Dear praying friends,

We continue to be so grateful for your ongoing prayers. Here is the latest information regarding my cancer: On April 24 Susan and I went to Duke for a follow-up MRI of my brain and spine. The full-body PET scan on April 18 (after the completion of my final immunotherapy treatment on March 28) indicated that cancer may have spread to my spine and bones. We were so grateful to hear the results of the April 24th MRI that there was no cancer in my brain and spine.

We went to Duke the following day (April 25) to meet with the research nurse who will oversee the clinical trial I am entering. Though there is no cancer in my brain and spine, the cancer in my liver has progressed, and my doctor wants me to begin this brand new trial as soon as possible. They want to have 5 patients from Duke in this trial (69 in all from several institutions). I am number 2 from Duke.

The study requires a few more tests before we can begin which have been scheduled for Friday, May 2. The clinical trial itself will begin on May 9.

Please also pray that God will direct us into the arm of the study that will be the most beneficial. One arm is the investigational drug, and the other arm is an oral chemo drug that I can take at home. We are fully trusting in God’s perfect care and sovereignty. Proverbs 16:33 tells us that “the lot is cast into the lap and the Lord controls every outcome.”  Humanly speaking , a computer will decide which drug is chosen for me, but we know it will ultimately be by God’s choice.  We are trusting God to work out His will and are thankful that we can pull out of the trial at any time if the side effects are too harsh or if the drug is not proving effective.

As we face a health crisis and an unexpected church tragedy, God faithfully strengthens us and encourages us in His Word. During a recent challenging and particularly discouraging time, God spoke to me from Isaiah:

A New Look at God (Isaiah 51:1)

1 “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, Who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn And to the quarry from which you were dug. (Encouragement won’t come from earthly things but from the God who made us)

A New Experience (Isaiah 51:3)

3 Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the Lord; Joy and gladness will be found in her, Thanksgiving and sound of a melody. (God specializes in transforming waste places, wildernesses, and deserts into gardens that produce joy and gladness)

A New Focus (Isaiah 51:11)

11 So the ransomed of the Lord will return And come with joyful shouting to Zion, And everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away.  (The choice is:  will I see myself as I am in Christ, redeemed and take my dry and difficult times to God to experience His transforming work?  He is faithful to transform; we have to choose to embrace the hard times and wait for Him to show His grace and power).

In these unparalleled difficult days, God has been so faithful to draw near to us and to give us daily manna – strength for each challenge and peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. We fully recognize your part in that – God uses the prayers of His faithful saints to bring aid to those who find themselves in desperate times. Thank you for being that invaluable link for us.


Dear Praying Friends,

My fourth infusion is now complete.  That took place on March 28.  A full-body scan is scheduled for April 18.  That will let us know how the immune-therapy worked.   Our visit with the oncologist on the 28th indicated that the scan could show things as stabilized or in need of more treatment.  There are two options for follow up treatment and a clinical trial that is specifically oriented toward metastasized melanoma from the eye to the liver.  This type of cancer is rare and clinical research is rare too.  So, we were glad to hear there are options.

On the side-effects front, I have been having two.  The first is a general itching.  Nothing big with that, just some lotion on the effected area and I’m good to go.  The second is fatigue.  I find there are times when my energy just runs out.  I’ve likened it to having the flu a time or two each day.  The sinking feeling of the flu is what I experience, and energy and motivation sag a bit.  That is where the grace of God comes into play.

This past weekend was the real test.  Friday was our Duke visit, 7am to 2pm which was followed by a wedding rehearsal at 6pm.  I performed the wedding on Saturday afternoon and then preached twice on Sunday.  I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through the whole weekend, but God gave me a great lesson on the power of His grace.  I got through with moment by moment dependence.  Here is the sermon outline of “The Gift of the Thorn.”  I defined the “thorn” rather broadly as: “physical or emotional suffering that we do not choose, but the response to which we do choose.”  I explained ten reasons from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10  that the thorn is a gift.

