Tag Archives: Cancer

Demise of the Interloper ~ 1

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Demise of the Interloper ~ 1

It all came crashing down last Tuesday.

To be sure I was ready … but somehow not prepared … does that make sense?  I was used to this particular threat, this unwelcome guest who had been staying so long at my house I’d become accustomed to his presence – almost complacent with his company.  We lived together as though an uneasy truce had been called by some higher power.

Every day he was there spiraling around me like the coils of a slinky, plenty of room in the middle to bump around the house yet steel bands held me tightly within his grasp – defining the space I could actually roam.  In a weird way it was a prison I couldn’t leave.  Each day we existed in this unusual dance.

Like it says in Proverbs 26:11 … “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.”  I always came back.  I always returned.  After all … weren’t we joined together?

It’s almost as though … …

Don’t be silly.  I hadn’t fallen in love with him.  I always knew it would be me or him in the end.  One of us would have to go.

We could not exist in the same house forever.

It’s just that I’d developed a curious ease with him.  Easy … like your favorite jeans so holey and frayed and threadbare and probably illegal to wear in public, but you wouldn’t get rid of them for all the tea in China.  Well, maybe I wasn’t that comfortable with him.

So what was the fascination?  This hold he had on me?

He was more like the character in the story that you love to hate.  The one that you’ve already met and you already hate and then he shows up right when the story’s gettin’ good and all the other characters are finding their stride.  The author has the audacity to pluck him off the shelf and drop him back on the page and in doing so places a humongous boulder in the path that causes other, already well-loved characters to faint or stumble or fall.  Him with his wily ways and his evil grin.  What will happen next, you wonder?  What could possibly happen next?

To be sure he was like one of those devil-worms that the evil men on Star Trek slip into your ear while you can’t defend yourself.  When you’re tied down to an exam table that magically appears in the middle of whatever room they’re in on their spaceships.  Even just watching the show you watch that worm slip into the ear and your skin creeps and you swear you hear a gnawing, feel the munching, in your ear canal as the worm seeks out your brain stem to make you go mad … or worse.

He was an evil that arrived last spring and had rooted himself so deeply into my life I wasn’t sure I would survive.  Afraid that he might suffocate me … squelch my existence.  My burgeoning anxiety must have caused a ripple in the fabric of the universe because it was then that my Guardian stepped in.

My Protector.  The Man I’d entrusted my life to many years prior.  The Man who’d given me a singular focus and a task to complete that I, with my procrastinating ways, hadn’t worked on as hard as I could have.

One night as I lay still on my bed under the oppressive heat of a Floridian summer I managed the nerve to ask, “Have I waited too long,” I whispered?

I didn’t get an immediate answer which furthered my trembling.  “I’m sorry I failed you,” I wept quietly.  Ashamed.  Mad at myself for not doing what He told me I would do.  But that’s when I heard it.

Softly, like a gentle spring breeze sailing past my ear, “Numbers 23:19”.  I brighten instantly and wipe away my tears so happy he’s answered.  I pull my Bible off the bedside table and thumb directly to Numbers, anxious about what I’ll find there.

“God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man that he should change his mind.  Does he speak and then not act?  Does he promise and not fulfill?”

My shoulders, which have apparently been tightened up like a screw around my head, relax and sink into their normal position, as I soak in this truth.  He doesn’t lie.  He hasn’t changed his mind.  He promised and it will be fulfilled.  I am elated by this knowledge direct from the Man Himself.

His promise will be fulfilled.  I know I must work hard now and not procrastinate any longer.  I want to make my Guardian proud.  But then, as if I was a character in a novel, the visitor was dropped onto my pages; the boulder was cast and I stumbled.

Join me Monday for the rest of the story …

The Peace of God

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The Peace of God

I was just remarking to my mother the other day that it seems to me as though more and more people are getting dreadful diseases.  I began noticing this trend about six to nine months ago and had originally chalked it up to the fact that I’d been diagnosed with cancer assuming I was just hearing about so many other people with cancer because I as moving in that circle.  But I’m not so sure that’s the case anymore.  Every day someone else I know is diagnosed with cancer or some other disease like Parkinson’s, and we’re all fairly young (between 40 and 60).

