View From The Ridge

View From The Ridge

Saturday, December 31, 2016

 Ecclesiastes 3:1,4   There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under heaven - a time to weep, and a time to laugh;  a time to mourn, and a time to dance.    

  Job 23:14  He will fulfill what He has planned for me; that plan is just one of the many he has.

Billy Graham, speaking at the memorial service for those lost in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 

Speaking of tragedies in our lives, Billy Graham said: "Times like this will do one of two things: They will either make us hard and bitter and angry at God, or they will make us tender and open, and help us reach out in trust and faith. I pray that you will not let bitterness poison your soul, but that you would turn in faith and trust to God, even if we cannot understand. It is far better to face something like this with God's strength than to face it alone and without Him. My prayer for you today is that you will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around you, and will know in your heart that He will never forsake you as you trust Him."

Yes, it is a time to dance!  2016, which has been a dog of a year for the most part,  has ended on a high note. The results of the PET-Scan are that the tumor in my left lung is GONE, the cancer in my lymph node on my right rib cage is GONE, and the cancer in my left sinus below my left eye is greatly reduced.  Most of the sinus reduction is due to the radiation to stop the bleeding, which has worked like a charm.  The fact that the cancer in the lung and right rib cage is gone indicates that the Immunotherapy is working.  

I had the PET-Scan on the 27th but didn’t get the results until late afternoon on the 30th.  Seems that the last week of the year is when most of the doctors at OHSU take off for vacation, which means if you have a scan during this week, more than likely your doctor will not be available to read the report and call you with the results, and he is the only one that can do that. 

I, unfortunately, fell into this “black hole of no information” and it was only resolved  by my calling for 3 straight days, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day begging for the results. I knew that if I didn’t get the results by Friday, I would not get the results until next Tuesday because of the three day New Years Weekend.  It is bad enough waiting two or three days for the results that are usually available after 24 hours, but to have to wait seven days, that is unacceptable.  My doctor’s nurses finally got him to check his phone messages and he called me Friday afternoon at four.  We had just left our appartment to pick up a prescription when the phone rang so I pulled over to hear the results.  It is a good thing I did because emotionally I was unable to drive.  Jeri and I sat in the car and literally cried.  There is a tremendous release of emotions when you are expecting bad news and instead you receive the best news possible. 

The “elephant in the room” had  started moving out of his corner about three weeks before the scan, moving to the center where you are.  He lines himself up and about a week before the scan he starts lowering himself to sit squarely on your chest.  By the time of the scan you can hardly breathe or even think of anything else until you hear the results. 

The problem this time is that I have been through this so many times over the last 10 years that I expected negative results.  The type of cancer, very deadly with low survival rates, the low success rate with Immunotherapy, my age, all played a role in my low expectations of the results.  Yet the God that I serve and worship has again answered the thousands of prayers that gone up on my behalf by all of you. 

A couple of days ago, my dear friend Tammy in Ecuador posted the following on face book.  I don’t know if it was meant for me but it surely applied to me. 

God has promised to be with you always. Trust and rest in his promises!
Definitely yes there is someone who will never fail you.
Will be with you always, no matter the circumstances or your actions.
What he has promised you, God will fulfill it.
So rest and trust in God.
God is good!
" know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God,
Who keeps his covenant and His loving kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love him and keep his commandments.
" Deuteronomy 7:9

 So for 2017 we have a new plan.  On Jan. 9th we will start the first of 6 more infusions of the Immunotherapy, one every three weeks, then another PET-Scan.  No one has any idea if this will be successful, but it is all we have.  It doesn’t really matter because God is in control as He has already demonstrated.  God has already determined the number of my days and no one can change that.  It appears that I have more ahead than I thought I had last week.  Yet God could call me home today, tomorrow or next year.  He is in control.

Before all of this was Christmas week end.  All our kids and their spouses and our grandkids and their spouses were able to assemble at Randy and Lani’s for Christmas eve and Christmas  day.  What a great time we had visiting, reminiscing and playing games.

 I think all of us were thinking that this just might be the last Christmas that I would be 
around to celebrate.   And it still might be, God only knows that.  But for now we had a Christmas to remember.  If I am to be granted another, praise God.  If not, then I will be in heaven, praise God. 

Please pray for Jeri, as her Parkinson’s is not any better and will not get any better.  We are still adjusting her medication but it has been a challenge because we aren’t getting consistent results.

Again, we both thank you all for your prayers, visits, cards, emails, etc., etc.   It all means a great deal and we appreciate it so much. We pray that the new year will be a year of joy and good health for all.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thunder and turbulence

Every time we experience a trial, the world watches to see the substance of our faith - watches to see if we maintain our love and devotion; watches to see if God will see us through this difficult time. There may often be no better way to minister to others than to simply praise God in the middle of our own trials - no better way to show that God is real than by making Him real in our own life. - Steve Troxel 

Date line:  November 2003

Our Sunday school class has been studying the 12 Apostles.  Two of the lessons were on James and John, described as “The Sons of Thunder”.  During class we discussed what emotions the word “thunder” brought to mind, what kind of personalities James and John might have had.  But what came to my mind were the mighty thunder storms that were encountered on an early Kansas summer night in 1961.

 I was the navigator of a five member crew on a KC-97 tanker that was returning from an air refueling mission down near the Missouri /Arkansas border.  I had picked up on the radar a line of thunder storms between us and our home base in Topeka, Kansas.  It was impossible to fly over them as the tops of many were 30,000 ft and more and the ceiling on a KC-97 was a little over 20,000 ft.  It was a dangerous proposition to fly under them as there were usually turbulent winds and down drafts under these storms and sometimes large hail.  The line was so long it was not feasible to fly around one end or the other.  Our only option, if we wanted to get home that night, was to fly along  the leading edge of the front and find an open space in the storm to fly through to the other side.  We had done this before and it was always a piece of cake.

