Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Premature Death - Just in Time!

Don't let the title fool you - Linda continues to do well (thanks be to God!) and we continue to pray for complete healing. We have, however, been forced to consider the prospects of a premature death in our family. The first week after Linda's diagnosis, most of us felt certain her days were limited. I remember Linda's mother saying several times, "I just never thought one of my children would go before me." In fact, all of us were in a daze, fully understanding Virginia's sad reflections. We are so grateful that now our days are filled with hope for Linda's continued presence with us .

There is something quite unnatural about someone dying "before his or her time," isn't there? But, when is our time? Are we guaranteed a long life on this earth if we serve the Lord? In Psalm 90:10, Moses said, "The length of our days is seventy years - or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away." Wow - we could spend a good while unpacking that verse!

While we point to Moses' words as the "norm" for this life, we also acknowledge David's position when he said in Psalm 31:15, "My times are in Your hands." Is "premature death" an oxymoron in the big picture? In one sense, yes. God has established my beginning and my "end," at least in this world as we know it. But, it is not natural for us to long for death as Paul seemed to do in his letters. In fact, we did not finish David's words in Psalm 31:15 - here is the rest of that verse: "My times are in Your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me."

David was facing an untimely death at the hands of those who hated him. He acknowledged that God would have the final say as to the length of his days - and he asked that those days might be extended. We are asking the same for Linda, but we recognize that the final decision is in God's hands. We have repeatedly been told something like, "prayer works," and while we certainly believe the promises God makes about prayer in His Word, we also want to make sure that we acknowledge Him as the center of focus in this trial - not us, nor our prayers. In other words, "God works, and He is awesome, no matter what His decision is." That is not in any way meant to diminish the importance of prayer - in fact, PLEASE KEEP PRAYING as David did - and then acknowledge that your times, as well as Linda's, are in God's hands.

David's prayer for relief from those who sought his life is very much like the typical response of a cancer patient - or someone who has been diagnosed with any life threatening disease, or someone who has just been in an accident and has sustained injuries that may be life-threatening - in short, anyone faced with the prospects of a premature death. We all want to live! I very much believe that the will to live is a God-given impulse and instinct. It is SO appropriate to pray for life - and unless you have stared your own death in the face, you have no idea how you will respond. "Oh, yes I do - I would not seek to thwart God's obvious plan for my life!" With respect, no you do not know how you would respond. In fact, there is a good chance you would fall to your knees and beg for mercy. We should not be terrified of death - not if we have the hope of eternal life - but not many of us are as spiritually minded as Paul was who welcomed the opportunity to be in Jesus' presence at the first possible moment. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

While we may refuse to "go gently into that good night," we can have confidence in what will occur when that night (death) comes, no matter what age we are. In fact, Linda says that her reading in Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven, makes that "night" seem much more like brilliant day! Such confidence is available in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Oddly enough, it was His premature death that enables us to have life!

I have been reading (again) John Stott's classic, The Cross of Christ. Early in the book, Stott recounts all the places in the gospels where Jesus predicted His own early, violent death. The disciples, most notably Peter, (Matthew 16:21-28) sought to dissuade Jesus from His destiny. Jesus reacted passionately, identifying Peter's comments with Satan's plan to keep Him from the cross. In fact, Jesus Himself struggled greatly with God's plan, passionately asking God to change His mind about the death that was before Him.

Why the cross? Why was it necessary for the Son of God (God in the flesh) to die such a horrible, violent, premature death? Could not have Jesus done so much more good by remaining alive until He was well advanced in years? Well, no. Our sins had separated us from God - every one of us. Jesus' entry into this world and His sacrificial death were just in time for us! (Galatians 4:1-7) God's law had justly condemned us and we were estranged from God. Death - spiritual death as well as physical death - was (and is) the penalty for sin. As much as I love my wife, I cannot die for her sins - I must pay for my own. Thus, Linda and I both desperately need someone to pay our penalty. Jesus was the only One eligible to be our substitute and He did, indeed, die for us. He died for you, my friend!

