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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Article Four: Walking Out of the Shadows

Quite a while back I was asked to write a series of articles of around 800 words to reflect on the nature of being a Christian leader with Cancer.  They are really just a summary (of sorts) of what is contained in this blog. This blog has been stationary for a while, but I am doing really well. Find me on Facebook, or through this blog if you wish to chat...anytime!

These articles and in order from Last to first, so please scroll down to the beginning to get them in order! They are all here now.



Walking Out of the Shadows Part 4
There is an old saying birthed out of 19th century rural living : " Fight fire with fire. People would start fires in a controlled fashion to deny a larger, natural one from finding more fuel. That's not a bad description of going through cancer. The disease is like a fire; burning more fiercely in some than others, always searching for more fuel. Healthy tissue, is not the only thing consumed. At a time when you are least able to deal with it, your environments of finance, spirituality emotion, and self image are food for the flame.

The, comes the diagnoses and treatments.....
This is the "controlled fire".

When a fire is out and you visit the scene all is quiet, black and surreal. You get a sense of the battle that took place  and devastation echoes loudly in the depth of your being.
After my treatments I was underweight, starving, hardly able to talk, weakened, lonely and afraid.

There is an attitude that getting over cancer should be a cause for celebration. This is usually voiced by people who haven't  been deeply challenged ..it depends on how big your fire was.

 A diagnosis of debilitating illness, the treatment and aftermath, consumes  a lot of the control that you had over your life . Cancer patients find themselves overwhelmed with questions at 3a.m about things that others take for granted, and they no longer can.

I was amazed at how hard it was to get to the point to where I really wanted to fight to regain my strength , and even more amazed at the onslaught of emotions that came when I started to fight.

Through tears of frustration, in weakness and uncertainty I would walk the 60 feet or so from the Rectory to the back door of the Church in an attempt to get moving again.

I used to go over to the Church to be alone and try to face the reality of being broken, busted, angry and afraid.  (Yes and deal with a bit of self pity too).
When walking around St. Martin's  on those seemingly never-ending days I wondered how much longer I would be here...and wondering If I would ever be able to lead this Church again.
 At first,I held on to each pew to keep from falling. Gradually I made one, then two circuits of the Church building before  I had to sit down .
One day I made it up to the balcony of the Cathedral.  

Then I returned to lead worship. Helped through by the associate clergy and a patient, loving parish I regained my voice, strength and confidence.

Now, almost four years after my treatments my MRI is good, Chest X-Ray is good and I am still headed in the right direction. Thanks to radiation I live with some issues of the throat, and chemotherapy has left neuropathy in my hands and feet.

But I can play my guitar, I can sing, and I can declare Gods Grace with a clear voice. Clearer, honestly and more joyfully I might add, than ever before in my life.
Cancer challenged me  to surrender and admit my frustration, anger, fear, disappointment, pain and unbelief to myself and THEN honestly and openly before God.
I did surrender, and in so doing began to see the Grace that surrounded me on my treacherous sojourn in the Valley of the Shadow of Death and in even in the slow steps that I was finally able to take towards the other end, and walk out of the shadow.


In the Church we describe Sacraments as something we can see, hear, feel, taste , touch and experience as that which connects us to the Grace of Our God.

Somewhere along the line, I wanted to symbolically and sacramentally mark my emergence from the Valley of Darkness. I decided to walk to Glenwood from Gander as a walk of prayer and thanksgiving. It turned into much more than that.

As I began to share the idea with others, many decided they wanted to join the pilgrimage. We decided that if folks wanted to donate, we would offer the gifts to the local Cancer Clinic to directly help people who needed support by providing fuel for them to travel. Our walk, in addition to the spiritual blessings raised over $11,000.00.

October 26 ,2013   was It was a beautiful, sunny fall day.

I got out of bed, shook the neuropathy out of my feet and hands and headed for the door.   A group of us met just outside Gander, had a time of prayer and walked together.

The Destination was St. Andrews Church, Glenwood  where we would read the 23rd Psalm and Thank God for His Love and mercy.