We made several attempts to turn left in between two thunder heads only to have them merge or close off  in front of us so that we would have to do 180 degree turns and make hasty retreats to safety while enduring turbulent winds and lightning all around us.  As we made another attempt, it again looked on the radar to be clear, and then I could see the area closing off and becoming a solid storm cell on the radar.  I called to the pilot to make a 180 degree turn.  As we rolled out on the new heading, I could see on the radar screen that it had also closed off behind us and we were now in the center of this beast.  The lightning and turbulence increased as I searched the radar screen for any weak areas that we could head for.  I finally told the pilot that we were going to have to fight our way out of this and if we had to do that, we might as well end up on the home side of these storms.  So he did another 180 and we plowed our way through.  It felt like some large hand had a hold of the tail end of that plane and was slamming it on a table.  Stuff in the cabin was flying everywhere.  It was the worst air turbulence I ever experienced.  It was only by the grace of God that the airplane held together.  It gave me a new appreciation for the Air Force mandate that “There is no peace time mission that requires you to fly through a thunder storm”. 

In our lives here on earth, we will – not perhaps, but will – have thunder storms placed directly in our paths.  They may be placed there by God to change our course, or by Satan to harass us, but the choice we will have to make is whether we choose to attack it head on and fight, or go around or between and avoid the conflict. 

Sometimes God closes doors, blocks roads and puts up hurdles to keep us from danger or failure, yet we are so bent on accomplishing our wills that we try and break down the closed doors, plow through the blocked roads and jump the hurdles only to receive exactly what we deserve on the other side – disappointment. 

On any journey in life God will give us choices along the way.  What we do with those choices determines the type of journey we will have.  The journey God has taken me on has not been the fast track to success, was not the smoothest of roads and was certainly not the shortest distance between two places, nor the quickest.  Some of the choices I made resulted in the journey being longer and more difficult than it could have been if I had been more cooperative and submissive to God’s will along the way.  He was going to teach me about Himself and myself whether I wanted to learn or not and it was always up to me how long and how hard the lessons were going to be.  Being the rock head that I was, and can still be on occasion, they were long and hard.  But, the lessons were learned, the road traveled was not the one I would have chosen, yet it was the perfect route for the lessons I needed to learn. 

So, the next time your journey in life is suddenly diverted from the freeway to a gravel side road by a storm, slow down and enjoy the scenery and look for the road signs that might be lessons for you to learn.  Remember that God is in control and you are not there by accident. It may take a little or a lot longer to arrive where you are going, but God will get you there.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

In-laws and outlaws, updated


I should have done this 2 months ago but with all the health issues Jeri and I have been dealing with, the move back to the mainland, doctors appointments and proceedures, I spaced out and didn't get it done.  

Milly Kirby turned 100 back in Sept. 27.  I have only met two other people who were 100 years old.  One was a friend of my dad and the other was a man I met in Ecuador.  I wrote the following tribute to Milly back in feb. 2011 when she was 94, wanting to say what was on my heart while she was still with us, never imanging that she would live another 6+years.  It is still a rare occasion for one to live to be 100, just .00173% of the population, yet our family has been privilaged to watch a love one go through that process.  At the rate I am going she will out live me.  Like the old time x watch adds. she keeps taking a licking and keeps on ticking!


Marriage is not just the joining the lives of two people into one, it is the beginning of a melting pot that starts the process of blending the families of the bride and groom, especially the parents.  Throughout history our books, movies, plays and stand-up comics have had a field day spinning tales of mother-in-laws that were depicted as the Wicked Witch of the West.  Some have played off of Rodney Dangerfield and said "Take my mother-in-law   -  Please!"  I have heard stories from friends who related how their mother-in-law was either domineering, controlling, interfering, in their face and space continually or some combination of all of the above.   Some mother-in-laws have caused so much friction as to completely destroy marriages.  Adam and Eve did not have to contend with that, nor did Jeri and I.  We were blessed with almost perfect mother-in-laws.  But today, I want to share about just one, my mother-in-law, Mildred Bess (Burlingame) Kirby. 

She was born 9-27-1916 in Chicago, Illinois.  She was the youngest of five children -  three sisters and a brother.  Her dad owned a bus line and when they decided to move to California in 1920 he sold all but one bus using it as their mode of transportation.  The five kids ranged in age from 13 to 3 and it took them 6 weeks to make the journey.  Every night they would pitch a large canvas tent to cook and sleep in. 

When they arrived in San Pedro that tent became their home on a rented vacant lot.  There were many people living in tents at that time, so it wasn't unusual.  About a year or so later, Millie is not sure exactly, her dad bought a lot up the hill from there and set the tent up permanently on a wooden platform.  Sometime later her grandparents moved to California and they all built two small houses on that lot where Milly has many happy memories. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

UP DATE TO THE PLAN

Back in August I wrote about the plan.  For the most part that has been followed but there have been a few alterations.  After the third infusion there was clear evidence that the tumor was growing and I had spent 4 days in the hospital fighting a sinus infection.  The radiologist consulted with the surgeon and oncologist and they all agreed to start the radiation treatment ASAP.  Two weeks ago the treated me twice and the next week 3 times.

Before my first treatment I met with the radiology nurse as she needed to explain all the hazards of radiation treatment and all possible side effects.  Like that information isn’t already burned into my brain.  During the conversation she happens to mention the dosage of radiation that I would receive each time, which went right over my head because she was using numbers and measurements that were foreign to me.  So I asked her how that compared to my treatments 6 years ago.  She gets on her computer, brings up my health records and says that this will be double what I received before.  By the next day after the fifth treatment I had radiation burns, the roof of my mouth was raw, my tongue had sores on it, my taste buds were mostly gone and I was exhausted.  For the last week  eating has been painful and nothing taste right.  It appears the sores are healing but I have no idea when the taste buds will heal.  If I remember right from six years ago it will take a while. 