A couple of weeks ago I heard from another of my OCFG’s (Outrageously Christ-Filled Girlfriends).  She had a routine mammography that had originally gone well but the doctor had called her back for additional pictures.  Having not had that ever happen, she was a little alarmed.  We (women) each handle this information in our own way.  Women grow up with their breasts taking an odd significance in their life – mainly because they are the only sexual organ that is so obviously prominent on one’s body.  For some women breasts become a sort of status symbol, for some they become part of our identity, for others they are the life-blood for rearing children, and for all of us they are simply part of our figure.  Men, would you like a useful finger or two lopped off?  I don’t think so.  But when a doctor gives you that look or calls you back for more pictures, your mind starts whirring with possibilities that could follow. If you’re not careful, it doesn’t take long to fall down the rabbit hole of worry and I can just imagine Satan’s demons hopping aboard the fear train and stoking the fires.  Breast cancer.  It’s not diagnosis you want to hear.

However, getting additional pictures isn’t an unusual step for women as they age.  There is always something weird popping into view somewhere!  And as any good Christian friend would do, I prayed that the doctor wouldn’t find anything of importance.

I didn’t hear anything for a week or so until she let me know that they were now calling her back for an Ultrasound (US).  And that’s ample reason for the bravest of us to grow even more concerned.  Half the problem is the doctor.  They never seem to say anything that truly calms us because they’re trying so hard to not upset us.  It’s a no-win situation.

I’d recently driven down routine mammy-extra views-ultrasound street and took a left turn at biopsy lane so I told my friend about the entire process I’d gone through so she’d know what to expect.  As I’ve written recently, I’d given my burden to God to handle because with everything that was going wrong in my body at that time I just couldn’t worry about one more frightful thing.  Then we prayed again, bringing her fear and anxiety to the foot of Jesus’ cross and laying it there. Not only did my friend not have to bear this burden alone – she didn’t have to bear it at all.  She knew that, but it’s always nice for a friend to come alongside and agree.

I love chatting with this particular OCFG because we throw Scripture at each other all the time and that’s not a bad thing!  We always seem to be bouncing God’s word or Christian-living views and questions off each other … what do we think … what do we know … how do we know it.  We talk it out and usually come to some sort of agreement.  It’s quite enlightening to discuss Scripture with someone who is studiously in the Word.  We should all have people in our lives who are at all ends of the spectrum.  The really knowledgeable, the semi-knowledgeable, and the maybe not so knowledgeable.

A little while later I’d checked in with my friend and she gave me the date of the US.  But this time she sounded different.  She shared right away that she was enjoying God’s peace and that she’d received a word of knowledge … Job 23:10 which reads in the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

10 But He knows the way that I take [He has concern for it, appreciates, and pays attention to it]. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as refined gold [pure and luminous].

How lovely is that promise?  He knows the way I have taken … God is so intimate that He knows everything.  We can be confident in His testing because we really can’t fail.

My friend continued her thoughts in a text, she said (and I could feel her joy), “So I know that no matter what happens, I will be refined as pure gold! How gracious of Our Lord to comfort me with that truth!”

How gracious indeed.  How can we not love and worship a God who provides this kind of peace and protection when we need?

I’m so ready to worship Him forever!

** Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation courtesy of BibleGateway.com

The Right to Ask Why

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The Right to Ask Why

Our Lord is love and grace … and justice and mercy and wrath … He is All … and thank God He is, because I need Him now and nothing less will do.

I’d texted Paula last night to see how everything was going in Atlanta (where she goes for her cancer treatments).  She was going for scans and we’d been praying for no new activity in her lung or leg – the places where cancer has settled it’s nastiness into her body.  We prayed … asking for healing, perhaps searching for remission, or any positive news that we could hold on to.

I think about something I’ve read over and over again this past week:

Do you cling to the crisis or do you cling to Christ?

In retrospect, I think, how silly we are.  Why don’t we just hold on to Jesus?  Oh He is with us, definitely.  He always goes where he’s wanted.  How nice that no matter how ‘mature’ we are in our Christian walk, He allows us to behave all human-like and attempt to grasp the reins of our situation rather than just slip our hand into His and walk with Him through it.  He never shakes His head in disgust or tsk-tsk’s us when we manage to move around Him, like we never saw Him standing there, and look everywhere else before we come back to Him.  I guess that’s grace, hmmm?

Paula’s reply text comes the following morning.  “We got bad news,” her text read.  “The cancer has spread to my brain.”

I sit there in shock and devastation, my phone slipping from my hand.  Tears immediately well up and spill down my cheeks.  “Why?” I ask God.

