Friday, March 30, 2007


It is time to say "thank you" again. There is no way we have the time to specifically thank each of you for the way that you have served us, but we want you to know how very grateful we are. Gratitude just washes over us again and again. We often find ourselves stunned at the love and care so many have shown to us.

The April Newsletter of Grace Community Church (you will find it in a few days at features an article by David Calvert, our Assistant Pastor for Church Ministries. David writes about God's special love, mercy, compassion, and care all wrapped up in the Hebrew word, hesed. David makes the point that this is a love that is more readily seen in action than defined by words. We have seen this godly love and compassion expressed in these last two months more times than we could have imagined possible, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

I recently mentioned in a post that Grace Community Church has graciously allowed me to spend precious days with my wonderful wife. That has been an immeasurable gift. What a blessing it is to connect with our brothers and sisters there whenever we can! Our love for you practically bursts out of our hearts at times.

We feel the same about our North Harnett Primary School family! Could any group of workers show more love than you have? I know that Linda is one of you, but you have made me feel equally a part of your special family. You will never know how much you have meant to us.

And we cannot fail to mention our friends at Coats Elementary School and at the Harnett County Schools Central Office. Thank you for loving, encouraging, supporting, and praying for us. Why are we so blessed?

All of the above have provided meals for us. Did you know that a sister church in the area (Macedonia Baptist) is also helping to provide delicious meals for us? One loving couple even provided a new stove and a new set of cookware for us! A couple of dedicated ladies have looked after Linda's special dietary needs - and they have done so at a high level. Friends from other churches have brought meals and supported in so many ways.

Well, there I go again, getting into something I should leave alone. The reason I say that is I will surely leave someone out, and how tragic to do harm when I want to shout gratitude from the rooftop! I will just stick to specific thanks about food so that there will be less chance of forgetting to mention a specific kindness that you have shown. We have received breathtakingly thoughtful gifts from other churches (such as Hickory Grove Advent Christian Church) and so many individuals, and our hearts overflow. You know who you are - THANK YOU!

I would say that we do not deserve this care, but that goes without saying (even though I just said it!). Your expressions of love have revealed the grace and mercy of God to us in tangible ways that we have not seen before. In that, you have ministered mightily to us.

If you are still reading, thank you. Perhaps we have never met, but just the fact that you care enough to still be reading indicates your interest in Linda and her circumstances. If you have prayed anonymously, I do hope the Lord will allow us to thank you in heaven! For now, though, may I say directly to you, God bless you richly - we are so grateful!

In my tenure at Grace Community Church (eight and a half years), I have preached from Romans 16 twice. If, in my first months here, you had asked me how many times I would expect to preach on that passage in my first ten years, I would have said, "None - unless I am preaching through the book of Romans." If you will read that passage you will understand why I would say such a thing. As I have understood, however, not only the value of a grateful heart, but also God's expectation for us to express thanks to those who have served us and the Lord well, I have enjoyed communicating this truth to our congregation from that chapter of appreciation on a couple of occasions. Remember, God did not waste any words in the Bible, so Romans 16 is oh, so applicable today. In that spirit, it has been my desire to articulate our appreciation for all who have ministered so well to us, and thus, to Jesus (Matthew 25:31-40). God bless you!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Living with Uncertainty

The elders at Grace Community Church have graciously granted me time off to take care of my dear wife during her illness. There are a number of men preaching over a two to three month stretch. I have to tell you that I am eager to get back in the pulpit! I will be sharing a little on Easter Sunday and then be back preaching regularly beginning the first Sunday of May. For the time being, I usually share what God is doing in our lives during the prayer time on Sunday mornings. This past Sunday morning, the GCC family heard most of what I am going to share in this post - but I will begin with the latest from the doctors, and it continues to be good news!

Yesterday, our radiologist told us that Linda had done better than he had ever hoped she would. Today, our neurosurgeon concurred! Also, Dr. Lacin, our neurosurgeon, told us that he doubts the shadow on the MRI is an indication of bleeding in the brain, because if the tumor were bleeding, she would be getting worse. Instead, she is much better. Praise the Lord!

