Rebekah’s Recital

Nope – #celloadventuresofcille is not having a recital (though rumor has it I will play in the Academy of Arts recital later this spring!)

My teacher, Rebekah Grace Miller, will perform her final undergraduate recital at Belhaven University of April 6th. For more information, you can click here. Rebekah is a gifted artist. When she plays her cello, it is an emotional encounter. She uses her God given talent to minister in so many ways and to touch the lives of those around her.

In addition to her teaching me for nearly 17 months, I have been privileged to hear her play professionally with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra as well as during various other events: Best of Belhaven and a number of Music Studio Classes at Belhaven, her Cello I recital in 2017, at First Baptist Jackson, and as part of the mission team for Epiphany Nights in St. Petersburg, Russia in January 2019. Honestly, when I don’t think her music can get any better, she plays something else that touches me. My current favorite (in a long list of favorites), is Rachmaninoff’s Sonata in G minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 19. While I love the whole thing, the third movement, the Andante, moves me to tears every.single.time. You don’t want to disturb the moment by breathing as the movement concludes. Seriously.

Cello lessons with Rebekah (and hanging out with other young adult friends who love classical music) have rekindled my love of classical music. Part of it is the music itself and the genius of the composers; part is the interpretation of artists who perform these works: their devotion to their craft; how they use their God given talents to touch the lives of others; the sacrifices they make to pursue their dreams. I am thrilled to be along for the ride in a small way and to be able to see just how God is going to use them. Who knew that deciding to take cello lessons at the young age of 62 from a 20 year old would have such an impact on my life.

I encourage you to come and experience Rebekah’s music on April 6th. Frankly, if you are not taking advantage of the musical offerings that Belhaven regularly produces, you are missing something special.

Rebekah’s sister, Zoë Miller, perhaps said it best: “Rebekah has known for years that the cello was her calling. On April 6, she will showcase years of hard work, tireless dedication, and, above all, her God given talent as she performs for her senior recital at Belhaven University. I am so proud of how much Rebekah has grown and I’m excited to see where God takes her next!!” To know your calling and to pursue it, that is what God wants from each of us.

I cannot wait to see what God is going to do in Rebekah’s life and with her gifts. As that plays out, I am thankful to be taking lessons, learning all I can from her, and being able to give back a little where I can. My encouragement to you today is to take a chance on doing something different (and hard) and where you can, make investments in the lives of those who come behind you. Trust me. You will be thankful you did.

Still Choosing Joy!

Cille

This Blood

Wednesday night, the Worship Choir and Orchestra were preparing for Resurrection Sunday at First Jackson. You might ask: “What was different this week?” The answer – Worship Happened. It wasn’t rote. It was for real. 10923224_10206608260072286_3815488143188405519_n

At first glance an onlooker could have thought we were just caught up in the moment. First Jackson is blessed with some pretty talented musicians – vocal and instrumental. But it was more. So. Much. More.

I have experienced this before – this really special kind of worship experience when you know in your heart that the people in the room – musician and listener – get it.  I mean really get it. As in – eternally get it.

In 2005 when the (then) Sanctuary Choir served in St. Petersburg, Russia, for a week of musical missions, there was a Sunday evening at Central Baptist Church like this. We had been cautioned (warned) by the local IMB missionary that we should not be surprised if there was no response emotionally or otherwise from the congregation.  That Sunday morning we sang in that same church and it was like “why are we here?” That night, though, oh my. The song then – Days of Elijah. Like Elijah, we are required to stand up for God. And as we were singing, a lady in the balcony to my left – on the back row – slowly stood. You could tell from watching her, she got it. Slowly, the church came to its feet – like a light cast across a dark room – they – we – worshipped. Understand we were singing in SOUTHERN ENGLISH. Most of them spoke no English and we certainly spoke no Russian. A God Thing. It was celebratory. It was fun. It was exciting. It was humbling. It was God honoring. It was worship. When the service was over, we stood around for a long time sharing fellowship with our new friends in Christ. We knew “they got it”. Frankly, for the first time as a group, we knew “we got it” as well.

