Just Starting to Read this Blog?

Scroll down for the first entries

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Getting Some Early Results ....... Entry 22

Yesterday morning found me back at the Health Science Radiation department to meet a whole new group of people, have an IV placement, a C.T. Scan,and a special mask made that will hold my head firmly in place when the radiation treatments start. As well as all of that I was to receive some news from the M.R.I. that I had a day sooner.
While we were in the waiting room one of the staff members came out and sat with us for a few minutes.
"You don't know me do you?" I replied, that I did, but couldn't remember her name. Turns out that she was one of the young people in Grand Bank who used to frequent the back yard of the rectory. When we were there our girls had all sorts of friends so our home, with it's large basement,big yard (with two wonderful huge rocks for lying on) and willing parents, became the hang out for a lot of young people.
This young lady and I began to reminisce,and in so doing recalled a couple of sad stories about tragedies that had befallen some of the young people in our town during those years. I had a special ministry to the young people of the parish in those days,partly because of my passion for youth work,but largely because many of our youth were going through hard times. We had a high rate of teen suicide,depression,drug and alcohol issues that obviously caused a lot of darkness and brokenness. The positive result was the formation of a community with a unique and strong bond.
Anyway,one of the young people we spoke of was a beautiful young lady named Michelle. She was a member of our Church,part of the youth group and a member of our little youth choir.
She was one of the kids who would come to the house,sleep over (sneak out to play in the yard at 3:30 in the morning,not knowing that they were being watched carefully the whole time), and was part of "the gang". She had a mischievous way about her ,and a smile that could cheer you up!
Let me make a long story a little shorter. In time, I left the parish,and physically left my beloved young people behind. They grew some more , graduated from high school and began to get on with their lives.
While Michelle was just out of High School,she was diagnosed with cancer. It broke my heart to hear the news.
It broke a lot of hearts,because the prognosis was not good. She fought bravely,finishing one semester of university and getting ready for another. In between, I had been invited to Grand Bank to do a wedding at the Salvation Army,so I went early to see my old friend. It was a good visit. She also attended the wedding. When the service was over,I joined her at the back of the Church for a chat and a hug. I'll never forget what she said. "Father John,that was a beautiful service. Promise me that when I get married you'll come and do the wedding?" A nod from me, and a smile. "Or my Funeral?" I looked at her and wept, I made the promise. Wasn't too long after that and she was gone.

Now, lets go back to the waiting room.
Shortly after my conversation, Dr. Sathya came and sat with us. This Doctor is so gentle and caring,that you automatically think of him as a friend. He explained the process of what was about to happen -pausing between P.A. announcements in order to ensure we heard everything that he was saying.
Then,after the technical stuff, said that he had looked at yesterday's M.R.I.
"Good News". He told us that the image shows a definite shrinkage in the tumour. he estimated it to be a almost fifty percent. "That's what I was hoping for",he smiled and left us.
What it means is that the Chemotherapy has been effective in doing what needed to be done. It also shows us that this tumour will respond to treatment. It allows room for some really positive energy!
So how did we feel?
- That prayer had been answered.
- We felt Thankful for the power of Prayer - and friends- and the Church - and all the notes and messages
- We felt like we had "Scored one for the Team". We were filled with joy.
We cried because of the emotions,and when we called our children, they cried too.

Any thing else?
I thought of Michelle and a host of other people who I shared news with over the years.
News that was not always good. I hurt for them and for for their families. Before God, in that moment I blessed their memories.
These wounded are the beloved of God,and the memory of them will remain in my heart forever. Their prayers and good wishes for me are precious.
I was amazed at how much it Hurt.

With all that we say about God.....
With all we say about His Goodness,Loving Kindness and Mercy.....
We should never forget that his answer is not always "Yes".
And, we should never forget that some people go through great pain and sadness - not because they don't have faith,or because they don't believe,
because life is hard sometimes, and we are human.

