A Stroll At Leisure With God

Day T+64: Strengthening Oneself in God

There is an interesting phrase in one of the passages I read this morning. As a matter of fact, it has always stumped me a bit.

Here is the context of the story: while David and his men were away, the enemy Amalikites raided Ziglag (David’s home along with that of his fellow soldiers and their families) and took everything, including wives and children. When they saw this destruction, here is how they reacted:

“David and his men burst out in loud wails—wept and wept until they were exhausted with weeping. David’s two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail widow of Nabal of Carmel, had been taken prisoner along with the rest. And suddenly David was in even worse trouble. There was talk among the men, bitter over the loss of their families, of stoning him. David strengthened himself with trust in his GOD. He ordered Abiathar the priest, son of Ahimelech, ‘Bring me the Ephod so I can consult God.’ Abiathar brought it to David. David strengthened himself with trust in his GOD. He ordered Abiathar the priest, son of Ahimelech, ‘Bring me the Ephod so I can consult God.’ Abiathar brought it to David” (1 Samuel
30:6-7 MSG).

The phrase is repeated twice in the passage above: “David strengthened himself with trust in his God.” What does this mean exactly? How can David or anyone strengthen THEMSELVES?

There is a bit of a clue in the passage. David asked Abiathar to bring him the ephod so that he can consult with God and find out what to do. I need to do some research to find out exactly what the “ephod” is, but I think the point centers around David making a choice to consult with the Lord in prayer.

It is very obvious that David is in bad shape. Everyone has lost everything, including their families, and they are not very happy with David, unhappy enough that they are on the verge of stoning him to death. So, David prays to the Lord and this gives him the strength to take the right course of action.

This has been one of the biggest lessons that Marilyn and I have been putting into practice lately. These past couple of weeks have been very rough. Marilyn has been struggling with her visits with my mom who is having a very difficult time—more difficult by the day. She is so miserable. We are both concerned.

Plus, even though all my counts and levels and reports at CBCI continue to be good, I have just not felt well as I have been dealing with this pain medication. Getting off it has been very difficult. Most days I don’t feel well. Both of us are learning that our main source of strength is praying together about everything. When we do, the Lord intervenes with grace and stamina.

Lord, why would we ever think that we could go through all of this or any of it without calling out to you. Sometimes things seem so overwhelming that the devil makes sure that you don’t even think of prayer. Thanks for helping us with this and for everyone who continues to prayer even when we lag in it. We love You Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.

Day T+63: Moving Mountains

I felt better yesterday than I have in a long time. I praise God for this! Over the past several weeks, I honestly just haven’t felt that well, day after day. I trust that the good days will continue to start to outnumber the bad.

I am continuing to take the medicine for pain, even as I ween off of it. Plus, Dr. Alie keeps on modifying my transplant drugs. It is a moving target.

I also spent a lot of time with Marilyn sitting in the car as she ran errands. It was a beautiful day, and I was just glad to be outside.

Anyway, in the Solid Life Plan for day, I came to Matthew 21. Jesus makes some dramatic statements about the kingdom:

“But Jesus was matter-of-fact: ‘Yes—and if you embrace this kingdom life and don’t doubt God, you’ll not only do minor feats like I did to the fig tree, but also triumph over huge obstacles. This mountain, for instance, you’ll tell, “Go jump in the lake,” and it will jump. Absolutely everything, ranging from small to large, as you make it a part of your believing prayer, gets included as you lay hold of God” (Matthew
21:21-22 MSG).

I’m so grateful for all the instances of answered prayer that I have experienced but especially over the past few days. Thank you for Rachel and palliative care. Thank You for Dr. Alie, Tina, and all the very capable personnel at CBCI.

I continue to pray for my mom. I lift up my sister as she visits with her. It is very hard on her. I also lift up Marilyn with all the responsibilities that are on her plate right now.

These are mountains and by faith, we ask You to cast them into the sea. Move them out of our way forever. I am laying hold of you, Lord.

Lord, thank You for these awesome promises in prayer. I honestly don’t know what to do except cry out to you for help. Please help us, Lord. Move the mountain. We trust You to do so, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day T+62: Deeply Moved

Thank you for your prayers for me these past few days as I have tried to ween off this pain medication. In some ways, it has been easier than I expected; in other ways, it has been more difficult.

I have had to take some other medications in order to “bridge” the pain, and of course, those meds have their own side-effects.

The lesson here: I am never going to start any medication in the future without knowing two things. First, I want to be aware of the risks. Second, I want to have “the end game” clearly in sight. Once I finally get off this med, Lord willing, I am never doing this again.

As far as the transplant recovery is concerned, the doctors told me Monday that I am continuing to do well. Again, without going into too much detail, some medicines they are tapering down. This is good news. Thanks for your prayers in all of this.

In addition, thanks for praying for Rowan and continuing to do so. I won’t repeat everything I said yesterday, but I can’t imagine what he is thinking and what he is going through.

No matter what we face or what we go through, we can count on the mercy of the Lord. In Matthew 20, two blind men sitting beside the road called out to Jesus. The Bible says that the crowd told them to be quiet. They must have been very loud and boisterous. But they did not stop. In fact, they got louder.

“Jesus stopped and called over, ‘What do you want from me?’ They said, ‘Master, we want our eyes opened. We want to see!’ Deeply moved, Jesus touched their eyes. They had their sight back that very instant, and joined the procession” (Matthew
20:32-34 MSG).

One of the difficulties of long term illness (and I know this from personal experience on the other end as a pastor) is that it tends to get rather “old” after a while. I don’t blame people for this, but after a while, they just tend to forget. But I am so grateful that the Lord NEVER forgets us. Our illnesses “deeply move” Him.

Jesus, thank You for the fact that You continue to be there for us long after the “crowds” just want us to shut up and be quiet. Thank You for helping me get off this pain med and continue to recover. I lift up Rowan again today. Give this young man grace and strength. Thank You for the prayers of your people. I love You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day T+61: An Update on Rowan

In case you may have forgotten, Rowan is a young man I mentioned several weeks ago. He had been looking for a transplant and finally found one.

But not long ago, I received news from my friend Karen that his body had rejected the graft, and so he has to start totally over with a new bone marrow transplant. The procedure will include chemo after the transplant.

This young man has been through so much. I can’t imagine how he must feel right now—he and his family.

If you would like to get more information, do a search on Facebook by typing in “Rally for Rowan.”

I really don’t know what to say about this … my heart breaks for him. When Marilyn shared this information with me, I was in a state of shock for a couple of days.

Being in the hospital nineteen days was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but now, it looks as if Rowan is facing another extended hospital stay of 60+ days.

Please pray for him.

Here are Jesus’ comments about the rich young ruler. Remember that story?

“As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom. The disciples were staggered. ‘Then who has any chance at all?’ Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it’” (Matthew
19:23-26 MSG).

Lord, I lift up this brave young man to you. Please take care of Rowan. Give him strength. Help his family as they go through this ordeal with him. The only chance any of us has is to trust You. Enable us to do so. Amen.

Day T+60 Simple and Elemental

Day 60! Hooray! Thank the Lord! I am 3/5’s of the way there, maybe even closer. A few days ago, the doctor talked about giving me another bone marrow biopsy as well as a PET scan on day 90. As I was speculating about what that meant, Marilyn said, “John, I wouldn’t get too carried away. I would still count on the recovery being a hundred days. Then, if indeed it is ninety, you won’t be too disappointed.” She is right AND she knows me very well. So, we will see.

In the meantime, again by God’s grace, I am inching closer and closer to the end of this recovering period. And none too soon, by the way.

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful Fall day, but again, I missed corporate worship and the fellowship of the body of Christ.

Before we had lunch yesterday, we stopped at the nursing home so that my sister could visit my mom, and she said that a worship service was going on. Apparently, the Lutheran church right down the street leads it every week. We were glad finally to find this out. Actually, my mom was not in the service. She was in one of the offices of one of the nurses. She was not having a good day.