It’s such a human thing to ask but I still immediately ask God’s forgiveness for asking it.  Do you think that’s weird?  I don’t.  It’s never weird to talk to God about anything that is on your heart.  But I know He’s not going to tell me why.  It’s a futile question that won’t be answered because His ways are not my ways.  I still feel badly for asking but then I just talk to Him – a river of words gushing out of my soul: Lord, I’m gonna ask why and I’m probably gonna ask why for a long time today, so please just listen. I take a breath and chuckle to myself.  Sometimes I envision Jesus sitting in the chair next to me listening to me prattle.  I imagine He shakes His head silently – even though I know He would never do that.

“Why?” I ask again wiping my eyes. “Oh Lord, why Paula?

“Why not Paula?” I hear in my mind. “Why not you? Or the guy down the block? Or a lady in California? Or a kid in Germany?”

I sit quietly.  Those questions don’t seem very constructive or comforting, but I see God’s point.  Asking ‘why’ doesn’t help move the situation forward.  Asking ‘why’ allows me to sit transfixed by grief without making any progress.

I do one thing that I can right now – get Paula and her husband on the church’s prayer chain and on every prayer warrior’s lips I can think of – and then I pray.  It’s fitting that part one of the post about Ephesians 3:20 had just dropped that morning and so I pray Ephesians 3:20 over Paula.  We definitely need more than I can ask for or imagine.

Then I remember reading a post from one of my favorite bible teachers, Margaret Feinberg.  In her post “How to Cling to God When Everything Falls Apart” Margaret talks about replacing the ‘Why’ question with a ‘Who’ question:

Who is God in this?  This is a daring question to ask.  But such a brave question will not just lead to a deeper connection to God, but to answers that transform us—making us look just a little bit more like Jesus along the way.  You see, God listens to our stinging words, embraces our frail hearts, and meets us where we are.  Nothing is too much for the Holy Who.

As the day wears on I’ve stopped asking why and set my sights firmly on God.  God knows how much my heart aches.  He knows the pain and sadness and frustration that Paula must be feeling.  He knows the heart of her amazing husband, Bob, who has been such a rock throughout this ordeal.  He is within us, between us, going before us, and covering us.  Jesus in our midst.

I wonder if He is crying.

Dear Lord, our almighty Father in Heaven, how grand are your plans and purposes. You are the Alpha and the Omega, without whom we would not be. Let your healing hand of mercy and grace fall gently on my friend and all of your children who suffer from this dreadful disease.  Help us to be constantly touched by Your magnificence, recognize Your wonder, and abide in Your truth. We may ask why, Lord, even though our soul knows that the answer remains with you. Thank you for allowing us the freedom to ask. Propel us to a better future by helping us to not wallow in misery over our present. We love you, Lord. Amen.

Thank you to all who prayed with us this past week.

My heart is full of joy for you.

Stronger in Answered Prayer

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This is the third part of a post that began on Monday and continued Wednesday. Feel free to step back in time to catch up.  We’ll be right here when you return.

How much stronger can your faith be in answered prayer?  STRONG.  Maybe even Orlando Strong or Boston Strong or NYC Strong.  We should just call it USA Strong since our strength as a people is one of the identifying characteristics of Americans (even though this administration would rather just apologize for it).  We are strong and we’re not going to let a bunch of whiney jihadists following the alleged writings of some pagan god destroy the love that we have for one another.  OK – that’s my political speech for today.  Let’s get back to answered prayer … and for all of you praying that God would destroy (or turn) the terrorists, your prayers have already been answered.  Read Revelation.

When I was in the hospital facing an operation that might uncover that the worst of the worst diseases, cancer, had invaded my body; I knew a lot of people were praying for me.  A huge group of people at church, ladies I didn’t even know yet at Bible Study Fellowship, friends and their friends, blog readers (whom I count among my friends!), family, and (I would later find out) my parents friends and fellow country club members.  That was a whole host of people.  And you know what?

I felt every prayer.

Every. Prayer.

How?  Because before and after the surgery I felt as if a blanket of love had enveloped me.  Even when I awoke in the Recovery Room with my doctor’s hand gently laying on my arm, his little face smiling at me, and his warm eyes glowing – delivering the worst possible news – I still felt awash in a blanket of love.  OK, that could have been the drugs, but I don’t think so.  Because the same feeling persisted over the next few months as I went home, recuperated from the surgery and open wounds in my belly, and then started chemotherapy to kill what my doctor’s hands couldn’t.  I was buoyed by prayer and the warmth of a lot of love.  Praise Him that He hears the prayers of His saints.

