I got some comments and emails today that make it clear I haven't been expressing how exceptionally blessed I am, how grateful I am, nor glorified the will of God in my life properly.
I write about the course that God has given me to run for several reasons. One, it's fun to write about. Two, a lot of you love me and are interested. Three, some of you have told me it's inspired you. Those are all good things.
Admittedly, the course God has me running right now is an obstacle course. There are spots that have been really difficult, and I'm guessing there will be a lot more. That's the nature of obstacle courses.
Obstacle courses are also fun.
Please understand, I like doing this. It's an adventure!
If you've ever seen the movie Lord of the Rings, then you may remember the scene where Gimli, the dwarf, is told that their small army is going to assail the gates of Mordor in order to provide a diversion for Frodo, the ring bearer. They have absolutely no chance of winning this battle, but they're going to attack as though they think they do.
Gimli says something to the effect of, "Terrible odds; certain death; what are we waiting for?"
In 1914 an Irish explorer named Ernest Shackleton placed an ad for a crew to accompany him on a trip across Antarctica. The ad said:
MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON (ref)
Reports from that era have it that he got 5,000 responses to the ad. (As is my nature, I looked for a good source. My source above is NOVA from PBS, but there's a web site trying to track down the ad, and it appears there never was one, at least not in a newspaper, though there's some decent sources claiming such an ad was used and that there were 5,000 respondents.)
I've never been on an adventure like that.
But I have been on an adventure like leukemia, and I was put on that adventure by God.
I have not only accepted it; I like it.
This is my chance to say, "I've always wanted to fight a battle against incredible odds!"
The odds really aren't incredible. Though the overall survival rate for acute leukemias like mine is only 25%, and acute undifferentiated leukemias are understood to be worse, in my health I had a 50-50 chance from the beginning. It's possible that my chances now are as high as 80%.
Yesterday, the nurse was telling me that one of the risks of the transplant is "veno-oclusive" disease. She said only 10 to 20% of recipients face it. Usually, it resolves on its own.
I asked what happen if it doesn't resolve, and she said, "You don't want that to happen."
She had drawn a graph of what my blood counts would look like and how I would feel on a sheet of paper. The graph had a big valley than represented the twenty days between the transplant and when blood counts recover. She pointed at it and said, "Veno-oclusive disease is one of the ways we lose people in here. Remember, we lose about 20% of our patients during this period."
I knew that. It's still a little stunning to hear it said.
She explained that during that month it's their job to manage pain and keep me alive.
My job, given by God, is to go through this like it's my path to run.
It's not that bad a path. I'm getting six doses of radiation to the brain. Ashimah, a friend of mine back at Rose Creek Village got thirty. Hers weren't whole brain irradiations, but I have a new friend I met at Vanderbilt, and he got twenty doses of whole brain radiation along with his brain surgery. He has a limp that came from the brain surgery.
And beyond all that, I'm a Christian. I'm an amateur historian, too. I have heard hundreds of stories of Christian martyrs who endured incredible tortures by choice.
I don't have a choice. I have to endure this, or I'll die. I heard of one man who was put in a small cell for months, hung by his thumbs from the ceiling. The ceiling was too short for him to stand straight, but it was high enough that he couldn't sit because his thumbs were attached to the ceiling.
His captors got nothing but a bold proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ from him.
My daughter has a web site on the American Revolution. Every time I read about those men, who all had the attitude of "Give me liberty or give me death," I wonder if I could have stood with them. Would I regard the freedom of others as more important than my own life?
Young men and women have given their lives and their limbs in Iraq. Men who are now much older did the same in Vietnam and World War II.
I have nothing at all to complain about.
People have told me they've been inspired by my story. If my minor difficulties can inspire even one or two people, then they are well worth it.
This is my race; my gift from God. I get to practice a little bit of courage and run my obstacle course with lots of company—I have friends, family, and the grace of God.
Hopefully, I won't wimp out at any point, but I've claimed all along that this is a gift! We're Christians. We believe that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose, remember? In our own small way, let's give the world good reason to think we believe that, and God himself will take care of proving it to be true.
If my brain gets a little scrambled from the radiation, and I wind up with the confusion and concentration problems that are a possible side effect, then I'll go through my life that way, and I will glorify God that way, living in joy. Our bodies are not for comfort, ease, or even good health. Our bodies are for the glory of God.
Now, mind you, I don't like losing my comfort any more than any other American does.
But please, for those of you that are Christians, do this with me. Take joy in it. Be glad with me, and pray that I'm faithful to what we believe.
I want you to know one last thing. I keep an open ear to God, should I ever hear him saying he wants to heal me. I believe in divine healing, and I have heard some great stories. Just today Jerry told me about a man who turned down his chemo treatments because the doctors told him that he'd only live a year even with chemo. That was ten years ago, and he's just fine today. This is someone Jerry knows back in Virginia.
There's a guy who blogs two or three times a week about people he's prayed for and who've been healed. Missionary friends in Mexico, in India and around the world have told me story after story after story of incredible healings that have happened through prayer. One of my own nephews was healed of a progressing infection that had blinded one of his eyes after prayer.
I love it when we pray for healing, as long as we keep our ears open for God's answer. We Americans have pitiful faith. We ought to be honest with ourselves about that.
Sometimes, though, it's better to go through what you're going through, and it can be every bit as miraculous.
For example, thank you everyone for your prayers for my friend Jerry. His transplant engrafted sometime over the last couple days, which is a little early. His blood counts are rising, and he's doing great. Today, Hannah (Lorie) and I went to visit him, and we found him on the porch with his wife throwing peanuts to the squirrels. He's had the most incredible easy time, and he's now through half the danger of a transplant.
He's waltzed through this thing so far, and he's as convinced as I am that it's because of prayer. He's got his church praying for me just like I've got y'all praying for him.
Rise up! Believe! Say I'm blessed with me! We all have a race to run, and there is nothing better than the path that God has laid before you.
For you are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he has prepared in advance for you to do. (Eph. 2:10)
The Holy Spirit witnesses in every city, saying that chains and afflictions await me, but none of these things move me. Nor do I consider my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my course with joy and complete the service which I have received from the Lord, to testify of the Gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:23-24)
I consider everything loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord ... that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made in the image of his death. (Php. 3:8,10)
I have fought the good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith. Now there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me on that day; and not only to me, but to all those who love his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:8-9)
Let's be like the apostle! Seize the opportunity and glorify the Lord!
It's all good. In fact, nothing at all could be better.