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Anna update: Waiting and Hoping

For the past 6 weeks two words keep coming up: waiting and hoping. It began with a weekly devotional we often follow. In this particular devotional each day of the week you read the same Psalm and each day a different other scripture as well. After spending a week praying Psalm 130, which quite a remarkable short prayer, I (Shawn) was reminded of one of my favorite books, Eugene Peterson's, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. In this book Peterson unpacks the Psalms of Assent (Ps 120-134). I pulled the book off the shelf, Anna and I read the chapter on Ps 130 aloud together, and there were those two words again, waiting and hoping.
Psalm 130
1Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.
If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning;
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is lovingkindness,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He will redeem Israel
From all his iniquities.

Peterson gives really helpful definitions of each word:
waiting: going about our assigned task confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions.
hoping: a confident alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do.

As we approach the six month mark of Anna's diagnosis we find ourselves waiting and hoping. Anna is certainly, "going about her assigned task" with diligence, as she is the model patient for both of the doctors who are partnering with her, in terms of following their protocols, food regimen and exercise to the letter. And hoping, uh yeah, she's hoping.

Did you know the word confident, which is in both of Peterson's definitions, is simply two words put together? Con-with and fidere-faith. So to do something with confidence is simply to do something with faith, with belief. It's often hardest thing to surrender control and believe, but that is the road we find ourselves.

Speaking of practical waiting (going about a task…) Recently, one of Anna's doctors recommended infrared sauna, as there are tons of benefits to the body and quite a bit of research on cancer fighting properties. Anna looked on Craig's List and, sure enough, she found a person selling an almost new one one for a reasonable price. I went to go check it out, and it was awesome! As the sauna owner and I finish loading up this infrared cedar sauna in our van (still can't believe it fit!), I hand him an envelope of cash, "count it to be sure it's right," I say. The man pauses, looks me in the eye while holding back a tear in is own eye, and says, "It's not right…" and hands the money back to me. "Go home and take care of your wife and kids. I hope this sauna helps your wife." There it is again, hope.

That's what's going on around here. We are waiting and hoping. Waiting, especially, is hard. We live in a culture that does not like to wait. And hope, whew, just turn on your newsfeed and it appears that all hope has been lost in our world. Yet, we hope.

Thanks for your continued prayers. As you think about Anna and our family, think, waiting and hoping. And perhaps return to those definitions and ask yourself what you might be waiting and hoping for.

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Anna update:

No “news” to report on the medical front. But being that the last post was a while ago, and that silence could be interpreted as not good, we want to touch base.

There is “news”….. it has a lot more to do with how we are doing than it does about cancer, specifically. To start with, Anna’s own words are probably the best way to give you some texture on how she’s doing. A few weeks ago she said to me, “I feel better than I have in years.” And she “looks” like she feels better than she has in years. Those of you who’ve seen her lately could fist-bump to that. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, both her strength and her energy are where they were back in her college basketball days. Might sound silly, but it’s as if the 20-something Anna is walking around the house.

With that said, there are scary days and a lot of tearful moments. Moments when we are so overwhelmed that we are not sure we are going to make it through the day. Some days feel like we are right in the middle of the hurricane, storms and fires we are seeing in many parts of our country.  Emotions are on alert around our household, including our kids, and confusion is easy to be had. Nevertheless, we find ourselves focusing more on God than we are on cancer.

Most of what I’ve written about regarding Anna’s cancer has been around our belief that God is healing Anna. I’ve also written about scans and lymph nodes and tumor size and treatment, about the path and the process. All of these things are important, but what we seems to be realizing more and more each day is that these things pale in comparison to Jesus. Our hope is not in what God “can do” or “is doing”. We are doing our best to worship in the midst of chaos.

Over the years, the best definition we have learned of worship is that you worship that which gets your primary attention. We are choosing to worship God, to focus on him, even when we don’t want to, especially when we don’t feel like it. Our hope is continue to become more and more passionately indifferent about all things except Jesus.

God speaks through the prophet Isaiah with this promise:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;”

These days we often remind ourselves of God’s promises. Not to attempt to manipulate God, or that he needs reminding. Somehow reminding him reminds us of his character, of who he is. Will Anna be healed because of who God is…honestly, we do not know? What we do know is that He is with us, that we are not alone, and we are drawn more and more to give our attention and affection to Him, to worship.

We believe that God is GOOD and that this tumor inside Anna has zero impact on His goodness. We believe that God is crazy about us (and you too). That his promise of “I will be with you” is not just for us in the middle of the biggest storm of our lives, but is for you as well. So as you think or pray for our family and Anna’s complete healing, know that the same God that is holding us is also holding you. He is worthy of our worship.

