What The?

[thumbsupbox]Well personally I give the new look a thumbs up, but then again I like to change up my websites. [/thumbsupbox]

[sdropcap]F[/sdropcap]or those of you who may be a bit lost over the change the Menu is over on the right hand side now. Other than that, and the overall look there is nothing new under the sun.  Take a deep breath and relax it’s all just eye candy.

For my Christian Brothers and Sisters who were at church last night – Thank You! I had an incredibly uplifting time and simply enjoyed being in your company. While I was listed as one of the recipients of prayer I personally got more of a charge being in communion with everyone and being able to pray with you. The Right Reverend Doctor Carr was certainly in his element last night and I appreciated his short sermon that spoke so directly to my heart.

As for an update, I’m doing OK and have been back at work this week which has been great. (Never thought I’d say that about work.)

So, it’ get through tomorrow, enjoy the holiday weekend and then back to chemotherapy on Tuesday.

Have a great weekend!

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Afflicted

Afflict
a : to distress so severely as to cause persistent suffering or anguish

A hat tip to my friend Josh for stirring up the salad bowl on this word and spurring my quest in better understanding God’s sovereignty in light thereof. Please forgive me as I make you wander with me through my thought process over this.

When I think of the sentence/statement: “I am afflicted”, in my mind it connotes something that’s happened to me but with no direct author. In the case of my cancer, if there is an author, it would be myself due to my poor health choices of smoking for almost 30 years and being overweight.

However if I were to say, “I’ve been afflicted”, then there is an outside agent taking a direct action against me.

So what does this have to do with the sovereignty of God? The other day I posted a status update on Facebook of a quote from Charles Spurgeon:

“The Lord’s mercy often rides to the door of our heart upon the black horse of affliction.”

My friend Josh then replied, “It had better, since God sends the affliction too.”

I had to pause and think on that – God sends the affliction?… Really?… Does He?… In my head my mind spat out, “God is not the author of sin!” And from that misguided statement I some how extrapolated that He therefore could neither be the author of affliction. Thankfully I couldn’t leave it alone and after a quick search on Google I came across John Gill’s Commentary on the following:

Psalm 119:75
I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

and [that] thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me;
in faithfulness to himself, his covenant, and promise; that upon forsaking his law, and not walking in his statutes, he would visit sin with a rod, and transgressions with stripes, though he would not take away his loving kindness; and in faithfulness to David, for his spiritual and eternal good, in great sincerity, heartily, cordially, with real affection and love: his rebukes were faithful; the chastisement was not above measure or desert, nor above strength to bear it; see

Wow talk about having jumped to a wrong conclusion earlier but now what am I left to make of all that this?

Is God punishing me for my sins?

To my dear Christian friends, I think that in the midst of the dark night of the soul that last question, the one that I heard raised in my own mind, is exactly the one that Satan whispers to us. That I am a bad person and that God, weary of my transgressions is now punishing me even till death. But is that what Gill was really saying? Look again and read what I underlined: in great sincerity, heartily, cordially, with real affection and love. Where is the anger and wrath in those words? They are no where to be found. Instead the affliction is a chastisement, a correction, a redirecting of ones path and all of Shepherds Crookit He does for His glory and the love He has for His children.

I thank God for the discerning heart His spirit instilled in men like John Gill. Instead of hearing Satan’s lies and fearing condemnation I instead now hear the earnest and loving call of my Shepherd. My affliction may leave stripes but that is not the rod I now feel. No, instead I feel my Shepherds crook gently leading me on the path home.

Incurable

One of the things that helps me in writing a blog post is to define the title.  It puts things into a certain perspective for me that helps me remain true to the initial thread of thought that I started out with.

