Monthly Archives: April 2013

Forgiving When It Hurts

In yesterday’s post we touched on the power of forgiveness to free both the offender and the one offended, including ourselves.

But sometimes the gravity of the offense is so great, the memory of the pain so intense, that the idea of forgiveness seems offensive to our sense of justice. We withhold forgiveness thinking that we have the upper hand or some sort of power over the offender. But the reality is quite the opposite. Instead of having any power over the other person or the situation, we find that in not forgiving we become enslaved to the bitterness and resentment created by the event and magnified by our memories.

Years ago, Marcia and I took a trip specifically to counsel a young woman who couldn’t forgive herself or others in her past. She was disappointed with God for not protecting her and at the same time wrapped up in her own guilt of unforgiveness. Over the course of three intensive days we read scripture together and she agreed with everything. But in the end, she could not bring herself to forgiveness, and remained confined within the prison she had created.

In her book, Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand contrasts this with the true story of a WWII prisoner of war survivor. Following a period a terrifying nightmares, drunkenness and anger stemmed from his tortuous experience, he attended a Billy Graham crusade. Filled with a sense of shame and powerlessness that had driven his need to hate his captors, he realized they were no longer his ‘monsters.’ He made a trip to the Sugarno Prison where he was kept in Japan, and attempted to see “The Bird”, one of his fiercest torturers. Refused access to the man, “all he could see of his former captor was a lost man, a life beyond redemption. He felt something he had never felt for his captor before. With a shiver of amazement, he realized that it was compassion. At that moment something shifted sweetly inside of him; it was forgiveness, beautiful and effortless and complete. For Louis Zamperini, the war was over.”

The power to forgive so great an offense comes from the Savior who first forgave us. In such light how can we withhold forgiveness from others or ourselves? Yes, the painful memories seem unbearable, but more unbearable is the pain of carrying the weight of unforgiveness all throughout your life. Say it out loud, visit the person if possible, write a note. Just don’t carry the burden of unforgiveness in your heart. Quite simply, forgiveness is for giving. It is a gift you give yourself and others.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

The Most Powerful Force in The World

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was YOU.

– Louis Smedes


What would you say is the most powerful force in the world? Money? Enough of it can certainly change your life situation, but not bring you the wealth of friendship. Knowledge? Knowledge can capture the minds of people but not their hearts. Love? Ah, love IS such a very powerful force. But our understanding of love is so diluted; we love chocolate, we love music, we love that new car, we love our spouse, we love our child, we love our Creator God. One word doesn’t quite fit them all, does it? But true love generates other forces that have the power to change who you are, how you see yourself, and how you see others. Forgiveness is one of those most amazing forces.

Forgiveness captures not only the mind but also the heart. It frees us to accept ourselves and others and to love more deeply. And the lack of forgiveness imprisons us. It holds us in the grips of bitterness and regret. There have been times when I wounded someone’s spirit deeply by a careless word, and yet was met by their unconditional forgiveness. A simple act of mercy on their part changed both of us. It freed me from the guilt of misbehavior and it freed them from the prison created by bitterness and resentment.

Probably the most familiar verse in all the Bible is John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”. Verse 17 explains God’s motivation for doing this: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

God’s forgiveness is available to all who believe in his son Jesus. He wipes the slate clean, past and present, and gives us a completely new life, here on earth and forever for all eternity. Such a powerful force is the merciful forgiveness of God.

Take a moment to ponder, is there anyone you hold a grudge against? Anyone you have offended? Seek forgiveness. Maybe it’s time you finally and completely forgive yourself for something in your past. If you’ve asked God for forgiveness, then why do you still hold yourself in prison? He has freed you. Go live your life in His name. Rest in His presence.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

Too Tired To Give In

We saw a Rosa Parks poster in the hospital. It reminded us of the tremendous Civil Rights museum in Memphis that featured the bus that she rode that historical day she refused to give up her seat. Parks’ quote says, “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. . . The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

Do you know that feeling of always giving in to some one or some habit or situation that is oppressing you? You want to stand up for yourself, your best interests, but inevitably give in to the easy way out, a way that is filled with remorse and sorrow. Maybe your health suffers also, and the wellbeing of those around you.

It doesn’t have to be that way. God has given us a resilient will that can work for us, a will that chooses to take another step, a will that says no to the things that pollute our minds and bodies, a will that chooses to believe truth, and acts on that belief, a will that thanks him in the midst of painful and uncertain circumstances.

I remember a colleague of mine, Jay Taylor responding to my comment about how tempting the donuts in the break-room were. The truth of his simple reply resonated well with me: “They aren’t tempting if you just walk away.”

