Update 8-14-19 “Anxious?…. Don’t Be”

Matthew 6:25-30 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? [1]

I had another PET scan a couple of weeks ago.  The good news is that there is still no sign of cancer!  God is good and I am so thankful for that report.  However, I must confess, there is always a little anxiety when preparing to go the doctor and get the report.  I felt confident that there would be no sign of cancer, but there is always that little doubt residing in your mind.

I have read the passage above several times and the message is clear, trust God; He is in control of our lives.  It is the everyday details of life that seem to get us down and causes worry in our life. If we can trust God in the big things we can trust God with the small things.  In other words, give everything over to Him.  I don’t think that means we stop doing everything to take care of our business and our lives.  It means we do what we know to be the will of God and we leave the results up to Him.

I know that God has some important things for us in the days ahead.  I don’t know what they are yet, but I am patiently waiting for a word from Him and His leadership in our lives.  Please pray for us as we find a new place to serve in a church.

We have made the transition to Amarillo, Texas.  I am thankful for the new doctors that I have already found and I am confident that God is leading me to the right physicians to help care for my medical needs.  For the most part, our house is starting to take shape.  It is always amazing to find out how much  we have accumulated over the years. We have intentionally downsized our home. So, the big challenge has been to find places for all of our belongings (stuff).

It is good to be back in the Texas panhandle.  I miss my Kansas friends, but I have already come across some of our friends from days gone by.  The other day I went into Starbucks and turned around and saw Sonia, one of our family friends since childhood.  I have been able to see my cousin Carolyn more than I have seen in the last several years. Above all it is good to be close to my mom, my sister and to my wife’s sister.  I am looking forward to making new friends and being available to serve our Lord and savior with our next assignment.

[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:25–31). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Update 5-21-19

I Called… You Answered!

 

Psalm 138 

   I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;

before the gods I sing your praise;

   I bow down toward your holy temple

and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,

for you have exalted above all things

your name and your word.

   On the day I called, you answered me;

my strength of soul you increased. [1]

 

Just about a year ago I was told that I had larynx cancer.  I think it didn’t really surprise me that I had cancer.  I had struggled for three years with my voice and I knew something was not right.  Yet, no one likes to hear that ugly word “cancer.” I saw my oncologist for the first time on May 16thlast year after being told on May 14ththat I had cancer by my ENT doctor.   They got me in fast and started my treatment process immediately.

I am so grateful for the many prayer warriors throughout this past year.  We called out to God and He answered our prayers.  To be honest with you, the treatment was not easy and there were some very tough days but through it all I could see God’s hand in his care and love for me and for my family.

Here is the latest update:

  1. Every scan shows no sign of the cancer.
  2. My ENT says my vocal cord area looks clean and good. I only have to see him every six months now.  I still have trouble with the left vocal cord.
  3. My blood levels are better but my red blood cells and white blood cells are still running a little low.
  4. I have lymphedema in my neck area and wear a compression wrap every night to try and control the swelling.
  5. I have gained over 20 pounds back and over all I am able to eat. However not all taste buds are normal and some things do not taste just right, but it doesn’t keep me from eating.
  6. I have had my esophagus stretched several times. Last time I went in for the procedure he did nothing and said it has healed and I don’t have to do that again. I still have small problems with swallowing but it is a lot better.
  7. I have a little neuropathy in my hands and feet. That is due to the chemotherapy that is still in my system.  It is getting better and hopefully it will go away.

Overall, I am feeling almost normal (whatever that is for a 66 year old man).  I am back to preaching again.  I have the opportunity to fill in for a small church that is without a pastor right now.  I am so thankful for this opportunity that they have given me to preach the gospel. I must admit the first couple of Sunday’s were a little hard on my vocal cords, but each Sunday I get stronger and my voice is getting better.  (just wished my preaching would get better….ha)

Janette and I have put our house on the market and hope to move to Amarillo, Texas.  We love living in Kansas and it will be hard to say good-bye to all of our friends in this state.  God has allowed me the opportunity to know people all through this state and beyond.  I am grateful for the opportunity to pastor in Liberal, Ks, to be the DOAM in Central Baptist Association, to work with CrossPoint church and to be the transitional pastor at FSBC Great Bend.  For 28 years we have lived in Kansas and it is home to us.  However, we feel like it is time to get closer to my mom and sister and to my wife’s sister.

I want to echo what King David said, “I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart.”  I am grateful and with my whole heart  and want to give God the glory for the healing that is taking place in my life.

