Chapter 10: Meditations While Walking the Cancer Path

Believe it: “God with us” is sprinkled throughout this book like rain on a thirsty garden. God is with us.


Whether your mind is foggy, you’re tired, out of breath, jumping up and down happy, or slowed to a stop – in all situations, here are some thoughts to help you learn to tap into a sacred flow, exhale, express your feelings or perhaps have a chuckle. Some words for the day are repetitious because there is more than one connotation for that word or they are repeated for emphasis.  The word becomes a mantra for the day.

            Feel free to write your own insights and thoughts at the end of this list, so you can share them with a fellow traveler, or share this chapter and discuss it with friends. Have fun.

Each word for the day has a scripture reference. I chose references that were easiest to understand and tell you which version I have used.

Key to Abbreviations:

NIV-New International Version

NSRV-New Standard Revised Version

GNMM-Good News (for) Modern Man, American Bible Society

(the) LB – The Living Bible

AKJ-Authorized King James

KJV-King James Version


TODAY’S WORD:  WAITING (Don’t hold your breath!)

Have you ever found the perfect job, the one you dreamed about for years?  Then the interviewer says, “And by the way, you will work nights the last week of every month.”  You weren’t expecting that, but you need the job. You can handle that, and you did with three weeks of paradise on the job until that last week of the month. Now you have to sleep days and go to work in the dark when most

people are home in bed. Wait a minute! It’s just most people! Others are out there in the dark and up to crime, and they may be looking for you!

              Armed with a whistle and mace, you go to the deserted bus stop, the one that is bustling with people every morning. How is it that a colorful and noisy daytime corner can turn so gray, silent and scary after the sun goes down? You scan the shadows watching for danger as time drags on and on while you sit on the bench alone waiting for bus #193, that is, of course, late.  Sure, there’s a streetlight, but it only makes you a visible target and makes the shadows even more threatening and filled with imaginary predators. You practice looking calm hoping it will catch on and perhaps slow your breathing and heart rate.

              Then you hear whistling. The hair on the back of your neck stands up, a chill goes down your spine, and every muscle becomes tense. The whistling gets louder. Out of the darkness walks a tall man with a baseball hat pulled over his head and wearing dark clothes and a backpack. Heart pounding, muscles tensed for flight, you eye his darkness. Then he says, “I work at ARS, and take this bus every night. I’m so glad I don’t have to wait alone. Number 193 is often late.” He doesn’t crowd onto the bench but stands at the distant end of it giving you safe space.

              You watch him for a few minutes then warily you relax and exhale. You didn’t know you’d been holding your breath.

              If cancer fear has made you hold your breath, and you hadn’t realized it, you may need company while you learn to exhale.  A loving God can help you by sitting on the bench at the edge of the dark keeping you company and shining light on your fear. You are not alone. You can exhale and resume normal breathing. And this always present and steadfast God may send helpers with skin. Watch for them, and give thanks.

Psalm 107 reflects the need to give thanks to God for remaining a steadfast presence.

O give thanks to the Lord, for

            he is good;

            for his steadfast love endures forever.

                        Psalm 107. 1 (NIV)

Psalm 16 is a song of trust that seeks God for protection.

Protect me, O God,

for in you I take refuge.

                        Psalm 16.1 (NRSV)



It always happens.  The day you have a lunch date with a hard-to-get-reservation at a four star restaurant, you go to get your teeth cleaned, and the dentist discovers you have a cavity. Getting it filled is painless due to Novocaine. As you walk out the dentist’s door just before lunch, you realize one side of your mouth is missing. You can’t feel a thing, you certainly can’t chew food, and if you’re not careful you will drool when the waiter comes to take your order.

              Life gets like that when something like cancer rocks your foundation or you’re sick or tired to the maximum – you can’t feel emotions, or, if you do, they feel all out of kilter and not to be trusted. How you feel about everything may be up for grabs. Should you feed the cat or kick him? Do you hate your job or love it? Does it feel like fun to dance or go out to a movie? Does it feel good to talk to God or would you rather just skip it for a week? At times, it feels like you have “Novacaned” your family, even God.

              It happens in everyday life. When Charles looked in the mirror one morning, an unfamiliar face looked back at him. The face had frozen frown lines, and the brown eyes staring back at him looked vacant. Gone was the golden glint and sparkle that had always said, “Hi. You’re interesting, and I am too.” Where had that lively person gone? How long had it been since he felt joy, even sadnessWhere had his zest for life gone, and was his loss physical or mental? Looking at his losses made him want to despair, but even that feeling was denied him. “Oh God, where have I gone?” Charles asked the mirror and God. Charles gazed at his image. “Oh, God, where have YOU gone?”

              If you’re feeling “Novacaned,” take a deep breath as you realize that the non-feeling is not as unusual as you might think, and cancer patients don’t have a franchise on the situation.  Many people have dealt with lack of feelings. One man, Karl Loes, was an atheist and key figure in the underground during the Nazi regime in Germany during World War II. At one time Karl was hidden by a Lutheran pastor for several weeks. During that time the pastor introduced Karl to Jesus and tried to convince him to profess his faith. Karl didn’t buy into Jesus because Karl’s mind seemed numbed by his fervor in serving his country, and he could look only to himself and the focus of his missions. After a while, for safety reasons Karl Loes moved on, but a couple of years later, the pastor helped excavate a cellar where Underground persons had been held prisoners then executed. To his surprise, the pastor found the following scribbled on the walls of the cellar:

I believe in the sun when it is not shining.

I believe in love when I do not feel it.

I believe in my Lord, Jesus, even when he is silent.

                                    Karl Loes

Karl Loes left a testament of belief that has helped thousands rest in love and sunshine even when it SEEMS the Lord, Jesus is silent, even when it seems God is far, far away. When a numbness overtakes our emotions so that we don’t recognize ourselves, the sun is shining inside us and will again break through. The glint will come back. God is present.

God IS our refuge and strength,

                        a very PRESENT help in trouble.

                                    Psalm 46:1 (NRSV)



About the age of six months babies begin to develop separation anxiety. They can’t speak, but their crying and reaching towards mother says, “I want my mama.” As they grow older they often outgrow this, but when they take giant steps into the world at any age – kindergarten, going off to camp or college or marriage – a butterfly of separation anxiety often flutters in.

            That happens in adult life when we take giant steps. Major illness such as cancer or the treatment of it, a giant step for anyone who cannot see the immediate outcome, can make us nervous. Well, nervous may be the under statement of the day, but a butterfly of anxiety flutters in, refusing to land to identify itself. A general disquiet lives in us, coloring our life. When we finally probe the anxiety and let it land, we discover a black darkness of doubt, perhaps a challenge to our beliefs. Black seems so very black, and finally we have to admit what color it is. Wait! Is black really a color? It has little or no predominant hue and reflects very little but some light. Perhaps it is a mixture of grays and charcoals as we ask life’s hurting questions, find some light, take a setback into darkness and start the process over and over again. This mixture of exploring beliefs happens to most people, but when we are weak, sick, perhaps can’t even see, talk or think straight, the issues get magnified. We can, however, firmly believe that there is no separation from God. Even when we are healthy and questioning our beliefs, we can believe that God is present and that growth can come from it.

            Historical evidence supports this as we read about the lives of people we consider great from David to Moses to the disciples, kings and queens, soldiers on the battlefield, Saint Patrick and Mother Teresa. Even our friends and neighbors can attest to passing through dark periods of lack of understanding or the blackness of doubt. Often the disquiet that lives in us at the moment began with one theological question, and we allowed it to spread into other areas. As we examine the questions and look for answers, we can believe that God is in the questioning.  We are very much like the six-month old baby who reaches up and says, “I want my mama.” We reach up and say, “I want my God.” We may be anxious about our physical, mental or spiritual separation, but we need to remember that nothing can separate us from our loving God. The God-arms are reaching to hug us while we search the dark times. It’s a promise.

In all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

                                    Romans 8: 37-39 (GNMM)



Every Christmas, someone gives us do-dads we come to love.  Sometimes it is a mug saying to drink less coffee or a little statue our kids expect to see displayed for years to come. Quite often it’s a cutesy little night-light. You know the ones that have colored butterflies or Snow White or a blinking fishing lure. Manufacturers must read us well; they keep making more and more and more night lights designed just for our hobbies or foibles. Often they end up in Christmas stockings. These become our treasures.

            There are other kinds of night lights. I once gave my nephew, who had recently become a new father helping with the night feeding, a pair of house shoes. They had motion-activated lights in the toes: stomp your feet and the bulbs turned on to light your way to the crib and restless baby.