Even when I sat in a hospital for 11 days and still hadn’t received a visit from any pastors in my church I prayed that God would send me a man of the cloth to talk to and pray with and within minutes the hospital Chaplin was at my door.  Praise Him!

Even when I wound up back in the hospital when a hematoma had burst under my incision and I had to receive a wound vacuum to help close the open wound, it didn’t look like it was going to happen.  I put a call in to three mighty prayer warriors to pray quickly to right what was going wrong.  In less than 15 minutes the situation became 100% positive.  The nurses said they never saw such progress.  I said, “You must not know my God.”  Praise Him for answered prayer!

All along this journey I (and others) have prayed and we’ve received answers to our prayers.  Although not always what we’ve prayed for or wanted.  I certainly didn’t want cancer, or an open would that would persist for six months, or weird salt & pepper curly hair, or neuropathy in my feet so bad that my toes feel perpetually stubbed.

But prayers always go answered.

Remember in Daniel 10 when the angel Gabriel told Daniel that his prayers had been heard immediately but he’d been fighting against Satan to get to Daniel with the answer and even needed Michael’s intervention to make it happen.  In some cases we might still be waiting for an answer to our prayer.  In others, and probably more frequently than we care to admit, it could be that we just don’t recognize the answer because we’re so set on what we want rather than God’s will for us that we don’t see it.

I remember a counselee talking to me about needing financial assistance.  There were several things happening in her life that could be covered easily if she’d only had more money.  She (and I) had been praying for a few weeks for a new, better paying job for her.  About four weeks into our sessions she came in really distraught that another interview had gone without a job offer.  It was getting down to the wire and she was getting more and more frustrated.  After we prayed again, we spent the rest of the time discussing the good things that were happening in her life.  As she spoke I got the sensation that I should be making a detailed list.  At the end of the session I was almost laughing out loud.  All of the “little good things” that had happened had removed the need for her to get a new job.  God had answered her prayer – just not in the way she thought she needed it.  Among other things, her two grown boys had both gotten jobs and agreed to pay $100 a month each to the household, her older son had taken on his responsibility for his car insurance, her father had gifted her with new tires for her car, and a neighbor had a garage sale which netted her a couple items she so desperately needed.  God didn’t want her in a new job.  He wanted her right where she was and had met her needs – almost to the penny.  He is so amazing!  He cares so much for us.  Why do we forget that?

For now, if you don’t have one already, why don’t you start a prayer journal?  I have a little blank book and on the right page list my prayers and leave the left, facing page blank to record the praise when the prayer is answered.  Seeing the request and the answer laid out in this manner will go a long way to strengthening your faith.  I can guarantee that you will be surprised about how God answers prayer time and time again.

Now … I promised my Ephesians 3:20 story and I see I’m well over 900 words.  To tell this whole story would be another 1,000+ words.  So I regret I must leave it until next week – BUT – I don’t regret for one instant getting to talk longer about answered prayer!!

That really just thrills my heart.  Thank you, Lord!

Praying you have a wonderful weekend with answered prayer of your own!

God’s Attributes Follow Up

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God’s Attributes Follow Up

I thought that Monday’s post about God’s Attributes would provoke a good debate and I wasn’t wrong.  Most people email, text, FB message, or private Tweet me if they have questions about something I’ve written.  I wish they wouldn’t because lots of people have the same questions and the discussion would be much livelier if held in a public forum.  Let me take this moment to remind readers that you can reply to any post anonymously.

Firstly, we need to touch base with the person who is still very upset that I called Jesus God in the post on the Trinity.  This person has sent me video after video of two old dudes sitting at their kitchen table misreading scripture to prove that The Father is God and Jesus is God’s son (not God and no mention of the Holy Spirit) much like I described my friend’s belief in the same post.  I pointed out that we obviously do not believe in the same God (mine is Triune) and that we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.  My last word to him and everyone else is: please do not take the word of two old guys sitting around a table or even my word as absolute truth (which only comes from God).  Do more research, read smarter thinkers than me, dive into some commentaries, and read the Bible for yourself all the while asking the Holy Spirit to impart His wisdom so you can understand.  But please don’t base your beliefs on only one source … unless it’s the Bible.

One response, probably to a headline that promoted the post on Twitter and FB which was “Is God good or bad or both or neither?” was that, “God is good.  Bad is a human trait.”  To which I questioned, “Isn’t good?”  As I said in the post – we humans have an innate desire to cast human characteristics onto a God who is not human because we cannot wholly grasp our unfathomable God.