We were close to 60 strong in terms of actual walkers, but much larger in number through those who participated through donations, promotion and providing vehicle support, moral support. A shorter walk took place later in the afternoon as another group walked around the town of Gander.
We walked  in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, in the love and family of Christ's Church here on earth, and in Communion with those whom we love but see no longer.

 I set out with the crowd after our prayer, and was able to move through the crown while we were still close together, hugging and touching every person as a gesture of my gratitude .

At one point I looked at those close to me and said..."see you when you get to Glenwood!" They laughed...but I had asked the Lord to bless me with a physical  rhythm, and a focused  attitude of prayer. I was already loaded up emotionally as you can imagine with the imagery of Walking out of the Shadows into the warm light of Creation, and the warm love of the Church. So eventually, I moved to the front of the pack...and made it in exactly three hours.

It was a good day.
I had asked God to minister to me as I walked. I asked Him to place the images of people and their struggles within my imagination so that I could pray....I became very aware of the gift of nature as I looked deliberately to the Left and Right, enjoying the view and signs of life. It was a prayer walk of intentionally being before God in reflection for these people and their various circumstances that the Spirit placed in my mind. There were times while walking that I wept openly. I realized that I was still being called and equipped to be a leader in our precious Church.

 There were times while walking when I was overwhelmed by the knowledge of all the people who were walking behind me. Knowing you are supported...and knowing that we support each other gives meaning to the Church that is hard to put into words.
 Though we walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, we will fear nothing...Because God is with us...and has given us the gift of each other. We are not alone. Thanks Be to God.

Article Three - Light in The Darkness


When you are told you have Cancer your world gets very small. You are dealing with the diagnosis. How bad is it? What caused this? What am I going to do?  Treatments have to be set up. Schedules need to be dealt with. You decide which people need to know what is going on, and you have to get yourself ready. Your new world is small, but incredibly complicated.
Once things are "in place and settled down", the spiritual and emotional challenges begin to emerge from the fog; they take shape and look you in the eye.

In spite of  common elements, Cancer is a distinctly
lonely journey because it is not the same for everyone. Some have very treatable illnesses and attain the  blessing of a lighter and brighter perspective. Optimism is an essential part of healing for Cancer patients, and when the person who is ill is radiates positive energy, it makes most people comfortable.
Others have gone deeper into the Valley of the Shadow. The battle is intense, complex and exhausting . The shadows there obscure and challenge the light of faith causing denial, fear, and sadness.  Many have died while they were still in the Valley. I almost did.

On a spiritual level when  safe routines are broken, or sudden change comes, people are led (or forced)  to a place where two things can happen:
1. Losing Sight of God and faith, or
2.The nurturing of a deeper, more real and Honest relationship with God . Neither of these will happen without a struggle.
Our scriptures are filled with images of  people struggling:
Jacob alone at Peniel wrestling with God.
Abraham receiving and giving up the life of his son.
Job, challenged by life tragedies
Jesus in Gethsemane

Psalm 88:18: You caused my friends and loved ones to leave me.
    Now darkness is my closest friend.

I spoke to one of my parishioners in a quiet shared moment at the Cathedral. I had said "God had me right where he wanted me; late at night alone and helpless in a bed in a palliative care room bed after radical chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  I told God I was ready to listen."
My friend asked "What did he say?" My response: "Absolutely nothing"

 Then I added..."Now let me finish".  "God said nothing. All was dark.  But I continued to wait ,and  in that I became totally honest "with whatever was out there" .  Lying in physical and spiritual darkness I let everything go. As I openly declared my sense of fear, anger, weakness, and helplessness I realized that I was fully acknowledging the presence of some of these things for the first time in my life. In that moment, I was overwhelmed by God's elusive presence and knew I was closer to God than ever before in my life.

Much has been written about these ideas of " Luminous Darkness, and Dark Nights of the Soul", and I have experienced them both at different times and at different levels in my life, but never like this.
It gave birth to a whole new hope and faith within me.
Shortly after that I spoke to my Children calmly, and with great peace letting them know that no matter what the outcome, I was going to be just fine.