But the good news is the bleeding has stopped!  It took a week and now all I get is a clear fluid from the sinus.  The tumor has shrunk which the radiologist had hoped for.  He is hoping that the tumor is weakened and now the Keytruda Immunotherapy will have a better chance of reducing it even more.  I have my fourth infusion today, the 7th of November.

We have been back on the mainland for five or six weeks and almost every day has been filled with doctor appoints for one or both of us .  What free time left has been filled with unpacking boxes, shopping for various furniture pieces, checking out Good Will (Jeri has found some amazing bargains) and watching college football on the TV.  Sorry, there are certain priorities. 

Speaking of Jeri, she is having eye surgery this afternoon for a partial detached retina.  This will be going on at the same time as my infusion.  Her medication schedule has evolved to every two hours starting at 4 a.m. until 10 p.m. with a dose around 1 a.m.  Needless to say this is wearing on both of us.  It has cut down the times during the day when her body turns off and she can hardly move,  but it has not solved the problem.  The worst part is we are both growing older.  Randall and Lani and the five grand-kids have been a blessing.  Either Randall or Lani has been to almost every doctor appointment with us, hauled us to places when I wasn’t able to drive, taken us shopping for furniture and stuff, the grand-kids have packed stuff up to our room, and I have no idea how we would have managed without them.
  
As for the cars, they arrived two weeks after we did, both in excellent shape.  The Camaro is parked in the basement parking until the roads start getting icy.  Then the Camaro will trade places with the Mercedes outside until spring. 

As for my adjusting to the move, it ain’t happening.  It has been cold and rainy almost every day since we arrived and we are just starting into winter.  I miss our friends in Hawaii, especially our neighbors, but we have had several friends from La Grande drive  almost 300 miles each way to visit with us and that has been special.  Jeri’s sister and brother-in-law and their daughter flew up from Southern California and visited for a couple of days.  So there have been pluses and minuses.  The area we live in is west of Portland and very nice, but it isn’t Hawaii.  We still haven’t decided on a church so that is a work in progress.   I have had to learn how to wear shoes and socks again, long pants and jeans instead of shorts, my tan is starting to fade, and I have to wear a tee-shirt, flannel shirt and jacket to go outside.  And I am still cold. 


In spite of all this, I still know that I am where God wants me, I am closer to my family and friends from La Grande which is a blessing, I am on this side of the grass and that means God still has work for me.  I just wish I  had a clue what that was. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Death Valley adventure

Have you ever wondered about the providence of God and His timing?  Do events “just” happen or  is there  some rhyme and reason to what goes on around us?   Let me tell you about one of our adventures back in in February of 2002.

We had just spent 5 days in Death Valley and were headed further south to my sister’s place.  As we were entering Palmdale on the freeway, I noticed the truck was losing power.  A quick check of all the gauges revealed nothing abnormal, yet at full throttle, 40 mph was top speed.  By the time I reached an off ramp, I was down to 35 and driving on the apron to keep from blocking traffic. 

Fortunately, we were within a mile of a big Auto Mall and a very large Chevy dealer.  Now this is on a Friday afternoon at 2:30, mind you.   Three & a half hours later and $338 poorer, we were back on the road with a new lift pump, praising God all the way.    The significance of all this is not that it happened or why, but the timing.  Timing is everything!

During the previous 7 days, we had driven from Summerville down hwy  95 though Fallon, Hawthorn, Tonopah and Beatty, Nevada, and dropped down into Death Valley.  Those familiar with that highway know there are long stretches of nothing between areas of nowhere.                                                        

Just the previous day in Death Valley we had driven to Marble Canyon 12 ½  miles up a ‘jeep trail’  that took over 90 minutes one way.  I personally didn’t think it made a good goat trail.  We passed no one  coming or going and there were no signs indicating you were even on the trail, other than an occasional painted rock.  No information, just paint. 

I don’t even want to think about the time or expense of towing us down that jeep trail, or even from who knows where in Nevada.  I do not handle that kind of frustration well at all.  Was it just a coincidence the pump went out in a major town like Palmdale?  Or was this the hand of a loving God keeping things together until the perfect time and place?  Knowing dealerships and parts inventory in today’s economy, I feel safe saying the Palmdale dealer was probably the only dealer on our route with a pump in stock. 

When was the last time you had a problem event in your life?  Did you complain about the timing, or did you even think about it?  Do you ever look back on events and think what the circumstances would be if it had happened earlier, or later?  Do you thank God for his perfect timing, or do you even realize that he is the author and protector of everything that happens, even the tiniest events.   God allowed that pump to break, but on His terms, not Satan’s.    

Death Valley again treated us to spectacular views of God’s creativity.  There were warm days and beautiful vistas of ancient and recent history ( And, yes, even golf at 235 ft. below sea level.  That in itself seems to be a miracle to have a virtual oasis in a place so dry and desolate).  Then God added his perfect timing gently reminding us of his ever present protection if we will just trust him. 


“This is what the Lord says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar -  the Lord Almighty is his name”.  Jeremiah 31:35.




Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Moving ----- Again!


