Nov 22, 2014

A Note from Teri, and Incarnational Compassion


Bill and I went to the oncologist today to get the final report on the testing of the cancer tissue that was done over the last month. We were told that I would need to have chemotherapy due to the type of cancer they found.  Even though I don't have any cancer now, this is a preventative measure because they found that the cancer is HER2 receptor positive.  Here is a brief explanation of what that means:


About 15 to 20 percent of breast cancers are HER2-positive, meaning the cancer is fueled by over-production of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 protein. HER2-positive breast cancers contain excess copies of this gene, leading to dramatically more HER2 protein on the surface of cancer cells. With more HER2 protein producing signals telling the cells to grow, they do so out of control, causing cancer.


The tissue was sent to 3 different laboratories to get three independent analysis.  They all came back with a mid-risk result regarding the HER2 protein.  There is a 20% chance of the cancer returning and in the cancer "world" that is high.  This isn't something I inherited from my parents so much as it's just the DNA of my body from what we can understand.  He also presented my case to a board of cancer specialists he is part of and with all the results that came back to him, he came to the conclusion I should have a year-long chemo treatment.


We really weren't expecting this kind of news today so it's taking some time to sink in.  We so appreciate the professionalism of the Doctor, and the lengths he went to in order to get to a proper diagnosis.  And we ARE thankful that it's all about preventative and not about trying to reduce a tumor etc.


Bill and I are both in agreement that I will go ahead with the treatment.  Of course we are a little bit staggered by it but not knocked out of our faith.  Bill actually told me earlier today that he had a "hunch" that things were going to play out this way given the way the Lord likes to use  things like this in the lives of His children to minister to the lives of other people in the midst of their pain.  Bill calls it Incarnational Compassion. 


Please know that one of the great sources of blessing in our lives is you all.  Your love, support, and encouragement are deep wells that we continuously draw encouragement from.  Thank you for being there for us and thank you for praying for us as we continue to try to navigate well the footprints that Jesus is leaving behind for us.


On the Potter's wheel,

Teri and Bill

Nov 13, 2014

Persecuted to the Persecuted

What do China, Nepal, India, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Sudan, the USA, Turkey, and Egypt all have in common?  These are places in the world where the church of Jesus Christ is being persecuted by various degrees.  And Teri and I recently had the incredible privilege of worshipping Jesus with believers from all of these nations, while being hosted in one of them - an experience that we both will never, ever forget.

Basically there were two conferences happening back to back:  a Summit, and a Missions Conference.  The Summit was a gathering of numerous believers from the above mentioned countries, in order to have fellowship, worship, inspiration from the Word and from one-another, and to pray for each other's churches.  The Missions Conference followed, and was hosted by the believers in our host nation, the most incredible people you'll ever meet, who basically pledged their lives as martyrs if needs be, but they would not miss out on the honor of being able to bring Christ back to Jerusalem whilst sojourning through some of the most violent places to the gospel in the world today.

One of our brothers from Egypt was running a short-term trip in the Sudan, when they were accosted by Islamic extremists, and four of his closest friends were shot before his very eyes.  He himself was taken into an interrogation room, and screamed at by a policeman, who said, "I have been told to deport you from our country.  I don't want to.  I want to keep you here, so you can see what else we like to do to you Christians here."  It is a miracle he escaped with his life, but as he says today, he doesn't have his life - he has already lost it in Jesus.  Everything that happens now, is for the glory of God.

And a brother from Iran, sharing about the incredible growth of the church in that country, even amidst massive oppression.  While describing what it is like to worship in Iran in an underground church, he shared this:  in the western nations, many a church will have a sign over their exit door, reading, "You are now entering the Mission Field", and hopefully for the parishioners, this is truth for them.  However, in the Iranian church, when you leave by the exit, there is no sign.  Just the Pastor of the church, shaking your hand, looking you in the eye, and as you depart, he says to you, "Are you willing to pay the price?"  This is the truth for them.

I'll close with this story, of a Chinese underground church pastor who makes it an annual field trip for his little children's Sunday School class - they visit the graves of the western missionaries who would not leave as the Boxer Rebellion over-ran the nation, and millions of people were killed and missionaries were beheaded.  Pointing to the tombstones the Pastor reminds them, "This is why we have the love of Christ, because these people loved not their lives, even unto death."  