            When it’s dark we all need a light, not necessarily a cutesy night-light or house shoes that glow, but a light that shines in the dark for us.  God is that light.  We can trust God to know where we are, what we are going through, and how much we need to bask in some bright light even when it’s dark. Just like the sun gives the earth energy, God’s light can sustain us and give us spiritual energy, sometimes physical energy. It’s a little like the motion activated shoes that put light ahead of my nephew.  Ask God to accompany you on the scary path. Let the God who loves you shine light on the boulder-strewn trail so that you can walk in the light. The light helps you know where to put your feet as well as your heart.

You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.

                                    2 Samuel 22:29 (NIV)

We turn on the lamp with assurance that God is with us.



When teenagers get “grounded,” they may sulk or mope or just make the best of it by staying in their rooms listening to loud music and muttering about the unjust rules of parents or life in general.

            When we are sick we sometimes feel like we have been grounded, and it is VERY UNJUST. We can no longer go out to lunch with friends or teach a class, go hunting or ride a bike, or write legibly or eat our favorite food or play golf or go to the latest movie. Sometimes our hair falls out, we get new wrinkles, and we can’t even read or drive a car or make sense when we talk. Personally, I think it’s okay to stay in your room and mutter about the injustice of these events if you don’t make a habit of it. Life really isn’t fair, and we don’t have to like what’s happening.

            But we can endure the injustice if we remember that the giant unjust event we are experiencing right now cannot separate us from God’s love. We are “grounded” in God. We are wrapped in God’s understanding and affirming love as surely as a mother wraps her baby in a soft quilt.

In all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

                  Romans 8: 37-39 (GNMM)



A drought and dust storm are something to see and feel. Hot wind parches the soil. Soon the plants shrivel, their root systems come loose, and they tumble along the ground until a gust of wind lifts them high into the air and they are gone. Then the huffy wind swirls and tangles the dirt and blows it into great billowing red and brown clouds that choke the sky. People cover their noses and mouths and run for cover. Once indoors they brush dust drifts off their clothes, wipe their eyes and rinse their mouths.

            Something similar happens when illness wracks our bodies and parches our lips. We fight the huffy winds of change as we use lip balm, drink water, take pills and just hang on. What we hang onto is important, and what we expect can alter how we feel emotionally even when the body is in trouble.

            Into this body and soul-parched landscape can come a river of fresh cool water spilling over us in a mental waterfall. It is a promise from the Holy Scripture. God enters like a spring gushing from under rocks and collecting in cool, green pools, just waiting around to “be cool.” For the moments we stand by these clear reflection pools, our struggling and pain move into the background and we become refreshed. Springs differ in their bubblings as much as bodies differ in their reactions. It may be only a dip here and there, or it may be a steady cooling of fear in the core of us but it refreshes.

The poor and needy search for water, but

            there is none;

Their tongues are parched with thirst.

But I the Lord will answer them;

I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys.

I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs..

            Isaiah 41: 17-18 (NIV)



A Kansas drought creates scorched pastures, dry ponds and dry wells and stirs up more than dust storms. It stirs unrest for thirsty cattle that become agitated and bawl into the wind. Onto this noisy scene comes their salvation, a wagon loaded with barrels of water. A generous neighbor with a deep well has for days generously helped the Wikles draw water from his wells into barrels for their cattle. The wagon, pulled by a big black horse, Coalie, and her brown companion Dollie, is driven by Grandpa Wikle who drives through the gate carefully so as not to spill a precious drop of water from the barrels. Grandma Wikle stands between the barrels to keep them steady.  Recognizing the wagon’s sound, the thirsty cattle hurry to the wagon. At last! Thankfully! A drink!

            Cows never write thank you notes, but they do take help when it is offered. They quit bawling into the hot wind and run to the offered water. They don’t mind if it came via horse drawn wagon or tractor pulled trailer. They take help.

            Often help comes to us who are parched and thirsty by way of other people who have themselves become refreshing rivers. It’s God’s way of sending refreshment in a time of stress. The needy must take the drink, accepting the good intentions of other people. And the parched must let someone else cover for them at the office, do the dishes, cut the grass, wash the windows, read to them, feed the dog and bring them a diet coke, or do their taxes. Or the helpers may pray, wash our faces; hold our hands, provide transportation – all sorts of help. God sends refreshment in all flavors.

The poor and needy search for water, but there is none;

Their tongues are parched with thirst.

But I the Lord will answer them;

I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within

 the valleys.

I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.

                                    Isaiah 41: 17-18



Persons who are under the weather for an extended length of time are sometimes more concerned about their families than themselves, often borrowing worries about “being a bother” or “stealing their time” or “causing worry.” It’s natural, especially for one who is accustomed to taking care of others. The scripture gives us encouragement in this area, that we should not waste energy worrying.

            Instead of wasting energy worrying, we might try observing our family relationships, eyeing them with thanksgiving and thinks-giving. At last, we are slowed down enough to work at improving relationships with those near us. We have time to think about our personal relationship goals. We may have opportunity to think with family about how we can support each other. We have time to glue broken relationships back together.

            Jesus stands in the midst of a troubled family. With them. Among them. In the midst of them.  Around them. Supporting them. Energizing them. A praying Christian family functions out of love, modeling themselves after Jesus the humble servant who was always in the giving mode but also in the receiving mode.

Jesus is present, in your midst.  Relax.

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. (Or among or in their midst, according to translation)

                                    (Matthew 18:20 RSV midst)

                                    (NRSV among)



Sickness is not an excuse but an opportunity. We not only must sometimes be idle, but we may also have the opportunity to recognize a God environment around us – a chance to rest and communicate with God who is a presence in our midst. Jesus sought such opportunities.

            Jesus – the humble servant who walked his dusty feet miles and miles, who healed the sick, was forever the teacher and forever about his Father’s business – cherished a good thing. That good thing was a direct connection with God that led him to prayer and rejuvenation.

            We can picture him leaving the house early in the morning to seek a solitary place for prayer, going with his disciples by boat to a solitary place to pray, going up the mountainside alone to pray, seeking an isolated place to pray when the crowds pressed around him. We can picture him in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion, and we can read about his public prayer from the cross.

            Imagine the fatigue Jesus experienced as crowds pushed against him, each person in the crowd with a need to touch him or ask him a question. How did he keep going during such a demanding time? Often cancer patients ask themselves how they can keep going during the rigorous demands of treatment. Jesus coped. He went apart to rest with God.

After leaving them (the disciples), he went up on a mountainside to pray.

                                    Mark 6:46 (NIV)

Sometimes we are so fatigued and weak that our minds cannot form the sentences of a thought or prayer, and we fear our direct connection with God is broken. The heart wills a connection, a resting with God. This becomes our time of surrender with confidence that God is with us and we are with God. Resting with God. Knowing.



We may think we are the only ones with disasters stacked on top of disasters in our lives; however when we read the Bible we realize we don’t have a corner on the market. From cover to cover, The Bible relates stories about people who lived with the good and bad in their lives. It tells stories of their search for God and gives us clues for our sacred walk. A good example is David, warrior, musician, the gifted soother for King Saul. David had everything, and this made Saul jealous. It was a sad relationship, because they needed each other, even loved each other. The relationship turned lopsided as Saul became more and more off-center.

            To get away from Saul, David ended up hiding in a cave. He wrote this song about hiding in that cave:

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul

takes refuge.

I will take refuge in the shadow of

your wings

until the disaster has passed.

                                    Psalm 57:1 (NIV)

            Hiding in a cave may not seem much like fighting for your life, but in this case David dealt with Saul that way. The “wings of God” can be symbolized many ways that might be difficult to understand, but the shadow of those wings affords the shade of protection, a corner place or cave where a person can just lie in peace and be covered by God. If you are feeling unwell (rather than being chased by people with swords), a hammock, chaise lounge, bed, rocking chair or perhaps just lying under a shade tree can provide strength, especially if the shadow of God’s wings protects and engulfs you. And it does.

            It is a tremendous refuge to say, “Cover me with your shadow, God.”

I will take refuge in the shadow of

your wings

until the disaster has passed.

                                    Psalm 57:1 (NIV)



If you’re near a school when the children start for home, you may notice some children glancing at a certain house more than others.  That house may have a symbol in the window or a mark on the mailbox. Neighborhood children know the symbol means “safe house,” or in some areas, it is called “safe sanctuary.” Inside that house is an at-home parent willing to have their house designated as safe for a child who has met trouble on the way home from school. All that child has to do is run to the door and pound, the door will be opened and the child runs into sheltering arms or a sheltering place.

            As adults in trouble with ourselves for any reason, we have a “safe house” in God where we can pound on the door with doubt, pain, questions, laments, fears – all issues of the soul – and find safe refuge.

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul

takes refuge.

I will take refuge in the shadow of

your wings

until the disaster has passed.

                        Psalm 57:1 (NIV)



Gotta bellyache?

            Some people give you a bellyache. Some pills give you a bellyache. Some diseases give you a bellyache. Some treatments make you sick to your stomach. Even care-giving can promote a bellyache.

