Thoughts from a Sleepless Man

It’s interesting to be the caregiver to someone with cancer. My wife has stage 4 lung cancer that has spread to her bones. Chemo and radiation and some surgery halted the progression for about 9 months but now it is back and more chemo did not slow or stop it from growing.

As a man who likes and is able to fix a lot of things, it’s been difficult at times, trying to research all the issues that go along with neuroendocrine carcinoma and find out the answer. Someone surely has the answer to fix this, chemo or radiation or surgery or something. After all if I have enough knowledge, I can fix this right?

Many nights I have not been able to sleep wondering if I “Googled” the right phrase could I find an answer everyone else missed. Maybe I can piece together a better answer than her doctor has. Maybe he hasn’t researched enough, I’ll help him. Maybe, maybe, maybe, the search is endless.

Everyone else has a way to help too, they send us articles, recommend a doctor that a friend knows, heard about a treatment that worked on a loved one.  They really mean well, I probably would share what I’ve learned with others without them asking too. Why not, after all, I’m just trying to help you fix your problem. It can be overwhelming trying to get my wife well.

Well I can’t fix the cancer so I’ll fix my wife. I’ll get her on good medicine and the best diet and keep her healthy. I’ll make sure and get the best combination of pain relief medicine into her…  I’ll make her crazy asking questions. Did you take a pill? Why not? What’s your pain level now? Do you want to try the pills at a different dosage or frequency; after all, I’m just trying to help…

She is tired. Tired of the pain, the nausea, and the constant questioning (help) from me, all of it, just tired.  She longs for a sense of normality, a sense of things being “the way they were”, where daily life just flowed, teaching, shopping, family time, all the things that made life right.

To quote Patsy Clairmont “Normal is just a setting on your dryer.” As a pastoral counselor I talk with clients about life and many are looking for normal. They have created in their minds a picture of normal and are trying to “fix” their world, to have it be normal. God does a lot of work in my clients hearts and He often reveals to them that they are focusing on the wrong things, holding onto a picture that He never intended them to have.

Looking back over the last 2 years of life it could be easy to second guess a lot of decisions that were made about my wife’s cancer. Why didn’t the first doctor know what was wrong? Which doctor should we go to now? What hospital system should we use? Did we do the right treatment plan? What if we had done something different, better? What if… fill in the rest of the question for yourself.  It’s as if we go back and try to figure out what we could have done differently so the results would be different because we don’t like the results we have now.

My main thought has been “God, where are you in all of my questions.” I wake up at 4 am most days and start talking with Him, asking Him to show me the Bible story that relates to us in this journey.  Then I spend some time listening and He answers me with some really cool thoughts.

Usually, just like Jesus, He asks me questions like:

  • What if I knew every decision that would be made before you did Gary?
  • What if I know how many days you and your wife have on earth, before I call you home?
  • What if I am asking you to walk through this and trust Me as you walk?
  • What if My Spirit in you guided your decisions about doctors and hospitals and plans?
  • I know you want your wife to be healed; will you trust Me with that?
  • I know she is in pain; will you trust Me with that too?
  • Will you trust that I know the “big picture”?

Maybe, I reply, I would trust you more if you explain it all to me first. Just tell me the plan and I’ll go along with it, or maybe I could offer some suggestions for an improved plan, after all I’m a good fixer.

Jesus was asleep in the boat while a storm raged around it. There was so much water coming into the boat the fisherman knew they were doomed. I would have woken Jesus up and said “hey, grab a bucket and start helping!” The question that is recorded in Mark 4:38 is an interesting one to me. The disciples, fisherman, woke him and asked “don’t you care that we die?” You see they knew boats and water and storms. They knew that it looked hopeless, that they were going to die. What they didn’t know was Jesus and who he really is.

This is what I am learning, both from counseling others and my own walk with my wife on her cancer journey. Storms of life are about trust. They really do reveal to us, not God, who or what we are trusting.

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Faith is trust and trust is faith. God is asking us to stop, look, and listen. In what or whom do we trust, really?

Think of it like this, we have been given a “spoon of trust”, go with me, and it’s ours to give to whomever we want. When a storm of life shows up, grab your spoon and hand it to the person or thing that you are going to trust to get you through the storm. Or maybe just hold on to it because you don’t trust anyone except yourself.