But, she still has cancer. On tonight's news we heard that Tony Snow, the White House Press Secretary, is fighting cancer again. His mother died with colon cancer. Tony successfully battled cancer two years ago. This time, the cancer has spread to his liver - he is in trouble. Quite a few people have beaten it the second time around, though. I am sure you know that Elizabeth Edwards is once again battling cancer after a short remission. On the other hand, a lady in our church overcame colon cancer 11 years ago and is doing fine. When you have cancer, you live with uncertainty.

But, in reality, we all live with uncertainty, don't we? Linda's tumor could disappear tomorrow and then both of us die in an automobile accident the next day! The only thing certain in this life is that we will all die one day. So, we all live with uncertainty. But, that does not mean we live fearfully or in despair. In fact, if we know Jesus, we live with incredible hope of heaven, and we walk (day to day living) by faith. 2 Corinthians 5:6-10:

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (ESV)

What a perspective Paul had! He actually wanted to be in heaven! We don't tend to want to go just yet, though. And, why should we? We live in heaven! With our prosperity, our freedom, the technology we have, we have almost everything we want. Why leave this earth? I would imagine believers in the Sudan, or in Saudia Arabia, or in North Korea would view heaven a little differently than most of us do. But that's not my main thought, anyway.

If we assess the world around us and our circumstances without looking to the Lord, we will live one way. If we keep our eyes on heaven (Colossians 3:1-4), we will live another way. In fact, we will live by faith, realizing that one day we will give an account to Jesus for how we have lived our lives, regardless of our circumstances.

Sometimes our circumstances create a great deal of uncertainty. That is the case with us. That absolutely does not mean that we live uncertainly, though! We walk by faith, knowing that each day may be our last. In fact, we probably have an advantage over many, realizing how fragile life is and realizing what is really important in life.

So, may I encourage you to allow a bit of uncertainty in your own life? Not that I wish you will hear the words "you have cancer" from a doctor, but I do want you to be aware of how fragile life is with all that can happen, and how precious it is, because it is our only chance to live in such a way as to give a good report at the judgment seat of Christ.

In closing, we are delighted with Linda's good news! And even though we live with uncertainty, I will gladly take 30 to 40 years of uncertainty with my bride!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

MRI Report!

Please forgive the delay - we just got home at 8:20. Our days are full. Here is the report:

Good News - In Fact, Very Good News

The tumor is smaller than it was when the first MRI was taken on February 3rd or 4th. This is QUITE unusual. The most the doctor hopes for with treatment on this kind of tumor is for the tumor not to grow during radiation. In addition, the swelling around the tumor is down, which is largely responsible for the significantly increased movement on her left side. Six weeks ago, she could do almost nothing with her left arm, hand, leg, or foot. Now, she can raise her arm over her head, touch all her fingers with her thumb, pick her foot up and put it in front of her. In fact, last night she walked quite a long way in the house with a hemi walker - a small walker that requires the use of only one hand.

We have repeatedly prayed (as have many of you!) that the radiation and chemotherapy Linda is taking will attack the bad cells and leave the good cells alone. Usually, in the best case scenario, this type of tumor will begin to shrink three to six months AFTER radiation. Of course, many people never make it that long. It appears, though, that Linda is responding to treatment. There are many factors that are considered when rendering a prognosis, including age, health, movement (such as Linda's left side - increasing or decreasing), size of the tumor after treatment, etc. Almost all of the factors are positive for Linda right now. We are greatly encouraged.

Not So Good News

Linda has a Glioblastoma Multiforme. That has not changed - well, it is the tiniest bit smaller, but it still exists. As anyone who has ever had cancer knows, cancer is an unpredictable animal that can change course at any time. GBM still is the worst kind of brain cancer you can have, and Linda has it.

The tumor is bleeding a little. While this does not concern the doctors who are currently treating Linda, we have read that one of the side effects of Avastan, which is one of the experimental drugs that are a possibility for Linda, is that it causes bleeding. I cannot imagine that the doctors at Duke would recommend that she take Avastan if brain hemmoraging is a possibility.

