The late 19th century American preacher and evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, was once approached by a member of the first church he attended in Chicago and commended for his zeal for God but warned not to preach until his grammar improved. “You make too many mistakes in grammar,” he told Moody. Moody humbly responded, “I know I make mistakes…but I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got.” Staring into the eye of his critic he said: “Look here, friend, you’ve got grammar enough. What are you doing with it for the Master?”
After reading our previous post last week (‘we are not great‘) I received a text-message from someone who said they looked at the title fearing that this referred to us having a terrible week and was relieved to read otherwise! It’s funny how we use, misuse, understand and misinterpret words sometimes.
My command of grammar is often weak and misapplied. How often I respond “I’m good, thanks!” or “We’re great! Thanks for asking.” when actually “I’m okay!” or “We’re well!” would be appropriate. On the occasion of that post’s title, with the exception of the dropped capital ‘we’ (on purpose!) I believe my use of words was right and accurate. We are not great and we are not good. As for Annie and I, we are made righteous by God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:1
I open this post with reference to the previous post on purpose. It seems some people were wondering why they couldn’t access the previous post. I actually posted it as an article (‘we are not great‘) rather than a blog entry. However, for future reference, the home page always shows ‘Recent Posts’ in the right hand margin. The one at the top is always the latest.
With regards to the last week…we’ve not been too bad!
It’s been a fairly steady and eventful week. A week last Thursday, Annie’s cousin, Jess arrived from France to spend a long-weekend with us. It doesn’t always go that our visitors synchronise their arrival and stay with periods of good health but on this occasion it did go that way. Jessie’s arrival coincided with another visitor, namely our good friend and dear brother (much younger brother at that!), Josh Morgan. We spent the afternoon taking Annie out for a push along a nearby walk which has become a local favourite with us. We live in a very large urban area which – I actually remember from childhood – was once fields of corn stretched out for as far as the eye could see. But part of the old farm estate still exists and is still just a stone-skip away from our home. Within five minutes of closing our front door we were walking down country lanes, bordered by chocolate-box thatch roofed cottages, farm houses, ample trees dappled with colourful bursts of spring.
There’s a climate proverb that goes, ‘If March comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb.’ I’m not entirely sure whether ‘Lion’ refers to bad weather or good weather. Lions and lambs are both…great. Either way, March was one of the warmest on record and for the most part, April has so far been cold and wet. So it’s been really nice to have family and better health visit us over the Easter weekend. Annie was not only able to attend the Easter sunday worship service (something she was longing to be fitter for) but unlike the previous two or three occasions, she experienced no sickness of fainting. She was even able to join the congregation in standing to sing and praise. Singing and praising, Annie enjoys; standing is an endurance.
Annie’s legs have become a lot more spindly in recent months and we are aware that she isn’t gaining any weight at the moment. We don’t believe the diet is making this any worse than it already was. She’s been losing weight since November. This is what happens when you have cancer – certainly the type that Annie has. None of the doctors or nurses seem to really explain why that happens. In the same way that no one seems to be able to explain why she is throwing up so much. I mentioned in a previous entry that the doctor had suggested a change of anti-sickness pill (Levomepromazine). She tried it for one night and it was terrible. She experienced awful side effects like shaking and restlessness. I did a little research and discovered that this drug was from a family of neuroleptic or antipsychotic drugs. We’ve come across those drugs before and agreed to avoid them because of the dark side effects they have. It’s one of those drugs that purposefully interferes with stuff going on in the brain but is also used to stem other, secondary things (which in my understanding, the drug was not initially designed for) like sickness. I don’t know how I feel about that. It always seems to me like using a spanner to bang in a nail. Either way, this one slipped by us and after a night’s use we called the doctor and Annie has now come off the drug.
