Friday, September 23, 2016

What Looks Bad Sometimes is Good

The picture above is of a horse I met on my 40-mile bike-ride yesterday. He was very friendly and we had a nice chat about how lucky he was to live right along the bike path. I had the whole day before me since my son and daughter-in-law had to earn a living. I would see them for dinner. In the mean time, I met the sweet horse and got to bike for four hours. There is not much more fun on earth than that!

This is me at the turn-around point, twenty miles out. It was REALLY hard not to keep going further...but it is difficult to gauge when one is half-tired, and if one is MORE than half-tired when one turns back, one will not make it home. I didn't think I was half-tired yet, but decided it might be wise to turn around any way.

So reluctantly, I  turned around. I stopped for lunch at a beautiful park, and finished off my leftover salad from the night before. For the record, salad does not quite cover the caloric needs of a 40-mile bike ride. I could have used an extra double-decker hot fudge brownie icecream sundae...but that was not in my bike pack.

Look the air above me as I pedaled onward home after my very low calorie lunch: vultures. There were six or seven of them, following and circling above me. This is at the mile 33 mark, and at this point, I realized maybe I WAS more than half-tired at the turn around point. The vultures seemed to think so too.

 Fortunately, most of the end route was downhill, and soon I was back in downtown Richmond with the Lucky Strike chimney of Tobacco Row guiding me back to my hotel.

It was an exquisitely beautiful ride, and I hope to return and do the entire 52- mile Richmond to Williamsburg route one day.

I returned to my hotel room, which had not been cleaned. Really? It was 2 pm, I'd been gone all morning, and it still wasn't cleaned? I shrugged that off, since I was pretty pooped and eager for a warm shower. I cannot have a hot shower because of my newly radiated skin. The doctor said warm is ok. Hot will hurt my skin. Guess what? The shower ONLY came out hot. That would have been but a small problem, except the bathtub wouldn't drain so I was standing in my sweaty, 40-miles of ick washed off hot water.

The remote didn't work, which I'd known the night before. The heat/cooling register didn't work properly either. Half the night I was shivering in arctic cold, and when I tried to set it just a few degrees to 68 degrees, the dusty smelling heat came on!  I was willing to overlook those things initially because of the gorgeous view of the James River out my tenth floor window.  But now, I called the front desk and listed the litany of issues. I was starting to feel sorry for myself.

"Would you like a new room?" the nice man at the front desk asked.

"Will it have as beautiful a view of the James River?"


"Then YES!"

This is the view from my new hotel room at the exclusive 'club level' that requires a special card in the elevator to even allow you on that floor.

I was shocked to be given a card that gave me access to ride the elevator to the exclusive 'club' level. Then I entered my room. On the bed was a special packet that said, 'Just for You.'  It was essential oil blends that would help me relax and sleep like a rich person with no worries.

Instead of just a bottle of 'every day shampoo' which is all I had received in my lower level room, my shampoo now now accompanied by 'la la lagoon bath gel.'  On the table by my recliner was a fancy ice bucket. The 'club' level is clearly the place to be.

I think this definitely called for putting on my new cowboy boots.

God was reminding me of a VERY important truth. Sometimes, your world looks like it is falling apart. All the things that are supposed to be happening are not, and you are getting tired, and disappointment sets in with an oppressive heaviness that saps all the joy out of you. Why does everything always go wrong????

And then, all those seemingly terrible things end up promoting some sort of change that puts you in a far better place than you could otherwise have ever dreamed of.

What looks bad is sometimes good. Trust that God sees the bigger picture and the time line stretching far beyond the present circumstances. He could be setting you up for the 'club' level.

and lovely dinner with my son...

Genesis 50: 19-21

But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. “So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Incomparable Riches...Do You See Them?

Day one of my victory from cancer treatment adventure.

I arrived safely in Richmond, after rerouting my drive to avoid the turmoil area of Charlotte following the terrible events of rioting right along my route. I prayed for my city as I drove, wondering how anyone hopes to solve anything by looting and attacking innocent businesses and officers.

I checked into the hotel, and within half an hour was out the door on the Richmond Capital Trail bike path. This  paved 52-mile bike path goes from the historic Virginia capital of Williamsburg to the present capital of Richmond. I will not be able to bike the entire path (this trip!) but I will try to do 30 or 40 miles of it today. Yesterday I did 25, some of it in the rain. It was glorious.