View From The balcony

  Bethany Village, Oregon

As I write this, it is 5 A.M. in the morning, it is overcast, cold and rainy and I am wondering why am I here?  It isn’t Kansas, Toto, and it sure as heck isn’t Hawaii, but it is Portland, Oregon.  We left Hawaii on 9/22 so we have been here almost a month.  It has been a busy and chaotic month with mostly doctor appointments sprinkled in with unpacking boxes as they slowly trickle in and shopping for stuff for our new apartment.  In the last 5 years we have transitioned from a two hundred acre farm in eastern Oregon to a 6,000 sf lot in Kona to an apartment with no yard in a retirement “community” called Laurel Parc located in Bethany, Oregon, west of Portland.  And, no, it has not been easy but it has been the right thing to do.  It has all been necessitated by the return of the Mucosal Melanoma cancer in my left sinus area and the need to be closer to the medical facilities that both Jeri and I require, and to be closer to our kids and grand children.  Since the cancer has now shown up as a spot in my left lung and in a lymph node under my right arm, it is classified as terminal. Technically, life is terminal since none of us is going to leave this world alive  unless the Lord returns. 

Two and a half weeks after arriving in Portland I developed a fever and ended up in the hospital  ----- again, and spent four days receiving anti-biotics to fight off a infection in my left sinus. A CT scan revealed that the cancer is growing and the bleeding from my nose is increasing.  We have spent a lot of time talking to various and sundry doctors about what to expect in the months ahead, and what, if any, options are left as far as quality of life issues are concerned. 

I have begun Immunotherapy with the hopes of beating the cancer back enough to stop the bleeding and the less than 10 % chance that it might kill the cancer.  It has far fewer side effects than chemotherapy and I figured, what the heck, nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I am scheduled today for my third infusion.  They do this every third week. 

Radiation, which works on this cancer, was off the table for consideration at first. But in an effort to control the bleeding, radiation is now under consideration.  In the past, radiation has been used to stun the cancer in other patients which has stopped the bleeding for 4-6 months.  It involves 5 treatments on an every other day basis.  I have already received more radiation than anyone should have and the doctors are concerned that more radiation treatment will potentially damage the left eye and the brain. I asked the radiologist what happens if we do nothing and he responded that the cancer would invade the left eye and I would lose it, and the cancer would eventually spread into the brain.  So, if I understand this correctly, no matter what I do I will lose the left eye and suffer brain damage.  Since I am not a “do nothing” person we are going with the radiation with the hope of stopping the bleeding which will greatly enhance my quality of life.  If I lose the left eye, so be it.  That’s probably why God gave me two. 

So I asked the radiologist what the plan was going to be, as my first session is scheduled for tomorrow, the 18th.  He said he didn’t know, was still working on it and consulting with the oncologist and the surgeon.  His concern is that they don’t make things worst but improve the quality of my life by getting the bleeding to stop.  He also said that I have taken them into new territory where they do not have the experience of dealing with a patient that has had three cancers, and had the Mucosa Melanoma return after 6 years.  Apparently I have become their learning tool, which is fine by me if they learn something that may help someone down the road that has this disease. That’s how progress is made in medicine.  

Meanwhile, Jeri is having her own set of difficulties.  She has had stomach issues that has caused her to lose 24 lbs. in the last three or four months.  She no longer is able to eat protein except in very limited amounts. 
We are still waiting for a decision from the doctor.  She is also experiencing severe pain in her right arm and shoulder which has no explanation.  We are still trying to regulate her Parkinson medication and that has been a challenge.  But the worst issue is that the beginning stages of dementia has begun to settle in and she is now aware of it.  Between the two of us, a good portion of our day is spent on “Easter egg hunts” looking for things that have been misplaced or put in mystery places. 

To say we miss Hawaii is an understatement.  We developed close friendships there that we have had to give up, not to mention a loving church family.  We have traded sunshine and warm tropical breezes for overcast clouds and bone chilling rain; shorts and flip flops for socks, shoes and long pants with flannel shirts; a house with a huge lanai to an apartment with a small balcony that barely holds two chairs.    
     
But we have gained being closer to family and former friends.  Just yesterday, my grandson Mitchell and his wife Hanna came over and visited and we played cards together.  What a blessing that was.  Our son Chuck has flown in from Chicago to spend a week with us and give Randy and Lani a break. 
  
And so life goes on, changes occur and adjustments are made.  I have not a clue to what the future holds, except to know without a doubt  that God is in control and He has a plan.  I have no idea how my body will react to this Keytruda where typically the side effects don’t start showing up until the 4th or 5th treatment.  The kids are concerned how I will react to more radiation and the effect it will have on my quality of life and I cannot give an answer.  I will know more when I find out what the program is and how long the treatments will last. 

Jeri and I am both in uncharted waters of knowing that I may not be here in 4-6 months, surely less than a year.  I am almost 78 and even if I  was healthy I could die any day, yet today we know with some certainty that death will occur within a year.   We have revised our wills, set up a living trust for all our assets, up dated our medical directives and set up power of attorneys for when that day arrives when we are incapable of making decisions. 

What I do know is that God has promised to walk with me through the valley of the shadow of death, He will comfort me with His rod and staff, will cause me to  lie down and rest in green pastures along still waters.  His grace will be sufficient for me.   