Wednesday night was sort of like. It happened, however, in the Sanctuary at First Jackson. Another God thing occurred. You could sense something when we rehearsed a new arrangement to Arise My Love.  We moved on to rehearsing Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)Forever,  Christ the Lord is Risen Today.   And then – We Believe –  “We believe that He conquered death; We believe in the resurrection; And He’s coming’ back again, we believe.” Strong stuff. Solid message. Truth shared. Reassurance. H.O.P.E.

The awesome part – it was obvious we believed what we were singing. I saw emotion and response from people in the choir who seldom (never) change their facial expression. It was amazing. It was humbling. It was worship.

I did not think it could get any better unless Jesus came right then. I.was.wrong. This Blood – I know this song – have heard it before several times but it never registered. This time it did. And it registered with the 200+ people in the choir loft. You saw it and heard it and experienced it: “There is a grave that tried to hide this precious blood that gave me life. In three days, He breathed again and rose to stand in my defense.” And because of that I am coming to tell you “He’s alive” and “to shout and to proclaim He’s coming back for you.”  Listen to it. Meditate on it.

So as we approach Sunday, April 5, 2015 – Easter Sunday – and celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior, prepare your heart. Are you willing to share with those around you that “There is a grave that tried to hide this precious blood that gave me (you) life. In three days, He breathed again and rose to stand in my (your) defense.”  Are you ready “to shout and to proclaim He’s coming back for you?”

You see, when Jesus rose from the grave and appeared to the disciples, Jesus first greeted them and then charged them: John 20:21  “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” That charge still applies to His children. 

Pray that on Sunday morning in that room, that those there “get it”. My prayer is that revival just breaks out. God knows we need it. He sent us to tell others. It is the only thing that matters.

He’s alive. I believe.

Still Choosing Joy!

Cille

The Devil and the Details

As in many projects, with Carols by Candlelight, the details are what make the difference. And in this effort, especially this year, there are thousands of details.  Our theme is “Changed” with our focus on lives changed for Eternity. To clearly present this message, a lot of things had to change for FirstJackson and, in reality, for each of us.

We were challenged to be a part of Forty Days of Prayer for Carols. Many were. It is obvious. So many people praying specifically for 500+ lives to change sent Satan into overdrive trying to stop us.  We all know that Satan loves sound equipment. He’s been messing with that stuff for years.  He has hopped into lighting in a big way at times, as well.  This year – traffic – tape -safety lighting -traffic (did I mention that already?) are taking a beating. He has worked over the altos – a virus and the flu and family illness. He started in on the sopranos today with the same. And poor Chip Wilbanks (Sanctuary Choir President) has a huge trial that is going into its third week starting Monday and he is vocally wasted.

He has stirred the pot on some other issues as well. Plus with every change we have attempted to make to more openly share the Gospel with our community we have experienced pushback from some quarter. If you know me, you will not be surprised that my response to this is “get over it – it is not about you. It is ALL about HIM!”

So as we complete the i-dotting and t-crossing this afternoon, continue to pray for every effort. We are tweaking. It is like a bunch of busy little beavers all over the church pulling wagons, pushing carts, installing last-minute lighting, watching the painter get ready for tonight (great story he has), moving costumes, cleaning up stuff, checking our lists, checking them again.

Pray for the new traffic flows into the building to work. Pray for a welcoming environment in the FHE Carols’ Coffee House. Pray for the ministry groups that are coming in tonight and that they will clearly hear the message. Pray for each other as we share the gifts we have been given to tell the story of Jesus.

Pray as well for flexibility, for the ability to listen quickly, and for your senses to be heightened to the needs of those around you. You never know who is watching you. You never know who God will pair you with when someone has a specific need (happened to me already this week).