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Anna Cancer Update: MRI

We received OK news from the MRI scan yesterday. The cancer has not grown (thankfully), the tumor is relatively the same size as it was at the MRI six weeks ago, but there is less visibility in any of the lymph nodes (previous scan showed 3 suspect lymph nodes). In all honesty, it felt like a disappointment that there wasn’t more change. As you may have picked up on the last update, we were hoping for full healing or more clear improvement. We did not get the news we wanted from the scan, however despite this news, Anna is feeling really good, strong and is fighting hard! She and I awoke this morning and turned on our daily Pray As You Go App. The scripture for today “just happened” to be our favorite story of belief in the Gospels!:

“And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, 6and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” 7Jesus *said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9“For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” 10Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. 11“I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.” (Matthew 8:5-13)

Two phrases stood out to us as we listened to this reading:

“but just say the word (Jesus), and my servant will be healed.” (v. 8b) “And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” (v.13)

This was a very encouraging word from the Lord this morning! Anna and I closed the app, decided to suit up and headed out for an hour of exercise, sweating a ton. It felt great for both of us, and we are encouraged to keep going. Please pray for us as we discern next steps, and continue to believe along with us with the faith of the centurion.

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Anna Cancer Update

Sorry I haven’t posted in a few weeks. Things have been pretty crazy with Anna’s situation, school ending and Moriah “graduating” from 5th grade! Please join in praying for Anna tomorrow (Friday) as she has a follow up MRI at 7:00am followed by an appointment with her oncologist to get the results of the scan. Pray for rest tonight for Anna and a continued “peace that passes understanding.”

As you may know, Anna and I believe in a holistic approach to life, and that includes how we pursue health. We believe that these amazing bodies the Lord has given us are designed to heal. During Anna’s cancer staging six weeks ago we learned that that Anna’s tumor did not appear to be fast growing (but this will be confirmed with more certainty in this second scan). With this in mind, we took a deep breath and prayerfully researched and explored many possible options of treatment, and together decided to initially take a less invasive approach than immediately beginning chemotherapy and radiation. Three weeks ago Anna spent a week at a clinic that specializes in neurological care. She saw great improvements over the course of the week from her initial testing when she arrived, to her final testing at the end of the week. Anna returned home and continued with protocols that she could do at home, with weekly return visits to the clinic. In the meantime, we have continued to pray and believe that God is doing a great work healing her body.

As Anna talked with a friend yesterday about this journey, her friend said it reminded her of the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den.

16 Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.” 17 A stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing would be changed in regard to Daniel. 18 Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him.

19 Then the king arose at dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions’ den. 20 When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.”

As Anna reflected on this story she can empathize with Daniel. It has felt like she, along with our family, has been thrown into the lion’s den with a hope that God will rescue Anna. We believe that God is, in fact, rescuing her and trust that Anna will have a similar response to Daniel when it is all said and done. Thank you for remaining with us and continuing to believe on Anna’s behalf.

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Asking, Searching, Knocking

One of the things Anna and I have learned to do over the years, especially when we find ourselves in a difficult season, is to remind Jesus of what he himself tells us to do…and then we do it! Jesus tells a story on the heels of his famous, Lord’s Prayer. In fact, when he tells this story he is still answering the question of his closest companions when they ask him, “Lord, teach is to pray.”

“Then he added, If any of you has a friend, and goes to him in the middle of the night and says, ‘Lend me three loaves, my dear fellow, for a friend of mine has just arrived after a journey and I have no food to put in front of him’; and then he answers from inside the house, ‘Don’t bother me with your troubles. The front door is locked and my children and I have gone to bed. I simply cannot get up now and give you anything!’ Yet, I tell you, that even if he won’t get up and give him what he wants simply because he is his friend, yet if he persists, he will rouse himself and give him everything he needs. And so I tell you, ask and it will be given you, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:5-8 JBP)

I love that the sleepy man in the story goes from not giving his neighbor anything to giving him everything he needs. That’s quite a shift! I suspect the man needed more than just the 3 loaves and the neighbor gave him whatever he asked for once the door was open. Norman Grubb comments on this story in his book, The Law of Faith. “If an unwilling friend can thus be forced to be generous, what about a willing Father? Surely Christ exhorts, not to caution and hesitation, but to great boldness in prayer, coupled with great humility.”