Now,  almost four years after as I continue sorting through the collateral damage, I am still discovering and learning to articulate what I have come to call the "Giftedness of the Darkness"

Cancer changed me forever because I could no longer ignore the questions or the deep call from within, to integrity and courage in seeking the truth.
I have come to see that the questions I have asked after my catastrophe are  really the same ones I have been asking all along.

It has deepened the empathy I have for those who suffer, and has caused me to place even greater importance on the value  of the Church as a community of people, bound in faith and authentic love and concern for each other.


Recently, I was working through a long, difficult day.  Suppertime  was near and some family and friends were gathering at our place to share a meal.  When I arrived at the house two of my grandkids were already there. 
 I had a just few hours, before having leave the rectory and head out again.  In my tiredness   I wished I could settle in for the evening, hang out with the family, and have an early night. 
My wife placed my infant grandson in my arms because: " I am getting supper, you have to go out again, so make the best of it."
I did. Having Trygger in my arms, and Teghan running around demanded my full attention. As I walked and rocked and gurgled and sang to my grandson his big blue eyes began to get heavy. It took about an hour, but he finally fell asleep in my arms. This little meditation emerged from my heart:
Long rough days...are best ended when you rock your grandson and he falls asleep in your arms.
We pour our hearts out to the world in the hope that the truest words are heard, and the broken ones are forgiven....when a child trusts you enough to let go and sleep...eternity whispers to you and says....all will be well. Thank you Lord.

Article Two : The Green Chair

Article # 2 In The Green Chair

Green patient's chairs wait in a corner of each small examination room at the Cancer Clinic in St. John's. For my first time  in that dubious seat of honour, an oncology team comprised of doctors, nurses, specialists and students were all gathered around me in this one place.  One physician spoke about the treatments I was about to undergo while  the others looked quietly at me, assessing my reaction. 
  "We are going to make you very, very sick.”.
 The Chemotherapy would be among the highest doses ever given in our province.  I would start off in the Gander  clinic for two doses  then be admitted and isolated for a 120 hour regimen of more Chemotherapy.  I would be helped as "best they could", to keep me going. Once  recovered enough, I would  travel to St. John's  for radiation interspersed with more chemotherapy . This cycle would be repeated  several times in the hope of destroying the tumour.  Each round of chemotherapy wiped out my white blood cells ,my weakness and vulnerability compounded by serious radiation burns from the inside out of my neck. I could not eat or swallow for weeks at a time, and had to fight against malnutrition infections and dehydration. I became helpless. The staff at the Cancer Clinics in Gander and St. John’s was attentive, encouraging and sympathetic to me and my wife Karen, who never left my side. They went above the call of duty, and kept me going.


Beyond family, only the Vestry and Wardens of our parish knew about my illness. After my diagnosis and treatments were outlined I spoke to the congregation during a very emotional Eucharist  to disclose every detail.

 We have a strong, trusting and loving fellowship among the leadership and membership of the Cathedral . I felt  it important for my Church family to be part of the whole journey. I believed that Jesus would use all of this to strengthen and bless the Church.

 I told everyone that I was about to take a long walk through the Valley of The Shadow and  would make sure that they knew everything that was happening. I started an online blog  to honestly share my physical, mental and spiritual challenges.  I wanted to make sure that people got the right story, and I honestly believed, that even in darkness and despair, God's love would be found by sightings and glimpses of Grace  in the Valley of the Shadow.  I had no idea at the time as to just how dark, lonely and painful this journey was to be.
Good wishes and love poured in for the next eight months from our Parish and beyond providing both a sustaining energy, and much material to ponder theologically.


It is not easy to portray the entirety of my theological reflection in a short article, but let me leave you with these two contrasting memories for your own reflection: Many people would say something like this to me:  "Revd. John, you will be all right. God won't let anything happen to you. He still needs you do so much more work ." Good words. Well intentioned and somewhat comforting.Somewhat.

When I began my ordained ministry years ago, one of the first sick persons I ministered to was an  lady in the final stages of Cancer. I'll never forget the incredible sadness in her eyes or her plea: " I don't understand why God is letting this happen to me. I have served Him well, and still have so much to offer."