Friday, September 16, 2016

Don't waste your cancer

Author:  Date: May 13, 2010
Category: 
Five months after the Suffering and the Sovereignty of God conference, two of the speakers—John Piper and David Powlison—were diagnosed with prostate cancer. On the eve of his prostate surgery (February 13, 2006) John Piper wrote the following article in reflection on his situation and in order to minister grace and truth to others. (It should be noted that this is one way to minister pastorally to those in need, but it’s not the only way to do so and it is not the only thing that needs to be said.) David Powlison then added the reflections italicized below on the morning after receiving the news that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer (March 3, 2006).
I believe in God’s power to heal—by miracle and by medicine. I believe it is right and good to pray for both kinds of healing. Cancer is not wasted when it is healed by God. He gets the glory and that is why cancer exists. So not to pray for healing may waste your cancer. But healing is not God’s plan for everyone. And there are many other ways to waste your cancer. I am praying for myself and for you that we will not waste this pain.
  1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. Not that his first design for creation was a Garden of Eden with cancer. But the fall did not take God off guard. He was planning redemption before creation (2 Timothy 1:9). He saw it coming and permitted it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, he can stop it or not. If he does not, he has a purpose. Since he is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design. Satan is real and causes many pleasures and pains. But he is not ultimate. So when he strikes Job with boils (Job 2:7), Job attributes it ultimately to God (2:10) and the inspired writer agrees: “They . . . comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). If you don’t believe your cancer is designed for you by God, you will waste it.
Recognizing his designing hand does not make you stoic or dishonest or artificially buoyant. Instead, the reality of God’s design elicits and channels your honest outcry to your one true Savior. God’s design invites honest speech, rather than silencing us into resignation. Consider the honesty of the Psalms, of King Hezekiah (Isaiah 38), of Habakkuk 3. These people are bluntly, believingly honest because they know that God is God and set their hopes in him. Psalm 28 teaches you passionate, direct prayer to God. He must hear you. He will hear you. He will continue to work in you and your situation. This outcry comes from your sense of need for help (28:1-2). Then name your particular troubles to God (28:3-5). You are free to personalize with your own particulars. Often in life’s ‘various trials’ (James 1:2), what you face does not exactly map onto the particulars that David or Jesus faced—but the dynamic of faith is the same. Having cast your cares on him who cares for you, then voice your joy (28:6-7): the God-given peace that is beyond understanding. Finally, because faith always works out into love, your personal need and joy will branch out into loving concern for others (28:8-9). Illness can sharpen your awareness of how thoroughly God has already and always been at work in every detail of your life.
  1. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). “There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel” (Num. 23:23). “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” (Ps. 84:11).
The blessing comes in what God does for us, with us, through us. He brings his great and merciful redemption onto the stage of the curse. Your cancer, in itself, is one of those 10,000 “shadows of death” (Ps. 23:4) that come upon each of us: all the threats, losses, pains, incompletion, disappointment, evils. But in his beloved children, our Father works a most kind good through our most grievous losses: sometimes healing and restoring the body (temporarily, until the resurrection of the dead to eternal life), always sustaining and teaching us that we might know and love him more simply. In the testing ground of evils, your faith becomes deep and real, and your love becomes purposeful and wise (James 1:2-5; 1 Pet. 1:3-9; Rom. 5:1-5; Rom. 8:18-39).
  1. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
The design of God in your cancer is not to train you in the rationalistic, human calculation of odds. The world gets comfort from their odds. Not Christians. Some count their chariots (percentages of survival), and some count their horses (side effects of treatment), but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Ps. 20:7). God’s design is clear from 2 Corinthians 1:9, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” The aim of God in our cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.
God himself is your comfort. He gives himself. The hymn “Be Still My Soul” (by Katerina von Schlegel) reckons the odds the right way: we are 100% certain to suffer, and Christ is 100% certain to meet us, to come for us, comfort us, and restore love’s purest joys. The hymn “How Firm a Foundation” reckons the odds the same way: you are 100% certain to pass through grave distresses, and your Savior is 100% certain to “be with you, your troubles to bless, and sanctify to you your deepest distress.” With God, you aren’t playing percentages, but living within certainties.
  1. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
We will all die, if Jesus postpones his return. Not to think about what it will be like to leave this life and meet God is folly. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral] than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” How can you lay it to heart if you won’t think about it? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Numbering your days means thinking about how few there are and that they will end. How will you get a heart of wisdom if you refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.
Paul describes the Holy Spirit as the unseen, inner “downpayment” on the certainty of life. By faith, the Lord gives a sweet taste of the face-to-face reality of eternal life in the presence of our God and Christ. We might also say that cancer is one “downpayment” on inevitable death, giving one bad taste of the reality of our mortality. Cancer is a signpost pointing to something far bigger: the last enemy that you must face. But Christ has defeated this last enemy (1 Corinthians 15). Death is swallowed up in victory. Cancer is merely one of the enemy’s scouting parties, out on patrol. It has no final power if you are a child of the resurrection, so you can look it in the eye.
  1. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
Satan’s and God’s designs in your cancer are not the same. Satan designs to destroy your love for Christ. God designs to deepen your love for Christ. Cancer does not win if you die. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean you off the breast of the world and feast you on the sufficiency of Christ. It is meant to help you say and feel, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And to know that therefore, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 3:8; 1:21).
Cherishing Christ expresses the two core activities of faith: dire need and utter joy. Many psalms cry out in a “minor key”: we cherish our Savior by needing him to save us from real troubles, real sins, real sufferings, real anguish. Many psalms sing out in a “major key”: we cherish our Savior by delighting in him, loving him, thanking him for all his benefits to us, rejoicing that his salvation is the weightiest thing in the world and that he gets last say. And many psalms start out in one key and end up in the other. Cherishing Christ is not monochromatic; you live the whole spectrum of human experience with him. To “beat” cancer is to live knowing how your Father has compassion on his beloved child, because he knows your frame, that you are but dust. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. To live is to know him, whom to know is to love.
  1. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
