Monthly Archives: November 2015

Where do you spend your day?


When Marcia and I were courting, she went to school at UNI and I went to school at the U of I. On weekends, I would find whatever means possible to get to Cedar Falls just to be with her. We were, and still are, heads over heels in love and value time together. One day together was better than all the others combined.


Maybe you feel the same way about vacations or weekends. You work all week so you can enjoy two days of leisure. Or you plan for months, saving money all year so you could go on a treasured vacation. Compared to the pile of time working and money spent, the vacation was worth it. I’m sure you can think of other “trade offs” you intentionally make in your life: time with kids rather than time spent in front of the TV, living simply so you have money to invest in others.


But what about God?


“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Psalm 84:10


You might recognize this verse from a popular worship song. It reflects the eternal truth that nothing compares to knowing God and being known by him. As we sing we’re affirming that we would trade a thousand days elsewhere for just one day with him. But is it evidenced in our lives?


I’m humbled to say that many of my trade offs demonstrate I’d rather be elsewhere. When well, I have time to check the news and emails, time to tackle items on a to-do list, time for relaxation, time to write this blog. But where does God fit in? Yesterday, Marcia and I observed that in this crazy world of hospital living, our days are filled to the brim with medical treatments, tests, daily consultation with specialists, physical exercises, and needed rest periods. We find time to handle the bills and do some work for Go Light Our World. But missing was the quality daily devotion time together to study and discuss God’s Word, seeking his presence and guidance for our lives.


Don’t get me wrong we all have to-do it’s to tend to, work to be done, bills to be paid, and families to enjoy. The question isn’t what we do, it’s how we set our priorities. What (or who) comes first?


You might be familiar with the challenge of the jar and the stones. An empty jar is presented along with a quantity of sand, pebbles, large stones and water. The challenge is to fit them all in. Start with the water or small stones and there won’t be room for the larger rocks. Only if you start with the big rocks first, then add the pebbles – constantly shaking the jar- then the sand and finally the water will you get the task done.


Life is like that. We need to handle the big rocks/priorities first. Think about it: 15 minutes filling your heart and mind with God’s truth and goodness versus 1000 minutes listening to our own emotions that so often misguide us. We have to decide what are the big rock priorities that simply must be tended to first so that we have room for the other important things. If it is our desire to spend 15 minutes alone with God more than 1000 minutes doing other things and listening to other voices, then it is worth putting this “big rock” in first. I know Marcia and I are making some adjustments in where we spend our days. How about you?


Day 63 Update – Thanksgiving


I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with friend and relatives. We have so VERY much for which to give thanks. Even on Day 63 at Mercy hospital, dealing more with the painful blood infection than the cancer, we celebrate:

  • My blood counts are rising or holding their own, which is necessary to fight this tenacious infection and become free of need for blood infusions.
  • No fevers!
  • About 12 of the worst skin lesions are starting to heal. (I don’t look so much like a wrapped mummy these days.)
  • I can stand on my own now and am slowly gaining strength walking short distances slowly with a walker and an aide.
  • I am off the antibiotics for the Rothia infection. They consider me cured of that unless I start developing fevers.
  • Partial Approval has been given for the prescription I need for my mold that costs $5000/month. They have approved $4,000. The case manager is seeking help for the other $1000. They will only approve one month and then I have to reapply since I need treatment for at least six more months.
  • Planning for discharge to home mid-late next week. (Have to resolve medicine assistance first.)


I’m also thankful for God using technology to extend his blessing. Marcos is a teen ambassador in our Bolivian Josias program. He lives in a poor family, goes to school, and works at a bookstore to help support his sisters and mom. Marcos managed to find me, 6,000 miles away, on Facebook Messenger. I asked how he was today. He replied not well. He had to stay home from school because he was sick. Knowing that many of these families suffer digestive problems due to lack of access to clean water and safe food, I asked if it was his stomach. When he confirmed this, I asked if he had any medicine. His sad reply was, “no money.” So I messaged Delia who coordinates the program and she was able to buy some medicine for this dedicated youth leader. This all happened in less than an hour. Thanks, God for using technology to demonstrate your blessings!


