There is No Cancer

Miracle Monday, it was 10 years ago today, January 28, 2014, I made one of the most memorable calls of my life. It was to our church family through our One-Call phone program. It was with a shaken and broken voice I said, “we have received the results from Mary’s cancer surgery, there is no cancer. We’ve experienced a miracle.” You can listen to the call here.

To be honest it was a call we weren’t totally confident we would make. On December 2, 2013 I had taken Mary to her yearly mammogram test. I remember waiting for an extended time and beginning to feel uneasy that her test was taking so long. I’ll never forget the look on her face as she came back to the lobby. Her face was pail, there was fear in her voice as she said, “they think they have found cancer in my breast. “

By the time we got to our car and started home we had received a call from Mary’s gynecologist, Dr. James Jarrett. His voice was serious and we could tell he was alarmed by the report he had received. Within days he had arranged an appointment for us with one of his best friends, Dr. Tim Goedde, one of the best cancer doctors in Indiana and was a part of the renowned M.D. Anderson cancer team out of Houston Texas.

Our meeting with Dr. Goedde would prove to be a tough day. He did his exam of Mary’s breast, seemed troubled, and asked us to wait in the consultation room next door. We were scared and the fifteen-minute wait before he stepped back into the room seemed like an eternity. When we saw him, it appeared he had been crying, his face was red and eyes swollen. It was definitely something we had never experienced when working with a doctor. He began to explain that Mary’s breast cancer was bad, stage four bad, and described the cancer in her breast “as the stars in heaven.” We would later learn from Dr. Jarrett that Dr. Goedde had called him immediately after we had left our appointment and told him that Mary’s case was the worst case he had seen in his 25 years of practice.

At the time Gentry and Risa were 18 and 16. We discussed how to handle the moment with them and felt that we could have a transparent conversation about their mom’s cancer. We were honest about the challenges ahead and prepared them the best we could for the uncertain future. The conversation was honest but filled with faith.  Mary and I also had private discussion about what if the worst-case scenario happened, but in every moment, there was faith. Faith that overwhelmed fear.

We have always been people of prayer, so we attacked this moment as we had every other crisis we had faced. Over the next few weeks, we went into fervent prayer. We prayed with hope, expectancy, and believed for a miracle. We had a team of prayer warriors and friends who joined with us. Our church rallied around us in a way I’ve never seen. Our faith was so strong that we asked for a second evaluation, but while Dr. Goedde noted that there was some change, it was nothing significant.

Mary’s surgery had been schedule at our first appointment, and on January 21st of 2024, she had a double mastectomy. After an overnight stay, Mary came home, and would spend the next three months in recovery. She was amazing, strong, and brave.

It was on the morning of January 28, 2014 that we got the call. We froze when the phone rang. We recognized the number and knew this was “the call.” We answered and a nurse said “we’re calling with the results of Mary’s breast cancer surgery, it was negative.” Those words overwhelmed us, and to be honest, the rest of her conversation is kind of blurry. All we heard was, “it was negative.” We were weeping, overjoyed, and after hanging up, we were trying to grasp what had just happened. We had questions. Like what does this mean? Is negative, positive or is negative, negative? Where do we go from here? As we were trying to get our heads around what had just happened, the phone rang again. This time it was Dr. Goedde.

His call brought absolute clarity. He said, “Mary, I want you to know that there was absolutely no cancer in your breast. You are cancer free.” While he would not use the word “miracle,” he did say, “this is something that I can’t explain.” He would go on to convey that there would be no need for any chemotherapy, radiation, or the five-year pill that is normally given to breast cancer patients.

We would visit Dr. Goedde two more times over the next few months, each time he would say, “this is just remarkable.” Our final visit with him was a year later, after that evaluation he said, “Mary, as far as I’m concerned, we never have to see you again, go and enjoy life.”

Today is 10 years since that amazing phone call. We pray that it inspires and gives hope to anyone and everyone going through a difficult season. Whether it is sickness, a family issue, a job situation, or financial struggle, miracles do happen and it can happen for you. God can and God can for you!

His Plan. His Blueprints.