With all I say about God,
I remember....
.....and pray for Grace to remember,
that I am no more loved by the Father or more deserving, or better, (or worse)
than anyone else.

I believe with all my heart though,that no matter what happens to any of us,it is God's will and action to keep us in his hand and love us. Someday,all will be reconciled and made perfect in his love. What a party we are going to have when we all make it home someday!

In thankfulness today,I say to you that I am just a beggar who has found some bread (The Bread of Life), and I wish to share it with as many other beggars as I meet.

May God Bless you My friends.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back to Church for Morning Prayer ,Off To Town for an MRI Entry 21

On Sunday (July 25) I was able to attend morning worship at the Cathedral. Overall I have been feeling pretty good. I have been able to see a few people at the rectory and make some telephone and email connections.

Some of the things that take the pressure off me in relation to Parish life begin with the fact that summer is here. Things slow down in the parish during the summer months (they don't stop!), so I have a sense of peace - I have a sense that we are all resting and building up strength and our anticipation for the fall.

Also,we have a wonderful group of leaders at St. Martin's. Our Wardens and Vestry are faithful and committed to our mission,and have been very supportive of my journey back to health.
The same can be said for the members of our Parish.
On Sunday morning during the sermon,I was able to say "Thank You"to everyone and assure them that I can fell the powe of their prayers and love!
We all know that I have a way to go,and that from August to October I will be undergoing some intensive radiation and chemotherapy at the same time.

I am not looking forward to it -at least not the part where I lose all appetite and taste,and possibly some of my hearing.These things will be out of my control,as will be the amount of pain that is yet to come.
I am however , standing on thankfulness and faith!
I am remembering that the goal that I press toward is health and a life blessed by God,family and the fellowship of my Church.
I look forward to that!

There is a passage in Philippians 3:14 that I love: I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
To me this passage is a reminder of the providence and care that comes from the One whom I trust with all that I am,and all that I will ever be.
My commitment to serve and honour Christ has not wavered,and my prayer is that God will use me to bless others,and draw us all closer to His heart and to each other.

I was able to have a meeting with our Church Wardens Yesterday morning before I left for St. John's. Together we discussed the activities taking place in the parish,and got caught up on things. I thank God for the ministries of Carl and Debbie. They represent our vestry and people well! They have reminded me that though my illness has changed the face of my ministry,my it has continued and grown in other areas. I am thankful that this blog has been a blessing to people.
I am also very thankful for the ongoing lay ministries that make our Church what it is- a warm and welcoming community,where together we are learning how to follow Jesus in our time.
I thank God for the staff of St. Martin's - Our Clergy, Brian and Harvey who faithfully exercise their ministries with love and hope. For Derek and Tracey for caring about our property and people,Revd. Arnold Torraville for his ongoing ministry of visiting,and Bishop David,my friend and rock through all of this.

MRI Today
We drove in from Gander yesterday. I am at Torbay,in my daughter's house. It is very quiet here because the Grand kids are with their parents back in Gander. It is different,for sure. This house is usually buzzing with noise and activity!
At any rate,the quietness matches my mood. I started typing this around 6 a.m. this morning. I awoke early after a good night's sleep and am getting ready for the day.
Today is the day the process of answering some big questions begins. I am scheduled for an MRI at 2:00. Tomorrow I see some specialists about the radiation therapy.
I am not at all apprehensive about machines or testing,but obviously am anxious to hear the answer to the question "Has the Chemotherapy shrunk the tumour?" and "how do things look for the future?"
I know from past experience with family and friend who have had cancer how it feels just before an appointment. I am no different - but I will meet this day with a smile,with hope and with love in my heart.
I'll let you know how things go!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

First Days Home (Entry 20)

At our house in Glenwood we have a Damson tree. This little plum tree was planted in our yard over twenty years ago. If you have patience enough to wait until after the first frost,the fruit becomes sweet and rich. Every year without fail,this tree has given us a great crop of Damsons,some of which end up in the Church fall sale,in our grand children's baskets,or as gifts to neighbours and friends.
Until last year that is. Over the past few years our tree has developed what is known as Black Knot. Black Knot is known by the rough, black areas that grow on trees that are infected. Eventually it kills the tree. I have been pruning and hoping for a couple of years that we would beat this,but last year it seemed that the tree would have to go.