I love and respect each of you. More importantly, God loves each one of you far more than I ever could. Count it all joy to serve Him this weekend and every day.

My favorite Christmas scripture is from the prophecy of Micah: “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago,from the days of eternity.”  Therefore He will give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has borne a child.Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel.And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord,in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain,because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. This One will be our peace. (Micah 5:2-5a NASB)

“This One will be our peace.” What a promise. What a Savior! I am changed. Are you?

Still Choosing Joy!

Cille

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Phillip

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3: 8-12 NIV

Today was special. Five young men received their Eagle Scout rank recognition at the Court of Honor for Troop 8 at First Baptist Jackson.  I did not know two of the guys. I had worked with one a little during Carols this year. Another (also involved in Carols) is the grandson of a childhood friend. The fifth is Phillip (for the record he was in Carols this year as well).

Sometime back I wrote about his sister Jojo (Her Name Is Jojo – July 5, 2013). In that post I said that Phillip was a story for another day. Today’s the day.

Phillip is 15 now. Long before Steve and I “claimed him” as a sort of “adopted grandson”, I watched him around First Jackson. He would come in with his Dad as a little guy and put Andy’s offering plate in place before church while his Mom did Sunday morning warm ups.  He was one of those kids that I used to think was born “old”. I can assure you that I am certain now he outgrew that. But, from the cute little kid he has matured into a fine young man, excellent student, outstanding runner, and a fine big brother.

He is also my movie buddy (we have watched Fantastic 4, Night at the Museum I and II, The Last Samurai many times plus all kinds of stuff on the History Channel and some cartoons like SpongeBob and The Fairly Odd Parents), eats all the pepperoni pizza and drinks all the Coke I can produce, travels with us (and sometimes just me) to MLB games (Atlanta, St Louis, New York (were at Yankee Stadium the day Jeter got his 3000th hit), Chicago, and Baltimore so far), likes the beach, was fun to watch during his Little League days, makes up his own rules at “putt putt”, and was a great fort builder (from the sofa cushions) a few years back. He also convinced me to do a Segway Tour in Baltimore and reminded me recently we need to go to another city with the same tour company since we are already qualified to ride! Trust me – he was a natural. I just prayed I would not make an idiot of myself!

I think my first experience with him as a Scout was when he received his God and Country award. We watched as he learned by doing and learned from his mistakes. That last part makes me especially proud of him because some kids (and some adults) never do. I enjoy listening to what he and his friends are doing, what is going on at school, and in giving him the business about his interest in Mississippi State! I listen to him talk about Jojo and watched, as late as yesterday, how he can make her laugh and knows just how far he can push her buttons. I would bet my life though that he’d take a bullet for her and that makes me respect him even more.

I followed with great interest and excitement when he was part of the local contingent at 2013 National Jamboree at The Summit. Every day I followed the pictures, prayed for all those folks in all the rain they endured, and looked forward to hearing about his experiences. He did share some of those with me. As a Girl Scout into adulthood and a participant in several Scouting Wider Opportunities in my day, it gave me a connection to what he was experiencing. Those experiences are something no one can ever take away from him.

More important than any of these, he knows Jesus. And knows how to talk about that with others. I think that is the best of all.

This year he was elected Senior Patrol Leader of Troop 8. That is a big deal and carries with it a lot of responsibility. And he finished the requirements for Eagle including his project to build light boxes and a popcorn stand for The Little Lighthouse – where Jojo spent a few years in pre-school.  The Little Lighthouse is a special place and the work done for them will make a difference for a bunch of cool kids and the great folks who work with them. I enjoy spending time with him and his friends and am glad he still likes to come over and hang out with us at our house (though I wish he would dial back the volume on the TV a few decibels!). I should also confess that I worry that one day we may no longer be “cool enough” for him to want to hang out at our place. In the meantime I will keep the pizza and Coke stockpiled.

