Recent photo of my parents in my office

Recent photo of my parents in my office

July 8, 2007

An Exhausting Week...

Wow, what a drain this last week afforded me. As I had expected, I would be dealing with post-conference lows along with the conclusion of radiation. As I look back at the many years that I led worship at PCM (Pastoral Care Ministries) in my twenties and thirties, I can still remember reaching the end of a week like that with a desire to sleep for a couple days. Add to that my age (45), my battle with cancer, my two children (4 and 1), and my ongoing job, and I definitely feel the growth of that challenge! At the same time, I am thankful for the joy I have in thinking and reading while at work. Several projects on Thursday and Friday were encouraging to me. Summer this year seems to have become a time to catch up on lots of clutter -- a great goal, partially informed by my awareness of what I can more freely release for others to do.

My throat is healing, but I am still unable to sing in my normal range, and my speech sounds raspy. Thanks for your prayers for that. I do believe that the doctors have a general sense of recovery, but I doubt them at times. Such as the responses I got during post-surgical radiation in 2004: "Oh, yes, we may have caused you to lose some nerve function in the left side of your face. Yeah, we may have done that to you. Sorry." Or: "Seizures? Ach, they're nothing. Just let those doctors get them under control and you'll be fine!" From the perspective of a medical professional used to seeing people die daily, I'm sure I must have appeared like a heroic achievement, but living through those bodily decays proved to require lots more grief and impact than I was willing to accept at first.

And that is also true now. Having been in a deep place of battle for my health, I'm more keenly aware now of how much more vulnerable I may end up, and how I definitely should not pretend to have no changes to deal with. At the same time, I don't want to pull back too timidly from maintaining general functionality. I don't think I'm there, though. Bending over to pick up something can be quite sharp on either side of my thigh (such as a child, or an item at the grocery store, or recyling bin. Margie reminds me with good humor that my mental attitude needs to keep me from presenting like a grandfather (or great-grandfather, she even suggests!) to my children. But when they run up close and want to spring into my arms -- oh, how risky it is to set up a defensive turn against that rather than finding a safe and welcoming means of greeting them. And how sorrowful I am also, that I can't flip my one-year old Josiah up into the air, or take them all out on a bicycle ride, or go boating on a nearby lake. Instead, I'm even taking them on a walk around the block.

These are the challenges of the pains these days. I find myself limping more, and I consequently move much more slowly. I've also gotten some great counsel from a massage therapist who specializes in cancer treatment, and she has encouraged me to focus in rest and stillness. What a wonderful thing to do -- and that God gives me time to do, especially if I go to bed early enough to arise prior to the children. However, if I wait too late -- ah, the day can quickly become burdened with the cares of this life.

In that setting, the promises I received prior to and during the PCM have grown much more significant to me. The Lord has reminded me that if I open my ears, he will give me the way. My responsibility is to walk in it without fear or anxiety. I must admit how much of my life has been based on the sense that I had to accomplish more than was humanly possible. And that is merely pride. Once again, the humility of trusting in God has been revealed.

In conclusion, Margie and I had a powerful time together a couple nights ago, simply listening to her read the last several chapters of the book of Hebrews. As we listened to the description of the kind of suffering that our predecessors endured who did not receive the promises, but nonetheless were the kind of people of whom the world was not worthy, I was moved to tears by the way that God uses discipline to shape us. Discipline never (nor pain ever) makes us comfortable, but if we receive it, it will cause us to grow in holiness and yield a rich harvest of righteousness to those who are exercised by it. At that point, I feel like I'm literally eating up the truth of the Scripture that God is answering my prayers in disciplining me as a son. It would only be a father who didn't care who would not discipline me, and goodness knows I need discipline.

I'm not sure how I can describe this, but instead of feeling more bitter or irritable, this attitude causes me to feel more grateful, and I weep -- mostly because I'm not worthy of such refinement, and also because I've wasted years in justifying myself much more than I realized. But, amazingly, even that is in his hands, and all shall be well in his time.

Final notes: I haven't figured out if there's a way for you to register on a list that lets you know when there's been a new posting on this blog, but if you need something like that, drop me an email. Also, Margie has set up a beautiful blog at The Fruitful Vine. Take a look if you'd like. And last, I have some songs that have been a great blessing to me as moving encouragements. I'll try to figure out how to post them as .mp3 files in the coming days.

The love and peace of God,