get some brunch, come home for a bit (I would guess), and then turned around go back down there for an appointment at the clinic at 1:45. It is going to be a busy day.

Thanks to all of you for continuing to pray. My mom seems a little better. Marilyn is encouraged. And I seem to be a little better (although yesterday was a rough day) with getting off the pain medication.

With all this “stuff” going on, there is still only One person I can ultimately count on: “And again to the Son, You, Master, started it all, laid earth’s foundations, then crafted the stars in the sky. Earth and sky will wear out, but not you; they become threadbare like an old coat; You’ll fold them up like a worn-out cloak, and lay them away on the shelf. But you’ll stay the same, year after year; you’ll never fade, you’ll never wear out”
(Hebrews
1:10-12 MSG).

Oops. Got to go!

Lord, I trust You with this biopsy today and all the other stuff that will happen that I did not plan on for the day. You are in charge. Amen.
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Day T+83: God Helps Us Avoid Disaster

I’m not sure if I have shared this before in the blog or not. Forgive me if this is repetitious. But every day when I conclude my time with Jesus and writing, whether I feel like it or not (most days I don’t), I take a walk in the morning. I’ve done this since I was in the hospital, and I try to do it a couple of times a day, if I can.

Let me back up a second. In the orientation for leaving the hospital after the transplant, one of the nurses shared that, among the things that were strictly forbidden, riding a bike was not allowed. Apparently, in the past, one patient fell off his bike, and almost died because he nearly bled to death with all the meds he was taking for transplant. I took heed.

However, a couple of months ago, I almost got hit by a guy on a bike as I was walking. Actually, both times, it was high school kids, whizzing down the side walk, on their way to Thomas Jefferson High School. Both times, they went right by me, without a word. Had I suddenly taken a little bit of a move to the left, they would have hit me. I would have been in the same shape as the guy who fell off his bike—it might have killed me.

But God helped me avoid disaster both times. Praise His Name! He has been doing that for believers for a long time.

In the Solid Life Reading Plan for today, I read a couple of chapters from 2 Samuel and I Chronicles that tell the story of David’s sin of taking a census in Israel. The consequence of his sin was an epidemic that killed thousands of people, but God stopped when David did something: “But the king said to Araunah, ‘No. I’ve got to buy it from you for a good price; I’m not going to offer GOD, my God, sacrifices that are no sacrifice.’ So David bought the threshing floor and the ox, paying out fifty shekels of silver. He built an altar to GOD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. GOD was moved by the prayers and that was the end of the disaster” (2 Samuel
24:24-25 MSG).

It is because of God’s sacrifice of His only Son Jesus that I am saved, first of all, but I am also convinced that because of my relationship (and of course this is true for every believer) He continues to protect me every day.

Get this: even this transplant and getting off this pain med (two very difficult things) are God’s protection. Make no mistake.

Lord, help everyone who is reading this blog today to avoid disaster. Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son. We trust You and love You today. Amen.
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Day T+82: Depending on the Lord VS. Nothing to Show

As I begin to write this morning, I really feel the necessity to ask you to pray for my family and me more than ever.

Yesterday, I realized that I am becoming “antsy.” I’m so ready for this 100 days to end and have more independence. I’d like to be able to see my mom and drive my car and feel more free to be in larger groups of people. My concern is that when the hundred-day mark arrives, not a whole lot is going to change, except the frequency of appointments at the clinic. But there I go again—worrying about stuff that hasn’t happened yet!

All of this brings me back to living one day at a time and trusting the Lord for the rest.

As far as my mom is concerned—Marilyn and I are hoping that the medications that the doctor at the nursing home gave her will help. Over the past couple of weeks, she has become more agitated and upset. As I have mentioned in this blog often before, Marilyn and I are worried about her. It is just so difficult to see her suffer.

The contrast is very striking in the passages I read this morning in the Solid Life Reading Plan. 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18 are identical—a song, a prayer David lifted to the Lord when all his enemies were defeated: “GOD is bedrock under my feet, the castle in which I live, my rescuing knight. My God—the high crag where I run for dear life, hiding behind the boulders, safe in the granite hideout; My mountaintop refuge, he saves me from ruthless men” (2 Samuel
22:2-3 MSG).

I love this song of praise. We are learning about what it means to trust God, day by day and moment by moment. The Lord is solid. We are learning that we can totally depend on Him.

Contrast this with these comments from Paul in Titus 3: “Our people have to learn to be diligent in their work so that all necessities are met (especially among the needy) and they don’t end up with nothing to show for their lives” (Titus
3:14 MSG).