Prayer concerns:
Poor appetite
Continued pain…need the subcutaneous nodules to heal as they are putting pressure on tendons and nerves. The doctors say it will take weeks or months. A matter of waiting on the Lord.
Medicine approval
Strength to carry out normal routines to God’s honor.


Despite the concerns, my list of thanks goes on and on. Sometimes I fall asleep at night naming them one by one. (Other times, it keeps me up for hours.) I wonder, if you were to make a list of everything you’re thankful for, how long do you think it would take to complete it? Would you ever be able to complete it or would each day bring more blessings? Ask God to remind you of your many blessings and the many times he has intervened in your life.


“I will give thanks to you Lord with all of my heart.
I will tell of your wonderful deeds.” – Psalm 9:1-2




One of the joys of the Thanksgiving holidays is giving thanks for great friends. Actually ANYtime is a good time to give thanks for friends and to remind them how much you value them. (Admit it, we all like to be reminded we are valued don’t we?)


As I think about friends I think about people who are friendly toward one another, courteous and interested to some degree. Other friends are people we do things with. I’m wired to be a doer so I like helping friends with projects and so appreciate when they help me with projects. I’ve always said two people can do the work of three just because they’re an encouragement to each other. Working by yourself for too long can be discouraging and slows everything down.  Probably, you have friends that you regularly hang out with, celebrating  the joys of life.


But what about really close friends? Friends like David and Jonathan who were totally invested in each other and would give up their lives for each other. That’s a rarity and I suspect you are well privileged if you have just one of these. They may be close or far away. We are thankful to have a rare lifetime friendship that is separated by thousands of miles but always picks up where we left off.


The thing about friendships is they are a two way street. What we put into it is what we receive. What we want in a friend we have to be willing to display in our own behaviors.

Want respect? Show respect even when you think they are wrong. Everyone has the right to their own opinion. I don’t understand friendships that are based on thinking exactly alike. We are made differently so we should come to appreciate each other’s differences especially those wired by God – even though they bug us. Marcia has come to appreciate my being wired as a planner/strategist and I have come to appreciate her insight when planning is not the solution we need but trusting is.

Seeking devotion? Ask what level of devotion am I willing to invest? Commitment to stay with each other through the tough times is a hallmark of great friends.

Listening. Most friends like to talk…about anything. But the key is in listening with interest because their thoughts and feelings matter to you. Dale Carnegie was asked how he became a great conversationalist. He said the key is being a good listener.

One of the tough parts about being a friend is being able to speak truth with grace. Too much truth is harsh and grace without truth makes the relationship shallow. If I can’t be honest with a friend in a way that expresses kindness and concern what kind of a friend am I?


Have you ever considered a vitamin might be the best approach to developing friends? Try Vitamin B 1.  The best way to find friends is to be one. As I look at the list above I recognize I have some work to do in becoming the kind of friend I want to have. How about you? Friendships that are too lopsided tend to fall away.


As you give thanks and count your blessings, remember the friends who enrich your life and whose Iives are likewise transformed by yours.






The power of remembering


With the annual Thanksgiving holiday soon upon us, many are making preparations for reunions with friends and family. No one will go away from the table hungry and everyone will join in on telling stories from former days. A young staff at the hospital shared with me how excited she was to see her grandmother. We talked about the value of capturing her stories on paper or video recording.


Why do you think remembering is so important?


We remember to learn from past mistakes so we can avoid making them again. We share memories with children and grandchildren to give them perspective that may help them in their own lives. We also recall memories to help us gain perspective and appreciation in our own lives. Whenever I recall how loving my grandmother was it spurs me on to be more loving. When we face a problem that seems insurmountable or unending, memories of getting through former struggles helps us see our problems in view of a larger picture. I was frustrated today because my walking was not as good as the previous two days. More pain. Less gain.  Marcia reminded me of how much progress I’ve made in one month. I had forgotten and needed reminding so I could find needed encouragement.