Do you believe that? Have you ever prayed and told Him that you are giving up on trying to get to heaven, and that you are sorry for your sins, but eternally grateful that He died for you and that you will follow Him all your days - with His help? If so, then His perfectly-timed death assures you of eternal life! And that's a good thing, since Moses told us - and David implied - that these days are full of sorrow and quickly gone. Oh, thank God for His plan of salvation!

If you have questions about what it means to be a Christian but you do not want to leave a comment on this page, please e-mail me at I would love to share with you (from the Bible) how you can know for sure that when your time comes - as it surely will - you will live with Jesus for eternity. Jesus' death was a premature death that was just in time for us. That is incredible news.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

More Good News!

Linda had her third MRI on Tuesday. The reason it was done so soon was because Duke is requesting a post radiation MRI before they will make a final decision about treatment for Linda. We heard from the neurosurgeon today - there is no growth in the tumor and the swelling is almost completely gone! We were told that the tumor is stable. While we would have preferred to hear that the tumor is dying fast, we are ecstatic that an aggressive tumor has been halted in its tracks. We had been told not to expect much from this MRI (so close to the last one), so we are quite happy with what we heard.

A couple of specific prayer requests - Linda is beginning to experience sharp arthritic type pain on occasion in her feet, ankles, and knees. This is likely from the steroids, which must be taken to keep the swelling down in the brain. Please pray about this new issue. Another effect of the steroids is a compromised immune system. Linda's numbers are really good, but they are a bit off. That is a small consideration, but worth praying about!

So, is it a miracle or not? Hey, we know that God is in complete control. The tumor is still there, but if you will recall, April was supposed to be very close to the end for Linda. We have prayed for God to remove the tumor while placing ourselves in His hands. The second best option is what appears to be happening now - arrested development of the tumor with the potential for its death (Linda wanted me to emphasize "death of THE TUMOR" - she very much still has her sense of humor) in the coming months. Keep praying! Thanks so much for all your prayers to this point and please say with us, "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, Who daily bears our burdens." Psalm 68:19

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Exciting News, Indeed!

Well, we finally got word today about the fluid that was drawn from Linda's tumor on Friday. No cancerous cells were found - none! Now, before you get too excited, let me attempt to explain what that means. In fact, I asked that question of the PA who called me with the news. She said that it means that the tumor is probably not growing. While we tend to think more is happening than that the tumor is simply remaining as is, we'll take that news! Praise the Lord! For those of you who have already heard, thank you for rejoicing with us!

I am writing this late Tuesday night. Tomorrow afternoon, Linda will have another MRI. Dr. Friedman at Duke has said that a post-radiation MRI must be done (you may recall that the last MRI was done close to the end of radiation, but she has not had one since radiation has been completed) before they will make a decision on whether or not Linda will be eligible for experimental treatments. This MRI has been moved up from May 8 to expedite the process. Please pray for wisdom - if the MRI were to reveal that the tumor is actually dying (that would be a miracle, indeed!), then it will be a tough decision to pursue experimental treatment. Perhaps I am getting the cart in front of the horse! We are so grateful for your prayers - and so many have told us specifically how they are praying. You cannot imagine how that encourages us.

I will try to keep you updated as best as possible. Thank you for walking so faithfully on this journey with us.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Exciting News (?)

Linda went to see Dr. Lacin, her neurosurgeon, today. Dr. Lacin seemed quite pleased that such a small dose of steroids had reduced the swelling in her brain, eliminated her headaches, and allowed her to regain all of the mobility she had prior to last week. He drained fluid from the tumor from a reservoir connected by a shunt to the tumor. The fluid was perfectly clear - in the past it was cloudy, discolored. He is sending the fluid for testing. When I asked why, he replied, "To see if there are cancer cells present." We will receive results on Monday.

I probably should wait until we get the lab results, but we are pretty excited and wanted to share this news with you. Is this good news - exceptionally good news, in fact? Could it be that the tumor is actually dying? Even if not, Linda has made remarkable progress. Her setback last week was temporary and easily corrected. Dr. Lacin said today that since the tumor was not surgically removed, she will have to remain on steroids as long as the tumor exists. We are all quite pleased that the amount is so small (4 milligrams per day) and has produced such radical improvement. At a time when Linda was, according to prognosis, supposed to be dying, she is making remarkable progress! PRAISE THE LORD! PRAISE THE LORD! PRAISE THE LORD!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Faith, Prayer, and God's Sovereignty

Well, it was my intention to give a quick update. You will see that I have failed miserably! If you have time . . .