Can you think of anything more tragic than being religious, going to church, doing good deeds, giving the appearance of being a believer and YET, when life comes to an end, having NOTHING to show for all one’s life? Doesn’t this describe the Pharisees?

When we read scripture, all of us are quick never to put ourselves in the category of Pharisee. But maybe we ought to check again. All that I have gone through and now seeing my mom makes me realize that life is so short. Live it all out for God.

All out. Amen.
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Day T+81: Dennis Byrd and Whetting our Appetites

I read a story yesterday that I just can’t get out of my mind. Several years ago, Dennis Byrd was a defensive lineman for the New York Jets (I think I am right about that). On a play, he severely injured his back. The doctors said he would never walk again. But Byrd proved them wrong. He rehabbed himself back to the point where he could walk again. The Jets have since retired his number (90).

Just the other day, however, as Byrd was driving down a highway near his home in Claremore, Oklahoma, a teenager veered to the other side of the road, striking Byrd’s car and killing him.

What a tragedy! After living such an exemplary life, God took him home way too soon.

It is very difficult to understand what God is up to. The circumstances are different with my mom. She is 88 years old, but my sister and I don’t understand why God is allowing her to suffer so much. Lately, she seems to be doing worse in the nursing home. The doctor is going to change some of her medications. We hope that allows her to feel better.

Every time Marilyn sees her, she leaves so burdened and distraught. My mom just isn’t doing well. Please pray for her.

After a good night’s sleep on Saturday night, I had a rough day yesterday. I’m thankful that I slept fairly well last night. Hopefully, I will have a better day today. The past two weeks, as you can tell by reading this blog, have been miserable. I just hope I start to feel better soon. Thanks for praying for me.

I love what Paul says in Titus 2 about salvation and the future: “God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is whetting our appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears” (Titus
2:11-13 MSG).

Eternal life begins the moment we get saved, and what is happening is that our lives with the Lord here are whetting our appetites for the day when Jesus will come back.

You know, this bone marrow transplant and getting off this pain medication, have been two of the most difficult things I have ever gone through. However, I’d most gladly trade them in a second to be with the Lord in heaven forever.

Lord, I do thank You for eternal life and Your imminent return. I lift up Dennis’ family. I continue to pray for my mom. Please relieve her suffering. Help Marilyn as she cares for her. We love You, Lord. Amen.
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Day T+80: God our Nurse

FINALLY. After a couple of weeks of rough nights in which I have slept very little, I finally went to sleep and stayed asleep. I’m so thankful to God and I thank all of you for praying. Man, this pain medication has been tough to get off of. I’m still not done. This morning, I don’t feel that great but at least, I got a night’s sleep.

In complaining about all this to Marilyn last night (I know she is tired of my complaints), she said, “John, you have to keep in mind that sleep is not your major objective at this point. Your first priority is getting off that pain med once and for all.” She is right. She has lived with me and put up with all the pain and agony I’ve gone through with this medication. Some days, all I could do was just sit under a blanket. I was so miserable. It is about time that I am done with this “tyrant” and start to get my life back on Day 80—four fifths of the way there as far as the transplant is concerned. Praise God! I know I still have a ways to go to get off this pain med!

This added challenge along with recovering from the transplant has been the toughest thing I’ve ever gone through. I still have to deal with the two side-effects I have spoken about previously. Dr. Alie told us that they should diminish as they gradually take me off the immune-suppressant drugs. That will be great as well.

Back to Day 80—ten days from now, give or take, I’m going to have another bone marrow biopsy along with a PET scan and then I have an appointment with an endocrinologist toward Day 100.

What happens on Day 100? Well, I don’t really know for sure at this point. A couple of things. First, I won’t have to go to the clinic as often. Second, I’m hopeful they will let me see my mom and drive my car. I’m not sure what else … but I’m fairly confident that they will NOT declare me done and wave goodbye as I drive off into the sunset. Ha.

A couple of quotes from Psalm 41: “Dignify those who are down on their luck; you’ll feel good— that’s what GOD does. GOD looks after us all, makes us robust with life— Lucky to be in the land, we’re free from enemy worries. Whenever we’re sick and in bed, GOD becomes our nurse, nurses us back to health” (Psalm
41:1-3 MSG).

“Meanwhile, I’m sure you’re on my side— no victory shouts yet from the enemy camp! You know me inside and out, you hold me together, you never fail to stand me tall in your presence so I can look you in the eye” (Psalm
41:11-12 MSG).