The Thorn is a Gift because:

  1. It has a divine purpose – vs 7, “for this reason”
  2. It has a divine limitation – vs 7, “a messenger of Satan” – see Job 1:8-12
  3. It has a divine precision – vs 7, “to keep me from exalting myself”
  4. It is accompanied by divine patience – vs 8, “I implored the Lord three times”
  5. It is accompanied by divine grace – vs 9, grace and power interchangeable
  6. It is accompanied by divine promise – vs 9, sufficient and perfect
  7. It is a tool of divine work – vs 9, change our values, “boast about my weaknesses”
  8. It is a tool of divine vision – vv 9,10, see our weaknesses
  9. It is a tool for divine visitation – vs 9, “the power of Christ might rest on me”
  10. It is a tool for divine transformation – vs 10, contentment

The sermon can be viewed at http://www.cbchurch.org/messages/

I’m finding day by day that His grace is always available and mediated to “help me in my time of need” (Heb. 4:16) by the word of God.  Earlier today, after one of the fatigue episodes, I paused before my upcoming appointment to read the next chapter in my reading plan – From Proverbs 8, I read this:

Proverbs 8:34–36 (NASB95) 34 “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. But he who sins against me injures himself; all those who hate me love death.”

I recognized the voice of the Holy Spirit reminding me that help was available if I was willing to listen, watch and wait.  So, I sat quietly and sure enough, the gracious God provided heart and body strengthening power and spoke to my heart on what to do next.  It took a few minutes; I didn’t rush into the next thing.  Waiting and watching paid off.  In addition to this I am finding the prayers of others are powerfully effective as well.  Last weekend I felt like I was held aloft by the many prayers on my behalf.  God has richly blessed me with opportunities aplenty before me.  I’m realizing that I don’t have to have extra personal strength.  God will supply the strength for whatever He intends for me to do.  We can all count on that!







Dear Friends,

It has been a while since I last posted an update.  Two immunotherapy treatments down and two to go.  So far no side effects.  God continues to sustain us through the prayers of His people.  That is our most important asset as we weather cancer in all its facets. A key passage that God has recently emphasized to me is 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 in which Paul shares His own struggles with the burdens of life:

2 Corinthians 1:8–11 (ESV)

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Tumors are on my mind occasionally, but a little more recently. The reason is that I heard that one of our beloved seminary professors, Dr. Bill Larkin, ended the cancer journey with his entrance into heaven last Tuesday.  As I pondered that, I realized that somewhere in my mind I had thought that it wouldn’t happen to him; I thought his cancer would be overcome.  It just didn’t happen that way.  So tumors were fresh on my mind when the loving God prearranged my reading the next day in 1 Samuel 5 and 6.  In those chapters there is more spoken of about tumors than anywhere else in Scripture.

The story of those two chapters is the capture of the ark of the covenant by the Philistines near the end of the time of the Judges.  As the story goes, God began to work in the Philistines by causing their god Dagon to fall down repeatedly and brokenly before the ark of God.  Then God began to work physically in the lives of the Philistines.  How did He do this?  He did it by using tumors.  We read that in 5:6 He sent tumors on the people of Ashdod where the ark was located.  In 5:9 we see that a panic set in among the people.  In 5:12, what must have been external tumors, killed some and not others.  Finally they realized that they had to get rid of the ark and send it back home.  In 6:4, 5, 11, 17, they are led to make “golden tumors” as an offering before God.  The priests and diviners of Ashdod saw this offering as one that would satisfy God and bring healing (6:3); they spoke in terms of it bringing glory to the God of Israel (6:8).

What can we learn from this?

1)  God has over-ruling control of tumors.  He sent them; He alone can remove them (1 Samuel 2:6, 7).

2) God employs tumors to bring about change; we wake up to God and His purposes when suffering comes (Psalm 119:71).

3) God uses tumors for His glory.  God will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8).

4)  God allows some tumors to be fatal and some to be healed (John 21:19).

5)  God is merciful and only uses tumors and other trials as long as needed to accomplish His will (James 5:11).

6)  God is in control even when it seems like unbelieving culture and tumors are winning the day (Romans 8:28).

7)  God can intervene at any time He wants for His purposes and glory (Isaiah 59:1).

So, here I am, under treatment for internal tumors and all of this is true for me.  God has been so good to use cancer in my life and that of my family.  Here are a few of the good things that have come from the experience:

1)  An even better marriage.  God is faithfully and graciously at work to change us, and that translates to deeper intimacy with Him and with each other.

2)  Maturing sons.  God is at work in them in ways that only He can accomplish.  He is trustworthy in that.

3)  Fear of death abating.  God has done some wonderful things in making the hope of heaven very, very real.

4)  Re-purposing of my life.  I’ve had to recalibrate my life, one day at a time, to give more focused impact where it counts.

How can you pray?

