Amazing Grace!

I am so very happy to report to you that after my recent tests in Houston, I have been declared “CLEAR”….no evidence of disease. As you can only imagine, our whole family is eternally grateful to God, and rejoicing at such news after so long a battle. I must be especially pleased for sweet Nancy who has endured such a difficult year…she has been “the rock” like never before. She truly has no equal! I think I will need to find some ways to make her life lighter for a long while. You all can help as always.

As I shared previously, we were standing on God’s promise and the recent encouraging messages we have received including the one on 700 Club….but as our Lord is sovereign, we always must await His revealed Will and favor each day. On Wednesday, my scan went very well and I was out of the hospital by 10:30 AM, but we do not ever hear results until the next day. So dear Nancy and I went to the mall in Houston, had a bit of lunch and some “shopping”….lots of prayer throughout the day…. and back for a sleep. Then we went to see the doctors at 7:30 AM. The first words we heard when they came in to see us (he actually smiled) was that my scans were “squeaky clean”! Now, that is just how our God works….and we give Him all the praise and glory for this amazing gift of health. The doctors, surgeons, and the giant world-class medical center are a big part of the answer…and I am eternally grateful for them all… but only our Creator and Savior can ultimately decide how many days we will have here in which to serve and enjoy. He apparently is not done with me yet.

It was particularly impactful to me that as I was in MD Anderson awaiting my results, the news and all TVs were filled with the announcement of the death of Steve Jobs (founder of Apple for those who are not too techie) from Cancer at the young age of 56. Pretty thought provoking. A great reminder that no matter how rich or famous or connected or smart…or how many others think you might “deserve” to be alive…..we are all fragile and not promised tomorrow. He was able to beat his enemy for eight years which was longer than many thought….but ultimately, he lost that battle. Those of us who have placed our trust in Christ have  the promise of eternal life, so even death is not final. I pray that Steve somehow found the Lord as well, but I have no evidence that he did. That is what makes me sad. His impact here was certainly amazing.

Many of you have been so kind as to say that you “knew I would beat this”, and I love the optimism, and your belief that I am “strong” and maybe “deserve” to live long. But I believe that my life is simply available for God to direct and preserve as He sees fit, and I depend on Him for each day (even more consciously now) …and remain so grateful for this “borrowed” time and second chance. Life is so precious as are those that we love…so what a blessing to be allowed to have more time and to awaken each day with renewed energy for life. Yes, I believe that positive thoughts are powerful and sometimes healing, and I believe that God often rewards us for our service and faith and testimony. But I also know well from scripture that we are not the ones in control (sounds great to me as I have no interest in competing with God), and that God is not a “respecter of persons” (Acts 10;34), which simply means he does not “favor” some people over others as he made and loves us all equally. His favor on me today is amazing.

I imagine it will be a few weeks (or months) that I will be adjusting to this latest answer to prayer, and to the impact of this past year on my life ahead. How can you not be “different”? As we have discussed before, when God sees us through a “desert” experience, we must not miss the blessings and lessons available. This past year has been filled with so many emotions and new experiences that I may be the rest of my life sorting it all out with God’s help.

A few things that occur to me that should be considered when life surprises us (in health, finances, relationships, etc) and sends us into the desert for a season:

1. Could we have any responsibility in this dilemma?
In my case, disease is often the result of lifestyle choices and their consequences; our diets, our ability to deal with stress, and our environment. With Cancer, we know that things like smoking are known to increase risks dramatically, yet I have never smoked at all. But there are certainly things I will do differently or more deliberately now to build up and protect my immune system…how about you? Yes, people who do it “all right” still sometimes get cancer, and people who do “everything wrong” often don’t get it. But shouldn’t we at least learn to take responsible care of our mind and body such that we do not contribute to our problems or our risks? I think so. Simple things like taking your supplements daily (sorry, I sound like “mom”), drinking lots of good water, getting a bit of exercise regularly, and dealing with stress as God commands by giving the problems to Him. And in my case dealing with “acid reflux” early rather than ignoring. (Any others of you “guilty” of this one?)  Our health is more precious than anything and we can impact it a lot by ourselves… so we don’t have to “blame” God when things go wrong.
2. Could God be at work in my life?
Look at what is written in John chapter 9: 1-3; “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him”. So often in my experience, God uses such detours and faith-demanding experiences in our life to prepare us for greater service. It is only when we are broken or in crisis that we seek Him and listen and are able to be molded and strengthened and improved. Romans 8:28 says: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. So, although God is highly unlikely to be the source or instigator of any such troubles in your life, we live in a broken world, and so He will always use such situations for the ultimate good of those whole love and trust in Him. He is at work. He may not “deliver us” from the fire, but he will deliver is in the fire. Who are we to complain? How does the pot complain to the potter?

