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Lessons Thru Cancer: There is Worship Thru Suffering

One day in late January, I was at a physical therapist appointment trying to rehab my blown out knee. As I worked out with the therapist, he expressed his concern over my knee that had been swollen for weeks but with what seemed to be no cause. I had already had my legs checked for blood clots and had talked to by knee surgeon but no one knew what was going on. As I sat there with my therapist, he told me I should call my doctor and schedule a CT scan. He went on to say this may be an indicator to something very serious. He made it clear to me that day as I sat next to him in his office that this maybe cancer. I’m not sure how most people would take a warning like this given it didn’t come from a doctor but it was clear that he knew what he was talking about. Normally I take these kinds of things in stride but as soon as I got to the car where Sarah was waiting I fell apart. My emotions got the best of me and I was overcome by the fear of what it could be. It would be too much to say I knew I had cancer but Sarah and I both had a deep sense that this was serious. I knew this was the beginning of something that could end my life.

We spent most of that weekend in somber silence. On several occasions we made the effort to talk through what this could mean but it was hard. I was afraid but I could see that Sarah also knew the gravity of the situation. It all came to a head when we went to a church service that Sunday. In hind site it’s clear that God was using that Sunday to prepare our hearts for the coming week and to draw us into a necessary dependance on him. That Sunday’s message was on Ecclesiastes 9 and was centered on the idea the death comes to all- that death is the fate of all men yet Christ is the hope that overcomes death. Sarah and I were both fighting back tears the entire service. We weren’t just listening to the message; we felt it’s full weight and were living out it’s message in real time.

There was a moment that my fear and uncertainty transitioned into broken worship. I was still anxious about what the tests would say the following week but as we sang songs of worship at the end of that service; I worshipped in a way I rarely have. The song that God used to draw me into a deep and heartfelt time of worship was Where Your Praise Never Ends by Charlie Richardson (not yet recorded). Read through the words and I think you will understand why I was broken and why I was able to worship in the midst of my fear.

Where Your Praise Never Ends

Ones that have gone before us

Saints that have joined your chorus

Know of your glory now

My voice prepares the notes

That I’ll sing before your throne

Rehearsing the day I’ll see you face to face.

Because I long to be where your praise never ends.

Where your glory resides.

In the Kingdom of light

In the Kingdom of light

Your praise never ends

Forever begins

In the Kingdom of light

In the Kingdom of light

Your praise never ends

Forever begins

Overlooking Lhasa, Tibet

Lessons Thru Cancer: God Loves Thru His People

Update

For the last 3 weeks I have felt like my old self again. My mind is sharp, no more chemo brain, and my body is near normal. My only struggles currently are the swollen legs from the blood clots and a small amount of fatigue. Last week I started back to work part-time which has been very life giving. I have also been eating everything I can find. Over the course of the last 3 months I lost 45 pounds but have gained back 15 of those pounds.

My surgery is set for June 4 at Indiana University Hospital in Indianapolis. We have learned this will be an intense and invasive surgery but one that should get rid of the remaining cancer. Please continue to pray for my surgery, my surgeon, Sarah and my recovery. I should be recovered and back to life in 4-6 weeks.

Lessons Thru Cancer: God Loves Thru His People

Until Sarah and I moved to Louisville and became part of our church, my understanding of Christian community was limited. I had experienced kindness and investment through the Body of Christ at my previous church and while I was overseas but rarely had I seen or experienced deep and abiding love for others at the cost of sacrifice. As we got plugged in at our church here in Louisville we began to learn and experience the beauty and hardship of biblical community. The kind of community that calls people to be open and transparent, to be willing to care for others at the expense of personal comfort. The kind of community that calls people to holiness and walks with others through their sin struggle. Sarah and I have experienced amazing community through our church over the last 5 years but nothing would prepare me for the lessons I would learn through cancer.

God Loves Through His Church
When the news hit that I had cancer, members from our church responded in a way I would have never imagined. In the first 10 days we had over 100 people visit us from our church. Pastors, leaders, friends and complete strangers came with words of encouragement, prayers, gifts and food. Oh man did they bring the food. In fact, we had meals brought to us for 5 weeks strait. I didn’t eat hospital food for the first 5 weeks I was there.

We began to experience community in deep ways. Pastors would come to pray over me as I wept through my despair. One evening 13 pastors showed up at the hospital at 11pm to read the Word to me, anoint me with oil and pray for my healing. Worship leaders from our church would come weekly to lead Sarah and I in worship. This time was especially meaningful because when I struggled to read the Word or talk with God, I could still sing to him in my heartache.579747_10100717332058012_428024683_n

One day last month I was at my lowest point. I was in the middle of round 3 of chemo, unable to eat and feeling completely hopeless. I woke up crying and feeling alone. At that moment of need I called one of my pastors for comfort and with in 15 minutes he was at my home listening and loving me.

For many, it is hard to love others when suffering lasts so long. Sarah and I knew that going into this and fully expected people to get tired and disappear. That hasn’t happened. The best example of this is the faithfulness of my friends Clif and Andrew. These two friends where at my bedside from day one until now. Clif would come by my room 3 or 4 times a week going to and from work. Most of the time he would have a cup of coffee for me and would sit and listen as I poured out my heart. Andrew was also a committed friend. Many weeks he would come everyday and stay for hours. Sometimes we would talk and other times he would just be present while I slept. He did all this just weeks from his own wedding and even came to see me with his new bride the day after his wedding. Both of these men have shown me what friendship rooted in the gospel can be. Thank you men for loving me as Christ has loved you.

As I read the Book of Acts I see the early church living out this kind of Christian community. One that is willing to sacrifice personal rights and comforts, that shares liberally with others and one that suffers with those who suffer. Our churches today may look different as a result of culture but we would do well to not only model the early church’s passion for Christ but also their commitment and love for one another.

God Loves Through Marriage
On that day when I was at my lowest, when God seemed distance and I felt so alone; my pastor sat on my couch and began asking me questions about Sarah. He asked how our relationship was, our communication and how I had experienced love from Sarah. As I talked, I began to realize that I loved my wife more than I ever had. Why you ask? Because I had experienced covenant love from her during a time when I was unable to express love back. From day one she has stood by my side and loved me in deeper ways than I understand previously. During every surgery she would wait with fear and trembling for me to return back to the room. For weeks I was in and out of consensus. Every time I wold wake up, she was right there with me. She took the time and effort to learn about my cancer and the treatment I needed when I didn’t have the strength too. When I got sick and pucked my guts up, she was there with me on the floor to suffer with me.

As I shared these thoughts with my pastor I began to weep and realize the depths of love Sarah had shown me. It was then that my pastor spoke words I will never forget. He told me even though God felt distance and I was struggling to understand my suffering; God was showing me his love through Sarah’s sacrificial acts. She was a part of God’s creation and he was using her to provide the love, care and concern I needed. I was overwhelmed. Those thoughts had never come to me before but they were true. My sovereign God was showing me his unconditional love through the gift of marriage. Sarah and I had committed to love one another in sickness and in health. It was not until then that I had understand the depth of our commitment. Through the power of God’s enabling Spirit, she was loving me with a love that can only come from our God. Thank you Sarah. I can never repay you for how you have cared for me and the beautiful thing about covenant love is that I never have too.

479121_706910164818_1541606033_oWhat I have learned and am still learning is that God loves us in real and lasting ways through his people, both the local church and though those he has surround you with. It is important for us as believers to understand that the love you experience in community, through your loved ones and even through complete strangers is a gift from God.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” James 1:17-18 (ESV)