Archive for the ‘living’ category

1Corinthians 15 caught me by surprise today…

January 25, 2014
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About a month ago my 86 year old father felt winded and fatigued in spite of generally having had good health except for a weak heart and feebleness in his legs.  On January 4 he went to the ER because he was then feeling some pain in his abdomen.  A CT scan revealed that there were issues in his lungs and liver, but the doctors thought his most immediate need was for his gall bladder to be removed. When that procedure was done, it was discovered that his liver was much worse than the CT scan had revealed.  It was completely overtaken by cancer. The Lord took him home two days later, on Thursday, January 9, and the funeral was last week.

So, 1 Corinthians 15 caught me by surprise today as I read it as part of my daily reading.

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;  and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.  Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;  and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep  For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,  then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” (1Corinthians 15:12-26 NAS)
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These verses were an encouragement as I reflected on the loss of my Dad from this life and the fact that I miss him, and on the fact that since he belongs to Christ, he too, will rise again.

Events in the last three weeks have kept me from having time to post here or on Facebook.  I haven’t had the heart or interest in posting light or trivial things, but today I am reminded and encouraged afresh that death is not the end.  At age 40 my Dad put his trust in the Lord and wrote the following in an open letter in 2001.  Hours before he died, on Thursday afternoon, Jan 9, he asked us to pass out copies of the letter to every one who came to his funeral.  We did.

If You Die Today, Where Will You Be Tomorrow?
 
            The tragic death of so many in the September 11 th World Trade Center disaster is a reminder that we each face the certainty of death, and along with it, an eternity in either Heaven or Hell. We do not know when death will take us, but it will take us. I’d like to tell you about my views on death, Heaven and Hell.
 
            In my late “teens” I did not believe in either Heaven or Hell. I believed that when I died I’d be buried and then decay into dirt and dust and that all remembrance of me would fade away. This anticipated eternal future didn’t bother me since I was an optimist and didn’t expect to die till I was older anyway. God was just a word in my vocabulary.
 
            In my “twenties,” I studied a little bit about the “atom,” its structure, the way it works and the fact that we cannot see it even though everything was made out of atoms. I also studied a little bit about the universe … its size, its beauty, its design and its orderliness, along with its total predictability and the fact that it too was made out of atoms, which we cannot see. I developed a strong belief that there had to be a God of creation to make all these things that I could see. I knew that these things didn’t just happen all by themselves.  My God however, was not a personal one. He was just the creator of all things.
 
            In my “thirties,” when I pondered the depth/shallowness of my belief, I concluded that the Bible was a good book but that it was nothing else. I did not believe in its content, its miracles, nor the story about Jesus Christ being the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary, nor that He died for my sins and rose from the grave on the third day. However, I did believe that the Bible was a good common denominator for all “races” to show us how we are to live good, clean, moral lives. Without the Bible, our world would be utter chaos. Even at this stage of my life, I still didn’t believe in Heaven or Hell.
 
            In May 1967, at age 40 (again pondering my beliefs), I realized that if my God could create and control all those incomprehensible things that I can see, accept and believe, He could easily create the virgin birth of His Son, Jesus Christ (a fact that I could never believe previously), just as easy as flicking His little finger. Slowly, within two to three weeks, I began to believe that Jesus Christ did die on the cross of Calvary and shed His blood as a sacrifice for my sin, that He rose again on the third day and now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, interceding for me. I then received Him as my Lord and Savior and have followed Him ever since.
 
            One day each one of us will stand before God. If He asks the question: “Why should I let you enter Heaven?” What would you tell Him? It’s important that we know the answer. I’m still a dirty, rotten sinner who never has been, nor ever will be worthy of anything better than Hell. However, I am a sinner saved by Grace. I have never done anything nor ever will do anything that would merit Heaven. However, that’s where I’m going when the Lord is done with me.
 
            You can decide whether you will go to Heaven or Hell when you die. The information regarding how to make that decision is clearly explained in the enclosed pamphlet titled, “Have You Considered This?” Please read it, pray about its applicability to your life and act accordingly, keeping in mind that: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  And Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
 
            God bless you as you ponder and pray about your eternal destiny.
 
                                                         Bill Buchanan, Dec. 3, 2001
                                                         RememberGodAlmighty.com

Body Today

January 24, 2013

Living with the side effects of chemotherapy varies from day to day.   Since I completed my chemotherapy in September my body has recovered from some of the side effects.  I can now drink cold beverages again; very thankfully, my sense of taste has come back(!); and one aspect of my sense of balance seems to have returned.  But certain neuropathy side effects continue and are bothersome.

On the other hand, I am very thankful that the tests I have had in the last couple of months indicate that there are no present evidences of cancer.  Since cancer is seen as the natural enemy, this alone gives reason for rejoicing.

