Monthly Archives: March 2013

Crucified With Christ day T-4

Some of you have noted how my chemo schedule starts on Good Friday with similarities to being crucified with Christ. Understand, my situation bears NO real resemblance to the actual pain Jesus bore. But Paul did write of certain similarities: Galatians 2:20 states the reality for all true believers: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

It is the goal and process of the Christian life, to increasingly align with Christ who lives in us, to crucify and transform our sinful bodies. In a small sense, my immune system and bone marrow which protect and sustain my life, will be crucified, destroyed. The new marrow will be grafted into my body and start to take control.

My 19 year old male donor (from the USA) has O+ blood. I am B+ so at some point I too will become O+. So my blood will no longer live but my donor’s life giving blood identity will live in me. I will take on his immune system and allergies, if any. Jesus produces a new nature that gradually takes hold in the life of His followers. I’m not sure what the effects of having 19 year old blood cells circulating in my system will have. But I am thinking having the blood of a teenager might rejuvenate me in a number of ways. Bear with me if I develop an affinity for Rap! Seriously, I’m so impressed and thankful that a young man would willingly¬†save the life of a stranger by signing up to be a stem cell donor. Some of you have asked if I can have contact with my donor. I understand we can send anonymous notes via the donor center and after one year can meet each other if mutually agreeable.

In the transfusion that Jesus offers His followers, there are often battles of the will involving which master will be followed. Similarly in this situation, there are usually battles between the host (me) and the graft (donor). These are sometimes short lived, sometimes lifelong, sometimes rather minor, other times serious or life threatening.

No worries today, though questions remain. The first two rounds of chemo went well; two to go. THIS is the test of our faith: is it real enough to bear the crucifixion and does the hope it offers bring absolute peace in the midst of the darkness and trial? I am confident it does. Your prayers strengthen that reality as we count down to T day zero and beyond. Doctors say days 7-10 after transplant may be rougher. I have my armor on for such a fight (Ephesians 6:10+). Your prayers strengthen us both more than you know.

With crucifixion power, the ability to endure death of self, comes also resurrection power which is celebrated on Easter and everyday, the ability to rise victoriously from that ‘death.’ I’m ‘reckoning this to be true’ in my life. Be blessed seeking any ‘crucifixion’ and ‘transfusion’ of power you may need to guide your life toward God’s best!

“I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
Philippians 3:10-11

Transplant Update T-6+5

PS- I was mistaken on the day counts. Admission is T-6. The numbers count down until transplant day which is Day Zero, then day 1, 2, etc. Dr. Silverman is very upbeat about my ‘chances’ because, apart from the aggressiveness of my cancer, I am a very healthy guy. She also says that though I am still in remission, this type of cancer WILL come back and the transplant IS needed to (hopefully) prevent that. (No
guarantees.) She confirmed what we suspected, that this round of chemo may be a harder journey than my first two, and that the transplant process is a whole new process complete with complications and trials. nonetheless, we both remain confident that I will do well and so I also entered into ‘negotiations’ with her regarding when I might be able to return to work. ūüôā I have to do exceedingly well in recovery to keep my end of that bargain.

One of my chemo meds can cause seizures so I have started a course of anti seizure medicine to mitigate that. The meds are similar to Valium so I’m experiencing Newton’s first law of physics: things in motion tend to remain in motion and walk a bit on the unsteady side, a slight bit of the drunken sailor syndrome. ūüôā In the spirit of open honest communication I told the nurse of a cold I had last week. This prompted her to bring out two rotor rooter wires with swabs on the end to run up my nose and through my sinuses and, I’m not sure but maybe into my brain or down to my toes. Maybe I exaggerate, but it was an eye moistening experience. The test is to see if I have a virus that would set back the treatment process. Turns out all is well, so we were able to proceed with admission as planned.

I have had over twenty tests and labs in the last three days with more to follow each day. They will add other meds to fight potential Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD), and others to protect my mouth and lungs which are also at risk. The donor started taking neupogen shots Friday when I started my high dose chemo, two kinds, about 4-5 hours per day. His shots stimulate the release of stem cells from his marrow cavity to his peripheral bloodstream. This way he can donate the stem cells as easily as giving blood. The donor’s stem cells will be collected day T-2 and I will get them through a 30 minute infusion on or about April 4. Then the fun begins to see how his cells and mine get along. Being a perfect “10/10” match should help! The PT stopped by to give me a regime of exercises to keep fit and the PA challenged me to break the record of walking 48 miles in my stay. I did a mile day onne and two today. It is a much smaller unit with more restrictions than Mercy. Staff are responsive and kind.

