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Earl Marshall

Month: April 2019

Cancer and Thanksgiving

This second round of chemotherapy has been much better than the first. I have felt much better overall but I am struggling with ongoing fatigue. Working, resting, walking is a normal routine for me, all under a careful watch to see how my body is reacting. For the most part things are going well. I did lose my hair. Just before I received round 2 I noticed that my hair was starting to fall out so I just went ahead and got it all shaved off. I was grateful that as my barber said, “I have the right shape of head for the bald look,” who knew?

I continue to struggle with purpose and feeling useful. There are times when I just feel like I am on the bench waiting to get back into the game. This really came into focus when I was not able to be at church or with family on Easter weekend. That was much more difficult than I imagined. I am growing in my appreciation of being with my church family. I am thankful for those who have visited and stayed in touch during my treatment weeks. The ability to be with those I care about and share in a love for Jesus Christ with is a blessed privilege. When it is taken away from you, you realize just how important it is.

In the midst of the emotional waves of ups and downs I am finding myself thankful. It is hard to explain mostly because I know this is not a me thing but a Spirit of God work in my life. On one of my walks this past week I was struck with just being thankful for what God is doing in me while I struggle with enduring in the midst of suffering. So, for the thanksgiving God has placed in my heart I boast in my suffering knowing that God is producing endurance and endurance is producing character and character is developing home (Romans 5:3-5).

Round 3 begins next Monday.

Round 2 and Philippians 4:2-11

Monday April 15 is the start of round two of chemo treatment. I do know what to expect tomorrow morning which is helpful but I am not looking forward to it. I don’t think any round of treatment is going to be comfortable. I am growing in my embracing of the chemo as good for me and my fight against cancer.  I continue to ask God to use chemo as the his means of healing. Asking that this would be his will and all for his glory.

I have been impressed by the Spirit of God to be bold in my prayers. So I am asking God for protection in the midst of the healing. I am also trying to be bold in applying Philippians 4:2-11 to my life. The Apostle Paul says, “rejoice in the Lord.” This is not a random be happy, or always be up/positive but there is a object/subject of rejoicing and it is the Lord. He says, “rejoice in the Lord” – rejoice in who he is, what he has done and what he is doing. He also says, “The Lord is at hand.” The reason I have no need of anxiety tomorrow or any other day after that is because the Lord is at hand, he is near, he is here. I love this picture. The Lord right by my side. This is absolute protection. I can call on him because he is at hand.

Don’t be anxious about “anything.” There are no limits to that word. But in “everything”, I love the fact that there is nothing I need to be anxious about but in the everything of life, again no limits to that word, I am called to do something very specific. Interesting that when things don’t go the way that I want my first response, my tendency, is to fret, complain, feel sorry for myself, or even try to fix the problem that is causing the anxiety. The Apostle Paul says, “by prayer and supplication.” I need to understand the differences between these two words (more homework to be done here). I do see the magnitude of “with thanksgiving.” That is hard, praying in the midst of anxiety with thanksgiving. This gets to the heart of lament. There is clearly room in our prayers to God to bring our questions and frustrations with boldness but there is also trust (Psalm 13). I see thanksgiving as the fruit of trust. It is founded in knowing and believing in the sovereignty of God. It comes from being able to see his hand at work even in the anything and everything of life. It is not hiding from the hard things or even backing away from the questions and fears in the middle of the challenges. But as I trust I can be thankful.

As we let our requests be made known to God then something amazing happens . . . .

PEACE

The peace of Christ guards my heart and mind. This is the battle ground. Cancer is not just a physical struggle it is a battle of the heart and mind. Peace guards when I/we apply Philippians 4:2-11 in our lives. This is awesome truth. This is freedom in life.

Cardiology

When they were prepping me for my cancer treatment they discovered that my heart was not working at a maximum percentage. I can almost hear the good natured sarcastic comments from my friends. Yes, I will admit that the doctor has shown that I do have a heart but that it isn’t working as well as it should. So, today I met my cardiologist and tomorrow I get to do a stress test. Another admission, it has been a while since I ran for more than two minutes straight. Hopefully not because I can’t but basically because I have no desire to run for more than two minutes straight (who really does? 🙂 )

What I loved about my visit today was the greeting in the examination room. Some doctors put their diplomas and certifications on the wall. Not my cardiologist, his room was full of these.

 

I would like to think that I am in good hands.

Update – passed my stress test and there is no structural issues in my heart. That means my arteries are ok.

The puzzle continues.

2 Corinthians Through the Lens of Cancer: 1:3-4

1:3

God is blessed. This is a word of worship not a literal understanding that God is blessed but that we are to bless him, worship him. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is my Father. He is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. It is precisely because of his mercies that I am comforted or comfort is one of his mercies. I so need to know this. In the midst of uncertainty and even fear God is merciful with his comfort.