God has a plan, a blueprint for our lives. We love the thought. We quote, post, and have signs in our homes which proudly displaying Jeremiah 29:11 The reality though, we also have plans, a blueprint for our lives.  Another truth, the two plans often don’t merge well. There is conflict. Too often our life plan supersedes God’s. We’re great at taking our life plan to Him. We pray, ask, quote scripture, and sometimes demand that God respond, even relents to our plans. Rarely does this turn out the way we had hoped.

As a result, we get frustrated, even angry with God. We say that prayer doesn’t work. God doesn’t listen. Bitterness, hurt, and disappointment moves in. Too often we walk away from prayer, sometimes even God. God didn’t work out our plan so, like a child, we pout, and sometimes worse, throw fits and run away.

The reality is this. We don’t read Jeremiah 29:11 very well. It says, “for I know the plans I have for you.” Simply put, it’s not our plans for Him to orchestrate, but His plan we must yield to. His blueprint. His work. It overrides ours. He has a plan. He knows the plan, but unfortunately, rarely does He share the details with us.

We don’t see God saying, “Joseph, here’s my plan. You’re going to be betrayed by brothers, have your character destroyed by the lies of Potiphar’s wife, and go to jail.” He doesn’t share with Moses that his leadership preparation will involve 40 years in a wilderness, dysfunctional leaders, and people continually rebelling. God’s plans for us are His, and most often, unrevealed to us.

His blueprint rarely means a painless life. His idea of wellbeing and prospering doesn’t necessarily mean material or earthly blessings. In fact, His plan may, and often does, mean difficulty, abandonment, betrayal, pain, and sickness. It overwhelms us, “we see through a glass darkly,” Paul says, but be confident, if we yield, His plan works.

We like plans that look like nice homes, global vacations, money in the bank, 401K’s, and spending winters in a warm climate. We like blueprints that have no pain, sickness, betrayal, or sorrow. We call blessings prosperity, not problems.

What does His blueprint look like? Not like what we would like. John’s blueprint means he will be jailed and beheaded. Simon Peter’s and Paul’s means jail, persecution, and eventually death. In fact, with the exception of John, who was boiled in oil and ostracized to an island, all others die martyrs. Even Jesus, in His flesh prays, “not my will, but yours be done.” It’s difficult for anyone to fully embrace His plans, but they work.

Simon Peter likely dies disappointed and broken in the fact that God didn’t deliver him. In his last moments he probably doesn’t see his life as favored and blessed, but 2000 years later, while most lives are long forgotten, his message and his name are still talked about. In his final days, Paul knew his fate, that deliverance from a jail meant a martyr’s death. He likely wondered; did I make a difference? Did I impact my world? He had little earthly possessions, and even though he didn’t fully grasp it all, he died wealthy. His name. His work. His writings will impact millions and are still alive and powerful today. God’s plans were accomplished.

Walking through a storm? Neglected? Feeling abandoned by friends or God? Frustrated that God and heaven seem silent? Hurt by someone who betrayed you? Disappointed with your financial situation? Confused that the Healer hasn’t healed you? You are not forgotten. You haven’t committed the unpardonable sin. His love has not faded. His grace is sufficient. You are likely in the right space. He knows the plans that He has for you, even when they seem hard and unfair.

How do we respond? As those who have gone before us. Listen to their words. James says, “count it all joy when trials come.” Paul writing from jail to the Philippians and says, “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” John understood God’s plans and his didn’t mesh and says, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” As they did, we must do also. It may never make sense. The pain and disillusionment real. Yet as Paul said, in an often-misquoted Romans 8:28, “all things work for good for those who love God. I have to remind myself that Paul did not say, “our good,” but “for good.” We must choose to live in that revelation.

Two old hymns say it well.

Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand;
But I know who holds tomorrow, And I know who holds my hand.

I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

What were they walking through? How difficult was their storm? Likely really challenging. Tough enough to cause them to pen the lyrics. Lyrics that outlived them. Lyrics that are a testimony that His will, His plan is best, even when it is painful. Embrace His blueprint.

An Immersive Experience

An immersive experience. It’s the latest in technology and trendy phrase to use. It involves being surrounded by both video and audio. The iconic experience right now is found in Las Vegas. It’s called the “Sphere.” Whatever the performance, when you enter the Sphere, you are immersed in 360-degree audio and video. The façade is as likewise impressive. Covered in micro-led lights, it can transform into any object; an eyeball, basketball, earth. Basically, anything one can imagine.