1)  Physical Stamina/restful sleep.  I will be back in the office in March, and fatigue continues to be a regular challenge.

2)  Wisdom.  For Susan and me to make the most of the time God sees fit to give us.

3)  Impact.  For God to open doors that no man can shut for ministry of the word.

Dear Friends,
I started immunotherapy on January 17.  The previous blog gave all the details on that.  No side effects so far.  Next infusion on February 7.  Please pray for God’s hand in the process.  Rather than write a lot this time, I want to share with you a medical update from my older  brother John.  He has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis also known as ALS and Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  Read on for his words of hope and challenge.
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.  
(Hebrews 9:27, 28 NASB)
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. (Psalms 139:16 NASB)
I’ve been thinking about life and death recently, but not because ALS is always  fatal. Rather, there have been two recent deaths that have affected me. The first one happened about two months ago. This man was 64, just a year younger than I am. We got to know each other because our sons were in school together. He was a runner and apparently, judging from his activities, a well-conditioned guy. On November 19th, however, he completed his pre-ordained “number of days.” I was shocked at his sudden departure.
The second death was a shock too. At a warehouse store, where we’ve shopped for years, worked two young men who were twins. They were identical; I couldn’t tell them apart. We’d see them every visit, working in different parts of the store. Two days before Christmas Susie and Davy were at the store, and near the entrance was a table with a little memorial on it. There they saw a photograph of one of the two young men, and an obituary. He had died just two days before of an aneurysm. He too had lived out his days. He was only 34 years old.
The point of all this is that, no matter how long our life, life is short.We tend to live as if we’ll live forever, even if we know that’s untrue. There’s something beyond this life. That’s why we need to prepare for eternity. The Bible is God’s answer to the question, “What will become of me when I die, and how should I live in the meantime?” If you need help with that question, open up the Bible to the Gospel of John, then pray, “Lord, speak to me,” and read it. Then talk with a pastor about what you’ve read or with a Christian friend that you trust. You won’t regret it.
I continue my slow decline with ALS. The most notable thing to me is that my energy gets used up so quickly. One-finger typing even wears me out. From the little that I know, I think this is a combination of effects from muscle loss and breathing decline. My hands are very weak now too, and it’s difficult to reach with my “good arm” (left).
On another front, we continue to battle “head lean,” with weekly help from a massage therapist.
Interestingly, even as I decline in other areas my appetite is up. By God’s amazing grace I’m still able to chew, swallow, and talk, which are wonderful blessings.
Some people ask me how I maintain a good attitude in this condition. Like anyone else I have good days and bad days, but overall I’m a happy guy. Here’s what works for me:
1) Surrender to Jesus Christ and commit each day to Him. That means meeting with Him each day in His word, confessing sin, and then determining to walk with Him, in faith and holiness. It’s not easy, and I fail a lot, but God is gracious and full of mercy.
This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10 NASB).
2) Memorize scripture. Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. (Psalms 119:11 NASB). I use index cards to record the scriptures that speak to me. Here are a few that I use, almost daily: Psalm 23, Psalm 46, Psalm 131, Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 41:10, John 3:16, 1 Thess. 5:16-18.
3) Not everyone has this, but a good family is almost indispensable. How can we develop a good family? Men, we’re to lead our families, not just earn a good living. That includes the spiritual dimension, for we’ve been appointed the priests of our households.
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up…” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7 NASB)
When our children were young we had family devotions around the supper table; we used Proverbs because there are 31 chapters and it was easy to divide up the book, doing one chapter per day.
What if your children are older, and not so easily influenced by the Scriptures?  Pray for them. Pray without ceasing; (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NASB). Walk in holiness before them. A missionary who had raised five children once told me, “More is caught than taught.” If we don’t live out what we say we believe, our children will see through it.
4) Don’t give in to self–pity. The Bible teaches, and experience confirms, that life is full of trouble. It’s the norm for a sin-plagued world, and it’s the lab in which most life lessons are learned. God is on the throne, and He has a purpose for everything that comes our way. Get a copy of a little book called Behind a Frowning Providence, by John Murray, a Scottish pastor, and you’ll find he has a lot of holy wisdom about dealing with difficulty. If you have trouble finding one, let me know; I keep several on hand to share with people.
Instead of self-pity, think about good things, read, pray, help others, and be as active as you can. With the help of my son I sell some online, which is something I’ve been doing for about 15 years now. I find that to be enjoyable, and it provides me with a sense of accomplishment. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8,9 NASB).
5) “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB). Bing Crosby, in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, sang an Irving Berlin tune with a lot of truth in it:
🎼 I’ve got plenty to be thankful for
I haven’t got a great big yacht
To sail from shore to shore
Still I’ve got plenty to be thankful for
🎤 I’ve got plenty to be thankful for
No private car, no caviar
No carpet on my floor
Still I’ve got plenty to be thankful for
🎼 I’ve got eyes to see with
Ears to hear with
Arms to hug with
Lips to kiss with
Someone to adore
🎤 How could anybody ask for more?
My needs are small, I buy them all
At the five and ten cent store
Oh, I’ve got plenty to be thankful for 🎶
And so do I.
Patience. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22, 23 NASB). I didn’t realize how impatient I was. It’s taken awhile, but I seem to be more patient than before.
Related to patience is waiting. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. (Psalms 27:14 NASB). We’re prone to expect immediate answers to prayer, but God has His own schedule. I look back and realize how many times the answer was separated from the initial request, sometimes by years. In my condition waiting is a necessity, both for prayer and for daily needs. It’s best learned early.
Related to both these disciplines is perseverance. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:7 & 8 NASB). Just as in prayer we need to ask and keep on asking, so in daily life we must try, try again. This is especially important for those of us who are disabled. Winston Churchill said, “Never give in, never give in, never give in.” I do battle with ALS every day. When my right hand gave out, I switched to my left. Now that my left fingers are clenched, I use my knuckles.
Same song, next verse. I’m thankful for the Lord and His word, for my wonderful family, for medical professionals, for my massage therapist, for caregivers, for you at church that pray for us and bring meals, for our pastor that brings the word and other friends for a Bible study every two weeks, for friends that visit, for modern conveniences that make life more enjoyable, and so much more.