 The first few miles of it start off along the James River Canal, and that is really beautiful. That only lasts about three miles and soon, the path meanders along a country road and through fields of corn and other crops.  Portions of the trail are forested, but most of it that I was able to bike yesterday was along quiet rural roads and developments.

 After I turned around (when the rain picked up), I ended up along a section of the canal I had never seen on my previous Richmond trips. Richmond is a city that is doing everything right, in my opinion. They have taken full advantage of the beautiful James River and historic old canal, and built a stunning walkway and bike-path along it, with all kinds of beautiful buildings, restaurants, and river-view apartments and condos. Charlotte - PAY ATTENTION.

Surprisingly, not a single person in my hotel knew about the bike path, or how to get there from the hotel. It was 1 mile away! How could they be sitting on this gold mine and  not even know it exists???

And that got me to thinking about God, and Jesus, and the incredible gift of salvation that we all could access...but so few of us do. We are sitting on a GOLD MINE of joy, mercy, grace, and eternal life...and so many of us don't even attempt to access it.

This breaks my heart.

After my bike ride, I watched the sun set over the James River, as the lights of the city flickered on in the waning light.

Let them see you Lord, I prayed. My city, my friends, my loved ones...don't let them be so close to incomparable riches and not even know it exists. Please Lord. Open their eyes and their hearts to you.

Matthew 13:15-16 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them. “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Let Go -- I Will Catch You

Done! I am done with radiation treatment. One of the other patients gave me a framed painting she had done. She still has several weeks of treatment to go, but she was rejoicing with me for my grand finale. The technicians gave me this certificate pictured above, congratulating me on my 'achievement'.


I lay on a narrow steel table and let them shoot dangerous doses of radiation into my chest. Achievement seems a little over-the-top. Maybe Endurance. Certificate of Endurance would be more appropriate. I endured six weeks of daily radiation, not too terribly the worse for wear. My skin is peeling in a couple of spots, but no open wounds, and not very red anymore. I took two naps over the six-week period, which was the extent of my radiation fatigue.

It seemed like there would be more fanfare and drum rolls in my head with my last treatment session. There was not. Just a vague sense of relief that it was done, and no more terrible things remain for me to 'achieve' or to 'endure', at least for now on this cancer journey.

I chatted with my cousin Carol to let her know I was considering adding a side-trip on my Victory Trip North. If I have the energy, I want to visit her and my other cousins, but I told her I wanted to stay at a hotel near the beach. Could she recommend one? The ocean (all bodies of water, in fact) bring me so much peace. I need peace now. It has been a long six-months since diagnosis, much of it filled with pain, uncertainty, turmoil, and fear. Carol understood exactly what a hotel on the beach meant to me.

Get this. Not only did she recommend one near her, she instantly used points her family had accumulated for a free hotel stay and booked me at a hotel just a mile from the ocean. How blessed I am for the people I am related to!

So I leave this morning for my great Victory Trip. I made it through a terrifying discovery of a lump in my breast, to a more terrifying diagnosis of breast cancer, to the first surgery removing the breast, to the day after surgery having three potentially life threatening blood clots land me in the E.R., to a second surgery to reconstruct the breast, to 6-weeks of radiation with a broken rib from a bad bike accident thrown in to season the the grand finale yesterday. It's over. I am done.

I read a study on fear of pain and death by C.S. Lewis that really hit home for me. A brief excerpt highlights the salient point as I look back on the past six months:
Remember, though we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way round—we get afraid because we struggle. Are you struggling, resisting? Don’t you think Our Lord says to you ‘Peace, child, peace. Relax. Let go. Underneath are the everlasting arms. Let go, I will catch you. Do you trust me so little?’
Of course, this may not be the end. Then make it a good rehearsal.

The most calm and even joy-filled moments over the past six-months have been when I inexplicably relaxed and trusted God that even though this was decidedly NOT a journey I would have chosen to embark upon, if He deemed it necessary, then it would end in GOOD. When I struggled and railed against what was happening, I only made it worse. C.S. Lewis is exactly right. Do I trust God in all things...or only in the pleasant circumstances? If I trust him, let go, knowing He will catch me.

But for now, there is a respite. No more surgeries or invasive procedures. Oh, there is still medicine I start in two weeks and will take for the next five years, and check up visits, and probably more tests along the way to be sure the cancer stays gone. However, all the terrible things I was certain I could not, and would not survive...I did, and they are DONE.

