Tuesday, February 21, 2017
When you hear the words, "inner core" what do you think of? The
hot lava of a volcano? The toxic core of a nuclear reactor? To me,
my "inner core" is that deep strength that gets me through all that
life can bring. And when you hear the words, "you have cancer" you
need all the strength you can get. My doctor's words, "you have
melanoma and we'll be removing part of your ear," rocked my world,
made me forever marked as a cancer survivor, and then made me
determined to practice what I preach.
I think it's easy to feel abandoned by God in the midst of a
diagnosis of cancer. How could this possibly be God's
will? I teach the Bible and I know that it says we live in a
broken world where the rain falls on the just and unjust alike, but
that doesn't mean I can't feel abandoned. For me, that
Core is my inner most being. The place that God invaded with
life when I trusted in Jesus' forgiving love (John 7:37-39). Jesus
is the Giver of the unfailing strength to get us through a
diagnosis and beyond. I kept thinking, God knows how many hairs are
on my head, he knows what's happening to me now. Our inner
core is our soul and when we place our belief in Jesus Christ and
make him our Lord and Savior an amazing thing happens. Strength
seeps into our core and we see that we are not the sum of the
circumstances happening around us; instead, we are strong in His
I have a friend who's taught me a great deal in her
survivorship. One of her favorite sayings is, "be gentle on your
feelings and hard on your mind." Feelings can take us over when we
are frightened of a disease, feeling sick and tired of being sick
and tired, and worried about our future. I am an emotional
guy. I often tell myself, "Don't let your emotions
drive". My friend would set a timer for a "pity party" - she
would experience the doubt, the pain, the entire experience; then
acknowledge the feelings, and finally own them. Then when the timer
went off she would place the fear-filled feelings aside and move
forward in her journey. Fortunately our soul isn't mere feelings.
Instead, our soul is a belief in a God who can pull us up and out
of ourselves and teach us that cancer can destroy our body but it
can't have us - it can't become our inner core.
Recently I presented this topic at HOPE Cancer Connection's
survivorship program, A Time To Heal. The curriculum discusses many
"shovels" to dig your way to your Inner Core and discover what
feeds your soul. It may be the beauty of nature, the sound of a
favorite hymn, a poem, or if you're like me, a favorite verse from
the Bible. My favorite verse reminds me that my God will sustain me
in adversity: A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly
burning wick He will not extinguish, (Isaiah 42:3) We need to
dig to the greatest strength of all and remember that our Inner
Core is capitalized - when we believe in Him, He will see us
Pastor Dave Barber, River Valley Church,
Monday, March 7, 2016
I've recently come to realize that my body produces tumor-like
objects - so far all benign but this last one will require frequent
MRIs. Family history led me to help others on the cancer journey -
partly to come to terms with the word and prepare for it to hit me.
What I've come to realize is that in the world of cancer, one of
the toughest moments is the waiting…for the biopsy results, the
next scan, the next doctor's appointment, the next specialist, the
next treatment, the next "all clear." My new determination is in
the midst of waiting…I'll call on a reserve of The Word.
When you're lying in an MRI tube, with the noise blasting through
your ear plugs, there's just you, your brain, and whatever you've
stored there. While having four MRIs in two weeks, I struggled to
recall scripture and realized I'd never truly memorized more than
Psalm 23. Yes, a great one, but one that is often associated with
death for me…not a good recall. So then I went to old hymns,
because, really, who can memorize contemporary Christian lyrics in
their entirety unless you are a musician.
Preparing for life's trials and tribulations means filling your
heart, soul, and MIND with God's word. Then, in the tubes of life
you are free to call upon their comfort, their wisdom, and their
strength. This past year my husband and I have truly been living my
life verse, I Peter 2:6-9. The verse states that in order to
appreciate the blessings of life, we have to walk through the
trials. In the midst of the mess of waiting this year, I know I've
not been alone. My Lord has been by my side. I know this because he
tells me in His Word: Yeah though I walk through the valley…I will
fear no evil for Thou art with me, Psalm 23:4; I am with you and
will watch over you wherever you go, Genesis 28:15; I command you -
be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the
Lord your God is with you wherever you go, Joshua 1:9; and a family
favorite, In all things God works for the good of those who love
Him, Romans 8:28.