I have journeyed as best I could, part way through the Valley with some people.
But no other person can ever get you through to the other side.
Whatever brokenness or illness that causes your pain, is yours. You are the only person who can work it out with God. Others who love you will try to share it, carry it for you, and weep with you. Thank God for those people. They are Sacramental. They are glimpses of blue sky on a rainy day, their love is a healing power and because of them, the journey can become bearable...even beautiful, as God makes His point for your life known.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Anglican Life Articles.

A while back I was asked to write a series of articles of around 800 words, to reflect on the nature of being a Christian leader with Cancer.  They are really just a summary (of sorts) of what is contained in this blog.
The articles are nearing completion; three have been published.
I share them here with you...one at a time.

Article 1  Beginnings

The nurses are all smiles and chat when I wake up. "You are still in the operating room.  Your biopsy is done, and the doctor will be right back to have a word with you."
"How are you doing old boy?.... Things went well. "
A little pause. The doctor looks at me to make sure I am getting it.
"You  have a tumor. There some things we have to do.  We will start with an MRI, and decide on treatments.  I might be getting ahead of myself here,  but we both know what this is." Another pause:
 " Let's wait for the pathology  and MRI results, and I'll see you in the Cancer Clinic. "

The MRI  revealed  the location and size of the tumor , and spots and shadows  on my  lungs and neck. While these turned out to be of no concern,  the pathology confirmed   stage three cancer  at the base of my tongue and throat.  Within a short time I was registered at the Cancer Clinic , and learned the raw details:
"The tumor is Cancer . It's a large one"
"We honestly don't know how this is going to go."
"Surgery means we will remove your tongue and most of your vocal cords."
"Your best option is Chemotherapy and Radiation.
"If it doesn’t work, we are not burning the bridge. We can do the operation later, but believe me surgery is your very last option.”

That week I was scheduled to attend the General Synod of Our Church.
Now I preparing for a different journey.
Off we went, reflecting  on everything that had happened up to this point . After some family time and discussions, we began to let everyone know what was going on.

I am blessed in the Parish I serve. There are many stories to be shared of the love, compassion and faithfulness of the Church through my illness and treatments. From the very beginning I resolved to share everything that was about to happen on a regular basis with the Parish and the larger Church.

I suppose the reasoning and motivation for this was simple.  First of all, I love the Church, and as a Priest, called and ordained, I know my responsibilities of witness and teaching. Secondly ,I am experienced enough in the Valley of Shadows to be able to point out to people some of the "Sightings of Grace" that I had experienced there . I began a blog, and was able to continue writing throughout the whole process. "Sightings of Grace in the Valley of the Shadow", was my chosen metaphor. It was shared online, and published on paper for Church members who did not have internet access.

I had no idea of how dark, terrifying  and demanding this walk was going to be. The doctors and nurses  began, as best they could, to prepare me for what was to come.
Every part of my Physical Mental and Spiritual  being would be tested and threatened by death.
 The treatment had to be aggressive if I was to have a chance .  The duration and dosage of Chemotherapy was far above that considered normal or safe. One of the Doctors in Gander insisted  that I get a feeding tube which would allow nutrition to be pumped directly into my stomach.  It saved my life.  Extensive Chemotherapy and Radiation  burned my neck and throat. I could no longer swallow, drink or talk; eight months without food brought me from 200 pounds down to 89.  
 The journey includes more than  challenges to physical health. Cancer demands control over daily affairs, personal finances, family, Church and  ministry.

I have always tried to encourage many hurting people to "Leave it to God and trust His perfect will." The prayer I wrote before beginning treatment was:
"Come Lord, and gently lay your hands on my body and my heart. Come Lord, I trust you with my loved ones and my affairs. Come lord, and use my weakness to Bless your Church".
There were days and nights when that prayer seemed unreachable. It can be tough to separate beauty from ashes when you are badly wounded. I'll let you know how it went.
Receiving Radiation after Chemo...meditating, listening to corny (but comforting music) and feeling very,very sick.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

October 26 2012

 It's Done. The walk ...both of them now over.
I have asked the folks who walked today either in Gander or to Glenwood to find this blog and use the comments to share their experience. It was a good day...the weather was fantastic, we were in good spirits.