Great news! In Fact, Incredible News!

God is still in charge of the universe, and that includes Linda's health! Our hope, in a biblical sense, is not in extending our lives on this earth, but in eternal life, made possible through Jesus' death. Every time you see hope in the New Testament, think "eternal life." Since all in our family have trusted Jesus as our Savior, our future is secure. That's incredible news! But, we pray to God because we know He cares and we know He can do something about that ugly mass in Linda's head (we made the mistake of looking at the MRI yeseterday before a doctor called to interpret it). Make no mistake, while we will glorify God no matter what, we want Linda to continue her ministry here on earth and for those of us who love her to be spared sorrow upon sorrow (Philippians 2:25-30)! Please continue to pray for that - and while you are praying, here are a few more requests:

Prayer Requests

We have seen God move quickly and directly in response to your prayers! We have a few new requests:

> Pray that the tumor will stop bleeding

> Pray that the opportunity at Duke will work out - if God wills

> Pray that the second phase of radiation (which begins on Monday) will not damage Linda's brain stem or field of vision

> Pray that God will open many doors for evangelism through this trial

God bless every one who is still reading! Thank you for your love and support. We cannot express our amazement at how many of you who do not know us care so much - we hear about it from our friends! Please give all glory to God for all He does in our lives, and for all He does in your life. Some of the best news of all is found in Hebrews 13:8: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."

Update - partial now, more later today

Linda had her follow-up MRI yesterday. We spoke with the neurologist last night by phone. He said the tumor actually looks better. It is not significantly smaller, if at all, but the swelling is down. That is good news - not as good as we had hoped for, quite, but good news, nevertheless. At any rate, our trust is in the Lord, no matter the news! We hope to speak with the radiologist today and give a more complete update later today. Keep praying!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Why Do We Pray?

Why do we pray, anyway? If our prayers should end with, "Thy will be done," does it really matter? Isn't God going to do what He is going to do anyway? We could certainly agree with C. S. Lewis, who said, "I pray not because it changes God; I pray because it changes me." Indeed, who can walk away from an intense session of prayer and not be positively affected?

We could also agree with Spurgeon, who said, "It is better to be heard than to be answered." Aren't you glad that God has not always answered your prayers exactly as you wanted? Even Garth Brooks - not a theologian to my knowledge - can thank God for unanswered prayers!

But, really, do Lewis' and Spurgeon's words alone satisfy, profound though they may be? A few years ago, I attended a conference in Nashville at which I heard John Ortberg preach the entire book of Job in 45 minutes! I hope to one day share some of that great insight with our congregation and title the message: "The Book of Job - Really!"

In his message, Ortberg pointed out that in the Bible you will find the only religious writings (I have not researched this, but have no reason to doubt it) in which the adherents complain to their God. You understand what he was saying, right? Some of the language in the Psalms is a bit surprising, when you think about it. "Why have you forsaken me, Lord?" "How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? Look on me and answer, O Lord my God!" Rather presumptuous to speak with God that way, don't you think?

Apparently not. The Holy Spirit led David and others to write in such a manner. Why do we complain? Two reasons, according to Ortberg - 1) We know that God cares; and 2) We know that God is able to do something about our plight. WOW! That's a great comfort, isn't it?

Now, let's not lose perspective - we still must pray "Thy will be done," but those words (as I have previously noted) are more suited at the end of our prayers than at the beginning. If you really believe that God is sovereign (and if we do not believe that, then let's check something else out, right - of course we believe that), then we also believe He is powerful enough to change our circumstances. In addition, we believe that He is wise enough to do the right thing, whether we think it to be the right thing or not. Finally, we believe He is good enough to love us, even when life is excruciatingly painful. A better day is coming for all who follow Jesus!