            If you think YOU have a bellyache, just think for a minute about the big fish in the Bible who was unfortunate enough to swallow Jonah. In a matter of seconds, Big Fish suffered a bad case of acid reflux that would have benefited from the purple pills Prilosec or Nexium.  Had those pills been available, Jonah could have been spit out much sooner.  As it was, the poor Big Fish had to endure Jonah’s agitation in his belly for three days and nights. Having a whole rebellious man rumbling and grumbling around down there in his dissatisfied way was worse than a gall-bladder attack.

            Imagine the relief when Big Fish burped up Jonah and swam away with a calm, empty stomach, one that was aching only for a good meal of stinky old fish.

            Now, think about it. There is something to be thankful for – the relief of a calm stomach. Thankfulness comes in all sizes, so be thankful for even the smallest stomach blessing.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

                                    Psalm 118:1 (NIV)



It hurts. Your foot, your knee, your head, the roots of your hair, your stomach, your big toe. If you are a caregiver, it hurts just to watch someone you love hurt. Ouch! God, why have you allowed this? Why have you not taken this away as I requested?

            It’s hard to be polite and patient with God in desperate troubled times when the formalities of religion don‘t show our desired results. The Bible is filled with stories of persons who felt the same way. We are connected to them. Many of the psalms teach us that the practice of lament may be good for us when we call upon God and name our disappointments. At least we are still speaking to God when we let him know that we need help, and no one else can give us the kind of help we need. Sometimes just the practice of lament and describing to God the event that is twisting and turning your life inside out helps you focus on what God is telling you.

            There’s value in bewailing your situation. Jews do it all the time at the “Wailing Wall” in the old city of Jerusalem. Lamenting a hurting situation provides a kind of freedom of dissatisfaction, and lets you get your feelings out in the open.

            Lamenting can also provide a framework for a backward look at God’s loving actions in the past. And it’s a reality check that in turn gives hope for God’s loving action and presence in the future.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

                                    Psalm 13:1-2 (NIV)

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.

                                    Psalm 13:5-6 (NIV)



Some beds are too hard. Lying on them makes you come out flat as a four by six from the lumberyard. It’s so real you may get splinters. But some beds are too soft.

            Some beds are so lumpy they feel like pancake batter with huge risen air pockets.

            Some beds are so high off the floor they seem designed to make you fall over should you be brave enough to climb out. Then you really need a bed when your leg is broken and you have to be in traction for a month.

            When you’re sick, your bed is lonely ‘cause no one wants to sleep with you for fear of disturbing you.  It’s true they could disturb you, especially if they snore so loudly, or the bedside table loses its screws and the light bulb rattles in the lamp socket.

            Some beds are near a window where cold air pours on you. You get so cold your toenails turn blue and little icicles form on your ear lobes.

            Some beds are near the heat vent, and you get so hot you shuck your clothes and embarrass the nurses. It works. They run giggling from the room and turn down the thermostat.

            Some beds are disgusting because people keep coming in to smooth the sheets and tuck you in when, in fact, you haven’t enjoyed being tucked in since you were seven years old.

            Some beds are just disgusting because you have to be there.

            Some beds are appreciated because the tired old body just wants to feel something horizontal and soft. Give thanks. A bed is a blessing.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

                                    Psalm 118:1 (NIV)



On a hot summer day in Kansas, Grandma Wikle could pull a big bucket of water from deep down the well. She poured the fresh, cold water into a bucket, and offered me a drink from the long-handled dipper. It was the most satisfying and simple drink I ever had.

            These days, getting a drink requires decision-making.  Will it be Aquarena, Ozarka, Sparklett, Aguavitt, Perier, or sparkling lemon?

Over ice or room temperature?  Glass or plastic bottle? Twist of lemon?

            Water decisions are also called for when you are sick in bed. Straw? Ice? Cold?  When the water gets warm, do I call a busy person from their task to get some ice?  Shall I really bother them for such a luxury?  The doctor says I need fluids, so should I really yell, “Hey, get in here with some ice?”  Decisions! Decisions! It’s just water, but it’s also decisions.

            Anyway you look at it, when you’re thirsty in bed drinking is a challenge. Leaning up on one elbow to sip water through a straw takes energy, but the reward to a parched mouth is like finding an oasis in the desert. Is it any wonder that the Bible repeatedly  tells us that God provides refreshing, living water of the spirit for quenching and cleansing? And is it any wonder that the Bible shows us that a person who belongs to God is also like an oasis, like fresh water, refreshing to God? Decisions. Decisions. Can you recognize the oasis and take the drink?

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.

                                                            John 7: 37-38: (NIV)

For water and its quenching power, give thanks. For Jesus and his quenching power, give thanks.



Often when the body is tired and must rest, the mind keeps spinning on and on. The spin may be pleasant, a sort of replaying of happy memories, or it may slip into rehashing problems we could never solve even when we had more energy and were feeling better. There’s good news and bad news about mind-spinning. The bad news is that it can be a mind loop used to hit you in the head or heart over and over. Guilt and bad vibes ensue. Now comes the good news, coming straight out of both the Old and New Testaments. There’s water, water everywhere to wash away the guilt. Biblical priests ritually washed themselves after making sacrifices, and they also splashed water over the sacrifical altar to wash it clean.

            The life and death of Jesus splashes water over us to wash us clean. If you wake up in the night spinning, be sure to remember to hand your mind-spins over to the one in charge of forgiveness who has already forgiven you before you asked.

Everyone who drinks this water (from the Samaritan well, faucet or bottle) will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

                                   John 4:13-14 (NIV)




If Mary, mother of Jesus, had been writing thank you notes, the first one would have gone express mail to the Magi. Herod the Great who was out to get the powerful kid in diapers, asked the three kings who had been seeking the infant Jesus to report back to him after they found his birthplace. Had they done this, the course of history would have been different. The three wise men proved they were indeed wise because they did not report back and were wise enough to go home by a different route to avoid Herod. The life of Jesus was saved. Many gifts are like that of the Magi – unnoticed, unknown or unappreciated until later, perhaps never.

            Being sick has some pretty yucky gifts that, seen in a different light, might really be gifts we can appreciate now or LATER—

  • Disgusting medicines that taste like tar, dirt and sage, but help the illness or ease pain.
  • Shots and infusions that sting and swell but treat the base problem.
  • Bedpans (either cold or warm) that let a person not stir out of the bed cocoon.
  • Wheelchairs or walkers that remind one of weakness but allow a person to remain somewhat mobile.
  • Relatives and friends who come to cheer you and stay on and on and on and on, but they cared enough to come.

All gifts, including the yucky ones can be celebrated more easily if you wear the mantle of thanksgiving like a bathrobe around you, belted and with the collar comfortably turned up.

 And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him.  Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him.  See that you go on growing in the Lord and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. LET YOUR LIVES OVERFLOW WITH JOY AND THANKSGIVING FOR ALL HE HAS DONE

                                    Colossians 2:6-7 (The LB)



Animals, birds and people want to own what’s theirs and stake out their territories thus establishing personal boundaries for themselves AND others. Bob and I sat on the beach watching breakers wash up sand dollars and scallop shells. Baby crabs and other marine life washed onto the sand as the water lapped nearer and nearer our feet.

            We had staked out our territory with a couple of yard chairs, using an ice chest between us for parking our soft drinks and sandwiches. In front of us on the sand, small shore birds vied for the marine goodies deposited by the gulf waters. A scrappy sandpiper chased other birds away, actually nudging them and giving a disgusted sounding bird snort we interpreted as an order to get out of his territory.  The intruders left but kept coming back. He spent so much time guarding his territory that he didn’t have time to eat the tender morsels waiting on his patch of sand. This went on for hours until the sandpiper was exhausted, and we watched him move slower and slower. Tired and still hungry, he had defended his territory.

            This has happened to me when I’ve been sick. Losing one’s independence and having others invade personal territory is not easy, however I soon found that asking for personal time and space was a necessity, especially in rehab.  Otherwise, I’d fume and smoke inside until finally my mouth spewed regrettable words. Finding the right, cheerful and not demanding words to establish a personal boundary on place, time and emotions may be the difficult task. What helped me most was working on a spirit of thankfulness, giving thanks for the help of those invading my space. Without that help I could have been much sicker and more uncomfortable.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything: tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.

                                                Philippians 4:6-7 (The) LB



Who knows where camp cooks get their menus? Do they just let the cookbook fall open to a recipe, or does someone pay college tuition in rice or cabbage? I watched a teenager at camp play with her sauerkraut, forking it up in stringy bits but unable to actually put it in her mouth.  She couldn’t make it palatable, and there was nothing else to eat, so she decided to make it silly. After pouring great globs of honey over it, she quickly forked it mouth after mouthful until the plate was empty.