But, discontent with apparent healing of the cancer, I have gone through periods of longingly setting my focus on some future day when, I presume, all the side effects of chemo will be behind me too, and my body will be back to “normal.”  That is, I will be able to touch, feel, write, type, walk, and run without impediments.

I have now found myself convicted that such longing undermines an appreciation for the healing which the Lord has provided, and evidences a discontent with “this day, which the Lord has made.”  Furthermore, it shows a presumption of the nature of that “future day” when — I presumptuously hope — all side effects will be behind me.  But James writes . . .

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

James 4:13-16

So what if God doesn’t want to remove all of my side effects?  What if He wants me to stay “the same” as I am right now for the rest of my life?  Will I perpetually be “discontent?”  Will I be constantly “living” in a tomorrow that may never come — and failing to live in the “today” that God has graciously given me?  Am I expecting heaven on earth?  Am I living as if this world is all there is, with my hope fixed on a resolution in this life which may never come?   If so, I will not be living a life submitted to the Lord’s will.  To paraphrase Psalm 118:24, the Lord has been leading me to meditate:

“This is the body that the Lord has given me TODAY,

I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

God may choose to allow my present condition to continue the rest of my life — for His glory, and His purposes.   Or God may allow my cancer to come back.  Or He may choose to heal those bothersome side effects.  Regardless of His choice, I must trust that His way is perfect, and glorify Him through the body He has given me today.

“As for God, His way is perfect.”

Psalm 18:30a

Carpe Horam — Seize the Hour

July 21, 2012

It has been several months since I have completed a new post for this blog.  It has been during these months that I have been receiving my chemotherapy.  There is a direct correlation between my “silence” and my treatments.  While I am thankful that I have now completed eight of the twelve bi-weekly infusions, I have been challenged by the various “demands” which the infusions bring on my body.

My infusions are on Mondays at the Regional Oncology Center and take most of the day.  At the end of my infusion on their pump, I am hooked up to a portable pump, which continues to give me more of one chemo agent for forty-six hours.  Two days later that infusion ends and I am disconnected.  On that day, day three of my chemo cycle, I find that I usually am very fatigued, and need to take a couple of naps during the day.  The same is true on day four and day five (and sometimes day six) of my cycle.  Consequently, on five out of the fourteen days of my chemo cycle, I really can’t “count” on getting very much done.

This means that in each two-week cycle, I have nine out of fourteen days to get done whatever I need to do for work, home maintenance, etc.  But, on those remaining nine days, I can also have fatigue or some other chemo side effects that “sideline” me.  This is the primary reason why it has been a while since I have written another blog post.  I am much pressured to get done what is absolutely necessary each week during my good hours (preparing for speaking and preaching) and find that my writing is getting “squeezed out” in the process.

Although many people have heard the expression, “Seize the Day” (from the Latin: Carpe Diem), I find that the expression, “Seize the Hour,” is more fitting to describe what God is teaching me now.  I have come to realize that I can treat my “good” days very presumptuously.  That is, I’ve found myself thinking, “I can’t count on getting anything done on my first five days, but I can count on getting things accomplished on my nine good days.”  Upon reflecting on this thought, I have been convicted by James 4:13-16.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’  As it is, you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.”

James 4:13-16 [ESV]

I have learned that I don’t know what tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or the day after that, will bring.  In fact, even on my “good” days, I find that I can have a productive morning, but then be overwhelmed with fatigue in the afternoon and accomplish nothing.  Let alone tomorrow, I don’t even know what the rest of today will bring(!), and I must not be presumptuous that I will “do this or that.”  Instead, I find that only if the Lord wills, will I “do this or that.”  Which means that I can only count on “this hour.”  This is the hour which the Lord has given me.  I can use it wisely, or I can fritter it away.  But if I do “fritter it away,” I am acting presumptuously that the Lord will give me a later hour for that which I could or should do presently.  This has led me to try to remember to Carpe Horam, “Seize the Hour” — to do, in the present hour, as wisely as possible, what God would have me to do.

I understand that Horace, from whom the phrase, Carpe Diem, “Seize the Day,” is quoted, didn’t have the same perspective that I have.  In fact, he used it in a context to emphasize that since the future is uncertain, one should put a minimum of trust in the future, seize the day, and enjoy its pleasures.  Instead, I am being challenged to make the most of the present hour, for I cannot, without presumption, count on a later hour.