I feel like I lost a whole year of my life, it was a difficult year. It started with my dad being very sick in March last year and then passing away in April.  I went from grieving my father’s death to right into treatment for my cancer.  I’m not sure I have had proper time to grieve the loss of my dad. I think what I miss most are the times we had fishing together. It was there in those moments that I felt closest to my dad.  We would talk, we would fish hard, we would laugh and we would argue about who caught the biggest and most fish.  I will never forget the many times we would head to the light of the cross on the side of a church encampment at Lake Texhoma in Rock Creek.  We would always be reminded of Christ and his love for us to give his life so that we could have eternal life in spite of our broken and sinful lives.

One other moment I remember from my dad was when I was in college.  We were headed to Lake Meredith to fish for crappie.  Dad looked and me and said, “Son, I don’t have much to offer you. But what I do offer you is my name; make me proud.”  That was dad’s way of passing the baton to me, a way to say you are no longer a boy, but a man.

I bow down toward your holy temple

and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,

for you have exalted above all things

your name and your word.

The steadfast love and faithfulness of God has sustained me through this past year.  I am thankful for that.   It is His name we are to proclaim, it is His word that is Holy. “Make HIM proud!”

[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 138:title–3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Update 1-21-19 “A Thorn in the Flesh”

A Thorn of Flesh

2Corinthians 12:7

2Corinthians 12:7

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.[1] 

Last spring I had a feeding tube inserted into my stomach to provide nourishment.  I think I referred to it as a necessary agitation.  The stomach tube was a constant irritation to my stomach and to by sleeping habits.  During my most intense treatment of radiation and chemotherapy I could not eat at all through my mouth.  Without the tube I would of not had any way to receive nourishment.  There were days where the liquid diet would not even stay down. I forced myself to put eight bottles of Boost down my tube every day.  I knew I could not lose any more weight.

Last Wednesday I was able to have the tube removed.  I have maintained my current weight for two months and I am eating and taking all of my medications through my mouth now. So, I was able to have my thorn removed from my side.

Overall, I am recovering from all of my treatment. Recently, I had a small concern, I was losing blood in my digestive system somewhere.  My red blood cells and my Iron have been low for the past two months. I had a colonoscopy and upper scope done last week and the doctor said that the blood was coming from my stomach tube. That is another reason that I am glad that it has been removed.

They also discovered that the radiation had caused my esophagus to shrink and it was extremely small.  They could barely get a scope down.  They stretched the esophagus and as a result I am able to swallow and eat just a little better.  The doctor wants to stretch it again in six weeks.

I suppose as long as we live in this world we will always ask ourselves, “why do I have a thorn in the flesh?”   For the apostle Paul it was a necessary agitation.   It allowed him to stay humble and in tune with the Lord.  It provided opportunity for him to minister to others.  (Galatians 4) I know that the lingering side effects of this cancer will stay with me for the rest of my life.  That is okay.   God is given me opportunities to minister in other ways and I look forward to what is next for me.

I have learned much over the past year.  God has been good to me and has blessed me in so many ways.  My wife and  family have loved me and nursed me during this difficult time.  Our granddaughter called the other day and said she was so excited.  When we asked why she said, “Pop got his stomach tube taken out.”  That may not seem like much, but to me it was such a source of inspiration that my grandchildren are so concerned about me and that they get excited about the same things that I get excited about.

I got to preach a couple of weeks ago for the first time since my dad’s funeral last April.   It was a blessing to be allowed to preach at my home church.  It was emotionally and physically challenging. However, I now know that I can endure a couple of hours of preaching and I am looking forward to having opportunities to preach at other locations this year.

At the beginning of this journey I used Isaiah 41:10 as my theme verse“Do not fear for I am with you, do not be discouraged for I am your God, I will strengthen you and I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

In spite of the physical thorns in my life, God continues to strengthen and encourage me.  I know I can rest in his hands.  I still pray this verse as I go through my journey.  I know that whatever new thorns  come my way that I can continue to do what God has called me to do.

[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 12:7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Update: December 12

White as Snow

Today has been a good day and a day to praise the Lord and bless his holy name.   I went to my oncologist today and received my report from my recent x-ray and PET Scan.  Both test showed no sign of cancer and at this time I am cancer free! That was sweet music to our ears today and we are trusting God for a continued healing and I am looking forward to what is next for us.

I still have a few minor issues to work through.  I have had a few sores in my mouth and one of them did not heal and a small area of bone is exposed on my lower jawbone.   I am seeing a dentist, an oral surgeon and my ENT doctor to see what can be done.

Also, for some reason I have low iron and we are not sure what is causing that, however I did have a horrendous bloody nose last month that would not stop and it required a trip to the ER and they packed my nose to stopped the bleeding. I will be doing a few tests to eliminate the possibility that I might be losing blood somewhere else. I was hoping to eliminate the feeding tube, but since I can’t swallow huge pills I will be putting some iron medicine down my tube the next month.

I believe God has healed me and that he has removed the cancer. The word that continues to pop up in the reports is “resolved”.  In other words what was once there has been resolved and is no longer present.

