Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sneaking Cookie Dough

I almost skipped my post for today. But then I decided to make a quick post. Just a few thoughts on a Sunday evening.

We are having a great time with our older son, the West Point plebe.

I don't think anyone is happier to have him home than our younger son. They have spent time sword fighting, wrestling, and playing with Legos.

We have enjoyed hearing stories about Beast (Cadet Basic Training), Re-organization Week, and the first full week of classes. We ask questions, but mostly he just shares things as he thinks of them.

I am thanking God for this great weekend. Having the family all here. I am reminded how much I miss our older son. Our late night talks. The laughter. He has certainly left a hole here in our home.

Last night, my sister and her husband dropped by. They drove up from South Carolina for the weekend. In all, they plan to be here in Pennsylvania for less than 24 hours. I do not know how they do it.

We all went to church this morning. Our plebe, dressed in uniform, enjoyed some popularity as folks lined up to say "hello" or encourage him or to hear something about his adventures.

Others came by to tell me and my wife that they were saddened by our recent biopsy report and that they are praying for us.

After church, we were invited to lunch by a family that we have been trying to get together with for several months. We had a great time of fellowship.

Thankfully, my pain level was manageable this morning and early this afternoon. On the drive home, though, the pain started to increase.

This afternoon, some neighbors/friends dropped by. We were saddened to hear that one of their parents was recently diagnosed with cancer and not doing well.

As I have been writing, two of our son's friends dropped in. My wife is feeding them lasagna and leftover wings. She is also starting a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Everyone likes my wife's chocolate chip cookies.

If I hurry - and that is not easy to do with the pain and the crutches - I might be able to sneak some cookie dough!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

It Begins and Ends with Grace

I slept on and off for most of the day yesterday. Perhaps it was my body's way of dealing with the persistent pain.

I awoke at one point to build Lincoln Log structures with our son. Another time, I helped my wife shred zucchini using the food processor. At dinner time, I had somewhat of an appetite and enjoyed two small helpings of fettucine alfredo and salad prepared by our daughter.

After dinner, my wife asked if I felt up to having some friends over to play a game. I agreed and we did. While we waited for these friends to arrive, I returned a phone call from earlier in the week from friends in Georgia. We spent some time talking about our current health conditions then reminisced about the good times we had in Georgia. A little later our other friends arrived. We enjoyed ice cream and zucchini bread. Life at this time of the year has a way of revolving around zucchini. Then we played Phase Ten. We laughed and talked as we played. We had a great time. And I felt the best I have in a long time.

When I climbed into our sofa bed at the end of the night, the pain started up again, and I had the first sleepless night I have had in a long time.

This morning, my wife and daughter are on their way to Highland Falls, New York to pick up my son for the Labor Day weekend. I am looking forward to seeing him.

So is my younger son, who is still sleeping upstairs. At any moment, I expect to hear him coming down the stairs and see him burst into the living room with a big smile on his face.

Even though I am in pain and not very mobile, I need to make a strong effort to give him more attention. To play with him more. To read to him. To talk with him. To laugh with him. I do not want his primary memories of his dad being those of his dad reclining in my chair, covered with a blanket to keep warm, taking pills to keep the pain at bay.

More than that, I want my life to be pleasing to God.

In 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 Paul prays for the believers in Thessalonica that their lives might be pleasing to God. This prayer consists of two parts. First, that God would count them worthy of their calling. Second, that their lives might be characterized by goodness and works of faith through the power of the Holy Spirit. Such a life, a life that is pleasing to God, brings glory to our Lord Jesus Christ. We, in turn, are glorified in Him.

It is a great feeling to be commended for a job well done. To be told that we have met the expectations. That we have lived up to our responsibilities. How much better will it be to stand before God and be told that we have been counted worthy of our calling?

A life that is pleasing to God, one characterized by goodness and works of faith, is only possible because of the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. It is a work of God's grace. Only by God's grace can we live a life that is pleasing to Him.

Only by God's grace can we bring glory to God and, in turn, be glorified in Him.

It begins and ends with grace.

Friday, August 29, 2008

This One Thing Is Certain

It is Friday morning. Two days of school have passed. And I am so thankful for this four-day weekend. Thankful because those first two days really took a toll on my body. Thankful because our son is coming home to visit.

I was so excited to begin school. My heart was filled with joy. My mind was prepared. But my body was hurting. I have still not been able to get the pain under control. I thought by now that we would be on the downhill slope, headed for the lodge. But we are back on the t-bar, headed up the mountain again, not certain which slope we will be getting on.

I am not complaining. I am simply pointing out that we are once again in a place of uncertainty. Then again, we all live with uncertainty every day. And, for that reason, we must strive to live each day to its fullest. To take advantage of every opportunity.

Since hearing and sharing the news about my lastest biopsy, I have received some of the nicest phone calls, e-mails, and notes of encouragement. I am blessed to have so many friends and family that are sticking with me/us on this journey.