Linda is doing much better this week, though today has been a bit difficult. She resumed a relatively small dose of steroids on Sunday night - that seems to be helping. That would indicate that some swelling returned in her brain, which is not good, but the fact that a small dose of steroids made such a dramatic difference is encouraging. If the tumor goes away the swelling will go away. That's what all of us (including all of you) are praying for! If the tumor goes away and stays away on the basis of treatment, it will be a miracle. Since we have already witnessed a small miracle (with the tumor shrinking - albeit, only a little - in the first two months of treatment), we are hopeful that we will see the day when Linda gets up out of the wheelchair and cooks, clea . . . no, wait, I mean, goes skiing in Colorado, goes to a movie, etc! Just kidding. Even though the improvement Linda has made could be attributed to her treatment, the level of improvement we have seen is highly unusual - thus, we see God's hand.

So, that's the medical update. What we know and believe about God is more important, so here's what we believe:

> We are all born in sin, separated from God and already under the condemnation of God's wrath - John 3:16-36

> Jesus died for our sins, making eternal life available for all who believe - 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 10:9-10, 13

> Glorifying God in all circumstances is our greatest privilege and most important priority - Philippians 1:19-21

> We do not approach sickness as those who do not have the hope of eternal life - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (even though this refers to grieving over believers that have died, it is instructive in our approach to sickness)

> There is no question that heaven is better than this place! - John 14:1-3; Romans 8:18-25; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10

> Nonetheless, God understands our drive and desire for life! - Philippians 2:25-27 (A future post will be dedicated to the multi-faced perspective on the end of life, as seen here and in Philippians 1:21)

> God answers prayer! - take your pick - it's all through Scripture!

> God encourages, and responds to, persistent prayer - Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8 (As always, be sure to read these parables in context)

> When God answers prayer, it is done in Jesus' name - in other words, according to Jesus' character and all that His name represents - and always for God's glory - John 14:12-14

> However God chooses to respond to our collective prayer for God to heal Linda, He is good and knows best - Isaiah 55 - the whole chapter, but especially verses 8-9

> Trusting God's character is more important than what He might do for us - Job 13:15a - although we must confess that most of Job's words (including the second part of this verse) belie his bold assertion in the first part of this verse!

God's will (a recent post) is complex. Understanding God's ways - well, that's beyond us, as Isaiah 55 tells us. There is much we do know (Deuteronomy 29:29) and we can approach God with confidence on the basis of what we know (Hebrews 4:16) in our time of need. We are bombarding God's throne! Keep praying with us!

So, the conclusion is that we can pray - and pray believing - that God will heal Linda. When He does, we will all give glory only to God! Should He, in His wisdom, choose not to heal, we will glorify Him, nonetheless, trusting His wisdom and ways.

I need to say something that I hope you will understand. I want to say it loud and clear: An acknowledgment that God is sovereign and may choose not to heal Linda is not a concession to her imminent demise, nor does it constitute a lack of faith! PLEASE do not think I have no confidence in God's ability or willingness to heal. I feel more hopeful every day, in fact, that He will heal her! But, think of the damage we can do as believers when we automatically assume that God will do just as we desire - and even pray - that He do. If we state that we KNOW God will heal, then what of those who are reading this blog right now who are near death, those whom God has chosen not to heal?

I know that some of you are in that spot - it is fairly apparent that God has chosen not to heal you. You have prayed, yet God, in His wisdom and sovereignty, has chosen for you to meet Him in the very near future. Oh, my heart is with you! Please read all the verses above very carefully and also take comfort in the following words by A. W. Tozer: "In spite of tears and pain and death we believe that the God who made us all is infinitely wise and good. We rest in what God is. I believe that this alone is true faith. Any faith that must be supported by the evidence of the senses is not real faith." from, The Knowledge of the Holy.

I don't think the faith of believers will be shaken if this tumor takes its natural course, but there are those who don't know Jesus who are watching. Should God choose to heal Linda, they will know that there is a God in heaven! Should He choose not to heal her, they need to look at our response and know that there is a God in heaven. Who knows, some of us (including this writer) may not live long enough to see Linda healed! Life is uncertain - God's ways are much higher than ours - He is to be glorified, no matter what.

