Tag Archives: give thanks

The last toenail

Strange title, I know. But this week I am celebrating the last toenail to fall off. This is the third time since cancer that I’ve lost all twenty fingernails and toenails. Each time it takes about six months to shed them all and additional months to grow them back. It’s not a big deal compared to the other atrocities of cancer, but being without nails is a frustration, especially when they catch on something and rip off suddenly and painfully.

Actually, it’s not the last nail falling away that I celebrate. It’s the new beginning. New growth brings hope. All pain, even if it is for a lifetime, is temporary for the one who accepts Jesus’ teachings and believes his promises. Whatever is “falling away” in your life is not your whole life. What is gone cannot strip away what remains without our choosing. And whatever is lost cannot compare to what remains: the contentment of rising above circumstances, the peace in spending time with your living God, the hope and joy of his faithful promises that his grace IS sufficient for our needs and he will NEVER abandon his child.

Yes, your suffering and disappointment and pain is real. But it is not forever. And it doesn’t have to define who you are.

“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. ”

Be thankful for the new beginning that rises before you.


The Rusty Bucket

This story speaks such wisdom to me, I wanted to share it with you.

The Rusty Bucket (author unknown)

Faith is not about everything turning out okay. It’s about being okay no matter how things turn out. 

Our house was directly across the street from the clinic entrance of Johns Hopkins Hospital. We lived downstairs and rented the upstairs room to clinic patients.  One summer evening as I was fixing supper, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to see a truly awful looking tiny man. Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, “Good evening. I’ve come to see if you’ve a room for just one night. I came for treatment this morning from the eastern shore but there’s no bus ’til morning.”

He told me he’d been hunting for a room with no success since noon. No one seemed to have a room for him. “I guess it’s my face…I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments…”   For a moment I hesitated but his next words convinced me: “I could sleep in this rocking chair on the porch. My bus leaves early in the morning.”

I told him we would find him a room but to rest on the porch while I finished making supper. I asked the old man if he would join us.  Holding up a brown paper bag he said, “No thank you. I have plenty.”  After supper, I went out to the porch to talk with him. It didn’t take long to see that this old man had an oversized heart crowded into a tiny body. He told me he fished for a living to support his daughter, her 5 children, and her husband who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury. He didn’t tell it by way of complaint. In fact, every other sentence was prefaced with thanks to God for a blessing. He was grateful that no pain accompanied his disease, which was apparently a form of skin cancer. At bedtime we put a camp cot up for him. When I got up in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and the little man was out on the porch.

He refused breakfast, but just before he left for his bus, halting as if to ask a great favor, he said, “Could I please come back and stay the next time I have a treatment? I wouldn’t put you out a bit. I can sleep fine in the chair.” He paused a moment and added, “Your children made me feel at home. Grownups are bothered by my face, but children don’t seem to mind.” I told him he was welcome to come again.

On his next trip, he arrived a little after 7 in the morning. As a gift, he brought a big bag of fish and a quart of the largest oysters I had ever seen! He said he had shucked them that morning before he left so they’d be nice and fresh. I knew his bus left at 4:00 A.M. and wondered what time he had to get up in order to do this for us.

In the years he came to stay overnight with us, there was never a time that he did not bring us fish or oysters or vegetables from his garden. Other times we received packages in the mail, always by special delivery; fish and oysters packed in a box of fresh young spinach or kale, every leaf carefully washed. Knowing that he must walk 3 miles to mail these, and knowing how little money he had made these gifts doubly precious.

My neighbor had remarked after his first stay, “Did you keep that awful looking man last night? I turned him away! You can lose roomers by putting up such people.” Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But Oh! If only they could have known him, perhaps their illnesses would have been easier to bear. I know our family always will be grateful to have known him. From him we learned what it was to accept the bad without complaint and the good with gratitude to God.

Recently a friend who has a greenhouse showed me her flowers. We came to the most beautiful one of all, a golden Chrysanthemum, bursting with blooms. But to my great surprise it was growing in an old dented, rusty bucket. I thought to myself, “If this were my plant, I’d put it in the loveliest container I had!” My friend changed my mind. “I ran short of flower pots,” she explained. “And knowing how beautiful this one would be I thought it wouldn’t mind being starting out in this old pail. It’s just for a little while til I can put it in the garden.

She must have wondered why I laughed so delightedly, but I was imagining just such a scene in heaven. “Here’s an especially beautiful one,” God might have said when he came to the soul of the sweet old fisherman. “He won’t mind starting out in a small body til he gets to heaven.”

All this happened long ago, and now, in God’s garden, how tall this lovely soul must stand.

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

Guard your heart and see others through God’s eyes!