            Sometimes in the middle of the night when the kitchen is closed, we have to get creative and make it silly, just eat anything at hand. For me, it’s goldfish crackers. Even a cough drop tastes good when the thrill of food can’t be satisfied or your swallowing is out of whack.

            Illness brings with it many kinds of hunger, sometimes for special food, or sometimes for a different life. Often there is an aching hunger for one’s old self back, just a longing to turn back the clock and start over. When that’s impossible, we may just have to deal with it and try to make it silly instead of palatable. My mother-in-law, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, found that her memory failed her. She’d laugh and say, “Oh, the hearse door came open and I fell out.” Everyone laughed and she would later remember what she wanted to say. Its like honey on sauerkraut – silly.  Humor gets us through a lot and helps keep things in perspective.

            Other hungers (not at all silly) prod our memories as we reach back for scripture promises that tell us God can quench our spiritual hungers and tell us that Jesus walks with us through the scary woods. Its great, good news that our spiritual formation lasts forever! With serious illness, the menu changes every day, sometimes from hour to hour. Take a little silliness with you on the Jesus walk as you look forward in your spiritual journey.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

                                    John 6:35 (NIV)



One of the really stormy things about illness is fatigue. Utter tiredness to the marrow of your bones makes your body feel soft one minute and tensed like a rubber band the next. So much energy is spent trying to cope that life gets out of focus.

            Things in life get blurred; such as the way you see trees or cats and dogs, and the way you interpret what people say to you. Imagination gets out of bounds when the way we think moves from straight lines to diagonal to squiggly lines that look like a mockingbird sitting on a windy power line.

            Just at the time when life gets out of focus and you need him most, it may seem that even the picture of Jesus gets blurred. The Technicolor picture of the essence of Jesus may begin to look like a wet, tilted, washed out watercolor. In your mind, his eyes, nose and mouth all run together, and you can’t picture him teaching the disciples or praying in the garden, healing the man lowered through the roof, and surely you can’t picture him holding your hand.

             Try the following picture in blurred watercolors, and don’t worry if the lines are unclear. Just feel the cool, washing waves.

            Imagine the disciples in a boat three or four miles out from shore when a blustery wind whips their ship back and forth and drenching waves are so high they fear for their lives. When they see a blurred object on the water, they are terrified thinking it is a ghost. Then they realize it is Jesus walking on the water. They invite him aboard their tossing boat, they are calmed, the winds calm and they row to the other side.

             In a storm, especially if life is blurred by fatigue, it’s important to invite Jesus aboard even if the Jesus picture is blurred. Then it is possible to follow the psalmist’s advice about hushing inner turmoil:

Be still (hush up, quit fretting, blaming, figuring and trying to focus) and know that I am God.

                                                                        Psalm 46:10 (AKJ)

If you feel like reading further, find the story of Jesus and the disciples with a storm.  Matthew 14:22-33.



When we are young, we spend our time trying to figure out the future. As we get older, perhaps even into “chronologically enhanced,” we spend our time looking back to figure out the past. These are normal life tasks, so we shouldn’t fret about them, but human nature dictates our quest for who we are and where we have been and what it all means. It helps to remember that psychologists and theologians for decades have been studying life ages, stages and patterns of learning and understanding. Even the experts tell us to learn from the past but to move on without dwelling on it.

            As an adult, young or old, it is easy to fall into a pattern of evaluation, perhaps regret that makes us always on the edge of being edgy. We may blame, question, fret, question, blame, re-evaluate and we may ask God “why this”, and “why that” as we try to solve all our big life questions. We can get so worked up about it that we miss the joy of living. In illness, it is important to stop the question, “Why me?” and scramble as fast as we can to, “Now what? Where do I go from here and who goes with me?”

            The psalmist suggests that we should be still, hush up and know God is in the answers to our what, where and who questions about life and death. Notice that “who” unscrambled can be translated into “how.”

Be still (hush up, quit fretting, blaming, figuring and trying to focus) and know that I am God.

                          Psalm 46:10 (NIV)



Did you ever dream of running away with the circus? During the depression, kids in our neighborhood spent a lot of time with pretend games that cost nothing. Circus was one of them. We had a rusty oil drum with straight sides that we could roll on level ground. The person who could balance and walk on the barrel the longest time and the farthest distance became the real champion circus performer. Neighborhood competition got tough. Our family secret was to find the smoothest part of the yard for walking the barrel when WE competed. What we needed was level ground.

            Don’t we all?  Don’t we wish life would smooth itself out like a piece of silk stretched across a table with no creases? There’d be no stumbling, falling, fading, and, best of all, no ups and downs. Well, whoop-de-do, that will never happen. However, there is One who can lead us as though walking on level ground. If God doesn’t make the ground level, He can make it seem as if the grooves are gone by the loving and unfailing way He accompanies us. That’s why I love this scripture:

Let the morning bring me

            word of your unfailing love,

            for I have put my trust in you.

Show me the way I should go,

            for to you I lift up my soul.

Rescue me from my enemies,

            O Lord,

            for I hide myself in you.

Teach me to do your will,

            for you are my God;



                        Psalm 143:8-10 (NIV)




People who live in the mountains expect mountains. People who live on the plains expect level ground. Take them out of their habitat, and they long for where they came from. We are a lot like that when we can’t do what we want to RIGHT NOW. We want to get on the highway and get going to where WE want to go. We want to do the normal, routine, ordinary, accustomed thing much like driving down Main Street with traffic lights set just right.

            What if the Main Street is all torn up for repairs or there are potholes or there are detours or we suddenly find us confronted by mountains or even just hills? What if there is no level ground, no pavement, and just rocky hills? What if all the roads seem to lead the wrong direction, none of them where WE want to go? What if, what if, what if?  The what ifs turn into a funnel cloud, a cyclone that threatens to take the roof away from our house?  There’s no formula answer. But trusting God to show the answer gets us through and takes the huff out of the cyclone when we move with assurance that God will lead the way to level ground even if Main Street is uneven.

Let the morning bring me

            word of your unfailing love,

            for I have put my trust in you.

Show me the way I should go,

            for to you I lift up my soul.

Rescue me from my enemies,

            O Lord,

            for I hide myself in you.

Teach me to do your will,

            for you are my God;



                                    Psalm 143:8-10 (NIV)



In the Bible, God’s man, Jeremiah, was not an easy man to listen to. Although he was right in what he said, Jeremiah was a pessimist with persistence. His story goes to show that God trusts us to use our gifts and lets us do it our way. God apparently told Jeremiah what to say but neglected to instruct him on tactful ways to say it. Citizens and officials thought he resembled a pebble in their sandals that just would not go away and constantly wore blisters that made their feet sore. Is it any wonder that officials wanted to be rid of him?  They imprisoned and beat him, even had him thrown in a dungeon, but his mouth just wouldn’t shut up. So lacking the nerve to kill him outright, they just threw him in a cistern. Lucky for Jeremiah, there was no water so he didn’t drown.  Unlucky for Jeremiah, the cistern had LOTS of mud and he mired down to his armpits and was left stuck there to starve. Lucky for Jeremiah, some soldiers rescued him by carefully padding his arms with cloth and hoisting him out of the bell-shaped hole.

            Everyone falls in a hole in the ground once in a while, often from circumstances not of our making. The holes keep us captive, sometimes starving the zest from our lives. Perhaps it’s an old indiscretion, or words we regret the rest of our lives, or a serious inaction, or being unjustly rebuffed, or a physical or mental illness that will not go away. Everyone gets mired down in the mud at the bottom of the hole. Everyone has mud.  You have yours. What is it?

            A line from one of Jeremiah’s dreams may give you direction for being carefully lifted out of the cistern-hole in the ground: “I (God) will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. (31:26). Other mud  may need a reality check on ourselves and stabs and jabs at forgiveness requiring different measures such as Jesus’ words.

This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

                                                Matthew 26:28 (NIV)



Remember your middle school days when you played tug of war? Two teams grabbed opposite ends of a long rope. The object was for one team to pull the other team over a line or over into a mud puddle. Sometimes rain had made the ground slippery, and the deciding factor would be a tree root or a rock that would provide solid footing. Find a tree root sticking out of the ground, and you had a firm place to stand, and your team stopped slipping and sliding. You won! Team cheers broke out. The rest of the day was spent bragging.

            The psalmist does not depict an event like this as competition, but the tug of war picture comes to mind as a person struggles to find the solid footing that will let him or her stand upright in a fight with cancer. I have often thought of depression as being the mud and mire holding a person where they don’t want to be. There are other kinds of mud. Everyone’s mud has different colors and consistencies, some slick, some thick and some undefined and perhaps just a feeling of being sucked down.

            Tree roots come in all sizes and shapes, too. For one person an anti-slip root might be medication, for another, the kindness of one person, or an unexpected phone call or visit. Shared struggles with a companion under the same diagnosis or treatment often give someone a roothold.