My address is:
university of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
200 Hawkins Drive
Iowa City, ia 52242-1009
Room 7094-RCS
Phone is 319.353.9912
Expect to be here three to five weeks. I’m shooting for three without complications. That would be a miracle, but we know someone in that business.

I can have healthy visitors, no more than three at a time. Ramp 1 is closest. Elevator D or E to floor 7. Please ask God for our faithfulness and winsome testimony for God’s glory.
Blessings,
Bryan

God is Patient With Us

How do you feel when you behave poorly or make a mistake and the person nearby, instead of getting upset, responds patiently? It’s a humbling and yet good¬†feeling¬†isn’t it? ¬†Guess what? That’s how it feels when YOU are patient¬†with¬†yourself and with those around you.

God is patient with us so we can be patient with ourselves. 

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

When I think back on my life and on this verse, there are a number of images that flash on the big screen; times when I screwed up big time. But like the loving Father He is, God was patient with me. Even now when I am tired of waiting, tired of the medical routines, tired of being tired, He gently and patiently waits for me to draw close and get HIS perspective on things… and¬†most¬†importantly His forgiveness.

Patience has a way of teaching us to forgive ourselves…and others.

Yes, sometimes things have to be just right, and there is little room for error. But most of the time, don’t you think there is room for a little patience and forgiveness?¬†And in that space, you always find a measure of peace.

Postscript: stay tuned for transplant update in Saturday’s post.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

Vision Okay…With BIG Font

Bryan vision - big fontThey say that chemotherapy can change your vision. Maybe so, but I found if you just make the font on those eye¬†charts big enough, there is NO problem! ūüôā

Today, I visit¬†with¬†the doctors and nurses at the University of Iowa Hospital about my bone marrow (stem cell) transplant. Friday is “Day Zero” as they call it, the day they start the high dose chemo to destroy what’s left of my immune system in preparation for the transplant. ¬†I’ve really enjoyed being stronger and able to visit with people for the last few weeks! I’ll be able to have visitors in Iowa City and also on return home, but with infection precautions. ¬†The transplant will happen about Day 6 or 7 .¬†As one transplant survivor said, you never really can completely answer all your questions. You just have to listen well to God, make your best decision and move forward¬†without¬†looking back. It reminds me of a song we sang as kids:

  1. I have decided to follow Jesus;
    I have decided to follow Jesus;
    I have decided to follow Jesus;
    No turning back, no turning back.
  2. Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
    Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
    Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
    No turning back, no turning back.
  3. The world behind me, the cross before me;
    The world behind me, the cross before me;
    The world behind me, the cross before me;
    No turning back, no turning back.
  4. Though none go with me, still I will follow;
    Though none go with me, still I will follow;
    Though none go with me, still I will follow;
    No turning back, no turning back.
  5. Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
    Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
    Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
    No turning back, no turning back.

No matter what your trial, be it cancer, heartache, financial woes, relational despair…there’s no turning back from your true path with God. Keep your vision clear.

Dinner With Friends

Bryan, Mustafa, Naomi, Lily, Daisy, Marcia, Awatif

Bryan, Mustafa, Naomi, Lily, Daisy, Marcia, Awatif

About three months ago I wrote a post titled “Conversation With A Stranger.” (Click on Previous Months-December in the right column ¬†to read this remarkable encounter.) To summarize, it started with me asking this man waiting by the elevator, “How is your day going?” And about five minutes later it ended with prayer for this Muslim man and his wife, and then him saying, “When you get out of the hospital I want you and your wife to be guests in our home.” Last night, we rewrote the story a bit and had Mustafa and Awatif as dinner guests in our home, along with our common friend Naomi (in orange) who was nurse to both Awatif and me during our cancer treatments at Mercy. Naomi’s husband had to work tonight but their two daughters, Lily and Daisy joined us for the fun.