Lord, thank You for nursing me back to health. Thank You for Day 80. Thanks for a good night’s sleep after days and days of not sleeping. Thanks for Marilyn putting up with me. Thanks for the prayers of Your people. I pray for the services today at First Southern, for Dan and Connor as they lead. I love You, Lord. Amen.
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Day T+79: A Shield for the Only Race Worth Running

Thanks AGAIN for your prayers. I keep thinking that one of these days, I’m going to start feeling better. Yesterday was definitely NOT one of those days. Finally, in the afternoon, I just had to lie down on my bed, and thankfully, I slept a little. When I woke up, I felt a little better. I was so glad for the relief, but then, again, last night was very difficult.

At one point in the night—I bet it was about 1:00 to 2:00 AM—I took a shower. That seemed to calm me down enough to sleep a little bit.

I am going to continue to stick this out. Hopefully, I will feel better in the next few days when all this pain medicine that has accumulated in my body over the past several months finally is gone.

As I have said before, I am done with pain meds unless a doctor prescribes them; I know the side effects; and it is only very temporary. They give temporary relief to pain (of course—that is their purpose), but they are so hard to get off of.

I read two passages today in the Solid Life Plan that I would like to share. The first is from Psalm 3: “But you, GOD, shield me on all sides; You ground my feet, you lift my head high; With all my might I shout up to GOD, His answers thunder from the holy mountain” (Psalm
3:3-4 MSG). I’m glad God shields me on all sides. He protects us, otherwise we would not make it.

The second passage comes from the final chapter that Paul ever wrote, a word to Timothy: “You take over. I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause! Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming” (2 Timothy
4:6-8 MSG).

There really is only one race worth running. As a matter of fact, that is one of the main things that has helped me through the transplant and this current challenge. I believe that the Lord still has work for me to do, and by His grace, I’m going to persevere so that I can be in a position to do it.

Lord, thank You for the shield around me and the race ahead. Give me the grace to trust You and to keep going. These have been very rough days. I count on you to continue to help me get through them. Thanks for everyone who is praying. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Day T+78: A Lot of Trouble

Another rough day and very long night. I hope that weaning off this pain medication does not take too much longer. At times, I feel as if I have the flu—aches and pains and stomach issues along with a headache.

At night, it takes me forever finally to get comfortable enough to sleep. Last night, I didn’t get to sleep until about 3:00 AM.

Having said all that, I don’t feel that bad this morning. But I’m just going to stick with this until this drug is completely out of my system.

Paul used all the troubles that he went through as a teaching moment for his young disciple, Timothy. Here is his counsel:

“You’ve been a good apprentice to me, a part of my teaching, my manner of life, direction, faith, steadiness, love, patience, troubles, sufferings—suffering along with me in all the grief I had to put up with in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. And you also well know that God rescued me! Anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble; there’s no getting around it. Unscrupulous con men will continue to exploit the faith. They’re as deceived as the people they lead astray. As long as they are out there, things can only get worse” (2 Timothy
3:10-13 MSG).

The phrase that stands out in the above passage is “anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble; there’s no getting around it.” How about that?

I’m honestly not sure that what I have been experiencing on a physical level qualifies as the “trouble” that he is talking about it. However, I do believe that He is running my sister and me through a battery of tests. I hope we pass.

Lord, thank You for the tests You are allowing Marilyn and me to take at this point. Sometimes, it seems as if they are way too hard for us. We need Your grace and strength as we depend on you through these very difficult days. I lift up my mom to you. I pray for the church. I trust you to help me get off the medication forever. I love You, Lord. Amen.
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Day T+77: Why I Stick It Out Here

Thanks for your continued prayers for me. These past few days have been among the most difficult I have ever spent, especially at night. I have been sleeping very little.

Yesterday, at my appointment at the clinic, I talked with the doctor about getting off this particular kind of pain medication. The doctor said it takes about six to seven days for most people. He indicated that it takes that long for the drug to get out of one’s system totally.

I will tell you one thing: I’m NEVER going to use pain meds again, unless a doctor prescribes it AND I am thoroughly aware of the side effects. Even then, it will be very difficult for me to go down this road again.

This is another reason why these days have been so difficult. Please pray that it takes less than six or seven days for this finally to get out of my system.

In spite of this, I got another good report at the clinic yesterday. My levels and counts seem to be okay. The doctor modified a couple of my medications. I’m glad Marilyn was there to keep track of all of it.