In the meantime, we will approach the throne of heaven with confidence, as we are invited to do. It is more than evident that many of you went to the Father on Linda's behalf last week when we spoke of her discouragement in the mornings. Satan has been kept at bay, on that front, surely because of your prayers! Thank you! Today, Linda is scheduled to have her head shaved in preparation for a wig - if the wig comes in today. As you can imagine, it will be an emotional day for her. Please pray, whether you read this before Friday afternoon or not.

Much is happening on the medical front, and much of it is encouraging. We will know more next week and will give a detailed explanation at that time. Until then, keep praying for a miracle! And, keep praying that we will glorify Him, no matter what. God, as we have noted, is sovereign, wise, and kind - He will do what is right. None of us has assurance of tomorrow - but if we believe that Jesus died for our sins and have given Him control of our lives, we have a hope that transcends this present earthly experience, which even in 21st century America ain't all that great!

God bless every one of you! Thank you for praying - it makes a difference, you know!

Monday, March 12, 2007

From Linda: Out of the Mouth of Babes!

I have always loved children - not only my own precious grandchildren, but also my wonderful nieces and nephews, the amazing children I have been blessed to teach in Avery and Harnett counties of North Carolina, and of course, every beautiful baby and child who is part of the Grace Community Church family.

We have been so blessed by every expression of love from every one of the many children who has contacted us in the past few weeks. Unfortunately, we can only share a sampling of their offerings at this time. We also decided to keep them anonymous, and only wish we could scan in every precious drawing, every Scripture, and every "I love you" message you have sent to us. We have heard over and over that for the most part, the children themselves selected their Scriptures to send, and every one has been so meaningful and special to us. Some children are just learning to write, and the expression of every letter string holds great meaning to us.

To all the children who have written to us, there is no way we can say thank you enough! How we wish we could write to every one of you! Please know that we treasure every note, card, verse, and picture you have lovingly sent to us. We love you so much, and I can't wait to see you again! We especially want to thank you for every prayer! May God bless you all!

Now, enjoy these great words of wisdom from your children - with a few comments along the way!

Dear Aunt Linda, I love you! I am praying for you REALLY hard. You are a great aunt. I love you!

This tumor is nothing to God! (Note: This was the caption under a hand drawn picture of a brain with a big spot in it. We found this card especially encouraging!)

I hope you are feeling better soon. We're praying for you and we love you.

Hope you will get the rite mensin and fill detter.

God say's don't give up Ms. Talley.

Dear God, please heal Mrs. Talley's tudor.

Song: Stroms may raise, winds may blow, God says I got your back and I won't let you go. Aman, God will bless you. I know the Lord.

Let it rain God please so Ms. Talley gets a blessing.

Show your spirit. Let it soar. Don't give up!

I hope you get better soon because the ESL kids are sad and that is not fun seeing them sad.

I hope you'll be filling better soon. We're praying for you and we love you.

Bible verse from my Bible: He is the healer of the brokenhearted. He is the one who bandages their wounds.

Psalm 89:8: O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you.

Psalm 103:2-3: Praise the Lord O my Soul and forget not all his benefits. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.

From my heart, feel better and always know God is with you always go to him when you need guidance.

I hope you feel better. Do you like puppies or dogs?

Win you tehc pepool lern more and more without you wat will we do.

And, finally, we heartily agree with one particular encouraging note from a student:


Friday, March 9, 2007

Identifying the Enemy

As most of you know, my wife has a brain tumor. It is just about the worst brain tumor you can have - Glioblastoma Multiforme. It is an aggressive tumor that usually takes the host's life in a relatively short time. While there are exceptions (like our doctor's brother), most die within one or two years at the most and some much sooner than that.

Many people would refer to this tumor as an enemy. Certainly the medical community is treating it as such. Every day, Linda receives radiation at Rex Hospital and takes 2 pills of oral chemo every night. It is the desire of the doctors to attack this tumor with everything at their disposal. In fact, we talk with our oncologist next week about an experimental intravenous chemotherapy that has shown some definite promise with this particular tumor. No decisions yet, but we got word that there is a strong possibility that Linda would be a candidate.