Hospital Doors

February 28, 2012

On Wednesday, while waiting to leave the hospital for the drive home after surgery, I sat on a bench near the hospital doors and watched the many faces coming in.  I had come in through those doors a half dozen times in the previous month.  I reflected on the thoughts that had gone through my mind each time I had walked through those doors.  On December 27, right after my diagnosis, I wondered about this hospital, the doctor I was about to meet, and what she would say and find out about my cancer.  During one visit, because I had fasted in preparation for a procedure, I wondered how soon I could eat lunch and what I would like to eat when I could.  During another visit I tried to make sense out of the very conflicting results I was getting from various tests, and wondered what the doctor would find that day.  I was back a couple of other times too, but when I came through those doors on February 2, it was for the surgeon to perform a colectomy to remove the section of my colon where the cancerous ulcer was found.  In my heart, it was my desire for God to be glorified in my life that day, but I also wondered what this experience would entail for my family and me.

That Wednesday while I waited for my ride, I wondered about each of the faces coming through the doors.  Some were the faces of medical professionals, coming in for a day’s work.  Some were patients.  Some were volunteers.  Some were family members of patients.  Doctors with stethoscopes and briefcases walked in next to chemo patients wearing knit caps.  Volunteers hurried by husbands who were carefully pushing their wives in wheel chairs.

I also realized that for a moment in time, the hospital doors framed together strangers who knew nothing about each other.  As I looked at the faces walking by, I realized that they were not looking at each other.  They all were preoccupied.  They all were wrapped up in their own concerns, anxieties, plans and daydreams.  I realized that I had been equally oblivious of those who had walked through the doors beside me each of the previous times I had entered.

Life does the same thing.  It frames me together alongside strangers that I don’t even know.  I, in my own little world — they, in theirs.  In Matthew 5, Jesus presented the picture that His followers were to be influencing and providing light for their world.  I don’t naively believe that it is my responsibility to personally interact with “everyone” who “happens” to walk through doorways next to me.  But I am challenged to consider, when in a moment of time life “frames” me next to others:   “Do I, in that passing moment, pay attention to, or care, or speak to them about what is on their hearts?”  How many times am I “in my own little world,” thinking my own private thoughts, without a thought or a care for that other soul who God has providentially arranged to be right beside me?

Jesus said:  “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:13-16

Life Events versus Life Processes

February 24, 2012

I want to thank all of you who were praying for me as I underwent surgery for colon cancer on Thursday, February 2 at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo.  I was discharged on Tuesday, February 7 and went back for a follow up appointment on Friday, February 17.  I understand that medically speaking the surgeon believes he removed everything that he needed to in order to minimize the probability of the cancer spreading (i.e., part of my colon and the attending lymph nodes).  However, I realized that night after my surgery, and the next day, and the next, that although the surgery was behind me, there were definite “mile markers” which the doctors and nursing staff were looking for as they monitored my body’s recovery.  Colon resectioning was not as simple as cutting out a piece of PVC pipe, gluing the two ends together, and returning everything to “good to go” condition again.  I realized that every one of those “mile markers” were important.  Besides being mindful of the actual “plumbing” repair, the doctors and nurses were constantly watching for blood clots, increased temperature, swelling, blood pressure, nausea, etc.  Diet was restricted and only incrementally changed until eventually I was (more or less) back on a full diet again.  What struck me was that I went into the surgery thinking a great deal about the event of surgery, but not much about the process of recovery that would come afterward.

Events call attention to themselves.  They are often specific.  Unless they come as a result of an accident, they are often “planable.”   They can more or less be represented as “points in time.”  A person goes through an event, but then it is past, and he/she “moves on” with his/her life — even if the event was life changing.  But processes are different.  They tend to be ongoing.  They don’t have clear-cut points of termination.  They may be measured by various mile markers, but they have linear characteristics.  My surgery was an event.  It took place on February 2. But by that evening, the event of surgery was over, and I had entered the process of recovery.  Over the next three or four days the medical staff watched for various mile markers to indicate that the healing was progressing, but none of those markers were worth “writing” about.  Yet at every point, if the recovery hadn’t proceeded as it should have, there would have been a concern because something was wrong.

Processes are harder to remember.  I would suggest that many who have lost loved ones have found sympathy and support at the time of the funeral, however they may not have received as much support as they went through the grieving process in the following days and weeks and months.   Events are “rememberable” by others, in that it may be easier for others to remember and express concern, offer prayers, or reach out to a person at an “event” time of his/her life, whether it is a surgical procedure, death, or accident.  But the process of building (or rebuilding) that comes afterward may be forgotten by those who were so supportive during the difficult moments of the event.

Two days after surgery I wrote:

“I am finding that it is harder for me to deal with the process than the event.  Surgery was a one time event.  I prayed for God’s will to be done and committed the outcome to Him.  The doctors started the anesthesia and my conscious involvement was over and done.  But recovery is not so simple.  Every day involves waiting, waiting for ‘things to happen,’ which are very important, but which may not happen as the doctors expect, hope and anticipate.  There are very few actions I can take to help the recovery process, but those actions cannot ensure results.”

