Thursday, June 28, 2007

Prayer Requests A-Plenty!

First of all, please pray for little Cali Moody, the one-year old girl in our church who had surgery on Tuesday to remove a brain tumor. Immediately after the surgery, the doctors said that they had been able to remove all of the tumor - a major plus! There is some talk, now, that a tiny sliver may have been left on the brain stem. The post-op MRI did not show anything, but it is not clear how complete the resection was. At any rate, chemotherapy will begin at the earliest possible moment. Chad and Sara (Cali's parents) have learned that Cali had a stroke on her first day at Duke. Since she is so young, it is possible that she will be able to avoid permanent damage, but we need to pray to that end! Also, pray that her breathing and vision return to normal quickly so that, among other things, chemotherapy can begin. It will be a long road for Chad and Sara, but as I have said about Linda many times, we will take the long road!

While you are praying for Cali and Linda, do not forget to pray for Elyse Fenerty, the young mother of five I recently told you about. Three brain tumors in our relatively small church! We come to Jesus and say with the disciples, "Lord, to Whom (else) shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God!" Indeed, we fall on Jesus and God's grace at this moment.

Now, for some specific requests for Linda - we go for an MRI tomorrow morning (Friday, June 29). Duke has requested this MRI in preparation for our consultation with them on July 11. The MRI will, in the meantime, give us an idea of where we stand, exactly. We would love for the tumor to be gone, but we would probably know that it is gone without an MRI to tell us. We continue to pray for complete healing and we continue to trust God's wisdom and goodness as we pray. If you read this before 10:00 AM on Friday, please pray for Linda while she is in the tube - she will greatly appreciate you standing with her!

We are once again trying to ween off the steroids. Linda has gone from 4 mg per day to 3 mg per day. That may not seem significant, but since the adrenal glands have essentially shut down while steroids have done their job, a return to normalcy is often a rocky road. She has had slight headaches these days (another concern for the MRI). It would be so wonderful if she could completely eliminate steroids from her medicine regimen! Please pray!

Linda is quite tired these days - and, she has restarted physical and occupational therapy. You know what the specific requests would be.

Linda and I talk much about trust these days. One of the key elements of trust is a grateful heart. It is difficult to doubt God's wisdom or goodness when grateful hearts lift His praises! Linda is constantly thanking God for specific blessings. His good hand is everywhere in this trial, if one is looking. Linda looks - and, finds. As we close, would you take a moment and thank God for the good things He has done for you?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Another brain tumor in our church

Please forgive me for taking so long to give an update for Linda. I will do my best to get to that in the next day or two, but for now I would like to ask you to pray for precious little Cali Moody, one of the youngest members of the Grace Community Church Family. Cali just recently turned one year old. Her wonderful parents, Chad and Sara, took little Cali to the hospital last night because of severe vomiting and loss of motor skills. A CT scan revealed a mass on her brain stem - she was rushed to Duke where she will have an MRI this morning. The Moody's immediate concern is that the tumor has not worked its way into the stem. PLEASE PRAY for Chad, Sara, Bella (not quite 3 years old) and especially Cali.

This is now the third brain tumor in our small church congregation of about 100 families (and a lot of Campbell students during the school year!). Elyse Fenerty, a godly woman who, along with her family, has blessed our body enormously, has a benign brain tumor on the brain stem. Do not let the word "benign" fool you - if the tumor were to grow (as it is quite prone to do), it would be fatal. For almost two years, now, we have prayed that God would remove the tumor. He has not chosen to do so, but He has stopped it in its tracks. Praise the Lord! Please continue to pray with us about this tumor. Elyse has written well about her experience. If you would like to check out her blog, you can do so at

Linda will be having an MRI on Friday in preparation for clinical trials at Duke in July. I am planning to issue a renewed call for prayer for her healing, but have been waiting on the Lord for the perfect time - likely later this week. As I write, little Cali is having her MRI (we are waiting on our daughter to arrive so that I can go to the hospital), Linda is culling through the Scripture cards that so many of you shared with her in order to share them with the Moodys, and our church is mobilizing to support the Moodys in any way we can. Thank you for your prayers - I KNOW you will pray - what a blessing you are to us!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lost and Found

My father, that is. Literally! Many of you know, but many of you don't know, that my father was lost for over 14 hours this past weekend. Patricia, my stepmother, was with him in Cary, NC this past Saturday afternoon. They stopped at McDonalds to get a soft drink so that he could take some medicine. My dad said that he would rather not wait in a long line at the drive-thru, so he went in to get a Coke at the counter. Patricia waited for him for a short time and then went in to find him - but he would not be found. There was no indication that he might do something like he did - he had gone out the other door and had become disoriented. He began visiting stores in the adjacent shopping areas - yes, that is plural.

