Monthly Archives: January 2013

Answers Soon – Fully Persuaded

You know what it is like to wait and wait and then finally get close to an answer? That is what it has been like waiting for my blood counts to raise to the point I could get my third bone marrow aspiration. Technically, they didn’t get to where they should, but my doctor is as frustrated as anyone with my slow progress, so he ran the bone marrow aspiration yesterday anyway. The results will tell us how much of the cancer got knocked down by the second round of chemo. He says I will likely go home whether the test results are better or still the same…it is time to get on to the next phase of treatment. That will begin with a consultation at Iowa City hospitals regarding my ‘unusual’ chromosomal situation and the recommendation for a stem cell transplant. There will be more chemo while I wait. We have enjoyed the relationships God has formed here and expect some of them will continue. But after 56 days in the hospital, it seems it may be time to move on.

The funny thing about waiting for anything is realizing that God already knows the answer! We are all waiting and pursuing something. Probably you are waiting for something right now. What are you waiting for? To find out who you will marry? Whether your baby will be a boy or a girl? What job will you find? Will you ever find peace and power for living a victorious life in the face of adversity? God knows the answers to all these things that we are waiting to discover!

The life-changing question is, “What do I believe that brings me real and lasting peace while I wait?” Amongst whatever uncertainties there may be, whatever questions I might have, what am I CONVINCED about?

With numerous questions still on our minds, Marcia and I remain fully persuaded that God is able to do what He has promised. We have entrusted our present and eternal lives to Jesus. Even though storms remain and we wonder how long they will last and what effects they will have, it is His Spirit who gives us both power and peace in the midst of every storm. We are already content with what He will answer, even though the path may be unclear.

We pray that you experience that same peace and power for living well…now and eternally. It comes as a free and loving gift of grace from Jesus.

“I know whom I have believed, and am CONVINCED that he is able to guard what I have ENTRUSTED to him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12b

One Page At A Time

Are you ever tempted to turn to the back of a book to see how it ends?

I am. I want to see the trailer and read the synopsis, before I watch the movie. It fits in with how I am wired to think. I tend to grasp details better when I have the big picture in mind. I generally see the trees (and the leaves, and bark and insects) after I get a glimpse of the whole forest. But in life, we can’t skip to the end of our story.

We simply have to live our story one page at a time.

That probably is a good thing. Sometimes, knowing the end may discourage us from pursuing the path before us. You’ve heard it said that we should live each day as if it were our last. The problem is if we all did that, we probably would never do dishes or pay the bills or other things that need to be done!

But sometimes, knowing that things will end well actually carries us through the tough times. (We know the headlines at the end of the bible tell us, “God Wins!”) But no matter how rich your faith account is, there are tough days. Today, my mind, my spirit, and my body are at odds with one another about this cancer. Physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually, each day presents its own battle.

A wise man once said we need to put on our armor each day, not just so we can fight, but to be able to still stand at the end of the day. Some chapters of our lives are about climbing grand mountains, discovering great treasures, or winning victorious battles. Other pages of our life story are simply about standing firm in the midst of the battle that is still raging around you…and at the end of the day to remain standing.

What does this page of your life look like? And what “armor” do you put on each day that allows you to stand firm in the midst of daily battle?

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

Top Ten List: Benefits of Being a Patient at Mercy Oncology

There is nothing funny about cancer. It is a tough and deadly disease to fight. But I am fighting hard and am reminded daily of God’s great mercy. I also love to laugh and find that looking at the light side of life is sometimes good medicine. With that in mind, let me offer my Top Ten List: Benefits of Being a Patient at Mercy Oncology. (I hope YOU don’t have to be here to appreciate the humor! I’m sure the nurses will understand! ๐Ÿ™‚

10. With all the fluids they give you there is NO CHANCE of getting a urinary tract infection!
9. Overnight vitals, bed checks, pills, IV changes, 4 a.m. Daily Blood draws… NO ONE complains of over-sleeping!
8. On chemo days you can order good food whenever you DON’T feel like eating.
7. About the time you lose your appetite completely, they give you a beautiful room…with a kitchenette.
6. Those stylish hospital gowns.
5. Chemo makes ‘bad hair days’ a thing of the past!
4. Getting blood marked “VOLUNTEER Donor,” not the stuff taken from unwilling donors. (Credit to son Mike for that observation.)
3. Anti-infection procedures designed by Michael Jackson.
2. Coupon for a free haircut…after you lose all your hair.
1. NOT having a “red slippers” day! (See December archive, “Life in the Hospital” for explanation)

I’m thinking I might write a book about this experience someday and already have some of the page numbers done.

Life is serious stuff. Don’t forget to laugh along the way. And help others do the same!

