Joe's Seventh Epistle
|Paoli Peaks, southern Indiana|
Today’s update is brought to you by the following sponsors; 3/4, Anna, Bowles, Suffering, Card, and Mom.
Yesterday, February 19, 2015, was Chemo # 14. The last two weeks have been rough. I learned that Chemo treatments need to continue as my main cancer marker number has stalled out at 2.5 for the past month. It needs to fall below 1. I also learned that I most likely am not a good candidate for a bone marrow transplant because of a genetic marker I carry. I have another appointment on March 4 with the doctor to get an update and discuss future treatment options.
Next week I have an MRI to determine if additional back surgery options are in my future. This past week was four hard days, two not-as-hard days, and one okay day. The chemo effects are building up in my body and the dynamics of how I feel continue to change week to week. I am so ready for relief one way or another. Although I am ready for this cancer to leave, I thank God every day for this lousy cancer and how He is using this to refine my faith in Him.
Anna, my daughter Lily’s best friend, celebrated her 14th birthday with a party at Paoli Peaks, a ski slope in southern Indiana, this past Tuesday, which was my one good day of the week. Anna has been such a joy to Lily and our entire family for a decade. She is a lovely young woman full of grace, kindness, joy, and smiling. We love her dearly. In fact, we love her whole family dearly. They minister to us through our local church as faithful members serving the entire body and encourage us weekly in so many ways.
Anna invited our whole family to go skiing. Even though I grew up on skis living in Iowa (I know; who grows up on skis living in Iowa?), I failed to teach our younger four children how to ski—another regret from a life sacrificed to the idol of work. So off to the slopes they go to learn from someone else.
What a perfect day for skiing! First snow of the year here and 23 degrees! No broken bones, and I was able to watch them for a couple of hours. Plus two bonuses: first, Tyler, our second oldest and now a doctor, was able to go with them. He headed home early with us to rescue his wife from finals as she finishes up her teaching degree soon from IU. So we were able to enjoy a couple hours with just Tyler, which was great. The second bonus was my getting to film Stephen, our youngest son (16), falling. He claimed it was the only time that day. To quote Stephen, “Un-stinking Unbelievable!” Somehow it was my fault, which further made my day. Happy birthday, Anna!
I am learning that every one of us will suffer. Up until this cancer, our family has had some suffering, but never to the extent we are experiencing now. Anyone who has lived long enough will testify to this truth: you will suffer. How we suffer, how we endure, and in what hope we put our trust matters, being of eternal consequence. For the unbeliever and for the fringe “Christian” (one who perhaps attends church now and then and even knows the vocabulary, but does not have an authentic relationship with Christ), suffering will result in despair and unbelief. There will be no eternal reward for them. It is so hard for me to watch and listen to those suffering without Christ. They are fighting a losing battle and are having “their best life now.” Oh, how my heart breaks for them!
I honestly cannot believe all the people that have had, are having, and will have cancer. Nearly every family has someone or will have someone fighting this battle to varying degrees. If we don't stare cancer in the eye at some point, we certainly will face some form of suffering. So how should we prepare for the events that will shake the foundations of our faith? With a sound Biblical belief system that can only come from the One Who created us, the One Who modeled the ultimate suffering by sacrificing His only, perfect, sinless Son for a sin debt He didn’t owe, the One Who proved His infinite love for us by dying on a cross to pay off our debt so that we could make peace with God the Father once and for all! God gave us Jesus. He has given us everything we need in this life and the next through His son Jesus.
What we believe matters!
In fact, it matters most. We need to prepare ourselves now. It will be too late when suffering hits. Moral fortitude, rugged individualism, positive thinking, perseverance and endurance on our own leads to death and leaves us empty and without hope. (This is no weak, watered-down hope, as we often use the word today. I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow. I hope I get a raise soon. This hope is an assurance that rests on the promises of God as presented in the Bible.) For the believer who has mourned greatly over his sin, asked forgiveness, placed his faith in the living Christ, and truly made Him Lord of his life, there is such glorious hope in the promises of God and the peace that Jesus gives—peace that will see the Christ-follower through every circumstance. That person can face suffering, assured that Jesus Christ will go with him every step of the way.