I received a call from Patricia and was on the scene within 30-40 minutes after he disappeared. For 3-4 hours I searched in store after store looking for him, apparently just missing him. The police response was incredible! Quite a few Cary police officers were on the scene. A Wake County K-9 unit arrived - a dog confirmed that my father had not gone into the woods behind the shopping area (at least not at that point). The Highway Patrol had a helicopter searching later in the afternoon.

As it turns out, my father was visiting some of the same stores where I was looking. I must have just missed him. Later in the afternoon, (after the dog had checked the edge of the woods for a scent of him) my dad went deep into the woods. He later said that he heard people calling his name, and he also heard the helicopter, but he did not respond. Why? He doesn't know. At 4:00 AM on Sunday, he came walking back up to the same McDonalds from which he had departed the day before. He would later say that his mind took a trip (this was from aging issues, of course, not illicit drugs).

Our family is so grateful that God brought my father back to us! I had slept very little on Saturday night when I received the call saying that he was safe. Just before I drifted off, though, I had a sense of peace from the Lord that he was going to be OK. I almost never trust that "sense" that I get sometimes (from the Lord?) - indeed, I am often not even sure about what I am thinking/feeling - but I often marvel as I look back and see how frequently such impressions turn out to be accurate.

That does not mean I have become an advocate of employing/analyzing "feelings" as a means of determining God's will. God's Word is always the best place to start when someone is seeking what God would have him or her to do. Since there are many specific instances that are not spoken to in Scripture, it is crucial that we understand principles for godly living. Then, when one's world is turned upside down, he or she will still trust God.

Well, Linda has had a very good day. She moved more easily today than she usually has in the past month or so. We also received an exciting phone call from Duke - she will have an appointment for evaluation for treatment during the second week of July. Experimental programs may be limited because she is having to take Coumadin for blood clots. We will see. Please pray.

Speaking of blood levels, we are still on the roller coaster, though the highs and lows are not as dramatic as in the past. Please pray that her INR levels (which measure the clotting factor in the blood) get to normal ASAP.

More in the not too distant future!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Roller Coaster

Well, Linda's blood levels, too high last week, have dropped - too low. Her INR levels should be between 2 and 3. Her count, as of Monday, was 1.47. So, she has begun taking Coumadin again (a smaller dose since she seems to be ultra-sensitive to it) and she is backing off the Vitamin K rich foods. It is, indeed, like a roller coaster, but Linda continually reminds us that this did not take God by surprise, and we look to Him as we go up and down (with a few loops thrown in for good measure) on this ride. All-wise! All-knowing! Everlasting mercy! Perfect love! That's our God!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Gift of Godly Tears

I thought I would post the manuscript of today's sermon, since it speaks to our current trials. It comes from the 84th Psalm and follows:

I want to talk about a topic today, with which I have become quite familiar of late – crying. I am deviating from 2 Timothy more because I want more people here when we look at the last verses of 2 Timothy 3 than because of limited time this week. It has been a tough week, though, and I have shed more than a few tears. Have you ever heard a sermon about crying? If you were expecting a message about crying, you would probably think that John 11:35, which happens to be the shortest verse in the Bible, would be the text for such a sermon. “Jesus wept.!” That is not the text for today’s sermon – Psalm 84 is. We will get there in just a moment.

