Recent photo of my parents in my office

Recent photo of my parents in my office

January 5, 2008

Saturday Afternoon Office Visit

Since I have some time this afternoon, I feel a desire to add some updates to the blog -- mostly matters for thanksgiving. First, I have been progressively aware of how my entire day can be shaped by my response to its opening moments. A few days ago I got up and the first words that came to mind were "I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. I sought the Lord and he heard me and delivered me from my fears." Simply having something like that to say out loud, to choose to believe, has helped me to be less cranky (and believe me, it is very easy to be cranky when in discomfort.) Those around me have been patient and forgiving, but after a uniquely nasty spat that I provoked with my mother a few nights ago, I realized that God was showing me how self-centeredly I was failing to grasp the sacrifice that others have been making for me. My parents have now passed their initial ticket date for returning to Brazil, and have extended it to February 11. This generosity has been amazing, but it also means that they have to be away from their ministry and their home, living in a place with young children and daily potential stress. As I've contemplated this time, I think of how if things were ordered "normally," I'd be doing this service for them. So how much more then, do I need to think about ministering love and thanks to my family. I also feel aware of how God would use this time to bring healing to all of us, each in our own places of need.

For example, though not fully conscious of the perils I've been through, my daughter Charlotte can become very clingy to Margie and resentful of her grandmothers. What a great opportunity this has been to teach her how to give space to others (like her brother Josiah), to accept instruction from adults other than Margie and me, and to share in the project of learning to show love. I'm amazed to see Margie working with her on this, and, as always, somewhat regretful of the amount of time that I'm not around to provide distraction, modeling, education, physical exercise, discipline, and on and on, for my children. May God restore my body to the point of being able to do that once again.

In reporting one of my chief blessings from recent prayer, Margie already "outed" me! But I told her I'd give my blog the "true" version. Actually it's just a few simple additions and details. I've been recently re-reading Agnes Sanford's book The Healing Light, and was struck by her method of prayer. She begins by encouraging us to grow in faith. If we turned on a light bulb, for example, and it didn't produce light, we wouldn't assume that electricity no longer existed, or that our lamp was incapable of being repaired. On the contrary, we would expect that our lamp was not working for some reason -- a burned-out light bulb, a broken switch, whatever. Similarly, she analogizes, when we pray for something, and we believe that God wants it, and it doesn't happen, we should not first despair of asking, and assume that God does not want it to be. Rather, we must seek to discover how our own hearts are blocked from receiving an answer.

Now, to put you at ease, I think this teaching can be presented in the extreme, to the point of blaming people for their own illnesses. But I already believe that God wants me to live a much longer life, and that there are some particular problems blocking the road. Some of those blocks are past emotional wounds and resulting grief that has to be released. Others are poor habits of resting and eating. Others are failures of hearing what God wants me to do as a matter of priority. And, indeed, for each one of these, I can tell you of current events that have illustrated this clearly to me. I'll mention one at the end of this story.

One of Agnes Sanford's simple steps in faith is to begin asking for a simple and objectively measurable request. If it is answered, then one's faith grows because one's heart becomes open to receive more deeply. If not, there is no shame attached, but a simple call to pray again, asking God to show us other ways that we ought to receive.

So, I thought I'd try it. One of my serious deficiencies during early December was a dramatic, near fatal drop in my hemoglobin (red blood cell count). A normal male count should hover around 13, whereas I had fallen down to something like 7.8. The doctor had earlier mentioned that he would be happy with a level of 10 in my case, but had no certain hope of that. He gave me two blood transfusions, and I came up for a short time, but after two more, I fell back down again, this time to the 7.8 level. Needless to say, the fall in the level even after some transfusions was very discouraging. Several days before Christmas, I got another transfusion. This one was a cause for celebration when the blood check on the day after Christmas showed a stable level of 9.8. Unfortunately, despite the various transfusions I've had in my life, this time I had broken out in hives and had to take an antihistamine (like Benadryl -- over the counter, not a big deal, but sleep and potentially anxiety producing also). Needless to say, this did not pleasure to the Christmas season! But at this post-Christmas visit, the doctor was obviously lest disturbed than before, and asked for a personal appointment three weeks out -- a further sign of hope.