Marilyn has decided that she is going to attend a service one of these Sundays and make sure Mother is there, if she feel up to it.

I like Peterson’s translation of a passage I have often struggled with, seeking to understand its meaning. Here it is: “For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, ‘I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me’” (Matthew
18:2-5 MSG).

What does it mean when Jesus urges us to “become like a child?” Peterson’s translation gives some insight. It means becoming “simple and elemental again.”

All through this process with my health concerns and with those my mom is facing, I have to fight trying to figure out what is going to happen in the future. This is pointless speculation. Being “simple and elemental,” like a child, means simple trust each and every day AND leaving it at that. The Lord will take care of the rest.

As I child, I NEVER worried about how my parents were going to take care of me. It was just an innate trust type thing. THAT is what Jesus is talking about, I believer.

God, give me the grace to approach you in a simple and elemental way, like a child. I don’t believe this means that we shouldn’t pray. So, I lift up my mom. Thanks for the church that leads worship there. Thank You for bringing me to Day 60 in my recovery. I continue to lift up two sisters in the Lord dealing with health issues. I love You Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.

Day T+59: Theresa

Yesterday, the Lord answered one of our prayers in a big time way.

Marilyn was visiting my mom, and as they were talking, one of the nurses in this memory care unit invited my mom and sister to join her along with some of the residents at a table.

As soon as they arrived, Theresa began singing hymns, one after another from memory. She would pause every once in a while to read some scripture, but then she would go on and sing some more. She was essentially leading a worship service.

Marilyn participated; my mom did a little. But, all I can say is WOW. Praise God!

It makes both Marilyn and me very sad that as a general rule, there are no Christian services in this nursing home. One Sunday afternoon, when Marilyn was there, a man stood up to lead the group in the singing of hymns. I believe that one other time, Marilyn witnesses a Christian worship service, but that is about it.

So, we were both so thankful to hear about what Theresa did yesterday. It seemed rather spontaneous. She just did it and tried to involve as many residents as possible.

I’m fairly determined that when I get through my 100 days of recovery that I am going to ask if I can lead a service in this nursing home to the memory care patients. We will see what happens.

It makes me want to weep to think of this dear woman leading worship out of the overflow of her vibrant relationship with the Lord. Marilyn and I pray that something she sang or read in the Word would encourage Mother. She has been having such a hard time lately.

Listen to the message of the angel to the disciples as they stood on the Mount of Transfiguration: “While he was going on like this, babbling, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and sounding from deep in the cloud a voice: ‘This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him’” (Matthew
17:5 MSG).

This is the need of the hour—to worship the Son and to listen to Him. I’m so glad for Theresa giving my mom that opportunity. Most of the time, when Marilyn visits, they are playing Elvis songs over the loud speaker. Elvis is a famous singer, but I would much rather have a Christian sister sing hymns and read the Word. This has a much greater potential to encourage my mom than most Elvis songs except the hymns that he sang.

Lord, thank You for Theresa and her ministry. Bless her. Encourage her today. We praise You for a believer who is open to let you use her in a significant way. We love her. I love You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day T+58: A Real Struggle

Yesterday was a real struggle.

We had an appointment at the clinic. We visited with the doc about this pain medication and my desire to get off of it. She offered some suggestions to help me in the process. The bottom line: it is not going to be easy.

When we got home, we had an appointment with the nurse from Halycon. She is proving to be a real help in this whole process. She gave us more ideas as to how to tackle this challenge.

By early evening, however, I felt very bad. So, I took a shower and went to bed. I still struggled for a while before I eventually went to sleep. I’m so thankful to God that I did sleep. The nurse from Halycon confirmed this: a night’s sleep is very important in my recovery process. And I seem to feel better this morning. Praise God!

To be honest with all of you, trying to get off this pain med in addition to recovering from the transplant seems overwhelming to me. But I am learning once again to trust the Lord to help Marilyn and me do it and to take things one day at a time.

The doctors at CBCI continue to tell me that I am doing well on the transplant recovery part, so for that, I am grateful.

This morning, in the Solid Life Reading Plan, one of the chapters I read was Matthew 16—the famous teaching moment at Caesarea Philippi. After Peter gives a right answer (one of the few times in the gospels that he does), he gives a wrong response. Jesus rebukes him, “Satan, get behind me.” Then, he offers this teaching:

“Don’t be in such a hurry to go into business for yourself. Before you know it the Son of Man will arrive with all the splendor of his Father, accompanied by an army of angels. You’ll get everything you have coming to you, a personal gift. This isn’t pie in the sky by and by. Some of you standing here are going to see it take place, see the Son of Man in kingdom glory” (Matthew
16:27-28 MSG).

“Don’t be in a hurry to go into business for yourself” or, as the NASB puts it, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26, NASB).

Following Jesus is not about personal prosperity. You would never know this watching some of the preachers on TV who teach a prosperity gospel. Jesus reminds His disciples that it is about self-sacrifice as we wait for Jesus to return. He will take care of the rewards and the glory.

Lord, thank You for getting me through a very tough day and night. Thanks for your help through all of this so far. Lord, I’m not in this for what I can get out of it. I’m in it for what You can give to others through all that You are allowing me to go through right now. I love You, Lord. Thank You again for everyone who is praying. I couldn’t make it without them. Amen.

Day T+57: An Additional Challenge

I need to ask prayer about an additional challenge I am dealing with right now. I know I have alluded to it before but I want to be more explicit.

Last August, when my neck swelled up because of cancer, Dr. Jotte prescribed some pain medication for me. I would rather not go into detail about the name of this drug.

I have been using that medication for a year, and several months ago, I started to have some very serious side-effects. I won’t go into those right now, but when I was in the hospital a few weeks ago, I spoke with a doctor who works with the palliative team at Presbyterian/St Luke’s Hospital. Palliative means comfort. This team works specifically with relieving pain patients are experiencing.

Anyway, she convinced me that I should begin weening off of that pain medication while I was still in the hospital. It didn’t take much convincing, to be honest.

Therefore, I started then and I have been continuing since I got out. I know I have mentioned this, but I have been meeting with a nurse who works with an outpatient palliative service called Halycon. She has continued to help me with this.

This is what I need prayer for: weening off of this pain drug. It has been increasingly difficult, and is the main reason why I haven’t been feeling well these past few days and weeks. But I am committed to getting off of this medication. Dr. Alie and the nurses at the clinic know about this and are working with Halycon as well.

Thanks again for your prayers.

I am continuing to trust Dr. Jesus to take care of me. “After Jesus returned, he walked along Lake Galilee and then climbed a mountain and took his place, ready to receive visitors. They came, tons of them, bringing along the paraplegic, the blind, the maimed, the mute—all sorts of people in need—and more or less threw them down at Jesus’ feet to see what he would do with them. He healed them. When the people saw the mutes speaking, the maimed healthy, the paraplegics walking around, the blind looking around, they were astonished and let everyone know that God was blazingly alive among them” (Matthew
15:29-31 MSG).

How about that last phrase? “God was blazingly alive among them.” Praise God! He still is. He is still in the healing business!

Lord, help me with this challenge in addition to recovering from the transplant. I put this situation in your very capable hands. I also pray for two sisters in Jesus who are facing health challenges. Heal them as well. Thank You for being the best doctor EVER. Amen.

Day T+56: Faint Heart

Yesterday, I wasn’t quite on top of things for most of the day. Strangely enough, I think I feel the same way today. I’m not quite sure what is going on, but the doctors and nurses did tell me that I would experience ups and downs in my recovery, so that must be what is going on.

All my counts and levels continue to be good. I’m grateful for that.