While the Sphere is the echelon of immersive experiences, it does not stand alone. In a much smaller scale, IMAX, surround sound theaters, and even some home theaters attempt to create immersive experience. Even in our home, we have surround system, giving us the feeling that we are immersed into the sporting event or movie we’re watching.

While the term immersive is the new hip phrase, the experience is not new. Stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon on a clear night, or anywhere where light pollution is extremely limited, and you will be immersed in stars. It brings a whole new understanding of “and He created the stars also.”

Go to Niagara Falls, stands at the closest viewing station and you will be immersed. The roar of the falls is deafening and the mist from its power is overwhelming. Digitally defined, immersive technology involves using sound and images to actively engage one’s senses in a way that may create an altered mental state.

The idea of an immersive experience is something that the writers of the New Testament were trying to convey to readers when they spoke of baptism. The Greek poet and physician, Nicander, gives one of the best descriptions of the Greek word used by the authors for baptism. To clarify the concept of baptism, he uses a word picture involving a cucumber.

In his illustration Nicander describes the process of how a cucumber becomes a pickle. His analogy  is that for a cucumber to become a pickle it must be baptized or immersed. If it’s simply dipped in water and then vinegar, it is not changed, it will still taste like a cucumber. For it to become pickled it must be immersed, stay in its new environment for an extended time. This is what the writers were trying to communicate to people and has been lost, both in translation and many modern church environments.

Baptism is designed to be an immersive experience. I fear that when we fail to fully communicate the impact of baptism, the results may be the same. The person is simply dipped, getting wet, but not altered, transformed, or immersed. When it’s less, or worse, not taught, it cheats people out of an authentic experience and weakens the impact of the gospel.

I’m not here to diminish or deny anyone’s baptismal experience, in fact, just the opposite. I want to help bring it to another dimension, to enhance understanding. God wants us to have an immersive experiences in Him. He wants us to be overwhelmed, transformed, in awe by what we experience in Him. Baptism is not just a religious tradition, it’s not a trendy thing to do. It’s an overwhelming, indescribable, immersive experience that alters and transforms us. My prayer. God immerse us  in your presence until we are saturated and transformed.

Four or Forty-Two?

How long do difficult situations or challenging seasons last? Obviously, every situation is different, but regardless, we all want our struggles to end as soon as possible. Often our trials, difficult times are more about how we respond than the issue itself.

The narrative of Job’s life is a snapshot of life. Like Job, all of us have life altering moments. In his self-named book, Job is described as a righteous man. He is blessed and favored with a great family, incredible wealth, and a good name. He is a man who worshipped and honored God. Still, life happens, and in one day his world is turned upside down.

Imagine the scene. Can you see Job rising from bed and prepping for “just another day.” Suddenly he is greeted by a servant with horrific news, all his oxen have been stolen. As that story is unfolding, a second servant arrives with news that a fire has consumed all his sheep. Trying to grasp the situation, a third servant arrives to with news that his camels have been stolen. As that servant is finishing, a final servant arrives with news that his children had been killed by severe storms. Job’s grief has to be overwhelming; one cannot imagine his pain. The next day Job wakes to more attacks, severe health issues have overtaken his body. His wife turns on him, saying, “curse God and die.” In just moments Job has lost all that seems to matter in life. His life is in shambles.

What ensues next is critically important. You may not realize it, but God giving us insight on how long trials have to last. After his life altering experience Job will be observed, accused, attacked, and judged by what I will loosely call, “friends.” They would say they are simply assessing Jobs situation, offering their opinion, but the truth is, it’s judgement. In response, Job will complain, defend, and deny the attacks and accusations. This banter is the narrative for the majority of the rest of the book.

Finally, after 36 chapters, Job stops listening to his accusers, stops excusing his actions, and begins listening to God. God, who has patiently watched and listened, finally gets an audience with Job. What follows, in likely a couple of hours, three short chapters, is revelation. Job quickly sees God, His power and glory. Also, for the first time, Job acknowledges how small and insignificant he is. Humility replaces haughtiness. With this fresh understanding, a spirit of repentance sweeps over Job, and God restores and multiplies Job’s blessings and favor. What could and should have happened as the storm hit Job’s life, in chapter three of his book, instead happens after much later.