To finish, I want to go back to the thought about normal. What I think we really lack is a sense of peace. We are asking God, “don’t you care if we die?” we are filled with anxiety, stress, and anger, we hurt. We lack peace and yet we hold tight to our spoon or hold others responsible because we gave them our spoon.

I have taken my spoon back from Google and have given it to the Father. I trust Him, I don’t need Him to reveal any plan, and He doesn’t have to explain Himself. I know He loves me and my wife and is working in our everyday lives to reveal that love to us. And that my friend is Peace!

Missing Socks and Runny Noses – Part One

I walked up the stairs from the garage into the living room after a day of counseling. I had forgotten our two and a half year old grandson was staying overnight. He was playing with his favorite toy, a train, in the living room when I topped the stairs.

“Pop” was all he squealed as he ran to me with arms open wide. I dropped to a knee, grabbed him and pulled him in tight. He gave me his version of a kiss on the cheek and I gave him another hug. “How’s my little man?” I asked. He just pointed and said “train”. We wandered over to the train; I set him down, and watched as he played with the train moving slowly around the track. What a joyous moment for me! My grandson had seen me, come running and grabbed onto me. The love I felt was overwhelming as he had simply seen me and come running. I was not a threat to him, he felt safe and welcomed by me. It truly was a deep connecting point for me.

Now you maybe thinking “how cute, you’re fortunate to experience such a moment” or “where is this blog going?” but hang on, I am going to make a point I promise. Let me fill in the details of the precious moment.

Simply put, he was messy! No pants, droopy diaper, only one sock, and of course, as all little kids seem to have, he had a runny nose. I got snot on my shirt and his sloppy attempt at a kiss got more on my cheek. Did I stop and fix any of these issues before we embraced? Of course not, I was excited to see him and he was excited to see me. I wasn’t worried at all about the snot, missing sock, or no pants. I loved that he came running and there was no hesitation.

Now let’s think God, our Father. Are we willing to come running to Him and jump up on His lap just because He’s near? I bet most of us stop first to make sure we are all fixed up to see Him. If you were honest with yourself, do you think this way?

We are worried about His response or worse His addressing our messiness. He is our Father, that’s not in question, but we hesitate when He shows up or calls our names. We freeze, take a quick assessment of ourselves and then decide how to proceed. It’s quick, a blink of an eye, but we do it, we take a momentary, mental picture of our presentability.

Ready for part two?

Chasing the setting Sun

As I look out a window of Detroit’s Wayne airport, the sun slowly descends into the west. While not visible due to the clouds overhead, you can see the darkness enveloping the aircraft outside. I board my flight for Shanghai, China and find my seat next to the window. Soon we are airborne above the clouds and now the sun has slipped below the horizon and a thin line of red stretches as far as I can see out my window.

Only 14 more hours of flying and I will be there! I settle in for the long flight trying to decide what movie to watch or which meal I will choose when I am asked. A thought struck me as I glanced outside once more. I will be chasing the sun the entire trip and will never catch it. I watch the small screen in front of me for details of the trip and see that we are traveling about 550 miles per hour heading west by northwest. 550 miles per hour and we will never catch up! This is amazing, that much effort and we will never see the sun again until it appears in the eastern sky tomorrow.

God said something like this in Psalms 103:12 ”As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us”. It made me think more about my God who loves me so much that He would not cover my sin, or store up my sin, but He would REMOVE my sin. And He has removed them so that I can never catch up with them ever again.

So if God has removed my sins that far away, what makes me chase after them every once and a while? Why would I go after something that God Himself has put out of my reach? And why would He do this for me?
I think the job of Satan is to deceive. He is called the father of lies. His most powerful weapon is deceit. He has trained his minions to do the same, deceive people. Satan started with the very first people God ever put on earth and he has not changed his tactics since. Deceived people will act upon the deception as if it were truth, because to them IT IS!

Here is my logic in all of this, see if it works for you. Jesus said He was the way and the truth and the life. Let’s look at each one a little more.
The way – In Proverbs 16:25 we read, “There is a way that seems right to man but that way leads to destruction”. So the ONLY way is Jesus. The correct way is the way Jesus lived and taught. You want to know God, learn to know Jesus.