I had decided to cut down the tree this year,but my health prevented me from doing my usual spring yard work so the tree was spared. When I did get out to have my Spring look around the yard,it was after my diagnosis and I was having a pretty good day.
I walked over to the Damson tree and looked at it. Not much promise. A few leaves trying to grow,but the tree was no where near where it should be.

It looked like a skeleton.

I placed my hand on the trunk and said: (yes ,out loud) "My old friend,you look like someone with cancer. I can't bear to cut you down. Let's see what happens."

That was another one of those moments where the whole diagnosis comes crashing back,and you are forced to spend some moments in wondering what is to come. Sadness ,Joy,and hope mingled together.
I guess in the same way I want my tree to live,I reach out in hope for my own future days.

Here are some of the scriptures I hold on to:
I went to the Lord for help. He answered me and rescued me from all my fears. -- Psalm 34:4

I'm convinced that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it through to completion on the day of Christ Jesus. -- Philippians 1:6

Wait with hope for the Lord. Be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Yes, wait with hope for the Lord. -- Psalm 27:14

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phillipians 4:19

I have been home since Monday (July 19). My goal has been to rest and get those calories that I need each day into my system. I have lost almost 55 pounds since I was diagnosed with cancer,and it is vital that I stabilize the weight loss before beginning my radiation treatments. I am doing the best I can now with each day because I know when the radiation starts,the intent is to give me some more chemotherapy at the same time. I am bracing for this time,getting my heart soul and body ready as best I can. Through all this thoughts of Family,My Church,and all of you have kept me going.

When I got home from the hospital this week it took some getting used to. This fifteen days stint in hospital was quite the experience. The Chemotherapy overpowered my system,the feeding tube site was infected,white Blood cells gone . Reaching the turning point where my blood cells began to recover was a cause for thanksgiving. It touched my heart when the nursing staff would come into my room and celebrate with me! While I was in the hospital I was placed in isolation,so I want to thank all of you who tried to visit,but were stopped by the staff,or signs on the hospital room door. There was a time during all of this when I felt incredibly lonely and cut off from everyone. I especially missed St. Martin`s congregation because I enjoy the fellowship so much ,and draw so much strength from our Church. Thanks for all the love!

Anyway, when I got used to the fact that I was back in my own house and that Karen would actually be able to spend a night in her own bed too, I settled in for a good nights sleep.

The first day home I took some time to read the cards and emails I had received. I was sitting in my favorite chair in our living room and had a moment or two or three... in which I was overcome with emotion simply because I realized the extent of how much people care and were expressing that love. I have received some powerful personal notes and gifts from people. This is a powerful healing force,and I am humbly thankful for it.

I am also thankful for our health care system. The whole environment of care that you enter as a cancer patient is second to none here in Newfoundland,and that is because of the people for sure. I have always appreciated and been thankful for health care workers in my roles as a pastor and as a patient over the years,but this experience has certainly deepened my regard and appreciation.

Nurses and caregivers in the health care system seem to have a have a special wisdom and heart quality about them. That wisdom becomes obvious when you engage them in a conversation. It doesn't take long to realize that they have experienced much,care much and are doing the very best they can for everyone committed to their care. I wonder sometimes if people fully appreciate just how hard they work from the time each 12 hour shift begins until they are able to go home. Minute by minute,hour by hour,caring giving and sharing.
Thank you. Thank you So much.

Whats Next
As I mentioned, I expect to be in St. John's from the 27 -28 for an MRI and the imaging work required to make a mask for the radiation. Soon after the MRI we will be able to share with you how much the tumor is shrinking. We are believing it is. my voice is stronger and clearer,and I able to eat and swallow again.
I know that this is a temporary thing because the radiation therapy will cause my throat to be very sore - but at least we know that this is part of the cure!