Is the tumor the enemy? Well, we know it is a really bad object that is creating havoc in Linda's body. We also know that it is the result of sin - not Linda's sin, but the sin that began in the Garden of Eden. From the beginning, the gene pool was damaged, and it has gotten increasingly worse through thousands of years. Since all humans trace their roots to Adam and Eve, we are all susceptible to disease and worse. No doubt, though a brain tumor is of our own (humanity's) making, it is not something with which one wants to deal. You never want to hear your doctor say, "I'm sorry to tell you this, but you have a brain tumor."

I have mentioned several times in this space that when Linda heard those words, almost immediately her response was, "This did not catch God by surprise." I agreed. Whether these exact words were uttered that night or not, we both believed, and still believe, that this is not a mistake. Why? We are way too finite to answer that question! We do know, though, that God is sovereign, kind beyond our ability to appreciate, wise beyond comprehension and in complete control (to complete the circle).

There is one, though, who is the enemy of our soul - Satan. We need not fear him, but rather we should fear the One who controls our eternal destiny - God (Matthew 10:28). Praise be to God, Linda's eternal destiny was sealed when she was 7, and eternal life (this phase of it, anyway) began for me when I was 18. As long as we are on this earth, though, Satan dogs our every step with evil intentions for us. 1 Peter 5:8: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."

Linda has joked - as she lies in the bed - that she would like to think that Satan would cut her a break since she has a brain tumor! She may think that because every time she asks for anything I tell her, "You get a pass on this one!" One night when Michael was here, Linda asked him for an almond cookie (incredibly healthy - Phyllis Lane made them for Linda) to eat after she took her chemotherapy. Michael replied, "How can you deny your mom when she asks for a chemo snack?" As you can see, we are quite attentive to her needs - and wants!

Satan is paying attention, also, but his intentions are quite different than ours. Jesus described him as he is: John 10:10: "The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy (emphasis mine). Oh, he has an agenda, to be sure, and it is our destruction! He never says, "Well, the radiation is wearing her down, so I am going to call off the dogs today." The exact opposite is reality - when we are down, Satan seeks to finish us!

2 Corinthians 2:11 assures us that spiritual believers are able to discern his schemes. Of course, all of us would confess to being blindsided by Satan at one time or another - we never saw him coming and were hurt with his evil actions against us. In our case, it is pretty easy to discern at least one of his choice weapons against Linda - discouragement.

It seems important for us to say once more that we are aware of the damage a GBM (tumor) does to the host (what an odd choice of words for the one suffering from this unwelcome guest!). It is deadly. We are equally aware that our lives are in God's hands, and it may not be His will to heal. Until that is crystal clear to us, though, we will continue to pray for a miraculous healing, whether it be through treatment (as in the case of Dr. Patterson's brother), or through supernatural removal of the mass and all its insidious offspring.

Having articulated the obligatory qualification, we are praying for a miracle and we are encouraged - most of the time. Satan's tool of choice against Linda is discouragement. He slithers in like a snake in the mornings (rather than like a roaring lion) when her back is hurting and hope seems remote. She assures me that this is not the voice of God telling her to get ready, but it is a discouraging word from below. We all know how real that voice can sound, and how deeply it can affect us!

The tumor is not the enemy. God is in absolute control, and we submit to His will. We are obedient to Him, though, when we repeatedly approach His throne and make our desire - Linda's complete healing - known to Him, praying in faith. Those prayers, though not ended this way every time, are offered in the spirit of the prayer that never fails - as Father Tim (you will have to figure that out on your own!) would say - "Your will be done." As my sister Nan reminded me last night, Linda's days were determined (as were all of ours) before the foundation of the world. If this is her time, God be praised. But, not every illness - even a serious one - is designed to end in death. Satan wants us to think otherwise, and we would do well to ignore his suggestions.

SO, we have a prayer request. In the mornings, would you please pray that God will defeat Satan when he slithers in to discourage Linda? Although I type the posts in this blog spot, Linda's heart and hand are in every single one. She covets your prayers. Just as the radiation will soon move from a general field (surrounding the tumor) to a very specific target (the tumor itself), she desires that your prayers be directed in this way.