Another reader brought up an interesting question asking, “How do we know whether the bad we are facing is from God or Satan?”  I responded in part by saying, “Satan is evil, God is not.  God always has a plan and a purpose.  Satan is just evil.”  She followed up with, “If Satan is evil then that means God is good.”  Here we need to be careful of considering Satan to be the opposite of God.  He is not.  God has no opposite.

A good friend of mine said recently, “Evil happens because we serve a sovereign God who allows it, regardless of the source.  We can’t know His plan in its totality.  He deliberately created us in such a way that we are to be confounded by such questions.  Part of faith is believing with partial understanding, and trusting God to carry us through … as well as faith being the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

In a devotional from a couple of years ago, Pastor Rick Warren wrote:  “God is good, and he will not cause evil or do evil. But God can use dark and stressful times for good. He’ll use them to teach us to trust him, to show us how to help others, and to draw us closer to other believers.”  He ends with good advice, “So, what should you do when you’re going through difficult times?  First, you refuse to be discouraged. Then, you remember God is with you. Finally, you rely on God’s protection and guidance.  We all go through difficult times. The difference for those who believe in Jesus is not the absence of the shadow but the presence of the Light.”  I love that line … the presence of the Light.

A woman I ran into a couple of days ago talked about the way I was ‘dealing with’ my cancer and asked why I was always so danged cheerful?  I’m dealing with it cheerfully because I depend on a God who is in charge of the universe and still personal enough to walk with me through it.

Early on (a little over a year ago) I placed the burdens I was facing squarely on His immense shoulders and have lived in a state of divine security and absolute peace since that time.  But I think her real question was why did I end up with stage 4b uterine cancer that traveled into my ovaries and into my pelvic lymph nodes and despite all the prayer I received, why didn’t God stop it?  She referenced Romans 8:28a which reads: “all things work together for the good of those who love God …” She knows I love God so how was cancer working for my good?

I could probably answer reams about this question, but in a nutshell, I’m not done yet.  As long as I’m drawing breath on this earth I have work to do for the Kingdom and I believe God is using this for my good as well as for the good of others.  My good because my faith has grown so wide and so deep and has been strengthened to depths I never even knew existed.

God decided that I walk through this trial.  I accept that because He is Sovereign.  A constant prayer of mine is that He uses my cancer for good and I do know that other people’s faith has been simultaneously strengthened.  I have had such great encouragement and support from my fellow leaders in BSF, and many of them have told me that I’ve been an inspiration.  To this though I can only smile because I know any strength and determination I have is not from me, but is God’s work in and through me.  ALL the glory goes to Him.

Thanks for all your thoughts and questions!

Until next time!

It’s Not the Cancer That’s Killing Me

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It’s Not the Cancer That’s Killing Me

I sat in the neurologist’s office the other day and heard myself ask, “Do you think I’ll ever walk properly again?”  I was sitting behind still on the exam table, my feet swinging free because she had needed to tap my knees and watch my reflex.  “Ouch,” I said as she used that baby rubber triangular hammer on my right knee.  She moved on to the other leg, “Yow!” I remarked sharply as the baby hammer fell against my left knee.  It was part of the reason I was here.  I’ve fallen a few times and landed squarely on my knees which is why they sting so much from a baby rubber hammer tap-tap-tapping away.  I’ve fallen because I’m not steady on my feet and I’m experiencing a bit of a foot drop while walking.  I can’t wear flip flops because I can’t grasp with my toes (and believe me that’s a real pain in Florida) and at home, with no shoes on, my feet dully smack the tile floor … I call myself Slappy.

The neurologist, having completed my exam, sat at the computer with her back to me typing her findings into my record.  I do love that about Cleveland Clinic – I can visit any doctor in a multitude of different locations across the state and each office has complete and immediate access to my history.  She stopped typing when I asked the question I knew she really couldn’t answer.  I was essentially asking if I’d ever walk, run, jump, and play again.  I wanted some kind of assurance that one day I’d regain my normalcy.  I realize I want this promise from all of my doctors.  To be told I’ll be normal again.  They can’t do it, at least not yet.