            Some people clutch a caregiver (the root that keeps them from slipping) so tightly that it becomes a stranglehold. Suddenly they may realize their domination and reach for another foothold in their illness tug of war.

            The importance of persons and things that can be touched and held on to is not to be diminished, but as the psalmist tells us, the big-time root and rock in a cancer tug of war is an action by a loving God. Such a God knows of the tug of war going on for our life and/or our peace of mind. Always there, this loving God gives us a place to stand, a root on the slippery path where this God grabs us around the waist and holds on to us, never letting go.

            We can ask people, “Whose side are you on, anyway?” and get a disappointing answer.  We ask God the same question and learn that God is always on our side in the midst of joy, sorrow and trouble.

I waited patiently for the Lord;

            he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

            out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock

            and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,

            a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear

            and put their trust in the Lord.

                                    Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV)



Parents do not see mud the same way a kid does. They see it as something dirty tracked in on shoes, so they yell, “Stop right there and wipe your feet!”  Or they see it as a slippery place on the path to be avoided. Or they see it on a kid’s hands, just something to be washed off before the kid dares touch that peanut butter sandwich or the clean towel.

            A kid sees a muddy hole as a means of tactile expression, just something that would ooze between his toes and seep up to cover his feet while feeling outstandingly pleasurable. A little, tiny kid sees mud as food – to be eaten plain or made into beautiful pies and cakes or fruit shapes. Mud pies are the tactile let’s pretend of a grown up’s escape mechanism when imagination needs to take over to redefine something.

            Mud pies are taking a dirty old mess and with imagination making it into something else

            I told a Jesus parable with a similar meaning to my Sunday school class. It goes like this: A shepherd had a hundred sheep. When he noticed one was missing, he took the time to go looking for it. When he finally found it, he put it on his shoulders and carried it back to the flock, rejoicing all the way. (Luke 15:3-7)

            One of my students asked a brilliant question: “Why would anyone want to carry a dirty old sheep?”  The story is about God’s great love for every muddy, insignificant person, a love that makes them significant. Beyond that, important!  The story is also about how God’s great love can take a dirty old mess and make it into something better. The story is about repentance and going into the sheepfold as God’s child.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me

               beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff

                they comfort me.

                                                Psalm 23:1-4 (NIV)








In this day of audiotapes and CDs when we can plug into our cars or walk-around earphones, we take for granted our choices of music and books. We think audiotapes and CDs are a recent invention just for us, but a similar thing has been going on for years and years. There have always been readers who could read for listeners.

            Hundreds of workers in Tampa, Florida’s cigar factories became educated and entertained as they labored day after day making the famous Tampa Cigars. They sat at tables in huge warehouses meticulously rolling tobacco leaves day after day after day. Their jobs were boring, and the nicotine absorbed into their fingers.

            Each warehouse had a reader whose job it was to educate and entertain the workers.  Each morning he read the news and commentary on the news, and each afternoon he read a novel. Day after day he engaged the minds of workers. This method of personal education so novel in its time was thought up by a smart industrialist who cared both about productivity and the people who worked for him.

            Having someone read to you can be a blessing. The next time you are too tired to read, ask someone to read Psalm 103 while you listen for the familiar attributes and benefits of God:

  • forgives sins
  • heals diseases
  • redeems
  • crowns you with love and compassion
  • satisfies your desires
  • works righteousness and justice
  • is compassionate and gracious
  • is slow to anger
  • abounds in love
  • will not always accuse
  • will not harbor anger
  • knows how we are formed
  • remembers that we are dust
  • provides us with love

Or have someone read inspirational stories from the Bible or magazines.



Around the world, corporation heads meet to plan the futures of their companies. Some of their subordinates bring in flow charts, others show futuristic bar graphs on projected power point and still others hand out attractively printed and bound information on how these plans will be brought to fruition.

              We do the same thing on a smaller scale in our lives when we celebrate the beginning of a new year. Christians also take life inventories and make spiritual penance and projections during the season of lent, ver sacrum, or holy spring. They plan how their new and sacred insights will be mirrored in their futures.

              When we try to apply the “plan” word to how God created the world and still creates today, our minds often cannot take in every detail. Without dwelling on details, however, we can concentrate on the fact that God lovingly created the world with dependable laws that keep the earth in order. God also created us with free will, which of course gets us into trouble from time to time, but, nevertheless, allows us to choose how we will live our lives.

              It’s an hour-by-hour and day-by-day choice. We can choose to absorb God’s steadfast love and mirror that love to others to the best of our abilities. We aren’t excused from making this choice just because we aren’t feeling too well. This may not be good news to us when we are in the throes of necessary self-absorption of our illness. In spite of our illness, we have to rethink the ways we mirror God’s love wherever opportunities present themselves, Where we are is certainly new every day as illness takes new twists and turns and the treatment of it squashes our previous plans. It’s back to “the old drawing board” once again as we make choices. Feeling “poorly,” rather than being an excuse, then becomes the opportunity of choice.

Give thanks to the Lord, for

            he is good;

            his love endures forever.

                                                Psalms 118:1 (NIV)

Also, read Psalm 17:7, I Corinthians 15:58.



Making plans during chemo or any of a million illnesses can be like riding the surf off the coast of California. One day the ride looks clear, blue, exhilarating and the next day we get swamped into the foam. Other days may even find us on the verge of drowning until the lifeguard pulls us choking onto the sand. So much for the plan of becoming a real surf dude. It’s time for an alternate plan.

              Moses was a man of alternate plans. I often wish he had written his autobiography so we would know what HIS real plans were if he had any. As a kid he could not have known that God would reveal him-self by name personally. He probably didn’t plan to leave Egypt, surely would never have thought to plan hearing a voice from a bush that was on fire, and once he almost made it to the Promised Land, would never have planned to camp out on Mt. Pisgah without crossing over into the Promised Land. Moses seems to have been the master of alternate plans. The fact that he listened to God aided him in making his life free form for God, a life with twists and turns he could never have planned.

              Help comes to us when we have to make alternate plans. A door opens here, a window opens there, a new person comes to us, we look at our surroundings with new eyes, we find comfort in holding a pewter cross, we see God in a child’s eyes, we receive direction from an unusual source, and we can acknowledge God in all of these options. Each day becomes an alternate plan where God puts a hand on our shoulder or points us to a door or window or. . . . .

              Curious and unsuspecting Moses investigated the strange burning bush:

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

                                    Exodus 3:4 (NIV)

It may not be a burning bush experience, but every day God calls our name and we get the chance to say, “Here I am” as open doors and alternate windows come before us.

Add note of where to read the above experiences.




Every year when the LL Bean Sports apparel catalog comes in the mail, I take time to get inspired by it. I suddenly think big!  I could wear a bikini. I could order ski bibs. I could swim. I could ski. I could dive. I could bike. In short, I immediately get carried away with thinking I’m athletic. Such folly! I get tired just from watching the gymnastic competition on television, and sometimes the most strenuous activity I can take is plugging in the charger on my electric wheelchair.

              We all live with such follies. They are the daydreams of our well selves, and, let’s not kid ourselves, even if we weren’t in chemo or weren’t suffering a chronic illness we really couldn’t do most of those things anyway. A reality check makes us laugh at our folly while we search for what we CAN do.

              What we can do may take courage and determination. It may range from writing notes, making phone calls, walking, learning to put our heads down instead of throwing up or simply sitting on the patio watching a snail crawl towards our favorite plant. The determination may force us to rest, rest, and rest while we encourage our bodies to do their work when we would rather be gardening or planning a trip. Or the determination may squeeze us out of bed to a favorite chair where we can look at a photo album and spend the morning in remembering.

              I hate reality checks sometimes because they require first complete honesty and then determination to do something about what we discover. God helps us with the reality check and the determination to keep on. And for centuries, God helped people stay the course with determination. It says so in the Bible. And composers wrote songs to encourage such determination.

O God our help in ages past,

our hope for years to come.

our shelter from the stormy blast,

and our eternal home! (The United Methodist Hymnal, 117)



The apostle Paul, one of my favorite heroes, just kept going and going in spite of the “thorn in my side” he mentioned which was probably an illness or perhaps bowed legs or epilepsy. In the face of many change-charged events including the “thorn,” whatever it was, he showed serious courage and learned to reallocate his energy. Since the Bible doesn’t mention his particular thorn, we must assume that he didn’t dwell on it, rather viewed himself as a person rather than a “thorn in my side.”

              Although not on chemo, I think of Paul sitting in house arrest wishing he could be out traveling and spreading the good news. In the act of reallocating his energy, he just wrote simple letters to the friends who were in church clusters he had started. How surprised he would be to know that we read those letters today.

