Journal entry: July 11, 2016
It occurred to me last Saturday that last week was a particularly bad week around the world. A Suicide bombing in Baghdad killed 157 people. A hostage case in Bangladesh left 22 people dead (2 being police officers). A bombing at the Istanbul Airport killed 44.
Not that this was above or beyond any other week where extremist congregate. We actually expect news like this week after week. We hear the stories and quickly move on to our daily activities. But…then something happened…a sniper killed 5 police officers and wounded 7 more in Dallas. That…woke us up!
As Saturday came around, I wondered if I should re-write my sermon for Sunday morning. I wondered how many people would congregate in churches on Sunday morning in this country looking for answers. Why did this happen? How are we suppose to respond? How do I have hope for my children?
I don’t know how many people crammed into churches looking for answers. But…I would like to take a stab at answering these questions. The first is the easiest, Why? Why bad things happen (especially to good people), has been a question asked by people since the beginning of time. Perhaps the easiest answer is that…We don’t live in heaven yet!
The fact is, however, only One knows the real reason…and He isn’t telling just yet.
I can assure you, however, that that One is certainly watching to see how we respond to these senseless acts. How we respond as a country, as a church and as individuals. The acts of this last week are brand new, the senselessness, however, is as old as mankind.
I believe that to answer the question of how we respond is best exemplified by our response to what we affectionately call 9/11. First, let’s start with never underestimating the resolve of the American people. We will spare no resource to hunt down the perpetrator and bring him to justice.
Second, we will resolve to persevere in our efforts to continue living Christian lives. Especially in the areas of “Love”, having a deep “Interpersonal relationship with God”, and the “Evangelizing of Christ Jesus.”
We persevere by continuing to stay the course in our Christian lives without changing a thing (except added prayer of course). To change who we are or what we do, would be to tell the terrorist, you win, I surrender. This, we can never let happen.
No…I did not re-write my sermon for Sunday morning, and other than adding these thoughts to the beginning of our service, we continued to worship our blessed God the same as we do every Sunday.
God not only commands us to be resolute in our perseverance, but goes on to say that He will protect us if we persevere.
Finally, it is this very perseverance that will give us HOPE for a better tomorrow for our children.
Did you ever stop to think that if God would just take over our minds like we ask Him to, we could walk through this life as a very positive person? Seriously, we totally surrender our minds, bodies and spirits to God just like He asks us to, and yet we walk through our days with more garbage emitting from between our ears than most landfills are full of.
Granted, if God ever did totally take over our minds (which He would never do, because that would null and void the whole free will thing), our minds would be filled with only holy & heavenly thoughts. Growing up in a world of evil and unrest, I’m not even sure that our minds could physically stand a state of heavenly tranquility for any long period of time.
So I guess the question then becomes, what exactly does is mean to totally surrender our minds to God? I believe that it’s not a matter of us asking God to control our thoughts (although this happens often enough to a devout Christian.) It’s more of a promise to God that WE are going to take control of our own minds with His help.
It’s our promise to God that when garbage enters our minds, instead of mulling it over, considering all the possibilities, and worse, accepting it as the way things are; we are going to put a total and complete stop to the thought by immediately asking the Holy Spirit to help me stop this line of thinking and move on to more heavenly, tranquil, more productive thoughts. We all know what the garbage is. We know it as soon as it sets foot between our ears. We’re telling God with our surrender that we’re not going to feed the garbage. We’re not going to fuel the fire by allowing the flame to fester until it consumes us.
Instead, as soon as the garbage enters your mind, immediately say…Holy Spirit get rid of it please! Then move on to other things (in your mind). I can tell you from years of experience that this works. So well in fact, that just as the bible says in Romans 8:5-7, we truly can have minds that lead us to life and peace.
Today, I choose that peace.
My revelation of late deals in part with total self-surrender and in part with total worthlessness. I saw a movie recently called “Ragamuffin”. In theology terms, a Ragamuffin would be one of a very small portion of Christians who realize his/her total worthlessness and depends entirely on God’s immense love to carry him successfully through any given day.
