Written in Iron Ink: Cancer, waiting, and a God who tends

Cancer is everywhere.

I’m no longer surprised by the growing list of those fighting cancer in our church bulletins, in our personal prayers, and in our neighborhoods and families.

Satan likes to destroy and if he can do something easily, he’ll take that route.

The good news is that cancer only destroys the body. It feels like it destroys the spirit, but time and again I have seen individuals I love stand up and fight it and proclaim the victory of Christ in it.

I am in awe. I am in awe of a God who works hope when life seems to be falling apart and I am in awe of the individuals who cling to Him in the dark moments, as well as the light.

In my recent podcast visit with Rev. John and Sharla Fritz we talked a lot about Waiting, because that’s the title of her latest book, but also because it is the earthly reality of life with cancer.

There are lots of gems of insights from the Fritz’s, but my favorite is their awareness of today. Cancer reminds you that each of us is only promised today, and while it is very imperfect, that day is a tremendous gift.

“Tending to the tender mercies of today.”

This day, right in front of us.

Cancer may feel like it’s winning, this day.

Life may feel overwhelming, this day.

The road may seems so long, or way too short, this day.

The waiting may be unbearable – waiting for a diagnosis, waiting for treatment options, waiting to see if the treatment options worked, waiting to see if it’s in remission, waiting to see if it comes back, waiting to hear how your loved one is doing, waiting, waiting, and more waiting…this day.

But God is tending in the waiting. He tends to us. He tends to our spouse, our children, our loved ones. He tends to today and He tends to eternity.

The body of Christ is there to tend to one another. This life is so momentary. Cancer makes us intensely aware of that, but…

this momentary life is lived in His hands, and best lived together.

God works His testimony in even this, in cancer. He works to shine the hope and light of Christ through our body’s imperfections and weaknesses. He shines so very bright.

He also gives us one another in the wait and I have rarely seen God shine brighter than in tending to one another.

I pray that however you have been touched by cancer, this resource and the other resources listed below will be used by God to tend.

Resources:

Waiting by Sharla Fritz on Amazon

Waiting by Sharla Fritz on Concordia Publishing House with free downloads

Cancer Companions

Phil’s Friends – Care packages for those with Cancer

 

Just show up

My friend Rachel started a small book group at a local coffee shop. We met for the first time to talk about Christmas books. It was a random choice and I truly believed it would be just her and me, chatting at the coffee shop, but then something wonderful happened…

People showed up.

I went home excited and came back the next month with my book in tow, But I steeled myself, again ready for a chat session between just her and I. I mean, once was nice, but surely no one would show up a second time??? That would be crazy talk, right?

Then it happened, again. People showed up.

It sounds like such a small thing. Showing up. In this giant universe, me showing up is relatively insignificant, don’t you think? But it isn’t it does matter.

I’m not saying you need to fill your calendars with social engagements and wear yourself down trying to show up for everything and anything. I’ve walked that road. It’s not fun and it’s definitely not doable for long.

In fact, last night, I was the person who didn’t show up. I skipped book group. I needed a moment. My husband needed a moment. My family needed a moment. And that’s ok.

But, I want you to know that showing up really does matter.

I have rarely felt so encouraged as when I left those book groups. It’s that satisfying sense of knowing that someone else thought something mattered as much as you did. Someone valued time with you, with the community that gathered, and the thoughts that were shared. Time has value and when we give it to people, we say,

You matter. You are valued.

Let’s take this conversation to church. Showing up.

Tiny, seemingly insignificant, but the most powerful thing you can do in the Body of Christ.

Show up.

Amazing things happen in the act of showing up.