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


How thankful are you?


Luke tells the story in the 17th chapter of his gospel about ten men who had leprosy. In those days, leprosy was not only a disfiguring and painful disease, it was also a mark on the person’s life that was treated not with medicine or compassion but with disdain.  It led to alienation and separation from others.


Luke describes these men as calling out to Jesus, “Master, have pity on us!” They had to call from a distance. Because they were considered “unclean” they were forbidden to come close. Jesus sent them away saying, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were healed. One of the ten came back and threw himself at the feet of Jesus, thanking him. He was not a fellow countryman with Jesus; he was an outcast Samaritan. But the other nine did not return to give thanks. The Jesus explained to the man, rise and go; your faith has made you well.”  (V 19)


Maybe where you’re sitting today makes this a difficult story. The man’s faith made him well. It cured him of a disabling disease. Perhaps you’re thinking, “What about my faith? Why does healing not come to me?” We all need healing. Some of us seek healing from physical pain. Others seek to be emotionally well. Some experience relationship scars that are still painful to bear even after the passing of many years. (Time does NOT heal all wounds.)  Some of us need to be healed of the feeling that we have no worth or purpose. If we were to be healed from any of these disabling conditions, surely we’d give thanks, right? Surely, our lives would be completely transformed and we’d rush to tell others, right?


The truth is, there is a healing that we may have forgotten. It happened so long ago, that we take it for granted. We were sick with the compulsion to follow our own selfish ways, sick from choosing sin over virtue, a type of death over really living. So we came to Jesus and asked forgiveness. And he made us well, completely well. He cleansed us, healed us, and made us new. If you received nothing else in life – not fame, nor fortune, nor friends, nor physical healing from pain and suffering, nor other “favors” –  wouldn’t this spiritual healing and restoration to fellowship with God still lead you to give endless thanks every single day?


We’ve been healed in a miraculous way. Once disfigured by our self-isolation from God, we have now been cleansed and restored into his joy. We’re reminded that nothing can separate us now from his love; not pain, nor poverty, nor loneliness, or depression, not grief, nor a lowly position in life. We’ve been healed from ourselves and are no longer separated from God. He makes us literally new creations. Your faith has made you well in a sense that you may have forgotten.


Give thanks and live well!


Recovering from grief


The cancers of our life eat away at everything we’ve ‘gained’ and leave us with a profound sense of loss. By ‘cancer’ I mean not only that wretched medical condition that ravishes the body but also the other life tragedies that act as a cancer to our soul: Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain, depression, the deep lostness that separates us from a loved one who has died or one who has severed a loving relationship while they still live. We grieve over our losses: lost dreams, lost opportunities, and loss of those we’ve befriended over the years. We might even experience ‘survivor’s guilt’, questioning why we survived and others didn’t.


Be it immense or small, it’s all grief to us and we have to find helpful ways to express it. Healthy recovery always involves coming to acceptance with what was, what now is and also a future that still can be fulfilling. It also always seems to involve building and strengthening mutually supportive relationships. It’s part of how God designed us. For sure, many will offer countless bits of counsel that seem to bring little solace at the time. We’re told to snap out of it, move on, and look on the bright side. True, some ways of handling grief are unhealthy and need prompting. Some try to deny their grief, thinking it is unfitting of them, conjecturing that Christian soldiers should be stronger in battle. The truth is grief is real and a necessary part of our recovery and healthy grieving brings us to a stronger place.


“I have never heard anyone say, “The really deep lessons of my life have come through times of ease and comfort.” But I have heard strong saints say, “Every significant advance I have ever made in grasping the depths of God’s love and growing deep with him, has come through suffering.”  – John Piper


Positive growth is a natural outcome of suffering and healthy grieving. It’s not just ‘moving on’ as if to escape from the past. It’s finding purpose and meaning in moving to a healthier future. You might come to interpret your grief journey as an unexpected blessing. Then again, maybe you won’t. Your interpretation of the journey is a personal one. You might find that keeping a daily journal of your thoughts, experiences, and revealed truths will help you sort things out. Sharing with trusted and mature friends can also guide you on the difficult path. I consider that any journey that brings me closer to God and closer to others is a worthwhile journey.


One aspect of grief recovery may seem strange but I’ve both seen and experienced its benefit: pouring yourself into others. Investing in others is biblically sound. Beyond distracting us from remaining too long in an unhealthy place, investing in others offers growth opportunities. God designed us to be strengthened when we strengthen others. Sharing your recovery experiences may help someone else who is going through a similar challenge. You can encourage others in ways you were encouraged or even in ways you wish you had been encouraged. Visit someone who is suffering or alone. Write letters of encouragement. Finding even small ways to bring light into their darkness will cast light into your own.