I have been resting,but doing a few light jobs around the house to "get the blood going",doing a bit of work for the Diocese and parish websites,and even a few counseling appointments as I feel strong enough. I have been spending time in prayer and study as well. Who knows what Sunday will bring?

My first radiation treatments begin in early to mid August if all goes according to plan. I will see Dr. St. Croix this afternoon. Karen and I both look forward to meeting with this wonderful Doctor and her staff at the Cancer Clinic. She is direct,encouraging,caring,and has become a great blessing to us.

Oh The Damson tree? It's worth a drive by to look at it. There's a picture for you up above.There are a few bare branches,but overall the tree is doing great,and is loaded with Damsons!
I'll have lots to share in the fall. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Still Working on number 2! (Entry 19)

July 15
Today marks one month since I started Chemotherapy. The nursing staff and Folks at the Cancer clinic have become regular fixtures in my life and I am thankful for them. Karen feels the same. We are also incredibly grateful for all the cards,notes and letters from people all around the province and Country. It makes one realise just how many relationships we move through in a lifetime, and how friends never really forget each other. It makes me realise how important it is to make the best ,and be the best for each other.
I have been in the hospital now for eleven days and expect to be here for at least four more. My white blood cells have been dropping, but thank God, this morning they finally began to rise. My feeding tube infection is well under control, and I am taking another try at a pump,which puts liquid food directly into my stomach . If I can tolerate it this time,we will try a direct feed and I'll still be able to eat regular fashion if I choose.

Because this lot of chemotherapy overpowered my system, it had to be stopped early. The doctors have decided to move ahead with radiation preparations with more chemotherapy mixed in.
I expect to be in St. John's from the 27 -28 for an MRI and the imaging work required to make a mask for the radiation. Soon after the MRI we will be able to share with you how much the tumor is shrinking. We are believing it is.

Today has been a better day,although I am very tired. I look forward to tomorrow,a little more energy,and a little more hope for us all.
May God Bless you and Keep you all this night my friends.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Second Treatment Entry 18

Getting a Feeding Tube (Last Monday July 5th)
I have cancer in my tongue and the upper part of my throat.
Surgery is not an impossible option,but, because it involves my tongue and vocal chords we have left it behind for now.

For that reason the treatment choice was to aggressively go after the tumour with chemotherapy, and when it shrinks as much as possible, finish it of with radiation.

Sounds good to me!

However, getting to that point in the road is not that easy. The first thing I have to keep on my mind is the importance of nutrition.

Bad enough having Cancer in your mouth , (It really hurts!) You have to eat to maintain a healthy weight and balance and to combat the effects of your treatment.

That's been a huge problem for me. My appetite is gone. No taste,Lots of pain - and ,after the first round of chemotherapy,I assure you you do not want to eat.
I had adjusted my diet to include all kinds of supplements and nutrients, but still,by the time I entered hospital last week,had lost another 8 lbs.
It was time for another adjustment. When I face radiation therapy my throat will feel worse. The doctors tell me that specific areas may respond quite strongly to what is going to happen,and that I will probably need some help with nutrition.
That time came earlier than we thought,and because I need to get some weight back right now,we decided to proceed with the insertion of a feeding tube. For the first hours all went well. I was getting used to the tube that has been inserted through the front of my stomach,the bloating that comes with the new liquid diet,and the cramping that sometimes come when the tube is flushed. These are just mixtures and adjustments - I can handle it .
Sunday evening when the feeding began, all was normal, but before long I started to feel really cold and began to shiver uncontrollably. I asked one of the nurses for a blanket and bundled up, but I knew that something was going wrong. It wasn't until we turned off the food supply that I was able to settle down and stop shivering.