Nonetheless, KEEP PRAYING FOR A MIRACLE! I love my wife more every minute and cannot bear to think of life without her (again, the two sides of the believer's death). As I have just said, I am more and more hopeful that she will be healed and God will be glorified in that manner! We love all of you!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Difficult Transition - Reality Check

Life is hard. Life with cancer is extremely hard, especially in the early stages of cancer, or in the last stages of cancer. God's grace is sufficient to enable the believer to endure (not too strong a word - 2 Timothy 2:3, in some translations) all kinds of difficulties, but there is, indeed, much that must be "endured" with cancer.

Linda is in a period of transition. Even though she has been dealing with this tumor for two and a half months, these days would certainly be considered the early stages of her illness. She finished radiation and the first round of chemotherapy about a week and a half ago. Extreme fatigue has set in over the last four or five days. That is not unexpected at this point in her treatment. What is a bit of a surprise is the nausea that has visited Linda in the last few days, which makes taking the daily myriad medicines and supplements that await her quite a chore. Her medication regimen includes a return to steroids - not what we had wanted - which will hopefully offset some of the physical changes. Linda has thus far resisted anti-nausea medicine, but methinks that could soon change.

As I recently mentioned, Linda does not have to resume chemotherapy until the first week in May. With the rapid improvement she made during her treatment, and with assurances that the effects of her treatment would continue long after they were completed (which is still true), we had hoped that these would be great days. Instead, these are some of the most difficult days since the first two weeks in February when we learned of Linda's tumor.

So, we are going through a bit of a transition - a change, of sorts. Great news - God has not changed through this entire time! Linda has been reading A.W. Tozer's book about God's attributes, The Knowledge of the Holy. Her bookmark is at the beginning of chapter 15, which is about God's faithfulness. It is His faithfulness that will sustain us in the most difficult of circumstances. If you have read Tozer's classic work, you know what an encouragement it has been to Linda!

The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to be in stressful situations. He understood, though, the difference between difficulty and despair. In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, Paul wrote about those differences: "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed."

Even though Paul was speaking primarily of persecution experienced as a result of one's stand for Jesus, these words can be applied to physical suffering. If you think suffering from sickness is not as meaningful as suffering from persecution, then what of Job? All life experiences are meaningful, all life experiences are superintended by a sovereign God, all life experiences need to be received and lived in grace, all life experiences require a trust that understands we do not always see the realities at work in unseen realms (go further in 2 Corinthians 4 to see how God articulates this in His Word).

What is to be our response to a more difficult period? The same as it is when times are extremely good - "Thank You, Father, for Your love and goodness. We trust You, even though this is not what we want, nor is it what we would have ordered had we been in charge. Give grace in the measure it is required, and may we glorify You in our response to this change."

Such a response does not mean that life is easy - it is not. Linda repeatedly warns me not to paint her as the perfect Christian in her suffering. When so many of you say, "I don't think our family would respond like this if it were us," you don't know if that is true or not. You don't know how difficult it is for us at times, and you are probably not taking into account how God's grace increases when you need it. At this point in our journey, it is comforting to have a Constant in our lives, a Rock Who never changes - especially when nausea, headaches, and weakness overtake the body.

As always, your prayers are appreciated more than you can know. I will not give a list, but if you have read this far, you know how to pray. God bless you!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Latest

Thank you for continuing to pray for Linda. We have enjoyed our first full week without radiation trips to Raleigh - 30 miles, one way. We did have to go to Raleigh for one trip, but one day beats five days any week!

We are entering a different phase of Linda's treatment. In addition to the conclusion of radiation, she has a month off of chemo (we earlier thought it was only a week-long respite). Furthermore, she finished her regimen of steroids on Monday of this week. Steroids, of course, reduce swelling in the brain - swelling that is caused by the tumor. Our hope is that the swelling will not recur.

One very good sign is that Linda has not lost mobility. In fact, the movement in her left hand/fingers has continued to increase. She is extremely tired these days, but fatigue is typical for two to three weeks after radiation. We do have one concern - headaches.

