November 8, 2005

Psalm 31:14-17, 21-24 ďI trust in you, O Lord; I say, ďYou are my God.Ē My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your unfailing love. Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I have cried out to you. Praise be to the Lord, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city. In my alarm I said, ďI am cut off from your sight!Ē Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. Love the Lord, all his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.Ē

Do you have hope? Now that Christmas is approaching, Iím hearing the word ďhopeĒ at home more and more often. ďI hope I get a Gameboy for Christmas.Ē I hope I get my American Girl doll.Ē ďI hope I get that big castle to play with.Ē My children are hoping that theyíll get what they want for Christmas, but they donít know for sure if they will. Their hope is very uncertain. I watched the Browns play the Ravens on Sunday night and found myself thinking, ďI hope the Browns can finally win a close game.Ē

The way we use the word ďhopeĒ is often very different than the way the Bible uses the word hope. Biblical hope is much more certain than our wishy-washy version. There is certainty in the Bibleís version of hope. Why is that? Because, as Psalm 31:24 mentions, we hope in the Lord. We can count on Him to keep his promises. He always comes through. He has no weakness and no inconsistencies. When we hope in Him, He is strong enough to do what He says Heíll do. I used to feel guilty when I would think or say, ďI hope I get well soon.Ē I felt like my faith was weak and that I doubted Godís ability to heal. But now that Iíve studied Biblical hope, I realize that my only hope is in God, and that I can have confidence in his love, faithfulness, strength, and healing power. My hope is squarely and confidently in my Heavenly Father and his only Son, Jesus Christ. I am confident of His love for me, and the power of his blood shed at Calvary.

Put your hope in Him. He is faithful and will not let you down. He is not our heavenly Santa Claus, but he is our Heavenly Father who knows what is best for us based on his great and unconditional love. I strongly encourage you to study your Bible to learn more about what hope really is. You will be blessed and encouraged!

Health Update:

I am still waiting for the complete healing for which we are praying. The waiting is one of the hardest parts. But while Iím waiting, God continues to work in my life and in my body. He has given me many opportunities to encourage others and share my testimony. Iím encouraged to see that God is using my life in ways I have never been used before. I am His, and He isnít finished using me yet.

I still have poor vision in my right eye. In a follow-up visit with my eye doctor, he repeated the tests of my vision and my eyes that he did before the MRI. The tests indicated that my eyes were better than the first time they were tested the previous month. This was very encouraging to me, and gave me hope that perhaps my overall condition is improving. As the doctor pointed out, these tests give measurable evidence of what is going on in my head. It is easy to say that I feel better or that I feel worse, but feelings arenít conclusively measurable like a test that collects concrete data (the science teacher in me is showing up now, and Iím having flashbacks to all of the science fair projects Iíve assigned over the years. I donít know how many times I had to say, ďYour project has to show measurable data!Ē). It is hard to argue with measurable data, and I was very glad to see for myself that the data shows an improvement in my vision. The ironic aspect of it all is that the doctor began our visit by telling me that he is not hopeful that Iíll ever have the vision back in my right eye. My right optic nerve is scarred, and he believes itís permanent. He says that surgery is not an option in this situation. But I just keep thinking about the times Jesus healed the blind while he walked this earth. Itís interesting that the tests showed my vision had improved, yet the doctor feels my right eye will never get better. Either my left eye has really taken over, or God is answering prayer. Which do you think it is?

The improved test results came after taking my new chemotherapy pills for a couple weeks. Iím taking Accutane, which is normally prescribed for acne. I take a very high dose, and the only side-effect so far has been that my skin gets very dried out on my face and bald head. The cycle of the drug is to take it for three weeks and take a break for one week. I just finished my first complete cycle and am starting the second cycle today. Iíve been prescribed one additional chemo drug to take at the same time for this cycle. They are supposed to work well together. Both drugs are pills that I take at home, so it is very convenient. I donít know how the second drug will affect me yet, but the doctor said I should tolerate it well. After this cycle Iíll have another MRI to check the progress. This should take place in early December. At this point I have not experienced any new symptoms. I still have some numbness in my left arm, and of course my right eye is still bothering me. These are the most nagging symptoms of my illness at this point. I praise God daily that He has protected me from getting worse. Iím still working a regular schedule and doing pretty much everything I normally would do. Some of my greatest blessings come from being able to teach at church and sing on the praise team and in the choir. I actually think my voice is better now that Iíve been through radiation. You might find some who disagree; Iím just grateful that I can talk and sing at all. (Maybe my voice seems better to me because my hearing is worse and I just didnít realize it!)

My faith has not wavered. I trust completely in the power of God to heal me. He can do it through His divine touch or through the work of medicine and doctors. Heíll do it His way and in His time. If His perfect plan is not to heal me, Heíll sustain me until Heís finished using me here on earth. None of us knows when our time is up. Even if I were healed, He could call me home at any time. None of us has any guarantee on how long weíll live, regardless of how old we are or the condition of our health. The area where Iíve struggled most is in trusting Him with my family. I feel obligated to continue the job Heís given me to provide for them physically, emotionally, and spiritually as a father and husband should. I am, at times, overcome with fear that heíll call me home too soon. But His plan and His timing are perfect not only for my life, but for theirs as well. He has their best interests as well as my best interests in mind according to His perfect plan. There is no such thing as ďtoo soonĒ in His plans. It has been difficult to surrender in this area. My most earnest prayers are for them rather than for myself. I know that many of you are praying the same way. I ultimately want to be healed for the glory of God. I want Him to bring attention to Himself through His work in my life and body. But I also want Him to preserve our complete family. Being a son, husband, and father are the favorite roles of my life. Although nothing will compare to the joys of heaven, I wish to stay here on earth a while longer for the sake of my family.

I know that many of you have been checking back regularly for updates and Iíve neglected to post one for some time. This has caused some of you to worry that my condition had worsened and that I wasnít able to give an update. That is not the case. Iím doing as well as I always have. The issue has been time. It has been difficult to keep up with working, doctors, family time, church involvement, and all of the emails I receive. I just havenít been able to find enough hours in the day lately to keep up with all that needs to be done. The other issue is that this brain tumor, although only about the size of a ping pong ball, seems larger than life sometimes. It is very easy to allow it to take over my whole existence. There are times I just donít want to think about it or talk about it. Rest assured that God has been very faithful and that He is my source of strength. The fact that Iíve been so busy is a testimony to the fact that He is keeping me going.

Continue to pray for my healing. Pray for my familyís emotional well-being. This situation is still very overwhelming. Iíve really been praying for the healing to come before the holidays so that we can enjoy them without having illness hovering in the background. God can do it! One last thing to pray about: there is a possibility that the chicken pox may be going through our children. If so, this would be an additional stress that would require an extra measure of strength from God. I think itís still too early to tell for sure, but it sure is looking like thatís whatís going on.

Thank you so much for your ongoing prayers and support. God is good!



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