I thought it fitting that our pastor, Mark Smith, preached on leadership this morning using this scripture as part of his text. Three things he said really struck home with me:

“We are not victims of society. We are called to be change agents of society.”

“Believers can stop “pressing on” when we are dead.”

“You cannot fully love Jesus unless you are willing to suffer with Him.”

I hope that Phillip and the others in his Eagle class were listening. They have walked the walk so far showing their willingness to be change agents. They know about pressing on and I pray they will continue until they meet that mark that Paul talks about later in Philippians 3. And as he matures in his faith, I pray that each challenge he encounters in life will be acknowledged in the context of where God is in that situation.

We are proud of you. We are grateful that your Mom, Dad, and Jojo as well as your real grandparents have graciously shared you with us. And we have your back as we pray for you and continue to watch you grow and mature.

As for today, well done PT.

Cille

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Tom’s Story – The Reason for My Hope

I am sharing this with the permission of Tom Webb. It is his testimony and is so powerful. He share this with the Sanctuary Choir at #FirstJackson on January 8, 2014. As I point I post this, I understand that he is at UMMC. I have texted Paula but no updates yet. Be in prayer for them and their family.

Here is Tom’s Story…..

My name is Tom Webb. I have been a member at First Baptist Jackson since 1983. This church is very dear to me because it is here that I was ordained as a deacon, married my wife, Paula, and raised my two step children. While serving as a teacher in the Children’s ministry for 29 years I gained many Christian friends and many blessings.

I grew up in Forest Mississippi, one of six children. My mother being a strong Christian made sure we were in church whenever the doors were open.  My Dad was as good a man as you would ever want to meet, but he never went to church.

When I was eight years old a traveling evangelist came to Forest to hold a week long citywide tent revival. On the last night of the revival I walked down that sawdust aisle and gave my life to Jesus.

I soon joined the church and was baptized but nothing really seemed to change.  I still went to church every time the doors were opened but probably slept through most of the sermons. All that began to change when I was twenty years old.  That was the year when my youngest brother, Donald, was hit and killed by a drunk driver as he was riding his bike along the side of HWY 35.  When the police caught the man it became clear that he was from Chicago but he was in Mississippi for his mother’s funeral.  When I heard the news I will have to confess that my initial thoughts were not very Christ like.  My thoughts were, “Just let me in that cell with him for five minutes, and I’ll kill him.”  My Dad who would never go to church was much more forgiving than I was.  I sat there with my dad when the city prosecutor came by the house to update my parents on the investigation. The attorney promised the man would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  But my Dad surprised everyone by asking that they first do a background check on him. If he proved to be a good, honest man who made a first mistake, he didn’t want the man prosecuted.  He said putting him in jail would not bring his son back.  I was humbled by his attitude.  Here I was supposedly a Christian, wanting to kill the man, but my Dad was willing to forgive the man for killing his son.  I had to ask myself what was wrong with this picture.

During Donald’s funeral services the preacher said that even though Donald was only twelve years old he was leaving some mighty big shoes that needed to be filled.  After the funeral my Dad said he was going to try to fill those empty shoes.  From that day until my Dad died five years later he never missed a Sunday morning or Sunday night service.  Seeing my Dad in church was an answer to many years of prayers.  It came at a huge price, but it was almost worth it to see my Dad in church.  I grew spiritually from that experience as well and with God’s help began to learn to control my temper and become more forgiving.

In 1982 I found myself in a job without much chance of advancement, so I decided in order to improve my chances at a better job I needed to go back to graduate school.  I enrolled in graduate school at Ole Miss that fall and majored in public administration.  I went back determined to do whatever it took to succeed.  I studied from could to can’t seven days a week.   I was determined to do it on my own so I shut God out completely.  I didn’t go to church on Sundays; I didn’t make time for reading my Bible or having a quiet time alone with God.  At the end of the semester I had managed to make A’s in all my classes, but I knew I had given up too much trying to do it on my own.