So here I am, about to embark on my Victory Trip. I will visit loved ones, sip wine by the ocean (which is not allowed my cousin warns me but everyone does it anyway....), go on long bike rides on new bike trails, and hike uncharted paths.  I will hug my parents, my sons, my daughter in law, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my cousins. Maybe an aunt or two, as well. I will see the first colors of Autumn sprinkling trees in New England, and breathe deeply (now that my broken rib is healing and I can breathe deeply again) of the cool air sweeping down from Heaven and across the beautiful world God made. (PS- Thank you dear hubby for continuing working so I could do this blessed victory lap.)

I will pray without ceasing. I have so much to be thankful for.

In the middle of my wonderful day yesterday, I got a text from a mom that I had counseled many weeks ago at the abortion center. She chose life that day, but we considered her a 'shaky save'. She told us for now she would not abort. She did agree to let me send her daily Bible verses. I tried to contact her a few times, but she never responded. I was pretty sure she had aborted. Nonetheless, I continued to send her daily Bible verses. If she had aborted, she would need God's comfort more than ever.

The text yesterday said, "Hi Miss Vicky. I decided to keep my baby. It's a girl. I thought you would want to know."

Hope has a way of sticking its head out of the mud and completely transforming what you were certain would never be anything but a dismal, lifeless swamp. God, though not visible, is always present, and where you least expect Him is often where He does His most redemptive work.

Let go, He whispers, Trust me. I will catch you.


1 Thessalonians 5:18 

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

God Always Sends Glimmers of Hope

No mamas that we know of chose life during our time Monday on the sidewalks of the abortion center. This was disheartening as we almost always see some mamas choose life, but God was present as always, if only to weep with us. Even in the despair, God always sends glimmers of hope along the way. Always.

First, a wonderful young lady dropped off some cards with her contact info on it. She will adopt any baby, any race, any time. Mamas or fathers at the abortion center will often yell at us demanding, "Will you adopt my baby if I keep him?" I will instantly pull out the young lady's card and say, "Yes! Come let's make the call and sign the forms."

Next, another woman drove by looking for a medical facility. She was lost. When she saw us sidewalk counselors, she stopped, and leaped out of her car. Her face was so impassioned that I feared I was about to be pounded into the dirt. Instead, she tearfully asked if she could pray for us and with us. She was in complete support of our mission affirming the sanctity of life in this very dark place. She was grateful that God had sent her the wrong way so she would wind up on our street, and could lift us up in prayer.

She prayed fervently and for quite some time. I kept one eye open, scanning for cars that might be entering the center. I am ALL for prayer...don't get me wrong. But as our director pointed out (and I agree) we counselors already pray without ceasing in our hearts. Our job on the sidewalk is to speak for the babies who cannot speak for themselves. Frankly, lots of people will pray (which is critical and necessary)...but not many are willing to speak and confront the mamas who think abortion is the only answer. So I keep public prayer short, and I always step away if a car enters the parking lot to try to actively intercede for the doomed baby. I feel deeply convicted that my role there is to SPEAK.

Nonetheless, I greatly appreciated her passion and prayer. Despite her prayers and the encouragement of the adoptive woman, it was a sad day at the abortion center. It was mobbed; at least fifty babies were to die that day in that single abortion center. What was very disconcerting is we saw at least four or five moms who were visibly pregnant, at least four or five months along. The center is not supposed to do abortions after 19 weeks 6 days gestation, but those mamas looked beyond that stage of pregnancy.

This is a 20-week old baby in utero:

Do you think we should be ripping this child apart limb by limb, puncturing her skull, sucking the brain out, and crushing the skull, all while she is remove her violently from the womb? That is what happens to a baby this age during an abortion. Should our country or any country allow such a brutal act to a living human being?

I just don't get it. When you see the actual photos of children in the womb, and you know what a violent, painful, barbaric act abortion can anyone support it?

"It's just a clump of cells!" one lady screamed at me yesterday.
"Does a clump of cells have a beating heart?" I asked.
She stormed away.

"I don't believe in God," another woman said to justify her abortion.
"Take God out of the equation then," I said, "Should we have the right to destroy inconvenient, innocent human life?  At what logical point does the baby become human if not at this point in your womb? Does any society that devalues human life thrive?"
She also turned away and entered the clinic.