  • You ignite and grow relationships. You are fed, you are loved, you leave ready to love on others.
  • You say to the person sitting next to you in the pew -“Jesus is worth my time. You, my friend, are worth my time.” Who else in their life is saying that to them? Maybe no one. Don’t ever take that for granted.
  • You encourage your pastor in the very best way. Words of affirmation are nice, gift cards and thank you notes are wonderful, but if you really, really want to encourage your pastor, be there to hear the Word. It tells him that he did not prepare in vain. It shows him that God is at work. It reminds Him that the Word does not return empty and God called him to this work for a real reason and purpose- namely, you.
  • In real relationship, we get life together. Need help with your moving van? Call on the body of Christ! Is someone in your family struggling with mental illness? Call on the body of Christ! Lost your job? Call on the body of Christ! Cancer, weddings, graduations. Life torn to shreds and life flourishing. This is real life together. You do not know what you are missing until you experience it. No one should every go through any of it alone. God created us for more. He created us for one another.

    God has called you to your own arena of showing up. Showing up for your kids, showing up for your spouse, showing up for your neighbors, showing up for your church, showing up in the hard, and showing up in the magnificent.

But just do it, in His grace. Just show up.

At the loss of a friend, or I hate cancer

Day Two – At the loss of a friend, or I hate cancer
(Written 1/21/2016)
I opened my computer to write this post. A simple action of my morning. I’m surrounded by some of my favorite things, my husband (quietly working on sermon prep), my coffee, my computer, and my Lutheran Study Bible. I feel warm and cozy.
I open my Facebook feed to idly post a study update, when I see the post that I knew was coming for months, but feels shocking and sad and unfair all the same.
We lost my dear friend, Melissa, to cancer overnight.
I hate cancer. My children would tell me that we don’t use the word hate. But cancer, I hate. It robs children of mothers and fathers and grandparents. It eats up time that was meant to be enjoyed together with those we love. It has no boundaries. It touches all of us in some way. It fear mongers, and leaves us wondering when it will come find us. Disease, of any kind, is of Satan, but just like all the dark things on the path behind us and before us, God redeems that too. He redeems what cancer steals. I’m holding Him to it.
There is a time to die. We know it, but we avoid it. It seems so morbid to talk about it. It’s not tea party talk or baby shower talk. But why do we avoid it with those closest to us? Why do we feel so uncomfortable affirming the truth of it in our own lives? I have two theories…it’s a little bit scary, and it’s just so big.
We may avoid talk of death, but the Bible does not. There are 839 occurrences of muth, our word for die in Ecclesiastes 3, found in Strong’s Concordance. There is a place for the reality of death. As Christians we get to talk about it and shed light in a dark place with no hope. We have Jesus and we can offer His message to a world fearing death, avoiding death, and misunderstanding death.
If something exists, it is either purposeful and from God, or made purposeful by God. God gave us death to save us from eternal despair and destruction. Death is a door. A way into God’s new beginning. With Jesus we can see this. The scales fall and our eyes are opened to what new things God is doing through death-
Heaven (real and tangible), restored relationships, a different path, a desperate need for something else, for a Savior who loves us…
Death teaches us that eternity matters, and so do we. When things die, there is room for rebirth. Without death things become stagnant. Knowing this, we can appreciate that even the death of little things are purposeful…the death of our spring flowers brings winter rest, the death of one idea, births another, the death of an activity brings time for something more.
More than that, the death of things we treasure,
the death of a loved one gives us a greater depth of desire for God and eternity,
the death of a job opens the door to something new in our lives,
the death of a friendship can show us who we are and what we value more clearly.
Read Ecclesiates 3:1-2 again carefully –
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
“Everything in its time” invites death in. We can be comfortable with it, because we are comfortable with God’s hand on it, in it, and around it.
My life will not be quite the same without Melissa. We gathered around the Word together almost every Wednesday morning for 8 years. Her insights and affection have left a Jesus shaped imprint on my heart and soul. But I know, without a doubt, that God has a plan. He will make this beautiful. His work in Melissa’s death will not be lost. He will use this, and many of us will hear a new Word of Grace as we mourn her loss.
Dear Father, birth what you would birth and let die those things that you would have die. It is all in You. Help us to give it to you, for you hold it already. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.


Discussion questions:
Who have you lost that left an eternal mark on you?

What do you do to help others around you deal with grief?