The neurologist says what I expect, “We need more testing.”  She’s very nice, even if her hands are frigid.  I want to hold her hands in mine until they warm up so the next patient won’t be so startled.  Instead I leave with prescriptions for a brain MRI and some sort of orthotic for my shoes and some other type of nerve test.  I sigh.  I was hoping to be able to live through the month of June without having to see a doctor or undergo any sort of test.  I brighten a little.  Perhaps I can get it all done before the end of May!

My feet, and my hands to a much smaller degree, are suffering from neutropenia a type of neuropathy that occurs in varying degrees to most chemotherapy patients.  I’ve known patients that have experienced it in one toe, the left thigh, an entire arm and hand, and some who’ve never had the thrill of it all.  It’s the worst side effect I’ve encountered.

Even though in the early days I had a very hard time grasping anything and my cell phone certainly took a beating, my hands have healed very well since my last infusion (Dec 2015).  I dared not carry a plate across the room if I couldn’t use both hands.  But now they just feel like tiny pins and needles at the tips of my fingers; making it hard to insert earrings or pick up something thin or delicate.  My feet are a whole other story.

I started 2016 with feet that hurt so badly there were times when I couldn’t even walk – each step was excruciating.  Then when I sat in a chair or got into bed, what felt like tiny electrical shocks would bombard my toes and insteps causing my whole leg to jump and me to yell out, “Ow!”  There were even a few nights when I was awake all night due to “the shocks” as I called them.  The shocks have largely abated and just appear now and again.  But perhaps the worst symptom was the stabbing pains. Usually coming at night, it was as if a pint-sized goblin was underneath my sheets sticking a sewing needle under the toenails of my big toes.  It was pretty rough.  I can give glory to God that the stabbing pains have long subsided.

But what drove me to the neurologist, aside from the neuropathy in my feet, is that I get dizzy when I close my eyes.  It only happens when I’m standing – so you say – well don’t close your eyes when you’re standing.  Have you ever tried to take a shower without closing your eyes?  Even when I’m out of the shower and throw a towel over my growing hair, the world starts to go wobbly.

The worst part though is church.  When I sing I’m one of those people with at least one hand up to God in praise and my eyes closed until … you guessed it … I start to teeter and have to grab at the people standing on either side of me so I won’t fall over.  I sometimes wonder if people, who don’t know me, might think I’m being slain in the Spirit.  That would be funny!

The truth is, no one can tell me how long these side effects will last or even if they’ll ever go away.  But I hold out hope that they will fade and I’ll soon regain the strength in my legs and be able to stand surely on my own two feet.

And … maybe even wear flip-flops!

Thanks for hanging in with me!

When Faith Falters ~ 2

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This is part two and the conclusion of a story that started on Friday.  You can find part one here. ~ F

Faced with a friend whose strong faith is perilously close to slipping over the edge of the abyss … I close my eyes and pray … God, help.  I am not equipped for this.

As I often do with my counselees, I change the direction of the conversation.  There is a time to shake the muck and mire off your feet and scramble back up to the edge of the pit.  I concentrate on asking Paula to pray for God to speak to her and then to watch closely and listen for Him to speak.  “He can use anything and anyone,” I say.

“I do,” she says.  “How come I don’t hear Him?”

Knowing that she believes she isn’t hearing Him I add, “His voice may not come the way you think it will.”  I remind her that I’d wanted to share Psalm 66: 1-10 with her earlier and hadn’t had the opportunity to – mainly because of how our conversation had unfolded.  I ask her to read it at home because it had been called to my attention that morning and it was so beautifully brimming with praise to God.  It’s hard to feel poorly when you’re busy praising Him.  And, since it’s one of my spiritual gifts, I tell her that I’ll pray for God to send me a word for her and that when He does I’ll let her know immediately.  She doesn’t look very confident.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m confident for the both of us.

We settle the bill and I suggest we go sit on the rocking chairs that litter the front porch of this establishment.

Outside we rock and talk softly.  The gravity of her earlier emotion subsiding, she’s now deep in her head and I’m still praying that God will speak to her and allow her to hear Him.

A woman walks by with a “Happy Birthday” balloon. I notice her hair is cropped really short like maybe she’s coming off chemo.  “Happy Birthday” I call out as she passes by.  She turns and smiles, it’s not her birthday but a friend’s … she’s just going to the car and will be right back. I mention to Paula that she might have cancer.  “Look at her hair,” I whisper.

“It may just be her style,” Paula responds.

“Maybe.” I say, sighing and looking out into the parking lot.