It is not wrong to know about cancer. Ignorance is not a virtue. But the lure to know more and more and the lack of zeal to know God more and more is symptomatic of unbelief. Cancer is meant to waken us to the reality of God. It is meant to put feeling and force behind the command, “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD” (Hos. 6:3). It is meant to waken us to the truth of Daniel 11:32, “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” It is meant to make unshakable, indestructible oak trees out of us: “His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Ps. 1:2-3). What a waste of cancer if we read day and night about cancer and not about God.
What is so for your reading is also true for your conversations with others. Other people will often express their care and concern by inquiring about your health. That’s good, but the conversation easily gets stuck there. So tell them openly about your sickness, seeking their prayers and counsel, but then change the direction of the conversation by telling them what your God is doing to faithfully sustain you with 10,000 mercies. Robert Murray McCheyne wisely said, “For every one look at your sins, take ten looks at Christ.” He was countering our tendency to reverse that 10:1 ratio by brooding over our failings and forgetting the Lord of mercy. What McCheyne says about our sins we can also apply to our sufferings. For every one sentence you say to others about your cancer, say ten sentences about your God, and your hope, and what he is teaching you, and the small blessings of each day. For every hour you spend researching or discussing your cancer, spend 10 hours researching and discussing and serving your Lord. Relate all that you are learning about cancer back to him and his purposes, and you won’t become obsessed.
  1. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
When Epaphroditus brought the gifts to Paul sent by the Philippian church he became ill and almost died. Paul tells the Philippians, “He has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill” (Phil. 2:26-27). What an amazing response! It does not say they were distressed that he was ill, but that he was distressed because they heard he was ill. That is the kind of heart God is aiming to create with cancer: a deeply affectionate, caring heart for people. Don’t waste your cancer by retreating into yourself.
Our culture is terrified of facing death. It is obsessed with medicine. It idolizes youth, health, and energy. It tries to hide any signs of weakness or imperfection. You will bring huge blessing to others by living openly, believingly, and lovingly within your weaknesses. Paradoxically, moving out into relationships when you are hurting and weak will actually strengthen others. “One anothering” is a two-way street of generous giving and grateful receiving. Your need gives others an opportunity to love. And since love is always God’s highest purpose in you, too, you will learn his finest and most joyous lessons as you find small ways to express concern for others even when you are most weak. A great, life-threatening weakness can prove amazingly freeing. Nothing is left for you to do except to be loved by God and others, and to love God and others.
  1. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.
Paul used this phrase in relation to those whose loved ones had died: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13). There is a grief at death. Even for the believer who dies, there is temporary loss—loss of body, and loss of loved ones here, and loss of earthly ministry. But the grief is different—it is permeated with hope. “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). Don’t waste your cancer grieving as those who don’t have this hope.
Show the world this different way of grieving. Paul said that he would have had “grief upon grief” if his friend Epaphroditus had died (Phil. 2:27). He had been grieving, feeling the painful weight of his friend’s illness. He would have doubly grieved if his friend had died. But this loving, honest, God-oriented grief coexisted with “rejoice always” and “the peace of God that passes understanding” and “showing a genuine concern for your welfare” (Phil. 4:4, 7; 2:20). How on earth can heartache coexist with love, joy, peace, and an indestructible sense of life purpose? In the inner logic of faith, this makes perfect sense. In fact, because you have hope, you may feel the sufferings of this life more keenly: grief upon grief. In contrast, the grieving that has no hope often chooses denial or escape or busyness because it can’t face reality without becoming distraught. In Christ, you know what’s at stake, and so you keenly feel the wrong of this fallen world. You don’t take pain and death for granted. You love what is good, and hate what is evil. After all, you follow in the image of “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). But this Jesus chose his cross willingly “for the joy set before him” (Heb. 12:2). He lived and died in hopes that all come true. His pain was not muted by denial or medication, nor was it tainted with despair, fear, or thrashing about for any straw of hope that might change his circumstances. Jesus’ final promises overflow with the gladness of solid hope amid sorrows: “My joy will be in you, and your joy will be made full. Your grief will be turned to joy. No one will take your joy away from you. Ask, and you will receive, so that your joy will be made full. These things I speak in the world, so that they may have my joy made full in themselves” (selection from John 15-17).
  1. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had cancer? If so, you are wasting your cancer. Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. Don’t just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer. All these things are worse enemies than cancer. Don’t waste the power of cancer to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25).
Suffering really is meant to wean you from sin and strengthen your faith. If you are God-less, then suffering magnifies sin. Will you become more bitter, despairing, addictive, fearful, frenzied, avoidant, sentimental, godless in how you go about life? Will you pretend its business as usual? Will you come to terms with death, on your terms? But if you are God’s, then suffering in Christ’s hands will change you, always slowly, sometimes quickly. You come to terms with life and death on his terms. He will gentle you, purify you, cleanse you of vanities. He will make you need him and love him. He rearranges your priorities, so first things come first more often. He will walk with you. Of course you’ll fail at times, perhaps seized by irritability or brooding, escapism or fears. But he will always pick you up when you stumble. Your inner enemy—a moral cancer 10,000 times more deadly than your physical cancer—will be dying as you continue seeking and finding your Savior: “For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my iniquity, for it is very great. Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose” (Psalm 25).
  1. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.
Christians are never anywhere by divine accident. There are reasons for why we wind up where we do. Consider what Jesus said about painful, unplanned circumstances: “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:12-13). So it is with cancer. This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Christ is infinitely worthy. Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life. Don’t waste it.
Jesus is your life. He is the man before whom every knee will bow. He has defeated death once for all. He will finish what he has begun. Let your light so shine as you live in him, by him, through him, for him. One of the church’s ancient hymns puts it this way:
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.1
In your cancer, you will need your brothers and sisters to witness to the truth and glory of Christ, to walk with you, to live out their faith beside you, to love you. And you can do same with them and with all others, becoming the heart that loves with the love of Christ, the mouth filled with hope to both friends and strangers.
Remember you are not left alone. You will have the help you need. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