Dr. St. Croix came in and immediately consulted with her colleagues in the St. John`s Cancer Clinic,and together they determined that my body had taken all the Chemo it could stand. Chemotherapy is alien and poison to the body to begin with. That's how it works...it gets in between the cancer cells when they finish their little cycles,and prevents them from replicating.

My chemo had reached the point where it has become toxic to my body. All my levels have dropped sooner than before, and even with neupogen (a white cell stimulant),my white blood cells continue to drop. Tomorrow I must try and eat again. This is all to be expected because you carry the effects of the last treatments into the next ones but
I experienced a perhaps the most uncomfortable and fearful night of my life last night.
Earlier this afternoon Dr. St. Croix made some adjustments with my medications. Things began to improve,and I do believe all will be better. I am on four antibiotics as well to prevent any infections from getting hold of me while I am so vunerable. The only people allowed in the room are the nursing caregivers,and they are required to wear gowns and masks to keep me safe from any germs from other rooms.
The nursing staff on this unit have been wonderful. I know some of them from my pastoral work here at James Paton,some from the community,and still others from our Church family at St. Martin's. The little visits,smiles and stories have been a great blessing .
The plan now is to move on to an MRI discover how much this tumor has shrunk,and begin my radiation treatments. We just have to make sure that it is safe for me to leave the hospital.

Earlier today,when I woke from a nap I engaged the Lord in a time of prayer. Sometimes when I pray, I don't speak (not even with my mind) but focus on an image of the Cross, or my Bible,or even St. Martin's. My goal is to allow God to begin the thought process of this time of Communion. Sometimes I see different people who I know in our Church Congregation or community,and I pray for them at that time.
This afternoon, the words of a poem I studied in university came to me. The poem itself is incredibly sad,for the writer, John Keats is telling the tale of how he has leave his love behind forever, because he must leave the country due to failing health.

That was in 1820,and the poem is entitled Bright Star.
Some of the lines in the first verse refer to a star,steadfast and true, watching the earth from far above. Watching the oceans wash on earth's shores: "The moving waters at their priestlike task Of pure ablution round earth's human shores".
I love the thought of God's Spirit hovering over the water,and of natures touch -bringing healing and holiness to our broken world.
We do Ablutions after every Eucharist. The Priest and Eucharistic ministers present the Chalice to the presider , who lovingly and carefully cleans the Plate and Chalice of the Body and Blood of our Beloved Lord,so that it can be used again.
This was the image I received,and thanked God for today.
Shortly after,I needed to make an emergency dash to the bathroom,and needed help to get my self cleaned up. My beloved wife comes with towels and water,with love gentleness
and encouragement to perform her Ablutions. She not only represents herself and her undying love for me , but that of our children and family, and of God`s true Blessing in our midst. I am standing there,helpless,vulnerable,but I am safe. I Love you Karen
These are days of Love and Grace .
Thank You Lord

Sunday, July 11, 2010

July 10 2010 Dean and Tina's Wedding Entry 17

July 12 2010
A couple of Dear Friends were Married at St. Martin's Yesterday!

All weddings are special!
Each person brings something unique and there are new ideas to explore and young people to encourage. (We have married a few 80 year old folks over the years too! They are amazing and young at heart!
During marriage preparation,some couples draw closer to the church than others.
There are many reasons for that. Not everyone lives close by. We do a lot of weddings during the summer for people who are home on vacation. These people generally do a marriage preparation course offered by an other Church in another community . For those who live close,every gift of fellowship and friendship is offered.

I always look forward forward to weddings at St. Martin's.
Although right now, it looks now as though I not not be conducting wedding ceremonies for a while, I am still looking forward to the celebrations of love that will take place in our Church as couples come forward to seek the blessing of Friends, Family,and our Lord.
The couples being married next weekend have become people I know, who have prayed with,and will pray for.