A friend wrote yesterday: I know that you turn to God not to escape reality, but to help you face reality. That is so true. My faith in Jesus Christ gives me real hope. Real strength. Real peace and comfort. I am fully aware of my circumstances. But I am aslo fully aware (as much as any human being can be) of who my God is and what He has promised He will do for me. I know that I may suffer great pain as my body deals with this cancer growing inside me, but I know that the suffering I will endure pales in comparsion to the joy that I have becasue of my relationship with Jesus Christ. With the joy that I will experience living for eternity in His presence.

In 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, Paul writes that the faithful (those who trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior) will be rewarded and the unfaithful (those who reject Christ's offer) will be punished. Because our God is good and righteous and loving, He will reward righteousness (found only in Christ - and if Christ is in us, we will be found righteous) and punish unrighteousness (sin). It is the good and right and loving thing to do.

Paul reminds us that what we do in this life matters. Our choices and subsequent actions have eternal consequences. We must choose wisely.

For me, the choice is clear: Follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Trust Him to forgive my sins and pay the penalty (death on the cross of Calvary). Receive His righteousness in exchange for my sinfulness. Determine to live a life that is pleasing to God. Not to earn His favor. But because His favor has already been given to me on the basis of what Jesus Christ has done.

By God's grace, I can face the uncertainty of this day because of the certainty of what lies ahead - eternity with Christ. Because I trust in Jesus Christ, this one thing is certain.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thoughts Two Days Later

It's been two days since I have received word that the cancer that was originally discovered in my right tibia is also in both hips and my upper left arm.

I am still determined to trust God - trust in His righteousness and goodness. Trust that He knows what is best for me and will do what is in my best interest. Even if I do not understand.

I am not in denial. I know what is happening to me. But I choose to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ instead of my circumstances. I must deal with my circumstances - and I am - but I look beyond my circumstances to find joy in my Savior. To find strength. Peace. Wisdom.

I choose not to be angry, or sad, or disappointed. There is no reason to dwell on such things.

Today, I will enjoy my time at school with my students and colleagues. I will enjoy time with my wife and children. When the time comes, I will visit new doctors, gather information, and make an informed decision about what to do next.

But I refuse to panic, whine, complain, or throw a temper tantrum. I am a child of God. Redeemed by the blood of Christ. I have no reason to fear. Cancer cannot defeat me. In Christ, I have already won the victory over sin and death. I have every reason to be filled with joy.

So I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More on Joy

I awoke this morning with great excitement. Excitement that God has granted me another day. Excitement that I get to go back to school today. I will be happy if my students have only ten percent of the excitement that I have today!

After completing 1 Thessalonians, I decided to continue on with 2 Thessalonians in my morning devotions.

After a brief introduction in the first two verses, Paul thanks God for the growth in faith and love evident among these believers. Paul is filled with joy because of their growth, and gives God the credit – for He is the One who brings about change in people’s hearts and lives.

He then highlights, even boasts of their patience and faith in the midst of suffering. Again, it is God that deserves all the glory, because it is only by His grace that we persevere through trials and tribulations.

In his commentary on these verses Gary Demarest writes: Here are the signs of a contagious group of Christians. A growing faith, abounding in love, that transforms persecutions and tribulations into occasions for joy, is bound to make an impact on the world around it, including other churches.

God allows us to have joy in the midst of trials. In fact, He requires that of us. But when He requires us to do something, He also provides everything we need to do it. That joy is a result of faith, hope, and love – qualities found only in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Today, I am filled with joy. Not because I get to go back to school today – although that makes me very happy! But because I am in Christ and Christ is in me. He is the source of my joy. A joy that remains in whatever circumstances I must endure.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cancer Update

We just returned home from our visit to the orthopedic oncologist in Lancaster.

The biopsy of my right femur revealed active cancer cells - Ewing's Sarcoma. That means that it is most likely present in my left hip and upper left arm as well. These are the three areas of concern identified in my recent MRI.

We will discontinue my present course of chemotherapy. I will be seeing a pediatric oncologist (yes, a 45-year-old at a pediatric practice! I observed today that not only do I have a cancer most prevalent in children, I have gotten to the point where I can only eat child-sized portions.) in Hershey to explore options for treatment.

A friend asked me this afternoon, in an indirect way, if I was being honest about my feelings after getting this news. I am being completely honest when I say that I am not shocked, angered, or disappointed by the news. We will take one step at a time. God is in control.

It is not the path that I would have chosen, but God is using it to teach us so much about His love and grace. We continue to trust God each step of the way and are determined, by His grace, to please Him.

My wife and I are doing well. Our daughter seems fine. Our younger son really doesn't understand what is going on. Please pray for our older son as we share the news with him. It will be hardest on him, I think, because he is away from us and is already under great pressure.

I was thinking on the way home this afternoon about the joy that I have - not because of my circumstances, but because of Jesus Christ.

I was also thinking that God has blessed me with a wonderful life, a wonderful wife, wonderful children, a wonderful family, and wonderful friends.

Praise God, I plan to begin the new school year tomorrow. God is so gracious!