So why ‘incurable’, simply because that’s the word that was used to describe the cancer I’ve been diagnosed with.  It’s not curable, nor is it something that can be removed through surgery.  It’s something that my oncologist will try to manage for as long as chemo, radiation or what ever other modality he may dream up will keep the cancer at bay.  So how long do I need to keep being treated?  For the rest of my life.  I’ll be honest in saying that when I heard that prescription it was almost as bad as hearing that the cancer was incurable.  I imagined breaks in my chemo treatments so my body would have time to heal before starting on the next round, but I’ve gotten the distinct impression that may not be the case.  Any let up will only give the cancer an opportunity to further entrench itself and continue to flourish.

I take all of this information and then I have to process/filter it through my Christian world view.  And when I did I recognized that my chemotherapy, in it’s fight against my cancer, is similar to the war I am supposed to be waging against sin – and that is unrelenting.  If I let up for a minute sin will take the opportunity to sink it’s grasp deeper into me. Sin is definitely the thing that given an inch will take a mile.  Another cancer/sin analogy is the way cancer isn’t attacked by the bodies own immune system.  Cancer in it’s simplest terms are our own cells run amok. My immune system doesn’t see the cancer cells as an outside invader and so it doesn’t react to them. Much in the same way our personal sins try to mask themselves in ways that we don’t recognize or more often won’t recognize for what they are. They become a weakness that we live with, a character flaw that we may even laugh at, or more often an insidious side to ourselves that we try to hide even from ourselves. And like cancer our sins continue to grow if left unchecked. Some of them may seem benign and lay dormant for years or decades only to then come to the surface. And some, like an ulcer fester until there is no way to hide them any longer and they are brought to light with an often times devastating impact.

So what are we to do – how do we battle such an adversary? Like cancer and our health in general, we need to take preventive measures.

  • We need to make sure we’re having a nutritious diet. For the Christian that means being well fed on the Word of God.
  • We need to do self examination by checking our walk against Gods Word, through meditation and prayer. And if we think we’ve found an issue, that we can’t cure, we need to be willing to reach out for help.
  • Just as importantly, we need to have regular checkups by being in relationship(s) with fellow believers who will hold us accountable to what they see.

Here’s where the analogy ends. My cancer may be incurable and it may very well be what ultimately kills me, but this life leaves us all terminal patients. So while I am one of the (we all are) walking dead to this mortal frame, I am alive in Christ and that life will never perish.

Philippians 1: 19-21

19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Fight the good fight my friends with your focus on the true prize.

Day 6

The chemotherapy I’m on takes 3 days to administer. They (the oncologists and clinicians) count everything from the first day. Days 3-5 are supposed to be the icky days with what ever side effects I’m going to feel being the worst on those days. I’m chalking up an uneventful day 3 to the new anti-nausea drug that was administered on the first day as a pre-treatment. As you may recall day 3 of the last treatment was just plain ugly so I was very grateful that we didn’t have a repeat performance. However day 4, which was this past Friday made it clear that the FolFox6 regiment is not to be taken lightly. No performance but I certainly wasn’t feeling well either. Amazing how things can swing so dramatically between one day and the next. He’s up, he’s down, he’s back up again. It can be quite the roller coaster ride.

But today is day 6 and today is Sunday. It was great to get to church this morning and see all my friends. I was able to sit in with the high school group who I haven’t really seen all summer and catch up a bit with them. I’m looking forward to getting back in there after the men’s summer school class is finished next week. After getting home and walking the dogs I started to mow the yard. While sweating and spitting out the umpteenth gnat that had decided to commit suicide by flying into my panting mouth I began to mutt and mutter to myself about well yard work. Of course I wasn’t half way through that thought when I realized I should be thankful that I can mow my yard. I had to recognize the fact that this time next year I may very well be ecstatic if I can still get out and push a lawn mower around the yard.

To my good friend who looks at the glass as being half full – thank you. That comment of yours was the one I heard in the midst of all my pathetic whining.

Looking forward to day 7 and getting back to work tomorrow.

Fasting

Note: This is something that I wrote a number of years ago that I thought worthy to share.

Joel 2:12-13

12 “Even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.

I fast and yet there is no weeping, there is no mourning, there is no emotional context on which to rest my faith. And oh yes I do desire to rend my heart before the Lord’s mercy. I desire to fall at his feet knowing the wretch that I am. I desire to know that all I can ask for in this world is His mercy.