Temptation, chronic pain, and anxiety are all thieves. They steal, kill and destroy that which is best for you. What are you letting oppress and steal from your life? Whether it is a hasty tongue, unhealthy sarcasm, food, caffeine, sports, TV, a defeated attitude, a worrisome heart, or an unquenchable desire, there is a solution. Refuse to give in. Walk away. Take back what is yours. Keep your eyes on the one true God who wants you to live a victorious life. Ask Him for not only his direction but also his empowerment in your life. You’ll find it in his Word. It’s part of the good plan he has for you…when you exercise the will to accept it.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (Jesus) John 10:10

Positive Thinking Versus Faith

At first I thought it was funny…a cartoon of a turtle on his back. In such a predicament he imagines he is flying instead of stuck on his back. But does he “look to the bright side” or is he simply delusional?

Positive thinking changes your perspective of a situation. It can even give you a euphoric feeling in face of a dilemma. But it doesn’t change reality. For all its benefits, positive thinking looks for an outcome that is suitable to MY desires, MY way. It greatly disappoints when things go contrary to our will.

Faith on the other hand sees a spiritual reality that is unseeable to the eye. It trusts that God’s plan will be best for us, and fully satisfactory, even if I don’t get “my own way.” I so admire the testimony of Evan and Jill, who know this to be true in the face of trials far greater than mine. Jill shared this illustration from D.L. Moody:

“You know, when a man is going up in a balloon, he takes in sand as a ballast, and when he wants to mount a little higher, he throws out a little of the ballast, and then he will mount a little higher; he throws out a little more ballast, and he mounts still higher; and the higher he gets the more he throws out- and so the nearer we get to God the more we have to throw out of the things of this world. Let go of them; do not let us first set our hearts and affections on them, but do what the Master tells us – lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven.”

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.” Helen H. Lemmel

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:20

Three Week Update – Joy on the Path of Struggle

Several people have been asking how I am progressing post stem cell transplant. God has been so good to us. I passed my first follow up appointment with flying colors. So well, that instead of 2-3 appointments per week, they are satisfied with seeing me weekly at this point and will back off to every two weeks, then monthly.

My white blood count, including the infection fighting neutrophils are at the low end of the NORMAL range and the other blood cells are slowly increasing. This demonstrates that my donor cells are working! Of course, these cells are not fully mature, and don’t offer full immunity protection. But I expect them to progressively mature and multiply as they have already started.

My difficulty with swallowing is nearly healed, though I need to be careful with rougher foods. The GI tract may take some time to heal as will the painful chemo ‘burns’ on my hands and other areas. But overall, it seems I am well ahead of the curve, even with tiring days like yesterday and today.

As we’ve written earlier, pain demands attending to. But often it is our choice how we perceive it and how much we let it control us. A lesson I learned thirty years ago is that ministering and reaching out to others in need diminishes the focus on our own painful situation, be it physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual. (I am constantly reminded of how much I still need to improve in this.) Cultivating a real relationship with the Spirit Jesus gave us is of infinitely greater value in coping with limitations, frustrations, anxiety, and pain. Author Sarah Young writes:

“Keep your eyes on (Jesus), not only for direction but also for empowerment. I never lead you to do something without equipping you for the task. That is why it’s important to seek My will in everything you do.”

If my pain and struggle were exactly the same, yet I didn’t have this eternal truth, I can assure you my experience would not be nearly so optimistic. Yet with this truth, a measure of joy is revealed on the same path of the struggle. It is available to you too.

Thanks to everyone who is praying for us and encouraging us.

“You have made known to me the path of life. You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11

Thoughts Of A Caregiver

Someone thought it would be a good idea to hear Marcia’s perspective as a caregiver in dealing with along term illness. Here are some of her thoughts: 

It is difficult because you can’t take away the pain that your loved one is experiencing. You do what you can to encourage your spouse and make them comfortable. You don’t think of it as a chore, but rather a gift of love. But being on call 24/7 puts certain stress on you that sometimes is hard to bear. Caring for a person with a long term illness is a lot like the responsibilities of caring for a child. Even when your loved one wants to be independent and do things for themselves, you are always in demand and available. It seems there is no getting away from the situation. It is an all consuming task.

You want to be at the hospital all the time to support your husband, but also need to get away for a good night sleep and to handle chores etc.  But when you are away, you want to be back at the hospital, even though being confined to one room adds it own stress. It is a feeling that pulls you in two directions at once. Falling asleep at home can be difficult. What helps me is singing hymns and praying until I fall asleep.

This experience takes you out of your comfort zone. You’re having to do things you just as soon not do. Sometimes it is simple things like driving back and forth to the hospital or paying bills. You end up taking on roles that were usually your husband’s, or at least you would have more of his help for making decisions. Suddenly, you find yourself not only a mate but also a legal and medical advocate for your spouse, making decisions and setting up appointments, tracking medications, and dealing with insurance and finances. Because you are in the hospital room most the time, you end up being part of the nursing staff. And yet, after juggling all these roles, you also need to be a loving spouse and friend.
Sometimes people expect to feel bad and so they do. Others look for the best that is possible and so they expect more of themselves which in turn makes them feel and cope better. This applies both to the patient and the caregiver.
What has kept me sane in this season of life is much more than maintaining a positive attitude. The real strength has come from God in both the big and small things. Our every day devotions, bible reading, and talking to God throughout the day has helped to de-stress my life. He takes the excess burden off me. I could choose to worry or dwell on the bad stuff. But in the face of so many unknowns, I choose to trust God to direct our lives no matter which direction they go.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6


More Beautiful


It’s true.