One couple I stopped yesterday listened to me talk for twenty minutes. Then the nurse came over and talked with them ten more. While I talked, they leafed through our literature looking at the photos of the babies at the different gestational ages. They believed in God. They knew God wouldn't approve and knew abortion was fundamentally wrong.

Then I asked, "What brought you here that made you feel abortion was your only option?"

They both shrugged.
"You don't know?" I asked, incredulous.
They shook their heads.
"You are about to take the life of your own child and you don't even know why?" I said.
Again, downcast eyes...and shrugs.

Lord, have mercy. 

"Please come look at your baby on the ultrasound," I urged, "Let us tell you how we can help."
"No, I'm ok, " said the woman, then told the boyfriend, "Let's go."
They drove into the abortion center lot, overflowing with cars on their appointment with death.

Today is my LAST radiation treatment. ALL the invasive, frightening cancer treatments now come to an end today. I survived. I feel great. I am so grateful! Tomorrow, I leave on my victory journey, visiting my children along the way and then my parents. Maybe I will sneak in a side-trip to cousins if my energy holds out. It has been a long, hard road from diagnosis six months ago, but God ALWAYS sends glimmers of hope along the way. Always.
Jeremiah 8:6
I have listened to them very carefully, but they do not speak honestly. None of them regrets the evil he has done. None of them says, "I have done wrong!" All of them persist in their own wayward course like a horse charging recklessly into battle.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Exquisite Loveliness - Proof of God's Care

On my bike-ride yesterday, the fields lining the bike path were totally awash in beautiful yellow blooms. Yellow is the happiest color. How lavish a gift of joy God had spread across my journey! He has sprinkled beauty and delight all around -- verdant fields of wildflowers to perfume the way as we travel the bumpy trail. The road is often deeply rutted, sometimes we stumble...or worse (don't remind me as I clutch my broken rib), and yet, the flowers wave their yellow hats with a message of hope.

No one creates a world of such exquisite loveliness unless those who inhabit that world are deeply loved. The flowers proclaim the adoration of God and encourage me to stay the course. He is leading me Home in a profusion of blessings.


Psalm 26:3

For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Declaring God's Glory

My van is loaded with 250 or so works of art, spanning forty years of my creative output in preparation of my trip to NY where Bostwick Auction will auction them all to prospective buyers. (I will keep you updated on auction info. Anyone can bid online/phone-in! I imagine they will be very affordable.)

I have always been a prolific artist. I am, and was, always drawing. I once had an art friend who was a college professor of art. She told me that I didn't need to be drawing to prove to myself I was an artist.
"Being an artist is in your very DNA," she told me. "It is a part of your soul. Everything you do, you do as an artist."

True or not, I found that very comforting. I am an artist...even when I am not creating art.

I also find it very applicable to the spiritual life. Once we know Christ and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, everything we do and everything we are contains the essence of God. We are Christ-bearers. Now, we are still capable of sin, and God does not sin, but the very core of who we are is God's creation, loved by Him, and created for His good purposes. Just as all creation declares the glory of God, our being does as well!

Isn't that wonderful!!??

1 Corinthians 10:31 

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Even THEN, God Loved Me

Stairway to Heaven, watercolor
My attic is growing art. It can be the only explanation. I found this art work, and a whole batch of others. That brings my pile of art going to NY for auction to 270 pieces. I won't get much per piece, but the sheer volume ought to earn me gas money for the trip. Hopefully, it will bring many people joy.

Any way, this painting surprises me. I was newly married, with no kids, and not a Christian, yet the painting depicts me on a stairway to heaven. There is a mother and child in the lower portion. Strange. At at this stage of my life, I still thought I hated kids and certainly didn't want any.

Dogs and horses have always reigned strongly as my favorite creatures, so it is not surprising they are heading to Heaven with me. Then there are three trees, with the one larger tree in the middle. I am certain that is my subconscious mind depicting the crucifixion, with Jesus between the two thieves.

It is a prophetic painting. Six years later, I would come to know the Lord. That same year of my salvation, I had my son Anders, and realized I LOVED being a mother beyond anything else I had done or could do on earth. Not only did I discover I LIKED kids, I became an Occupational Therapist whose entire career focused on helping children. Later, I became an art teacher to children, and formed a whole bunch of clubs in my home for children. Now, I am a sidewalk counselor at an abortion center urging mamas to save their babies. I feel a deep love for those children, and even those tortured mamas.