Do not allow me to travel any further from your presence. Do not hold forth your hand and keep me at bay. I wander in circles like a dog not knowing where to lay down. I deign to command my own ship but have no compass.

Scold me, reprimand me, chide me as a parent to a wayward child, but in the end my Lord hold me, comfort me.

Number 3

Yesterday I started my third treatment, this time at the MedStar Montgomery Medical Center Infusion Center. What a difference from having to go down to Georgetown University. 15 minute commute with no traffic. Free parking with a short walk to the entrance and the facility itself WOW is it nice. Instead of tile floors it has a nice wood laminate that gives the place a much more comfortable feel. The staff was excellent and made me feel quite relaxed.

I met with a Dr. Jamie Koprivnikar who is filling in for Dr. Pishvaian while he’s out of the country. She was extremely sweet in taking an inordinate amount of time to answer my questions and I genuinely sensed this is a person who really cares about the patient. Talk about putting someone at ease. The oncologists I’ve met so far have all had great bed side manners. I can’t imagine specializing in this field knowing the number of your patients who aren’t going to be 100% cured and then still have the character to not build an emotional wall between yourself and them. I feel very blessed to have so many kind and caring people working with me. It sure makes the road a lot smoother.

Oh and new meds this time around. Since I had such a horrid case of nausea last time they brought out the latest and greatest. Not only do I have the Zofran but they gave me an IV yesterday of Emend which is supposed to be “magic” according to my trials coordinator. Karen, the nurse I had yesterday, commented that it’s effects last 7 days. If that holds true – WAHOO!

I got out for a short walk this morning – thanks to the loving prodding of my wife. It was definitely what the doctor ordered. Other than a bit of the chemo brain going on (read marsh mellow fluff stuffed in your head) I’m doing well. I just had breakfast and am waiting on my good friend Curt to swing by for coffee.

Thank you all for your continuing prayers and well wishes. When you wonder what you can do to help – you’re already doing it by just being here for me.

Love you all – peace,Mike

New Bat Channel

For those of us old enough to remember the Batman TV series, I’m on the same Bat Time but a new Bat Channel in that the following chemo treatments will be done at the MedStar Montgomery Medical Center, formerly known as Montgomery General Hospital.  There is an oncology infusion center at the hospital that I’ll be going to for the rest of my treatments which is certainly a lot more convenient.

Sanofi drugs for the truly rugged

Sanofi drugs for the truly rugged

Since my treatments will be every other Tuesday I’m hoping to  an opportunity to build relationships with the staff. Who knows I may even start meeting some of the other recipients of this lovely nectar brought to us by the demigods at Sanofi. And I’m certainly praying for a more enjoyable outcome than last week’s fun fest. 🙂

Peace,
Mike

The Wedge of Faith

This is not a new post for me but something that I wrote back in 2006.  Going back over some of my old meanderings I couldn’t help but think how appropriate this old story was to what I’m going through right now.  Where am I placing my faith? And how great is my confidence?

 

wedgeIn 1981 I was stationed at Lowry AFB which was located just East of Denver, Colorado. Now, I’d been involved in backpacking for the past 6 years and had done a little rock climbing at Carderock in Potomac, MD so the Rockies standing there on the horizon beckoned to me constantly. Luckily for me I met a guy a year younger than me who had been involved in the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group as a high school project and who was more than willing to show me some of the climbing routes in the mountains just West of Boulder. The one thing I have to say at this point for you to understand is that I am deathly afraid of heights. I don’t mean a little afraid but seriously, perversely afraid. I dream up what ifs to the point that my legs jittered, and my hands sweat so much that I’m sure to loose my grip on anything, even a ladder rung. I mean rock cliffs have been known to sheer off from time to time… I’ve never been an adrenaline junkie so that’s not the reason I liked to climb, it was more of the internal challenge of beating my personal fears. Or maybe like a moth drawn to the light of a bug zapper I just can’t help myself.

