Day 20 – Remembering His Kiss

As my wife Diane and I pulled up to the Skokie, Illinois Hampton Inn & Suites last evening after a six hour drive, we noticed the Block Cancer Center just off to our right.  I wasn’t feeling great, and as I read the word “Block” a kind heaviness seemed to come over my heart.  Diane quietly said, “I just can’t believe we’re here to go to a cancer center,” giving voice to my very thoughts, word-for-word.  We checked into what I can say is one of the nicest rooms we’ve ever had at a hotel.  A small apartment, really, with full kitchen, two flat screens, a small hallway leading to a spacious bedroom with a luxury king-sized bed.  The appointments throughout the room and bath are classy but homey.  We are amazed and keep excitedly talking about how our girls would love it here!  All for a discounted rate of $139 a night, compliments of . . . having cancer.

Ah yes, the cancer.  I can’t shake the thought, as Cancer’s palpable presence begins to pull me downward for the first time since the diagnosis.  How many times have we checked into a nice hotel at our final destination — Walt Disney World, New York City, Seabrook Island, Key West, San Antonio, Boston, West Palm Beach . . . —  with nothing but carefree excitement and expectation?  Nothing but a “to-do” list to occupy our thoughts, or better yet a “to do NOTHING” list?  But this time there is no excitement.  Not even expectation.  Each thought in my mind of “isn’t this awesome?” is quickly married to “. . . Cancer”.  Cancer is with me as I unpack, and Cancer is with each small bite of dinner I swallow.  Cancer follows me to bed and is with me even as I fall asleep.  Cancer wakes up with me . . . nearer to me in those pre-dawn moments than my wife, who is nestled against my side.

We get up and Diane makes me steel cut oats.  The Cancer is still with me.

I sit down with my Bible and it sits inanimate in my lap.  I read something or other in there.  I read God’s voice as if it’s nothing.  I hear, nothing.

“God, help me.”

I remember Frank’s text message to me from Sunday.  ”What was it about?” I search my mind.  ”Perseverance.  Yes, perseverance.  Oh how I need perseverance in this moment.  What verse did he text me? James 1:2-4″:  ”Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

“Yes, Lord, may it be so.  This is a trial, isn’t it?  Such a trial.  May I count it all joy.  May I know you are at work in me, producing perseverance, sanctifying my heart.  May that bring me joy.  Even here, even now.”

I then remember an Andy Stanley lesson that Frank shared with me years ago.  It concerned Joseph, Jacob’s son.  You may recall, briefly, that Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, whereupon he was taken to a foreign land, purchased by a government official (Potiphar), falsely accused of assaulting Potiphar’s wife, thrown in a dungeon, forgotten and left to rot, left to die, for years and years.  But as he preached, Andy Stanley kept reading the same few words from Scripture “but the Lord was with Joseph.”  Sold into slavery.  ”But the Lord was with Joseph.”  Cast into the dungeon.  ”But the Lord was with Joseph.”  Held there and held there.  But “the Lord was with him.”  Every step of the way, amidst fear and misery and uncertainty and seemingly endless plight, seeming hopelessness, “the Lord was with Joseph.”

A reminder to me, sitting on couch across the street from the Block Cancer Center, hours away from our consultation.  A reminder that although cancer may be in me, “Jesus, You are with me. . . . You are with me.”

And then He reminds me of His kiss.  On Saturday (see Blog entitled “Day 18 — Matters of the Heart”), my Lord and I shared a very intimate moment, where He ministered deep to me and I experienced His presence, His love, in an especial way.  That moment was a kiss from my Savior.  I believe, perhaps, He gave me those moments, that kiss, partly because He knew last night was coming, and He knew this morning was coming.  And that it would be hard for me.  And He wanted me to remember — to know — that He truly is with me, whether I am experientially in His embrace as I was on Saturday, or struggling as I am now in a Skokie, Illinois hotel room across from the Block Cancer Center.

My Savior, Jesus, wants me to know that though cancer may very well be inside of me, Cancer need not be with me.  For He is with me.  Yes, He will not leave me, nor foresake me. . . . And later, as we begin to pack up and head over to the Block Cancer Center, I discover that He has planted that truth once again, foremost in my mind and foremost in my heart. . . .

Thank you my Savior.  Thank you Jesus.  I love You. . . .


Day 19 — The Perfect Moment

Our doctors have indicated several times that the cancer has been in me for years, and is just now manifesting itself with symptoms.  That’s the nature of cancer located in the middle of the pancreas, it seems.

I take so much comfort from that.  I’m not sure why this is happening, but as I’ve said before, I do know God held this circumstance in His hands, considered it fully, and then allowed it to sift through His fingertips and into our lives, at this time, and in this way — for He is sovereign over all things and He is a perfect Father to His children.