I promised in an earlier post that I would remember the maxim that brevity is the soul of wit. It is not that I lied - it is just that I am not witty (bright) enough to follow the wisdom offered in the aforementioned pithy word! If you have read this far, you have found some value, perhaps, or it may be that you are really bored. In either case, thank you!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Like Father, Like Son

My mother died in 1995. She died in surgery - a surgery that was an attempt to alleviate suffering she had experienced for many years from emphysema. My mother was very close to Jesus. We did not find out until after she had gone to be with the Lord that on the morning she died, she had told a nurse or two that she was going to die because she had been "called." She was happier that morning before surgery than we had ever seen her. Oh, how she is dancing in heaven today!

She was so looking forward to dancing in heaven because much of her last 3 or 4 years were spent in a wheelchair. My father wheeled her almost everywhere she went - and my mother did like to go! In nearly twenty years of helping my mother with her difficult disease and tending to one need after another through the last years of her life, I never heard my father complain. In fact, we were often concerned that his sense of humor (well-developed) might actually bring about her demise from laughing to death! They laughed a lot, and I am sure they cried together, though I don't recall seeing my father cry until the doctor told us that she had died on the operating table.

I often think about my father's gentle care for my mother as I push my precious wife around in her wheelchair. We have had a few close calls - as in me nearly dumping her on the ground - just as my father had nearly dumped my mother on the ground. Linda and I have laughed together, cried together, and I have counted it nothing but a great privilege to serve my wife just as my father served my mother. What a great example Billy Talley has been to me!

The connection I have with my father makes me think about a much more significant Father/Son connection - the connection God the Father had with His Son, Jesus. Jesus made it clear when He was on the earth that He did nothing apart from the will and direction of His Father (which came through the Holy Spirit, thus completing the Trinitarian work on this earth). Though all the gospel writers draw attention to this relationship, John points to the closeness between Father and Son more than the other three.

In John 3:35, John said, "The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hands."(ESV) In his excellent book, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, D. A. Carson points out the love between the Father and the Son as one of five unique, yet complementary, loves of God. In John 5:19, Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing."

Imagine that! Jesus did nothing apart from the will of His Father! In John 10:38, Jesus said that "the Father is in Me and I am in the Father." Separate persons, same nature, or, same essence. Along with the Spirit, three in one - the Trinity.

And yet, Jesus goes on to identify with His followers (all who believe that He died and rose again to pay for their sins) in a remarkable way as He prayed to His Father just before He was betrayed and crucified. John 17:20-21: "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me."

Does that mean we become deity when we believe in Jesus? HEAVENS, NO! It does mean, though, that we are connected to God in a very significant way - so much so that we call Him "Father." Romans 8:15-16: "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by Whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God."

Children of God. Children of our Father. Hmm. If it is so with you, is it truly, "like Father, like son or daughter," for you? Do you seek the will of your Father in heaven, or do you pretty much live life as you see best? Do you seek to please God, or do you seek to please men and women? Does your life reflect your connection with your heavenly Father, or are people surprised when they find out that you belong to God?

Linda and I see and ask these questions of ourselves in high definition these days! Priorities dictate that we spend much time just getting through the day, but the quality of our relationship with the Father is never far from our hearts and minds. There is nothing like a trial to bring the crucial into focus. Knowing what is important is not a problem. Living so that we reflect and radiate the Father's imprint on our lives - that's the challenge. Would you pray that we will passionately seek our Father? Pray that for us, please, only if you are willing to pray the same thing for yourself. That way, we both benefit! Like Father, like son; like Father, like daughter - that's our desire.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

An Amazing "Body"

The body of Christ in motion is a marvel to behold! Linda and I have experienced the love and care of our brothers and sisters beyond our wildest imaginations. Of course we would not have chosen to receive this blessing in this way, but if we have to be "in this way," what a blessing to receive!