Part of the issue with me, to be honest, is a bit of impatience. I’m ready to move on in my process and start to ween off of more drugs and be able to drive, but again, the doc has told me that these types of things won’t happen until I get closer to the end of this 100-day period.

Please pray that the Lord will enable me to be more patient. Even as I write that, I remember a family in our church years ago that said this over and over: “Don’t pray for patience.” As they said it over and over, I finally asked them why. They replied, “Well, how do you think that the Lord gives us patience? He puts us in very difficult situations where we have to learn it.” Makes sense.

Anyway, I believe that the Lord is already doing that in my life. I do hope I learn what He wants me to learn through all of this.

The key, I believe, is evident in one of my favorite stories in the gospels in Matthew 14. After sending his disciples on their way in a boat, Jesus climbed the mountain in order to spend some time in prayer. When He was finished, He came to the disciples who at that time were busy battling a storm. Jesus walked on the water. All of the disciples freaked out, except Peter. He said, “If that is You, bid me come to you.” (my paraphrase).

Jesus replied, “Come on.” “Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, ‘Master, save me!’ Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, ‘Faint-heart, what got into you?’” (Matthew
14:29-31 MSG).

When Peter took His eyes off Jesus, he began to sink. This strikes me this morning as a key for me to continue to plug along in this recovery process—keep focused on Jesus and not become a “faint-heart.” This is very easy to do when one looks around at the circumstances or becomes anxious.

Lord, thank You for the opportunity to trust You that this recovery from transplant affords me. Today, I do choose to rivet my attention and trust to You as You continue to enable me to walk with You and stay on top of the storm waters. Amen.

Day T+55: The Wilderness Years

Just an update on me: I had a good day yesterday. I seemed to do fairly well. I’m still dealing with those two side-effects I have mentioned before. They are very aggravating.

However, I wanted to let all of you know that FINALLY I received insurance authorization for that medication I have been asking you to pray for. It has taken almost two weeks for this to come through. Crazy.

Today would normally be a visit to the clinic, but we are not going down there today. I think I have mentioned this before, but the doctor has “tapered” my appointments down to two per week. For the foreseeable future, I will be going in on Mondays and Fridays. So, it feels as if I have a “day off” today. Praise God on both counts!

On to the reading for today … the chapters I read this morning chronicle “the wilderness years” for David, as he lived in caves along with his rag-tag army on the run from the lunatic king Saul. I Samuel 22 is a narrative of some of the events that occurred.

The four Psalms I read—Psalm 52, 57, 63, and 142—tell what was going on in David’s mind and heart during those years.

If you think about it, several prominent biblical characters spent time in the “wilderness.” Moses spent forty years there. Jesus spent 40 days and nights. Paul spent some time in Arabia (the length of time is a subject of debate) before his ministry officially began. I’m sure we can name others.

The wilderness is significant as a time of testing, temptation, and training for the work the Lord has for each of us.

“As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away, you know how I’m feeling, Know the danger I’m in, the traps hidden in my path. Look right, look left— there’s not a soul who cares what happens! I’m up against it, with no exit— bereft, left alone. I cry out, GOD, call out: ‘You’re my last chance, my only hope for life!’ Oh listen, please listen; I’ve never been this low. Rescue me from those who are hunting me down; I’m no match for them. Get me out of this dungeon so I can thank you in public. Your people will form a circle around me and you’ll bring me showers of blessing!’” (Psalm
142:3-7 MSG).

This Psalm really brings out all the emotions that David encountered during these testing years on the run from Saul. But the Lord took care of him and taught him a lot of valuable lessons that would help him in the future as the king.

I am very convinced that these years I have had cancer and especially these past few months through the transplant process have been a wilderness time for me. I just pray that I learn what the Lord wants me to know through all of these experiences.

Please pray for Marilyn in this regard as well. The Lord is testing her too. We are both thankful for the “circle of blessing” around us—God’s faithful people—all of you—praying for us so faithfully.

Lord, these have been rough times. You know this. You have allowed cancer and now this transplant along with my mom’s illness into our lives at this time. Sometimes all of it seems overwhelming. We continue to cry out for help as we thank You for the prayers of Your people on our behalf. I lift up a friend of mine this morning who injured her shoulder. Please give the doctors wisdom as they see her today. I love You, Lord. Amen.

Day T+54: Freedom to Stroll

What a beautiful day yesterday! Apparently, it was the last day of summer. I was thankful I could spend a lot of the day out in it—a trip to the clinic in the morning, lunch outside at noon, and then errands with Marilyn later in the afternoon.

I’m finding it more and more difficult to sit here in this house, even though there are some days when that is the only thing I feel like doing.

Kaitlin, the nutritionist at the clinic, acknowledged that yesterday. She said, “John, there are going to be some days where you simply don’t want to do anything but sit around.” I’m going to try to be sensitive to days like that and just “go with the flow.”

But on other days, it really helps me to be out and about, even if that means that I am just sitting in the car.

Anyway, in my reading today, the Lord brought to my mind and heart two other things He is doing right now.

“GOD met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears” (Psalm
34:4 MSG). I want to thank all of you for praying for me in this regard. Before I went into the hospital, I dealt with very severe anxiety. Now, I can honestly say that the Lord is helping me with this.

Not only that, I find that I am thanking the Lord more and more. Philippians 4 links all of this: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6, MSG).

This leads me to another passage I read in the plan this morning:

“God, you did everything you promised, and I’m thanking you with all my heart. You pulled me from the brink of death, my feet from the cliff-edge of doom. Now I stroll at leisure with God in the sunlit fields of life” (Psalm
56:12-13 MSG). I love that phrase: “stroll at leisure with God in the sunlit fields of life.” I got permission from Eugene Peterson to use part of that phrase in the title of my first book. It so will pictures the unhurried life of faith. That’s what I want.

Just a quick update: the doctor said yesterday that I continue to do well. The prescriptions have not come in yet. My mom is about the same. Marilyn still gets overwhelmed after she visits with her.

Lord, I put all of this in your hands, trusting Your deliverance from anxiety and thanking You for it all, for everything. Let me learn how to stroll at leisure with You. I love You Jesus. Amen.

Day T+53: The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Yesterday was another one of those very long days without the benefit of going to church and worship and sharing fellowship with other believers. I had hoped that the doctor would give me permission to go to church sometime before the 100 days is over, but now, I’m fairly convinced that it isn’t going to happen—just too risky. I can’t afford to catch a virus of some sort and get sick.

It has literally been months since I have been in church. I believe it was early April the last time I preached a sermon.

Marilyn and I did get out a bit yesterday. It is interesting seeing people trying to put in time on their Sunday. They walk. They wander around malls. They run errands. Anything just to fill up the time. It is sad, really.

These past few months have given Marilyn and me some insight into church however. If the Lord wills, when I get to a point of being able to go again, I will never take it for granted. It will never be an empty ritual.

Jesus is there to make sure of that. Notice these famous words from Matthew 11: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew
11:28-30 MSG).

Jesus is there to help folks who are “burned out on religion.” He helps His disciples by restoring the proper perspective and relationship.

It isn’t about empty ritual. It IS about walking with Jesus and working with Jesus. “For my yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30, NASB).

Please pray for Marilyn and me as we head down to the clinic this morning. I sure do hope to get the problem with one of my medications corrected—FINALLY. The plan includes me seeing the doctor today. I am looking forward to that.

I honestly believe that there are a lot of similarities between my visits with the doctor and the kind of work Jesus does in our lives. He checks us over to make sure everything is in line—that we are walking together and working together in the unforced rhythms of grace.

Dr. Jesus, thanks for calling us away from “religion” and into a relationship with You in which we live freely and lightly in Your yoke. Thank You for grace. Thank You for continuing to take care of us. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day T+52: Survival is the Goal

Thanks for continuing to pray about insurance approval of a drug I am waiting on. It still hasn’t come. Even the doctor can’t understand the problem. So, we continue to wait. This is just another issue we are dealing with these days.