I suppose it starts on any given day with the realization that our thoughts are racing through the zillion details involved in our to-do-list that day. I almost always catch myself in such a mind set when preparing to orchestrate a particularly complicated style of service. (This person stands here and says this while that person does this etc.)
Too often, we attack these to-do-list details early in the morning and plow through the day organizing, changing, re-writing etc. The problem with this particular approach is that it smacks square in the face of self-surrender.
When we plow through activities (routine or otherwise), we are essentially saying to God… “It’s okay, I got this”. We race well past God in our confidence and arrogance, maybe even believing that the results of our efforts will be God’s results.
My revelation has taught me that the results, ARE NOT, God’s. How could they be if we never even invited Him into the project?
We live in an age where everything is needed yesterday. My new efforts, therefore, will be to stop before I engage in any detail of my day, and invite God to direct my mind, hands and feet in such a way that will be according to His will.
The Ragamuffin idea comes in when we compare the two results (my way or God’s way). I’m pretty sure you would agree that God’s way is so much more superior, that it reduces my results to “worthless”.
Indeed, I am again endorsing “The Practice of the Presence of God” as a way of life. How else could we remember to engage God in every single project BEFORE we immerse ourselves in it?
I pray that as I live out my days, that whenever God sees me racing past Him, he reigns me in and reminds me that this is not my project but His. …Amen
I imagine I’m sitting on the floor in the living room of a large log cabin with a huge fire going in the fireplace. A large Christmas tree is lit and exquisitely decorated. It is dark outside and snow can be seen falling from the window. There is total silence in the room except for the crackling of the fire. Sitting in a large stuffed chair next to me is Jesus.
All I’m doing is sitting at his feet watching the fire and sucking in all the love that has filled the room with His presence. If I’ve ever had a true feeling a holiness, this is it. The intimacy I feel is more than I can take and decide it must be shared with my friends and family.
Then the names of people I know start clicking through my mind of who I would like to invite into this great holiness. However, at each name I stop at, I remember something that they’ve done or said lately that was not very holy, and quickly crossed them off my list. After all, I wanted to preserve as much purity in the room as I could in the presence of Jesus.
Having eliminated just about everyone I know for one reason or the other, a thought occurred to me. Cutting through the silence in the room, I asked my Lord why I’d been allowed to stay and experience this holy intimacy. Without missing a beat, Jesus replied that “For those who love Me, I am merciful and forgiving.”
I realized that I had spent so much time analyzing the worthiness of all who were on my list, I completely ignored the plank that was in my own eye. I then started to reanalyze everyone on my list. This time, however, I started with everyone who I felt had ever done anything wrong against me. I fell down at their feet and begged their forgiveness for my un-forgiveness…then, I invited them into the room. Soon, there were so many sitting on the furniture and the floor that the room started to expand itself so more could come in.
The room remained silent but for the crackling of the fire, but, the love in the room grew and grew and grew. Whereas, the “Jesus & I” intimacy was more powerful than I could ever describe in words, the Bridegroom with His bride produced an intimacy that one could only call Heaven.
So as we now start a new year in our lives (a new chapter so to speak), let us start this year by remembering daily the lesson of this story. Jesus said, “For those who love Me, I am merciful and forgiving.” And I say, “For those who love me, I am humbled and forgiving, and beg too, for your forgiveness.”
Today I choose humility…
A very good friend of mine is in her 7th month of chemo, fighting a stage 4 colon cancer. She is not old like me, but is a vibrant, beautiful, young lady. I wondered one day if there would be a difference in what goes on in her mind as she attacks this battle as opposed to what goes through my mind in my own fight. I wondered about how God fit into her life, her thoughts on eternity, her thoughts on past missed opportunities and perhaps most importantly of all, her thoughts on what future she may or may not have.