Dear Friends,

A lot has taken place since the last update. It’s hard to believe so much has happened so fast: liver resection surgery, a week-long hospital stay, Christmas, New Years, a follow-up appointment and a new treatment plan – all in about three weeks.  Here is a brief summary on the follow-up visit:

Susan and I met yesterday with Dr. Hanks at Duke.  My recovery from surgery is going well. My incision and all lab work were good. In terms of further treatment, Dr. Hanks explained that since the recurrence rate for my cancer is high, he would like to aggressively treat the cancer that remains in my liver. He believes that the most logical choice is immunotherapy. This differs from chemotherapy, and will use the drug Yervoy to stimulate the immune system to attack the tumors. Pending approval from our medical insurance, he would like to begin the treatment in two weeks. The IV treatment will involve 4 doses given in a 90-minute infusion every 3 weeks.  One month after the 4th dose, a whole body PET scan and a liver MRI will be done to monitor the progress of the cancer. There are side effects to the treatment, but Dr. Hanks is assured that they will be carefully monitored and treated.  Immunotherapy  can be repeated as needed, but that decision will not be made until the end of the first round of infusions.

So, that’s where we are.  There is no cure for ocular melanoma, but there have been results from this treatment that have kept the cancer in check for months and years.  Dealing with all this has been quite a challenge. There has been pain, sleepless nights because of sleep-filled days, and fears and uncertainties in many areas. However, God has been at work and has used several things to deeply impact me:

  • I’ve envisioned life as an hourglass. An hourglass has a limited amount of sand in it.  Psalm 139:16 speaks of the “days that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them.”  So, each of us has a limited and ordained number of days, and God uses prayer, doctors, etc to impact our lives during our allotted days.  This struck me when I was reading Acts 14:19-28, where Paul was stoned by his opponents and left for dead (vs 19).  They apparently did a pretty thorough job of beating him up, because they thought he was dead or as good as dead.  In the story, he got up (vs 20) and went on with life, preaching, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”  That assures me that no one’s life is over until God says it’s over.  That helps me to see this journey as a part of God’s plan to change me and to impact others.  I’ll be here as long as there is sand in the hourglass. My cancer, my prognosis, my treatment do not add or take away from the sand in my hourglass (Matthew 6:27). That timetable is securely in God’s hands.
  • Journeying through the “valley of the shadow of death”: As yesterday’s appointment drew near, I was very anxious about what I was going to hear.  Nothing seemed to get me fully past it until I picked up and read a chapter of an old Billy Graham book entitled, Death and the Life Hereafter.  In chapter 5, he quotes someone as saying, “Many people say they do not fear death but the process of dying.  It’s not the destination, but the trip that they dread.”  That seemed to be written for me. So, I read on like a young child, eagerly hearing truth for the first time.  Here are some of the quotes that helped me:
  1. John Newton, author of Amazing Grace, said near the end of his life, “”I am like a person going on a journey in a stagecoach, who expects its arrival every hour and is frequently looking out of the window for it…” That helped me to realize that my unsettling feelings of ambivalence are a common experience.
  2. Billy Graham – “In addition, suffering can give us opportunities to witness.  The world is a gigantic hospital; nowhere is there a greater chance to see the peace and joy of the Lord than when the journey through the valley is the darkest.”  This helped me to turn my focus outward and to recognize the worst “cancer” is sin. Everyone needs a diagnosis and treatment for that.  Billy Graham went on to sprinkle some application in the chapter, so I numbered them all.
  3. Billy Graham: (a) “…have you yielded your life – including your suffering – to Christ and asked Him to work for His glory through your suffering, even if you do not fully understand?” (b) “Lay your burden of suffering at the feet of Christ – who suffered on the cross for your sin- and ask Him to help you not only bear it but experience His victory and peace in the midst of it.” (c) “When you have ‘nothing left to give,’ God says, ‘All I want is you, beloved.  Trust Me.'”  C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain.”  I think this is what God has been shouting to me: “Trust Me!”  The result the night before the appointment was a new surrender, the best night of sleep I’ve had in a month, and perfect peace in meeting with the doctor yesterday.

This is a new normal for us, walking in the valley of the shadow of death.  God is here with us, personally addressing each heart need.  Please pray for us in the following areas:

Prayer Requests:

That God will be glorified and we will be changed.

 That we will be fully surrendered to God’s purposes and continue to find our joy and peace in Him.

 That the treatment will be quickly approved by our insurance company.

 That we will be strengthened physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually for this phase of the treatment.

One of the great gifts of cancer (and there have been many) is the joy of sharing this journey with those of you we love so much. Your constant care, concern, prayers, and expressions of love have ministered God’s grace to our hearts so deeply. We will be forever grateful.

Dear Friends,

Many of you have not gotten news about big changes in my cancer diagnosis and treatment.  Below is what we sent to our church.  Please keep praying, God has answered on all four passages that were highlighted in earlier blogs.

To our CBC family:

 Rob and I want to thank our CBC family for all of your loving support and prayer in our cancer journey.  Since Rob’s most recent update, things have changed unexpectedly once again. On Sunday Rob began to experience some back and abdominal pain. It worsened on Monday, so he contacted his surgeon’s PA who scheduled an appointment for today (Tuesday, Dec. 10). This morning’s CT revealed that one of the tumors in his liver was bleeding (though no rupture of the tumor was indicated). This was the cause for his back and abdominal pain.

 There was no evidence of cancer outside of his liver, but there was some growth in the tumors that were already there. There was a very small tumor by his gall bladder that was not previously seen, but the doctor said that the earlier CT may just not have shown it.

 The surgeon explained that with the onset of Rob’s recent pain and the risk of further bleeding that there is appropriate and reasonable reason to be aggressive about removal of the tumors. He has scheduled Rob’s liver resection surgery for Monday, December 16. We will find out at the pre-op appointment on Friday what time the surgery will be on Monday.

 The first stage of surgery will be laparoscopic. The doctor will look around to make sure that there are no more lesions that were not “seen” by the CT. If there are, then he will not proceed with the liver resection. Plan B will be embolization of the visible tumors. He said, however, that his ultimate goal is to “get the tumors out with negative margins.” If he proceeds with the resection surgery, he will also remove the gall bladder.

 One reason we wanted to send out a church-wide email is to express our gratefulness to all of you who have been such faithful prayer warriors for us. The other is that Rob’s sabbatical (unrelated to his cancer) is scheduled for January – March, 2014. Because his liver resection surgery will require a week-long hospital stay and an 8 – 12 week recovery, he will be absent from CBC until the end of his sabbatical. We didn’t want there to be any miscommunication, speculation, or unanswered questions. You are our family, and we want you all to have a clear understanding of where things stand.

 God continues to give us His peace that passes understanding. Rob will most likely post an occasional update on his blog, and we will stay in touch in other ways. Please pray for wisdom for the surgical team on Monday who will have to be making some on-the-spot decisions. Please pray for protection from the serious risks of this major surgery. Please pray that we’ll continue to experience God’s nearness, learn His lessons, and give Him glory.