Today, in the Solid Life Reading Plan, it was an interesting combination of passages: 2 Samuel 11 and 12—the story of David’s sin with Bathsheba; Psalm 51—a Psalm of confession from David; and finally 2 Timothy 2, describing Paul’s rationale as to why he is in prison. This is very fascinating.

“Fix this picture firmly in your mind: Jesus, descended from the line of David, raised from the dead. It’s what you’ve heard from me all along. It’s what I’m sitting in jail for right now—but God’s Word isn’t in jail! That’s why I stick it out here—so that everyone God calls will get in on the salvation of Christ in all its glory. This is a sure thing: If we die with him, we’ll live with him; If we stick it out with him, we’ll rule with him; If we turn our backs on him, he’ll turn his back on us; If we give up on him, he does not give up— for there’s no way he can be false to himself” (2 Timothy
2:8-13 MSG).

Of course, God’s timing is perfect on arriving at this passage today. I sometimes honestly struggle with why the Lord is allowing Marilyn and me to go through everything we are facing right now. I ask God, “Why?” even though I know He is not obligated to give me an answer.

But Paul sees his imprisonment as having a broader gospel purpose. It isn’t just some random event. He is in jail so that others might be saved.

In addition, Paul makes it clear that the way he goes through his troubles has a consequence in this relationship with the Lord, and he learns about the Lord. He learns about his love and faithfulness, “for there’s no way he can be false to himself.”

Lord, thank You first and foremost for the forgiveness I have experienced in Jesus. Thank You for the transplant and this weaning off period of time. Thanks for everything You are allowing Marilyn and me to go through, including having our mom in a nursing home. Most of all, “great is thy faithfulness.” I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Day T+76: Right to the End

Thanks again for praying for me. Last night was very rough. I could not get comfortable in the bed, so I came to this couch. The Lord allowed me to sleep. It is amazing how your body gets used to something and it becomes so difficult NOT to continue to take it.

Last night was significant because I took absolutely no pain pill at all. I’m just hoping I can make it through this time without getting sick or getting a lot of weird side-effects.

As far as the transplant recovery is going, I think I am doing fine, but I will know for us after a visit to the doctor today. This is kind of a weird schedule today. I go in this morning for my labs; I go back this afternoon for my visit with the doctor. Usually, they put those two things together when we head down there but not today. We have to drive down there twice. Bummer. Oh, well …

The first chapter of 2 Timothy is Paul’s challenge to his disciple in the faith. After appealing to his godly heritage, he urges Timothy to be bold in his faith and proclamation: “This is the Message I’ve been set apart to proclaim as preacher, emissary, and teacher. It’s also the cause of all this trouble I’m in. But I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end” (2 Timothy
1:11-12 MSG).

Paul affirms that the Lord is able to take care of the ministry He has entrusted to His servant right up to the end.

This, for me, is the ultimate purpose of this transplant and getting off this pain medication—that I would be able to fulfill everything the Lord has planned for me all the way to the end.

I know I’ve mentioned him before, but one of my professors at the seminary. Someone asked him about retirement. He replied, “No way. I’m going to serve all the way to the end. They are going to have to carry me off the field.”

Lord, thank You for helping me through a very long and difficult night. I trust You to win the victory over this pain pill. Continue to take care of my mom, my sis, and the church. Amen.
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Day T+75: Three Fourths of the Way There

Back a few weeks ago, if anyone had asked me about this day, I would have told them that I never would have believed them. But I am excited! I only have 25 days to go before I finish 100. And then, as I said yesterday, I’m not sure what is going to happen at that point, but we will just keep plugging along.

For some reason, I am very drowsy this morning, so I am going to have to cut this short, but again, I want to thank all the prayer warriors.

I am moving closer and closer to eliminating the pain medicine from my life completely. I can hardly wait for that, even though I know that it is going to be a hard adjustment. The truth is that it already has been difficult.

This verse sums up things nicely for me at this point: “Give us help for the hard task; human help is worthless. In God we’ll do our very best; he’ll flatten the opposition for good” (Psalm
60:11-12 MSG).

The only One I can truly count on for help is the Lord.

Lord, thank You for bringing me to Day 75. Only 25 more to go. I could not have made this were it not for You and all the folks who continue to pray for me. I pray that we all have a great day in our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
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Day T+74: A Very Long Day

Yesterday was one of those days that seemed as if it lasted three months. We miss church, the worship of the Lord and fellowship with other believers. That is the bottom line.

I’m still not sure when I will be able to return. It just depends on what the doctor says.