Do what you can and what is mutually beneficial but don’t try to do it all. The recovery process is one of balance. Acknowledge your grief in this difficult path but be also intentional about discovering daily reasons to give thanks and celebrate the continuing journey.


An appetite for less


After nibbling on a few saltine crackers I laid down to rest again, and it struck me. Three pieces of toast, a cup of applesauce, and a few spoonfuls of rice have quite appeased my appetite and sustained me over the last four days. Yet, when I am well my appetite borders on voracious. I’m always hungry for more.


Have you discovered this too? Our appetite for ‘more’ grows exponentially as we feed it. Our appetites of every kind become harder and harder to satiate the more we feed them. The more we feed them the less satisfied we find ourselves.


I remember primitive camping with our family in Colorado in a place called the Craggs. Everything takes longer when tenting than at home but there is a certain fulfillment found in gathering wood for the fire, prepare a rugged meal, cleaning up, and taking a hike. And there is this realization of how refreshingly simple everything is around you: the wind rustling through the pines, the bubbling brook nearby, the beauty of the blue sky above. There is no need for newspapers, TV, or electronic gadgets.


It’s a common reflection of those returning from mission trips to comment on the happiness of the poor children they encountered. I wonder how our constant pursuit of ‘more’ sometimes leaves us missing the simple joy of ‘less.’


I wonder what you will find today in being mindful of the ‘simpler’ things in life, those everyday blessings that beg to be discovered. Sit quietly and focus only on your effortless breathing and your constant heartbeat. Marvel in how God designed your body to carry on without your even giving it a thought. Savor a sip of refreshing water in your mouth. Close your eyes and rejoice in the freedom to choose whatever thoughts you want to fill your mind; they aren’t determined by your circumstances. Open your eyes and find one thing of beauty and wonder that you hadn’t noticed before. Listen for and speak a few words of sincere gratitude and encouragement. Choose to praise God for his endless love. Like the boundless waves that wash ashore a mere 100 yards from me as I write, His waves of mercy wash over us wherever we are and however we feel.


There is a certain level of satisfaction to be found even in sickness. I don’t want to stay here in sickness, but I don’t want to forget the lessons of a simpler appetite when I am well.


Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

(written last week – I am well again)



Having a bad day?


Are you having a bad day?
A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?


Someone recently commented on Facebook that they were ‘fed up’. One of their ‘friends’ replied, “Mondays are like that.”  We do get fed up, don’t we? What makes you sometimes ‘fed up’? Sometimes I get ‘fed up’ when I constantly forget things or make mistakes I have to correct.  Oh, I could probably make a long list and so could you. But let’s not, okay? Let’s hit the fast forward button to whatever situation bugs us today and see beyond it to another reality:


Are your kids complaining driving you crazy? It won’t be long before there is complete silence in the house and you’ll long for their presence.


Don’t like what you have to eat? Millions would love to have anything to feed their family!


Do your legs hurt? There is someone out there who would love to have legs! (I was convicted of this once as I was whining to myself about my thrombosis and came upon a man stumbling down the sidewalk with one leg and a crutch.)


Depressed about your retirement savings? Many people in the world have to work their entire life with little hope of rest.


You know, my mom used to say things like this. Probably yours did too. But it turns out mom was right! Of course, there are sometimes much more serious problems that make for a bad day or continuously bad years!

But regardless of the depth of our pain and sorrows we all have to ‘choose this day’ how we’re going to get through it. We can either curse the darkness or light a candle. One such light for not letting bad days defeat you is to find a reason to be thankful. You might be having a bad day, but at least you are having a day! Believe it or not, some would love to have your day. It might not be the day you wanted it to be, but it is your day to live. How this was confirmed in my journey through leukemia. You probably have seen people persist through severe pain and grief because they chose thankfulness and hope over resentment and despair.


The way we live out our bad days will either steal our joy and crush our spirit or it will strengthen us and encourage us with a reminder of what is good. It will either drive us to despair or help us to hope. And the way we live out our bad days affects others too. Grumpiness and thankfulness are both contagious. Don’t let your circumstances make it a bad day. Talk to God about it and choose a thankful alternative.


“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” – Philippians 4:6



Thankful … for clean water!


This morning – and any time I want – I turn on the faucet in the bathroom and retrieve a glass of clean water.  Likely, you did too. In fact, even the poorest of poor in our country have access to safe, clean water. That’s not the case across much of the world.