I appreciated seeing a memory display box in a friend’s house that contained scraps of things from their past. Each item was a remembrance of a time when God answered prayer. I wonder how each of our lives would be positively impacted if we would take time each day to remember God’s goodness and faithfulness. The devil doesn’t have to get you to hate God. He succeeds if he keeps you so busy you forget God most of your day. Often in the Old Testament we read God’s reminder to us, “Remember I AM the Lord your God.”


I hope you take time often to remember. Let bad memories fly by except to take a lesson from them. Let good memories fill you with a special joy, renew your sense of hope, and speak to you about how you will carry and pass on that memory in your own life. And don’t forget that today is a day for making good memories. Find something to celebrate, however small, and capture that in your memory box to remind you of simple joys in times of trouble.


What’s NOT on the altar?


One of the things that gets in the way of trusting God in all situations is that we hold onto things we need to surrender. We cling to the evils we’ve lived with for so long – the negative thoughts, the false guilt, the lies that we have out-sinned God’s capacity to forgive. We’ve kept these at our side and played the tapes over and over in our mind for so long it seems impossible to let them go, even though God promises to replace them with his goodness, peace, assurance, and love.we cling to the evil we know rather than embrace the freedom of God’s goodness.


We also cling to good things that we treasure more than anything else including, if we’re honest, our relationship with God. Our actions say, “I will trust God as long as…” As long as he provides me with a good job, with the house I want, with good health and happiness, with close family and friends. The list goes on. What would you add?


We read in Genesis 22 the account of Abraham willing to sacrifice his only son on the altar. He was faced with a crisis of whether to trust and obey God    or to trust his emotions and self reasoning. Of course we know that he trusted God and God intervened by providing an alternate sacrifice. Abraham’s faith was rewarded. Faith means believing whatever we place on the altar will be blessed by God.


Maybe it’s time to put something on the altar. Job, income, kids, finding a spouse, happiness, friends, dreams… whatever stands between us trusting God partially and trusting him fully, with complete confidence that he will work good in our lives according to his purpose.


I remember praying for the kids. I’d say something like, “whatever it takes Lord, just draw my children to you. Just don’t make it too painful or too embarrassing,” I’d pray the same thing for myself, “Lord, create in me a pure heart. Rid me of this pervasive sin that I fight daily; just don’t cause me public ridicule or pain.”  Finally, I had to pray, “Whatever it takes, Lord.”


We’re conditioned to think that victory is of highest value. But there are some things that need to be surrendered before we can achieve real victory in life. Surrender is a matter of the will. It decides who has control of my life, me or God? Can I really trust God to direct my life or do I think I do a better job managing my own challenges? Surrender means asking “Am I going to go on letting my feelings and emotions lead me or am I going to really live by faith? Which engine is going to pull my train?


In my search, I’ve asked God, “What stands in the way between me and you?” Do I only trust you if things go according to my plan? Romans 14:8 tells me I can trust God whether I live or die. But what about that in between place where I am not fully living and thriving and yet not dead? Can I trust God for that too? I was recently talking with one of the overnight staff who commented about trusting God even though her dreams are not being realized. “And still I will praise you, my God” was her faith-filled response.”


Is is there something in your life that needs to be put on the altar and surrendered completely to God? Perhaps you’ll pray along with me:

Search me, God, and know my heart:
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

– Psalm 139:23-24


Do you believe God works good in ALL things?


“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28


We read it and quote it. But do we believe it? Really? What about when God answers your prayer with a no instead of a yes? When you find yourself absorbed by worry, taken prisoner by insecurity and fear? When you feel like you’re stuck and there’s no way out? What about when it feels like someone tossed a grenade in your dream box?

Here’s the truth I’m learning:
ALL things includes great times of joy AND dark times of sorrow and despair. When God says ALL, he means ALL, every bit of it, to the last drop of his Son’s blood that paid for it ALL.