“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21

Faith and Numbers

One of the things I have noticed about myself in this walk with Leukemia is how much I pay attention to my daily numbers. (I know, some of you who know how God wired me are saying, “Duh!”) Everyday, at 4:00 a.m., the nurses draw my blood and every morning the doctor stops by to check on me and review how my blood counts are going. These counts determine whether I need more transfusions or not. They indicate how the chemo is doing destroying my blood cells (good and bad), and how my body is doing at producing new (hopefully just good) blood cells. (They also tell me when I get to go home!) There is nothing wrong with being aware of the daily numbers or the statistics about the difficulty of this battle. But the tendency to use these to predict how well I will do, or when I will get better is sometimes strong…even if ultimately of little value. It is a classic case of a personal strength actually at times becoming a weakness. As Steve Rabedeaux keenly reminded me, medical statistics are pretty insignificant compared with the plan of God.

We know that God wants us to trust Him and we should know that His plan is immensely wiser than ours. But as nurse Marci said in a conversation about this, none of us have it all together all the time. We are, she says, a “hot mess.”

Trusting God is not that the same thing as being ignorant, or indulging ourselves and then crying out to God in our time of need. We are urged to “count the costs” before starting a project (Luke 14:28). The story of Joseph cautions us to make preparation and save during good times to prepare for the lean times (Genesis 41). But we are also taught that God is strong in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) and that our ‘wisdom’ is “foolishness” to God (1 Corinthians 3:19).

In Judges chapter 7, God tells Gideon to reduce his army from 32,000 fighting men to just 300 who are faithful and diligent. And their task was to fight against 120,000 enemy soldiers! Such ridiculous odds were sure to reveal that the battle’s victory would belong entirely to God alone, not men.

There is a distinct difference between knowing about faith and living it. Ultimately, I completely trust God with the outcome of this cancer. But one of the lessons I am continuing to learn is how much I need Jesus to show me the way to live out my faith moment by moment.

Numbers can be related to health, finances, weather forecasts, job security, house cleaning, friendships, and so much more. How do you balance faith and numbers in your life?

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7

Words We’d All Like To Hear Spoken More in 2013

I love you.

I miss you.

I was wrong.

Will you forgive me?

I appreciate you.

How is your day going….really?

Let’s do this together.

Let’s go out to eat tonight!

What can I do to help? (Better yet, don’t ask, just do it!)

Could I pray with you…right now?

. . . And words are always spoken more clearly with action that consistently matches them. Let’s make each day count, while there is time.

What words would you like to hear more this year?
What do you plan to speak more this year?

“Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up…”
1 Thessalonians 5:11

Learning A Second (Love) Language

Have you ever tried to learn a second language? The younger you are, the easier it will be to learn a second language, but it is never too late to learn…especially when learning to speak the language of love.

I was sharing with one of the nurses about Gary Chapman’s masterpiece for improving the way husbands and wives understand and communicate with each other. The 5 Love Languages is founded on the premise we don’t all interpret and express love in the same way. A husband may take out the garbage or do all the fix-it repairs around the house and feel he has expressed love to his wife. But his wife may feel unloved by these gestures, instead longing for her mate to just spend some quality time with her.

Learning to speak each other’s love languages is essential to growing a great marriage. Marcia and I can attest that after forty years it still requires continual effort and also that it keeps getting better!

What are the five love languages? Chapman’s research concludes that we tend to receive and express love in one or more of these ways:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Receiving Gifts
Quality Time
Physical Touch

You can take a short quiz to help you assess your love languages and discover other valuable resources at:

If you normally interpret love in one way and your spouse or child interprets love in another way, it is time to learn a “foreign” language. It is NOT too late and I guarantee that you and your spouse will benefit from drawing closer to each other. Like any foreign language, it will help if you decide ahead of time that it won’t happen overnight. And it will require you to act outside of your comfort zone. But the benefits of learning a second or even third love language are immensely rewarding.

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more…”
Philippians 1:9a

Code Blue

image Is it just me or does this Mercy House Supervisor look very young for having worked here 103 years? ๐Ÿ™‚

Platelets are at a new low of 9 (normal = 150-450) so I am thankful to those who volunteered their blood and platelets so I could get another needed transfusion today (which thanfully went very UNeventfully!). I also set a new personal record today by walking 1/2 mile (about 6 blocks) at one time. Yes, it wore me out but walking is really good therapy and hopefully will help get my digestive back in order one day. During the walk we heard yet another “code blue” announcement. It seems everyday someone is struggling to hold onto life here. In my 50 days at the hospital, I have had only three medical struggles I would deem significant, and none of them requiring a ‘code blue.’

Giving thanks for this, I recalled an older gentleman who years ago would often share a word of testimony. One evening he told of how, whenever he heard an ambulance siren, he would always say a quick prayer, “Lord have mercy on the person needing help.” I remember being humbled because at that time it would seldom have occurred to me to have prayed when I heard an ambulance. Honestly, I remember times stalled on the interstate because of some accident ahead; instead of giving thanks or praying for the persons involved, I would be focused on the inconvenience to my schedule.

Living thanks is a daily, moment by moment choice we make. Sometimes I do better than others. But God is patient to offer us new opportunities each day to focus on Him and on others, even if He needs to use an ambulance siren or ‘code blue’ to get our attention.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise โ€“ the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices, God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:15-16
(Thanks Cindy, for sharing this verse.)

Are you LIVING thanks?

A friend sent a card with a note encouraging us to keep giving thanks, something we’ve often mentioned here as absolutely essential for living victoriously.