I am thankful that God has facilitated my recovery, and I am thankful for my friends and family who continue to support me as I am in this recovery process.  They haven’t forgotten me now that the event of my surgery is past, but I would suggest that almost anyone who goes through a significant life event may also have an equally important process that follows.  Don’t forget about that person who just had surgery, or an accident, or the death of a loved one.  He/she may be going through a very significant process in his/her life, the outcome of any part thereof may be every bit as consequential as the event itself.

In the realm of Christian experience a parallel may be that there is often a great deal of focus on the event of a person turning to put his/her trust and belief in Jesus Christ.  That event, or experience, is highly valued and celebrated, and it should be.  However, there is also a process which ought to continue from that point into the future.  That person should continue to follow Jesus Christ as one of his disciples, or followers.  Following Jesus Christ is a process.  It is not just an event.

I am thankful that the writers of the New Testament encouraged the followers of Jesus Christ to be praying for one another.  I need that reminder.  I need to be reminded to pray for others, not just when they are going through significant events in their lives, but also as they go through the routine and seemingly mundane processes that make up our everyday existence.  I am thankful that my recovery has been “uneventful,” that there have not been any complications or problems, that the doctor and nurses gave me a “thumbs up” at my follow-up appointment a week ago (my body appears to be healing well, and no cancer was found in the numerous lymph nodes which were removed), but I realize that it is all because of God and what God was doing in the processes that were taking place in my body.  I will close by thanking all of you who were (and are) praying for me as I go through this process of recovery.  May I, by God’s grace, likewise be faithful in praying for you, as you go through various events and processes in your lives, as well.

Living Intentionally

January 24, 2012

When I was first diagnosed with colon cancer five weeks ago, I wrote about how our lives, like roads, can have familiar and “predictable” sections.  But God, for His purposes, sometimes sends us off the predictable into the unfamiliar [ Detour Ahead, Exit Now ].    I’ve been on those “unfamiliar” roads the last five weeks and I have written about frustrations [ GPS is Spinning], and the challenges of unanswered questions [ Unanswered Questions  and Solving a Maze ].

Two weeks ago my ulcer, after being somewhat hard-to-find, was found again.  Then last Tuesday I met with the surgeon in Buffalo and we scheduled surgery for next Thursday, February 2, to remove the cancerous part of my colon .

In the last few weeks, my life has become very “intentional.”  I have been very selective of what I have done in my waking hours.  Because the doctors have told me that I will be “out of commission” for at least four weeks, I have wanted to finish up as many important partially completed projects as possible.  I have also wanted to get everything ready and scheduled for those who are going to be speaking in my behalf at my regular speaking engagements.  And I want to select and gather the various books that I hope to read while I am convalescing.  And since it is winter, and we live in upstate New York, I have wanted to make arrangements for our home and cars so that as much as I can, I will have everything in place for my wife and youngest son to be “ready” for whatever weather we receive in the month of February [both Patty and my son have now had, and passed, “snowblower lessons” 🙂 ; and for the first time in ??? years, our garage is cleaned out and there is actually room to park a vehicle inside(!)].  All of this has only come about by God’s grace and by my being very “intentional” in how I have used each day.

Recently, however, I have thought a lot about “intentionality,” and about how we can be very motivated and intentional when we have a project deadline, a test, houseguests coming, or a vacation.  I can also imagine that a person with an awareness that he has a terminal disease, and probably limited time on earth, can also be very “intentional” in how he uses his available strength and days.  We prioritize that which is important, which we must “get done,” when we have limited time.  Several verses in Scripture have come to my mind.

James writes: “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”  (James 4:14)

In this passage I am reminded that all of our days are unpredictable. Therefore we shouldn’t presume to have or take any present or future day “for granted” – whether or not we have an upcoming “deadline.”   We may not have a tomorrow.

Paul writes:  I [appeal to] you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies [as] a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”   (Romans 12:1)

Paul reminds me that I am to be making conscious choices to present myself to God in ways that are acceptable to Him.  This applies every day, not just when I am highly motivated to accomplish some goals, or when I see my time “running out.”  All of my life is to be lived in such a way as to be pleasing in God’s eyes.

Jesus says:  “Therefore I say unto you, be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”  (Matthew 6:25-30)

Solomon writes:  “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”  (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

I am here reminded that while Jesus tells me that I am not to be driven by anxious worry, Solomon reminds me that ultimately it does matter how I live.

And so I am reproved, that while I have been motivated to live very purposefully, very intentionally, these last few weeks, and I have genuinely wanted God to use my present experience with cancer for His purposes, I really need to live purposefully, “intentionally,” in a way that is acceptable in God’s eyes, every day, not just when I’m staring at foreshortened days, an imminent challenge, a trial, a deadline, or an ordeal.