3. Don’t trust your feelings.
Your feelings will tell you, “God has rejected you. Abandon hope. He has left you utterly alone.” Feelings change; God never changes. Feelings come and go; God is always with us. “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). God is not mean and distant, and he doesn’t play Monopoly with our lives. He has a plan for each of us, that is good and not evil, and he is writing an on-going story of redemption with each of our lives. None of us is more special than another to Him. We are all special and He never changes so He can be trusted in ALL things and circumstances. How comforting huh? Even when a big impressive highly “educated” medical person or institution says we are “in trouble”….we can still and instead look to our Lord for what he says and what he promises….. and he says if we “ask” and “knock” he will answer. Feelings and emotions are what make us human (me too) but his eternal Word keeps us safe and secure.

4. It is not just about me (or you)
God loves to define us (or re-define us) and define us and prepare us so that we can be most effective in the work he has for us to do. Often, our own adversity is used to create benefits and influences and blessings in other people’s lives that you or I may influence or touch in new ways. Imagine the empathy I now have for those in health (or any) crises. Imagine the new awareness and awakened passions and adjusted or energized dreams. I can be thankful for the ability to see “in color” instead of black and white because I can be a better and more useful leader or husband or father etc. We rarely “grow” much during prosperity. If any of us wants to be a leader or influencer or comfort to others…we must first be molded and broken as only God and certain adversities can do. Then we can be better and wiser and more able to connect and communicate. Like most of you, I still don’t “like” this reality…but I do understand it more each day.

5. Don’t rush the process
Joseph was thrown into the pit and sold by his own brothers as a slave. (Can you imagine this?) He was dragged off to another foreign land, and labored and was imprisoned for years. He was separated from his family and his father thought him dead, but God was at work and he was eventually elevated to second in command of all of Egypt. He was then able (17 years later) to save his family and people from starvation. There really was little he could do about his situation, and it was likely the very fact that he was left there so long that made him so useful and effective later.  He couldn’t climb out, jump out, levitate out, or talk his way out. All he could do was pray, trust, and wait upon the Lord. (And he didn’t even have a Bible to read!)

I was sure hoping (and expecting) to be done with my treatments after the surgery. It seemed to me I “had already received my lesson”, but God allowed another season of uncertainty and a prolonged test of faith. I may have learned and grown and deepened the most during this extended stay in my desert. I am still actually in need of on-going re-testing in another 3 months, so isn’t it wonderful that I have the privilege of standing on faith daily as I remain aware of my need for God’s grace and power to keep the enemy at bay. This is a disease that always “lurks”, but God is stronger than any disease.

6. Lean on the Lord always
I read this recently; “Even when you don’t feel like praying, pray. Even when you don’t feel like reading His Word, read. Even when you don’t feel like singing songs of faith, sing. When you pray, don’t just talk; listen. Be silent before Him and listen for His still, quiet voice”. It is so easy to get involved in the “dailyness” of life and forget to lean on Him. Challenges, weaknesses, fears, threats, uncertainty …all contribute to an awareness of the completeness of God’s promises. We can dream and work and celebrate…but we should “acknowledge him in all ways…and he will make our paths straight” (Proverbs 3)

7. Be alert to new truths and new perspectives
As with me, these unexpected and unwelcome challenges in life (especially the “life-threatening” kind) are most often a source of amazing new strengths and perspectives and discoveries. We learn to see people and issues with a new lens. We see life as a gift to be appreciated and used to the fullest. I know I plan to.

So….today, I am especially amazed by the Amazing Grace of God. My situation could have resulted in a very different outcome this week. I pray my faith would have been equally strong and my praise equally loud if the report had not been so good. “Reports” are just that…reports of man. God makes his own report to our hearts every moment of day. We will choose to listen to those.

Let me sign off today with the well-known words of John Newton’s beloved hymn. Although he lived long ago from 1725-1807, these words express timeless truth and great comfort and power still today…..

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

And am I grateful for your continued love and prayers for our family?? YES!…but never enough.


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