I am starting this blog a bit late (see Background), although I have been preparing/writing separately. My initial post is actually the entries of my earlier off-line “blogs” to date:
Day 5 (Sunday, May 7, 2012)
What a wonderful day! Church in the morning, followed by an outside early lunch at Aladdin’s (healthy ☺) with Diane, Mallory, Cara, and my mom. The sky was blue and the sun was shining, and it was warm and wonderful for us. For the first time in five days I was able to enjoy those moments for what they were – precious time with loved ones amidst the blessings of God. It seemed to me, as well, that Diane and my mom likewise were plugged into the moment, the time together, the beauty of it all – the sun, the sky, the exotic foods, our family, rest. Nothing else mattered but that we were together, enjoying God’s creation together as a gift from Him. Moments from Him. And then I saw a text from Frank: “live IN the moment. I’m praying for you at this moment!” Wow! God had raised up Frank to pray this for us, God answered his prayer by focusing us so compellingly on enjoying the moments and giving us the grace to do so, and then God told us, showed us, through Frank’s text, that He was invested in these moments, invested in us. How marvelous(!), how wonderful(!), is our Savior’s love for us! Oh how important are your prayers!! Thank you! They are being heard, and they are being answered, by our Abba Father who loves us so.
After we got home we meandered out to the 5-acre lake behind our house, dogs and cat in tow, and sat quietly in warm sunshine and a small breeze, each reading something or other. As we sat there, I thought, “I’m going to die.” Not that I’m going to die soon or anything, just the fact that, someday, “I’m going to die.” It kind of surprised me. “I am going to die!”
“I. Am. Going. To. Die.”
It surprised me because I’ve lived my life as if I’m not going to die. Ever. I may throw an occasional acknowledgment toward death, but that’s really about it. And as this realization hit me, that I’m going to die, I thought, “really, in this regard, nothing’s changed. Nothing’s changed. It’s just that I now know — better than I ever have before — that I’m going to die.” Before, I would have been sitting at the lake as a man-who-is-going-to-die living like a man-who-is-not-going-to-die (delusional!!), but now I’m sitting at the lake as a man-who-is-going-to-die, living more and more, I believe, like a man-who-is-going-to-die. I can’t wait to see what that looks like as it takes deeper and deeper hold. And I hope and pray it looks like this: love! Greater, deeper, more passionate love for God, and for my neighbors.
We spent a couple of hours by the lake, then came in and finished the day indoors, with talking, movies, worship music, dinner, laughing, rest. It was a wonderful day, and we just kept commenting to each other what a great day it was. As the day drew to a close, my mom got a call from her prayer-warrior friend, who called to say that the Lord impressed upon her mightily to pray for us this day – throughout the day – that we would enjoy this day. And she did pray for us, fiercely, that we would enjoy the day. What love! The body of Christ pouring itself out for us – for us. It’s too much! Again, Abba raised up an intercessor for us, who prayed for us in accordance with His direction, and He heard and answered, and then told us all about it. Is it not too wonderful!! Your prayers are being heard. And they are being answered. Thank you for giving of yourselves for us. May Abba richly bless each of you, and your loved ones, a thousand times over, and minister to your needs according to His glory.
Day 7 (Tuesday, May 9, 2012)
This morning Di said she kept finding herself fearful of the future if I die. All number of unanswered questions about life and living, plaguing her mind and spirit, occupying her time and thought life. And finally she realized, if God does in fact allow me to die, she’ll actually go through all those things then. That that will be the time God has for her to live through and experience those things with Him, in His perfect timing.
“Why live through them twice!?!” she asked herself.
In other words, by worrying about these unknown things now, she is, in a sense, living through them now — and, if I die, she will have to actually live through them a “second” time. And she realized that by dwelling on “what ifs” and worries, the evil one was robbing, killing, and destroying her “now” moments. Robbing her moments of joy and wonder and relationship and beauty and appreciation and rest and love. Robbing her of an abundant life with Christ. As Jesus said in Jn 10:10: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
For my part, I found myself a bit down this morning, and realized that I was mis-understanding my options. I was thinking that the options are: (a) don’t recover and die; or (b) recover and don’t die. But, again, those are not the options! I am going to die! (Yes, I know, . . . I’m slow on the uptake, having just been through this on Sunday ☺). Nothing has changed. I must live today fully. Whether God tells me I am going to die tomorrow, or die in 30 years, I must live today fully. In that very real sense, nothing has changed!
Now, I’m not saying that I’m going to all-of-a-sudden live life fully, as if by magic or by a self-focused re-ordering of my thoughts and priorities. But I do expect it to happen more and more. And here’s why: Diane teaches calculus.