I think we would all agree that some tears are what we would call “good tears.” You see them at weddings, when babies are born, at movies that have a sappy, happy ending, times like that. We all know about tears of sorrow too, though, don’t we? Can tears of sorrow ever be beneficial? Of course! It is impossible to have a relationship with Jesus until you acknowledge your sin to him, and tears, though not necessary for salvation, often accompany your confession of Jesus as Lord. But, what about the tears that flow because of broken relationships, painful physical infirmities, lost jobs, or lost loves? Psalm 84 tells us that such tears can be valuable – in fact, tears can be a gift. Now, you may not make this connection as we read through this psalm, but once we look a little closer, you will see how God encourages us in our trials and we, in turn, encourage others. We will read the text in the English Standard Version.

1 How lovely is Your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in Your house, ever singing Your praise!
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.
8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of Your anointed!
10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in You.

Did you catch the part about the tears? At first glance, this psalm seems to be only about joy, the joy found in the presence of the Lord! But, rest assured, the psalmist is lamenting a loss, and there is a significant, specific reference to pain and we will spend some time there, but let’s make a few general observations about Psalm 84.

First, the author is most likely a Levite of the family of Korah who worked at the Tabernacle or Temple, depending on when this psalm was written. He was away from Jerusalem, perhaps in exile with King David, if it was written in Tabernacle days. He very much wanted to get back to Jerusalem where the glory of God dwelt at the Tabernacle or the Temple. Longing is written all over this song – longing for something that has been known and has been temporarily lost. God’s blessings, His strength, and His glory overshadow the whole psalm causing it to become a perfect pilgrimage song for pilgrims to sing on their way to Jerusalem. It has been called the Pearl of Psalms. As we work our way through, I think you will understand why.

This psalm opens with poetic love language – “How lovely is Your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts.” The writer is expressing love for God’s house! Now, a love for church is an emotion quite foreign to an unbeliever. But for the one who loves the Lord, church is the place to be. I do hope you feel this way on Sunday mornings!

The translation in verse 2 is not as good as it should be. Here is the problem with the translation on this particular verse: at the end of the verse, “my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God,” should be translated, “my heart and flesh cry out for the living God,” as it is in the NIV. At this point in the pilgrimage, the seeker is not so much joyful as he is desperate to get to Jerusalem where the presence of God would be most keenly felt. Of course God’s presence was everywhere, but in OT days, His presence was most clearly perceived at the Tabernacle in Jerusalem.

Now, certainly in these NT days the Holy Spirit indwells us and we can sense God’s presence everywhere. There is also no question that God meets with believers in a special way who are gathered to worship Him in His house, the church. And, pretty much, we will connect with God at the level of expectation we bring with us to church. Verse 2 is a good model for us.

Verse 3 reminds us that part of the Temple was open, and the psalmist considered the birds that made their homes in the awnings to be blessed. In fact, all who dwell at the house of the Lord are blessed! This is a heart longing for Jerusalem.

In verse 5, the writer reminds me of James Taylor – “In my mind I’m gone to Carolina.” Even though the writer could not be in Jerusalem, he was on his way there in his mind. Verses 6 and 7 are a powerful visualization of the pilgrim’s journey to Jerusalem. On the way to Jerusalem the traveler would pass through the Valley of Baca –---- but, it’s not a literal valley. It could be translated, “The Valley of Weeping.” So, here are the tears I promised at the beginning. And notice what the tears do. We are told in verse 6 that the pilgrim journeying through the Valley of Baca makes it a pool, with rains also filling the well. Then, in verse 7, the disciple is taken from one level of strength to another and he stands before God. In these two verses there is a two-fold gift of tears.

I am going to work backwards and begin in verse 7, which is connected with verse 6. The kind of strengthening referred to here is what we would call Christian growth. It is what happens to a believer as he or she draws closer and closer to God. But this growth, especially this transition from one level to another, does not take place without tears, without pain in our lives.

When we cry or endure pain for the right reasons, our tears are God’s gift to us. Tell me when you grow the most, tell me when your intimacy with God is at its most meaningful levels, tell me when you are the most focused on your relationship with the Lord. Is it not in the Valley of Baca, the valley of weeping? Pain tends to focus our attention. When you are forced to deal with chronic pain – and I am not just talking about physical pain – and you allow God to keep you from a bitter heart, you begin to understand what is really important in life. You discover that intimacy with Jesus is better than any accolades, any possessions, any thrills in any way that this world has to offer. Tears are, indeed, God’s gift to us.