The next semester I started going back to church, got involved in a singles Sunday School class and make it a priority to make time to read my Bible, have a quiet time, and spend time alone with God.  I soon realized it was much easier to succeed with God’s help than it ever was on my own.  I finished my master’s degree with a 4.0 grade point average and moved to Jackson to work on an internship with the State Budget Commission.

After completing my education at The University of Mississippi I took a job with the State and moved to Jackson.

Because my older brother, Richard, was a member of this church, I started attending church here at First Baptist Jackson and quickly became involved in the Single Adult ministry here and my spiritual life began to grow.  I finally began to understand what it meant to have Jesus not only as my Savior but also as my Lord.  It wasn’t long before I followed Richard’s footsteps and started teaching Sunday school in the children’s ministry and continued to teach in the Children’s ministry for the next 29 years.

When Richard was thirty-nine years old and engaged to be married he almost died of a ruptured kidney.  He was driving to work one morning going through the waterworks curves on I 55 when his kidney ruptured.  It was all he could do to control his car and drive himself to the ER at the Baptist Medical Center.  He had emergency surgery and he was diagnosed with renal cell cancer.  The doctors offered him no hope, but with an unfailing faith in God, a good attitude and much prayer support Richard proved them wrong.  He recovered from surgery, left the hospital, was married and began taking chemo treatments and eventually went into remission.  His trust and faith in God was amazing.  I never once saw his faith waiver or heard him complain about his life being unfair.  He just kept his eyes on Jesus and persevered.

His cancer stayed in remission for several years. During those years he and his wife were blessed with a son and life was good again.  But in the summer of 1995 a checkup revealed that his cancer had returned.  He resumed treatments and eventually enrolled in an experimental program. In spite of this he slowly began to lose his battle with cancer.  Through all of this ordeal Richard’s attitude and faith in God never wavered.  He never complained and never questioned why.  He just kept his eyes on Jesus and battled it to the very end with much grace and much courage.  Richard was only 44 years old when God called him home.

I say all this to help set the stage for the rest of my story.  My own cancer story began in the spring of 2011 when I began having some medical issues that I could not ignore.  After several doctor visits and medical tests my doctor called to ask if I could come in that afternoon to discuss the results of my sonograms.  I told him I could and hung up the phone.

Then I started getting nervous and scared because I know something was wrong.  I called my wife to let her know and she said she would meet me at the doctor’s office and for me to try not to worry.  I couldn’t help but think about Richard and I started to cry. I prayed to God for help.  I asked him for three things that afternoon.  1) Please don’t let me die.  2) That whatever happens that I would be able to handle it in such a way that He would receive the honor and glory that he deserves.  And 3) that if it was cancer that I would not die from it before my Mom passed away.  She had already had to bury two sons, and I didn’t want her to have to bury another one.

That afternoon my doctor told us that the sonogram showed a small complex lesion in my right kidney He suspected it was cancer. The good news was that he thought we had found it early enough to do something about it.

He said the next step would be to do some CT scans.  He also wanted to refer me to a surgeon to see if any surgery was needed.

At this point my emotions were in a turmoil.  At one point I would be ok and trying to have a good attitude about everything and the next I was scared and remembering how well Richard had handled his battle with cancer.  I was afraid that I wouldn’t be as strong as he had been.

Paula and I prayed that night and she read some of her favorite Psalms she turned to when she was worried and afraid.  It helped, and we just turned it all over to God because we knew that he was in control.

The news about my problems began to spread around the church and at my office.  People began to pray for us, and I finally knew what it felt like to have so much prayer support.  I began to feel a sense of peace come over me that can only come from God.

When we received the results of the CT scan we found out that the cancer was much worse than expected.  My right kidney needed to come out as soon as possible before it ruptured.

I told the surgeon about my brother Richard had who died of renal cell cancer almost seventeen years before.  He said even if it was renal cell cancer they had come a long way since then in being able to treat that type cancer. Surgery was scheduled and we left the office feeling encouraged.