I tend to live life with sticky notes. My newest addition is
located at the kitchen window so while I'm cleaning up the dinner
dishes, I can fill up my mind. I'll consider it a deposit for
future MRI/CT Scan tubes, or whatever unpleasant experience comes
my way. Here's where I'm starting: There is a place near me where
you may stand…I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you
with my hand, Exodus 33:21. My take-away here is that it's not
about lying in the tube, it's about standing in faith next to my
God. Let us know what you bring to your tubes of waiting and how
you manage those moments. Send us your thoughts in the comment link
Executive Director, HOPE Cancer Connection
Friday, February 6, 2015
"This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be
glad in it" Psalm 118:24
Today is a day. Yesterday was a day. Tomorrow will (or most
likely will) be a day. We cannot escape the reality that we always
find ourselves in the midst of something that a particular day will
bring. Sometimes a day brings the status quo, nothing much of a
change from the day before with no unexpected events. Other times
the day brings a swift change of circumstances, whether it comes
from new information presented to us or some new experience or
event in our lives. Whatever we may experience, God calls us to
rejoice in the midst of this day.
What makes rejoicing difficult is when the "midst" we are
experiencing today becomes more like a "mist" we must navigate
through. Like driving through a heavy fog at night, the mist
obscures the road ahead. We miss the road signs telling us where we
are, where we should go, and what lies ahead. The mist makes
us anxious, nervous, and frightened. The normal headlights can't
cut through the fog and putting on the high beams just accentuates
the mist. To navigate our way in the midst of these conditions
requires fog lights.
Today, I am in the midst of experiencing the joy of holding my
2nd grandchild for the first time. Born just two days ago, she is a
beautiful baby girl. As I gaze into her sweet little face and let
her tiny hand wrap around my index finger, it is easy to rejoice
and be glad in the midst of today. The sun is out and the sky is
clear. No need for fog lights this day.
But even when I experience a day like today, a fog can still
begin to form in my mind. The mist rolls and grows in many ways.
For instance, as I hold her, I wonder what her future will be like.
I begin to worry if she will be able to cope with the illnesses,
pain, disappointments, and/or trials she may experience in her life
ahead. I think about a failing economy and growing up in a society
and culture that is on a downhill trend. I think about whether my
own diagnosis of cancer and other health issues will keep me from
experiencing the joys of watching her grow and mature. That kind of
mind mist also makes me anxious, nervous, and frightened - even on
a day when everything is as it should be.
If our perspectives can be blurred even on a wonderful day,
imagine what can happen when the realities of the day bring
horrendous news or tragic events. So, whatever the reason for the
"mist" in our particular "midst", God wants us to turn on His fog
lights. They give us the ability to see and enable us to navigate
when the road ahead seems obscured. So here are some simple
instructions on how to turn on God's fog lights.
God's Fog Lights:
1. Turn on the lights by TRUSTING in God for today. Believing
that since God made this day, He knows about the day, He controls
the day, and is faithful throughout the day. Since we have no
control over yesterday or tomorrow, trust Him today.
2. The lights shine only so far ahead of you, but enough
to see the turns and way ahead (Psalm 119:105).
If you are trying to see tomorrow and beyond, those lights don't
reach that far. Focus on today.
3. The lights will tend to be reflected on those things
that God has provided. So look for His blessings. By trusting
God, focusing on today, and looking for blessings - We can rejoice
and be glad even in the midst of the mist we experience.
Rob Strauss, Man of Many Hats and Recipient of God's
Friday, May 30, 2014
A note from Brenda: I recently attended a Contemporary
Christian concert featuring several musicians. One gentleman humbly
approached the stage and stated, "12 years ago I was given 5 years
to live; I have an incurable cancer." Post-diagnosis, Tim Timmons
married and now has four children. He gave me permission to share
thoughts from his blog posts with you.
Cancer is a gift.
Yup, I said it. Cancer is a gift. Now as I start this blog,
please know this: cancer sucks. I'm not happy about it: treatments,
dr. visits, meds, symptoms as constant reminders, managing everyone
else's emotional state in regards to it, the financial drain,
lifestyle limitations, the fears of not being there with my wife
and for my kids as they graduate or get married…stupid. I repeat,
cancer is stupid.