All in all, however, yesterday was a good day, even though I did not feel that great. It was a beautiful September day. Marilyn and I hung out together as she ran some errands.

I’ll tell you: this sounds weird, I know. But I actually enjoy just sitting in the car, especially as Marilyn goes to visit my mom. I’m learning not to be frustrated with the fact that right now, I cannot visit with her personally (although that may change soon; I’ll get to that in a moment). I actually enjoy sitting there and praying for both of them.

The other day, as Marilyn had concluded her visit and she and I were backing out of the parking lot to leave, a couple of the nurses who take care of my mom came out of the facility. We greeted each other. Marilyn explained, “John comes with me when I visit Mother, but the doctors won’t allow him to go in the facility to visit her.”

At that point, Emily said, “Well, if he can’t come in, we can certainly bring Mary out here. The three of you can sit on the porch and visit. Would that work?”

It certainly sounds as if it would but I will check with the doctor just to make sure. I would love to get a chance to visit with my mom. This is another thing to pray about. Thanks.

In one of the chapters I read this morning, there is some intriguing language: “When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived” (Matthew
10:21-23 MSG).

The great irony, Jesus contends, is that those who proclaim the love of God experience so much hate. I believe we will see this more and more in our godless world—abject hatred of Christians. I don’t believe I would be too far off if I said that right now, Christians are the most hated religious group on the planet.

But the main statement that captures my attention is, “It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors.” I do believe that it is time that we alter our views of what we are after in church work. We need to get away from concepts of “success” that include more buildings, more budget, and more bodies—more of the three B’s.

Instead, our goal should be just continuing on in obedience. This is my prayer for First Southern: in an era where churches are closing all around us, I pray that we would survive as we remain faithful to Him.

Lord, our concepts of church are often so ungodly. This is especially true for pastors. I confess that sin, and ask that You enable us to continue in obedience and to survive. I pray for the services today. I lift up the body at First Southern. Let us be survivors. You will have to do it, Lord. We depend on You. Amen.

Day T+51: Become What You Believe

Yesterday was one of the best days EVER at the clinic. Tina and Dr. Alie were very upbeat as they looked over my blood counts and levels. They checked my chest. The rash was gone. I attribute this once again to answered prayer. I’m so grateful.

Dr. Alie even asked about the Broncos. Tina and I responded to his questions. It was rather an unusual day in that regard.

Apparently, I’m doing so well that they are going to taper my appointments at the clinic to two visits per week. Next week, I will be going in on Monday and Friday only. No Wednesday appointment. This is one less day for us to have to drive down there. Praise God!

Please continue to pray. I’m waiting on some medication that I really need, but for some unknown reason, the insurance company has not yet given its approval. I pray that this occurs today. I know that this doesn’t sound as if it is a big deal, but it is. I’ve been waiting for two days to hear from someone so that I can get moving on it.

We will see.

Today’s readings in the Solid Life Reading Plan were very provocative. The first was 1 Samuel 17—the story of David and Goliath. I love this story and the way David trusts God. This is what He says to the giant enemy soldier: “David answered, ‘You come at me with sword and spear and battle-ax. I come at you in the name of GOD -of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel’s troops, whom you curse and mock. This very day GOD is handing you over to me. I’m about to kill you, cut off your head, and serve up your body and the bodies of your Philistine buddies to the crows and coyotes. The whole earth will know that there’s an extraordinary God in Israel. And everyone gathered here will learn that GOD doesn’t save by means of sword or spear. The battle belongs to GOD —he’s handing you to us on a platter!’” (1 Samuel
17:45-47 MSG).

David operated in faith. He trusted God to hand this evil giant over to him “on a platter.”

But this is what faith does. It allows us to be a part of God’s extraordinary work.

One more passage—this one from Matthew 9. Two blind men approached Jesus, asking for mercy. Jesus asked THEM if they believed He could heal them. They answered, “Yes.” Here is Jesus’ response: “He touched their eyes and said, ‘Become what you believe.’ It happened. They saw” (Matthew
9:29 MSG).

Become what you believe. Through faith, David became a mighty soldier of the Lord. Through faith, these two blind men could see.

I love that phrase—become what you believe.

Lord, I know that any and everything is possible for the one who believes. Thank you for these two stories. Thank You for the all the help You are giving us. I believe that You can take care of the recovery from this transplant. I trust You today, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day T+50: Bleating of the Sheep

It just occurred to me as I wrote the title of the blog for this morning—T50. I am half-way done! Praise God! And I may be done even before 100 days, but I am not going to count on it. I’m just thankful that the Lord has brought me thus far.

I couldn’t have done it without all of you and your prayers and support. Thanks AGAIN. But I need your prayers with two other issues.

At my last visit at the clinic (I believe I have shared this with all of you), the doc discovered that my Graft versus Host Disease—a rash—had spread a little bit more. He urged me to continue to use the topical cream that I picked up at the pharmacy. I do believe that it is better. I sure hope so. I will find out at my visit this afternoon. This is the first prayer request

By the way, they told us that they were planning to taper our appointments down to two days per week. Marilyn and I are very glad about this. That drive down to the clinic three times per week is getting old fast. I believe they said that I would be going down there on Mondays and Thursdays.

Back to yesterday, we had a visit from Rachel who works with the palliative care company. (Palliative is a fancy word that means comfort). She is working with Marilyn and me to help me get off all my pain medications. It is quite a challenge.

When she left, I spent the rest of the afternoon and on into the evening talking with the insurance company. This is another issue that I hope we can work out soon. This is the second prayer concern. Thanks.

Today, in the Solid Life Reading Plan, I read 1 Samuel 15 and 16 as well as Matthew 8. 1 Samuel 15 tells the famous story of Saul’s disobedience to God. God told him to destroy everything in the enemy Amalek’s camp, but of course he didn’t. When Samuel found him, he asked this famous question:

“Samuel said, ‘So what’s this I’m hearing—this bleating of sheep, this mooing of cattle?’” (1 Samuel
15:14 MSG).

Of course, Saul’s justification of his actions did not hold water. There are no valid excuses when it comes to the issue of obedience. Either one is obedient or not. That is it! This act of obedience proved to be the effective end of God’s blessing on Saul as king. It is a tragic story.

Couple that story with Jesus’ call to discipleship in Matthew 8: “When Jesus saw that a curious crowd was growing by the minute, he told his disciples to get him out of there to the other side of the lake. As they left, a religion scholar asked if he could go along. ‘I’ll go with you, wherever,’ he said. Jesus was curt: ‘Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.’ Another follower said, ‘Master, excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have my father’s funeral to take care of.’ Jesus refused. ‘First things first. Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life’” (Matthew
8:18-22 MSG).

The storyline is just the same—there are no excuses. Obey God or not. Follow Him or not. That is it.

Lord, thank You for bringing me to Day 50. I choose obedience today. I make the decision to follow You, no matter what. I pray that all of us would never compromise our walk with You. Amen.

Day T+49: Stolen Valor

It is not uncommon for us to see several people standing on street corners asking for money each time we head down to the cancer clinic for an appointment.

Before I go further, please know that when the Lord brings this issue to my mind, I am praying about my response to folks who ask for money. I usually don’t respond. But I want to be open to giving someone some money if the Holy Spirit tells me to do it.

Anyway, yesterday, Marilyn and I saw a man asking for funds who claimed to be a vet. I said, “Somehow that guy does not look like a vet to me.”

Marilyn concurred and then went on to say, “It is a serious crime to pretend to be a vet when you are not. It is called “Stolen Valor.”

Hmm. Honestly, I have never heard that term before but it resonates with me. I have all the respect in the world for our soldiers who serve our country here and abroad. It is no small matter, but I also think that folks who commit the crime of “stolen valor” need to be locked up in jail for a period of time.