How did my hand know to produce all this that was yet to be in my future?

This painting reminds me that even when I didn't know God at all, He knew me. Despite my terrible sins and rejection of God and His commands, He loved me even then, pursued me even then. I was so wretched, and so the city in my painting above that I appear to be escaping. Even then, God was leading me to a place of life, where my lungs could fill not with the smog and corruption of the world, but with the Holy Spirit. He knew the plans He had for me, and was faithful to complete them.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am that I took the first step on that stairway when I put my trust in Him.

Jeremiah 29:11 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace.

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Miracles Abound

Good news on a zillion fronts! My broken rib finally seems to be mending. It has been three weeks since the (stupid) accident on my bicycle, and I have been in pretty terrible pain that entire time. However, as of yesterday, I walked with very little pain, drove with almost no pain, and did deep breathing exercises with minimal pain. When I complete my 6-weeks of radiation therapy, I should still be able to do my victory lap to NY.

Speaking of radiation, now that I am in the targeted 'boost' phase (with only three sessions left!), the rest of my radiated skin is praising God and thanking me as it begins the road to recovery. The one section under my arm that was bright red and looked ready to blister seems to have decided that blistering would not be worth the effort. The color is toning down, and so far, no blisters.

My overhead arm range had been decreasing at an alarming pace, and it hurt badly to stretch. I was so frightened that I would never be out of pain, would lose function, and might never kayak again. However, as of yesterday, I regained a good bit of range without pain.

It all feels miraculous. But one more miracle awaited me.

My husband found a tiny house on the river, just minutes from where he works. He asked if I wanted to go see it. It is really tiny...but it has a lovely large fenced yard, a private dock, and stunning views right on my beloved Catawba River. I was game.

So we met the realtor there yesterday and it was love at first sight. It is a tiny home, an old home, and lived in, but not neglected. I wanted that little house so badly. I stayed with the realtor for a half hour after hubby returned to work, and we talked about my cancer, my broken rib, my books, and how the river is balm to my wounded body and soul.

The water has always been a source of joy to me. These photos are from the 80's and 90's. In the first, I am the one sailing the sailboat. In the second, I am paddling a canoe with my kids.

Hubby and I are discussing the tiny house. I don't know if we will put a contingency offer on the home but we are considering it. Both of us must be certain this is where God would have us settle. It would be snug, very snug settling. When I say tiny, I mean tiny. However, it feels right to me...I think. How does one know where one will be happy until one gets there? Please pray that our house sells quickly and that all the pieces will fall in place if this is where God wants us.


Acts 4:30 

While you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Are You Ready? Waiting with Purpose.

Since our house is on the market, every single day I have to be sure it is spotless. This is not as hard as it would be if we still had kids or dogs living at home, but it is still not easy. Not only must it be spotless, but it must be inviting. I need pillows neatly arranged on the bed and couches. All surfaces must be clear and clean. No crumbs or coffee stains on the counters. The disposal must not be upchucking like a water treatment retaining pool. Plants must be watered and all dead leaves pinched off. No dust bunnies or dead bugs can be lurking in corners. It must be ready for a visitor at any moment.

NOT an easy way to live.

It was time for me to head out for my radiation treatment. BUT FIRST, I had to go through every room and see if each one was perfect should a prospective buyer call and ask for a showing while I was out. I don't even leave to check on the mail without performing this ritual.

Radiation was a relief, a respite from the constant vigilance of good housekeeping! Fortunately, the hard part of radiation is done. I am now doing the 'boost' phase. I have four more days of targeted radiation on just the surgical scar. The rest of my fully cooked skin is now done being radiated, and as we speak, is on the road to recovery.

I had a fun extra bonus as the technicians were setting me up for the new 'boost' phase. The first session of each new phase takes longer than usual since the set-up must be perfect. So one of the techs was telling me about his one-day-I-will-write-this-book idea while we were waiting for the other techs to do whatever it is they had to do. He was stuck on one part of his plot development, so has never actually written a word. He wants to, but can't seem to get going on it. He feels his idea must be fully envisioned first.