And yet, the gift of this cancer experience has been that of
perspective. You know when you have a near death experience and
barely squeak by…your perspective becomes glaringly sober. The
awareness of your mortality and all that is and is not important
stares you down to your most basic existence. Things like "I've
been taking things and people for granted" or "I've been wasting
time on things of no consequence" seem to echo through your heart,
mind and soul.
For me, cancer gives me a daily dose of this reality that keeps
me grateful. Now I can tell you that I lose sight of this gifted
perspective every day and think/act/react in ways that are not so
healthy, but the gift is in the daily reminder (usually after I've
forgotten) to cherish every breath I take, resting in Who's I am
and nothing else.
I know it sounds crazy, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Yes, I'm ready to be healed, and I ask Jesus for that daily…I
actually live as though I will be healed at some point, but in all
the craziness of cancer there is a gift. The gift through an
incurable cancer, or any other sorrow we face, is perspective. And
perspective is the gift that keeps on giving.
I write songs that are simply prayers I need to hear! "In our
weakness, in our fight, in the midst of every trial, be lifted
high, be lifted high. In the waiting, in the fire, every moment of
our lives, be lifted high, be lifted high." (For Your Glory, Cast
My Cares 2013)
I live for the presence of God in my life now, today. I'm
learning to not obsess about the future. This posture starts for me
at the beginning of each day, on my knees, asking Jesus to reveal
what he has for me. All I have to do is follow Him. Cancer is not
my story. The perspective through cancer is my story.
Tim Timmons, Singer/Songwriter
Monday, February 24, 2014
Let's face it; most of us don't like change. As creatures of
habit we prefer our safe routines. The unknown is fearful…and
cancer is full of the unknown.
A doctor friend of mine removed a mole on the back of my leg in
September of 2012. A week later as I waited in his office to remove
the stitches, he walked in with an ashen face and told me "Rob,
it's a good thing we removed the mole, you have malignant
melanoma." It caught him completely by surprise, and it took awhile
for me to understand the seriousness of the diagnosis.
Having lost a brother to pancreatic cancer 12 years ago, I had a
general understanding of the damage that cancer could do. Even with
a stage 4 terminal cancer, my brother had a terrific attitude
throughout his fight with the disease. I remember him telling me
that "We are all terminal, some of us just have a better idea of
when." Receiving a cancer diagnosis of my own sparked something in
me and helped me recall his words and apply them to my life; "I am
Consequent doctor visits and further testing revealed that the
cancer had not spread. I keep getting full body check-ups from the
dermatologist and make sure that I sun screen-up when I go
outdoors. I was fortunate that my cancer was caught in an early
stage. But the report that the cancer had not spread has not
changed my perspective, whether cancer is rampant in my body or
not, I am terminal. It is one thing to have an intellectual
knowledge that one day we will all die. It is quite another to
understand the reality of that truth.
Whether we are full of cancer, fighting the battles with cancer,
or cancer-free, the fact remains that we will all die. The writer
of Ecclesiastes states it this way, "It is better to go to a house
of mourning than to a house of feasting, because death is the
destiny of every man and the living should take this to heart." My
diagnosis of cancer has shaped my "someday I will die" perspective
and has helped me take some of these things to heart.
I now take more pleasure in this day. When my mind starts to
fret about the future, I take an active approach in seeking out
what God has provided for me today, and to take pleasure and
gratitude for those things. I remind myself that I have no control
over the future, and can do nothing about the past, so I strive to
live my life in light of "this day" that God has provided. I am
reminded of and sometimes mimic the old Tammy Wynette song, "One
day at a time Sweet Jesus". There is something about a country
style twang that helps me keep that one-day perspective.
In the midst of change we lose our perspective of God. God's
path requires us to take one day at a time, one treatment at a
time, one stage at a time, one moment at a time. What do the
following scripture passages tell us?
- "This is the day the Lord has made, I
will rejoice and be glad therein" Psalm 118:24
- "Give us this day our daily bread."
God asks us to not worry about tomorrow but to trust Him in
this day. In the midst of transition we need to focus on
what He is doing today. The only thing we have any control of is
right now, neither a "precancerous" past nor a "cancer-free"
future, we only have this day. We are asked to obey and do
what He has empowered us to do. Daily manna falls upon us if we
focus on the grace He provides. In the world of cancer, it's not
just another day in your life, it's a gift. Open your eyes and look
at this day. Be grateful for all those who have come
around you to be God's blessing to you this day. And
remember, Joshua 1:9, God's presence will be with you wherever you
go, this day.