Linda has had some fairly bad headaches this week. There is a strong possibility that she will have to go back on a small dose of steroids. We definitely prefer that these headaches be managed by ibuprofen. It may be that swelling is causing the headaches, but the continued - and in some cases, increased- mobility on her left side indicate otherwise. But, there I go again, attempting to diagnose the problem. So, please pray specifically about swelling in the brain, and about the headaches, whatever the cause.

Dr. Henry Friedman from Duke called last night. He said that we would have to get a "post-radiation" MRI before they will make a decision on whether to treat Linda or not. The second MRI Linda had (three weeks ago) was done before radiation was finished. We are trying to get another MRI scheduled for the first full week of May. That is another request that we have made before: pray that Linda will be treated at Duke - if it is God's will.

Ultimately, our request is similar to one that has already been made by a precious three and a half year old girl during prayers with her mother - "Please give Mrs. Linda a new brain." Actually, I love the brain that God gave my lovely wife. I just want that mass in the middle to go away - to that end I pray!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Linda's Testimony - Easter Sunday

Our church (Grace Community Church) has a tradition of hearing testimonies of new life in Christ on Easter Sunday. I do not remember one Easter Sunday when I did not hear over and over, "We were so blessed today!" Indeed, we were today as we saw video testimony from five college students, most of whom had trusted Christ within this past year. I also read Linda's testimony to the congregation, a testimony that she dictated to me this past week. I would like to share it with you now.

Linda Talley's Testimony

These last few months have been difficult days, but these have also been days of reflecting on God’s blessings to me. One of my greatest blessings is that God allowed me to be raised in a home where I learned to love Him and was encouraged to get to know Him. My earliest years were spent learning about God. Since my father was a pastor, I was in church every time the doors were open – and that was a great thing! I loved church and I loved learning about God. When I was seven years old, it seemed to be a very natural thing to trust Jesus as my Savior. I believe with all my heart that I became a Christian on that night that I asked Jesus to come into my life.

Even at seven years of age, I knew it was a special thing to be a part of God’s family. I knew that I had done bad things and that Jesus had died for me so that if I trusted Him, God loved me enough to forgive all my sins. That’s all I knew and that’s all that mattered. That was an acknowledgment of sin, it was the substitution of Christ, and it was repentance and faith, understood at a very basic level. In reality, anyone who comes to Jesus must come as a child.

I remember getting glasses around the same time I accepted Christ. I told my father as we came out of the optometrist’s office, “Look, Dad, you can see the individual leaves on the trees.” I also remember thinking about how both my physical and spiritual eyes were opened around the same time.

It was much later in life before I realized that there was an unseen battle for my soul, even at such a young age. That battle is happening at any age whenever someone is considering making a decision to follow Jesus, whether that person is seven or seventy. Parents, please keep teaching your children about God, Who He is and what He has done, and how they can have a relationship with Him through Jesus. Don’t pressure them, but do not discourage them from making that decision – they don’t have to understand everything.

I am so grateful for my heritage! God has been so good to me. I told you that my father was a pastor. In fact, both of my parents continue to serve the Lord in their church through teaching and singing. My dad still preaches, he writes books, and shares Christ along with my mom whenever the opportunity arises. It was never going to be possible, though, for their faith to sustain me. A passage that has meant much to me for many years is Colossians 2:6-7:

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

In fact, those verses are still so meaningful to me today. I am doing my best, with His help, to live by faith. Some people think that salvation comes by faith, but we grow in Christ on our own. But these verses teach us that we have to live the Christian life the same way we began it – by faith. I am trying to do that, every day. I am learning more about God and about His ways – by faith. I am trusting Him in the dark. I am putting one foot in front of the other – when my left foot cooperates – by faith. Even before this diagnosis, every breath and every step were dependent upon Him anyway – He has just made me more aware of it lately.

This Easter is very special to me. I have been thinking a lot about hope and about where that hope comes from. The hope I have in Jesus is based on His resurrection. Whenever we are faced with our mortality, it is good to know that our hope is in Jesus. His resurrection guarantees eternal life to the believer. My family is praying for a miracle for me every day, and I know many of you are praying also. I hope to share again 30 years from now. One day, though, all of us will leave this world one way or another. Thank God for the resurrection! I would like to share some verses from 1 Corinthians 15 that give every believer cause to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, not just on Easter, but every day, especially on Sundays.