The End of the Letter

In a few hours, my wife and I will be leaving for Lancaster to meet with the orthopedic oncologist and to get the results of my biopsy. I am not nervous or anxious this morning. I know that it is in the hands of my loving Father. Whatever the results, He will care for me. And He will care for my family.

Hundreds if not thousands of people are praying for us. That is humbling. It is amazing to see God at work through the body of Christ. We are encouraged and comforted by the love of others.

We have come to the end of Paul’s letter to the believers in Thessalonica. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Paul reminds us that the work of sanctification in our life is God’s work. Through the work of the Holy Spirit God brings about the changes in our life to make us more like Jesus Christ. While we must be obedient to the Word of God and sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, the work of transformation is God’s work. I cannot change myself. I cannot change others. Only God can do that.

In verse 24, he reminds us that God will bring us to glory. This is part of the process of sanctification. God promises that none who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ will be lost.He asks for prayer, again highlighting the importance of mutual prayer and encouragement among believers.

He greets the brethren with a holy kiss, an expression of love among believers. While this is not practiced in our culture today, it is akin to a handshake or a hug.

He asks that the letter be read publicly. So that everyone hears and is accountable for the doctrine and instruction it contains. Public reading, according to John MacArthur, is the foundation of spiritual accountability.

Paul ends with a benediction: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Uncertainty of Cancer and the Victory in Jesus Christ

It is Monday morning. I am still feeling the pain from the surgical biopsy of my right hip. The pain is compounded by lower back pain, which I assume is from the arthritis in my hips that the doctor identified.

For some reason, I have lost my appetite again. Food does not appeal to me. Usually at this point in my treatment cycle, I am craving all kinds of foods and am putting back on the weight lost earlier in the cycle.

I guess this cancer is not as predictable as I once thought it was.

For this reason, it is important that I look daily to my God who never changes. My God who is sovereign over all that happens to me.

As I make plans, I need to be reminded that His plans supercede mine. I must expect the unexpected. I must expect that my plans will change.

The only way I can live like this is to surrender the control of my life to the Holy Spirit.

A life lived in the Holy Spirit. That is the subject of 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20. Paul instructs us to walk in the Spirit in Galatians 5:16. He instructs us to be controlled by the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18. Here he says, do not quench the Spirit. By our sin. And do not despise the Word of God. Take it seriously. Test all things. Testing reveals what is good and what is evil. Hold on to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. This is a life lived in submission to the Holy Spirit. This is a Spirit-controlled life. This is the way to live until Christ returns.

This is the way to live in the face of uncertainty of cancer. Cancer does not have the final word in my life. God does. Cancer will never claim victory. Jesus Christ has already claimed the victory over life and death. For me. And for all who trust in Him.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Acceptance Day Weekend

We returned home this afternoon from visiting our son at West Point for Acceptance Day. Seeing 1200 some new cadets join another 3000 was an awesome sight. Listening to the Army band. A very American day.

Our son is the second from the right in the photograph below.

Here is a photo of our family along with my parents, who drove up to SC to join us for A-Day.

Our three children . . .

Our son and two very blessed parents . . .

A great day. A great weekend.

We enjoyed spending time with our son. Hearing about his adventures from Cadet Basic Training. Even listening to him vent a bit about Reorganizaton Week. All in all, we know that he is in the right place and will do his best to give it everything he has. Leave everything on the floor or field, like we use say during basketball season or soccer season.

We thank God that He allowed me to be healthy enough to attend. Lord willing, our son will be home next week for Labor Day weekend. For now, we are thankful for these two days.

Friday, August 22, 2008

God's Will for Us

A few thoughts on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 . . .

Rejoice always. Joy is always appropriate, because it is not based on our circumstances, but is the result of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the source of our joy.

Pray without ceasing. Not continuously or repetitiously, but persistently and regularly. Live with a consciousness of God’s presence. An awareness of our dependence on Him.

In everything give thanks. We can give thanks in all things because we know that in all things, God is at work. Doing what is right and good and just.

Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks.

This is God’s will. For you. Who are in Christ Jesus.

On Wednesday morning, I had a surgical biopsy of my right femur. It was not as bad as I had feared. Things rarely are (as bad as we fear). This morning, I am in great pain, but able to walk with crutches. We have a follow-up appointment with the orthopedist on Tuesday to go over the pathology report.

My parents have been here since Tuesday evening and have been a great help with taking care of our children, making meals, etc. My dad has completed some household projects.

Tomorrow morning, we are all headed up to West Point to see our son and the other cadets graduate from Cadet Basic Training. We are anticipating a great day!

We have had several e-mails from our new cadet and, like all the new cadets, he is very busy now that classes have started.

Today is a day of rest for me. A day to spend some time playing with our younger son. For my wife, it is a day of catching up from the two days that we were away and preparing to be away for the weekend.

My wife is a gem. Rare and beautiful.

It is Friday morning. My thoughts are random as I remain under the influence of pain killers. There is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the biopsy. Yet we rejoice, pray, and give thanks. This is God’s will for us.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More Body Responsibilities

When we normally talk about church discipline, we think of Matthew 18 and the steps to be taken when a member of the body has been caught in sin. But church discipline is a much broader topic. In reality, if principles such as the ones Paul presents here in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 are practiced, there may be fewer occasions to apply the principles of Matthew 18.