She was very honest and forthright in her responses. She told me that in the beginning she questioned God daily about what she had done to make Him angry at her. After a while, she started to meditate on His word and learned that He was not angry with her at all. She learned that He had not been searching for her (as she thought), but it was she who had actually been searching for Him. She began to realize how much He loves her. These things together began to bring her great peace. She also learned that “evil is always trying to tell me different”.
She decided that finding “goodness” in everything all day long was key for her. She says, “I look at all the joy and beautiful things He gives me on a daily basis. The sunshine, the trees, birds and the breath in my lungs…”
She finished by telling me that she likes reading about “peace” and “forgiveness” and “glory”. I found her combination of words intriguing at first. Then, I realized that what she was describing was life, as we want to know it: Peace in our daily lives, mercy for all we’ve done in the past, and then…heaven.
As you say a prayer for cancer survivors tonight, please add a special prayer for my beautiful sister in Christ…Amen
Biographer Donald Spoto once said of St. Francis of Assisi that later on in life, he was “uncertain about his past and confused for his future”. Cancer (or more appropriately the thought of dying sometime in the near future) has often made me question how successful I’ve been in the past, but, more importantly, what God wants from my life before I leave this world. As I analyze these things, I too could use the words “uncertain about my past and confused for my future”.
These thoughts can utterly drive you crazy (as they have me), so I often look at stories of the old saints to see if there is any help out there. When I read these words about St. Francis of Assisi, I was completely astonished. Astonished because one of the most saintly men who ever lived questioned his future. Every day of his life he had an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and Christ even allowed St. Francis to bear the wounds of the stigmata (a blessing I’ve always considered to be one of the highest callings of God).
So…if this great saint had the same anxieties as I have, I should be able to find my answer in how history says it turned out for him. Having made this study, I concluded that there is no sense in being concerned over the individual decisions confronting me on a day to day basis. God made St. Francis a star among saints because of St. Francis’ interpersonal relationship with God. To devote one’s self to the developing of an intimate relationship with God (hour by hour and day by day) is all that is important. If this is your current path…then just stay the course!
So today I choose: Submissive Love
Today I’m going to try to answer the question: Are we trying to daily satisfy ourselves by fulfilling the will of God? It’s kind of like the question I put on my church sign this week: Have you done anything to make God smile today?
Naturally, one could go through the normal list that we have pounded in us in church every week of…be obedient, be moral, be ethical, be evangelistic, meditate, study the word, tithe, love, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, be patient, kind and humble…and the list goes on and on.
However, if you’ve learned anything from these journal entries about me, you’ve learned that a soul totally resolved and surrendered to the Lord is exactly what God wants and all the rest just plain comes naturally. With this total self-surrender God orchestrates not only my total day but how I respond to it. I once finished a journal entry by saying: “I worry about nothing, because nothing is exactly what I have control over.”
A person that I most highly respect is the late French monk, Brother Lawrence, who lived in the 17th century. He once said: “…(that a person should) seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling of His will, whether He lead us by suffering or by consolation, for all would be equal to a soul truly resigned.”
There’s the kicker. Are we suffering our valleys with the joy of knowing we are fulfilling His will? It’s easy to be joyful while He is raining down His favor, gifts, blessings and graces on our daily lives. But, are we equally joyful as we suffer our valleys.
The debate rages on whether God causes our sufferings. Whatever side of the fence you’re on really doesn’t matter, because one thing is for sure: God allows our suffering to happen.
So let me give you the secret to walking through your valley joyfully. If God allows it to happen, remember that His plan is ALWAYS PERFECT. We may not understand it now or even in our lifetime because we are a people of minuscule brains. But, if you can convince yourself by faith, that everything that happens (in the Christian’s life) happens because it is a part of His perfect plan, then you are well on your way to living a life of satisfaction in fulfilling His will by suffering or by consolation. For indeed, all would be equal to a soul truly resigned.
Today I choose: Self-Surrender
As one who suffers from a terminal illness, I sometimes find myself trying to come to terms with the life I’ve lived. As I review my memoirs, I find myself becoming sadly disappointed with the results of my effect on this world, my family, my community, my church, even myself.