According to the doctors’ explanation of pancreatic cancer, in order for the cancer to have manifested itself “at this time” in our lives, our Lord had to say “yes” years ago.  And that just makes me marvel!  I think of all the things our omniscient, all-powerful God lovingly and perfectly took into account as He turned this over in His hands and studied it.  And that first makes me wonder how many times my Father held this in His hands and refused to let it fall through His fingertips and into our lives, knowing the timing was not yet perfect.  And then I restfully wonder why did He decree years ago that this time would be perfect, knowing that His reasons are loving and compassionate.  Perhaps He knew that Megan, Mallory, Cara, Diane, and myself would not be prepared to walk through this with Him until now, May 2012.  Or perhaps He knew that sufficient intercessors would not be raised up to fight for us until this season of our lives.  Or that our support network would be insufficient until that time.  Or perhaps He needed to somehow prepare you; perhaps He had to prepare your heart to receive these moments into your life somehow, and now here you are, prepared by your Abba-Father for this very moment.  Yes, our Lord determined that it was ok for the cancer to enter into our lives experientially “at this time”, because it was the perfect time for His plan and purposes.  And when I next consider that the cancer is unfolding “in this way”, and venture to contemplate all the moving parts He sovereignly oversaw (and is now overseeing) as He perfectly fathers us, my head fairly begins to explode!

And so I am tremendously comforted by the “Fact” that this cancer has been in me for years.  I see in that Fact nothing but my Father’s love, His care, and His provision for my family and me, and for all those whom He desires to touch for the good of His kingdom.  That Fact reminds me that this moment is the perfect moment for this to be unfolding in our lives, and that it is unfolding in a way that does not take Him by surprise.  And so, yes, the Fact that this cancer has been in me for years reminds me yet again that He is with us now, perfectly fathering us through this season of our lives, moment-by-moment-by-moment.

Day 18 — Matters of the Heart

Yesterday I sat down in the morning to spend time with my Lord.  It was uncharacteristically warm, so I sat out back on the deck, my legs propped up in the direction of the lake that lies straight back, beyond our yard.  The sky was an amazing, clear blue, and somehow seemed the slightest hue darker than I remembered the sky to be.  The trees and grass were lush and bright from the spring rains — the perfect shade of green married against the blue.  It was very still.  And very quiet — except for a small chipmunk off to my right tirelessly chirping away with an unexplained earnestness that made me smile to myself.

I had grabbed my already-opened Bible from the kitchen table as I headed out to the deck.  For some reason, it was haphazardly folded over to a particular page, and that’s how it lay in my lap as I settled into the chair and looked out over the scene the Lord had set before me.  After a time, I slid my sunglasses down onto the bridge of my nose and began to read Zephaniah 3:14-17, God’s voice speaking to me from that solitary page waiting in my lap:

Sing, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
 The Lord has taken away your judgments,
He has cast out your enemy.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
You shall see [fear] disaster no more.

 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Do not fear;
Zion, let not your hands be weak.
 The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

My eyes filled with tears as the Lord began to move these sentiments of His heart into mine.  I felt . . . what?  So comforted, I guess.  I can’t capture my thoughts, my heart, beyond that.  The only way I can describe it is that the Lord was experientially with me, comforting my heart.  “I’m with you, and it’s ok.”  A kiss from God.  His presence.  I am at peace.

After a time I walk back through the sliding doors, through the kitchen, to a card table we have sitting by a picture window looking out over the back yard.  I sit there, and my Father continues to speak to me, His son, His love, from the text:

“Sing! . . . Shout! . . . Be glad and rejoice with all your heart!”

Yes, my Father . . .

 “The Lord has taken away your judgments.”

Ah, yes.  Judgments.  My heart again fills with tears that begin to show themselves at the corners of my eyes.  I try to blink them back, but they slowly spill down my face.

My Abba, my Father, He speaks now to one of my fears.  No, He takes away that fear, fully and finally. You see, early on, when the mortal nature of my sickness first found its way into my mind, I kept wondering “why?”.  “Why?”  Not asking God, really, but . . . condemning myself.

Now I know, I know, I know:  “why?” questions like that are not healthy questions to ask!!! ☺.  Best, always, to focus on the face of my Savior, my Abba.  To see the lines on His face, lines etched from a lifetime of His smiles and delight as He watches me and walks with me.  (And you!)  Best to anchor on Truth(!), lest I sink like Peter walking on the sea but focused on the storm (Mt 14:22-33).

But nonetheless, I found myself focusing on my pathetic record of disobedience, my failure to love, my stiff-necked refusal to heed His voice.  “Why is this happening to me?” very quickly became “why not me?  I so deserve this!”, as if God was somehow punishing me.  (Which, of course, He is not, as Jesus took all my punishment on the cross(!).)