We went to church the Sunday before the surgery and came away even more encouraged.  It seemed like every song and even the sermon spoke directly to my needs as if God had planned the service especially for me.  We received so many words of encouragement and people telling us they were praying for us that we went home in high spirits.  We continued to receive calls, cards and words of encouragement right up until the time for surgery.

The surgery went well. The kidney was removed and all the lymph nodes around it appeared to be healthy.  The surgeon was encouraged and thought that everything would be alright, but we still had to get the pathology reports back.

We left the hospital very encouraged that it had been found early and that they had gotten it all.  I spent the rest of the summer just concentrating on my recovery from surgery and wasn’t worried about the cancer.

I had a real sense of peace about everything which I attributed to God answering all the prayers people were praying for me.  I had a good attitude about life and my recovery.

When I went back for my post-operative appointment, the surgeon said the pathology reports showed that it was cancer, and that the cancer had escaped the kidney into the fatty tissue around the kidney but that all the margins were clear.  This meant that we were now looking at stage three cancer instead of stage one and that the next step would be to present my case to the oncology review board to see what they would recommend in the way of treatments. Now began an anxious waiting period while the UMC oncology board was studying my case.

One of the things that offered me a great deal of comfort and hope during all this was reading God’s word.  God spoke these words of encouragement to me:

Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them (in my case cancer) for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you.

Romans 8:28 – We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

In his book, God As He Longs For You To See Him Chip Ingram talks about the sovereignty of God.  He makes a point that goes along with Romans 8:28.  He said nothing will come into your life today that God did not either allow or decree for you ultimate good.

My wife and I claimed the Lamentation 3:21-24 as our verse during this trial: “This I call to mind and therefore I have hope; Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassion never fails.  They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself; “the Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

And Isaiah 26:3 – Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusted in thee.

At last the Oncology Review Board determined that I did not meet the protocol for any of their ongoing studies. But one of the oncologists, Dr. Hamilton, thought he could help me and agreed to take me on as one of his patients.

He explained that I have a very rare and aggressive type of kidney cancer called collecting duct cancer. By very rare he meant that there were so few people diagnosed with it that there was no medical research on its treatment. The only treatment information available was from anecdotal data written by doctors who attempted to treat their patients.  He said I was only the third patient he had treated with this type cancer.  From talking with other oncologists I learned they had never seen a case of this type cancer in their careers.  Since collecting duct cancer is aggressive it can spread to other parts of the body very quickly.

Getting this type of report was not what we wanted to hear and it shook my confidence and tested my faith to an even higher degree.  It was going to take some time to process all this and rebuild my confidence.  But to make matters even worse I went home that night and Googled collecting duct cancer. I found out that fewer than 20% of patients with this type cancer live more than two years.  I let that piece of information get me depressed and I worried about it all night long.

It always amazes me how often the devotions during my quiet time speak directly to what I am going through.  The devotion in Standing Firm that day was “Worry-Free Living”.  The scripture reference was Philippians 4: 6 – 7, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus.”

There were three points in this devotion.  1) Worrying is pointless.  Worry shrinks our world, steals our energy, and quenches our hopes.  There really are no benefits to worrying.  2) The solution to worry is: prayer and petition with thanksgiving.  Every time we catch ourselves beginning to worry we know it is time to start praying.  It is time to let God know our concerns, ask him for help and thank him for being fully capable of supplying what we need.  3) When we pray God gives us His peace.  And this peace is more powerful than the onslaught of worrying thoughts constantly assailing us.  When we preserver in prayer, the miracle of peace comes.  Nothing has changed on the outside, but everything has changed on the inside.