Rob Strauss, Man of Many Hats and Recipient of God's
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
It's the beginning of November and it seems that we have jumped
from Halloween to Christmas in one fell swoop. I've dubbed it the
"Hallowmas" effect. What in the world ever happened to
Thanksgiving? When did it loose its prominence on the holiday
meter? One holiday blurs into another and this year Hanukkah and
Thanksgiving are celebrated simultaneously. In the midst of the
holiday chaos, we can do well to approach the season with thanks
When cancer touches your world you tend to look at thanks
and giving in a different way. Some days it's hard to be thankful
for anything. And who has to energy to get out and get a gift or
give of your self when you or your loved one have just had
treatment and can't even get off the couch? The holy days of the
holidays become simplified and centered on relationships.
I remember the year my dad was in treatment in Florida and
couldn't come home to Michigan for Christmas. We used an early
version of Skype to join together on Christmas Day and see/talk to
each other. My father had recently finished his second chemotherapy
treatment and was sporting his new bald look. It was a reality
point for our family that our dad was really sick. But then we
heard his big, deep voice; saw his fascination with the ability to
see and hear us; and witnessed his gratefulness that we
were "all together" for a moment.
My father was receiving the latest and greatest treatment
and his prognosis was good. We had gathered as siblings and faced
the fear of the two empty chairs at the Christmas dinner table. But
now our hearts were full of thankfulness and that smiling, bald guy
was our greatest gift that year.
1Chronicles 16:8 says, " Give thanks to the LORD and
proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done."
Coming into the holiday season with thanks and giving means first
giving thanks to our Lord for each new day. Be thankful, give what
you can and where you can, and remember to treasure each
We at HOPE Cancer Connection wish you a very blessed
Brenda Bonn, Executive Director
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Guest Contributor: Harry Shields
In the fall of 2011 my wife and I entered a most unexpected
chapter in the story of our lives. I had just completed a two-month
sabbatical. We were returning to ministry, rested and enthusiastic
about the years ahead. But on a sunny afternoon in September, Carol
called to inform me that she had just fainted and was confused as
to what was going on. I rushed home and called our family
physician. He instructed me to take her to the ER as soon as
possible. I did, and less than 24 hours later, my wife was the
recipient of a pacemaker. Her recovery was quick, but the whole
experience was unsettling - for BOTH of us. Three weeks later I
received a call that my father had passed away. And another three
weeks after that our friend and family doctor asked us to stop by
his office. He had something he wanted to talk to us about
regarding a recent mammogram Carol had undergone. The hours
preceding that visit were agonizing. When he walked into the
waiting room, he said, "Well, I don't like having to tell either
one of you this, but Carol, you have breast cancer." He shed tears
with us. He prayed with us. He went above and beyond the call of
duty in helping us enter into the journey that was ahead.
Like so many people given "the cancer diagnosis," we asked tons
of questions. We asked about therapy options, about lifestyle
changes, the impact of radiation and chemo…and we asked about the
prognosis. And then in the privacy of our own thoughts we asked,
"God, what are you doing? Don't you realize we have a
church to care for and a ministry to run?" Silence!
Yes, silence from the Almighty that went on for weeks.
But an answer did come. It came from a biblical text that I had
preached from numerous times in the past. It is found in the New
Testament Book of James, chapter 1, verses 2 through 4. In these
three verses God invites us to do something that seems virtually
impossible - maybe even a little sadistic. He says,
"Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you
experience various trials."
Why would anyone rejoice over a cancer diagnosis, a job loss, or
a devastating accident? The biblical writer says, "For
you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and
endurance empowers you to be mature and complete." I
understand those last three words to be saying, "You would
never choose to do this on your own, but I am using your trials to
make you dependent on Me! And when you are dependent on Me, I'll
make you more and more like Jesus."
It has taken me weeks to process the new life that God has
called us to. Yes, Carol has been given a clean bill of health. And
yes, our life is and will be different. But I am also aware that
God works in all of our challenges to accomplish His ultimate
mission - He wants to make us strong through our challenges. He
wants to make us resemble Jesus in all we do.
Harry Shields is a retired pastor and adjunct professor at Moody
Bible Institute. You can read his blog at: caringforsouls.com.