Here, Paul outlines six responsibilities that must be shared by every member of the body, not just the church leadership. These principles are part of the responsibility for mutual ministry and encouragement in the body of Christ.

The local church is filled with many different people. Each person is unique. But there are certain categories of people addressed here.

Warn the unruly. Those who are disorderly. Confront them in love. Warn them to get back in line. For their own good. But mostly for the good of the body. They need to be dealt with firmly, but in love.

Comfort – encourage and embolden - the fainthearted. Those in fear and doubt. Those who are discouraged. Gentleness is required. These folks need encouragement. They need to know the confidence found in Jesus Christ.

Uphold – hold up firmly – the weak. Those without spiritual and moral strength. These folks really need the love, care, and attention of the stronger, more mature members of the body. They need to be pointed to Jesus Christ and to the strength that is found in Him.

Have patience with all people. Be willing to work toward reconciliation and restoration. All people, all relationships require patience.

Refuse to render for evil. Refuse to retaliate. Be willing to give up your own rights. We have to defer to others for the good of the body.

Pursue what is good for you and for everyone. It’s not about me. Or about you. It’s about what is good for the body. And, ultimately, what most glorifies our God and Savior.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Smile and A wave from Across the Plain

I did not plan to attend March back at West Point today. It was a last minute decision. But I am glad I went. The four of us, along with my brother-in-law and about a dozen friends, made the drive up to see our son and the Class of 2012 march back from F.O.B. Buckner. What a great day.

I was particularly impressed with their class motto, as seen on the banner below.

The best part was seeing our son wave to us from across the Plain. Who would think that a wave could mean so much? The picture is blurry, but a picture is worth a thousand words.

Notice his big smile, even after a twelve-mile hike. And though you may not be able to see it, he is signing "I love you." as he waves.

That's enough to hold us over until Saturday when we can see him face-to-face, talk to him, and hug him.

I pray that he was as encouraged by seeing us as we were by catching a quick glimpse of him.

Michael Phelps, Gold Medals, and Ministry

Michael Phelps has won eight gold medals in a single Olympics while setting seven world records. That is an amazing achievement. He has worked very hard to accomplish this goal and is now enjoying the fame that accompanies it.

I have never won a gold medal. I have probably never worked so hard to any goal in my whole life. Although I did work ten years to obtain my masters, while working two ministry-related jobs and raisng a family. Hard work, yes. Gold medal, no. I got a pretty cool diploma to hang on my office wall, though.

But I like to think that my labor has not been in vain. That’s what the Bible tells me. Because I have been laboring for the cause of Christ. Because I have been seeking to do things for His glory and not my own.

I do not know Michael Phelps. I do not know for whom he lives. But if he is not living for Christ, then all of his work is in vain. All those medals do not mean a thing in light of eternity. Only what is done in the name of the Lord will matter.

If Michael Phelps really wants to make a difference, he is going to need to swim another race. Paul would say he has to run. The Christian race. The life in Christ that begins the moment that one places his faith in Jesus Christ.

Otherwise, he should enjoy his moment of fame. It will not last. In an instant, it will all be gone.

As I continue to share what I have been learning in 1 Thessalonians, it is appropriate that Paul is considering the labor of church leaders.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:11-12, Paul urges believers to recognize – to know and appreciate – church leaders. To esteem – think rightly and lovingly – them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Submit to their leadership so that peace prevails.

In this passage, Paul describes the three most important responsibilities of church leaders – to labor, to lead, and to teach.

Leaders labor. Being a leader is hard work. It involves a great deal of self-sacrifice. It is a position of responsibility, not a position of privilege.

Leader lead. Church leaders have a responsibility to lead and to guide. As a leader submits to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ he is fit to lead the people under his care.

Leaders teach. Admonish. Put in mind the Word of God. Warn and instruct.

Because of what they do – labor, lead, and teach - if they do it well, church leaders are worthy of respect. And should be esteemed highly in love.

For seven years, I served as a church planter. In these years I came to appreciate the responsibilities of laboring, leading, and teaching.

Now I serve as an assistant pastor. My favorite phrase is, “Let’s ask the pastor.” I enjoy serving alongside our pastor, serving and supporting him in any way I can. Part of my role, I think, is to serve as an advocate for the pastor. Partially by my example. Reminding the church to appreciate the pastor and to submit to his leadership – for the good of the body.

As far as I know, our pastor has not earned any gold medals. But he is running the race that God has set for Him and, because of Christ, has every right to expect victory.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

End Times Living

It is Sunday. Early afternoon. Nausea, chills, and other symptoms that I do not care to share prevented me from going to church today. So I thought I would get back to 1 Thessalonians – I have finished my devotional study, but I am lagging behind in the blog.

I realize that the issues that Paul discusses here are somewhat debatable. Many students of the Bible have different views of the rapture and the judgment. While I present my view, I know that it is not the only view. I believe that there is only one right view, and we will have to wait to see what that is! I do not wish to debate this issue but, like Paul, encourage other believers to live the way God intended us to live until the very end – whatever and whenever that end may be.