I passionately prayed Psalm 51, and tried to re-orient my thinking.  To line it up with God’s heart as revealed in Scripture.  I reminded myself of truth (e.g., “as far as east is from west, so far are our sins removed from us”), and sought the counsel of great men of God — both our forefathers who live on in their writings and sermons, and some of my closest brothers in Christ.  I sang in church, “what can wash away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus!”  And slowly felt as if I had found resolution, peace.

But, oh, how God knows differently!  He knew those truths had not gone deep enough inside of me yet.  That although I was not actively asking “why not me?”, there was a place, deep in my heart — beyond my ken — where a quiet, unsettled churning, a vague uncertainty, refused to be stilled. . . .

And so what does my Father do?  He comes to me on a porch on a soft spring morning, just Him and me, paints a serene, romantic landscape for my eyes and my heart to behold, and then reaches over and sweetly pours His balm into the deepest hurts and fears of my heart that only He is able to see, or heal.

“I have taken away your judgments.”

The Father healing me through His Word.

The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
You shall see [fear] disaster no more. 

In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Do not fear. . . .”

Oh, how my heart desperately needed to hear those words, “I have taken away your judgments . . . do not fear”.  And yet, until my Father whispered them to me on that porch, through His Word, I didn’t even realize how I longed to hear those words.

Think of it!  I am me.  I am meand I did not know what was in my own heart!  But our God — He saw!  And He cared!!  And so my Abba Father stooped down and came to me and healed me of lament and uncertainty in my deepest, secret places.  He came and by His Holy Spirit sealed His truth — His Word — deep within me.

“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joint and marrow.  It understands the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb 4:12).  Amen and Amen!!  I knew in my mind that Jesus had already died for all of my sins, that there is no present judgment for my transgressions (“It is finished!”, Jn 19:30; “For there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Rom 8:1).  But, oh how I needed that truth to go from mind to heart once I was diagnosed with cancer.  How I needed those words to go deep — though I did not even realize it.  And the thing is, my Abba, my Savior, He knew(!) . . .  and it mattered to Him(!).

I, dust, mattered, to Him.

The deepest places of my heart matter to Him.

And the deepest places of YOUR heart matter to Him!  And He will take you deep.  He will meet you at the point of your deepest needs, your deepest fears, take you to secret places that you — you!! — don’t even know.  His still, quiet voice penetrating even to dividing soul and spirit, joint and marrow. . . .

In my family room, I begin to write out those verses from Zephaniah 3, ending with

Zion, let not your hands be weak.
 The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

Yes, He has quieted me with His love.  Stilled my soul.  Somehow I sense His presence, in my midst, rejoicing over me with gladness — and my heart rejoices with Him. . . . Here, on Westhaven Drive, sitting beside a picture window.  It’s too much.  I’m overwhelmed.  For there is no God like our God, and my deepest heart matters so much(!) to Him.

Later in the day, as we open the mail, a card is pulled from an envelope.  I read, aloud, the verse printed on its face:  “The Lord will take great delight in You.  He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.  Zephaniah 3:17″  My wife and I look at each other, amazed!  Wide-eyed, I just keep saying “Can you believe it?!“  “Can you believe it?!“  “I mean, can you BE – LIEVE it?!” while my wife shakes her head in almost-comic disbelief.  The Lord has punctuated the day with His own exclamation point!  As if to say, “Yes, Joe, yes!  That was Me this morning!  Those verses were meant for you.  Truly, those verses were meant for you!”

The deepest places of my heart matter to Him . . . and oh how your deepest heart matters so much(!) to Him as well.  How He longs to be with you, even this Sabbath afternoon, this warm spring day, to speak to your heart.  Hear His voice, even now, calling to you — to you(!):

“Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove
Is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth her green figs,
And the vines with the tender grapes
Give a good smell.
Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away!”

Songs 2:10-13.

Day 13 — Not a Moment Too Short, or a Moment Too Long

It’s 4:30 in the morning and I haven’t been able to sleep since 3:00 because the pain in my sides and back makes it too uncomfortable to sleep, whatever position I try.  The Vicodin isn’t kicking in this time, even though I upped the dose a bit.  The pain isn’t intolerable by any stretch of the imagination, and generally subsides when I sit upright or stand, and I am very, very thankful(!!) for that ☺.  But I decided to get up after a 90 minute struggle — alternately praying, trying over and over to get comfortable, and meditating on my Abba Father and my Savior Jesus Christ.

