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:

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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.




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.”


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.


From Atonement to At-One-Ment

You may be familiar with the word Atonement. Traditionally, Atonement is commonly understood as substitutionary atonement, a theological theory that Jesus suffered crucifixion as a substitute for human sin, satisfying God’s just wrath against man’s transgression due to Christ’s infinite merit. This theory depicts God as angry, filled with judgment, waiting to carry out punishment on his created ones. It presents Jesus as the “scapegoat” taking on the sins of mankind.

There is another understanding of atonement that has been around since the first century, called Christus Victor (Latin for “Christ is victorious”). This explanation of atonement argues that Christ’s death is God’s victory over sin and death. God conquers death by fully entering into it. Thus, the crucifixion is not a necessary transaction to appease a wrathful and justice-demanding deity, but an act of divine love.

The Early Church Fathers believed that the Cross was primarily how God defeated Satan, once and for all. It was not about a payment of penalty to a wrathful God. No, the Cross was the pinnacle of the battle between God and Satan. God won the battle, once for all, and the Cross is the reminder that He is the victor. Because of this victory you and I get to live a life of at-one-ment with God.

Brennan Manning in his book, The Furious Longing of God, explains it this way: “On the Cross Jesus surrenders in trusting, obedient love to His Abba, and then rises from the ground, not as a trapped animal (paying the penalty to a wrathful Father), but completely at one with the Father; atonement – at-one-ment in the furious love of God.” This is a very different understanding of what happened on the Cross than is presented in substitutionary atonement theology.

As we walk through Holy Week together we have an invitation to move from atonement to at-one-ment with God. Sin and death has been conquered and there is no wrathful Father that needed to be appeased. You are I are clean, forgiven, and whole. Our hearts are good, they matter to God and we can live today at-one with the God of all things!


The Power of Money

In considering different things to moving away from and moving toward during Lent, I read Matthew 6 with a few friends this week. The wisdom of Jesus is sobering:

“No one can be loyal to two masters. He is bound to hate one and love the other, or support one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and the power of money at the same time.” (v.24)

Moving away from the power of money and toward God is a conscious effort. We live in a culture that worships the power of money, and man is it powerful! So how do we utilize money in a healthy way without allowing the power of money rule our lives? Maybe the answer is in Jesus’ teaching earlier in the same chapter of Matthew.

“Don’t pile up treasures on earth, where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal. But keep your treasure in Heaven where there is neither moth nor rust to spoil it and nobody can break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!” (v. 19-21)

We may be able to answer the question for ourselves about our draw toward the power of money by taking an honest assessment of what type of treasures we are building today. Are we piling up things and possessions, or are we investing in relationships. A growing relationship with God, ourselves (becoming more self-aware, yet less self-focused), and growing relationships with others.

As we come to the close of a week look at your schedule, what is your focus? Possessions or Relationships?


From Control to Kingdom

We are a few weeks into Lent, almost. Have you been able to put your finger on what you would like to move away from and what you would like to move toward? Lately I have been reading the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5 over and over. I like reading Matthew 5:1-12 in the Message translation. I’ve found that these teaching of Jesus can help us identify what we want to move away from and what we want to move toward.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. (Matt 5:3)

Really? Jesus begins there. Who wants to be at the end of their rope? I know I don’t. I like having things figured out. I like knowing what is going to happen and when. The end of the rope does not feel good. So why does Jesus say we are blessed when we are at the end of our rope?

My friend Doug Barrem is 79 years old going on 59. He has a sharp mind and has taken good care of his body over the years. He is wise beyond his years, and that is saying something.  Recently he was reading Matthew 5 and saw something new in Jesus’ teaching. He showed me that each one of the “Your blessed…” is an invitation to lose something or order to gain something. Matthew 5:3, according to Doug, is an invitation to loose power in order to gain the Kingdom.

I think I hear what Jesus was saying, along with my friend Doug. The more we release control and power, there more room there is for God to be who he is in our lives. Maybe that is something to move away from, control and power. Jesus teaches as we move away from control and power we naturally moved toward the Kingdom.


Advent Week 2: Beautiful Inside and Out


 Yesterday evening our family gathered around the Christmas tree to celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent. As I watched Moriah, our oldest daughter, sing carols, then read Luke 1:26-38 I thought, Mary, the mother of Jesus wasn’t much older than our daughter when the Angel Gabriel visited her. We often read The Message bible with our kids to help them understand what is going on in the story. Check out the words that came out of Moriah’s mouth last night as she read to our family:

“Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her (Mary):

Good morning!
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.

She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that.”(v.28-29)

Wow! I have read and listened to this story in Luke many, many times, but never have I noticed the incredible first greeting of Gabriel to Mary. Before Gabriel tells Mary anything about what is coming, which is really incredible news, the Angel tells her who she is. The Angel tells her that she is beautiful, beautiful inside and out! That is amazing!