              Although he was not on chemo, I think of him as bald-headed, so his hair fell out, too – perhaps not by the handful. Probably no one noticed when his hair thinned. Turbans, hats and bald heads are so IN today, it’s possible no one will notice when your chemo hair falls out.  Still, it’s a grief situation requiring serious determination and courage for appearing in public.

              Another thing about Paul that doesn’t qualify him for the chemo club: he didn’t lose a breast to cancer! However, I suspect that if he had lost a body part, being who he was, he would have faced it with determination, courage and reallocation of energy.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. . .

                        Romans 8:26 (NIV)



On the freeway, I often pass a big sign that says, “Self Storage,” and underneath in smaller letters it says, “climate controlled.” Self-storage units are springing up everywhere as people assemble assortments of THINGS they really don’t need but can’t seem to discard. Most units or cells are on a firm foundation of concrete with metal frames painted hot pink or lavender to catch your attention. After you pay your deposit, you pull down the metal door and place your own lock on it to keep everything secure.

              Wouldn’t it be nice if we could put ourselves into a “self storage” cell until we change or “grow up”? We could emerge as a compassionate, self-assured and reliable person.  Or wouldn’t it be nice if we could store ourselves until the present crisis in our lives has passed? We could later emerge relaxed and physically or mentally well. We would have pink cheeks and long hair and smiles. Our caregiver could open the padlock, grab the handle and slide the door up and meet a fresh, new person. If this self-storage improvement ever catches on, I’ll be first in line to sign a lease, and my caregiver will find a good lock for the magic door.

              Truth is that there are no magic doors. Just reality. Dealing with a crisis health event is hard, hard, serious work requiring serious courage. While we are reallocating energy, it wouldn’t hurt to have a chuckle imagining ourselves emerging from behind the lavender magic door. Imagine yourself as the perfect finished product coming out of “self storage” into the waiting arms of your liberator. How would you present yourself? Personally, I want curly hair and a small waist. And I want to never talk out of turn or be in a wheelchair.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life;

you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes,

with your right hand you save me.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;

your love, O Lord, endures forever—

do not abandon the works of your hands.

                        Psalm 138:7-8 (NIV)



When our house was flooded under water and left standing in several feet of mud, we power washed and stored the few belongings the flood left us in a rented five-by-five self-storage unit. Every time I drove to the self-storage unit to retrieve something, in my mind I’d see the contents ready to use.  Every time we unlocked the door to retrieve a hat rack or rattan chair I was disappointed. As if by magic dirt had reappeared, and we had to rewash, brush, rewash and dry the object. Oh, no! I just did that three weeks ago, two months ago.

              Cancer, its side effects and medications often force us into inactivity. While we are “laid by” there is time to think about the power wash or rewash process. We have opportunity to reevaluate, spend time in meditation, practice “resting in the Lord,” (something we planned to do when were weren’t so busy), and brush the dust off our Bibles as well as some of our life practices.  We have time to surrender ourselves for a cleansing wash. Illness does not afford an excuse so much as an opportunity to clean up our acts and grow in your faith journey. What a great adventure this can be.

              Too fatigued to tackle this? Procrastinate. Your chance will appear and a time will come to think about life. For now, the Lord invites you to rest and rest in his strength.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

              Ephesians 6:17-18 (NIV)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith –and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

                        Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

                        Paul writing from prison



The odds are stacked against babies ever learning to walk. Their legs are made of rubber and have wadded diapers between them. Everything is taller than they are, and the furniture they want to pull up on has been polished to a slippery sheen. Frustration makes them grunt and groan. Their faces turn red. They fall down and skin their elbows, chins and knees. How do they ever overcome frustration to achieve success? They go for the prize. They want to walk like Mom and Dad or big brother. Determination drives them to a formula that works. In the long run, all that frustration pays off, and they learn to walk then run.

              If you think the odds are stacked against you while doing chemo or recovering from a long illness, just think about the babies’ skinned chin bleeding on the coffee table. Then later watch him run around the yard chasing a butterfly. Determination can drive you through the nicks and scrapes, hair loss, nausea and aborted plans to a better time. Frustration can be overcome or endured with God’s help. Along the way, new coping mechanisms may be discovered.

Some biblical frustrations to think about:

*Sarah had a baby when she was ninety. Frustration event: night feedings aren’t easy even when you’re young. Abraham probably did not help.

*Moses experienced a lifelong struggle in rescuing the Hebrews and getting the living commandments. Frustration event: He didn’t get to set foot in the Promised Land.

*Samuel’s mother promised him to God and took him as a child to live with the priest. Frustration event: She must have missed him and said, “Why did I say I would do this?”

*Jesus spent his life teaching people about God, a loving Father and showing by his life what that teaching meant. Frustration event: He was misunderstood and his teachings didn’t catch on with several of the groups he came to save.



I never see haloes hovering over the parking lot where doctors park their cars. No angels there either. Some doctors are angels, of course, but not all. Right up there on a frustration scale with health insurance records sits the occasional doctor who doesn’t hear you. The one who is busy with his or her stockbroker, pilot’s license, research project or whose mind is busy with the patient in the next cubicle who is much sicker than you. However, it is your body and your time and your money, so you fume. Hot vapor collects behind your eyes and your stomach feels like a bowling ball.

              You begin to seek revenge. Someone said you should have hope when you have cancer, so you work on hope.  You hope your doctor’s cat has fur balls. You hope your doctor has four flat tires after he spills gravy on his best tie. You hope the power goes out on the elevator in her building as she heads out for the golf course. You hope his clothes get so loose they fall off in public. You hope everyone stares at her baldhead after her hair falls out while she is making a speech. You hope the red light gets stuck and keeps him waiting at the intersection for two hours. You hope that as she walks in the front door her children greet her with, “And how are WE today?”

              Hope can be a two-edged sword cutting into the humor of revenge thoughts and balanced by trying to find a “knowing,” a knowing that things will eventually level out, a knowing that somewhere inside cancer treatment you are still the person it says on your birth certificate, a knowing that God is love and so are you. To be honest, I guess there is a knowing that you aren’t a bad person just because your humor made you hope the doctor’s cat has fur balls.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

                                    Romans 12:12 (NIV)


Living in the city sometimes restricts one’s view. If you live in a home, a fence allows privacy at the back patio, and you hang curtains to block the neighbor’s view of what you are doing. The curtains also close the view so a burglar can’t see you or what you have that’s worth stealing.

              If you’re an apartment dweller living in even closer proximity to invasion of privacy, you might install extra locks on the doors, especially connecting balcony doors.

              A country dweller may depend on motion activated sensor lights to warn them of intruders or may have big dogs with names like Fang or Wolf or Buster.

              For all of us, personal privacy and our own space is an important part of daily living. Our private space is our haven whether it’s a house, a room or just a corner of a room where we have a chair and are surrounded by our books or whatever is precious to us.

              When we are sick, we may tend to secure ourselves away in privacy, close the curtains, lock the door and set our watchdog outside the door. We don’t want to answer questions or eat Aunt Minnie’s chicken soup. We want to be left alone and choose the way we use our energy whether it is to close our eyes against the medicine induced waves of lines in front of us, or just read a book or listen to music.

              There are times when complete privacy is really important to our well being, times when we don’t have the energy to talk. When we do this, however, it’s important to remember that we don’t hide from God. We are never truly alone. God is calling our name. And we always entertain the possibility that God will present himself in skin- in the form of a man, woman, child or pet – sent to be a comforter.

“Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord. (NIV)

              Jeremiah 23:24



I’m not fond of crows, yet they may be the smartest of our American birds. You have to admire their daring. They are skillful criminals, stealing anything they can from your garden before you pour your first cup of coffee in the morning.  They are group oriented; in fact it is “them against the world.” One of them is always a sentinel ready to give the group a noisy alarm when danger approaches.

              Most birds escape danger because they are small and camouflaged, but crows are handicapped by their large size and obvious black color. They are tough, intelligent and resourceful, and thrive because they are adaptable and able to live by their wits.

              Crows may be good role models for us when we are handicapped in health or appearance or attitude. Their raucous caws can serve as reminders to be tough, resourceful, adaptable and live by our wits.

              When we follow God’s rules for living, we often thrive in spite of ourselves. When the Judeans were carried as captives to Babylonia, they despaired of ever again thriving because their God lived in their beloved Jerusalem. They were, however, adaptable, and in captivity lived by their wits coming to a new understanding of God’s presence away from their beloved land and temple. What a surprise to discover that God had gone with them to a foreign land! They and Jeremiah, who had stayed behind in Jerusalem, discovered the power of individual religion, and they found that God was with them wherever they went.

              Being captive of cancer causes us to use our wits and become inventive in the way we thrive. It’s normal to have despair, but in the midst of despair we may be surprised to discover ourselves hoping, healing and becoming optimistic. Just because we are captive doesn’t mean God was left behind in another land – the one before we started our walk in the scary wood.