The month we lived in Bolivia, we were told the drinking water had to be filtered. We washed our fresh fruit and veggies and dishes in a mild bleach solution and then rinsed them with filtered water. You might think this a terrible and backward condition, but when we traveled just a few miles out of the city to visit friends we had met, we found most of the people did not have access to running water at all. No bathrooms or kitchen sinks. Just a rusty metal drum outside that is filled up with a hose from the water truck…if you had money to buy water.  Looking into the barrels, we quickly decided we would not want to drink from them. But many of the people we worked with suffered stomach ailments due to the parasites, germs and bacteria in their water supply. The truth is that safe water is a rare resource in many parts of the world.


I’m guessing you don’t know anyone who has suffered from dysentery, typhoid or cholera. And yet these are all common to families living in many parts of the world. Imagine a population more than twice the size of the United States. That is a low estimate of how many do not have access to clean water in the world. Here, I get a glass of clean water whenever I want, from my home or any public drinking fountain.


And so I find myself extremely thankful – for clean water. When you think about it, I imagine you are too.


Does being thankful make a difference? I think it does. Imagine saying a word of thanks every time you take a sip of refreshing, clean water. I think our hearts grow a size or two every time we give thanks. Giving thanks has a way of shutting down greedy and selfish thoughts. It breaks down negative thinking. Giving thanks puts us in a right relationship with God. Being thankful for one thing tends to lead us to give thanks for so much more, including each other.


Who knows? Being thankful for clean water may be the very thing that makes your New Year an especially rewarding one!


“For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” Mark 9:41


“But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14



The first page of your new year






Today is the first page of a 365 page story, the story of your life in 2015.



Maybe you have some idea of what you want to be part of this year’s story. You have hopes and dreams for what you will accomplish. Likely, there will be surprises that will suddenly appear on your pages. But even when the pages turn unexpectedly, you remain in control of what is written on them. How you respond to life determines your story more than the actual events that transpire. So how will you write this year of your life?


You could just wait and see what happens, live life as it comes to you. Que será, será. Put life on autopilot and see where it takes you. Let the spinning wheel spin and see where it stops. It’s easy to get caught up on the merry-go-round, distracted by all the lights and music. Before you know it, a day, a week, a month, a year, a life has passed…without purpose.


You could take charge, set your goals, plan extensively, and live with great focus. I tend to be a goal-setter and planner so I suppose I easily fall into this category. I tend to think it is good to ‘count the costs’ and plan well. In the parable of the talents, Jesus praised those who invested well. We too should invest our time well and also our other resources. But sometimes, the best of plans have to be set aside and new strategies adopted. You had intended to write one thing in your book of life, but life itself changes the direction of the next page and chapter.


There is a third, more profitable way to write the story of 2015 and that is to devote the year, all of it, to the glory and honor of God. “Whatever you do, do it as unto The Lord” for His purpose and His glory. (Colossians 3:23). “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) “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)


God delights in you and He wants to show you the way to go in this new year. He longs for your joy. Shouldn’t your story be all about Him? How do you do that? Make sure each page of 2015 be filled with three things:


Rejoicing – God is good. He will always be with you.
Praying – Talk with God throughout the day. Spend some time listening.
Giving thanks – Find reason to give thank every single day.


Write a great story in 2015!  Fill your pages with these things and enjoy a wonderful new year!


“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18



Safe in the hands of God



What comes to mind when you think about prayer? Often we think about prayer requests, those lists of petitions to bring before God. God invites us to come to Him with our requests, but prayer is more than that.


Mother Teresa once said, “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”  Prayer is seeking the presence of God, being available to His agenda, and listening to Him with our heart. Her quote reminds me of the passage in John 22:27-30. Jesus is talking about the difference between true followers and those who don’t know Him.


“My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life,and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father,who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one. 


Sometimes we think we can’t hear God’s voice or that He doesn’t listen to ours. But He says we (His sheep) will hear His voice because they remain in His safe protection and they follow Him.  And He hears us. Jesus gave us His own Spirit to interpret our prayers perfectly and present them before the Heavenly Father.


We come into God’s presence by placing ourselves in His hands, by being available to Him, and by listening for His voice. We also come into His presence by giving thanks. Jesus prayed, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know that you always hear me.” – John 11:42


A.W. Tozer wrote:  “Sometimes I go to God and say, “God, if Thou dost never answer another prayer while I live on this earth, I will still worship Thee as long as I live and in the ages to come for what Thou hast done already.” God’s already put me so far in debt that if I were to live one million millenniums I couldn’t pay Him for what He’s done for me.”


The next time you go to prayer, spend time seeking His presence. Experience the peace and joy of letting Him hold you in His hands. Whisper to Him your praise and your thanks. Listen to His voice speaking peace, love and wisdom to you. Go ahead and present your requests to Him, with thanksgiving. But don’t miss the transcending experience of just resting safe in the hands of God.