After this story involving the two neighbors Jesus plainly tells his friends to ask, search and knock. Each request comes with a promise: “The one who asks will always receive; the one who is searching will always find, and the door is opened to the one who knocks.” (Luke 11:9 JBP) A few weeks into Anna’s cancer diagnosis we often find ourselves reminding Jesus what he told us to do: ask, search, knock, and then we do it over and over and over. We then remind Jesus of his own promise to our asking, searching and knocking. Please continue to pray with us and remind Jesus of his own words from this story. Knock, knock.

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Cancer: Staging

We got a crash course in cancer staging our first few days after Anna’s tumor was discovered. We were told that an MRI and CT Scan were needed to determine staging so we scheduled her appointments. Here’s a pic that gives an overview of the Stages:

Image result

Stage 1 is the hyperplasia; Stage 2 dyplasia; Stage 3 in situ cancer; Stage 4 Invasive cancer

We were hopeful for Stage 1 or 2, as surgery only is standard protocol. We were disappointed to learn from the doctor that Anna has Stage 3 colon cancer. The recommended protocol is 5 weeks of chemo and radiation to shrink the tumor, followed by surgery. As you might imagine, this was hard news for Anna and me both.

The morning after staging was complete and we talked to the doctor, Anna and I did our Pray As You Go together and found these words of Jesus appropriate and comforting:

“I leave behind with you—peace; I give you my own peace and my gift is nothing like the peace of this world. You must not be distressed and you must not be daunted. You have heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you really loved me, you would be glad because I am going to my Father, for my Father is greater than I. And I have told you of it now, before it happens, so that when it does happen, your faith in me will not be shaken. I shall not be able to talk much longer to you for the spirit that rules this world is coming very close. He has no hold over me, but I go on my way to show the world that I love the Father and do what he sent me to do.” (John 14:27-31 JBP)

“You must not be distressed and you must not be daunted.” Those words hung in the air as we listened to the reader say that statement of Jesus. As this reality of staging sets in we are doing our best not to be distressed and not to be daunted. Please continue to join us as we lean on the peace that is nothing like the peace this world offers.

 

 

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Cancer: First Weekend

Friends and family rallied and took our kids Saturday and most of Sunday the first weekend. We were four days into appointments, researching, scans and the like, and we needed a break. Anna and I took our dog Lucy and went on a long walk around the UW horticultural gardens. We continued our reading of Luke 18 together. Upon first reading the story, it didn’t seem to apply. It was about a rich man with money after all, but Jesus’ final statement caught our attention:

“On day one the local officials asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to deserve eternal life?” Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good—only God. You know the commandments, don’t you? No illicit sex, no killing, no stealing, no lying, honor your father and mother.” He said, “I’ve kept them all for as long as I can remember.”

When Jesus heard that, he said, “Then there’s only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me.” This was the last thing the official expected to hear. He was very rich and became terribly sad. He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let them go. Seeing his reaction, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who have it all to enter God’s kingdom? I’d say it’s easier to thread a camel through a needle’s eye than get a rich person into God’s kingdom.” “Then who has any chance at all?” the others asked.

“No chance at all,” Jesus said, “if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.” (Luke 18:18-27)

From the moment those dreaded words came out of the Dr’s mouth, “…you have cancer.” we have clearly known that Anna cannot pull it of by herself. We were so encouraged walking around the horticultural gardens that brisk spring morning to read the words of Jesus, “Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”

We are trusting God to do this, and He is doing it! Anna is feeling healthy and strong. She is encouraged by the intimate way that God is meeting her in this journey. The many people who have gathered around her to agree and believe that she has every chance in the world also encourages her deeply. Thanks be to God!

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Redefining Belief: (continued)

Our first two days were a blur. Disbelief, fear, “How is this possible?”, sleeplessness and anger. We kept thinking, “This can’t be possible! We take such good care of our bodies!” On night 2 Anna tapped my arm and through tears said, “Shawn, I can’t sleep, I am so scared. I just need to be close to you.” As I held my wife a verse ran through my mind, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Is. 26:3) I let that go through my mind over and over again as Anna calmed down.

Later that morning after walking the kids to school I listened to Pray As You Go, a daily 12 minute devotional on an App that Anna and I do each morning. The section of scripture highlighted that morning was John 14: 13, “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.” Ok, Jesus here goes. I am asking you in Your Name to heal my wife of cancer. You tell me to ask, so I am asking.” Upon arriving home I went upstairs to check on Anna. She had just finished listening to the same passage as well, and through tears had journaled the same exact “ask” in the name of Jesus.