1 Corinthians 15:51-57

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed

52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Soon after I was diagnosed with cancer, I thought much about knowing Jesus more intimately. Cancer has a way of focusing one’s attention. As one of my mentor’s told me, “Don’t think so much about what God can do – we know what He can do. Think about Who He is, His attributes, what He is like.” That was good advice! As I think about meeting Jesus one day, I have no doubt that He will know me, because He saved me those many years ago. My concern is whether or not I will recognize Him. This is my chance to get to know Him, so I say along with Paul:

Philippians 3:10

I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

God's Will

“What is God’s will for my life?” That’s the sixty-four thousand (or hundred, million, billion – choose your own denomination according to your level of angst!) dollar question, isn’t it? “If I only knew what God wants me to do, I would do it!” Or, “What is God’s will for my life – I have cancer, you know?”

Is God’s will a mystery that one must discern in prayer and deep communion with the Lord? Well, let’s analyze that for a bit. To use the term “God’s will” implies that we believe He has a plan for our lives. The best way to know His will is to hear what He has to say about His plan for our lives. So, how does He speak to us? How do we know His plan for our lives?

Let me say up front that I believe God’s will for our lives is revealed primarily through His Word. In Colossians 1:9, Paul told a group of people he had never met that He prayed regularly that they would know God’s will for their lives. What follows is not what we hear about today when people speak of knowing God’s will. Paul didn’t talk about discovering where they should work or who they should marry or whether or not they would recover from a particular sickness. He talked about living lives that are pleasing to the Lord, knowing where the strength to live such a life comes from, and the wonders of salvation in Jesus Christ – and while Paul was talking about Christ, well, the rest of the chapter is about Jesus.

We can know that everything God says to us in His Word (the Bible) is true. He talks a lot about His will for our lives in the New Testament, but He speaks in general principles rather than in specifics. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us that it is God’s will for us to thank the Lord in every kind of circumstance. In the previous chapter, Paul had told his friends that it is God’s will for them to be morally pure. The author of Hebrews connected God’s will with a life that pleases the Lord (13:21). In 1 Peter 3:17, the Apostle Peter clearly states that it may even be God’s will for us to suffer persecution – actually, 2 Timothy 3:12 states that as more of a certainty rather than a possibility. Some folks’ theology does not seem to allow for such a contingency. Once again, God’s will has more to do with the way we behave in all circumstances, even (maybe, especially) in unpleasant ones. In fact, just about the only place in the New Testament God gives instructions about His will for our lives in a specific situation is found in James 4:13-17 where He warns us about making future plans without taking Him into consideration. Let’s take the time to consider this passage.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

What’s the point? We do not know what tomorrow holds. Those words have never been truer for Linda and me. We have a great deal of hope these days! Doctors say that Linda is doing better than they could have hoped. Her tumor is shrinking when the best doctors hope for during radiation and chemotherapy is for the tumor not to grow. Although her progress is slower this week than it was over the last couple of weeks, we are greatly encouraged because she is rapidly decreasing the steroids that she has been taking without losing any motion she has gained on her left side. Steroids reduce swelling in the brain, thus allowing her motion to increase, so it has to be a good sign that she is retaining the progress she has already made!

So are we convinced that she will beat this illness? That is in the hands of the Lord, isn’t it? We are very hopeful for a number of reasons, some of which I will delineate below. But, as I have repeatedly said, I may die tomorrow in a car wreck and Linda may live 40 more years, fully functional after this initial bout with a brain tumor. Our concern is God’s will for our lives, and God’s will has more to do with how we live the years we are given (Psalm 90:12) rather than being concerned with how many years we actually live.