I started thinking about God’s redemptive plan and how He has also removed our sin through His Son Jesus Christ.

I don’t believe that a specific sin caused my cancer. We live in a fallen and broken world.  Bad things happen to our bodies sometimes and has nothing to do with our spiritual status.  But,  everyone in this world has a sin problem that needs to be addressed. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior our sin problem has been resolved.

That is what God does with our sin when Jesus comes into our lives. Please read the following scripture:

Isaiah 1:18

18    “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:

       though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be as white as snow; [1]

Isaiah 53:6-8

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

       and the Lordhas laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

   He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

yet he opened not his mouth;

       like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he opened not his mouth.[2]

The prophet Isaiah is clearly talking about the promised Messiah who would come on purpose to this world to be a living sacrifice so that our sin problem can become “white as snow”.

Jesus took our sins and laid him upon himself on the cross.  I do not fully understand God’s plan.  I trust and place my faith in God’s plan. When I look at how ugly my sin is, I wonder why God would love me so much to give his only Son to make me white as snow.

We all are sinners and the only way for us to become righteous is through his grace….a gift of eternal life.

Romans 3:23-24

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,[3]

Redemption is in Christ Jesus and only in Christ Jesus; only He can make us white as snow.  Only he can remove our sin and make us just and holy. We will never be able to accomplish holiness on our own merit.  We are not free to continue in  sin once we come to Christ.  We become free from sin because of Christ.  We continue to live for His glory, not ours. We are to pursue holiness.  Once we come to Christ, we are sealed by his precious Holy Spirit and he lives in us.  The Holy Spirit is unable to sin.  He is God.  So we spend the rest of our earthly lives with this spiritual tension and battle with fleshly sin versus our holy pursuit.  Praise God, the victory has been won through Jesus Christ and our faith in Him.

So today I can celebrate life in two ways.  One, a deadly cancer has been removed from my body and I still have time to continue to honor and glorify God with my life.  And second, I can celebrate because Jesus has removed my ugly sin and God sees my life through the lens of Jesus.  I have been given a gift of eternal life through the grace of Jesus.

Thank you for your faithful prayers and for the many notes of encouragement I have received through my blog, through social media and mail.  I love each and every one of you and if I can stand in the gap and be a prayer warrior for you please let me know.

I will continue my blog as I still continue this journey with my oncologist and other doctors. However in the days ahead I may go to another format and do a blog on a regular basis based on my daily Bible readings.

[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 1:18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 53:6–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 3:23–24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Update November 8th Our hearts ache, but we always have joy….

 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy….

2 Corinthians  Chapter 6

As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says,

“At just the right time, I heard you.

On the day of salvation, I helped you.”

Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

 We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. 10 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. [1]

 

Almost 19 years ago my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.  It wasn’t our first encounter with the awful word of cancer.  Her mother had died 18 years earlier with melanoma. But reality hit us both very hard with the news of my wife’s cancer  and knew that we would face a very difficult year of treatment.  When the doctor told us the news, one of the first things my wife said was, “ help me find the joy in this journey.”  I wasn’t for sure I could do that, but the word joy became our favorite word and God’s word continues to speak to us through all of our circumstances.

Once again I am reminded that joy is what God gives us because of his promises and despite what we go through in this life he is in control and assures us the hope of eternal life through his Son Jesus Christ.    I am reminded that what pain and suffering I have experienced the past year was nothing compared to the troubles and hardships that Paul went through for sharing the gospel.  And, I am always drawn to the cross for which Jesus endured and it was for joy that he did so. (Hebrews 12: 2)  Why? He knew the future; he knew that the cross gave us victory over sin and death.  That is the only reason we can have joy through our heartaches.  Without Jesus there is no hope and there is no reason to find our joy.

In these verses we find a plan on how to address our difficult moments in life.  Use the weapons of righteousness.  We attack our weaknesses and we defend righteousness. We serve God first and foremost. Live a life of integrity full of honesty.  Know that people will ignore us, fight us, call us names and try to destroy the joy we have.  Death surrounds us with threats, health and terror.  But we are still alive! And, we still have joy! We have everything we need.

I am getting stronger every day.  I still struggle with an appetite and with eating certain foods.  But each day I see improvement.   I am hoping to have my feeding tube gone before Christmas.   I am taking all of my medicine by mouth and have stopped taking my supplement.  The bad news is that I have lost some weight because I am still not eating enough.  I think I will start leveling out soon with the ability to eat more.    I have a Dr. appointment next week.  I had a swallowing test done last week and the Dr. said everything is working well.  However, I still have problems swallowing medium sized pills.  I have to cut them to make them smaller. I will have chest x-rays and a PET scan in December, although the PET scan is not scheduled yet.