I feel that I need to make a couple of comments about Day 100 at the point. First, I’m not exactly sure what will happen THAT day, but I am fairly confident that there will be no magic wand that anyone at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute will wave and I will automatically be better. I think it simply means that I will be more on my own. Maybe I will even be able to drive. Who knows?

But as far as church is concerned, I really have no idea when I will be able to return. Sorry about this. This is not much information, but I wanted to give you a heads-up about some of it. Of course, I hope I will be wrong about some of what I just said. We will see.

In the meantime, please continue to pray about this pain medication. This week will be a crucial step forward in weaning off.

Please also pray for Marilyn as she takes care of me and my mom. She continues to worry about my mom. Some days, she seems okay; other days, she does not. I assume that this is fairly typical with people in her situation. Be that as it may, I know it is hard for Marilyn to see her suffering. We are both worried about another fall.

That’s about it for now. Today, I read Psalm 23. Here is one of the last verses: “You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.” (Psalm
23:5 MSG ).

Even though these days are difficult and we miss our church family, the Lord is right there, making elaborate provision for us. We are thankful for Jesus. We thank the Lord for His abundant provisions for us. We praise the Lord for all the good reports up to now. I’m confident He can take care of all the rest. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Day T+73: Straggling Strangers

Marilyn hates it when I mention something profound that she tells me. Well, sorry, Marilyn. I feel compelled to do it today.

As Marilyn and I were riding along in the car yesterday, I said, “I’m really struggling as I ask the Lord why all of this has happened to us.”

We had been talking about my mom. I know I don’t mention her as often as other things, but for both Marilyn and me, we think about her a lot. We pray for her. We are concerned for her in that nursing home. Having to put her there is one of the most difficult things either of us have ever done. I know it is the same for everyone who feels the need to do it.

I also mentioned cancer, the transplant, and now the challenge of getting off this pain medication.

I listed several other things as well before Marilyn stopped me. She stated, “John, I think we could drive ourselves crazy questioning why God has allowed certain things in our lives all at the same time, trying to figure out what the Lord is up to. But I don’t think it is productive or useful.” Amen to that

She went on, “I think it is better to spend our time thanking Him for everything He has done for us. We need to spend more time doing that.” Amen.

My mind immediately went to Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with THANKSGIVING” (NASB). It is amazing how easy it continues to be for me to forget that passage and how often God brings it back to my attention. So, Marilyn and I have committed ourselves to do a lot more thanking and a lot less worrying.

Notice God’s instructions to the people of Israel: “Thank GOD! Call out his Name! Tell the whole world who he is and what he’s done! Sing to him! Play songs for him! Broadcast all his wonders! Revel in his holy Name, GOD -seekers, be jubilant! Study GOD and his strength, seek his presence day and night; Remember all the wonders he performed, the miracles and judgments that came out of his mouth. Seed of Israel his servant! Children of Jacob, his first choice! He is GOD, our God; wherever you go you come on his judgments and decisions. He keeps his commitments across thousands of generations, the covenant he commanded, The same one he made with Abraham, the very one he swore to Isaac; He posted it in big block letters to Jacob, this eternal covenant with Israel: ‘I give you the land of Canaan, this is your inheritance; Even though you’re not much to look at, a few straggling strangers.’ They wandered from country to country, camped out in one kingdom after another; But he didn’t let anyone push them around, he stood up for them against bully-kings: ‘Don’t you dare touch my anointed ones, don’t lay a hand on my prophets’” (1 Chronicles
16:8-22 MSG).

What is this? It is a reminder from the Lord to thank Him for everything He did for this group of “straggling strangers.”

Lord, thank You for Your grace and provision that has brought Marilyn and me this far. Thanks for taking care of my mom. Thanks for the good reports on my transplant recovery. Thanks for helping me through these very difficult days. Thanks for protecting us from the devils and enemies. You are an awesome God. Amen.
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Day T+72: House of Prayer

One of the things I missed about Sunday morning is the opportunity to pray with the guys.

A few years ago, we made the strategic decision to move “prayer meeting” from Wednesday night to Sunday morning. The reason for this is that our Wednesday night crew had declined rather significantly and we thought this would give more opportunity for folks to join in prayer. We were right.

The women have their group. Betty does a good job leading them. The guys started meeting in my office. We always had a good time of sharing with one another and praying.

I’m assuming that these two prayer gatherings are on-going. Last week, Dan texted me to ask if there was anything they could pray for me about. I really appreciate that!

Paul echoes the need for prayer in the church. This is one of my favorite passages:
“The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live” (1 Timothy 2:1-3 MSG).