The truth – Truth is not relative, it is true whether we believe it or not. Jesus said He was the truth so anything or anyone else is a lie. So learning to discern between truth and lies becomes our job. Listening to the Father will allow us to know truth. Jesus even said that He would send One after Him that would guide us into all truth. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit. to guide us into truth. Our job is to listen and follow His voice. We were never made to judge right or wrong, but to trust the Father and have fellowship with Him. This solves the issue of right and wrong.

The life – If Jesus is life then everything else must be death. That seems a little simple at first but think about it for just a moment. I get to choose between life and death in every decision I make. Choose Jesus’ answer and I get life. Choose my own answer and I’ll get death. Don’t think of death as the ending of physical life. Think more along the lines of death as mental and emotional thing. Like a relationship issue, health issues, financial issues, family issues. Jesus said He came to give life and a more abundant life. So if we aren’t experiencing an abundant life, what are we experiencing?

Don’t get me wrong, for me the abundant life is not material things. It’s more like a peace that passes understanding. I am at peace even in suffering. I may not be enjoying the moment, but underneath the chaos and confusion there is a peace inside that keeps me emotionally stable and mentally calm.

God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die. His death gives us access to have our old sin nature removed, as far as the east is from the west, and a new nature, one that is holy and righteous, put in us. Then the Holy Spirit comes and takes His place inside that new nature to guide us into all truth. Read Ezekiel 36:26-27, it’s pretty simply explained in these verses by God. Try John chapter 17, it goes sort of like this: Jesus in the Father, the Father in Him. Us in Him, Him in us… We are one with the Father just like Jesus is one with the Father.

So as I sit here on a plane bound for China watching the sunset for 14 hours, remember God loves you and made a way that you could have peace with Him and yourself. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, He will guide your paths.
Discern from God where you have believed a lie and exchange it for truth. Truth will set you free!

Perfect Butterflies

I was just returning from a Men’s Group Hot Dog Club and this butterfly was sitting on the bushes. Well I grabbed my cell phone and snapped a shot. I was hit by the beauty and delicacy and the detail of this creation. Then my mind went to Romans 12:1-2 where Paul wrote “do not be conformed to this world but be transformed…” (metamorphosis) HOW?“By the renewing of our Minds!”

Here’s my thought. We sometimes forget that we are already butterflies! We struggle with how to be better butterflies, what should a butterfly do, what are the butterfly rules, or maybe if we are even a butterfly.

Butterflies never struggle with any of these issues, dare I say, they never struggle at all. Is there wind resistance, yes. Do they look for food, yes. Does it rain on them, yes. But they don’t see those things as a struggle, they see them as being part of a butterflies life.

Where am I going you ask? If we are redeemed children of God, we have the likeness of Christ within us . We have the Holy Spirit, to guide and direct us. We should not be struggling with life. Are there struggles, YES. Is there pain, YES. Yet why do we fight against these? Could it be from a selfish perspective? Could we be asking God to take away the very thing He put in our path to break us of our selfish ways?

We should be embracing what God allows in our lives, asking Him to direct us, and enjoy flying around!  

Let me ask you some questions:

  • How is God going to make you more like Him without removing the selfishness within us?
  • Why do we “Fight God” when He is trying to show us our need for Him?
  • How would you teach someone that was selfish, that they needed to be more selfless?
  • God loves you, so why wouldn’t He want you to be your very best?
  • Without God, what do you have?
  • Would you trade what you have for God?
  • Would you trade God for what you have?
  • Why do you want it?

These are all the thoughts that hit me when I saw the butterfly floating around in the air. We must come to the realization that without God, we are nothing. With God we are everything! When God redeemed you, he made a new creation, old things are passed away, behold all things are new. You are perfect in His sight! (Stop and struggle here if you need to.)

Chew on this and let me know your thoughts…

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Isn’t technology great?  Well, that is questionable when you are an old dog trying to learn new technology. The staff is teaching me to blog or I should say trying to teach me. It is a bit challenging but I can see the potential.

Isn’t learning the truths of the Exchanged Life much like that? It is a whole new way of living. It feels awkward, it doesn’t always make sense, but the potential of living life is amazing.

I have decided that I can and will learn this new technology.  Just as I learned this new way of living by the life of Christ in me.  Join me in this journey.