You are more beautiful than you think. Watch this interesting short video:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

Progressive Learning

Like much of life, this experience with Leukemia has been one of progressive learning. Either only so much information is released at a time or the mind can only absorb so much, or both. Recently, three revelations have struck us:
1. I underestimated the toll of the higher dose of chemo in this round and the cumulative effect on my body of three rounds of chemo in four months. I am making excellent, ahead of the curve progress, but night sweats, continued difficulty swallowing, and fatigue from engraftment and producing billions of blood cells daily are a greater challenge than expected. I discipline myself with expectation for a quick recovery.
2. With all the focus on quantity of blood cells produced, and the recently explosion of white blood cells in my body, I didn’t realize that most of these are rather immature cells. Comparing the work of a teenage intern to a master craftsman, my cells are doing good work, but not as effectively as they once will. So vulnerability will continue for some time.
3. The real surprise, which I should have figured out, is that when I made the decision to crucify my own sick immune system and replace it with my donor’s, I lost the protection of all my lifetime vaccinations. I will inherit some benefit from my donor’s immune system, but will have to be revaccinated for many childhood and adult diseases. And since my immune system is currently immature, I will have to wait a year before I can have any ‘live’ vaccinations, otherwise I would be susceptible to contracting the actual disease itself.

Isn’t life like this? There is a certain amount of maturity we can grasp at a young age (and so many exceed at this). But either through choice or other limitations, we seem to take a slower route to maturity than would seem necessary. We come across those ‘ah hah’ moments when we say, “Wow, I should have known that already.” Sometimes it is the ‘less mature’ young ones who remind us older ones of the important lessons of life.

Growing up in the image of God is the same way. Some wisdom only comes from a progressively disciplined life of pursuing Him. But much wisdom for daily living and business of life is available with just a little effort and desire to know the one who created you. The best way to Go Light Your World is to cultivate a relationship with THE Light of the world. Be blessed in pursuing that today. It starts with a simple conversation. And watch the friendship progressively grow from there!

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8

Courage Perseveres

Have I not commanded you? be strong and courageous. do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. For The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9


In his book, Facing Your Giants, Max Lucado tells the story of Florence Chadwick’s 1952 attempt to swim the cold waters between Catalina Island and the California shore. Battling fog, choppy seas, and muscle cramps, she ended her challenge swim before reaching her goal despite her mother’s encouragement from the boat to continue on. Minutes after she got into the boat the fog lifted and they discovered they were only a half mile from shore. “All I could see was the fog,” she explained at a news conference. “I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”

There have been a number of times during the Leukemia treatments that I felt I was swimming against the currents, seeing very little ahead of my present situation. Fog is a darkness that hides things. Who would have known during the darkest moments of this last week, that the sight of recovery and discharge was only days away? In such trials, we learn that faith carries us because it perseveres. In short, faith doesn’t lie around; faith works!

What ‘shore’ are you reaching for right now? If the fog of life is hiding that shore from your eyes, ask God to shine His light to show you the path to your goal. He sent Jesus for this very reason.

Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 3:13–14

Don’t Give Up

It was 1988 and our young family of six went camping in Colorado. We camped in a remote spot below The Crags, named for its jagged rocky formations. It was primitive camping with outhouses and non potable water. But we enjoyed the rustic scenery, complete with babbling mountain stream nearby. Hiking in the mountain meadows was a favorite activity. Less fun was coming back to wet tents, sleeping in the van, or making spaghetti on the camp stove – in the rain.


Still, the next day was nice and we decided to hike up the mountain path to the peak. So with a one year old in the child carrier and six-year-old sometimes running and sometimes pleading to be carried, we plodded upward with the teen and preteen leading the way. It was an easy enough climbing path. But between being worn down by the poor sleep and carrying the children, we found ourselves sitting on a bench along the side of the mountain path.


Surrounded by trees, we had no idea how close we were to the top. We must have been talking about giving up and heading back. Maybe it was just too far for us to reach the peak. That’s when someone coming down the path said, “You can’t give up now. Just a little more up the path is the peak and the view is extraordinary. You can see for miles!” And so we agreed to give it a try to continued upward.


That’s when we learned “a little more” is a relative term. Nonetheless, with the stranger’s encouragement we made it to the top. And true enough, the view was spectacular. We reveled in beauty of God’s creation outstretching miles before us. After a time of soaking in the beauty and committing the time to memory, we made the descent, refreshed and encouraged. Since then we’ve had a number of opportunities to encourage other young and older hikers to not give up; the best is yet to come.


Interesting how courage and encouragement are so closely connected. Your words and actions of encouragement give courage to those around you. Tell them never give up. The best may be yet to come.


So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18