Light in the Valley of the Shadow of Death (part thirty — conclusion)

He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place… (Psalm 18:16-19)

The Raising of Lazarus, artist and date unknown

On a Sunday morning in late August 2012, I was preparing to lead a service of worship at a local church.  I stood near the pulpit looking over the service bulletin and making last-minute changes to my sermon.  Two women were kneeling at the altar rail nearby.  One of the women seemed distraught and I thought I should inquire whether they were in need of pastoral assistance.  The first woman, whom I shall call Denise, although that is not her real name, explained to me that her friend Mary, who was visiting from another country, had converted from Islam to Christianity, along with her children, several years before.  However, the relatives of Mary’s deceased husband, who were Muslim, were pressuring Mary to renounce her faith in Jesus and they were withholding financial support from her, which she needed to help raise her children.

Denise had brought Mary to the altar rail that morning to pray, because Mary was thinking about returning to the practice of Islam, just to make life easier for herself and her children.  As I listened to Denise tell her friend’s story I could see from the look on Mary’s face that she was in a dark place, spiritually and emotionally.  When I asked Mary if I could pray for her she readily accepted my offer.  “But first,” I said, “let me tell you a story.”  When she nodded her approval, Continue reading

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Light in the Valley of the Shadow of Death (part twenty-nine)

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha… (John 11:1)

Gil and I thought we knew what to expect as we drove over to the University of North Carolina Medical Center in Chapel Hill on Friday, July 20, 2012.  After all, just eighteen days before I had undergone the exact same surgery to remove a small cancerous tumor from my left lung.  Now it was time for the same procedure to be done on my right lung in order to remove two exceedingly small tumors.  This time around, though, I was all the wiser.  Having learned from my previous experience, I came prepared to stay in the hospital for up to a week, just in case my lung collapsed after the surgery.

We arrived at the parking deck across the street from Memorial Hospital shortly before 11 am.  When we entered the hospital we didn’t have the nervous look that people usually have when they don’t know exactly what to do or where to go – a look that was on our faces the last time we were here.  We walked straight to the admissions office without having to ask directions and then proceeded with confidence to Procedural Care Suite-A on the second floor.  Because we knew what we were doing, we didn’t turn the wrong way when we got off the elevator, as we had done previously.

However, I was surprised to find the waiting room more crowded than it had been when we were there last.  On July 2nd,  I had been required to arrive at 6 am and there were plenty of seats available at that hour.  But after I checked in at the front desk and a white paper band was placed around my wrist, Gil and I were able to find two seats next to one another and we sat down for what I thought would be a brief period of time.  I then prayed for the people seated around me in the room.

When I finished, I glanced up at the nearest television screen on the wall.  A reporter was standing in the dark outside a building and I could see right behind him the lights atop numerous police cars flashing.  The headline at the bottom of the screen read: Continue reading

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Light in the Valley of the Shadow of Death (part twenty-eight)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7)

In the days that followed my appointment in July of 2012 with Dr. Haithcock – at which he gave me the news that the small tumor removed from my left lung had metastasized from the parotid gland tumor removed the previous December – I spent a lot of time thinking about the possibility that I now might have to undergo an intensive round of chemotherapy in an attempt to halt any further spread of the disease.  I had undergone chemotherapy treatments five months earlier, and although the dose was comparatively light, and my hair did not fall out, I suffered greatly from nausea.  The thought that I might be given a much greater dose this time around was almost more than I could bear.  My daughter Emily was getting married in October and I feared not only the loss of hair, but also that the treatments might break me physically.

However, when I met with my oncologist the following Monday his response took me by surprise.  He told me that there was no treatment for parotid gland cancer once it had metastasized.  Nothing was known to halt its progress and, as far as he knew, no one at any hospital was conducting a clinical trial for which I would be suitable.  My condition was now considered to be incurable and I had come to the end of my options, from a medical standpoint.  He even wondered whether there was any point in removing the two miniscule tumors in my right lung; he just assumed more would grow in both lungs, and throughout my body, in the months to come.

I was startled by this news, but I decided immediately that I would not allow his words to be a pronouncement over me.  As he looked away for a moment, I wrote on my pad of paper, which I always brought along to every appointment, the following statement: “incurable doesn’t mean anything to God,” and I handed it over to Gil so he could see it.  I knew that the Lord could make a way where there was no way (He had done so the previous December) and I was not going to allow my oncologist’s assessment of my condition to determine how I thought about my future.  As we left his office I was relieved that I would not have to undergo an intensive treatment of chemotherapy, after all.  I said to myself, “Now it will be absolutely clear to everyone that God alone is responsible for my healing.”

That afternoon, Gil made some calls to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.  He wanted to make absolutely sure there was no further medical option for me.  Meanwhile, I tried to write something to post on my CaringBridge site, but I couldn’t find the right words.  As I Continue reading

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