After two days of tears and much wonder, Anna awoke early Day 3 on a mission. In our journey of health over the years we have learned ways to take good care of the body. She and I got the kids off to school and hit the local organic market to get as many fresh green veggies that we could send though our juicer, supplements, soups and essential oils. Anna began a regimen that morning that has continued. My wife is fighting, we are fighting, and many of our friends ad family are joining us in the fight.

Our scripture reading on Day 3 came from Luke 18:1-8

2-5 “Once upon a time,” he said, “there was a magistrate in a town who had neither fear of God nor respect for his fellow-men. There was a widow in the town who kept coming to him, saying, ‘Please protect me from the man who is trying to ruin me.’ And for a long time he refused. But later he said to himself, ‘Although I don’t fear God and have no respect for men, yet this woman is such a nuisance that I shall give judgment in her favour, or else her continual visits will be the death of me!’”

6-8 Then the Lord said, “Notice how this dishonest magistrate behaved. Do you suppose God, patient as he is, will not see justice done for his chosen, who appeal to him day and night? I assure you he will not delay in seeing justice done. Yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find men on earth who believe in him?”

So we have been appealing, day and night. We are on this journey, together, and many have come along to be those “on earth who believe in him.”

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Belief Redefined: Cancer 

As you may know I have been working with an editor to publish a book on belief and identity later this year. Two weeks ago, my editor and I were on a morning call finalizing a chapter titled Redefining Belief. We were discussing the interaction between Jesus and two blind men in Matt 9. The question he asked them in verse 28, “do you believe that I am able to do this?” was a big part of our discussion and came back to all but smack me in the face later that day.
The question was highlighted in my life 10 years ago during a time of personal chaotic turmoil. At that time, an honest answer to the question would’ve been “No, I don’t really believe that you can do this God, so I am going to do it. I am in control.” I realized that day, things needed to change in my life if I wanted any chance at a future apart from worry and fear. I’ll tell more later, but a journey to learning what it means to believe began. 
Thankfully, that all went down ten years ago and Jesus has led me to be able to answer the question, “Yes Lord, I believe that you can do this.” Because, fast forward back to the conversation with my editor two weeks ago, what followed later that same day in the waiting room where I was waiting for my wife Anna…. She should have been walking out any minute when a nurse came out and said, “Mr. Petree, I need you to come with me.” Five minutes later I was sitting next to my Bride hearing the Doctor speak the unthinkable…..“I’m sorry to tell you, but you have colon cancer.”

The next few minutes were a bit of a blurr, our heads were spinning. The Doc’s voice. Wait….what did she just say? Matthew 9. The c-word. Is this happening? Two blind men…….. C-word again. THEN JESUS. And CLARITY about our answer to the question. “Yes Lord, we believe that you can do this.”

Anna and I, along with many others, have spent the past two weeks walking with Jesus in this new reality. And we’ve been collectively answering “Yes Lord, we believe that you can do this.” It has not been easy. Much more than difficult in fact. But, we are doing it, and we are strong. A thousand voices strong….. all collaborating in the “Yes Lord, we believe that you can do this.” Please join us in believing…..we need you….I’ll tell more later this week as it is quite evident, 

Aslan is on the move…

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An Ongoing Relationship

In my last post I pointed out that the Cross was the pinnacle battle between God and Satan. God won the battle, once for all, and the Cross is the reminder that He is the victor. So if the battle is won then what is going on in our world today!? It sure seems like a battle is still going on.

Peter, one of Jesus’ closest companions, says makes this statement years after the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Wait, this statement came after the defeat of Satan? Why is Peter telling his audience (and us) to stay alert and watch out after Satan was defeated?

While the defeat of Satan happened through the Cross of Christ, there is, in fact, still a battle going on. In light of the great battle and God’s ultimate rescue mission to save man, the battle is now against an ongoing relationship between individual man and God. Satan’s primary desire is no longer to be God, he lost that battle. His mission now is to keep men and women from being in a growing relationship with God as Father, Son, Spirit.

Preventing this growing relationship was what Satan was interested in from the beginning. He saw the harmonious intimate relationship between God and man in the garden and he despised it. It makes sense then that Satan would attempt to prevent man from growing in this relationship with God. And, Satan will stand for almost anything else, before he will lie down and let man sit with the one and only true God. He will tolerate good works, giving, worship, church attendance, education, reading, etc, but the main thing he battles against today is each of us growing in relationship with our Creator God.

So on this Good Friday as we reflect on the Cross of Jesus, the best thing we can do to battle Satan is to commit to growing on our relationship with God. Every relationship that is important to me gets time and space. It is a priority to me and the other person and we create space for one another. You and I  get to join God in the ongoing defeat of Satan by creating space to be with God and God alone.