When I was diagnosed with cancer it didn't take long for my world to turn upside down. So many things to think about,so many people to tell, so many questions to ask -- and not a day goes by that a question or challenges doesn't pop up.
I will speak about some of these later this week, but for tonight I want to write about another sighting of Grace I experienced while I was walking in the Valley of The Shadow.
Tina Hynes and Dean Pelley came to St. Martin's a few years back as a young couple who were seeking some information about our Church and our programs. To keep the story simple, They Got involved! My relationship with Tina and Dean began first with my role of the parish priest. This relationship began to grow as all friendships do when they are nurtured and lovingly challenged. Before too long both Karen and I were blessed to name Dean , Tina,and their children among our friends.

As I said,this past weekend some dear friends were married at St. Martin's. It took them a while to set the date (July,10) but when they did it seemed to arrive overnight!
My personal freight train was arviving as well. As time went on after June 8Th (the day I was given the official results ) I tried my best to organize my schedule , make as many realistic commitments as possible, and get ready for the storm.

One of my anchors was this wedding. I set my heart to it, scheduled around it and was determined to make it. We we busy preparing for the wedding in other ways as well. Karen,a beautiful bridesmaid to be, along with Kaylee and Ada helping with detail after detail until all was ready. Dean, in his fine new Suit,Son Jonathan by his side , and Jason getting ready to run down the Church to walk up the Aisle with "Momma". Add Garry Fudge's smiling face as best man, and away we go!

What a beautiful day,and Thank God for every moment of it.
I couldn't do it. No matter how hard I tried by the time the rehearsal was over, there was nothing left. Too much going on with the Chemotherapy,and too much to expect from this old body.
Dr. St. Croix came to visit me,and with her usual gentle wisdom helped me see that I was not going to meet this expectation. She also lovingly reminded me that those who loved me would be far more worried about my present health than anything.
Of course she was right. What a blessed team of caregivers we have in our Hospital in Gander, Dear God continue to bless their lives and hands!
What was left to do?
The staff left me for a moment. I phoned Karen and explained the story as best I could. (They were all in the middle of getting their hair done,and I was falling apart.)
Karen called Dean,and Said "Your buddy needs you, He's devastated"
Dean's only response was "I just want Him to be okay. I'll be right there."
When my friend walked in the door, I knew right away that he was reflecting what the entire wedding party in the very same words,(the entire Church for that matter was saying) when he grabbed me in his arms and smiled through the tears ``I love you John.... I love you Buddy ......Over and over...)) In that moment, I was able lo let go the Tears and the frustration and the sense of helplessness. Thanks Man. Thank you too Revd. Brian,for being the next in line with your open arms.
From that moment on I insisted to everyone I spoke to that it was time to celebrate!Lets celebrate what God IS doing!
What a great Day! Perfect Weather,loving friends and family Great Food,laughter blessing and and Gods ever present Blessing!
My joy was made complete when later that afternoon the Wedding party made their way back to my hospital room for some snaps. Tina,You were beautiful as a bride,on your wedding day you are beautiful as a person,and you and your family are the Beloved of God. Thank you for making us part of your special Day!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mixtures and Adjustments Entry 16

July 8 2010
When was a teenager I was captured by a love for mechanical things. Like most teens , I longed to be able to drive my own vehicle. There were far more teenagers in those days who did not have a license or a car,so if you were among the privileged few you were noticed by your peers!
At age 15 I traded off a guitar and purchased my first auto. It was a 1959 Volkswagen. I had a little money saved too, so I was actually able to get the thing running. I learned how to drive by sneaking around the back trails and paths that surrounded Glenwood. That thing was better than any quad!
I finished high school in 1976 at age 16,and had no hesitation as to what I wanted to do. I signed up for ``Trade School`` and took the course known as Motor Vehicle Repair.
Ralph Miller, soon to become friend and mentor, was my shop instructor .It was from Ralph that I first learned how important carburetors mixtures and adjustments were for the overall economy,efficiency and satisfaction one hoped to experience from an automobile.
You simply have to have the proper mixture of ingredients,and the right balance in the right amount to make things run smoothly.