The Thessalonian believers are living in expectation of Christ’s imminent return. But they have questions – three questions – that Paul addresses in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11.

What happens to those who die before He returns? For those who die before He returns they will rise first and accompany Christ as He takes those who are alive at the rapture. [The biblical basis for the rapture, in addition to this passage, is John 14:1-3 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.] All believers, dead and living will be reunited and live eternally with Christ. This answer is meant to bring great encouragement for those whose loved ones have died. They will not miss the rapture!

How can we know when He will return? The rapture is imminent, meaning that it can happen at any time. There is no way to predict when it will occur, although many have speculated and many continue to speculate. Christ’s return will be a complete surprise. I like to say that each day, we are one day closer. I believe that here Paul changes topics and addresses the timing not of the rapture of the church but of the day of the Lord – the time of judgment to follow the rapture. He says that it will come like a “thief in the night” and it will be like a pregnant woman’s labor pains – sudden, painful, inescapable.

How should we live while we wait for Him to return? We should live godly lives under the control of the truth of God’s Word and under the control of the Holy Spirit. We should live in hope, not in fear.

We are not meant to spend our time speculating about the events to come, but to live godly lives. Using our time to glorify Him and to bring others to Jesus Christ, for He is our only hope.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Happy Birthday

Our younger son turns five today. As I am writing this, my wife, daughter, and son are setting up for his birthday party. Cupcakes. Ice cream. A pinata filled with candy. Party games. A dozen or so friends. It should be great fun for all.

I am at home, having been overcome early this morning with strange side effects from my chemotherapy. Chills. Fever. Lethargy. And yesterday, I felt pretty good. I do not like to miss
these family events. But sometimes it is out of my hands.

When they all come home later this afternoon, I will enjoy hearing about the party and all the fun that was had. We will continue the celebration at home.
We will celebrate five years of joy and laughter that this little guy has given us. And we will pray that he continues to grow up into the young man that God created Him to be.

Friday, August 15, 2008

She Makes Me Happy . . .

Mrs. Brown has a lovely daughter, according to Herman's Hermits. And so do I.

I have a beautiful daughter. Of course, every father will say that of his daughter. But I have a beautiful daughter. Her inner beauty matches and even surpasses her outward beauty.

When she was two years old, I called her my sunshine. After a difficult day at school (I was having a difficult school year, mostly due to restlessness on my part), she would make me smile. And I would sing, You are my sunshine . . .

Our daughter is by no means perfect. On the outside or on the inside. Nonetheless, she is beautiful. There is an order and symmetry in her life that comes from her close relationship with Jesus Christ.

She has struggled with assurance of salvation, as many young people do, but this summer - at camp - she rededicated her life to Jesus Christ. And we saw a difference in her attitude and behavior. A big difference.

Since coming home from camp, she has been a constant source of encouragement and help for her mother. She does chores without asking and without grumbling or complaining. She often helps her mother - the queen of organization and time management - to get her ducks in a row. It is neat to see how she has picked up her mom's ability to organize and manage things and to help others to do the same.

Sometime I will have to blog about a recent discussion in duck management - how to get and keep ducks in a row.

Having a beautiful daughter, her mother an I have forbid her to date until she is 30. We may remove a few years for good behavior, if warranted.
A friend of ours found a solution to his similar situation with his sixteen-year-old daughter. This was actually his daughter's idea. She agreed that she would not date until the age of 18 if she could get a puppy. She now has a puppy named Beau (boyfriend). Not a bad plan!

All humor aside, our daughter is a blessing to her mom and to me. She is still my sunshine. She makes me happy when skies are grey . . .

Note: I am continuing my devotional study of 1 Thessalonians and will get back to it in my blog soon.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Today is a new day.

In an hour, we will be going to my office at the church/school so that I can catch up on some paperwork, do some planning for school, etc. In two weeks from yesterday, my classroom will be filled with students eager to learn/hear my corny jokes/go to lunch/get to soccer practice/go home/get through the day without being embarassed. And I cannot wait! Well, I can. But I am really looking forward to being back with my students.

I have always been intrigued by perspective. Ways of looking at things. Artistically. Anthropologically. We all have different ways of looking at things. Often we can look at the same series of events and arrive at very different interpretations and conclusions. It is based on what we have learned. Our personality. Our values. Our experiences. Ultimately, all perspectives relate back to our view of God.

Is God real? Is He really sovereign? Does He care about me? Where is God when I am hurting? All good questions that must be answered.

I think I am starting the year with a renewed perspective. I am not completely sure what that perspective is, but one cannot go through what we have gone through in the past nine months without a change in perspective. At least, I do not think it would be possible.

I think my renewed perspective is consistent with Deuteronomy 6. Teaching children to love God and to love His Word. Teaching by example. Teaching out of an overflow of God's grace. Teaching through pain and loss. Through uncertainty. Through doubts. Teaching out of a relationship of mutual respect and trust. Teaching children how to apply truth in the everyday activities of life. Taking advantage of teachable moments.