In a previous post, we wrote about meal-time prayer. Some folk call it giving the blessing and some call it grace. ‘Grace’ seems like the right word for us. Before each meal we ask the Lord to give Annie the grace to endure or enjoy whatever follows. In the last week, the episodes of sickness and vomiting have occurred moments before Annie is about to eat her evening meal. We both count this as a gracious blessing because the event of being sick before she eats, sort of gets it out of the way and allows her to eat her meal unhindered – after the trigger has been pulled, so to speak. The sickness episodes remain unpredictable and unresolved mysteries. There’s still no direct correlation to anything external other than hot showers, long car journeys and standing up too quickly. But still the unpredictable episode will occasionally and suddenly appear when we least expect. I suppose for now, we’re beginning to predict them moments before she eats her evening meal! But we lean more on prayerful supplications than careful predictions.
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
Yesterday evening there was a programme on TV called ‘Defeating Cancer’. The programme followed three people as they underwent trials with revolutionary new cancer treatments. I only caught the latter third of it. It was impressive stuff and certainly the broadcast was a pièce de résistance for the age and accomplishment of medical science. But I was also struck by the fact that none of the three people it followed were actually young. Perhaps the sample of three didn’t allow for a broader cross section or perhaps the cancer types related to those more common with older people.
I don’t believe that one person’s life – young or old; rich or poor; powerful or vulnerable – is more important than another but if anything this programme underlined how desperate human beings are for more life – even those who have had a good share of it. Towards the end of the programme they put cameras in the room where the patients would receive their results. Annie and I know exactly how those rooms and moments feel. The difference was, these three people received good results: tumours shrunk, lumps removed, cancers eradicated to almost nothing. Naturally, they were relieved and happy.
At the very end of the programme one of the oncologists passed on hope to the viewers by saying in 5 to 10 years the medical approach to cancer will be far more successful.
I wonder if the BBC realised how hope-less that message was for some people? It would have easily left many viewers and cancer patients, with more natural years ahead of them but with less time to live, feeling even more despair and frustration. That’s the problem with a hope founded by, on and in this world. That’s the limitation of hope in science.
There is a hope that surpasses all hope. In fact, it renders all other use of the word ‘hope’ grammatically incorrect! There is a hope that guarantees joy and peace beyond the grave that exceeds anything we have or will experience on this earth. It is a hope secured in Jesus Christ who lives today.
Last night Annie and I lay on our bed and just spent some of the evening reminiscing and laughing. We’ve been married for nearly eleven years, almost half of which have been with cancer. Somehow, life before cancer seems such a long time ago that when we were reminiscing we felt like we had been married for at least four decades more than we actually have!
Reminiscing can be such a wonderful blessing; sometimes we use it to escape the painful reality of the present and/or the future. But to be able to reminisce knowing that you face the present and the future (however uncertain and bleak) with the risen Son of God at your side is a blessing far greater than any other.
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.- Isaiah 26:3
Mom Ruth (Annie’s Mom) is still with us and we appreciate every moment and the sacrifice she makes to be an extra hand around the home. And literally it is an extra hand. Mom Ruth’s right arm is – for now – incapacitated by her cancer. But what an added blessing to have another trophy of God’s grace in our home. She may be restricted by her own cancer but God uses her to pour out much blessing and assistance, serving Annie, serving me and serving others by releasing me of many duties around the home so that I can minister to others.
I started this post very early this morning (Saturday, April 14th). Before I push ‘Publish’ on this post a brief update. Annie just this morning has lapsed into another cycle of extreme sickness and vomiting – the kind where the demands of vomiting far outstrip the supply of energy. She’s briefly sleeping again but I suspect that this won’t be the end of that cycle today. A doctor will be out shortly to see whether Annie will need anti-sickness medication through a syringe driver for a period of time to stabilise the vomiting.
She’s sleeping at the moment. Before she slept I read the promises of God to her:
‘But He gives us more grace.’ – James 4:6
When we are laid low, and we have nothing else to give, we trust His promises and rest on the grace He will give to endure.
Yours in Him who is able,