Because Linda has limited mobility, her needs are extensive. It has been quite a lesson for one who has served others all her life. It is time for Linda to be served, and we are grateful for your service. The level at which she is being served astounds us! Her needs could be met at a much more basic level, but you have chosen to serve us at the highest level.

Indeed, this family known in Scripture as the body of Christ (Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12) is designed to assist itself. Every part of the body has a role, and one role is as important as any other role. If you do not believe that, PLEASE read 1 Corinthians 12 carefully. Jimmie Johnson (the evangelist, not the football coach) used to say that when we get to heaven at the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will all line up in what we think is order of importance. Preachers and prominent Christian leaders will be up front, while quiet unassuming servants will be in the back. When we are all lined up, Jesus will say, "ABOUT FACE!" (John 11:1-11, especially verse 11; Luke 13:30).

Jimmie Johnson used to also illustrate the way the human body comes to its own rescue. When you are swinging a hammer and you hit the wrong nail (as in fingernail), your right hand does not scold the thumb of the left hand for getting in the way. NO! Your whole body comes to the rescue of the injured part! Your right hand drops the hammer and grabs the thumb. You begin blowing on the thumb. Your legs do a dance, and if you pay attention, you may even catch yourself limping. The whole body gets involved!

We have seen this picture clearly as the body of Christ has moved into action on our behalf. We are injured, but Linda and I have not spent a moment by ourselves, except at night (where we did a great deal of talking in the first week, though we do more sleeping, now). We are not complaining about the company, though. On the contrary, we rejoice at the assistance we have received. In the first place, the elders of our wonderful church, Grace Community Church, have allowed me to spend all the time I need with Linda. That enables us to take advantage of these precious moments God is giving us, and it allows us to minister (through this page, as well as in other ways). For a ten week period, different men in our church - mostly active and inactive elders - are preaching on Sunday morning. I have been given freedom to share on Sundays or participate in any ministry I desire, but I am under no obligation to do anything at church. In other words, I am free to stay by Linda's side. Who has such a privilege? Who deserves such a blessing? Certainly not me; not us!

In addition, family members have spent weeks with us (including our daughter's mother-in-law who flew from Cali, Columbia to be with us). All our brothers and sisters and our parents have served us so well. When one set leaves, another set comes in. When someone is here, someone back home has needs (childcare, meals for husband, etc.) that someone else tends to, and the ripples go on for a long way. You would not believe the number of meals that have been served to us and will continue to be served for some time. The cleaners do their work - anonymously - while we drive to radiation. We know some of our helpers, but we have no idea about others. Someone takes our trash away each week because there is too much trash to wait for the sanitation workers once a week.

Several people have offered to drive Linda the one hour each way to radiation, but for now, I want that job! Significant numbers of people have been involved in sprucing up - both inside and outside - our house (even painting our living room!) in ways that go well beyond that which is necessary. So many others have helped those who have helped us directly. The cards you have written with words of encouragement and words of Scripture, the prayers you have offered, the thoughts of care and compassion, the e-mails from those of you we do not even know - well, I could go on for a long time, but I run the risk of forgetting some act of service that has meant so much to us, and I would not want to do that. Since we can never properly express our gratitude to you individually, please accept our heartfelt THANK YOU!!!!!!

Thank you for being the body of Christ. Thank you for being Jesus to us. For those of you who have been in support roles about which we have no knowledge, a special word of gratitude to you. All of you have been Jesus to us.

So, what is your role in the body of Christ? Some of you have roles that are far from the spotlight. If I discern Scripture correctly, we are told that when you perform our job well (as in Ephesians 4:1), our heavenly reward will equal that of Billy Graham! I think you would agree that little else matters beyond hearing your Savior say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord." (Mathew 25:21). The body of Christ in motion is an amazing thing to behold! It will not move as well as it could if you do not do your part, even if you think it is a minor part. Rejoice in the place and responsibility the Lord has given you! He made you the way He did for a reason. Serve Him with a grateful heart where you are. If you will, we all benefit. Linda and I know.