As I write this Mallory is at her AP Calculus exam (go Mallory!), so I’ve heard an awful lot of Calculus tutoring in our home for about 2 months leading up to the exam. And here’s what I think: Calculus is hard! Really hard! The equations not only have numbers in them, but all sorts of crazy squiggles and arrows. And letters! In fact, lots of the “formulas and theorems for reference” don’t have any numbers in them at all! (But this is math! How can that be?) And as I putter around the house, Diane and Mallory are speaking in this foreign tongue full of “arc tangents” and “co-secants” and “concaves” and “properties of definite integrals”, “trapezoid rules” and “parametric forms”. (I think they also mentioned flux capacitors, portals to other dimensions, and parallel universes where unicorns do exist, but I’m not positive.) The point here is, the equations are complicated.
So what does Diane teaching calculus have to do with any of us living life more fully? Well, it impressed upon me how simple God’s equation is for that. By comparison to calculus, it’s simple. In fact, it’s about the simplest equation there can be: A = B. In John 17:1-3, Scripture records Jesus’ prayer to the Father moments before entering Gethsemane: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
The equation is this: eternal life = knowing Jesus and the Father.
That’s it! Period! If we were to explore the original Greek words, we would see that Jesus is saying, in part, that abundant, full, joyous life on earth is one and the same as knowing Him and Abba Father intimately. So if I desire true life, I will receive that gift more and more as I more and more come to know Jesus and the Father, with intimacy. Period. The “equation” is so simple. A = B. True life = (equals!!) knowing Abba Father and Jesus. Notice that there is no plus sign — no “Father/Jesus plus” wealth or good grades or marriage or anything. Just A = B. (More exposition in this regard can be found in the Truth Project DVD entitled “Unio Mystica”, which is reflected above.)
So, the evil one had tempted Di to worry and focus on “what ifs”, and those things were leading her away from abundant life, because they were leading her away from focusing upon and living with and thereby knowing Jesus and our Father in heaven more deeply. But God, as He always does, called her back to Him. To life.
Oh Father, may we seek to know You and Your most beloved Son, Jesus! May we glorify You, Triune God, by enjoying you!
Day 8 (Wednesday, May 10, 2012)
Today we told Mallory and Cara that I am really, really sick. That the doctors say I have inoperable stage IV pancreatic cancer. That they say – they say – that I may live a year, more or less. That the percentages and odds are not good. That my healing will take a miracle. God’s supernatural intervention.
We told each girl in turn, separately, holding them in our arms in our family room, and just allowing them to cry and ask questions as they desired. Each girl was anchored to Truth in those moments, focused on what is real and true about God, and I praise, praise, praise God for that(!), and bless and thank you for your prayers(!). The processing of this news, I expect, will unfold in waves. It is crucial in these unfolding events that each of us stays anchored to Truth, and that lies are kept at bay.
We didn’t have a “teaching” session planned for those moments. We wanted the moments for each girl, which were bathed in your (thank you!!) and our prayers, to unfold as the Spirit led, in those moments. Mallory reminded us that her twin “themes” this year for her walk with God are “Trust Him” and “Be Satisfied”. She remembered His promise that He will not give her more than she can bear, in Him. She knows that these moments are filtered through His fingertips, for He is Sovereign over all things. And for reasons of His own – reasons that are good and great – He decided that it was ok for this to happen, at this time, in this way.
Cara was wholly quiet with her thoughts, but she truly has a big heart for God, and seemed reassured by truths about God and His heart toward us. I took Cara from Diane’s arms and held her, and as her sobbing began to slow, I asked Abba Father to show me how to best love her in the midst of her continuing silence. And He immediately brought the following verse to me: “[a]ssuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” Mt. 25:40. Some commentators suggest Jesus is saying that when we reach out to those in need, we are actually, mysteriously, somehow ministering to Him. To Him. (As the Jamison Fausset Brown Commentary puts it: “Christ Himself was the Personal Object of all their deeds: that they found Him hungry, and supplied Him with food; that they brought water to Him, and slaked His thirst; that seeing Him naked and shivering, they put warm clothing upon Him, paid Him visits when lying in prison for the truth, and sat by His bedside when laid down with sickness. This is the astonishing interpretation which Jesus says “the King” will give to them of their own actions here below.” (Emphasis in original.)) I believe the Lord brought Mt. 25:40 to my mind to show me that by quietly hugging Cara, I, too, was somehow quietly embracing Him. He was reminding me again, viscerally, that He is not dispassionate or disconnected — but He is invested in our circumstances, and our suffering grieves Him. And I somehow knew that the simple act of holding Cara tightly, and nothing more, was enough to love her deeply in that moment. So there we sat, together – our Lord, Cara, and me – simply embracing, as muffled sobs turned to silence.