Enough of that for now … I just wanted to give you a report from the clinic yesterday. They said I am doing well. I’m still dealing with a couple of very aggravating symptoms. The same ones plus a rash on my stomach and chest.

I’m not sure I followed up with all of you on the results of the skin biopsy the other day. It did indeed show that I have a very mild (on a scale of one to four, I am a one) Graft versus Host Disease. Since then, I put this topical cream on the rash. It seems to help.

Yesterday, the docs discovered that the rash was better in some places and it had spread in others. They are a bit concerned. They urged me to use the topical cream THREE times per day. So, I started yesterday. It seems to be doing better. But please pray for me in that regard. Thanks.

In one of the passages for today, Saul disobeyed God. Instead of waiting on Him, he went ahead and took matters into his own hands. Here is Samuel’s rebuke: “Samuel said, ‘What on earth are you doing?’ Saul answered, ‘When I saw I was losing my army from under me, and that you hadn’t come when you said you would, and that the Philistines were poised at Micmash, I said, “The Philistines are about to come down on me in Gilgal, and I haven’t yet come before GOD asking for his help.” So I took things into my own hands, and sacrificed the burnt offering” (1 Samuel
13:11-12 MSG).

Taking matters into one’s own hands—sounds a lot like “stolen valor” to me.

Lord, help me to continue to wait on You and to prioritize obedience to everything You say. Help me never to compromise. Thank You for helping me thus far. I just give you this rash and ask you to take care of it. I choose to be who I am in Christ, nothing more, nothing less. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day T+48: Ghost gods and Prayer Formulas

Over the past few days, the Lord continues to teach me about worship. The two passages I read today in the Solid Life Plan are no exception.

First, I read 1 Samuel 10-12. These chapters chronicle the transition from Samuel to Saul as the first king. Of course, in the plan and purpose of God, he never intended His people to have a king. Why should they when they have the King of kings?

In his final days, Samuel warned the people about the dangers of having a king: “Samuel said to them, ‘Don’t be fearful. It’s true that you have done something very wrong. All the same, don’t turn your back on GOD. Worship and serve him heart and soul! Don’t chase after ghost-gods. There’s nothing to them. They can’t help you. They’re nothing but ghost-gods! GOD, simply because of who he is, is not going to walk off and leave his people. GOD took delight in making you into his very own people” (1 Samuel
12:20-22 MSG).

Ghost gods? What an interesting phrase! In the NASB, Samuel refers to “futile things which cannot profit or deliver, because they are futile” (1 Samuel 12:21, NASB). You get the idea. We can chase after persons or things because we think we need them and in the process, turn our backs on God.

The other passage I read this morning is Matthew 6. Notice the warnings that Jesus gives: ““The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply” (Matthew 6:5-9, MSG).

All you have to do is to go into any Christian bookstore to see what Jesus is talking about. Books galore on prayer techniques and programs—ways and means of getting things from God. It is all nonsense.

What follows these warnings is the model prayer—a very simple blueprint for approaching God.

Anyway, these passages are very convicting. Marilyn and I have spent a lot of time the past few days talking about how our lives are going to be different once I get through my recovery. Actually, we aren’t going to wait until then. We are starting now. And it all revolves around the worship of the one and only God.

Please pray for us that, in addition to everything else, we can get our priorities straight.

Lord, thank You again for the wake-up call that this transplant is for my family and me. Help us to learn the lessons You want us to learn, avoiding ghost gods and prayer formulas, while returning to the basics of a love relationship with You. What a waste if we don’t learn what You want us to learn through all of this. I love You Lord. Amen.

Day T+47: Smoke Screen

One of the passages in the Solid Life Reading Plan for today is Matthew 5—the first chapter in the Sermon on the Mount. One passage in particular captured my attention this morning:

“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong” (Matthew
5:33-37 MSG).

Here is the part that is deeply convicting: “Saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it.” Oh, man! How many times have I actually done that?

God, I acknowledge this sin right here and now. I confess it to you, and I turn from it right now. When I promise to pray and don’t follow through, it is essentially a smoke screen for evil—a cover-up, as it were. Whoa.

When I am thinking right in responding to a need, it is better to say, “When the Lord brings you to mind, I will pray for you” or not promising anything at all.

Also, I have found that it is better, instead of promising to pray for someone at a later time, just to stop right then and there and pray. There are so many better ways of handling this opportunity than promising and then never following through.

During this whole transplant process, I deeply appreciate all of you who pray for my family and me on a consistent basis. Thanks for promising to pray and then following through and actually DOING IT. This means more to me than you will ever know.

If that is what I need—the promise to pray and then actually doing it—how much more so should I do that for others?

Well, enough said there. Marilyn and I had a visit at the cancer clinic yesterday. The doctor and nurses were very upbeat and encouraging. They said I was doing very well. They are even talking about tapering my appointments down from three per week to two. This would be awesome. It is getting very burdensome to have to drive downtown at least three times per week. I worry about the stress that it puts on Marilyn.

So, please pray about this for us. I count on your prayers. Thanks. Oh, and by the way, please share prayer requests with me. It is only right that I continue to reciprocate prayer for all of you who pray so faithfully for me.

Lord, thank You again for everyone who prays faithfully for my family and for me. Help me to do the same for them and do it faithfully and consistently. Thank You, Lord. I love you Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day T+46: Single-Heartedness

Yesterday was another one of those “weird” days spent without the opportunity or benefit of going to church. I don’t see how people live without corporate worship and the fellowship of the body of Christ. They just don’t know what they are missing.

The truth is that I just didn’t feel that great yesterday anyway. My “issues” seemed to be more severe than ever. All I feel like doing is sitting because I have to go to the bathroom very frequently and this is made worse because my mouth is so dry, I have to drink a lot of water. Both “issues” feed off of one another.

Again, the doctor says that there is not much they can do about either one. He says that both will eventually start to get better as they begin to ween me off of medications that are suppressing my immune system. I’m looking forward to that!

One of the chapters I just read in the Solid Life Reading Plan is Matthew 4. It describes the temptation experience of Jesus in the wilderness. First, the narrative makes it very clear that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the “wild” to be tempted by the devil. Jesus was there for forty days and nights. He was fasting and thus very hungry. Satan pounced on this first, tempting Jesus to use His divine power to meet His own needs. Jesus refused, citing a verse that reminded the devil that He lives, not on bread but on every word that comes out of God’s mouth.

Then, the devil tempted Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple and quoted Psalm 91. Yes, Satan knows scripture as well! Jesus countered with another passage that stated it was not appropriate to put God to the test.

Finally, the devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in one glance, urging Him to bow down to worship Him and Satan would give him all those kingdoms. “Jesus’ refusal was curt: ‘Beat it, Satan!’ He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness” (Matthew 4:10, MSG).

That final phrase sticks with me this morning: “with absolute single-heartedness.” Right now, it is so easy to get distracted and to have my attention diverted with everything that is going on right now. As I have indicated before, Marilyn and I are overwhelmed. We both need to come back to the priority of absolutely single-heartedness, first and foremost.

Lord, I confess that every day I find myself thinking about everything we are going through right now. It becomes a huge distraction that diminishes prayer and devotion to You. I think I am failing the test! I come back to You this morning, Lord. Keep us focused and our attention riveted on You. You are worthy! I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day T+45: Continued Concern for my Mom

Please continue to pray for my mom. It is getting more and more difficult for Marilyn to visit her. Usually, when she goes for a visit, I go with her and just sit in the car until she is done. The doctor will not allow me to go inside the nursing home—too many germs and potential infections “floating around.”

But I am concerned for Marilyn. It is very hard on her. My mom is not content. She just repeats that she wants to come home.

We had thought that, by now, she would have made the adjustment to life in this facility, but it seems that just the opposite has occurred. The longer she is there, the more she wants to leave.