Mustafa commented how life is short and we all¬†should¬†be able to share God’s love. He also shared his belief that in this cancer situation that his wife and I share, we all have to be strong and keep our faith, because we all depend on God’s grace. Remembering¬†God’s¬†admonition for me to listen more than I speak, I agreed with Mustafa on this very basic truth. It is God’s grace, not our goodness, that bring us closer to Him. I found myself being very thankful for the opportunity to meet these new friends and build a relationship that is strong enough to carry the weight of not only our shared beliefs but also for truths that are best understood by friends who care deeply about each other.

We believe that every day is full of opportunities to meet people that God has put in our path. Sometimes these are only for a moment: the clerk at the store who needs an encouraging smile, the man on the street, the janitor. Sometimes they are for a season and quite out of our normal vision. When I first greeted Mustafa, I did not plan a friendship. I just opened a door and listened to what God had to say. 

Imagine how your day might change if you just ask God to put people in your path, if you give Him permission to interrupt your schedule with His appointments, and then listen¬†and watch for His answer. It’s an adventure you don’t want to miss.

“My sheep¬†listen¬†to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” – John 10:27

Patience

Patience.

Do you sometimes feel it is like a bad tasting medicine…good for you but you don’t want to taste it? ¬†And you certainly don’t want to WAIT for it?!

Trials have the capacity to produce patience. That’s why some folks have told me, “I NEVER ask for patience, because I don’t want the suffering that goes with it.”

But do we really need to wait for some calamity to come upon us in order to learn patience? Steven Covey once said the one thing that separates us from¬†the¬†rest of the animals is our ability to create a space between stimulus and response. That space is called patience. For example, someone says something unkind to you. You have a choice: you can react or you can wait a moment and act¬†with¬†patience. What does a moment cost you? People who react think they need to change someone else’s bad behavior. (Ever notice how it is difficult to give someone a piece of your mind and also have peace in that same moment?) People who wait and act with patience have learned the secret:

Patience is not a dreaded virtue that has to follow unbearable suffering. Patience is an everyday choice to be good to yourself and to the world around you. 

Love is Patient. It waits. It creates a space where it might grow in unlikely places, like flowers that seem to grow out of rocks. It invites kindness and goodness to come stay awhile, even if only in your own heart.  

The good news is that just about every part of the day is an opportunity to use this gift: in the checkout lane, behind a slow driver, when the child spills their milk AGAIN, when the phone rings during a quiet time, when you make a mistake, when the toast burns.

Got patience? Try it. You’ll like the taste of it!

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:4

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;  in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;  in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love.  2 Corinthians 6:3-6

Peace Rests Secure

Peace comes from knowing where you are going.

Corrie Ten Boom is quoted saying, “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” She added, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

A friend asked, “Aren’t you afraid (of cancer/death)?” Actually no. The process is sometimes a bit unsettling, for sure. But over the years I have discovered over and over that God’s Word is trustworthy. Romans 14:8 says. “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” However my prognosis goes with this cancer, I win!

There is a battle going on every day and it is a battle for our mind, our thoughts, and our beliefs. Worry, despair, anger, and all kinds of temptation seem to have a way of grabbing our attention. A well respected and elderly Christian man shared with me that he still struggles with controlling his thoughts. We discussed the truth that 2 Corinthians 10:5 offers: “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” It is a daily challenge. But when we discipline ourselves to actually do this, we find a peace that rests secure.

What thoughts plague you and keep you from experiencing real peace? If they don’t agree with what God says about the situation, you can take them captive. Say to yourself, “This is a lie and I’m not going to believe it.” I remember Danny Hodges using the illustration of putting handcuffs on the errant thought and marching it out of your mind and into God’s courtroom. Familiarize yourself with God’s Word. See how many times each day you have opportunity to choose to believe -and act on- what God says. And then rest secure in the power of peace that He offers to guard your heart and mind. . . wherever you are going.

‚ÄúI have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.‚ÄĚ John 16:33

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

For Peace of Mind Resign as General Manager of the Universe

When I was student teaching in Iowa City with Larry Knipfer, our elementary music students put on a production of “If’n I Was God” from the musical Tom Sawyer. In the musical, Tom reckons he could straighten the world out ‘if’n only he was God’. Unless you are the rare exception, you probably have a few ideas of your own that you’d like to pass on to the Almighty Creator. In our minds we think we know what is best and would like to be in control of it.