 Closer is he than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet expresses Jeremiah’s conviction that God is with the individual in any circumstances, any walk of life, and any geographical location.1

                It works like that sometimes. The experience of being captive of an illness often opens new doors of understanding and relationship with God.  I guess God can’t get any closer than breathing and hands and feet. What an adventurous way to thrive!

You can read the story  of how the Judeans made new discoveries about their God in Kings and Chronicles. And, some very good advice was told by Jeremiah:

               “This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

                                                   Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)

It took the Judeans a while to believe it, but they finally got the picture. It may take a while, but we can get it, too.



When a kid’s feet grow and a parent buys him new shoes, it is sometimes a mixed blessing. The new shoes are bigger – longer and heavier – causing him to stumble over his own feet. We say he is growing so fast, he is clumsy, but I say he is stumbling over his shoes because he is growing. That’s better than keeping the old shoes that pinch his toes and scrunch up the instep.

              Faith growth lasts a lifetime, and sometimes we stumble over ourselves when we discard or build on old beliefs that pinch and scrunch up our souls. Illness makes us think. We test then reach out to establish or reestablish beliefs. It takes time, and we have to work at it. Work may be the wrong word. Struggle? Step out on adventure? Study? Meditate? Test it with friend? Or maybe a combination of all of these.

            If you feel that your toes are all scrunched up in faith shoes that are too tight, dare to adventure into and explore new ideas. Dare to study the Bible every day or when you physically feel like it. Dare to join a Bible study, and if you can’t find one that is where your needs are, collect a couple of friends and scavenge the Bible for characters, situations and people that speak to you where you are.


Joseph, favorite son of Jacob, was thrown in a pit by his jealous brothers, sold into slavery, later became powerful and helped those who had hurt him. How did he do it? Genesis 37

Paul, author of New Testament letters and formerly known as Saul, felt his toes so tightly scrunched up in his faith shoes that he had to take time off to think about it. Of course, revelations had blinded him, so he hadn’t too much choice. But sometimes our revelations do blind us and we have to open our eyes to new possibilities. You can read the beginning of Paul’s story in Acts 9, but continue through Acts to find out what he did with his new paradigm shift.

            Usually stumbling leads to recovery as we grab something solid to break the fall or work at falling on something soft – a chair, a carpet, grass or bed, a pillow of belief perhaps among other pillows on which we already rested. Any way you stumble is an exciting adventure.


True grit sometimes is just being resolute enough to get out of bed and sit in the recliner all day.  Comfort may be found only in the “L” or “Z” shape of your body as it nestles on a soft nest, and the sacred seat is just in being there.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He lets me lie down in my green recliner. Through someone nearby, He hands me cool, quiet waters to drink. Eventually he restores my soul.

                        A reckless rendition of Psalm 23: 1-3



Christmas carolers sing “Joy to the World” with more gusto than any other carol. The lyrics created by Isaac Watts in 1719 cannot be sung dirge like because of the message they proclaim. Rays of joy are projected everywhere telling the great, good news that the Lord is come. Joy fills every speck of nature and makes the heavens sing. The music, a joint collaboration of George Fredrick Handel and Lowell Mason (who lived one hundred years apart), gave the world a melody that swings from the rafters with joy.

              Every once in a while we can learn something fresh when we read and re-read the words of this carol with new awareness. Every time I read them a new phrase speaks a new message, or a new emotional feeling springs up.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare him room

                                     (Make space every day of the year)


And heaven and nature sing,

And heaven and nature sing,

and heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

                                    (If all nature is singing, shouldn’t we?)


He rules the world with truth and grace

and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness

and (the) wonders of his love, and wonders of his love,

and wonders, wonders of his love.

                          (Look for love wonders all around, every day)

                                      The United Methodist Hymnal, 246






Most mothers teach their children a cultural form of tact. They say to guard your tongue keeping it from saying things like, “You’re fat,” or “Why are you always late?” or “What happened to your hair?” Because Mothers and Fathers spend years teaching children what not to say, it is hard to overcome that teaching, especially in the presence of an awesome God. Losing politeness with God may be hard, but it becomes essential when your true feelings are anger, doubt and disappointment. Sometimes we want to shake our fist and cry out to God, “What is going on with you?” There is nothing wrong with the honesty of the question. Why not name disappointments, and share your angst? After the cargo of laments has been unloaded, why not make clear requests? Honesty with God seems to clear the debris in the sacred path so we can take a better look at it.

           Honesty follow-up requires us to look back at the loving actions of God, often some we never noticed, naming and celebrating them. Don’t be surprised if the follow-up is difficult as lament and honesty are not a ten-minute job. In the end, because God walked in your past, unnoticed or not, that same God will walk with you in the resolution of your crisis.

           Honesty with God and lament are Biblical. It is spread across the book of Psalms as well as found in Lamentations and witnessed in the stories of many Bible characters including Jesus who asked from the cross, “Why have you forsaken me?”

           Although God already knows your angst, the honesty of speaking them in a discussion with God can help, and despite your mother’s admonition to stick to cultural tact, nothing is to be gained by pussyfooting with God. Speak your mind, and thank God for blessings to come.



After a yummy breakfast of pancakes covered with melted butter and warm honey, there is a sweet lingering taste on the tongue, one that sweetens everything. It’s like that with words when you practice honey-talk with those around you. Not a lovey-dovey type of talk, it’s just a pleasant way of addressing people that makes them glad they are in your presence.

           Pleasant words are a healing balm both to the hearer and the sayer. Wise persons speak honey language that delights the soul and keeps one from regrets. The scripture describes words as honeycomb, but I am not sure about the honeycomb part;  that stuff sticks to my teeth. I go for honey.

Pleasant words are a


Sweet to the soul and

     healing to the bones.

               Proverbs 16:24 (NIV)

Reckless words pierce like a sword,

           but the tongue of the wise brings


           Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)






Please don’t kick the cat; he’s scared already.  When things are moving fast, confusion reigns, and we are not quite sure what is going on, frustration makes us lash out at something. If the cat is the only nearby thing, watch out for his claws as he is a fighter. Sometimes the effort of being a fighter in cancer (as said in,  I will knock this thing out) colors our persona leading us to kick the cat or anyone around. Keep your feet to yourself.



Grandma had a quilting friend who sprinkled every sentence with tee-hees. She was cheerful, sunny, helping and sweet, and she was a terrible quilter. On the other hand she always helped wash up the tea cups and dessert plates after the other quilters had hurried home to their own chores. Lucy got on Grandma’s nerves sometimes with her tee-hees on every occasion, but my sister and I thought her wonderful, and began spicing our conversations with the tee hees plus the taa haws that we reserved for the spectacular sentences. Daddy didn’t like it, and our teachers throught it strange, so they put a kibosh on the tee hees, but there was a lesson to be learned from Lucy.

           At night, Lucy never went to bed without looking in the mirror and laughing. She gave herself the gift of laughing at “stuff,” whether it was good or bad. I’ve known some unusual people, one of them a club in west Texas that gave each other belly buttons for Christmas. They vowed to put them in their navels and look in the mirror to stimulate a good belly laugh. Strange, but practical. Whatever it takes, plan time to give out a few teehees and taa haws or maybe a belly laugh. Yes, in a sense, it’s biblical.  The author of the book of Ecclesiastes taught that life without centering on God is meaningless, and he tried to put life into holy perspective, saying there is a time for everything.

            There is a time for everything…..a time to weep and a time to laugh.

                                   Ecclesiastes 3:4 (NIV)

           Skipping over to verse 12, the author says, I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.

           Lucy had the right idea to express a smile at herself all the time, and I guess she also smiled at the gift of God.



It can happen to anyone, that harried, hurried, rushing time when nothing goes right, a time when faith flickers but can reignite in a moment of understanding. After Ondine inherited the raising of her grandchildren, her husband was diagnosed with cancer, her father in a distant state died, and attending the funeral was out of the question. A friend, Marty, asked her how she could keep going. Her answer was, “I hang onto the hem.”

           “The what?”

           “You know that story about Jesus?  I just hang on to the hem of Jesus and never let go. He hangs onto me, too.”

           “But Jesus hasn’t healed John,” Marty said.

           “I know,” Ondine said, “But I hang on for dear life, and the power of Jesus makes my life better. I’m encouraged, and I’m hanging on for myself.”

           Ondine’s story is based on the story of a woman who had tried every other treatment for her disease. The last resort was Jesus.

A woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touced the hem of his garment. For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.

But Jesus turned him about and when he saw her, he said, Daughter be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.

           Matthew 9:20 (KJV)

We cannot discount the many modern faith healings. We give praise and hallelujahs and sober thanks. However, we cannot overlook other ways that Jesus makes us whole. Hanging on to the hem brings assurance, comfort, and radical courage, and puts us in touch with the awesome God of with who accompanies us in all life issues.