So with that in mind, and today’s news fresh in mind, I’m thankful:

  • My platelet transfusion went through successfully rafter a bad reaction Monday.
  • My amazing wife remains always faithful and devoted to me.
  • I have clean safe drinking water direct from my tap.
  • I didn’t have to choose between food and medicine.
  • Nobody I know was shot, raped, tortured, or mutilated today.
  • No one bombed my town or house.
  • I don’t have to worry about doping or other secrets coming out.
  • My financial budget is strained like so many others, but it is in better shape than the Government’s because I don’t spend seven times what I make.
  • Leukemia isn’t in charge of my life; Jesus is.
    • If you want to be free of worry, GIVE thanks. Try making a list of specific things for which you are thankful, eg not just your friends, but what it IS they do or what characteristic you appreciate.

      If you want to actually put this to action, then LIVE thanks. That is, DO something with it. Consider giving up a daily or weekly habit you don’t need and sponsor a child who needs your guidance and love. Invest in a family’s future by providing a clean drinking water filtration kit. Buy a milk goat to help a single mom support her family. The ideas are endless. Here are some companies with VERY high integrity that make such grants available as they reach out to those in deepest need to help them become more self sufficient:
      CAMA Services
      World Vision
      Samaritan’s Purse


      โ€œThe King will reply, โ€˜Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.โ€™”
      Matthew 25:40

Stealing Holy Water

“I always hated glasses!” she said.

My nurse and I had been discussing things we were vain about and clung to even though we knew in our heart they were foolish things. I shared about my hair and she shared about being severely vision impaired and having to wear “coke bottle” glasses since she was a six year old Catholic school girl. (Shared here with her permission)

“I’d go into chapel and dip my both hands into the Holy water and frantically sprinkle them on my eyes crying, ‘God heal my eyes. God, please heal my eyes.’ I felt like I was stealing Holy water for my own use and later wondered if that is why it wasn’t working.” She smiled at the predicament she had posed realizing it wasn’t the Holy water that was the issue. In her mind, she had convinced herself she was being dishonest in one thing to gain another. Her plea to God sounded like an honest one to me but silently I pondered her thought and wondered in what ways I might have ‘stolen’ from God and then later asked Him to bless me.

She then went on to explain how her mother had Glaucoma and lost vision in one eye. Her mother warned her that she too needed to get Glaucoma tests even though she was a young adult. “Mom, because of my poor vision, I have been having these tests all my life. I too now have Glaucoma but have been on drops for some time.” Then she looked directly at me and said, “If it weren’t for needing those horrible glasses, I might not have been diagnosed and could have lost my vision too.”

We both observed that sometimes sufferings unveil hidden blessings, and that being too quick to always want to pray away sufferings might keep us from receiving a greater blessing from God.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

Update: Tuesday was a great day for me, but being Marcia’s birthday we didn’t post a blog. Instead, I spread the word for staff on all three shifts to wish her a happy birthday. Thuong, Estela, and Adriana all stopped by for visits as well as a another very dear friend. We enjoyed Olive Garden take out and later homemade birthday cake from our middle son, Peter. The staff enjoyed that too. And…I received two units of blood without negative reaction! A good day indeed. We’re trying platelets transfusion again today – my counts are down to 11 (normal is 150-450): no bleeding yet, but general aches all over.

The Secret of Living Forever

I think it was Steven Covey who told the story of the man who climbed a Tibetan mountain in order to ask a wise sage, “What is the secret to living forever?” The (reputably) wise man replied, “Keep breathing.” Well yes, that might be helpful if we could actually DO that, but of course, it is quite beyond our control.

I was reminded today of how fragile is life and how we all are dependent on God for our very next breath. Paul speaks of Jesus when writing, “And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” Acts 17:25

Concentrated breathing can be a form of meditation and worship. Breathe out your concerns and natural self; breathe in the freshness and restoration that is God.

I was also reminded of the dangers of transfusions and the vulnerability that Leukemia presents. Just minutes into starting platelet infusion I developed a severe allergic reaction: Itching and hives quickly appeared all over my body. My throat started hurting and to close up, along with my nasal passages. Lips swelled and became numb. Breathing became so difficult that the thought of an emergency tracheotomy strongly came to my mind. (And to add to the pain, I couldn’t contact Marcia because she was in Newton and her cellphone had just died!)

My nurse was present through all this and knew to immediately disconnect the platelets and commence emergency response protocol. Ultimately I had four nurses working on the situation including one from the Emergency Response Team. If my body hadn’t responded, I would have been minutes away from being transferred to ICU…Or elsewhere. However with 75mg of Benadryl, oxygen, and a steroid, an hour later my allergic symptoms started to reduce. Four hours later, I was almost fully recovered. Just a little swelling at the back of my throat remains. Tomorrow, I will make another attempt to get some needed platelets, and maybe blood.

Wow, life can turn VERY quickly…in either direction. This could have happened to any of us through toxic reaction food, medicine, environment, chemical, etc. It is a reminder that:

Life is fragile. Handle it with care AND prayer.

Oh, the real secret to LIVING FOREVER?

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24