"Tell me your idea," I said, as the other techs fiddled with the equipment and set-up. He told me his plot and it was very good. He did have one critical element not quite worked out. So I asked some questions, and soon, we had solved his plot problem! It will be a best-seller if he has any talent writing.

"Now just write it!" I said, "I expect a rough draft tomorrow."

No one came to visit my spotless house while I was being radiated. Nonetheless, it was nice to return to a completely clean and neat home. There is much to be said about being ready for any visitor at any time. I realized I was in a perpetual state of waiting. Waiting for a home buyer to appear. I had to be very busy while waiting however. I could not wait and twiddle my thumbs. I had to keep my home in perfect shape while waiting.

Similarly, while waiting for the radiation  people to finish the long set-up, my would-be-author technician friend knew the importance of waiting with purpose. He told me about his book idea, and we ended up having a very meaningful (and even spiritual) discussion as a result that may have spurred him on to action he hadn't yet known how to take.

Waiting with purpose.

The Bible says that we are to be in a state of continual readiness for the return of Jesus. He could show up at any time. None of us know the hour or the day. Will He find us prepared? Will we greet Him without shame or guilt because He will find us doing exactly what we should be doing? Or will there be dust bunnies of sin, or neglect, or maybe just wasted moments hiding in the corners of our lives? It is not easy to be in a perpetual state of readiness, but it is necessary.

Matthew 24:44 

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Proverbs 20:4 

The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Killing the Old Self

Momentous day yesterday. I had the last full radiation session. For the next five days, I have the less invasive targeted radiation, only on the scar itself where apparently the tumors were found. This means the rest of my radiated skin will now begin to heal. It never got very bad. One small square under my arm was quite red, peeling, and hurt a bit, but nothing I couldn't handle. Thus, the worst is over.

My doctor was flummoxed by the strange rashes I have had. He has no idea what they are and why they popped up outside the radiated zone. He told me my theory that my immune system was stressed by radiation, and thus the rashes broke out, was a good thought. He felt that could be the case.

My nurse has never had anyone report strange rashes in the ten years she has worked in radiation. She felt the rashes could be stress induced -- not from the radiation but from all the emotional and physical stressors in my life right now. She suggested I consider postponing my NY trip to my folks for a few days.

She makes a good point. My plans were to drive to my son in Richmond, and then on to NY the day after completing radiation. Waiting a few days will allow my skin, and my broken rib a little more time to heal. It does indeed hurt to drive with the broken rib, especially turning to look over my shoulder. Every time I back up or park, it is accompanied with sharp stabs of pain.

Anyway, the doctor felt I would not likely feel any worse than I do now, and would slowly heal from this point forward. In radiation, the cancer cells are killed, but even the normal cells are damaged. They can, and will recover, but that is a stress on the body. It is probably why fatigue is such a big issue with most people who undergo radiation. (I definitely have slowed down, and even nap now and then in these final weeks of radiation.)

I thought about what is going on in my body physically and was struck by the spiritual parallel. When we come to know Christ, our old sinful self is destroyed. We are being made new, sanctified by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. It is not an easy process. The old self is dying, and the new self is struggling to live, to emerge. It is indeed at times exhausting, with setbacks and failures. We do not become Christ-like overnight. It is a process. The old self dies. The new self grows stronger.

We will overcome and be victorious ultimately, but it will take an entire lifetime. Perfection will not be possible until we are reunited with Christ in Heaven. Fortunately, this is where the analogy ends. My rib and skin will heal faster than it takes to reach full sanctification.

My nurse tells me that within a month, I will be good as new.

Galatians 2:20 

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. ...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Exulting in the Hope of New Life in Christ

Here is my Monday Pro-life team stopping a car entering the abortion center. This particular mom did not choose life as far as we know, but two other moms did. Those two saved babies were not the only wonderful result of our time on the sidewalk. There was an added bonus awaiting us at the end.

Our team was very active, speaking truth from the Bible over the sound system, and stopping many cars, handing them our literature. One couple pulled in, the woman stepped out of the car, and the driver slowly drove down the driveway to leave, his phone to his ear. He had two young children in the back seat. To my surprise, he stopped for me.