 We have said many times that we are so thankful to be at CBC and nowhere else during this challenging time. We have been immeasurably blessed by your love and care.

 We love each of you,

 Susan and Rob

Thanksgiving is now past – a wonderful day filled with time with friends and family.  I hope you had a thankful and refreshing time.  Now it’s time to get back to the “normal routine” of life.  Cancer is a regular presence these days,  never far from mind (not unlike a difficult job or dealing with a broken relationship). It must be borne by Jesus in a moment by moment trust of Him whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.  We are at the mid-point of a 4 month wait for word on the status of my cancer.  Two months behind us, two months to go.  Each day presents its own unique challenges; today is another waiting day.  I’ve been reading several books recently, one of which is John Piper’s, When I Don’t Desire God where he speaks of “fighting for joy.”  It has been very helpful.  A conference by the same name (derived from the book) is available on the web at http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/by-conference/2005-regional-conference.   Here are some highlights from the book that are helping me fight for joy in this waiting time.  Piper’s words are in quotes, mine follow after his.

“When I saw the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, I was freed from the unbiblical bondage of fear that it was wrong to pursue joy.” (That statement in bold type has taken me some time to digest, but it is really ringing true recently – not satisfaction in outcomes, speculations, or expectations, but in God Himself and Him alone).

“The fight for joy in Christ is not a fight to soften the cushion of Western comforts. It is a fight for strength to live a life of self-sacrificing love.” (Not my comfort, but the outworking of God’s joy in me  for the joy of others).

“Joy will not be rugged and durable and deep through suffering where there is not resolve to fight for it.” (Fighting for joy is hard, but it works a more rugged, durable, deep joy in us through Christ).

“…it is a good fight because it is not a struggle to carry a burden, but a struggle to let a burden be carried for us. The life of joy in God is not a burdened life. It is an unburdened life. The fight for joy is the struggle to trust God with the burdens of life. It’s a fight for freedom from worry. It’s a fight for hope and peace and joy, which are all threatened by unbelief and doubt about God’s promises. And since freedom and hope and peace and joy are good, the fight to preserve them is a good fight. (There is a real sense in which the fight goes on and on, but it does bring about a steadfast freedom and peace in the midst of uncertainty and suffering).

So, how does one go about the fight for joy?  From where I am it seems to involve a close connection to God for the one day I have before me.  Hebrews 12:12-14 is helpful in this regard:

Hebrews 12:11–13 (NASB95)

11  All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

12  Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble,

13  and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

The fight for joy, whatever the personal context, is part of God’s “training” discipline that doesn’t seem pleasant, but afterwards produces peace.  In order to get there, we must strengthen ourselves and make simple paths for our feet. This involves making a plan in prayer for obedient, God-honoring service.  We can’t just sit and “stew” in our own thoughts and fears; we must make a plan and get busy.  Remember, it should be God’s plan, not our own.  I realize that in the course of any day, between interruptions and unplanned demands, I can get about nine or ten important things done.   So, here is one way to develop a God-inspired plan for any hard day ahead.

1) Take time alone with God.  Read His word (hmm, maybe a chapter of Philippians) get your heart and mind in a listening mode.  Ask God to guide you with His wisdom (James 1:5) and wait for the ideas to come.  Then…

2) Pick three categories of activity that are important and significant to you and the people around you (i.e. housework, yard work, paying bills, painting a room, writing thank you notes, work on relationships).

3)  Write down three things under each category that would help you move ahead graciously and purposefully (i.e. under paying bills: 1) balance the checkbook; 2) organize the bills by date due; 3) pay the most pressing ones, leave the others for another time).

4) With God’s help, get busy, accomplish what you prayerfully set out to do.  If interrupted, go with the flow of that and then return to your plan when you can.  Step by step with God’s help, do each one as you are able.  Have joy in God as you delight in His partnership during the day.  With gratitude, remember the partnership periodically and reestablish yourself in it by prayer.  If you drop the ball all day, just confess and do better tomorrow. Delight in God’s mercy and lovingkindness.

And if you want to know more about the joy that is worth fighting for, click on this link…


Please keep praying along the lines of: Philippians 1:13 (surrender); Job 38:11 (halt!); James 5:11 (compassion); 2 Chronicles 20:15-17 (trust) – for more details, see post from 10.23.13.