Over the course of my Christian life, I have thought and prayed much about God’s will for my own life. Early in my life I believed that while biblical principles, circumstances (including open and closed doors), wise counsel, talents and giftedness all played a role in determining how God leads us, He would always speak to us through a still small voice as He did to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-18 and that He would let us know what He wants us to do. I failed to take into account that this was God’s specific way for dealing with His specially called prophet at a critical juncture in Israel’s history. Nor did I consider that in addition to the gentle whisper, Elijah carried on a conversation with God - I did not anticipate that. Eventually, influenced heavily by Gary Friesen’s book, Decision Making and the Will of God, I concluded that God almost never speaks directly to individuals today in a “gentle whisper,” but always communicates with us through His Word. The Holy Spirit directs us in His Word, of course, but biblical principles and solid decision making determine the path for the godly believer.

The problem with my new approach to discerning God’s will was that I forfeited intimacy with God for quite a few years. Oh, I am not blaming Friesen – I agree with many of the things he said, but there is no question that my walk with the Lord today includes a sense of His presence and a sense of His direct leading at times that I did not have during those years. I am not talking about audible voices at all, but I often have a sense about not only what God is leading me to do, but about what He is going to do in a specific situation. Some would say that is simply instincts, and I would not argue. I NEVER think that a feeling I might have about how God will work in a person’s life or in the life of our church is infallible. Far from it – I often doubt my instincts, but I have found them to be better than I usually expect them to be. Is that because God is leading me? I hope so! I do believe that some people are given a spiritual gift of discernment (1 Corinthians 12:9), but please note that it is a spiritual gift, not the right of every believer, and it is certainly not my spiritual gift!

Well, there are enough qualifications in that paragraph to frustrate the most careful of readers! You’re welcome. So, what do I think will happen with Linda? Will she beat this illness or not? Neither one of us has any sense in our hearts about what God is going to do, but we have tried to discern God’s hand in all this. Our observations give us hope! First, I cannot remember ever hearing so many people say that they are praying for someone else, in this case, Linda. I am talking about hundreds of people who do not know her that are praying every day for her to be healed! It encourages us that God would burden so many people to pray specifically for Linda to be healed. And it gives us hope!

Furthermore, several people have told us that they have a real peace that God is going to heal Linda. That inspires us! Perhaps we are too close to the situation to have that specific assurance, but it encourages the fire out of us (a Southern thing, don’t you know?) that so many of you have peace. Also, we hear more and more stories about people who have had the same tumor and lived much longer and better lives than they were told they would – in fact, most of them are still living, from two to five years after they were given a few months to live. Linda seems to be moving in that direction rather than the other one.

So, what is God’s will for Linda? That she live a life pleasing to God, loving Him with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving her neighbor as herself. Period. If we take all the data in the last two paragraphs and conclude that God is definitely going to heal her but circumstances turn out differently, what then? Have you ever missed on such a thing? Have you missed on something this important? It is unwise to be too convinced of anything that will happen tomorrow (in addition to James 4, see Isaiah 55). Our call, no matter what, is to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” We will not lose our faith if Linda is not healed, nor does saying so mean that we do not have sufficient faith for her to be healed. We are invited to pray, believing that God will answer our requests. But the decision is ultimately His, not ours, regardless of the “level” of our faith.

Now, I need to say that one of the reasons I can speak as freely as I do about accepting God’s will, no matter what, is that I have not allowed myself to think deeply about losing the love of my life. I did not even go there during that first week when the prospects seemed quite bleak to us all. It is not that I am refusing to deal with reality, it’s just that I need to be positive, for as you know, a positive spirit is crucial in recovery from cancer – and you better believe we want Linda to recover! If it becomes apparent that God wills for her is to come to be with Him sooner than we would like, then I will face that reality and those emotions head on at that time. For now, there is no question that Linda and I are called to face our mortality – as are you, for goodness sake, if you are still reading this post! And so we must consider what is really important, what is really God’s will for us. And so we have.

Well, thank you for caring so much! Since we are invited to bring our requests to the One Who loves us and Who can do something about our troubles, would you remember a few specific requests? First, pray that the swelling in Linda’s brain will not return as she goes off steroids. Second, pray that God will continue to grant her the high spirits with which He has blessed her thus far. Third, pray that she will get in at Duke (we still have not heard from them) if she is supposed to be there. Fourth, pray that God will grant her a good week of rest as she concludes her radiation on Wednesday and has a week-long break from chemotherapy as well.

And may God grant you rest, rest in Him, trusting His guidance no matter what life may bring you. It is late, and I am going to bed!