I wish I could tell you all my worrying and depression went away overnight but it took an actual storm to help me calm my soul.  Paula and I took our grandchildren with us to Gulf Shores, Alabama over the Labor Day weekend.   But when we arrived a tropical storm was brewing in the Gulf with winds of 40 to 50 miles an hour.  The storm just seemed to match my depression but I just kept telling myself that God controlled the storm and that after the storm blew through there would be clear blue skies again.  I hoped and prayed that the same would be true in my life as well.  That once this storm called cancer passed, I would see better days ahead.

It wasn’t going to happen that night because that night after the grandkids were in bed I really started worrying and feeling sorry for myself and just started crying uncontrollably.  Paula hugged me and told me it was ok to cry and that everything was going to be alright.  I finally was able to get a grip on myself and tried to regain my composure.

The weather continued to deteriorate through the night, and we talked about returning home the next morning.  But when we got up the next morning the worst of the storm had passed to the west of us and even though the winds were still high and the waves were still crashing on the beach, we stayed and had a good day.  I could tell that my internal storm was getting better too.

We were able to take the grandkids down to the beach to play in the sand.  At one point Trevor, who was about 15 months old, spied a seagull walking along the beach.  He jumped up and started chasing the sea gull.  I quickly followed close behind Trevor as he pursued the seagull.  For half a mile I walked between him and the crashing waves to protect him and be ready to scoop him into my arms if he veered toward the water.  And suddenly I understood that God was doing the same thing for me.  As I walked this cancer road I knew that God was walking along beside me and standing between my cancer and me. At the first sign of danger he too will scoop me up into his arms.  I just needed to have the simple faith of a child to know he’s there caring for me.

Isaiah 63:9 says, “In all their distresses he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them.  In his love and mercy he redeemed them, he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”

I came home from that trip with a renewed sense of hope in my life. I was ready to face whatever might lay ahead.

When I went back to see Dr. Hamilton, he recommended we start with some preventative chemo treatments followed up by more scans.  I started chemo that day.

After 3 months there was no sign of cancer. I was so relieved. I made sure to give God all the credit for the good results.

Then in June PET scans revealed that the cancer had returned and had spread to other areas in my body.   Dr. Hamilton said our options were do chemo to try to buy us more time and possibly some radiation to help control the pain, but there was no cure.  The doctors may not have a cure, but I knew that God was in control and that with God nothing is impossible.   If he wanted to heal me he could.

We started a new round of chemo in August 2012 but the scan reports at the end of each round of chemo have not been good.  After the last round of chemo in June of 2013 the scans showed that all the lesions had grown and intensified and that the cancer had now spread into more organs and bones.  Dr. Hamilton said that any more chemo would do more harm than good.  I decided that the quality of the time I had left was more important than trying to buy a little more time with chemo.

I asked Dr. Hamilton how much time I might have left.  He said he didn’t know.  But that he did not think I would have still been alive six months ago.  He said I was still strong and active, so he thought another six months or longer wasn’t out of the question.

People keep telling me how sorry they are that I have to go through all this and I can honestly say that it’s ok.  I have not been cheated out of any life because I still have just as many days left in my life as God allows.  I know this because the Bible says in

Psalm 139:16, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Another verse that I still lay claim is the promise God made in Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

People ask me how I am able to live a life filled with joy and peace.  I give them several reasons for my hope.  One reason is because I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and I know that I have eternal life.   I have also learned to trust in him for all things. A third reason is because I receive encouragement from His Word. Being in God’s house to worship gives me joy. Many people are still praying for me, I feel the peace and comfort from those prayer on a daily basis. And finally, I receive so much peace and encouragement through music.  There are a number of songs we sing here in worship that help to draw me closer to God.  One is Because He Lives. Another chorus I love is Through It All.

And the most precious one to me is Ten Thousand Reasons.

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning; It’s time to sing your song again; Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me; Let me be singing when the evening comes.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul.  Worship His Holy name; Sing like never before, O my soul.  I’ll worship your Holy Name.

I hope that when my days on this earth are over people will be able that say that about me.  I hope I will still be singing when the evening comes.