God's plan

Well folks, we have a plan!  Or rather God has a Plan.  I Met with the radiologist and talked about the incessant nose bleeding that I have.  Dr. Hung thinks that 5 sessions spaced out over 10 days, will  stun the cancer and stop the bleeding for 4 to 6 months.  But, and there is always a big but, he wants to wait until the after the 3rd or 4th round of Keytruda to see if the Immunotherapy is working.  If it is working there is a chance the bleeding will have already stopped.   The Keytruda treatments will be every three weeks for a year, with scanning done every three months.  If there are indications the cancer is still growing they will stop the infusions and go to the non-existent plan B.  

After that meeting, we rode the tram down to the OHSU facility on the water front for a meeting with Dr. Taylor’s oncology nurse for a mandatory pre-infusion meeting where she informs me of ALL the possible side effects and what to do if any of them show up. Interestingly, I had done some research on the internet to see just what this Keytruda stuff was.  There is a long list of possible side effects, the last being death.  That is just what you do not want to see. 

  She was very encouraging claiming that they have had very few patients react to the Keytruda.   She said that they are more than willing to work with the Kona hospital’s oncology unit so that I am able to have the second and third round of infusions done there.
 
Each session starts out with a blood draw which takes 30-45 min. to get the results back, then the actual infusion only takes an hour vs. the 4 or 5 hours the regular chemotherapy takes.   Piece of cake!!
I have booked a return flight back to Hawaii on Saturday the third of September.  Jeri and Kris have already started to box stuff up that Jeri wants to bring to our new home.  Returning to Portland will depend on when the house sells. 

I have a dilemma concerning our two cars.  One is the bright red Mercedes 4 door sedan which I dearly love and gets 35+ mpg on the highway.  We no longer have need for two cars as Jeri has quit driving because of her Parkinson’s.   Our other car is my bright yellow Camaro, with black racing strips which hauls my golf clubs and is the car that I drive most of the time.   This is my baby!   “Please don’t let the dingoes take my Baaaaby!” Details at 11 on how this turns out. 

There is no doubt that God was behind us in this move to Hawaii.  For things to work out the way they did had all the ear marks of God’s Divine hand being in control.  Of the almost five years we have “technically” lived there I have spent almost 2 years being in Portland, mostly undergoing cancer treatment.


Obviously God has a reason and a plan for us to be back in the Portland area.   I have not a clue what that could be but I know God is in control, He has a plan, and I am just along for the ride.  My goal now is to enjoy the ride and try not to be a back-seat driver.     

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Encouragement

Over the last decade dealing with various forms of cancer, I have received ton of notes, letters, emails, texts, phone calls and visits that all been encouraging.  Recently they have been even more conforting and encouraging.  Some have been special, and deserve to shared for others to perhaps be encouraged.  I felt it was being shelfish if I kept them to myself.  So I contacted the individuals of the notes I wanted to share and they have graciously concented to my posting them in this blog.  I truely hope they are as encouraging to you as they have been to me.  

Please do not assume that yours was not included because they were less encouraging.  Just the fact that you took time to wish me well, that you were praying for Jeri and me, maybe shared a scripture or quote was tremendously encouraging.   Thank you all.

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Dear Mike & Jeri,

I've been praying for your family and remembering the very stressful time when Bob had his aortic dissection.  There were weeks that I didn't know if he would live or die. During those dark days where I had absolutely no control, I remember clinging to Jesus' feet. He gave me peace knowing that He was in control.

One night I cried and prayed until dawn.  I started out telling God that  Bob was His.  Then I'd take him back.  Again I told God that He could have Bob....I knew that He loved Bob even more that I did.  Then I'd take him back.  This went on for hours.  When the dawn broke I finally gave Bob over into God's hands with one caution.  Lord you can have Bob, he belongs to you...however, if you take him you are going to have your hands full taking care of me because I will be a big mess.  

God was gracious to me and healed Bob. I've often thought that God put us through a "dress rehearsal" for what would happen 9 years later.   Those bonus years were precious but hard.  After Bob went to his heavenly home I realized that God had taught me to have confidence that He would be my husband and father, my provider and lover. 

What lies ahead of you won't be easy. There will be dark days.  But God will walk with you through the valley. He is dependable, loving, caring, trustworthy,   He knows and loves both of you (and your family) deeply,

Psalm 73:23-26

Yet I am always with you, you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And being with you, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Love....Beth

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Mike, the battle is already won.  Satan is long vanquished. You are a sweet aroma of Jesus Christ as you join in His victorious parade.  There will be earthly skirmishes  until you leave the shell of an earthly body we all must live in, but you will receive the ultimate healing the Lord provides all of us. All of us will continue to pray for your strength and comfort, and healing should the Lord choose to do so.

I love this quote I read recently: “We do not always get the life we want, but we receive the strength to love the life we get.”
You have made some hard, wise decisions.  May all continue to be well with your soul.  Blessings, Eric
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Bless your little pea-pickin heart, as my mother would have said. You have just confirmed the lesson that God was teaching me this last week. I started out by questioning the path He has chosen for me - single mom of a drug addicted son, still working and living payday to payday at age 66, house and yard falling down around me - you get the picture. But I worked through it and arrived at the correct conclusion that this is my path to walk, and I can trust that God has His own mysterious reasons for the twists and turns it has taken over the years. I can walk it humbly with peace and joy, or I can walk it in fear and anger and envy - that choice is mine and a part of my sanctification process. Sigh.
Love you two.