After the visit yesterday, Marilyn was visibly shaken. Seeing her so upset kind of knocked me off my perch as well.

Looking back on our decisions of a few months ago, we believe we made the right choices, but it is just so difficult … Thanks for your prayers. We both appreciate them very much.

Every time I read the first couple of chapters of 1 Samuel about Hannah, I think of my mom. You know the story. Hannah waited on God because in the early part of the story she could not have any children. But she prayed and asked God.

At one point, Eli the priest noticed that she was praying silently. At first, he thought she was drunk. He asked her. When she explained herself, he had sympathy for her. Here is what she said to Eli:

“Think well of me—and pray for me!” she said, and went her way. Then she ate heartily, her face radiant. Up before dawn, they worshiped GOD and returned home to Ramah. Elkanah slept with Hannah his wife, and GOD began making the necessary arrangements in response to what she had asked” (1 Samuel
1:18-19 MSG).

God did answer her prayers and gave her a son. She named him Samuel and after he was weaned, Hannah brought him to the temple and dedicated him to God and His service. What a great story!

As I said, this story reminds me of my mom. Nobody has or ever will pray for me like she has. I know she still thinks of me and prays for me. It just breaks my heart to see that she is so miserable in this memory care unit. I know Marilyn feels the same way.

Lord, thank You for the story of Hannah and for my mom. Thanks for all her prayers for me. Lord, please help her. Let her know that You are with her and love her. It is now my turn to pray for her. I lift her up to You today. I pray for Marilyn as well. Give her grace when she visits my mom. I also lift up the services at First Southern today—Dan as he preaches, Connor as he leads worship. I lift up the body of Christ there. I know they are praying for my mom also. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day T+44: An Unexpected Long Day

Yesterday, I had an appointment at the clinic at 12:15. Most of what happened at first was rather routine. Rich, one of the nurses, took my vitals and my blood. Then, Marilyn and I waited to see the doctor. It wasn’t long before Dr. Alie came in. He looked over all my charts and information, indicating that I was doing well. He then ordered some changes in my medication.

This is when things shifted a bit. Tina has been out of town this week. Mark has been taking over for her. Dr. Alie called Mark in and gave him instructions for the new medication.

These past few weeks, I’ve actually been dealing with two pharmacies. One is Walgreens. The other is a specialty drug store called Acredo. For the meds I order from Acredo, they actually deliver them to the house. For some reason, insurance requires this.

Anyway, back to yesterday, on two of the medications, there was some sort of problem with insurance who did not give approval. Marilyn and I had to wait two hours for Mark to try to work out these problems. This took most of the afternoon. It was very frustrating.

I was worried for Marilyn. She had a lot to do with her work yesterday afternoon, but she couldn’t do it because we were “stuck” at the clinic waiting on insurance approval for these drugs.

As of late yesterday evening, the one from Acredo had been filled. The other one had not, but hopefully today, it will be resolved.

I tell you this because ordering these drugs and taking the right amount of each of the twenty or so meds is a big part of the world I live in these days. Marilyn does a great job organizing these pills for me to take at the right time of the day, but it is a struggle for me to remember what to take when most of the time. This seems to be getting better lately however.

But still … it hasn’t been that long when I didn’t take any medications each day. I took some vitamins and supplements, but that was it. Now, I am literally inundated with pills.

When I am thinking right, I am grateful for the doctors staying on top of all of this and for health insurance that helps pay for these drugs. They are expensive but not as expensive as they would be if I had to pay for them out of pocket.

Anyway, in the Solid Life Reading Plan for today, I read the book of Ruth, an interesting story of a widow, Naomi, and her two daughters-in-law—one of whom was named Ruth—trying to make it in Jerusalem. Their life was hard at first. Here is Naomi’s testimony:

“But Naomi was firm: “Go back, my dear daughters. Why would you come with me? Do you suppose I still have sons in my womb who can become your future husbands? Go back, dear daughters—on your way, please! I’m too old to get a husband. Why, even if I said, ‘There’s still hope!’ and this very night got a man and had sons, can you imagine being satisfied to wait until they were grown? Would you wait that long to get married again? No, dear daughters; this is a bitter pill for me to swallow—more bitter for me than for you. GOD has dealt me a hard blow” (Ruth
1:11-13 MSG).

Naomi’s description of her life is interesting. Her life as a widow with two young women to care for is “a bitter pill for me to swallow.” And then she says, “God has dealt me a hard blow.”

When I really think about what other people have to go through, my problems seem more and more insignificant. Dealing with all these pills is a pain, but at least there is something I can take! The Lord continues to take care of me.

And, as it turned out as you read the story, God took care of Naomi and Ruth as well.

Should we be surprised?

Lord, thank You for getting Marilyn and me through a long day. Thanks for the doctor. Thank You that he is staying on top of my medications. Thank You for caring for Marilyn and me and Ruth and Naomi. You do not neglect one detail of our care. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day T+43: Ice the Kicker

After all the verbiage in this blog about the change in my television-watching habits, I just had to stay up last night to watch the Bronco game from start to finish.

Marilyn and I stood there at the end as Gano, the kicker for Carolina, prepared to kick the game-winning field goal. Just before he kicked it through the first time, Coach Kubiak called time-out.

Then, both teams lined up for a second attempt. I will be honest at this point: I felt that the Broncos had lost the game, and I felt that way long before this final kick.

As Gano kicked it a second time, one could tell immediately that he had pulled it left. Game over. The Broncos eked out a win. Wow.

Of course, I was glad to see the Broncos pull one out, even though the Panthers had outplayed the Broncos for most of the game. But that is how the game works—the team with the most points on the board when the clock runs out is the winner, no matter how many yards the other team gained.

It was a lot of fun. Marilyn and I went to bed with smiles on our faces.

The Panthers had hoped to be able to avenge their Super Bowl loss to the Broncos, but it was not to be.

Today, I read chapters 20 through 21 in the book of Judges in the Solid Life Reading Plan. These chapters tell the rather gruesome story about how the people of Israel avenged the gang rape and murder of a concubine. They assembled an army and did the deed.

At the end of chapter 21, there is a familiar refrain in the book of Judges: “At that time there was no king in Israel. People did whatever they felt like doing” (Judges 21:25, MSG). Judges is one of the saddest and most tragic books in all the Bible just because it seems as if it describes anarchy.

The New Testament reading today in the plan from Matthew 1 describes how the Lord ultimately addressed the sin of mankind: as a fulfillment of the Old Testament plan and purpose of God, God allowed His Son to come into the world through a virgin named Mary. They named the baby “Immanuel”—God is with us.

It is not the Christmas season quite yet, but I am glad to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Lord, I’m thankful for the virgin-born Son of God who came into this world to save all of us who like Gano, the kicker for the Panthers, have missed the mark. Thank You for the salvation You make available in Jesus to overcome the anarchy of this world. Thank You for saving me, Jesus. Thank You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for turning things around for all who repent and believe the gospel. Amen.

Day T+42: One True God

Before I get into the passage of scripture for today, I just wanted to give you a report about my visit at the clinic yesterday. I praise God that the bone marrow biopsy showed no signs of mantel cell lymphoma. I am still cancer free! Praise God!

The rash on my chest and stomach is gone. The results of the skin biopsy have not come in quite yet.

My levels and counts all seemed to look good.

My main issues continue to be a dry mouth and urgency to go to the bathroom. There is really not a lot they can do for either one. Please pray that both of these issues could be resolved soon. They are very aggravating and difficult to deal with. Sorry to be so specific, but I decided that I needed to be to let you know specifically what is going on with me.

We got to visit with Kaitlin, the nutritionist. She continued to urge me to eat as often and as much as I can. At this point, the main thing is that I eat whatever I feel like and gain some weight. So far, I have gained two pounds since last week. I almost have to force myself to eat, but my appetite seems to be returning slowly.