Perhaps you too have had the opportunity to review what difference you have made in the lives of others or the world in general.
As I was praying the other night, I remember crying out to our Lord asking that He please show me some success in my current efforts.
For instance, I was hoping this very journal would have a huge following by now. I even dared to hope that one day it might be considered my legacy if you will. Truth be told, at this point, my journal is followed by only a precious few.
Or for instance, for nearly six years I have prayed and tried to grow our little church out here in the country between two corn fields. The results; dwindling attendance most Sundays because of beautiful weather or the endless list of far better things that most folks would like to do with their Sunday mornings.
Yes, I find myself crying feverishly to my beloved Lord to show me just a little success.
Perhaps you too have taken an accounting of your life recently. And, like me, chances are that you too are feeling the same burning feeling of failure that I feel.
But wait…maybe our Lord does not want us to sell ourselves so short. In my case, for instance, my heart is nearly always in a state of constant heaviness because I have loved so many, so hard.
If someone should take an accounting of the successes in my life, and in the end, the only thing that he would be able to say is: “He lived & he loved”, I would have to concede…I’ve lived well… Amen
Today… I choose love.
So I looked at my journal and realized that I was way behind in creating a new post. I always said that I want to do a sermon about “Time” but I don’t have the time to write one. Indeed, we are a very fast paced generation. The more instantaneously we can get results to our query, the happier we are. Remember the old “hour glass” on the old computers as we waited for a download. Most of us entered periods of depression as we waited back then.
Despite our need for fast paced production, I believe that God has other ideas for us. These became perfectly clear to me as I went through chemo the first few times. Unlike the old days, there are so many chemo drugs out there now, that some of the old side effects have gone away and new ones have taken their places. Nonetheless, one side effects that seems to have remained constant regardless of the particular cocktail you have been on is tiredness.
I remember so many times being in mid-stride and all of a sudden it was like I walked into a wall. I got so tired that all I could physically do was to go lay down on the bed. In my case, this could occur as much as 6-7 times a day. I remember laying there and praying about all the time I was wasting and all the things that were not getting done. Then…just as clearly as the nose on my face, the voice of God simply said: “I would like you to just lay there and rest in my presence.”
As one who is 100% sure that the Holy Spirit orchestrates every second of my day, I now find myself not being in a hurry for anything and always enjoying those precious moments where I am simply basking in the holy presence of our Lord. I’m pretty sure the psalmist knew what he was writing when he wrote: “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10)
Today…I choose peace.
What about CANCER. Sadly, today I was informed that another one of my extended family has cancer. Colon cancer in this case. Cancer seems to have become an epidemic in our generation. I don’t know anybody who knows nobody with cancer (kind of a paradoxical statement since I have cancer).
I believe, however, that how we mentally compartmentalize our cancer, has much more to do with our future than does medical science. Some of us have been given a long (ambiguous term) prognosis, some a curable prognosis and some a miserably short prognosis. Whereas, this prognosis has everything to do with how much time we have, it has nothing to do with how we should compartmentalize our thoughts (feelings).
I have chosen to mentally put my cancer in a happy place in my mind. A place of great joy. Yes, I know firsthand the physical pain, tiredness, weakness and sickness generally associated with the treatments. However, it’s difficult to describe the tremendous joy associated with helping someone else achieve that same happy place.
As you may recall reading earlier, my first thought after being diagnosed was thanking God that I now have something else that He can use to enhance His kingdom with. Can you even begin to imagine the overwhelming joy of learning that through God using you, someone else has chosen the path to eternal salvation as opposed to a future of eternal damnation? That’s a joyful grace that is truly indescribable.
Perhaps today, your valley isn’t cancer but something else. I know for a fact that God can use your valley to show others how to experience joy or perhaps even salvation. But, know that God always gives us a choice! Choose today to put your valley in a place God can use it. Today… I choose joy.