What is even more amazing about the incredible greeting from Gabriel is that Mary believed it! After a little back and forth in the conversation we get this:

“And Mary said,

Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say.”(v.38)

So good! Mary believes the truth about who she is, beautiful with God beauty, beautiful inside and out, and she believes that God has a plan for her life. Do you? Man or woman reading this…beautiful can be a hard thing to interpret, specifically as a man. If you need to replace the word beautiful with loved, that works too. Either way, do you believe like Mary?


God’s Primary Message

As a follower of Jesus I am familiar with the parable of the 4 soils, maybe a little too familiar. In reading through the book of Luke I came to this parable and my first instinct was to skip it and go to the next chapter. I’m glad I didn’t because I saw something I about the seed that I have missed over the years.

Luke 8:9-15

 “This is what the parable means. The seed is the message of God.” Ok stop there, if the seed is the message, then what is the message? What is God’s primary message?

God’s primary message is love, specifically that we are loved by him, that’s the message. So if that is true, and it is, then why not replace “the message of God” with what his message actually is, and listen to Jesus’ teaching through that voice?

Soil # 1: “The seed sown by the roadside represents those who hear the message (that they are loved), and then the devil comes and takes it away from their hearts so that they cannot believe (the message that they are loved) and be saved.”

Soil #2: “That sown on the rock represents those who accept the message (that they are loved) with great delight when they hear it, but have no real root. They believe (that they are loved) for a little while but when the time of temptation comes, they lose faith.”

Soil #3: “And the seed sown among the thorns represents the people who hear the message (that they are loved) and go on their way, and with the worries and riches and pleasures of living, the life is choked out of them, and in the end they produce nothing.”

Soil #4: “But the seed sown on good soil means those who hear the message (that they are loved) and accept (that they are loved) with a good and honest heart, and go on steadily producing a good crop.

There are plenty of good commentaries out there that can address each of the soils, I’m not going there. What I see here is that our part is not to try to figure out which “soil” we are, or even be concerned with fruit for that matter. According to Jesus in this parable, our part is to accept with a good and honest heart the truth that we are loved. To keep leaning into this the reality that we are loved allowing it to impact our day. As we learn to live into God’s primary message more and more we will find ourselves producing a really good crop.


Gnawing on Jesus

No one really “makes time” to eat, it’s just what we do. We make skip a meal (or two) because we got up late and rushed into the day, then think we don’t have time to grab lunch because things are too hectic, but eventually at some point during the day we eat.

Jesus loved to eat with friends and new companions. He was even accused of eating and drinking with the wrong crowd on a number of occasions. As Jesus gets further and further into his time hanging out with the disciples he makes a statement that often gets overlooked:

“He who keeps on eating my flesh and drinking my blood, in me is continually abiding and I in him.” (John 6:54)

The actual word used here for eating is τρώγω, which is best translated from the Greek as gnawing, “He who keeps on gnawing…” Gnawing takes time and is not in a hurry. We have a dog and she gnaws for a while on a bone, takes a break then goes back for more, she loves it!

If we look at verse 54 in the NIV we can easily miss Jesus teaching, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…” In this standard translation his message sounds past tense. It sounds like something we can do occasionally, like we occasionally eat broccoli, but that was not Jesus teaching that day. He was telling the crowd that in order to have eternal life we have to gnaw on him.

“Unless you do eat (gnaw on) the body of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you are not really living at all.” (v.53) Are you living?


Man I’m thirsty

Every morning I wake up thirsty, how is that?! I am a water drinker, it’s primarily what I drink throughout the day, so how is it that I wake up thirsty? Shouldn’t I have something in the reserves from the day before? It’s bizarre, or is it?

Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me… 40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life.

It sounds like Jesus himself is saying that we can never thirst again. If that is true then why is it that “accepting” him at some point in the past still leaves us thirsty today? Then I noticed something I have never paid attention to before. Jesus says that if we come to him we will never be thirsty, that if we believe, we will never be thirsty. It’s about coming to him and it’s about believing, and neither of these is a one-time event that we can trace back to a time or day. Coming to him and believing sound like daily activities.

I looked back at the story miracle of the feeding of the 5000 that Jesus just performed and saw this:

32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

 Jesus is referring to manna here, the food which came miraculously from God. The food which showed up every morning, the food that could not be stored up but could only provide sustenance for one day! Coming to him and believing is the same as the manna. It is something we need every morning, a hunger and thirst that time with him and him alone each day can only satisfy.

It sounds like my thirst for water each morning is appropriate. It is a physical reminder of a spiritual thirst (and hunger) that can only be satisfied by turning to the only one who can truly nourish.