In some ways, Teri and I felt extremely unworthy to be at these events.  We were invited by the South Africans who organized the Summit, and helped to pull-off the Missions Conference.  My role was to lead worship, and bring the message of "Wear The Crown", which I had the honor of doing at both events.  Teri had the privilege of giving the timeless written words of our Father to two precious women who previously did not have them.  But the enriching that went on in our hearts and minds, the purification of our priorities once again being around people of whom the world is not worthy, and hearing again and again the stories of persecution, and the honor that these saints feel for being called worthy to do so, is deeply impacting in a way that irreparably changes you.  

How can we be the same?  We have passed from death to life!  We have been made part of the family of God, having come from being outcasts in sin.  We are living stones, crafted into the living temple of the Holy Spirit, having been at one point useless rubble.  We were once lost, hopeless, without God in the world, but now, we have been brought near, and have been called out of the darkness into His marvelous light.  Hallelujah!  Amen!

Nov 3, 2014

"What is Lacking in Your Experience of Me?" (4th Post about Teri's and my journey with Cancer)

I have a category or two for folks who come to me and say, "I've got a word from the Lord for you, brother…"  Of course it depends on the messenger, the viability of the message compared to God's Word, the confirmation of the Spirit of God within me with said message, etc., but, I have over the years been surprised, and don't doubt at all anymore that God uses many different ones of us with different gifts to deliver precise messages at the right time.

That's why Teri and I listened, when one of our most dear friends (upon hearing of Teri's ordeal with cancer), came to visit us, arriving in our dining room with fresh flowers, and a 'word': "What is lacking in your experience of Me?"

First thing that came to my mind was, the repeat of this scenario: where the closest woman to me in my life is hit with breast cancer (I watched my mother die of this in 1975).  The Lord may want me to go through this again, but this time, with my being keenly aware of Him walking through every step of this with us, redeeming the moments, the relationships, and even the memories.  Teri was already modeling the same godliness I remember my mother exemplifying - one of the things that eventually drew me to Christ.  So I decided it must be something more, something even deeper...

Second thing took longer to dawn on me - trusting Him immediately and implicitly with the closest person to me in my life.  We have been spoiled, Teri and I, with her health.  She rarely if ever even gets a cold!  So this was a shock, an anomaly, and obviously an opportunity.  And such is the way we all who follow Jesus need to learn to see things.  To follow such a God, is to eventually come to the realization that the scariest thing that can ever happen to us is only what our loving Father God will allow, and therefore, He has it covered, either by the blood of His Son, the eventual outworking of His foreknowledge, or the overflowing nature of His love and goodness.  To be sure of such things, is to then abide in peace, the peace that surpasses understanding, for at a certain point, to rely solely upon all you know will fail, and one is then thrust into the arena of what you do not know - and now, now there is much room for God.

Third thing - and this is a bit more complicated because is it multi-dimentional - is the assured process of growth over time.  In Philippians 1:6 it says, "He Who began a good work in you will complete that work until the day of Christ Jesus.".  James 1:2-4 says, "Count it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have it's perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  This 'completeness' is a maturity, an ever deepening process of growth, and I believe will accelerate into all eternity: making us more and more like Jesus, forever… Romans 8:28 says that God causes all things to work together for the good, to those who love God and are called according to His purposes.  2 Corinthians 5:19 says that 

"God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, and He has now given us that same ministry of reconciliation".  Hmm.  That must mean that whatever is going on here, God is using this to add to the pantheon of experiences that help shape us into the tools of reconciliation that He requires, for whatever time, and whatever purpose.  

So what is lacking in my experience of God?  So much actually, but "He knows our frame, He knows that we are but dust" Pslam 103:14, and yet He continually draws us so gently, so graciously to Himself, where there is peace and completeness.  Paul sums it up nicely in Philippians 3:7-10:  We want to know Him.  And that will require the fellowship of His sufferings, and even the being conformed into the image of His death.  There is a purpose however - so that we may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Wow.  That's power.  That's purpose.  That's direction.  And true, satisfying Fulfillment.

I would add that Teri and I are more aware of His presence, more trusting of His will for us, and more keenly availing ourselves to His process of growth in our lives than ever before.  And not that we will ever attain to some sort of perfect state this side of eternity!  But we can more clearly say with Paul, more than ever before in our lives, "...forgetting what lies behind, and looking forward to what lies ahead, we press on toward the goal for the mark, for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:14.