And if that suffering should bring the believer face to face with the Righteous Judge, he can know the living Christ has wiped the sin account clean with His redeeming blood, shed on the cross. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we stand firm in our faith. Christ will restore! He has promised to save to the end for a future reward with Him. Hold fast to the promises of the Bible. Be ever aware of the enemy, for Satan seeks to destroy our faith. As my good friend reminds me, “Cling to Jesus, cling to Jesus, cling to Jesus!”
For those who haven't had their sins forgiven, read the Bible (begin with the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), listen to Biblical teaching at a Gospel-preaching church, pray to God that He open your eyes to your sin and your need to repent before a holy, loving, just God, and run to Jesus. Friend, you will be spending an eternity in either Heaven or Hell. No sane person willingly chooses Hell, but here is the crazy thing: no one can choose God. Only God can open the eyes of a sinner. We all deserve the wrath of God. The critical starting point is to understand Who God is. Pray. Read the Bible. Pray. Read. Pray and read!
Last time I reported that I was able to sleep in my own bed. Well that was short lived as I soon found out that our bed, after 15 years, was worn out and had a huge sag in it that caused my back to ache every night. So we went bed shopping. Six mattress stores later, we bought a Bowles mattress which is made in Indiana. At last, I can get a good night’s sleep.
Recently I told you about my brothers in Gatesville Penitentiary, Texas. They continue to encourage my soul. I have received at least a hundred Cards of encouragement from friends and family since this lousy cancer. My friend Jim, who ministers to these men regularly, forwarded me a card handmade by Danny, one of the brothers, and signed by many. The card is the most beautiful card I have ever received and the notes from my brothers brought me to tears. Please pray with me for these men: DAnnal, Sebastian, Luis, Gerardo, Robert, Alex, José, Wes, Matt, Alberto, William, Ruben, Stanley, Vance, C.J., Rashid, Rick, Laredo, Cervantes, Loren, Stevie, Faluth, Leo, Clint, Keith, Goodson, Aulie , D.C., Philip, Ron, Charles, Adrien, Danny, Sammy, Jonathon, Jamie, Eugene, Ruben H., Jeremy, LeRoy, Patrick, Clayton, Oay, J.J, and Steve. I am so humbled, honored and thankful for these men who continue to encourage me in the midst of their suffering. I love these brothers and can’t wait to see them either in this life or the next!
Speaking of love, I love my Mom. She is an exceptional godly woman. She is fun, funny, smart, wise, loving, caring and has more common sense and business savvy than most people I know. I wanted to share some wisdom and encouragement she recently gave me.
OVERCOME; to obtain the mastery over or the control of.
Of course, it is not of your own doing to overcome. Is it not the Lord God who is in control of your life to cure or not to cure? You and I both know that everything happens because of His grace, goodness and mercy. Surviving the cancer is up to Him. I hope I'm not detecting doubt. Yes you do have the worst kind of cancer and the highest stage. You have come a long way since Oct. Just because your doctor said maybe you would not be a good candidate for a transplant, doesn't mean that’s final. I’m sure you must have an inkling of what Hell would be like, with all the agony, pain, nausea, tingling, sleeplessness, muddled mind, stress, anxiety, loss of strength, weakness, concern for Beth and family, tired of pills and shots and just plain weary. You have to be motivated not through the body but through the Holy Spirit. You're thinking, Sure Mom, you don’t have the cancer. Remember we are more than conquerors through HIM who loves us. Praise God you have been saved and chosen to be a child of God even before you were born. Will all the suffering you’re going through help you to realize how Christ suffered on the cross? After blessings comes the battle.
Mom Psalm 46:10.
Friends, brothers, and sisters, I am praying for you as I trust in Christ alone,