The avenue for my meditating began where it has begun countless times over the past month, with a teaching from about a month ago that profoundly impacted me.  It was a morning devotional teaching at a Christian Communicators of America speech and debate tournament in Michigan.  I actually arrived at the tournament later in the day and missed the teaching, but as the tournament ended my friend Duane, knowing that I had been having some ongoing medical issues, caught up with me to talk.  During our conversation he shared a snapshot of the teaching, and even the 2-minute version brought tears streaming down my face.

The teaching involved, in part, Malachi 3:3, where God tells us this about who He is:

“He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver;
He will purify the sons of Levi,
And purge them as gold and silver,
That they may offer to the Lord
An offering in righteousness.”

As I understand it, the teacher, Dave, explained that he had wondered what it meant for a refiner of silver to “sit”.  After all, God is telling us that He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver; so what, exactly, is He telling us about Himself?  Dave’s answer came during a visit to Colonial Williamsburg — a re-enactment theme park — where he found himself chatting with a “colonial” silversmith.  Dave asked the silversmith what it meant to “sit” as a refiner/purifier of silver.

The silversmith explained that when he refines silver, he must sit at the opening of the furnace and focus intently upon the silver, for if the silver is removed from the furnace a moment too soon, it will not be fully purified, and if it is in the furnace a moment too long, it will be damaged.  Dave asked the silversmith how he could tell if the silver was ready, fully refined and purified, and the silversmith, in effect, said this:  Oh, that’s easy . . . if I can see my image in the silver, I know it’s ready.

Whew!  In a few short words in Malachi 3:3, God is telling us that this is who He is.  That this is a very real part of His character!  “He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver.”  How utterly reassuring!  As I find myself in the furnace of affliction, this is the heart of my Abba Father, my Saviour Jesus, who is wholly invested in these moments, in me.  Intently focused, never wavering.  Patiently, lovingly, watching . . . watching . . . watching.  Every moment.  Watching to make absolutely certain that I will not be in the furnace either a moment too short, or a moment too long.  Knowing all the while that when the refining — the purifying(!) — is done, He will be able to see His reflection in me more clearly than ever before.

And not only me, but Diane and Megan and Mallory and Cara.  At the moment, each of us is in our own furnace.  Yet we know our heavenly Refiner will not allow us– will not allow us — to be in there a moment to short, or a moment too long.

And not only us, but all of you who have trusted Jesus as your Savior!  As I’ve heard preached on more than one occasion, you can be relatively certain that you are in one of two groups:  either you are in the midst of affliction, or someday you will be in the midst of affliction.  And if you are (or when you are), you can be assured of the Lord’s heart and focused care and concern toward you –  His treasure — throughout those very moments.  As Charles Spurgeon preached in 1881:  “Our Lord sits as the Refiner at the furnace mouth because He is all attention.  He has, as it were, given up all other cares just to sit there and watch His treasure.  He is determined that His servants shall be purified — that the sons of Levi shall be purged — and so there He is, everything else laid aside, giving His whole heart and soul to those whom He is refining. “Oh” you say “but you exaggerate if you talk about the Lord’s giving all His heart and soul to one of His people.”  No, I do not.  The Lord Jesus watches each one of His people as intensely as if He had no other.  Finite minds must have a center, somewhere, and as that center changes, so our circumference of thought and action shifts.  But God’s center is everywhere and His circumference is nowhere!   Each one of us may be in the center of the Divine mind and yet none of the redeemed may be any the less near because of it.  Jesus watches each one — you, me, 50,000 others — all of them His chosen ones that are undergoing the purifying process.  He watches each one as if there were never another for His blessed eyes to rest upon.  He is all attention, watching . . . as practical refiners watch their precious metal!  Poor, bowed Heart, Jesus is all attention!  His sitting down is not because He forgets, but because He remembers! . . . Always observing, always watching.  Jesus shall sit—“He shall sit as a refiner.””

Oh the wonder of our God and King!  Again I ask, is He not too wonderful!?  This is the God whose hand I am holding, in whose arms I am resting, as this season of my life unfolds.  This is the God who is with me when the sun is warming my face as I walk along the way, and this is the God who is with me when I can’t sleep at 3:00 a.m. because the pain is too much.  This is the God who saw my affliction on the horizon, and, in His perfect timing, graciously and lovingly opened my eyes to Malachi 3:3 — focused my eyes in a new way, to help anchor me to Him as my doctors more and more began talking in terms of “inoperable cancer”.

The wistful irony is that as Duane shared Dave’s teaching with me last month, I had thought that the worst of my furnace of affliction was behind me.  But my Abba Father in heaven knew differently, and as He had done in so many other different and poignant ways, He further prepared my heart for what was to come, that I might rest more assuredly — knowing He is right here with us, in control, and that we will be in this season not a moment too short, nor a moment too long. . . .

Catching Up

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.