This has been a tough month for those living with cancer and those who live with them. The recurrence of cancer for White House spokesman Tony Snow and political wife Elizabeth Edwards has been sobering to say the least. Those voices that I wrote about a few days ago start trying to get your attention. It is easy to despair. But God is sovereign. He sent me a postcard of encouragement this week. His name is Ed. Ed is one of those friends that you don’t see for years and when you get together you pick up right where you left off. He is in town this week and we are hanging out, laughing, debating, laughing, and enjoying every minute. Regular readers of these ramblings might remember a reference to some Ed guy in previous posts. Move to the head of the class. I asked you to pray for him and wife Judy in October of last year. There was fear that Ed’s lymphoma cancer had returned. Thank you for praying. The results of those prayers and God’s sovereignty have deposited my friend here in Texas. So while we are laughing and catching up on old and new times…here is that post from last October. Not all of the news on the cancer front is bad. Be encouraged that He is still in control.
I just want to celebrate, yeah, yeah
I just want to celebrate, yeah, yeah
Another day of living,
I just want to celebrate another day of life
Those words came to mind as I prayed for my friend Ed. Perhaps the biggest compliment a guy can give to a masculine friend is that you both love and respect them. Respect is big guy thing. I suspect you only get a handful of true friends in a lifetime. Ed is one of those friends. He is loyal. Ed is a real guy who is strong enough to be tender. He is funny. Edgy. He is a guy who hates playing church (and who has a colorful way to describe those who do). And Ed is one of the most authentic followers of Jesus I have ever met. How do I know that? Because I have seen how his faith stands up to the storm. I could see his face as I meditated on the words of Jesus in Matthew.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
Ed’s foundation is the rock. And his example has helped me to keep doing my own foundation work.
I have written a lot about Christians who do damage as they proclaim Jesus with their lips and then deny Him completely with their lives. I have tried to be honest about my own struggles in this journey with Jesus. But I have to tell you there is no greater inspiration than seeing a man or woman of God demonstrate His abiding presence. I have seen many examples of that recently. I have watched my wife Joni face her difficult journey (cancer and chemotherapy) with amazing strength, courage, faith, and trust. I watched the Amish saints in Pennsylvania show a stunned nation what it really means to follow the teachings of Jesus about forgiveness and love. And I have observed from afar as my friend Ed navigates his battle with a brutal form of lymphoma. And now we circle back to the lyrics above. Ed wrote a word of encouragement to Joni last June as she was growing weary in her chemotherapy ordeal.
I don’t know if I told you, but they took me off the cancer meds after six years! Our prayer has been, “Please let Ed live and serve.” Now it has changed, “Please let Ed live and serve without the meds.”
I say this to encourage Joni. The dailyness of this makes it so hard to see past the weakness and the disappointment. Here is a sentence the Lord gave me when I was dying and struggling through each day: I am as alive today as anyone. He helped me realize that until I take my last breath, He still has plans for me (Ephesians 2:10) and I could not conclude that this was it. So, I got up, and asked Him for strength for the next minute, sometimes for every minute for a couple of days. Then for the next hour, the next day, the next week etc.
Sure enough, at last count, seven men I know pretty well, about my age, guys I fought fires with, men I served with in ministry, men who stood at my bedside with panic in their eyes at my malaise, are dead. Think of it, Joni, people who are praying for you now are only as alive as you. It is not the meds or the care, it is the Lord who determines when death comes and the quality of life.
I knew the Lord wanted me to do two things: Pray for healing, and I still do. Find the best doctors and do what they say, which I still do…mostly.
So, dear Joni, know that our prayers are prayers of faith and bold. We’re not mealy-mouthing the evangelical jive, “Only your will be done.” Of course His will is going to be done, He’s God! He loves you; He loves us; He cares more than we can know; and HE ANSWERS PRAYER. So, we’re going to pray our heart: Let Joni live to see her grandchildren grow up and please give her relief.
The idea of celebrating another day of living brought that note from my friend to mind. We just really suck at that. We forget that everyday is a gift. A treasure to be opened and savored. Cancer makes you realize that in a very stark way. I am praying for Ed because his lymphoma may have flared up again. A recent knee operation triggered the terrible skin rash and agony again. It may be just a reaction to the meds. That is my prayer. But Ed and his beautiful wife Judy have again shown their mettle in the storm. Here is the email I received yesterday.
Judy and I appreciate your prayers that carried us through a long, dark night. As you know by now, the main source of discomfort for me and concern is the “skin issue” once again. Last night was the first night off meds–pain meds, sleeping meds, antibiotic meds.–every hour filled with itching, skin falling off, twinges of pain in the knee, and, as you might imagine, anxiety.
With decades of studying about, relating to, walking with, and telling others about “Our Father” in my life, I was able to focus my thoughts on a comforting phrase from the New Testament–Abba Father (Romans 8:15).
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” NLT
This is an endearing and intimate title for God the Father that could be translated, “Father, my own dear Father.” It is the title a child uses to relate to a father when the child knows that he or she is dear to Him, the one He delights in.
So, last night was so much more than a night of malaise, it was a night I spent on my Father’s lap, talking with Him about my fears, feelings, and hurts. It is the upside of suffering for the child of God–deepening intimacy with Abba Father. Please continue to pray that the knee will continue to improve, the rash will stop, and that I can return to my life with these lessons of faith in my heart.
Once again I am humbled in my puny walk with Jesus. That is an amazing line. “The upside of suffering for the child of God is deepening intimacy with Abba Father.”
Would you join me in prayer for Ed and Judy? I am so blessed, proud, and honored to be their friend.
…Continue to pray that God will allow Ed to live and serve.