So off we’d go on the weekends, throwing all our gear into the back of the old 9 passenger Dodge war wagon and blasting our way up to Boulder. John started me off on some simple climbs like the Flat Irons, but eventually we worked our way up to some more technical climbs. One of the climbs that John wanted us to do required the use of some rather small (ridiculously small in my opinion) hardware called micro wedges. The micro wedge that we needed to place was about the width of the finger nail on my pinky and about 3/8 of an inch thick. This was going to be the initial point of protection on a 20 foot horizontal traverse. What this meant is that while I was 60 feet up, I had to pull out the bolt that was in front of me and then try to make that 20 feet before I’d get to that wedge. If I fell, I’d be swinging in a pendulous arc across the rock face. If that wedge happened to pull out, not only would I be swinging like Tarzan but I’d take another 10 foot plunge at the same time, which means that I’d wind up crashing into another rock wall that was sticking out at a right angle from the face that I was on. To say that my fears were starting to take hold at this point would be an understatement. So how did I finally conquer my fear and make my across that traverse?

Any time I’ve ever gotten into something new, be it backpacking, biking, motorcycles, climbing, computers, etc., etc. I’ve been maniacal in my search for information. I try to learn as much as possible about it as I can. I not only want to know specifications and facts, but I want to know the vernacular as well. So I had read up on climbing for quite a while at this point. I understood the physics behind placement of protection, and I knew the physical strengths and limitations of all the equipment that we were using. I knew how much force the fall would generate with me weighing 190lbs. We were using a 9mm climbing rope rated at 9 falls, so I knew how much shock would take, and I knew that the micro wedge was designed to hold a little over 1300 lbs. Given that I wouldn’t really be exerting any shock to the wedge I probably wouldn’t generate much more than 500 – 600lbs of force, if I did pendulum. In other words, I had listed all the statistics and knew that even if I did fall I would survive, but that still didn’t calm my nerves.

Now, John was about 5-9 165lbs but built like a little tank. Every ounce on him was well honed muscle. He’d been climbing since he was 12, had a few years of serious training in climbing and had even been up this same route previously. As he sat anchored to a ledge, little over 30 feet away, his ever present Cheshire smile beamed at me with confidence. I could see that from his perspective this was nothing more than a nice afternoon stroll in the park. I can still remember him calling out to me with a chuckle in his voice, “So you gonna, hang there all day, or get up here and check out this view? I know you’re afraid but we’ve done tougher climbs than this. Stop looking down and look at me! I’m soo anchored here I could hold a pickup truck. Heck, for that matter, just let loose and swing over here!” While I had good deal of confidence in the equipment, I had even more in John’s abilities.

I was trusting John and that little wedge of metal with my life. Yes, I know everything pointed to the fact that I really had nothing to fear, but that really didn’t help diminish my fear. In my mind I was trusting this 19 year old kid with my life.

So in what do you place your personal and spiritual faith? When things get scary where do you find security and comfort? Is it in your job, is it the piece of paper neatly framed on the wall, or the dollar amount of your pay check, your house or the neighborhood you can afford to live in, your family, your spouse, your friends? If you’re placing your faith in Jesus Christ have you read His manual? Have you been involved in any training courses, or worked with a mentor who can show you the ropes and lead you safely past the hazards? If Jesus told you to just let go and swing would you be able to? Are you Peter, willing to get out of the boat?

I got about 10 feet across the traverse when the lip that I was standing actually did give way and I found myself swinging towards the other rock face, which instead of smacking into I more or less landed on, completely unscathed. Standing there I looked up to find John’s silly and infectious grin lighting up his face. “So was it that bad?”
No, it wasn’t that bad. Matter of fact it was kind of fun.

I'm Back

What a difference a couple of days make.  I came back to work yesterday and the change of pace definitely did me well.  I’m feeling so much better this morning and my appetite is finally back to… well normal for me 🙂

Thanks everyone for the uplifting words of encouragement you left me, they were just what the doctor ordered.