Finally, my thick skull is understanding that if I’m going to follow Jesus I have to act as if I really believe his Word. I have to willfully trade fear for assurance, reluctance for obedience, anxiety for peace, my will for his, comfort and ease for whatever his plan is for my journey. Yes, the reality of pain and disappointment demand our attention. But you and I have a choice to surrender these to God’s promises and not let our emotions lead us.


So even though we received news that the cancer may still remain and even though a serious mold infection causes great pain, and even though God again takes our Bolivia move off the table (for now or forever) we’re going to be okay with that.


Here’s why:
God could answer my prayers just as I ask; but typically he has something better in mind. If I’m going to get upset when my prayers are answered differently than I wanted then I’ll have to take out my scissors and remove Romans 8:28 from the bible. I’ll have to remove Philippians 4:19 that says he meets all my needs. I’ll have to remove everything that speaks to his great promises. I’ll need to take the scissors to most all the Old Testament that speaks to his enduring faithfulness. If I think my life is supposed to be one of leisure and comfort, I’ll need to remove most the New Testament that speaks to suffering with Christ. All I’ll be left with is “God is love” and a handful of other comfortable verses.


BUT if I really believe God’s way is best and I really do want to follow him, then I just have to believe he really will work ALL things for good in ALL situations, for ALL those who love him and follow him…even those situations that challenge us most. Trust needs to be backed up by the bravery of action.


Maybe the bravest Christian in recent history was the SECOND Oregon student who said, “Yes, I’m Christian” after watching the first one be shot in the head. A few weeks ago CMA Pastor Edward Awabdeh was martyred for his faith by ISIS. He intentionally took the risk by staying in his village to care for and encourage the people in his village. He is now in heaven but only after living out the practicality of Romans 8:28.


Charles Spurgeon wrote, “God knows that soldiers can only be made in times of battle and are not developed in times of peace. So dear Christian, could this account for your situation? Is he developing in you the qualities of a soldier by shoving you into the heat of the battle? Do you understand that God may take away your comforts and privileges in order to make you a stronger Christian?


We’re trusting God that this continued battle with Leukemia and blood infections is covered under “all things.” What are you struggling with that needs to be surrendered to the God who works good in all things for those who love him? Decide today to trade your struggles for belief that lives out God’s promises.


Medical update – Nov 17


From day 53 at Mercy Hospital.


Apparently, I wrote a draft that was never published to everyone. So, here is an update for those who have been asking for one. Our last post spoke of the disappointment that the two rounds of chemo did not rid my body of all the aggressive cancer. It wasn’t a conclusive report and a future report in the coming weeks may shed more light on that situation. Lesson learned: disappointment can turn to something positive when we focus on how it reveals His (God’s) appointment) in our lives.


What has happened in the last few weeks is that a tenacious fungal infection in my blood has caused 100s of painful sores across my arms, face, and legs. The infectious disease doctors have started a new anti fungal treatment plan that seems to be turning the tide in this battle. After being bed ridden for a couple of weeks, I am now starting to walk 20-30 feet with help of an aide and a walker. We are hopeful continued treatment of the two infections will reduce the pain and improve daily functioning.  Daily neupogen shots stimulated the production of white blood cells which are needed to fight the infections. Hopefully, they didn’t stimulate the production of unhealthy cells.


The present challenge is tackling pain management with a stricter medication schedule. I tried morphine and dilaudid but found hallucinations unbearable. Whenever I closed my eyes I saw a different reality. I had to blink to see what was really real around me. Maybe that’s is a lesson for many of us, to make sure we are focused on God’s reality in our lives. “Do not be deceived. ” 1 Corinthians 15:33


For discharge I need to get stronger, be free of blood infusions, and healed of the two blood infections. Next step will be a visit to Iowa City to see if I am eligible for a second transplant.


We are humbled and appreciative of those who have volunteered to do yard work, who have helped with gas cards, and who pray regularly for us. We trust God’s purpose in all this and look forward to seeing more of His goodness.