So, all in all, these are very good reports, and I want to thank God for them and for all of you who are praying for me.

There is only One True God, and He does answer prayer.

In the Solid Life Reading Plan for today, I read Judges 17-19. It is the story of Micah who built his own little temple with his own god and hired a Levite to run it. This continued until an army of Danites arrived at his house to steal everything including the priest and make off with it all. Of course, Micah was outraged, but there was nothing he could do.

After conquering an unsuspecting village, the Danites set up this god and began to worship it.

“The Danites set up the god-figure for themselves. Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his descendants were priests to the tribe of Dan down to the time of the land’s captivity. All during the time that there was a sanctuary of God in Shiloh, they kept for their private use the god-figure that Micah had made” (Judges
18:30-31 MSG).

I can’t think of a more tragic story, can you? And yet, this type of thing occurs all the time all around us—people worship what their hands or someone else’s hands have made. And they forget to worship the One and Only Creator God.

Back to yesterday, as Marilyn and I drove away from the cancer center, I said, “I continue to be amazed at all these blood tests and pills and levels and other factors that these doctors check on to make sure I am doing okay. One would think that at some point, one or two or four or ten of these counts would be off.” But not so far.

Why? The Lord is continuing to take care of me. He made me. He saved me. He takes care of me.

Where would I be without You today, Lord. Thank You for the good report yesterday. You are the One True God. There is no way any human hand can make You. You made us, and we acknowledge it today. Amen.

Day T+41: Fresh Heart

I’m so thankful for the fact that yesterday was another peaceful and calm day, a good day of rest.

The construction resumes inside the house today; it started up outside the house yesterday. I just pray that the Lord will continue to protect us as He has up to this point.

Today, we have an appointment at the clinic at 10:00 AM. We are going to find out the results of the bone marrow biopsy and the skin biopsy. I’m looking forward to finding out what is going on. The truth is, though, that the rash went away a couple of days ago. I’m so thankful for this.

After our appointment, we have to stop at the pharmacy there at the hospital to refill many of my medications. I’m so thankful that Marilyn is on top of all of this. She is keeping track of all my pills, so she can make sure that all the medications are refilled properly.

Back to my appointment—I am refraining from taking a couple of meds I usually take in the morning. The reason for this is that they don’t want to skew the results of the blood tests. One would think this is no big deal, but Marilyn and I have to remind each constantly NOT to take certain pills on this particular day.

Thanks for praying for us in this regard. It is a lot to keep track of. Again, I’m so thankful that Marilyn is there to help. My brain cannot remember every necessary detail.

In the reading today in the Solid Life Reading Plan, I read three chapters in the book of Judges. This is the familiar and tragic story of Samson. In addition, I read chapters one and two of 2 Thessalonians. Paul talks about the end times and the emergence of the Anti-Christ. Then, he offers these words of encouragement:

So, friends, take a firm stand, feet on the ground and head high. Keep a tight grip on what you were taught, whether in personal conversation or by our letter. May Jesus himself and God our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech” (2 Thessalonians
2:15-17 MSG).

Again, it is easy for me to be distracted with all this stuff related to my health and miss opportunities to serve the Lord and share the love of Jesus with folks at the clinic. God is the ultimate Judge for sure, but it does seem to me that most of the folks at CBCI are not believers. I need “fresh heart” so that I can share the love of Jesus with them today.

Lord, thank You for all the help You continue to give Marilyn and me. Help us again as we head downtown to the clinic. Help us to keep track of all my medications. Give us fresh heart so that we can share with the folks we will meet today. I love You, Lord. Amen.

Day T+40: A Rough Weekend

I’m glad this weekend is finally over. It was a very difficult one for both Marilyn and me.

Yesterday, we went to the clinic. Maggie, the nurse, took my blood and my vitals. She was very encouraging. Everything seemed to check out well. She interjected that my ANC is still going up. It is 4892. We are so thankful for the good report, but by the time we both returned home, I just wasn’t feeling well. After taking one of my meds (it didn’t help), I took another. It seemed to give me some relief.

I was finally able to get up in the middle of the afternoon and go with Marilyn as she went to the nursing home to see my mom. I’m still not “allowed” to go into the facility. I just sit in the car as Marilyn goes in. She said my mom seemed to be doing okay. We praise the Lord for this.

Afterwards, we went to get something to eat. By the time we had finished eating dinner, I was ready to go home and crash for the rest of the evening.

Today, I don’t have an appointment at the clinic, but I do have one with a nurse from Halycon Palliative Care. I believe I have told all of you about this. This company specializes in helping patients with managing pain. I am looking forward to this appointment. I honestly don’t feel I can put in another weekend like the last. Hopefully, they can give me something that will help me feel better. Please continue to pray for us.

In the meantime, I love the list of commandments—short and sweet—in the fifth chapter of 1 Thessalonians. No matter how I feel, I still have the responsibility to be obedient to the Lord.

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thessalonians
5:16-24 NASB).

“In everything give thanks”—even in a tough weekend in which I don’t feel well. Give thanks. I need to continue to give thanks for cancer and for this transplant and for all the complications surrounding it.

I also love verse 24. The literal language of the New Testament is, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He shall also do.”

On Day T40—in which I am now 40 percent of the way through my recovery, I just continue to trust the faithfulness of God. Why would he let us down now? There is no way.

Back to Marilyn, please continue to pray for her. My stuff along with that of my mom weighs heavily on her.

Lord, I do rejoice. I do thank You for a very long weekend. I pray that You would take care of all the issues I seem to be dealing with at the moment. I give You this visit with Halycon this afternoon. I pray for wisdom and some resolution to these challenges. I lift up Marilyn and my mom. Encourage both of them today as well. I commit today to you. I love You Lord. Amen.

Day T+39: A Spirited Dance

Yesterday, Marilyn and I spent a lot of time just hanging out and resting. I think she needed it as much as I did!

It was a quiet day—no construction going on in our house and none in the field behind our house as well—just one of those rare days. I believe that today is going to be the same so I am looking forward to it. Oh, yeah, believe this or not: we have appointment for some blood work at CBCI this morning at 10:00. It shouldn’t take too long.

On to the reading for today: Paul gives some words of wisdom to the church in Thessalonica. Apparently, some in the church were so convinced that Jesus was coming back at any moment that they just quit their jobs and waited on the couch. Others just went about their daily routines without much joy or enthusiasm.

Paul would have none of this. He challenged the folks:
“One final word, friends. We ask you— urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance. You know the guidelines we laid out for you from the Master Jesus. God wants you to live a pure life. Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-3 MSG).

I like the contrast that Paul gives here. “NOT a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance” (emphasis mine).

This reminds me of something I saw over thirty years ago when I was visiting a church in Oxford, England. As a part of the service, some members of the worship team performed an interpretive dance, as the congregation worshiped God. At first, it was kind of a shock. I’d never seen anything like it before (or since, by the way).

But I have to say that it was very reverent and appropriately done, focusing attention on Jesus. It was a wonderful aid to worship.

This is the way Paul intends us to live each day, not in drudgery but in joy and in an evident love for the Master. I’m not sure I could do any kind of literal dance in a worship service, but I can sing from the heart and seek to honor the Lord in everything I do.

Lord, may this day be a dance to you as I seek to love You more and more and show it to others, not in a way that draws attention to myself but in a way that puts the spotlight on Jesus—all of this in light of the imminent return of Jesus. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day T+38: Steel-Like Conviction

Yesterday was a rough day. I believe it was just the residual effect of that skin biopsy the day before. I just could not get on my feet or feel all that well.

But this morning, I seem to be feeling better.

The other day, at the clinic, one of the nurses talked about this scenario. She said, “There are just going to be days when you are very fatigued. I have patients who experience it even on T+140.” Great.