I believe that prayer is or should be the main ministry the church has. He said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Matthew 21:13, NIV). I certainly commend our church in this regard. Jim, one of our deacons, sends out email prayer requests detailing what is going on in the world. This helps me know how to pray “for the nations.” It is excellent. Thanks a lot, Jim.

Lord, thank you for the prayer ministry of First Southern Baptist Church. I know they are committed to prayer for every request that comes down the pike. I appreciate all the prayers for my family and me as well.
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Day T+71: Nothing is Impossible with the Lord

Yesterday’s visit to the clinic went very well. I’m thankful that things seem to be progressing very well when it comes to recovering from the transplant.

As far as the pain medicine goes, however, things have been a little more difficult. I was okay, but I still did not feel totally on top of things. Thanks for your prayers for me in that regard. We are just going to keep plugging along.

This morning, I have a special request: please pray for Marilyn. All of this—especially visiting mother—is very hard on her.

I love the two narratives that come together in Luke 1. Zachariah and Elizabeth finally experience the joy of having a child later in their married life. Joseph and Mary get the joy of God doing a work in her womb by the Holy Spirit.

At one point in the story, Mary goes to visit Elizabeth and they get to share together what the Lord is doing in each of their lives, especially the fact that the baby in Elizabeth jumps for joy as the two women first meet.

Backing up a bit, as the Lord is encouraging Mary to visit her cousin Elizabeth, he gives her this message: “’And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.’ And Mary said, ‘Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.’ Then the angel left her’” (Luke
1:36-38 MSG).

The Lord used Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy to encourage Mary. And here is the message: “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”

God brought about these two pregnancies out of His mercy and love. He simply decided to bless these two women.

Right now, Marilyn and I are in need of the same kind of encouragement. The load is heavy right now as we pray for my mom, deal with all the construction going on in this house, and trust God to help me with all the details of recovery. This is especially true for Marilyn.

Lord, I am truly grateful that nothing is impossible with You. Please give us the grace and strength to continue on with what you have put on our plate for now. On some days, it seems as if it is too much, but we know it isn’t. You can take care of everything, anything. Nothing is impossible with You. We love You Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.
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Day T+70: Strenuous Wholeness

It is hard to believe that, by God’s grace and mercy, I have arrived at Day T+70. I have an appointment at the clinic today—my only one of the week. So, it will be interesting to see how that goes.

Part of what is going on right now is that the doctor is reducing the medications I am taking that suppress my immune system. I am looking forward to see some of these weird side-effects that I have mentioned simply go away—I hope. Ha. That is what they have told me at least.

As far as weaning off the pain med is concerned, I’m still working at that. It has been a lot more difficult than I ever would have imagined. In a few days, they are going to stop it altogether. I will let you know THAT day. It will be interesting to see how my body reacts at that point. I will let you know.

As far as my mom is concerned, Marilyn told me yesterday that she aches all over as a result of her fall but she seems to be okay. I tell you: I’m so thankful that the Lord has enabled my mom to be so resilient. When I think of all the falls she has had ….and yet, she keeps on going.

I am looking forward to see her sometime very soon. The doctors have given me no time frames, but I hope it isn’t too long after the 100-day recovery period.

The Psalmist echoes what I think is most important in these days ahead: “Wait passionately for GOD, don’t leave the path. He’ll give you your place in the sun while you watch the wicked lose it. I saw Wicked bloated like a toad, croaking pretentious nonsense. The next time I looked there was nothing— a punctured bladder, vapid and limp. Keep your eye on the healthy soul, scrutinize the straight life; There’s a future in strenuous wholeness. But the willful will soon be discarded; insolent souls are on a dead-end street. The spacious, free life is from GOD, it’s also protected and safe. GOD -strengthened, we’re delivered from evil— when we run to him, he saves us”
(Psalm
37:34-40 MSG).

I love these clear instructions: “keep your eye on the healthy soul, scrutinize the straight life; there is a future in strenuous wholeness.” As I near the end of the 100-day period, I believe these instructions are more pertinent than ever. Just because the “official” time will be over, Lord willing, it will NOT mean that I can just go wild and crazy. I’m going to keep on believing in Jesus and running to Him.

Lord, thank You for bringing us to this point—70 days! Wow! Thank You. Thank You for everyone who is praying as well as the doctor and the nurses. I pray for the visit to the clinic today. I pray that everything continues to check out. I also continue to trust You to help me get off this pain med. Thanks for helping mother and Marilyn. I love them. I love You. Amen.
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Day T+69: An Update on My Mom

Thanks for praying for my mom. Apparently, she got up in the night before last and fell, hitting her head on an end table. When the attendants found her, there was a lot of blood. So, they called an ambulance and my sister.