The same is true for everyday life!

Over the years as a minister,I have used certain phrases over and over because I believe them to be very effective in conversation. One phrase that I use came to me from a patient I met when I was doing my pastoral training. He said to me "Your world gets pretty small in the moment you receive the news and hear the word Cancer."

I woke this morning,around 5:30 a.m. feeling the effects of my chemotherapy.
Even though his is my second treatment and I have a far better idea of what to expect,the changes in my life have been hitting like a ton of bricks.
The words that came to my mind were the ones I have chosen as a theme for my writing today..Life is indeed a series of Mixtures and Adjustments.,and I sure need some Carburetor work right now!
Some of the adjustments are being forced on me by this illness, some I must choose to make,and still others are God inspired and administered through His Spirit,and all of the people who are reaching out to us right now.

My final decision to write this blog came from my wife Karen's inspiration.She had the insight to see that writing would help me cope ,fulfil my desire to see the Church blessed through my Illness and provide honest ,open information to those who want to follow along.
Through it I am able to share the journey with you, and I thank you for being here.

There is something else too!
This is not Just about Revd. John having cancer. I believe that we all need to stop from time to time and let God have a major word about what is going on in our lives.
When I awoke with this theme "Mixtures and Adjustments" on my mind, I realized that this blog has the potential to bless people on totally different avenues of life where they too have found for various reasons , the path dark,lonely and devastating. There are sightings of Grace where ever you go friend, Everywhere.
So it is then that I commit my self to sharing with you,in the hope and knowledge that the ties that bind us together will open up doors of healing love for us all.
I welcome your stories and emails,and the way people have been opening their hearts to me as of late.

There is one more thing to remember ....
I am Not Superman! I .... have been afraid and anxious . I have worried about what happens next. We have been shedding some tears.

Cancer tells you that you are mortal -You have a fight on your hands.

is telling me that I have a friend and a guide through all the new relationships and realities that are part of my " daily Life." My eyes and heart are opened to new possibilities,and I am rather excited about seeing God's will fulfilled in all of this.

I was a pretty good carburetor man in my time. I always had the knack of finding that spot where there was no hesitation between a smooth idle and a full bore acceleration.
Now I am asking for more grace as I continue to be a student of our Lord's perfect will. With God`s grace I am still learning to be a good adjuster of what life throws at me,my family,and the Church that he has caused me to love so much.

This seems a good time to quote the serenity prayer which has been adapted by so many,for many different reasons.

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference. Through Jesus Christ our Lord,

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Saying Thank You to Everyone (entry 15)

July 6

One of the goals in yesterday’s blog was to express the thankfulness Karen and I feel in our hearts for all the care I and my family have been receiving from so many people.
We Love the Church - We Love you!

If you have ever visited my study at the rectory, you will have seen a picture which was given to me by the youth of St. Albans Church in Badger’s Quay. It shows a quote from Victor Hugo :

"The greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved “.

Hugo went on to say this-- “loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves."

I have always found Victor Hugo’s reflections to be very meaningful, but the one above has always been special to me. I remember when the children gave me the plaque, one of them said “See Revd. John, we do listen to your sermons!”
There were tears of joy from me in Church that morning......It is so wonderful to have your ministry affirmed!
It reminds me of another Hugo quote: "Joy's smile is much closer to tears than laughter."

How wonderful to Know (not just hope, or long for, or wonder after, or pray that maybe….) but to Know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are loved!

For me as a follower of Jesus, these words carry a lot of weight.
First of all , I believe them to be an accurate description of the goal Jesus has for us - That we Know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God loves us.
Secondly, these words remind each of us that we are called to do whatever we can , to love others in radical ways. (We call that “Authentic Community” at St. Martin’s- we are not perfect, but we are working on it for His sake!)