Going through a tough time? Trying to meander through a difficult season of life? Maybe the answer is as close as shutting out the unnecessary noise, closing our mouth, and opening our heart to God’s voice. How long will it take? Will the struggle, difficult moment, be a couple of paragraphs or a lengthy novel. Will it be four chapters or 42? It’s really up to us. God will patiently wait.

The Worlds Most Valuable Resource

From the beginning of time man has pursued the resources of the earth. In early biblical times and still today, one of the most valuable resources is water. Control the water and you control where life can be sustained. Beyond water, over time gold, silver, and other precious materials became valuable. Biblically, early wealth was measured by the amount of gold, silver and bronze someone had. With the advent of the motor, oil became a valuable commodity. In today’s world uranium is one of the most sought-after substances, giving governments the ability to create nuclear energy and bombs. Yet, I would submit that none of these resources are the most valuable.

The most valuable resource, blood. Regardless of how much of the other resources you have, without blood, life ends. In our body is a little over 10 pints, 20 cups. We can lose 14% before we begin to see significant side effects. Lose 25% and we begin to feel substantial side effects. When a person loses 40% of their blood, death is imminent. Thankfully blood can be replaced and with modern technology, men have even learned how to manipulate blood. If a person’s blood becomes corrupted, a blood transfusion or dialysis can be done, replacing bad blood with new.

Yet beyond the value of blood in general, there is a blood that has more value. It is the blood of Jesus. To attain His actual blood is impossible, it was spilled out on the cross. Per chance someone would have saved it, put it in bottles, the cost would be beyond any price you and I, common people could pay.

I share all of this because as we start the beginning of the year many will take communion. For some communion may be something that happens just a few times a year. For others, communion may be taken at your church weekly or monthly. Regardless of how of often, communion should be done with understanding.

Communion is about blood. It’s right before Passover, one of the first instances of blood making a difference. Setting with Jesus is His 12 disciples. Understanding what is about to happen, and His disciples having no clue, Jesus calls a grape concoction, His blood and shares it.  Sorry, I’m not here to debate wine and grape juice. What is important in the moment is what Jesus is saying. He knows and they don’t, that he is headed for a cross, and His blood will be spilled out. 10 pints, 20 cups. If men would have known, understood, the value of his blood, they would have fought to save every drop. It literally would be the most valuable resource you could own. In His blood, those 10 pints, was eternal life, healing, salvation, covering of sin, and so much more.

Take every life and every sin from the beginning of time until today and it’s over 117 billion people. How many more will be added before God’s return, only He knows. What I do know is this, that if we were dependent on Jesus’ literal blood, we’re all toast. Even if it had been saved, I could not have afforded it. Only the elitist of the elite, the wealthiest of the wealthy, would have been able to afford and attain it. By today, those who could have purchased it in earlier centuries, would have consumed all the resource. This makes what Jesus does right before His death incredibly significant. He gives us hope with 21 words, “this cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” In one defining moment Jesus gives everyone access to the world’s most valuable resource, His blood. It won’t be only for the elite, wealthy, educated, or religious. It doesn’t have to be purchased or earned. It will be available to anyone and for all time. It is for saints and sinners, good and bad, to all who will ever live and for all who chose to believe.

When we take a communion cup, we are taking in faith, His blood. In that blood, that cup, is life giving agents. In this short blog there is no way I can share everything that is in Jesus’ blood. The forgiveness of sin. There is the covering of sin. There is the washing of sin. There is life. There is eternal life. There is healing. Physical and emotional healing. Mental and spiritual healing. There is transformation. It is life altering. There is hope, grace, mercy. In short, everything you will ever need is in His blood.

My challenge. When we take a communion cup in the coming weeks, whether that be weekly or monthly or only a few times a year, take it with understanding. It’s the moment a blood transfusion or spiritual dialysis can take place. In one moment, your life can be changed or altered forever. Old can be replaced with new. A washing, purifying, or transformation can happen. Healing of any issue can happen. As you hold our communion cup, realize you are holding the world’s most valuable resource.