When she arrived at the ER, they stitched up her head and ran some tests on her. They all showed that she was okay. Marilyn got her back to the nursing home. We both went to see her late yesterday afternoon. As I sat in the car and prayed, Marilyn found her. She was still doing fairly well, except she was sore.

We are just very thankful that her injuries were not worse. Thanks so much for praying for her. It is very comforting to know that people do indeed pray when we ask. Thanks so much.

Today, one of the passages I read was Psalm 22. If you remember, Jesus quoted the first line of this Psalm on the cross. It is a Psalm that details suffering:

“I’m a bucket kicked over and spilled, every joint in my body has been pulled apart. My heart is a blob of melted wax in my gut. I’m dry as a bone, my tongue black and swollen. They have laid me out for burial in the dirt” (Psalm
22:14-15 MSG).

This is a very graphic description of what Jesus went through for us, but the Psalm ends on a note of triumph: “Our children and their children will get in on this as the word is passed along from parent to child. Babies not yet conceived will hear the good news—that God does what He says” (Psalm 22:30-31, MSG).

So, in spite of Jesus’ suffering on our behalf, He won the victory for us on the cross. God proved His faithfulness.

I’ll tell you that this whole situation with my mom has really upset Marilyn and me. We are praying that the folks at this nursing home will do a better job of keeping track of her. Of course, we understand that they can’t watch her 24 hours per day, but still ….

The Lord continues to take care of me, even though I haven’t felt that good the past couple of days myself. I continue to trust Him.

Lord, thank You for taking care of my mom, preventing further injury. I lift her up to you today. Again, I affirm that You are best doctor in the universe. We continue to trust you with my mom and with me and with everyone reading this blog who needs Your touch. I love You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Day T+68: A Shift of Gears and My Mom

Last Sunday afternoon, Marilyn and I realized that neither one of us had any record of an appointment at the Colorado Blood Cancer Institute on Monday, one of my customary days to go. So, I called and left Tina a message.

At about 8:00 the next morning, the phone rang. It was Tina. “John, you only have one appointment this week. You are doing so well that we are cutting the appointment down to once a week. You will be coming on Thursday this week. Have a great day!”

I was in shock a little bit, but I was glad to accept this new arrangement. Marilyn was glad also when I told her about this new arrangement. Praise God!

I also wanted to tell all of you that I had a pretty good day#3 on my pain med. I took another dose last night, but if all goes as well, I have a pretty good idea that after tomorrow night, I will not be taking it all. I will be done. Hopefully. We will see what Rachel, the palliative nurse says, when she comes to visit me this afternoon. I will let you know.

All of this is good news, and I want to pause here, and thank Jesus as well as all of you who are praying for me. Thanks a lot.

Matthew 26 tells the story of Jesus’ final moments in the Upper Room and in the garden before the Roman soldiers lead him away to the cross. “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what you want?” (Matthew 26:39, MSG).

Hey everyone, Marilyn just got a call from the nursing home. My mom has had a fall and hit her head so an ambulance came to take her to the hospital. Marilyn just left to be with her. Please pray for her and for Marilyn and for the doctors as they take care of her.

Lord, thank You for all the good reports over the past few days. Now, I ask that you would take care of my mom. Help Marilyn as she drives down to the hospital right now. I place this whole situation in your hands. Amen.
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Day T+67: How to Live; How Not to Live

First of all, I want to thank all of you for praying for me. I had a lot of apprehensions about this past weekend. Believe me. It was no cakewalk but it wasn’t as rough as I thought it would be as I continue to work at getting done with this pain medication forever. I’m so grateful to the Lord for this. And I believe that this will be a huge part of my recovery for the transplant as well.

Please continue to pray because the plan is to be totally DONE with it this week. Again, I don’t expect it to be easy, but after the way the Lord helped me this past weekend, I am not expecting it to be that difficult. We will see. In addition to the prayers (the number one source of help), I’m also thankful for Halycon and Rachel the nurse who comes to the house to talk me through the next steps. Having this support has made all the difference in the world.

I have an appointment at the clinic today. I trust that all my counts and levels are continuing to be good. The Lord gets the credit for that as well.