The truth is, control is most often an illusion at best, and an addictive drug at worst. We can plan and work and strive and fuss. We can schedule and manage and organize and supervise. But real control is most usually beyond our grasp. We don’t control others and we certainly don’t control life’s circumstances. Real peace is found in accepting that we only have control over ourselves, our own choices about what we think, what we believe and how we respond to the things life throws our way.

You probably aren’t familiar with the name Reinhold Niebuhr; I wasn’t. But you probably are familiar with something he wrote. Niebuhr was an American pastor who wrote in 1943 what is now known as the Serenity Prayer:
“God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.”

Niebuhr goes on to write about the virtues of living one day at a time, enjoying each moment and accepting difficulties as the road to peace. It’s a good reminder to stop striving after things so much and to pursue inner peace throughout each day. . . peace with others, peace with self, peace with God. Finding peace in the midst of life’s battles is a discipline that requires daily training. But it is worth the effort.

For years I’ve used ‘transition times’ to find peace: times between meetings, walking to the car, a quiet moment before meals. Some days, I do better than others. But each day spent practicing the discipline of peace is better than trying to be General Manager of the Universe!

Hebrews 12:11
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Piece of Mind or Peace of Mind?

“I’m gonna give that person a piece of my mind!”

How often have you heard (or said) that? The problem of course is that we all have just so many pieces, and after awhile we are sure to run out of them. And then, there we are, mindless with no peace.

I shudder to think of how many times my life used to express that sentiment. I used to be an angry guy with such high expectations for everyone, including myself. There was not much joy in that piece-meal life. Finally, I came to the end of my rope. I realized that I was becoming someone I didn’t want to be. And furthermore, I had no real hope of changing myself by my own power. I already knew who Jesus was and proclaimed to follow Him. My mouth said, “Jesus is Lord” but my actions said, “I am Lord of my life. I am in charge.” Yes, in charge of my hopeless anger.

The solution was to give it up, to stop being in charge. Now, surrender doesn’t come easy to any of us. But in such battles such as this, real victory only comes through surrender. You can either be a slave to selfish ways or you can surrender to God’s leadership in your life. You can either insist on remaining the same, or you can be transformed. Over thirty years ago, I gave up a life of anger and bitterness. I gave up giving people a piece of my mind and chose instead to pursue peace of mind.

We are called to be peacemakers. Is there anything that stands in the way of living at peace with others in your life? God has the answer and the power to change that. Give it up to Him and find peace.

Postscript- A miserable cold instantly came upon me with a vengeance this afternoon (3/22); not a good thing with a compromised immune system. I appreciate your prayers that this not find a chink in my armor.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

Beyond Happiness to JOY

Regardless of personal belief, most everyone would agree they aspire to experience and demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. (Galatians 5:22-23) Today, we take another look at joy.

I figure that life is pretty serious but we need to laugh healthily every day. I’ve always had a weakness for silly jokes, puns, dry British humor. I’ve often told Marcia that part of my mission in life is to keep her laughing…hopefully not just at my mistakes! ūüôā

Joy and happiness sometimes resemble each other. They are both qualities we want to experience again and again. But one place they look very different is in the fire of a difficult and painful situation. Like dew on the grass, pleasure and happiness quickly evaporate. Even in less painful times, the pleasure of the moment is easily undone by unkind words, an unexpected expense, or a disappointing experience. Joy however, can sustain itself, and you, throughout daily and deep life pains. Author CS Lewis says, “I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasure in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”

Joy is found much deeper than mere happiness; so deep that we have to reach quite beyond our own power to find it. Jesus spoke truths to His disciples so their “joy may be complete.” (John 15:11) He teaches believers that they will weep and grieve but that “their grief will turn to joy.” He promises that no one can take away our joy. (John 16:20-22)

Think about that. Whereas your happiness and mine is usually based on some momentary circumstance or experience, joy lives within our heart and we cannot be robbed of it. Despite what your life circumstance, be it cancer or divorce, financial woes, or rejection, yes in the face of these disappointments, joy can still be yours. Why? Because Joy always hopes. It is stronger than sorrow. It is certain of those things which the eye cannot see. Even death cannot steal it away because deepest joy has eternal hope, secured in the promises and submission to Jesus Christ. And if we have eternal hope and joy, then we certainly have reason to be joyful now. Again Jesus promises: “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” (John 17:13)

Happiness and Joy. You can have them both. Don’t miss out on joy.