"Please consider going back in and trying to change her mind," I said.
"You think she'll change her mind?" he asked.
"She might. If you brought her our literature and told her you would be willing to help her every step of the way. Is it your child being aborted?"
"Yes," he said. Then he asked me if I was married and if I had a good income. I told him that was really of no matter. Our income did not determine the worth of our child.
"Do rich people's children have more worth than poor people's children?" I asked.
"No...but see, I need to be responsible in my choices."
"That's true. Were you responsible in your choice to have sex outside of marriage that leads to children that you feel you can't afford?"
He paused. Point made. I moved on.
"Do you believe in God?" I asked.
"Yes. Sure I do."
"Do you love God?" I asked.
"If you love someone, do you do what they ask?"
He nodded, looking a little worried. I think he knew where I was going with this.
"God asks that you be married before sex..."
"So that was a mistake."
"Yes, according to the Bible, it is a sin..."
"So I need to correct it," he said, "Which is why I am here."
"You don't correct sin by deeper sin," I said. "God also says thou shalt not murder."

The entire time I was talking to him, the phone was still wedged against his ear.
"Is that your girlfriend on the phone now?" I asked.
"No, it's my mom."
"Oh. The child's grandmother? What does she think about you aborting her grandchild?"
He covered the phone, and put his finger to his mouth, trying to indicate I should be quiet.
So I spoke loudly, "Grandma, did you know your son is aborting your grandchild today?"
"What do you think God thinks of what you are doing?" I asked.
"Well...I don't know. I haven't thought about that."
"You are about to take the life of your own child, created by God in His image, the God you say you love, and you haven't considered what He thinks about this life or death decision?"
The young man smiled, a little sheepishly, and shrugged.
"Please. There is still time. Talk to her."
He looked slowly through every page of the pamphlet I handed him. He scrutinized the photo of each child in the womb, and showed one to his children in the back seat.
"Baby," he said.
"My name is on the pamphlet," I told him, "With my number. Get her out. And if you need help, call me."

We talked a little longer, and he drove away. However, before the abortionist arrived, the young man returned. He pulled in to the parking lot, the young lady came out of the abortion center, and sat in the car. They left. She could not have had the abortion.

A second couple left and told us they didn't abort. A third couple sat in their truck, and appeared to be conflicted. The abortionist arrived, and still the couple sat in their truck talking. One of my fellow sidewalk counselors, Chrissy, and I decided to stay a little longer, hoping to convince them to change their minds. We took turns calling to them.

Then a car pulled out of the center with another young couple in it. They stopped and rolled down their window for Chrissy. She spoke with them, and gave them some literature.
"Vicky, they want us to pray with them. They already had the abortion."

The young woman rolled down her window and looked sadly at me.
"We already had the abortion two weeks ago. This was a check-up."
"Are you feeling sad?" I asked.
She nodded.
"I will pray with you," I said, "But I wonder...where do you think you will go if as you leave you get in an accident and die? Heaven or hell?"
They both looked surprised, almost as much as I was. I never quite know what will come out of my mouth. I am taking it by faith that it is the Holy Spirit prompting.
"I don't know," the man said. The sad woman shook her head.
"Pull over and give me five minutes please," I said.
To my surprise, they did.
"Well," the young man said, continuing where we had left off, "I don't know. I mean, I know I'm not perfect."
"Do you think you must be perfect to go to heaven?"
"I don't know."
"I can tell you what you need to do to go to heaven. Do you want to hear?"
They both nodded.
So right there, kneeling on my knees by their car (which hurt a lot having been bruised badly in my recent bike accident), I shared the Gospel with them. Chrissy came over, and with her uncanny optimism and understanding had grabbed a new Bible out of one of our gift bags.

I imagine you all have heard the Gospel. I kept it short and simple.
1. Understand you are a sinner and according to the Bible, the penalty of sin is death. You deserve death.
2. Repent of your sin with true sorrow and desire to change.
3. Acknowledge that nothing you do can earn your way to Heaven. All our works are as filthy rags before a perfect, holy God. Seems hopeless then! But, God sent a solution.
4. Jesus, who was sinless and deserved NO punishment took the punishment we deserved upon Himself in our stead. He offers it free of charge, though it cost Him dearly.
5. Accept His sacrificial gift, dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. As a result, we are promised eternal life with God.
6. Invite Him to be Lord of your life, and live accordingly.

"The amazing thing is you can do this anywhere, at any time. Would you like to pray right now to accept Jesus' gift of eternal salvation?" I asked.
"Yes," they both said.
The four of us bowed our heads and we prayed together. They asked Jesus into their lives. Just outside the abortion center where there own baby had died, they opened their eyes to a new hope and new life in Christ.