It's done .......but our journey continues

We were close to 60 strong in terms of actual walkers, but much larger in number through those who participated through donations, promotion and providing vehicle support, moral support.
Much larger again because we were walking  as we believe,  in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, in the love and family of Christ's Church here on earth, and in Communion with those whom we love but see no longer.
I do hope others will share their experiences in some way.

Thank You Lord,..... I felt strong today.
 I set out with the crowd after our prayer at the Irving Restaurant here in Gander, and was able to move through the crown while we were still close together, hugging and touching every person as a gesture of my gratitude .

At one point I looked at those close to me and said..."see you when you get to Glenwood!" They laughed...but I had asked the Lord to bless me with a physical  rhythm, and a focused  attitude of prayer. I was already loaded up emotionally as you can imagine..... with the imagery of Walking out of the Shadows into the warm light of Creation, and the warm love of the Church. So eventually, I moved to the front of the pack...and made it in exactly three hours.
Iris Newman caught me just before the overpass, and we walked together having a great chat. We both needed it.

 I was glad to be in front. Perhaps not for the reasons you might think.
Any one familiar with Anglican worship knows that the Presider, (or Celebrant) always walks in last. When the Bishop is in Church he is at the end of the line. Being last is a sign of leadership, spiritual authority, and a reflection on the Biblical Idea of Humility ......... (Jesus said the Last shall be first... The First shall be Last.)
As I approached Glenwood at "The Head of the Line", I said to Iris, " Being first to the Church building in Glenwood  is my way of saying...I am the least of these my Brethren. Those who are walking behind me today are the real leaders of our Church."  ...Then, the tears came. Tears of joy mind, because our Church ...............means so much to so many.

Along the way I listened to a wide variety of music, some fast, some slow...some LOUD some quiet. God's blessing is there through sacred and secular music.... the words and music helped me not only to keep a good  varied pace, but helped me to pray.
It was a good day.
Quite a few times on the Journey I looked to the Left and Right, enjoying the view...and being before God in reflection  for the people and their various circumstances that the Spirit placed in my mind. There were times today while walking that I wept openly.

 There were times also when I was overwhelmed by the knowledge of all the people who were walking behind me... knowing you are supported...and knowing that we support each other gives meaning to the Church that is hard to put into words.
Please remember  and think about these words: Authentic Community.
 Lets make it real, and keep it real! That's when Miracles happen.

About an hour later, the last two pilgrims made it to Glenwood. My wife Karen, and my dear friend Joanie. Joanie is the Patient Care Co-ordinator at the Gander Cancer Clinic and went far above the call of duty to help me through.
Both of these women saved my life. Sure and simple.
I met them as they made the turn, and together all the crew went into St. Andrew's to pray, and Listen to Danielle Coates read the 23 Psalm.

Though we walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, we will fear nothing...Because God is with us...and has given us the gift of each other. We are not alone.

Back in Gander, a Second Parish Walk was scheduled to start at 2:30,led by Revd. Brian Candow. 

I walked over to St. Martin's Chapel to wish them well. After prayer about 20 people set out on a seven Kilometer walk.  I joined in and walked along with them. Again, thanking each one in a quiet way for all the love.  I walked for a time with our Church Warden Carl Dyke we shared our thanksgivings and a few tears as God's grace flowed through this group as well.
Back at the Cathedral we had a time of prayer, and once again listened to the 23rd Psalm.
Thank you everyone...Thank you Lord.

Friday, October 25, 2013

October 25, 2013 The night Before Walking out of the Shadows

I am having a Gentle time of it tonight.
Had  a high Carb supper with my dear friends  to get ready for the walk.
My darling wife was at work... 
After supper, I quickly answered  some correspondence then jumped on my motorcycle and headed off to Wal-Mart to get some (made in North America ) headphones.
On the way back I stopped in to see the folks holding our overnight youth event at the parish hall.  
Home now, tucked in with my laptop, listening to Eric Clapton doing some acoustic music.