It’s not about nausea and weakness and disfigurement as it is about facing the hungry wolf in the woods that might eat you. It’s about the realization that there is no guarantee for the quality of your future, and it’s about the knawing fear that you will no longer exist in this world.

Paul writes in Romans: 8:31: (GNMM)

Faced with all this, what can we say?  If God is for us, who can be against us? He did not even keep back his own Son but offered him for all!

 Paul then continues writing to the Romans. His letter to them reads very much like a treatise of theology but with emphasis on the love of God. He continues with great determination writing about love in Romans 8: 35-39

Who then, can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship, or persecution, or hunger, or poverty, or danger, or death? As the scripture says,

“For your sake we are in danger of death the whole day long,

We are treated like sheep that are going to be slaughtered.”

No, in  all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love; neither death nor life; neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers; neither the present nor the future; neither the world above nor the world below – there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35-39 (GNMM)

Neither life nor death can separate us from God.

Beyond the Christian tradition, there are many names of a single God as a Supreme Being. The nature of the name coming from the Mormon faith or the Hindu faith or Jains will be different. Some stress the love of their God as central while others have a different emphasis.

 Believe it: “God with us” is sprinkled throughout this book like rain on a thirsty garden.





Today’s Word: Believe


Believe it: “God with us” is sprinkled throughout this book like rain on a thirsty garden.


What is required for me to believe that God is actually with me and I am the dusty thirsty garden?  For one thing, at this point in my cancer treatment, I may feel like real dirt. But I may be on a different path. Become intentional. What is required is an awareness, a seeing the world through a lens of a loving God.  The sacred path is an active one, a moving one, and God is with us on this sacred path through cancer. We can


  • Listen for words of love being spoken.

  • Watch for the performance of acts of kindness.

  • Allow streams of conversation that bless the world.

  • Participate in life in such a way that others may know that we know a loving God.





















One tip for staying on the sacred trail when the wolf snarls, is to take music with you. Take the kind you like. Relax. Enjoy.


Do you like the trombone?  Does your kid play the drums? Have you always wanted to play the harmonica? Do you like hymns of the faith or contemporary praise? Do you love blue grass or string quartets? Do your fingers automatically tap on the table, bed, steering wheel when you listen to music?

Music has the power to excite or soothe. It gets down inside you and curls around where it hurts, and in it’s curling has more power to mend than we ever realized. Scientific study has even shown the positive effects of music on the mind, body and spirit including research that showed music strengthens the immune system. Music is often used in cancer treatment to help reduce pain, anxiety, nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. There are more than 5,000 professional music therapists working in health care settings today, many of whom are on cancer management teams. While there are no claims that music therapy can cure any illness, medical experts do believe that it can reduce symptoms and promote healing.

Although no one knows exactly why or how music works to help us, it has been suggested that sound and rhythm distract the mind from focusing on anxiety. Another theory holds that the muscles of our body learn to synchronize with the beat of the music. Or it may be that music is a salve of healing that moves mysteriously through a body via the spirit. That’s what ancient Greek philosophers believed, and it is the basis for many singing rituals used by Native Americans whose drum circle beats have been successfully used in cancer-music research. Pure enjoyment of the sort of music you like gives a sense of well-being, and the joy of selecting just what you want to hear gives a sense of control over your life when it seems most control has been lost. Listen to your music. Try hymns of faith. Make up rap. Let the music wrap you.

Sing! Listen! Move any part of your body that will move! Or choose to keep your tired body silently wrapped in sound.




Children in Sunday school learn about the shepherd David who as a young boy took care of sheep. He took his harp to the fields with him where he soon learned whIch melodies soothed and calmed the sheep and which musical sounds riled them into restlessness or stampede. Years later, he was called to play for King Saul who suffered from depression and much mental anguish. By using what he had learned under the stars and sitting near the sheep in pastures, David was able to sing and play soothing harp music that calmed and reassured King Saul.  For this, David has been dubbed one of the earliest music therapists.

Harp music seems to calm and inspire, and it has been used in healing rituals for centuries. Thanatologists use live harp music and singing interspersed with silence in rituals they perform for persons who are in their last hours of life. The calming and reassuring rituals also benefit family members who are present to share what remaining time their loved one has.



They don’t call them waiting rooms for nothing! While there, people wait and wait and wait and…. And when you are waiting for your body to heal or for answers from tests, every room in the universe becomes a waiting room from the breakfast room to the grocery store where you had hoped to escape the presence of ‘waiting.’ There’s no way to sugar-coat waiting; it is what it is – delayed action with the hope that the situation will improve with time.

There are too many waiting moments to recount, but at the top of the list might be waiting for hope to become a feeling rather than an intellectual exercise. Tied for first place on the list can be waiting with trust for the warm feeling of the hand of God to replace the unemotional certain-knowing of a workable and stubborn faith, sort of a baptism of emotion.

During any serious illness, persons wait for the opportunity to repair relationships, or for the medical community to make a decision about your care, or for the nausea to pass, or, on a smaller scale, for your hair to grow back. Waiting occurs on every scale from the innermost secret to the grandiose wish. Probably no one can take the stress out of waiting through such events, but it is possible to endure them outside the color of gray with a bright yellow of sacred thought.

A sacred wait means talking to God while you wait, and with cancer, as with most serious illnesses, there is a lot of waiting, and time becomes altered. Why does time go faster in the operating room than in the surgery waiting room where the family is gathered? Why do normal test results become available and abnormal tests get lost or the computer breaks down? Why is it that when you are feeling well and only at the medical center for a checkup you never have to wait for the valet to bring your car from the parking garage, but if you feel terrible the valet loses your ticket or can’t find your car?

A sacred wait means weaving God into daily life tighter than a woven reed basket so that thoughts become baptized by what you know of God. The sacred wait reveals the God of WITH as sprinkled in the details of daily life.


Father God, Although I try to keep busy while I wait, I still hate waiting. I still long for time to be kind to me. Help me to find confidence in your presence and to trust your abundant love in every situation. Make me aware of persons around me who need my prayer or may need someone to listen to them. Even when I am sick or the caregiver for a person who is ill, help me to find the strength to listen to others who are also waiting. Amen

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. . .

                        Romans 8:26 (NIV)




Words of the day:  Positive Procrastination`



Paul had to put off some of his errands and going into another country etc. Meanwhile back at the farm he accomplished all sorts of things.

You can get separated from your intentions and your forward motion in life, but you can’t get separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:31

With that said, is there practical advice about when


We learn to make decisions from our parents and friends, from lecturers and teachers and according to whether we are inductive or deductive thinkers.

We discover what natural process developed over time works for us, and it works until serious illness blasts its way in our life and we seem to be standing at a new crossroad every day. The crossroad may be medicial, familial, identity,  financial, theological

Jeremiah 6: 16

This is what the Lord says:

“Stand at the crossroads and look;

ask for the ancient paths,

ask where the good way is and walk in it.

and you will find rest for your souls.

Standing at the crossroads can be confusing. It is more confusing if there are no road signs or you can’t read them clearly. A good plan might be to stand there a minute, looking left and right, backward and straight ahead to discover what the road looks like and find out who has traveled the road. An Old Testament scripture snatch tells us to ask where the good way is and walk in it. While standing at the crossroads first on one foot and then the other, feeling hesitant and parched, we long to absolutely know where the good way is for us. “The good way” will feel like gentle rain falling on the parched roads. Not only God, but God in skin will help us find the good way. Another way to find the good way is to find a sanctuary place or bubble of quiet and sit in it to think, not to talk to God, although that is part of the process of deciding, but to sit thinking WITH God. Let what you know about God rest in your being while thinking.

Also I KGS 8:36

Teach them the right way to live…

send rain on the land you gave your people….

See spiral sheet in file about Job. or this may better go  the part about shaking your fist at God – call it

Word #   : Soul

When my dad couldn’t find new, soft shoes to fit his skinny feet, he used duct tape to cover the holes in the bottom of his old ones. It wore like iron, and no one ever knew he was wearing duct tape until he knelt at the altar for communion, and the congregation viewed the bottoms of his feet. Occasionally a friend would later tease him about the slick, shiny soles of his shoes, and they would ask him if he used duct tape to plug up the holes in his soul. Now why would anyone want to plug up a soul hole? Does stuff leak out?

            It got me thinking about the saying that they eyes are the window to the soul. We sing songs about it, romanticize it, maybe agree with the saying until we hear the choir director say that music is the window to the soul.  Duct tape, eyes, music – why not visualize a sponge?

            Sponges absorb inspiration from every direction. They take in to the whole body with no separation of parts, just an inner core that reflects the spirituality of the eyes, feet, toenails, hands, voice – any part that breathes and has meaning.