As the woman returns from her car she stops and hesitates in front of us.  Looking at me she indicates that she’s just finished treatments for breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, and reconstructive surgery.  She apologizes for surmising my situation (which I presume is due to my lovely ‘I’m fighting cancer’ hair-do).  I wave her off and congratulate her and her progress.  I gesture to Paula and tell her that my friend is also battling cancer and having a tough day.

Her words so tender and uplifting, I gasp and grab Paula’s hand as the woman bends down and speaks directly into Paula’s soul.  She mentions much of the verbiage in Psalm 66 – the very Psalm I had planned to read to her hours earlier.  She talks about gratitude and hope and healing. Paula is crying and I’m thanking God for this angel He has sent to us.  Talk about divine appointments!  Hugs and kisses later she hurries off to retrieve her friends inside.  I praise God aloud for sending the woman and squeeze Paula’s hand again.

Paula is still despondent.  “She’s just a woman,” she states matter-of-factly.

“A woman sent by God,” I emphatically declare.

The next morning I was not even out of bed before I was praying for Paula and asking God to give me a word for her.  I sigh laying my head back on the pillow, “Lord, we need a word from you now,” I implore aloud.  Suddenly I ‘got’ Isaiah 62:12.  I smile and say (again out loud), “Thank you, Lord,” my heart brimming with joy.  I grab my HCSB from the nightstand and read:

“And they will be called the Holy People,

the Lord’s redeemed;

and you will be called Cared For,

A City Not Deserted.”

How glorious! Of course He cares for her and has not deserted her. I immediately text Paula.  The Lord makes my day before I’ve even gotten out of bed!  How can you not love such a responsive Father?  He is so faithful!  I pray Paula will receive this message from Him and meditate on it.

At church the following Sunday Paula remarks that she didn’t understand the verse I sent her.  She opens her Bible and we read her version of the verse.  It’s nowhere near as glorious as the version I’m currently using (the HSCB or Holman Christian Standard Bible).  I open mine and read it to her.  She sits back contemplating the message.

Then, just before service started Paula grabbed my hand, “Don’t give up on me,” she whispers.  I turn to look at her with tears in my eyes.

“I won’t,” I whisper as I hug her tightly. “I won’t.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now tell me … What have you done to strengthen your own faith, or someone else’s faith?

Update:  While Paula still struggles, she is doing better, is reading the Bible, and has (at least) remembered that she will be going to Heaven when she dies. Glory!

 

When Faith Falters ~ 1

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I enjoy meeting my friend Paula for lunch once a week.  At these lunches we talk about our shared medical issues, our God, our love for Jesus, our service at church, the possibility of saving room for dessert (we never do), and any other good thing that comes up in conversation.

Paula is one of my OCFG’s.  I haven’t talked about this group of women in a while – they’re my Outrageously Christ-Filled Girlfriends.  Their faith runs deep, is outwardly displayed by their walk through life, and they constantly replenish, stretch, and support me.

But what do you do when the faith of a friend starts to go south?

The last few posts about Divine Appointments were specifically about how God brought Paula and me together. Until this past week I thought I was part of the appointment to provide prayer and support … which is huge in the realm of friendship … but when I met with Paula this past week I wondered if I wasn’t part of the equation for a time such as this.

At lunch Paula expressed some real issues she’s having trying to maintain her faith in light of her serious medical issues.  I don’t know if it happened earlier in treatment or just recently but Paula confided that the doctors have called her “incurable.”

I immediately bristle when someone – anyone – slaps a label on a person.  I know how easily a label can damage the psyche and I could easily see the effect it was having on my friend.

Trying hard not to proffer platitudes we continued to talk about God but the conversation got really deep – really fast.  She doesn’t know why God’s not healing her.  I don’t know, but I also don’t know that he’s not going to heal her.  I think as long as she is still drawing breath then God can heal her.  She brought up a scripture (Isaiah 53:5) that someone turned into a song, part of which is: “by His stripes we are healed.”  She and I don’t see eye to eye on this particular scripture.  She believes its physical healing while I believe it to be spiritual healing.  I look at her … probably blankly.  I don’t want to focus on our difference of opinion over scripture.  She’s in real trouble.  But every question she asks is not meant to be answered.  I can’t.  I can just listen and pray that God is listening.

I don’t feel adequate to be having this conversation.  Far too often my answer is, “I don’t know.”

Dejectedly Paula says she’s not hearing from God because she can’t concentrate when she reads the Bible.  I ask her not to beat herself up.  I can attest that cancer treatments mess with your mind.  Your memory has leaked out your ear and you can spend minutes searching for the right word for some every day, ordinary thing.  It’s aggravating but it doesn’t mean that God isn’t listening or talking to you.