In a few hours I will get up, shake the neuropathy out of my feet and hands and head for the door.  Tomorrow I will  start walking on a journey that is real and symbolic at the same time.
In the Church we describe Sacraments as something we can see, hear, feel, taste , touch and experience as that which connects us to the Grace of Our God.
I have shared that the walk to Glenwood was something I have been wanting to do for a long time......
Dreaming of it actually..... through tears of frustration, when it was all I could do to walk the 60 feet or so from the Rectory to the back door of the Church in an attempt to get moving again.

I used to go over to the Church to be alone and try to face the new reality of being broken, busted,angry and afraid.  (Yes bit of self pity too)
I will always remember the overwhelming feelings I had when walking around St. Martin's  on those never-ending days ,wondering how much longer I would be here...and wondering If I would ever be able to lead this Church again........ When Cancer treatments are done and the folks say good bye...you really feel alone.
 At first ,I held on to each pew to keep from falling. Gradually I made one, then two circuits of the Church building before sitting down.
One day I made it up to the balcony.  

The image of the Valley of the Shadow is one that relates well to the human condition. In my life I have been there a few times; most recently driven by Cancer to the place Psalm 23 refers to as:
 Be-gei tzalmavet : A Death like Valley of Shrouded Darkness.

I know this place has been visited by many, and for many different reasons. A great cloud of witnesses can attest to this.

I always believed that I would see our Lord in that place, but have never been na├»ve enough in thinking that any journey we must take in life was always going to be a smooth ride.

Indeed, it wasn't until I surrendered and admitted my frustration, anger, fear, disappointment, pain and unbelief to myself and THEN honestly and openly before God, that I was able to see the Grace that  surrounding me on my treacherous sojourn in the Valley and in the slow steps that I was finally able to take towards the other end....

 Now, three years after my treatments are over the Oncologist has told me that my MRI is good, Chest X-Ray is good and I am still headed in the right direction.
 Good timing! Tomorrow I will walk  symbolically, sacramentally out of the Valley of The Shadow.
 
Adding  to this symbolic spiritual Exodus is the number of people who have clearly told me that they are walking with me.

There are people walking with US all...those who have made it, those who are still in the Valley, those who miss their loved ones...a number too great to count; each one precious to God. I will be praying tomorrow, and remembering you. I thank God we are together.

Yes ... I am having a quiet evening. Getting ready for the walk tomorrow, and feeling very thankful for those who have caught the spiritual vision of this. Also very thankful for the young people who are walking tomorrow.
It is such a powerful feeling to realize that the phrase "companions on the journey" is something I have had witness of through my illness and recovery...indeed at the heart of any Church that is authentic is real compassion, patience and Love. 

We are meeting at the Goose in the morning (7:45)  Having a prayer and taking a few snaps.
Friends have arranged for vehicles to accompany us, and we will end our walk at St. Andrews Church. The doors will be open, and the heat will be on as the Church welcomes us we gather for prayer.


At this stage of my life I am able to look back and see the hand of God in the darkness. How thankful am I? May my life show it Lord...not just my words. But bless every word if it be your will.
Amen.

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21 2013 Three year Appointment


I am writing this entry while  sitting on a DRL bus enroute to St. John's.
 My wife is already" in there", Elissa, our second daughter who is "great with Child" is also visiting with Karen, shopping for the baby, and I hope, relaxing. We are scheduled to meet this Grandchild on November 12.

I am partly through a marathon in the parish. Over the past few days  we have had youth events, parent meetings, regular worship, a parish fundraiser, two funerals and  wedding. Top that off with the regular parish demands, Vestry meeting and an invite to speak at a Cancer survivor service in Wesleyville.

I am on the bus doing some reading and writing.  It's a bus..swaying back and forth, dark and in the background a family movie is playing...just a little too loud for my liking.

Tomorrow morning I will be visiting the Cancer Clinic at Bliss Murphy  again. Last week I had a chest x-ray and MRI. in Gander .

 I'll soon hear about what they see there.  Not worried at all.