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Hello My Friend,

Mikey, read your latest Blog, as always your courage brings encouragement to so many. Some people may be believers and others may not.  That is why I am waiting for your book “View from the Ridge” to be published.  All people need to know that hope (good or bad) comes from the Lord. That He alone is  our strong tower. We hold onto to Him just like he holds on to us. Many times I have prayed “wrap me in your wings Lord, hold me, carry me through”. When He revels His presence, there is no comfort ever known.  Love you Mikey, love Jeri too. You have already written the book. Does that mean God is done with you? Absolutely not!  God gave you and Jeri an amazing literary talent. Please publish the  book. Love you both so much, Debra

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Mike, your most recent post needs to go viral.  Thank you for your deep, deep insights. I am keeping you constantly in prayer.  May all be well.  Obviously, you are deeply in God’s hands.  Whatever His will, you are completely loved and comforted, by Him, and by your many, many friends.  Blessings and Love, Eric

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Dear Mike and Jeri, people have come into our lives over the years that have had an impact on our lives. You are two of those people that we admire so much. I am fairly certain you don't have a clue how much of an impact you have on our lives, even from Hawaii you do without saying a word to us. How does that happen? I can say with confidence it is because of your strong commitment to Christ over the many years you have been His. You have worked out your salvation and weren't afraid to admit you were not always good at it. You weren't perfect, but you held the course, you still are holding the course even though it's difficult. Christ bears you up and you aren't ashamed to say it. This is a fact, there have been many times these past few years when I (Karen) have been ready to throw in the towel and the Lord brings you both to mind. Your strong commitment to each other now that is stronger than ever is because of hard things you both have walked through and continue to walk through. Because of your testimony I know Christ in me can help me stay the course.
I just wanted to let you both know we love you dearly and you are in our prayers. Our prayer of course is that your cancer is not back and that the eye surgery goes well and that you have good strength through the days ahead. As you have impacted our lives, may you continue to impact those you will be meeting again and those who you have yet to meet. You both have blessed our lives! Our love and prayers, Bob and Karen         Isaiah 40:31    Yet, the strength of those who wait with hope in the Lord will be renewed.  They will soar on wings like eagles.  They will run and won't become weary.  They will walk and won't grow tired.  


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Mike I want to thank you for your brutal honesty.  Not often does someone like me (and not a relative) get to peek inside the head or thinking of someone going through cancer and see and hear your thoughts on the subject.  I grieve with you that you don’t think you will see the 80s and 90s.  That is such a startling thought to think about let alone verbalize.  But can I even say that?  Is it morbid to suggest that with you?  I’ve never engaged in such a conversation before.  I am thankful and say with biblical hope that you believe in the sovereignty of God.  But having answers?  there are none from this corner.  We always wish we had answers, some of us more than others.  

I had an interesting conversation today with my non Christian friend about assisted dying and that whole power of attorney at end of life—sheesh, I can’t think of the name of it.  Anyway, she asked if I believed calling your own end to your life was ok.  I said, first, I would hope that I would and could sit with the person I loved and hold his or her hand the last couple weeks of his/her life.  (compassion is needed)  And talk about it!  And also, I would want to still be having a vertical relationship with my Lord even if I couldn’t talk.  But that’s easy to say when I have no pain.  

Well, I ramble.  But thank you for your honesty, your sharing of such deep thoughts, and your walk with the Lord.  It encourages the rest of us.  Love to you both and will continue to pray for you both and the family as you walk this difficult path with Him,  A fellow walker,  Jo Anne

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Dear Mike & Jeri,
After reading your recent blog post, it sparked a conversation between us about La Grande. As we have looked back on our lives together our time in La Grande stands out as our favorite time. To have had the opportunity to raise our kids there was marvelous. Granted there were some challenges but the good absolutely beat out the bad. We wanted you to know how happy we are that you asked us to join you there. We believe that God had his hand in that as He always does. As we grow older our memories are what we have. Our memories of La Grande will always be great.

Our memories of you both will always be special to both of us as well. None of us know what the future will bring but this we know for certain, we are not in charge. Our days were decided well before we ever showed up. Today we also know that you both are in Good Hands and we are comforted by that fact. Take care and keep us updated.
Love,
Ron & Linda

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The news we read is not what we hoped to hear from you. It's such a hard thing to put a time to a person's life who you dearly love and care about. We know God is good and He still has a plan for your life. The doctor may have an approximation, but the Lord has the exact number of your days. Keep on with the fight, you have so much more to give to others! It is so admirable that you are thinking of what's the best in the days ahead, I pray you will be able to enjoy many more days in Hawaii waiting for the house to sell, even going back as a visitor instead of a resident. You are on many hearts, in many prayers, ours included. This verse reminds me of what you have done through your blog year after year, "But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works."  Psalm 73:28  Keep posting! You have had a mighty witness through this. We love you, Bob and Karen 

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Mike;  I read your last blog today regarding your decision as to how to proceed with medical treatment.  I know this had to be very difficult, especially  with what you have already been through.  I thought I would share some encouraging thoughts from our brother Spurgeon, and hope you find them comforting during this difficult providence.
Jeremiah 17:17  Thou art my hope in the day of evil

“No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows.  Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path because you were weak an timid.  He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual, you must enter the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children.  We need wind and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self dependence and to root us more firmly in Christ.  The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.”

Psalm 139:17   How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God.
“In our sorrows He observes us incessantly, and not a pang escapes Him; in our toils He marks all our weariness, and writes in His book all the struggles of His faithful ones.  Not a nerve or tissue, valve or vessel, of our bodily organization is uncared for, all the littles of our little world are thought upon by the Great God.”

Matt. 12:20  A bruised reed shall He not break, or smoking flax shall He not quench. 

“What is weaker than the bruised reed or the smoking flax?  Look at the smoking flax----what is it?  It has a spark within it, it is true, but it is almost smothered.  Yet, weak as they are, and because they are so weak, they have this promise made especially to them. 
Herein is grace and graciousness!  Herein is love and loving-kindness!  How it opens to us the compassion of Jesus, so gentle, tender, considerate!  We need never shrink back from His touch.  We need never fear a harsh word from Him;  though He might well chide us for our weakness, He rebukes not.  Bruised reeds shall have no blows from Him, and smoking flax no damping frowns.”

Mike, I want you to KNOW that you & Jeri are being continually uplifted before the throne of grace.  We will especially be praying for you on Friday.

 Heb. 13:5  I will NEVER leave thee nor forsake thee. 
And NEVER means NEVER!!


Hang in there brother!    Ron