In two passages I read this morning, there is a stark contrast. First, notice this description of David as he assumes the throne and control of the kingdom: David took up residence in the fortress city; that’s how it got its name, “City of David.” David fortified the city all the way around, both the outer bulwarks (the Millo) and the outside wall. Joab rebuilt the city gates. David’s stride became longer, his embrace larger—yes, GOD -of-the-Angel-Armies was with him!” (1 Chronicles
11:7-9 MSG).

This is what I would love to have folks say about me as I get older: “his stride became longer, his embrace larger.” The natural tendency is to pull in one’s haunches, as it were. I want to learn how to let the Lord use me in more expansive ways and enable me to love people more and more as Jesus loves them through me.

As I say that, I remember a wonderful Christian woman I met at a nursing home where I preached every week in my final two and a half years at Baylor. Everyone called her Mrs. C. She always looked me in the eye, told me she loved me, and encouraged me in my preaching. I’ll look forward to seeing her when I get to heaven.

The contrast to this longer stride and larger embrace life is the “play it safe” character in Jesus’ character. His master gave him $1,000 and he buried it in the ground like one would bury a corpse. The Master was NOT happy: “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest’” (Matthew
25:26-27 MSG).

The Master called this man’s behavior “criminal”—living a cautious life. What an insult to the One who invested salvation in each of us!

Oh, Lord, expand my stride and embrace today. Let me be an active investor of your kingdom in others. Thank You for all the help You gave me over the weekend. Thank You for everyone who is investing prayer in me. Let me share Your life with others today. Help me be a better witness of your grace at the clinic today. Amen.
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Day T+66: Staying with It

First of all, I want to thank all of you for praying for me. I was concerned that yesterday was going to be a rough day as I wean off this pain medication. It was not easy. Don’t get me wrong, but it certainly was not as difficult as I had expected. In fact, I felt pretty well for most of the day until late afternoon.

Please continue to pray today. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Again, even if things become quite painful and difficult, I am not going to stop. I’m going to forge ahead.

Besides all of this, I feel as if I am doing fairly well. Again, I attribute this to answered prayer. Thanks again.

One of the chapters I read this morning in the Solid Life Reading plan is Matthew 24. I this chapter, Jesus talks about how life on this planet will be immediately prior to His return.

“Jesus said, ‘Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities, claiming, “I am Christ, the Messiah.” They will deceive a lot of people. When reports come in of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history; this is no sign of the end. Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Famines and earthquakes will occur in various places. This is nothing compared to what is coming” (Matthew
24:4-8 MSG).

Jesus goes on: “Staying with it—that’s what God requires. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry, and you’ll be saved. All during this time, the good news—the Message of the kingdom—will be preached all over the world, a witness staked out in every country. And then the end will come” (Matthew
24:13-14 MSG).

There are two things that stand out in these passages: avoid false doctrine AND continue to follow the message of Jesus all the way to the end.

We shouldn’t worry because He is going to take care of us, no matter what is going on, even weaning off pain medication. Even then.

Lord, thank You for helping me with this very difficult challenge of getting off this medicine. Thank You for my family. Thank You for everyone who is praying. Thank You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Day T+65: A Tragic End

Yesterday’s visit to the clinic went fairly well. I got to meet a new physician’s assistant. His name is Marcello. He is from Torino, Italy. He has only been on the job at CBCI for a month.

I continue to be fascinated by the people CBCI hires and brings in. They are all very competent. Marcello is no exception.

After examining me, he observed that my Graft versus Host Disease rash has returned in a couple of places. He didn’t seem too concerned. He urged me to continue to use the cream, feeling confident that I would get better in a couple of days.

In the meanwhile, this is a big weekend as it pertains to weening off my pain medication. Please pray for me in that regard. It should be interesting. I hope the Lord enables me to do it without too many side-effects.

I honestly can’t think of a more tragic figure in the Bible. Saul had everything going for him at first, but then he disobeyed the Lord. This was the beginning of the end for him:

“Saul died in disobedience, disobedient to GOD. He didn’t obey GOD ’s words. Instead of praying, he went to a witch to seek guidance. Because he didn’t go to GOD for help, GOD took his life and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.” (1 Chronicles
10:13-14 MSG).

This is so abrupt—because he disobeyed, God took his life and turned the kingdom over to David.

For each of us in our lives, the Lord has given us a stewardship of responsibility. He has given us a job to do. If we don’t fulfill it, He will find someone who will. This is a very ominous prospect.

Lord, I continue to pray for my mom. She is having such a hard time in the nursing home. I lift up Marilyn as she visits her. Take care of both of them. Please help me this weekend to get off these pain meds for good. I need your grace and strength in that regard. We love You, Lord. Amen.
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