Being sensitive to God's timing. Stopping. Observing. Listening. Where is she? Where is he? What does she need in this moment to draw her nearer to Christ?

Who is that boy in the third row? He is a child of God. He is of infinite worth and purpose. His creation. Created for His glory. Redeemed for His glory. Or in need of redemption. By the blood of Jesus Christ. The same blood that was shed for me.

I tend to think that I have less than two weeks to get my perspective straight. In reality, our perspective continually evolves over a lifetime as we grow closer to God. As we gain the mind of Christ. As we grow in our love and knowledge of Him. As we continue to experience the trials and challenges that God uses to shape us into who we were made to be.

My perspective will become very apparent to my students as we encounter life together in the classroom and in our community. God will use me to shape their perspectives. For better or for worse.

Perspective is not just something. It is everything.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Disconnected. For a week I was disconnected from the cyberworld where I share my life with anyone who cares to read. Last night I came home to find more than 350 e-mails waiting for a response or a quick review and delete.

With chemotherapy, there is a regular disconnection from normal brain function. I am sure that others may explain it better, but not all my neurons seem to be firing properly. Because of it, there is a periodic disconnect from my family. I'm not all there. Or all here.

And I am feeling a sense of disconnect from my church family. I miss the regular fellowship. Sharing life together. Although I am praying for others and I know that they are praying for me - and I cannot stress enough the importance of mutual prayer and encouragement - there is something special about being together.

Thankfully, in all this (the cancer "stuff") there has never been a disconnect from God. He has remained close to me as I have continued, by His grace, to draw near to Him. He has given me strength, courage, wisdom, and the resolve to glorify Him by submitting to His will in all of this.

Things have been going relatively smoothly this summer. I am on track to begin teaching again in a few weeks and to carry on my duties (privileges, really) as assistant pastor. By God's grace. With much support from my wife, pastor and principal. And with a little help from my friends. Insert smiley face here.

Every step of the way, God has given us reminders that He is with us and that He is providing for us.

Things were very smooth until a few weeks ago when I started having high fevers and severe pain in my upper left arm/shoulder and in both hips and thighs. At times, the pain was so severe that I could not walk. On July 29, I was admitted to Lehigh Valley Hospital for blood transfusions and tests. My five-day chemotherapy was delayed a week so that my body would have an opportunity to recuperate. On Wednesday, August 6, I began my five-day treatment. While in the hospital, I had a CAT scan, bone scan, and MRI of the three areas mentioned. I stayed an extra night to accomodate the testing.

There was enough "suspicious activity" in these bones to warrant a visit to the orthopedic oncologist. On Monday afternoon, my wife and I drove to Lancaster and found a room for the night.

Although it was less than 24 hours, that time together was very special. In the midst of great uncertainty about my health (Has the cancer recurred in these other areas during treatment?),
we talked, cried together, speculated some (What if . . .?), but ultimately were reminded of God's faithfulness and were able to focus our minds on what is true. We renewed our resolve to glorify God and allow Him to use us for His perfect purposes. We acknowledged our dependence upon Him and thanked Him for His provision of life in His Son Jesus Christ, for supportive friends and family, and our for our daily needs.

We enjoyed simple pleasures like sitting on a bench under a butternut tree, and closing our eyes and pretending that the traffic in front of our motel was the roar of the ocean.

It was a great time to reconnect with my wife, my best friend, the one who bears the burden (although she never makes me feel like I am a burden) of caring for me.

We met with the orthopedic oncologist on Tuesday morning. Based on his experience, he does not think that the MRI is showing a recurrence of cancer. But just to be sure . . . he has scheduled me to have a biopy of my right femur.

Next Wednesday, in the OR at Lancaster Regional Hospital, while I am under heavy sedation, he will remove a core sample from my upper right femur, about the diameter of a pencil and about 4 or 5 inches long. He will also place a screw in my femur to help support it and help prevent a fracture. Sounds painful. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Walking and Pleasing God - Together

In 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12, Paul continues his discussion of how to walk and please God. He begins this section by affirming their love for one another within the body of Christ, but goes on to tell them that there is more they need to do – they need to lead quiet lives, mind their own business, and work with their own hands. So that they will have a good reputation among outsiders and they will lack nothing. So that they will walk and please God.

Apparently, these believers, anticipating the return of Christ at any moment, had quit their jobs and were living frantic lives, meddling in the personal affairs of others.

We need to live quiet lives. First, by attending first to our own duties and avoiding being meddlesome in the affairs of others. We must not be busybodies! Second, by working. Too much idle time gives us room to be meddlesome in the affair of others.

Others should know us by our love for one another. And they should know us as people who live peaceful, responsible lives.