"Do you have a Bible?" I asked.
At that moment, Chrissy held up the Bible.
They simultaneously grabbed at it, as though it were a life jacket, or a priceless treasure. is both.

I laughed. "Good," I told them, "That is one thing you may fight over...who gets to open the word of God first."

Meanwhile the wavering couple in the truck went in to the abortion center. As far as we know, their baby did not make it home with them.

Chrissy told me, "We thought we were here for the couple in the truck. But God had other plans. We were here for them." She nodded her head at the departing car of the new believers.

God had known all along that a grieving couple would need His comfort, and the horror of what they had done to their own child softened their hearts to receive Him. I cannot tell you what a privilege it was to be there, mourning the loss of their baby's life, but exulting in the hope of their new life in Christ.


Acts 4:12 

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. ...

Monday, September 12, 2016

Our Present Sufferings

Golfing in Paradise, Pastel, 20x26

Great. A new malady. It is the final week of radiation. Each week has had an exciting new challenge including radiation fear, radiation rash, folliculitis, broken rib, inner elbow rash, and now for week six: (drum roll please) Golfer's Vasculitis!

This is particularly interesting since I don't golf. Apparently golfing is not required to get Golfer's Vasculitis. I went on a 9-mile walk, and noticed itchy feet about half way through the walk. When I got home and took off my shoes, the tops and soles of my feet had a splotchy, itchy red rash all over them. Here is what an internet site had to say about Golfer's Vasculitis:
The rash is more common in people over 50. Most walkers can't pinpoint anything new they have used that may be causing a reaction. And since so many walkers have it, they couldn't all have contacted the same irritant. The source is simply heat and age--your leg blood vessels getting irritated from the heat.(

Within a couple of hours, the itching was gone, and the rash was still visible, but flattened and less red. More internet research showed that while many radiologists deny it, some radiation patients get rashes outside the radiated area. Perhaps the feet thing is Golfer's Vasculitis, or maybe not. I am pretty good at self-diagnosis. However, I do find it curious that at one internet cancer chat site,  several cancer patients complained of strange rashes outside the radiation zone. Most said their doctors said it could not have been the radiation causing it. HMMMMM.

I started with a rash in the radiated area, but then got an itchy rash inside my elbows, then the top of my thighs, then my feet, and even a small spot on my neck. The only new thing in my environment is the radiation. I am convinced the radiation has caused all this, as are many radiation patients online. 

I am so glad I am almost done with radiation. These seemingly unconnected, mysterious maladies do all point to one thing we know to be true. This world is broken. All creation groans with the bondage to decay.  We are all covered with the rash of sin and its effects. Many of us look around and wonder what is the cause of all this horror and grief that dogs the world. Like my rash, it keeps popping up in new ways.

Charles Spurgeon described the sickness of sin in his sermon, A Caution for Sin-Sick Souls in this way:

Ephraim felt his sickness but he did not know the radical disease that lurked with-in. He saw the local ailment, but was ignorant of the organic derangement of his very vitals. He only perceived the symptoms!  He  was  uneasy,  he  felt  pain,  but  the  discovery  did  not  go  deep  enough  to  show  him  that  he  was  actually  dead  in  trespasses and sins. “He saw his sickness and Judah saw his wound.”
 Yes, he saw his wound—it smarted and, therefore, his eyes were drawn to the spot. But he did not know how deep it was. He did not know that it had pierced to the heart, that it was, in fact, a death-blow—that the whole head was sick, that the whole heart was faint and that, from the crown of the head even to the sole of the foot, it was all wounds, bruises and putrefying, festering sores! There was but a partial discovery of his lost estate. 

The good news: we will be set free. There is hope for this ailment that covers us head to foot, but it will not be found on Earth.

In Romans 8, two things are groaning: all creation, and all of us with wordless groans. We are all waiting in anticipation of the redemption of our bodies. We hope, and wait patiently, (uh...ok...), while the Spirit of God helps us, searches our hearts, and then intercedes for us in accordance to God's will. We hope for what we do not yet have, but one day we will. We will be made new, and whole, without blemish or sin, or inexplicable rashes. This makes me think I just might endure the final week of radiation.

Romans 8:18-27
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

2 Corinthians 4:17 

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,