What about Right Now! What about this very moment in time?
How I feel (sad, joyful, at peace, angry, tempted, loved, in love etc.) and what I’m going through (effects of cancer treatment, effects of a freshly pulled tooth, family unrest, bankruptcy, loss of a job, loss of a loved one, head cold etc.) has everything to do with your relationship with God!
Today I thought I would share with you the secret of patience and peace. Learn the secret and learn it well and you’ll be mostly finished with stress, anxiety and unrest in your life. Sound too good to be true. It’s not…I’ve done it, you can too.
There are many definitions of patience. The one I want you to learn today is: “The calm endurance based on the certain knowledge that God is in control!” (What a truly POWERFUL thought!)
This is easier for me than most folks because I have a certain belief system in my life that is as true and sure to me as the breath I just exhaled. The first part of this belief system is the knowledge that from the time I open my eyes in the morning to the time I fall asleep at night, every micro second of my day is being orchestrated by my Holy Spirit.
Even though the will of others, evil and life in the world can cause bad things to happen, my Holy Spirit is right there to turn bad into God exalting.
The second part of this belief system is that this same Holy Spirit does each and every project placed before me this day, exactly in accordance with His own will (through me). That does not mean that I have become perfect. The Holy Spirit will not impose Himself on an imposing will and often does things designed just to keep me humble.
However, the result of this belief system in my life means, I worry about nothing, because, nothing is exactly what is under my control!
So today… I choose patience & peace…my love to you all!
So where I expected to start out with reminiscing the trials and tribulations of chemo and that sort of thing, something occurred that I felt important for you to hear. I had for some time been having problems with my left eye (having a blind spot in the middle of my vision). Finally, I went to the eye doctor in Hebron who after 2 hours and ton of testing, sent me immediately to a higher qualified doctor at the Michigan City hospital. Naturally, the first two hours were repeating the same tests the other doc did. In the end, they say I have macular degeneration in my left eye. Simply, I’m bleeding into my eye and when the blood calcifies, it become scar tissue that can never been seen through again. The bleeding continues so efforts need to be made to stop it or the scar tissue becomes bigger and bigger causing total blindness. The doc says to me that an injection in the eye is the only treatment and that is not guaranteed to work. Simply, I asked him who was going to hold me down while he attempted to stick a needle in my eye cause I didn’t think I’d seen enough employees running around.
I think exhaustion had set in by now cause I opted to have the injection. As I’m riding home with a set of eyes that didn’t know what end was up because they had been dilated about 5 times and had excessive amounts of numbing agents poured in, I get a call about a dear friend who just went from a manageable problem to being told he only has about two months left on God’s earth. What a wake-up call. Just in the midst of my self-pity I’m brought back to the realities of life. Later that evening I got a call from a friend ranting and raving about some minor problem he was experiencing. All I wanted to do was yell in his ear about my good friend and say how dare you.
Recently, I gave a sermon on patience. One of the steps to obtaining patience is to learn to overlook the little frustrations of life. On this particular day, my friend taught me that all that had happened to my left eye was in reality, a little frustration, a bump in the road of life. There are a lot a definitions of patience, but, the one I want to leave you with today is: Patience is a calm endurance based on the certain knowledge that God is in control! Today… I choose patience.
So as to avoid any confusion between my close friends and my new readers, it’s important that I explain at this point where we are today in real time. The first three posts of this journal were written about events that occurred around the second week of May in 2012. It was at this time that I decided to hand journal my experiences as I also began to build a website to post these journals. As I write these words, it is now April 2015. It has taken me a full three years to get this website built by many different hands. Back then, I never would have guessed the retail cost involved in hiring people to build a website. During these three years, I’ve had to seek out a great many professionals willing to deeply cut into their normal profits to help me build small sections of the website at a time.