THANK YOU for all of your prayers.  God has been gracious and I am looking forward to what God has next for me. Please pray that all goes well with my feeding tube and with the PET scan.

[1]Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation(2 Co 6). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Update October 17

Psalm 34

I will bless the Lordat all times;

his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

   My soul makes its boast in the Lord;

let the humble hear and be glad.

   Oh, magnify the Lordwith me,

and let us exalt his name together!

   I sought the Lord, and he answered me

and delivered me from all my fears.

   Those who look to him are radiant,

and their faces shall never be ashamed.

   This poor man cried, and the Lordheard him

and saved him out of all his troubles.

   The angel of the Lordencamps

around those who fear him, and delivers them. [1]

Today is a good day. It has been a long year of grief and pain, but praise to God I see a ray of sunshine and I am looking forward to stronger and healthier days ahead.  I could not have come through this journey without all of you and all of your prayers.

My oncologist gave us the result of the CAT scan I took on Monday. The results of the test were positive and the mass in my larynx has been resolved or in other words, it is gone.

For that I say along with the psalmist “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.”  So many of you have been a source of encouragement and inspiration for me.  I know you rejoice along with me. Your prayers, cards and phone calls have meant so much to Janette and me.  THANK YOU!

I am not through with the journey.  I will have a PET scan sometime in December.  I will go to the cancer center monthly for blood work and to see the doctor. I still have a feeding tube and I am still not eating enough to have it removed.  The feeding tube area had a small infection, but it is getting better. My strength is still not where I would like for it to be, but each day I see small improvements.  This may be a journey that will always be with me for the rest of my life.  But I know I am not the only one on a cancer journey.  I have at least three relatives going through the same type of cancer treatment.  I also have many friends who are right in the midst of their own personal journey with cancer.  My prayer life has been keenly improved with daily request for all of my friends and relatives who are on their journey.

My wife asked if I was anxious to get the results and I said not really.   I know that God is in control and whatever the results were that they would be what they would be.  I am grateful for the excellent news.  However, I know there are many who do not get positive news when they get the results of their test.  Yet, I trust God to give me the courage and the strength to deal with whatever life my throw at me.

I am looking forward to resuming some of my ministry in the days ahead.  I was unable to attend the KNCSB annual meeting this year for the first time in a long time.  I missed seeing all of my fellow ministers in our convention.  I have been blessed with many friends and many mentors and many leaders who have been praying for me and encouraging me along this journey.

We gave many thanks to our oncologist and he was quick to acknowledge that it was not him but God who had done the healing. Therefore, we should all “boast in the Lord.”   My soul will continually and eternally bless the name of the Lord; He alone is worthy of our praise.

[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 34:1–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Update October 1 “Grace… a reason to dance”

Ever hear one of those toe-tapping songs that just make you smile. That is what happened today as I listened to the Mercy Me song “Grace Got You”. Here is the second verse:

So when you’re standing in the rain again

You might as well be dancing

Why? ‘Cause there ain’t no storm that can change how this ends

So next time when you feel blue Don’t let that smile leave you

Why? ‘Cause you have every reason just to

Sing, so the back row hears you

Glide, ’cause walking just won’t do

Dance, you don’t have to know how to Ever since,

ever since grace got you

Laugh, ’til your whole side’s hurting

Smile like you just got away with something

Why? ‘Cause you just got away with something

Ever since, ever since grace got you

Ever since, ever since grace got you

Grace got you(1)

Those who know me knows that I do not have the necessary skills to dance. But if there were a song that I could dance to it would be this one, it just kind of makes you let go and praise the Lord for everything going on in your life.

Over the past year there have been many reasons to feel defeated, but I hang on to the promise that God has extended His amazing grace over my life and no matter what happens to me or any believer, God has covered us with the free gift of eternal life. That alone is reason to dance.

Ephesians 2:8  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (2)

Ecclesiastes 3:4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; (3)

I continue to feel better. I am still struggling to eat meat and breads. But each day gets a little easier. I am having a few issues with my feeding tube. I go see a Dr. today.

I want to thank everyone for the encouraging words from my last blog. I had no idea how many people were reading my blog. You made me realize a few things and for that I am grateful.

God has purpose in everything that happens to us in our lives. Stand strong, be faithful, be hopeful, and be full of grace for God has richly blessed all of us. Whether we stand on the precipice of heaven or have many years left on this earth, God has purpose for all of us and despite how we feel, He love us; He cares deeply about us. If you can, tap your toe and call it a dance for the Lord of grace!

[1]Songwriters: Benjamin Glover / Solomon Olds / Bart Marshall Millard / David Arthur Garcia / John Reuben Zappin

Grace Got You lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group, Moon And Musky Music

[2]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 2:8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ec 3:4). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.