Well, anyway, I hope I can do a better job of adjusting to this up and down scenario. We will see.

On to the reading for today—in the Solid Life Plan, I started with 1 Thessalonians—the first two chapters.

Here is some testimony from the Apostle: “Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you’re in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father. It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-5, MSG).

Paul was impressed when he witnessed the church’s “work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope.” These qualities reflect a genuine Christian experience. When they heard the Message, they responded to it. They lived it out. They demonstrated genuine conviction. The Holy Spirit did it. He put “steel in their convictions.”

I like that phrase. All too often, when we hear the Word, we respond with joy and enthusiasm, but it doesn’t last.

In the church at Thessalonica, something different occurred. They developed conviction, and it endured and lasted just like steel.

What are convictions? I believe they are firmly held beliefs that do not change no matter what.

Please pray for me that I would experience steel-like conviction as well through the ups and downs of this very long recovery from the transplant. I expect to feel well each and every day. When I don’t (yesterday being a case in point), I get a little discouraged. My convictions tend to wane a bit.

Lord, thank You that no matter how I feel, deep down, I know that You are on Your throne and that You love me and that You care. You are totally in charge of my recovery. You are indeed helping me day by day, even though some days, it just doesn’t feel like it. Give me and everyone who is reading this blog today steel in their convictions. I lift up the services at First Southern today. Preach through Dan. Lead worship through Connor. I love You Father, Jesus, and Spirit. Amen.

Day T+37: GVHD and Skin Biopsy

As we were leaving the cancer center yesterday, Marilyn was shaking her head, “I can’t believe how many different ways you have been poked and prodded.” Ha. I can’t believe it either.

Let me back up a couple of days …

Wednesday, as Marilyn was cleaning out my catheters (she does every day), she noticed some red splotches on my stomach. “That is a rash! You need to call the cancer center.” I balked at that a bit. Plus, by the next day, it seemed to be doing better. However, I did call Tina. She asked a bunch of questions. I replied, “It is faint. You can barely see it.”

Tina replied, “Well, okay, we will take a look at it when you come in on Friday.”

So, yesterday, the minute she entered the waiting room, she asked to see it. When I lifted up my shirt, she went into orbit, “John, that is not faint! That is clearly a rash. There is no doubt about that.”

Courtney, one of the physician’s assistants, along with Hannah, were also in the room. They examined it as well. Finally, Courtney said, “Well, we need to do a skin biopsy on that just to determine what it is. It could be Graft Versus Host Disease or it could be a drug reaction. Whatever. We just need to make sure.”

Well, whenever I hear the word “biopsy” in whatever context, I cringe a bit. Courtney started to explain, “John, we can do this biopsy right now. I just deaden an area on your stomach and then I get a little sample of your skin.” In other words, she does surgery to cut out a cross section of skin. Yikes.

They moved me to another room, and it wasn’t long until Courtney did the procedure and pressed hard on my stomach to stop the bleeding. She put this patch over the incision and then covered it with a rather large band aid. I’m not allowed to take a shower until this afternoon. There are some similarities between this and the bone marrow biopsy that I had the other day, but this one didn’t seem to be that big of a deal.

I’m in a little pain this morning, but it is no big deal. Now, we just have to wait for the results. It will probably be the middle of next week before we find out. Still waiting on the results of the bone marrow biopsy as well.

Whatever. The rash is still there. We have to pick up a prescription ointment to put on it, but it does not itch and does not bother me. It is just one more thing to deal with.

What to do in the meantime? These words from Paul in Colossians 4 sum things up nicely:

“Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them” (Colossians
4:2-4 MSG).

With all this stuff that continues to happen to me, it is easy to become pre-occupied with myself. I need to continue to take the time each day to intercede for others and to share the gospel when the Lord gives me opportunity.

Lord, thank You for getting us through yesterday. This rash stuff is kind of scary. And I certainly was not prepared for another biopsy, but thank You for getting us through it. Thanks for everyone who is praying. I lift them up as well, as You bring them to mind. I love You Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Day T+36: A Long Day Waiting

Yesterday, Tina, Dr. Alie’s assistant, modified the dose of one of my meds. She asked us to come down to the Walgreens that is actually in Presbyterian/St Luke’s hospital to pick it up. We arrived at the pharmacy about 10:00 AM. Marilyn went it to pick it up. It was not ready. And in fact, they had no record of the order! So, Marilyn called Tina.

Marilyn was in the pharmacy; I was in the car, waiting.

Still nothing after about an hour and a half, so Marilyn and I went to a nearby restaurant to get some lunch. By the time we returned, the pharmacy had received the order, but it took them another hour or so to prepare it.

So, what was originally planned to be just a short outing ended up taking a huge part of the day. Both of us were completely exhausted.

I think what made it even more difficult is going that way on a day when I did not have a doc’s appointment scheduled—a day when I was looking forward to a break. It ended up being anything but a break.

To be honest, (not complaining just reality) Marilyn and I are growing weary of the almost daily drive downtown to the clinic. Invariably, there is construction on University Boulevard—the main road we take—each and every day. It is very stressful.

Again, I’m not complaining. Marilyn said it well the other day, “John, getting you down to this clinic is just our job for now.” Okay.

So, I have an appointment today around noon. I hope that, as they take my vitals, the scale will show that I have gained a pound or two.

Yesterday, I just poked food in my mouth whether I felt like it or not. Again, I can’t afford to lose weight. We will see.

I love this description of our lives in Christ in the first few verses of Colossians 3: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Colossians
3:1-4 NASB).

It is so easy to become preoccupied with all this recovery stuff. I believe that I am becoming paranoid to make sure I don’t get some sort of infection.

However, these verses remind us that we are seated with Jesus in the heavenly realms and thus are main focus and attention needs to remain riveted on Him and on the fact that our lives are hidden with Christ in God. Jesus is my life!

Father, I continue to trust You to take care of us as make that drive almost daily. Jesus, I focus on You because I am right now seated with You at the right hand of God. Holy Spirit, help us to be in tune with your leadership and guidance moment by moment. Amen.

Day T+35: Our Victory in Jesus

If it isn’t one thing, it is another. Everything went well at the clinic except one thing that has been on my mind since yesterday: I have lost some weight.

Kaitlin, the dietician, came by to see us in the waiting room yesterday. I told her that my appetite has diminished somewhat because of the two symptoms I have been experiencing: dry mouth and urgency. She seemed to understand that and just counseled me to keep eating, maybe even five or six times a day. If I can’t eat a lot in fewer meals, maybe I can make up for it with more meals and snacks.

Kaitlyn also added that sometimes, after people have come home from the hospital, they lose a lot of water weight because they are not hooked up to IV as much as before. That could be it as well. There are a lot of explanations out there.

Anyway, this is just something else to turn over to the Lord. Other than the two symptoms I just mentioned and this weight loss, I still feel great. So, we will see.

I love the passage I am going to cite from Colossians 2 as it gives some vivid imagery about the victory we have in Jesus:

“Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you’re already in —insiders—not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin. If it’s an initiation ritual you’re after, you’ve already been through it by submitting to baptism. Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets” (Colossians
2:11-15 MSG).

Paul talks about the beautiful picture of baptism. It demonstrates what happened to us at the moment of salvation: the old John Talbert died, was buried, and a new John emerged, with all my sins forgiven and nailed to the cross where Jesus took them and forgave them out, canceling my sin-debt forever. Praise God!

On the heels of that, Paul paints the picture of a triumphant Roman general who, after having defeated the enemy, drags them through town behind his chariot as an open display of victory and triumph. This is the victory that we as believers enjoy 24/7. Again, praise God!

Lord, I give You this recent development. Help me to gain that weight back. I commit this situation to You. You are victorious over it as well. I trust You with it. Thanks again for everyone who is thinking of us and praying. I love them all. I love You Father, Jesus, and Spirit. Amen.