During these three years, I have undergone nearly two years’ worth of chemo treatments and my body has undergone a whirlwind of changes. I’m sure I’ll talk about many of these changes as I continue to journal my journey. During most of the turbulent times, I continued to hand journal everything. My particular cancer is terminal but treatable. Basically, that means it’s treated, behaves for a while, reactivates itself and is treated again. This cycle will continue until it just stops responding to treatments and this is when I will finally get to see heaven! As of today, my cancer is behaving.
As I journal one or more times a week from now on, I will try to help you to understand in real time when something took place or is taking place. The purpose of this journal is to help you understand the attitude I maintained through all the hills and valleys so that perhaps that same attitude might help you in your own trials. Effective this month, I will finally make this website public. Please continue to join me weekly as we confront some of life’s more difficult problems together. Today… I choose faithfulness.
Second chemo day. This was done in the doctors office and took about 2 ½ hours. No reactions and other than learning to have the patience to sit there all that time, all went pretty smoothly.
I did want to make a couple of observations about yesterday, however. Yesterday, I learned one of life’s true paradoxes. As I was having my allergic reaction with my arms and legs shaking involuntarily and the back of my head burning, sitting in chairs at the end of my bed was my beloved wife (Nancy) and one of my very best friends in the world (Gene). As I’m shaking, I distinctly recall looking into each of their faces and knowing without a shadow of a doubt that they were wishing it could be themselves laying in this bed and not me. The paradox is that as I’m making this observation, I’m thanking my Lord that it is me and not them. Were Confucius to put a title to this paradox, I think he would call it: Love. So today… I choose love.
First chemo injection day. This morning, I went to the hospital to have a port put in my left chest via outpatient surgery. From there, I was taken upstairs and given a room on the oncology floor. The decision was made that I would undergo a cocktail of drugs that is injected just once a month (over two days). My oncologist advised that I’m only the third person she has, to be given this particular chemo in this particular fashion.
Apparently, the drugs are so strong that they slowly work through your system for a full month. Since they are so strong, your first chemo day is done in the hospital and injected very slowly (over an 8 hours period) because they don’t know how your particular body is going to react to it. About 2 hours into the injection I learned full well the reason for the precautions. My core temperature dropped (basically the same as getting a serious case of the chills) to the extent that my extremities involuntarily shook violently for about 4-8 seconds, stopped and resumed about every 15 seconds for the next half hour.
While this was going on, the back of my head began to burn like it was on fire and this was particularly noticeable behind my ears. It was all I could do to resist using my fingernails to gouge out the back of my ears. Eventually, the nurse found her way back into my room and with a slight look of shock in her eyes her face registered “all righty then”. She immediately stopped the drip and gave me some IV anti-allergy medicine. This worked quickly and the burning in my head stopped pretty quickly. I later learned that what I experienced was the most common allergic reaction to this chemo and once you’ve experienced it, it does not generally reoccur in subsequent treatments (Praise the Lord).
The rest of the treatment went miserably uncomfortable with frequent chills (no involuntary shaking though). For a bed that will move in practically any position you want it to, it had to be the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever laid in. Finally, at 10:00 p.m., they said I could go home. I had very little energy left but would have flown out the door if I could have. Today however…I choose peace.
Diagnosis: Well, as you all have read my now on the front cover of this website, I was just coming out of anesthesia and my doctor was standing there. The first logical question even coming out of anesthesia was; well doc, was it malignant? After hearing, “yes”, surprisingly I don’t recall being shocked or having any other normal human emotion. Instead, I was flooded with an inspiration that actually caused me to smile.
I remember saying to our Lord at that very instant, “Good, now I have something more that You can use to enhance Your Kingdom.” So, that has been by prayer every day since my diagnosis. “Dear Lord, please use my cancer to enhance Your Kingdom, Amen.”
In the first month alone, our Lord has given me the opportunity to share my story with a number of people. I know of at least two who have accepted Jesus as their Personal Savior after hearing my testimony.
The inspiration to Journal my journey through this fight was given to me by the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the second month. This is why it is so important to pass this website on to everyone you know and ask them to do the same. Thank you and may God Bless you. Today…I choose joy.