God is in Charge!

We traveled to the University Hospital in Iowa City this morning for what we anticipated would be Lois’ 22nd Chemo infusion – but it didn’t happen. The lab work showed a significant decline in Lois’ overall health. The outward symptom is that she is exhausted. The blood tests indicated a drop in hemoglobin and white blood cells; the liver function has decreased and her kidneys are trying to make up for what the liver is not doing. There is also physical evidence that the tumors in the liver are firmer and a little larger. The lab work today did not include a CEA “tumor marker” evaluation.

Based on this, Dr. Halfdanarson and his team of oncologists decided to give Lois a two week rest from Chemo. Hopefully her body will regain some strength instead of dealing with the onslaught of Chemo chemicals again. On May 11 we will have a CT scan in the late afternoon; we’ll stay in Iowa City overnight so we can be back at the Hospital by 8 am on Tuesday the 12th. The medical team will look at the scan and lab results and then we expect a recommendation for a new “Chemo cocktail.” They gave us some ideas of drugs that might be used but its all speculation right now.

We accept this as part of the adventure. God has not caused this to happen but He is certainly in charge! We ask you to continue to pray for and with us that God’s plan will be worked out in our lives.

Psalm 139:14-17

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!


From the very beginning, Jesus was heading toward the Cross. When Jesus was just eight days old, Simeon warned and prepared Mary for the conflict that would eventually lead to the Cross, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34-35).

The certainty of the Cross is stressed in all four gospel accounts. Luke tells us that “as the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (9:51). What had been on the heart of Jesus from the beginning was now becoming obvious to everyone. The explanation that Jesus gave to the disciples privately, “that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, that he must be killed and on the third day be raised from life,” was becoming obvious publicly. Jesus was a wanted man. The last time Jesus was in Jerusalem, during the celebration of Hanukkah, the Jews picked up stones to stone him “for blasphemy,” because they charged, “you, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33).

Is it any wonder then that Thomas looked at the return visit to the region as their last? There is a fatalism in Thomas’ commitment, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” There is no heroism here, only resignation, as if to say, “We’ve come this far, we might as well go all the way.” He is pessimistic, but loyal and committed to seeing this cause right through to its bitter end. Thomas’ commitment is born out of habit and tradition rather than faith and trust. He did not comprehend the inevitability of the Cross. It was beyond him to apply the teaching of Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22 to Jesus, nor did he fathom the meaning of John’s declaration, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Thomas pledged loyalty, but his heart was not in it. Instead of rebuking Jesus the way Peter did, Thomas advocated martyrdom.

Today’s followers of Jesus are not immune to the pessimistic attitude of Thomas. We too, can be guilty of commitment born of habit rather than faith, and routine rather than understanding. Thomas pledged his duty, but not his devotion. His loyalty was not obedience but a matter of resignation based on skepticism. There is a measure of Thomas’ frustration in every pastoral burn-out and disgruntled Christian worker. We see his attitude in the zealot who has turned ministry into a crusade. We feel his pessimism among Christians who have forgotten Resurrection Hope and are only living for today. Christ has not called us to bear a cross fatalistically but faithfully.

May God give you the grace and wisdom to see beyond your immediate circumstances and to rejoice in your Kingdom work. May you have an attitude in your service that produces joy not from what you do but from the victory of the Cross. May you be reminded that you are not following a martyr to the bitter end but a Savior who has promised you eternal life.

Infusion #21

Yesterday, April 15, Lois had her second infusion with the added Oxaliplatin. Because she was on this chemo regimen from July – October 2008, we knew the side effects and were prepared. Sensitivity to cold is the hardest one to cope with. Lois wears gloves to touch anything from the fridge or freezer. She pours milk and juice and lets it get to room temperature before she can drink it. Even the “minty cool” taste of toothpaste is too much so she uses baking soda to brush her teeth. These symptoms are intense for the first few days and gradually wear off so she can break eggs and have a jello salad in the few days prior to the next infusion.

Two side effects of the increased potency of the chemo therapy are the need for a lot more sleep and greatly reduced stamina. Lois spends a lot of time napping while watching TV or trying to read. She has short bursts of energy to do a simple project or spend an hour with grandkids but then she needs to rest. None of this compares to many we know who have severe reactions to chemo – some of which are simply debilitating. The chemo cold, the need for more sleep and avoiding cold for a week are relatively minor reactions – for this we are very grateful.