And godly tears are our gift to others. The weeping pilgrim in verse 6 is in a dry, arid land, and he is filling a well with his tears. This well, in turn, becomes a blessing to others, because it is available to refresh the next weary traveler who travels that path. Kind of reminds you of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” There’s a lot of comfort in those two verses! The process is clear – we struggle, God comforts us, we comfort others because we have traveled that road and can attest to God’s sufficiency in trials. Those who have experienced God’s grace in this manner first hand are in a unique position to pass it on to others. It may be that you can help others avoid pain that you endured because of your response to your pain. The gift of godly tears.

In verse 8, the writer acknowledges that though he cannot get to Jerusalem, God will still hear his prayers. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but Jerusalem represented God’s blessings. The psalmist, for whatever reason, was away from Jerusalem and unable to get back. It was quite a statement of faith to call God to listen to his prayers in such circumstances. Having said such, he transitions – we know so, because of Selah.

In verse 9, the writer prays for the king – maybe King David, maybe another king. It appears this king is in some sort of exile, and this prayer is for him, the one who represents God’s authority on the nation. The nation prays for him. You may not see this readily in verse 9, but it is there, and is akin to Jeremiah 22:10: “Weep not for him who is dead, nor grieve for him, but weep bitterly for him who goes away (into exile), for he shall return no more to see his native land.” In that spirit, the psalmist is praying for the leader of the land – a good example for us.

Armed with fresh perspective, the psalmist restates his love for God’s house, representing the blessings of God. Oh, how much better to be in the most menial place in God’s house than to be in the finest homes in the land when God is not acknowledged nor considered. Why? Because God provides – through His sun – and protects – through His shield. Our only hope, in this life or the next, is found in the Lord. Those who walk with Him, those who even endure the tears of Baca will find God’s favor and honor on their lives.

And, so the conclusion – blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, even when circumstances would dictate confusion and despair. The true servant trusts the Lord always, even in the midst of pain.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Not the best of times . . .

. . . from a human perspective, that is. This has not been a good week for Linda. She has had some significant "blood" issues with which to contend. As you know, she was diagnosed with a blood clot two weeks ago. She only stayed on Lovenox shots for 4 days, but kept taking Coumadin. She went back for blood work this past Tuesday, and wouldn't you know that it was the only time in this entire experience we did not wait and ask for paperwork on the blood levels. A nurse from the doctor’s office called us a few hours after we left and said, "Tell her not to take any more Coumadin - her levels are high." Not knowing better, we took this as good news, but our understanding of her situation was limited. We did not know how high her levels were and exactly what that meant. We found out yesterday (Friday).

I don't know exactly what the figures I am about to give you mean, but you will get an idea of how serious Linda’s condition has been when I tell you what her “numbers” have been. The INR numbers (measuring the blood's ability to clot) are supposed to be between 2 and 3. When the blood levels are below 2, blood clots tend to form. When the levels are high, an individual can begin bleeding and have great difficulty stopping the flow, whether it is external or internal bleeding. Linda's numbers on Tuesday were 14. Yesterday, they were down to somewhere around 11.9. She was given a prescription for a Vitamin K supplement (5mg), which we picked up and she took yesterday afternoon. God has watched over Linda this week - she could have easily bled to death.

The blood issues may account for what has been a difficult week for Linda, though we are not sure. We have noticed a reduction in motor skills, increased tiredness, etc. We are continuing to pray for a miracle, and we ask you to keep praying, also - please do not stop! In the meantime, pray that God will guide and give peace and direction – every decision (of which there are more than I could have imagined) seems to be monumental in scope and effect. For instance, we did not begin the Temodar yesterday as planned, and will probably not begin the five-day course of treatment before speaking with a doctor.

Thank you for walking this path with us. What a comfort to know so many brothers and sisters know and care about our trial!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Temodar Alert!

Linda will begin her five days of chemo (oral) treatment today. She has already taken anti-nausea medicine this morning. The dosage is much higher this time. Please pray that she will tolerate the medicine well, that it will attack the bad cells and leave the good ones alone. And, as you do, thank God for life - both physical and spiritual. We would also be grateful if you would praise Him for the wonderful four months He has given us since Linda's diagnosis. These have been wonderful days in the midst of our trial.