1:4

How does God comfort us? In all of our affliction is the sphere of his comfort. 1:8 gives a clearer context of what the Apostle Paul is speaking about but I share in the general overtone of this word – in ALL our AFFLICTION.

It is interesting for me to consider how God comforts us in all of our affliction. In this time since I have heard the words “you have cancer” I have found the comfort of God comes from various sources. The Word of God has been a great source of comfort. Being reminded of God’s promises and his character has been life giving for me. The power of lament has also been renewed in my life. I found myself the other night listening to a sermon on healing with tears running down my faith knowing that God can, is able, and the question is ultimately about his will. I like the Apostle Paul wish this thorn could be taken from me. Lamenting, “how long O Lord” has helped me receive comfort for my soul. I am beginning to read Dark Clouds Deep Mercy as a companion to my reading in 2 Corinthians. The second source of God’s comfort in my life has been God’s people. I will never forget the night last week when a small group we were part of five years ago FaceTimed Brenda and I to pray over us. The prayers of faith and the crying out to God on our behalf by those who are old in the faith and those young in the faith have been such a source of encouragement. The food dropped off at our home has been a great comfort. The church staff have been an amazing support and encouragement. God is at work in all of this.

There is no limit to the comfort of God . . . nothing separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The Lord is our shepherd and I shall not want. I am comforted.

In the midst of the cancer is where I will know God’s comfort. The joy, peace and patience I am asking God for will be found in the midst of the affliction. These comforts are not found separate from the affliction but are found in the affliction. I will, no doubt, experience the greatness of God’s comfort as I am afflicted. Indeed there seems little need for comfort apart from the affliction.

Why does God comfort us?

So that I may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction. Paul recognized that his suffering in the faith was so that he would be able to comfort those who were in any affliction. The comfort, although experienced by the apostle and directed to Paul by God, was for the purpose of ministry to others. This cancer experience is full of purpose. I refuse to see this any other way. I must embrace my calling to help others with this. God’s comfort can not stop with me it must extend to others. And the comfort that I extend must be the comfort I received from God. This is so important. No pious platitudes but truly the comfort that God has given to me.

2 Corinthians Through the Lens of Cancer: Introduction

It is not lost on me that persecution and suffering for the faith makes up the context of many of the NT Gospels and epistles. I did not have to choose 2 Corinthians to do this reflection. I could have chosen 1 Peter or The Revelation for that matter. But I have chosen 2 Corinthians because of the personal nature of the book. When I read 2 Corinthians it feels like the Job of the New Testament. Paul is writing throughout 2 Corinthians his personal reflections as he suffers for the sake of the gospel.

I do not pretend to believe that my context, cancer, is identical to the Apostle Paul’s. His suffering is much deeper than mine and is a consequence of his faith and calling. My cancer is a consequence of sin, not personal, and the brokenness of this world. These are two very different things and situations. I do share with the Apostle Paul the pain of circumstances and the reality of facing death. I do acknowledge the same comfort from the same Father. In these things we stand side by side.

I am blessed to walk, then in the Apostle Paul’s footsteps.

2 Corinthians Through the Lens of Cancer is not an exegetical commentary but a commentary of the intersection of life and the biblical text. It is my hope that this journey will prove to be a catharsis of my soul. I am in no rush to make my way through 2 Corinthians. I am on schedule to complete my cancer treatment some time in July 2019. This will be a long and slow walk through my cancer treatment with 2 Corinthians being my constant companion. I hope it will be a blessing to me and to others who stumble across the content of these posts.

Week Two Update

Week one of the cancer treatment was difficult. The Cancer Team communicated all of the potential side effects ahead of time and thankfully I did not experience all of them. Receiving the treatment in the hospital was actually the easiest part of the first week, minus the bruises I now have on my arms from failed intravenous attempts. The worst part of the week was the latter half of the week after receiving my Neulasta needle. I am grateful for the boost in production of my white blood cell count but I felt just absolutely lousy for most of the week. Weak, nausea, brutal insomnia, inflamed mid-section, what felt like an advanced heart rate at night . . . just crazy. I am looking forward to talking to my doctor about all of this next week as I get ready for Round 2 to begin.

I am in week two. I am affectionately calling it the first week of a two week vacation from my cancer treatment. I don’t take any drugs this week or next and the biggest challenge has been sleep. Every day seems to get a bit better. I am so thankful for that. So far I have been able to keep on working. I am off the treatment weeks but I have been trying to do 5 hour days at the church office. I love the people I work with and getting to interact in decision making and ministry even if at a reduced level. This has been helpful for my spirits.

I am so grateful for the many who have maintained contact with me and are praying for both Brenda and I. We are blessed with the many who care deeply about and for us.

God is answering prayers.

Please pray for the beginning of Round 2 on April 15. This is the hardest thing right now, knowing that I have to go through this again.

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