When believers display diligent work attitudes and habits and live in a loving and tranquil manner that respects others’ privacy and does not intrude or gossip, it constitutes a powerful testimony to unbelievers and makes the gospel credible . . . Believers who sacrificially love other people, exhibit tranquil lives, conscientiously focus on keeping their own lives in order, and faithfully carry out their daily responsibilities in the workplace (thus avoiding any welfare dependence)—all the while proclaiming the gospel in light of the return of Christ—are the most effective witnesses to their unsaved neighbors and loved ones. John MacArthur

Credible Christians pay attention to the way they live on a day–to–day basis. A godless world looks upon those who leech off others with askance. Non–Christians can judge us only by appearances, so our walk should fit the fashion of Christ. What kind of testimony would we have to non–Christians if they viewed us as wranglers, gossips, critics, busybodies and lazy? Grant Richison

For those of you who are following my health issues, my pain has lessened and I have not had a fever since Sunday afternoon. Lord willing, we will be able to continue with the chemotherapy on Wednesday (tomorrow).

Yesterday evening, our small group got together in Greentown. We met on a deck. Outdoors with the deer. As usual, we laughed, we cried, we studied a passage from the first chapter of James on managing trials, we prayed, we cried, we ate, and we laughed. We were able to apply by what we read in James to trials we were facing – from faulty septic systems to health issues to ministry opportunities. We loved one another, supported and encouraged one another, bore one another’s burdens.

Life is good. Life together in community is better. Of course, it is God’s design.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Love, Pain, Friends and Purity.

They’ll know we are Christians by our love. A friend at church, knowing that my wife has not been able to get to pick blueberries for the winter, went and picked a pail full for her and brought them to church last evening. What a blessing! At the same time, another young lady picked a container of wild blueberries for my younger son; she also baked us zucchini bread. Earlier in the day, we received a bag of garden vegetables: peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini. [I once read that a true sign of loneliness is having to buy zucchinis at the grocery store. If that’s not funny, you probably don’t live in an area where many people have backyard gardens.] Three demonstrations of brotherly (and sisterly!) love.

Prayers are being answered. When I arrived at church last evening, I was in a great deal of pain. When I left, I was pain-free. I did not have any pain through the night and am still relatively pain-free this morning. I do not know if the pain is gone for good, but I am thankful for the respite.

We accompanied my daughter, a group of her friends, and one of her friend’s family to get ice cream after church last evening. The one friend is leaving to spend the school year in Nicaragua on Wednesday. This young lady also happens to be one of my students. She will be missed by many of us, but especially by her closest friends. It is such a joy to know that our daughter has a great group of friends. It is fun to watch them interact with each other. Most of the time, they are being silly. But at times they have serious discussions. On Sunday evenings, they steal away to a stairwell to pray together. Thank you, Father.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:1, Paul introduced this section of his letter with a reminder to live in a way that pleases God. In verses 3-8, he discusses how to please God in the area of purity.

In a short book titled Finding God’s Will, John MacArthur lists six principles for knowing God’s will. God’s will is that we be saved, that we be filled with the Holy Spirit, that we be pure (the subject of 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7), that we submit to Him, to authorities, and to others, that we suffer, and if we are following all five of the principles listed, that we do whatever we want. The point being that if we are living a godly life, God will give us the right desires. If we are obedient in the areas where God’s will is clearly known, He will guide us through the areas where His will is not always so clear – who to marry, where to go to college, what career path to follow, etc. God’s will is not a mystery.

God’s will is that we be pure. Holy. Sanctified. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 can be summarized as follows: Avoid sex outside of marriage. Control your body. Subdue your passions. Do not take advantage of others. All of these must be taken in the context of purity, particularly sexual purity.

In his commentary of this passage, Gary Demarest writes: The call to sanctification is not a call to stuffiness or drabness. It is a call to usefulness, to availability, and to fidelity. It is a call to an adventure of discovering what life is really intended by God.

In regard to sexual purity he writes: God has created us for intimacy with one another . . . and that is designed by God to be used only in the context of a lifelong commitment of marriage. It needs to be said loudly, lovingly, and clearly that sexual loving apart from marriage is out of bounds, not because sex is bad, but because it is so good. Sex is holy. It is set apart for special use.

In an age where much restraint in the area of sexuality has been cast off, not unlike the Greco-Roman context in which this letter was written, sexual purity sets believers apart. And, as we have seen in the news in the past ten years or more, this is an area where many Christian leaders have fallen. We need to guard our minds and hearts. We need to help our children to do the same. To please God and to avoid the bondage that inevitably accompanies this area of sin. After all, Jesus Christ came to set us free.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Cancer Is A Family Thing

It has been almost eight months now since being diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. Insurance paperwork, visits to the oncologist, visits to the hospital for blood work, chemotherapy treatments, visits to the orthopedic oncologist, physical therapy, and occasional visits to the ER keep us busy.

But others aspects of life do not stay on hold. There are household chores, ministry responsibilities, activities with our children, etc. In some ways, we have learned how to better balance all these things. At times, we seem to have it all under control. At other times, it seems like overwhelming chaos.

As I blog, I find myself “talking” less about the cancer and more about other aspects of our lives. As I have mentioned before, cancer does not define who I am, but it does impact all areas of my life and the lives of my family members.