At the same time, I go in each week for a blood test. The day after New Years was the latest blood test. In cases where I don't see the doctor, he still views the test results, and determines what I should receive -- medication, IV with saline solution, or blood transfusions, for example. He sends his prescriptions to the nurses, who when they have to put something into me with a "drip" of fluid, need to poke around in the veins of my arms, looking for a nice receptive spot. Then depending on the volume of fluid prescribed, I have to remain at the Edward Hospital Cancer Center in Naperville for up to 5 hours until my body takes it all in. (You can see why this can become a dreadfully boring day, although I must say that Edwards is beautifully set up. They even have a computer I can use for off-site access and work!)

Returning to the simple prayer experiment now: beginning two days before going for the latest blood exam, I had made a simple prayer. "Lord, if possible, I ask you for an increase from 9.8 to a full 10 in my hemoglobin count. Even though I've had no blood transfusion for 3 weeks, and even though the doctor isn't expecting this, I humbly ask it of you. Amen."

I loved the simplicity of Agnes's recommended prayer, and the ecstasy I felt when the nurse brought us the full stats on my blood check, and there was the hemoglobin count at precisely 10.0. What more simple evidence of a divine intervention could there be -- for one who chooses to believe it? I've been praying other simple prayers like that since, and seeing answers. What an amazing upward gaze this has helped me to obtain in my view of life post-end of 2007!

But finally -- I want to share the surprising dual reaction I had to this experience. Upon getting into the van to leave the hospital, with a celebratory lunch with Margie and my parents ahead of me at StirCrazy, then opportunities for rest, to work as I wished (from home or office), to view a DVD or video -- despite all of those privileges, I felt an intense need to sob and grieve. Whither from? As I was able to find space to do those things, right in the car, by myself in the restroom at the restaurant, and later that night, I found it to be healing and to help release tension and pain (such as that in my back). I can only reflect on this mystery, and conclude that it is partly due to having fought such a battle; to having to grieve the very fact that I would have to fight it, and then the combination of grief and joy that comes from a race -- that stage is over -- HALLELUJAH! Rest now, and prepare for what is ahead.

It is now 2008. I can't help but feel the New Year as a symbol. The days will creep towards greater light. The healing in my body will persist because God has willed it, even if it is slow and imperfect. But, WOW. What a ride this has been.

May God bless all of us as we look ahead to his New Year for us! Bless the Lord, O my soul. He heals all my diseases. He redeems my life from destruction. He crowns me with lovingkindness and great mercies. Bless the Lord, O my soul!



Beth said...

John, thank you for your transparent blog entry. I find Agnes Sanford's radical faith and healing prayers very encouraging, especially when well-meaning Christians tell me to "be realistic", that "God doesn't always heal." Sadly, I find my resulting prayers to be tentative, at best. And, at worst, I find myself not asking for the really outrageously large answers to prayer, lest I be disappointed. Better not to ask than to be rejected, I figure. How tragic! I immediately ordered Agnes' book on Amazon, and I thank you again for your thoughtful blog. Praise God for the healing He is performing in you and for the healing He wishes to do in all of us - if we ask in faith!
Blessings, Beth (Mengel) Thompson

At A Hen's Pace said...


It's wonderful to read your last two posts and praise God for all the recent improvement!

We continue to join our prayers to yours, in faith, for complete healing and a long life.

Much love--

Jeanne (and all)

Anonymous said...


I want to thank you and Margie for your transparent sharing of how our Lord is manifest in your lives. It continues to edify and encourage me. Glory be to God for his healing and sustaining work. May it continue and may God's hand of blessing continue to rest on each of you.

Patti Mangis

Mrs.Dee said...

Praising the Lord with you, John & Margie and Mary & Bill, for all He has done...all He is doing...and all He is yet going to do!!! And isn't it wonderful to know that it will all be for your good, John, and for His glory!?

Yours to see Him glorified,
Alma Dole

Anonymous said...

Hi John, Marilyn (Grove) Henderson here (from PACA days), to say that both you and Margie have blessed me with your words of faith on your blogs. I have been praying for you both for many months, and rejoice with you for the improvements in your health. I am also very encouraged by what you said regarding Agnes Sanford's prayers -- I have struggled with how to pray in areas of significance, and I believe that this is exactly where I have put God in a box, so to speak. Thank you. I continue to pray daily for you, Margie, and the children, as well as for your parents -- for complete healing, for encouragement and strength along the way, and for a star to shine in the dark nights.