Some time ago I promised to return to this blog and continue to share. At that time I wasn't sure  where I was headed. Now, I am three years past the conclusion of my treatment - enough time I think, to have developed a well rounded perspective on just how I have done.
There are some things to share.

I am amazed at how the Emotional, Physical, and Spiritual fallout is strikingly similar  to so many other life situations folks experience that have nothing to do with cancer.
Cancer can be like a searchlight-- blinding in its illuminating power. Might take some more time for my eyes to adjust to the light...but I wonder......
         Is it possible that I can be thankful for this gift..Is it possible to find God in all this?

 I Will try to let you know the way I have dealt with the question of what do  when the people who we hands on in providing the treatments say :" You are finished !  Good Bye and Good Luck!"
that's tougher than you might think. You have trusted these folks enough to believe they really were NOT trying to Euthanize you,  and were really doing all they could to save your life.

Hold me close as you let me go.......real close.

I will try and let you know about the side effects

I will try and let you know about how the side effects of Cancer can be much much  more, than a physical challenge.

I will try to be honest

I will try to help.


  This week I will be taking a spiritual journey.  This journey will be symbolically  travelled through a real and tangible event. (sounds like a Sacrament doesn't it?)  I remember crying when I settled on the title of this blog "Sightings of Grace in the Valley of the Shadow.". It meant a lot to me, because I was certain that I would encounter God there. It meant a lot to me.
The walk?

It is called "Walking out of the Valley of the Shadow." Going from Gander to Glenwood - my home town. Tell you though, Gander sure is home. That's the place where my Church family loved me through.

I cried when I wrote the first description of the walk, because as I was writing I realized how powerful this symbol was for me. Move on....Do what needs to be done..You can do it!

I love to ride my Motorcycles. Yes I have two..a little sport bike and a vintage cruiser. When you are riding a bike on a cold day it can be ...miserable. Cold air, gusts of wind, rain can make the ride a challenge.  But you ride because you love it. You love getting warm after you reach your destination.
Bikers in Newfoundland often share a saying: " If you don't ride in bad weather in Newfoundland..You don't ride." True. 

There is another part of riding that should be described. First off, let me remind you that you don't drive a Bike. You ride it. You are on your cycle.. part of the machine.  Because your thinking, body and physical response becomes essential to a safe and enjoyable ride, something special happens.

So here you are...riding on a sunny but cool autumn day.   You descend a hill. There is cold air flowing that you never feel when in a car...but waits for a biker. It wraps around you suddenly as the Sun hides behind the trees. Accompanied by the sudden chill is the smell of the fall leaves and wet grass .The cold air suddenly reminds you of what God has been trying to say to you.
The engine, slowing  as you climb the hill  reminds you that you are losing speed. That can be a spiritual reminder too...when you are in tune. Then suddenly the sun is on your face again and you feel  warm air; comfort contentment...peace. The shoulders relax, you stretch and are thankful for the ride.
 You roll on the throttle until the engine returns to the harmonic vibration you know so well. Back up to speed.  A sacred moment.

We all need sacred moments to get on with the business of life.
I am slowing rolling on the throttle.. slowly.....because believe me...after Cancer, I am riding a very different bike.

I'll let you know how it goes.

But in the meantime
Coming out of the Valley of the Shadow... Sure feels good.  I am looking forward to the walk to Glenwood.  It is going to be Sacramental.
Can't say I won't cry when I get there. Don't care if I do.  I am already feeling the power of God's Grace because of this walk
I am being healed, amazed and overwhelmed when I realize the number of people who have decided they didn't want me to walk alone .   A lot of people are walking with me on Saturday coming.

Some are physically walking along the route. Another shorter  route is planned in Gander .

Many are walking by making a donation.

Others  are walking that didn't make it  through  ... "Those whom we love but see no longer."

 Some are walking that are still trying to get through. They are with us because they being carried along in our hearts.  Different people, different motivations ,but the same love that binds us together.

 I am beyond thankful.
May all of our lives get back up to speed after whatever cold valley we have been forced to walk through.

I wish you peace