My wife, as my wife and mom to our children, is the one most affected by my cancer. She is the one who has to hold everything together. Caring for me is, in many ways, like caring for a two-year-old. While I seldom throw tantrums, I do require a lot of maintenance. On most days, my wife demonstrates a strength that can only be explained in relation to a strong walk with Jesus Christ. On some days, though, she feels like things are unraveling; but even then, she knows that it is our Lord who is holding all things together. I cannot thank God enough for my wife.

My younger son, our four-year-old, takes things in stride. He prays for me every day, several times a day. He will be turning five in a few weeks and is looking forward to having a birthday party with his friends. He will be entering Kindergarten in September. He has informed us that he cannot wait until he finishes school so that he can go to West Point, just like his big brother. He forces us to take time out to play and keeps us laughing throughout the day.

Our fourteen-year-old daughter has really become a delightful young lady this summer. It’s not that she has not always delighted us, but her whole personality has changed for the better. In some ways, she was living in the shadow of her older brother. A month ago, at summer camp, she re-dedicated her life to Christ. She has become a great help and encouragement to all of us, but especially to my wife. She asks what she can do to help around the house, and often does things that need to be done without being asked. I am thankful for the changes that God has wrought in her this summer.

Our older son, of course, is out of the house. We are delighted to see how he is learning to “fly” on his own. As my wife was re-arranging the things in our living room bookcase, and placing some West Point memorabilia on a shelf, we observed that we kicked our son out of his room and gave him a shelf. Even though he is not here with us, he encourages us by the way he is seeking to live for Jesus Christ and His glory.

In many ways, we have all become accustomed to life with cancer. We have come to expect the unexpected – changes in treatment schedules, visits to the ER, etc. We know that God is in control and that He uses all things to perfect us and to glorify Himself. Cancer has brought us closer to God and closer to each other.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Walk and Please God

Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as you have received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, you would abound more and more; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2

In keeping with his own style of writing, Paul ends his doctrinal section (the first three chapters) and begins to discuss more practical matters. Doctrine, then duty. Precept, then praxis. In the fourth chapter, he begins to discuss the behavior that should accompany an understanding of the doctrine presented. He begins to exhort the Thessalonian believers to live in light of the doctrine they have received.

He begins with exhortation to walk and to please God.

This is a good description of the Christian life: walk and please God.

When Paul uses the word walk he is referring to one’s lifestyle. Manner of living.

We should live in order to please God.

In Ephesians 4:1, the beginning of the practical section of this letter, Paul urges believers to walk (live) in a manner that is worthy of their calling in Jesus Christ. In a sense, he says: I have described to you who you are in Christ (in the first three chapters of Ephesians), now live like it!

Because of who God is and what He has done in us and for us, because of who we are in Jesus Christ, we should live in such a way that our life is pleasing to God. Because we have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20), we belong to Him, and should live our lives in obedience to His commands.

This is a life that pleases God.

Friday, August 1, 2008

We Were Even Allowed to Pick Our Own Noses!

It is Friday, August 1st. Where did July go?

I am not supposed to be home today. I am supposed to be at Lehigh Valley Hospital receiving chemotherapy. But that was part of my plan. Part of my oncologist's plan.

Not God's plan. Because here I am, sitting at home.

On Tuesday afternoon, I was running a fever of 102 and had severe pain in both hips and upper thighs. The pain was so bad that I could not stand. My wife called the doctor and the doctor said, "No more monkeys jumping on the bed!" No, that's what we used to sing with our children at bedtime. The doctor told my wife to take me down to Allentown to see him. So that's what we did. Only by God's grace was my wife able to get me into the car without both of us falling to the ground.

At 4:30, we saw the oncologist and he decided to admit me for some tests. That evening I had an MRI of my spine and x-rays of both hips and thighs. I also had additional bloodwork done. That night I was given IV fluids, two units of blood, and medication for the pain in my hips and thighs.

The next morning I had another two units of blood. When the doctor came through on his rounds, he reported that the MRI and x-rays were normal and that the pain was probably a side effect of the injections I received two weeks ago to stimulate white blood cell production. The pain was consistent with what one could expect from that type of injection, but late in appearing. There was no other explanation for the pain, though. I was told that I would be monitored for another 24 hours and a decision whether to proceed with the chemotherapy would be made on Thursday morning.

By Thursday morning I was feeling much better - my blood counts were much improved and the pain medications were taking care of the pain - but my oncologist decided that it would be best for me to go home, rest for a week, and continue my chemotherapy treatments next week. Yesterday afternoon I was discharged and here I am at home.

I do have to mention that the highlight of my visit to Lehigh Valley Hospital this week, other than than the excellent care I always receive from the doctors and nurses there on 7c, was a visit from two clowns my wife met in the elevator. I'm not kidding, two clowns - Dr. Bandaides and Nonnie Doe, RN (Really Nutz) - from Bumper "T" Caring Clowns. They were funny. They made me laugh. They were delightful visitors.

Here is a picture of me and my wife, along with Dr. Bandaides and Nonnie Doe, RN, taken right after we received our free nose jobs. We were even allowed to pick our own noses!