At some point in the conversation, as we’d been tiptoeing around the topic of death, I mentioned that if it happened 5 days or 50 years from now it will be glorious to see Jesus.  She wonders how I can be so sure.  I know how.  About five years ago I had an experience in which I could have been killed and even though I was praying for Jesus to save me, I realized after the fact that I wasn’t afraid to die.  It was the first time I’d really comprehended that.  I’ve also just about finished up a BSF study on Revelation which has justly excited me (and many others) about the certainty of the believer’s eternal life.

This discussion led to yet another question I didn’t know the answer to.  Instead, I answered what I know to be true, “I don’t think we can know the answer to that question this side of heaven.”

Paula looked off into the distance over my right shoulder, “I don’t even know that if I die tomorrow that I’d go to heaven.”  She couldn’t meet my eyes as she looked back at her lunch.

I was silent.  The severity of my friend’s situation coming into full view.  If I hadn’t known it before, I knew it now.  Satan had my dear friend in his sights.  It was war.  I immediately grabbed her hands and prayed for God to rebuke the devil.  There was no way the enemy was getting ahold of my OCFG – because she is an outrageously Christ-filled woman – even if she didn’t feel like it at the moment.

Join me Monday for the conclusion of “When Faith Falters” and have a great weekend!

~ Felecia

Divine Appointments ~ 2

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This is the second half of a post that began yesterday and which you can find here to get caught up.  ~ F

Much praise was sent heavenward after the results of the biopsy were in and as I acknowledged God’s infinite wisdom to put Paula in my life.  What I didn’t know then – was that I wasn’t done.  I’d initially gone to the doctor in February to check out some unusual bleeding and an MRI showed that it was now my uterus that harbored something suspicious.  Surgery was slated and pre-op testing began.  It was an EKG followed by a stress ECG followed by a Heart Cath to discover that I had a 100% blockage of the artery they call the ‘widowmaker.’  A stent was immediately placed.  I returned to church to wait out the month before we could perform the surgery (due to the stent).  During this time a beautiful woman with long strawberry blond hair had started sitting near Paula and I in the front row. We quickly welcomed Lydia into our little group and discovered she was a nurse by trade as well as a prayer warrior for the Kingdom.

A month later I was undergoing a hysterectomy and since no one had really mentioned the “C” word in my presence, we’d been praying that my bleeding was simply caused by a renegade fibroid cyst (which I learned can sometimes masquerade as cancer).  It didn’t matter to me that my surgeon was the head of the Oncology GYN department or that I’d seen the words “suspected uterine cancer” as a diagnosis on some blood work. We all wanted the best possible outcome and I had such a peace about the whole situation that it simply didn’t matter to me what they discovered inside me.  You know that peace of God that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7)?  I had it – big time.  Thank you, Jesus.

It wasn’t until I awoke in Recovery that I learned that the doctor had gotten most of the cancer with the surgery (having to perform a complete hysterectomy and grab as many lymph nodes as he could) but that some lower pelvic lymph nodes remained that couldn’t be excised and there seemed to be some cancerous cells moving toward my stomach. Chemotherapy would be my next stop.

Paula was instrumental in helping me through those early months; preparing me with her first-hand knowledge of chemo and later radiation therapy, gifts of ginger drops and peppermint oil to help with nausea, a CD with healing Scriptures, warm fuzzy socks, and prayer – prayer – prayer.  Lydia’s nursing skills got a work out as well because when I was on the operating table I also received a hernia repair that hadn’t closed properly.  We were blessed as Lydia came to my aid helping show my Mom how to clean and change dressings as well as handle the wound vacuum until the visiting nurses could step in.

Then when I could physically return to church, the three of us created a little prayer huddle continuing to pray for each other.  The months have flown by for Paula and me and we have become a constant support to each other.  I don’t know how people without God in their lives can make it through a bout with Cancer and I don’t know how they could do it without a support system.  I had so many people praying for me and surrounding me and my family with love that it was palpable.  I believe I literally felt the prayers.

God knew that Paula and I would survive these trials better with each other, and He was right.  How blessed was I to have these two women enter my life at that time?  Our friendships continue to grow and I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for us!

Now it’s your turn.  Tell me about a time when you were involved on either side of a divine appointment?

Feel free to remain anonymous if you wish.