We are convinced that the ease with which Lois is dealing with Chemo is a direct answer to prayer! God is faithful in the little things – even when we don’t deserve it, He lavishes grace and mercy on us! We appreciate all the notes and cards as you express your care and concern. Thanks for praying with and for us.

Every Church Could Use a Little Faith

This past weekend I had the privilege of facilitating a church Leadership Conference. We began our discussions on Friday evening and when we gathered on Saturday morning, one of the participants brought Faith. She walked right up to me and said, “Who are you?”

I introduced myself and asked her name. She responded, “Faith. I’m 8 until my next birthday.”

By this time I was right down at her level and asked, “When is your next birthday?”

“November,” she replied.

“My birthday is in November, too!” I said, “On the 4th. What day is your birthday on?”

“10,” she said. And a very special relationship was born.

Every church could use a little Faith.

Sunday morning I arrived for Sunday School to find Faith and her Mom already there. Faith greeted me like a long-lost friend and carried on quite a conversation with the central theme that she would make sure I knew everybody. And she did!

For the next 15 minutes, each person who entered the church – no matter which of the three entrances they were using – was greeted by Faith who said, “You need to shake hands with Jim.” She then proceeded to lead them to where I was standing and even if I was talking to someone else, Faith would take my hand and say, “You need to shake hands with them,” and point to whomever she had in tow.

Some of the encounters were funny because Faith was no respecter of persons. Even if the individual or couple had been present all weekend at the Leadership Conference, she insisted that we be introduced as if we had never met.

I don’t think Faith knows what the term “stranger” really means within the context of the church. It was clear that in her mind I needed to meet everyone and each one should shake my hand. Sometimes she couldn’t remember their names but she didn’t forget mine and took every opportunity to remind people that my birthday was in November, too!

Faith made me feel important; welcome; part of the family.

Every church could use a little Faith.

I wonder who makes guests at your church feel welcome and important.

Please don’t take this as a suggestion to recruit 8 yr olds to be greeters. And don’t assume that every guest needs to be introduced to every regular attender.

My point is this: Someone should attempt to establish a rapport with a newcomer; find some common ground – it might be as simple as sharing a birthday month. That individual could then find others with a shared interest and introduce the guest. All this needs to be done with innocent sincerity – like that of an 8 yr old. False pretenses must always be avoided and the greeter should never shy away in embarrassment.

Our goal should be to help visitors feel important; welcome; part of the family.

Every church could use a little Faith.

Infusion #20

I realize we haven’t done reports for Lois’ Chemo Infusions 18 and 19. There really wasn’t much to report. We didn’t even see the Dr prior to those infusions because we’ve all been playing the waiting game. The CEA number has been on the rise since December 2 and conventional wisdom indicated the best course of action was to stick with the plan and wait a few more weeks to see if there was any sign of cancer on the scans. (CEA stands for Carcinoembryonic Antigen and is a type of protein molecule that can be found in many different cells of the body, but is typically associated with certain cancers.)

Today, April 1, 2009, we left home early to travel to the University Hospital in Iowa City so that Lois could start drinking “glow juice” at 7:30 am for a CT Scan at 8:40 am. From there we moved to the Cancer Clinic for lab work and then we waited for the Dr. to get the results of the scan and labs. We learned the tumors in Lois’ liver have grown – the CT Scan clearly showed the increase. The CEA number has also risen from 14 four weeks ago to 16.7 today. It was 4.8 the end of October.

You might recall that the end of October the oncology team decided Lois was doing so well they removed one drug: Oxaliplatin. Today they decided to add Oxaliplatin back into the “cocktail.” (This drug’s main side effect is a serious sensitivity to cold!) We will have three more infusions of Oxaliplatin, Avastin, Leucovorine, and the “fanny pack pump” infusion of Fluorouracil which lasts for 46 hours. In eight weeks there will be another CT scan and a full set up labs and we’ll re-evaluate the response of the tumors. Dr. Halfdanarson assures us that if this doesn’t work, there are some other drug combinations we can try.

We do not consider this “bad news” or even sad news. It’s just news.

Recently, Lois and I were at a church where someone asked, “How is Lois’ battle with cancer going?”

Our answer: “We are not in a battle! The battle is already won and we know how it ends! Cancer is just part of the adventure right now.”

“Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that. (1 Corinthians 1:6-8 The Message)

Please continue to pray that we will be faithful in “this spiritual adventure.”