The old phrase “Christ has no hands but ours" should never be allowed to become a clique .
It is found in a prayer by St. Teresa of Avila:

Lord Christ,
You have no body on earth but ours,
No hands but ours, No feet but ours.
Ours are the eyes through which your compassion
Must look out on the world.
Ours are the feet by which you may still
Go about doing good.
Ours are the hands with which
You bless people now.
Bless our minds and bodies,
That we may be a blessing to others.

Another story of a sighting of grace in the Valley of the Shadow

Among the thanksgivings and blessings we have received, I have another little story to share with you.
Most of you know we have an older house in Glenwood. The house is over 60 years old, sits pretty much in the middle of town on a nice wooded lot. It has been used since my father died as a temporary residence for some of our children, nieces, and others needing a place to stay. We have offered it to folks and couples who need a place to get away. It serves as a quiet meeting place from time to time.

Relatively very few clergy have their own homes , and Clergy do not live in a “free house”! With the exception of a few clergy in the Diocese who receive housing allowances, we live in a parish rectory, and the provision of housing carries a value that we receive instead of stipend. We depend on savings over the years to make sure we can provide for shelter when the time comes to retire.
Our old house needed some serious renovations, so a few years ago, I took a deep breath, gathered my tools and began the work that is still in progress. First a rewiring job, A new roof, basement repairs, a new porch, new Windows and Siding. One thing led to another, and we began to strip out the old “Ten Test” on the walls. I discovered that the house was not insulated properly, so that became another item on the long list!We have recenty had a second rewiring completed so we could remove ann aging oil furnace and install electric heat.

I love doing my own work, and work for others as well. Given my mecanical and building background,it is great to be able to use the gifts God has given you!

To make a long story short, the house inside was “up in slings”. I had planned to use my holidays this year to reconnect the plumbing, get the kitchen and living rooms functional again, so we could enjoy the place once more.
I want to share with you as well, that when I began feeling unwell several months ago, my prayer to God was to help me get this work done, so that if something was seriously wrong with me, Karen would have a home to live in. Small and humble maybe, but a place to call home. I had managed to refit, plaster and paint the bathroom, install drywall in the kitchen and living room. A lot left to be done however, no cupboards up no appliances installed, plastering unfinished ,no water in the kitchen and so on. After my diagnoses, we simply had to put this work on the back burner.No Money,No energy, no time for this now. We placed it in the Lord's hands in the hope that I might get well enough someday....

Unknown to us, a small group of our friends had been making plans. They asked Karen for the house key to go have a look, and before they stopped, our kitchen renovation was almost complete! The plastering, painting, crown trim has been completed in the kitchen and living room, the cupboards and appliances have been installed in the kitchen, and we can use the house again as soon as the spring cleaning is done. There is still much to be done at the old house, but we have a renewed sense of love for the place. We love to be able to share the place with everyone,and I will have a place to go after the radiation therephy later this summer for a quiet time and recovery. That was our friend's goal.

Frustration and worry has been replaced by hope because of the gift of friendship in action. It is impossible (again I say) to express how thankful we are - but we are, for this gift, and for each and every day of love with our friends and family.

John Keble wrote a poem in 1867 entitled “Hues of the Rich Unfolding Morn in 1827. We sing some of the words in the Hymn : New Every Morning Is the Love these are two of my favourite verses from the hymn

If, on our daily course, our mind
Be set to hallow all we find,
New treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.

Old friends, old scenes, will lovelier be,
As more of heaven in each we see;
Some softening gleam of love and prayer
Shall dawn on every cross and care.

Thanks be to God .

Monday, July 5, 2010

Back in Hospital for round Two ( Entry 14)

July 5th

I had hoped to be able to preside at the Eucharist yesterday morning, but the morning found me with a considerable amount of pain in my throat.
The (sad, but wise) decision was to stay home and rest some more.

By mid afternoon I was feeling much better,and enjoyed a cup of tea at our dining room table. One pleasant thing about sitting at the table in our dining room is you can see the back of the church building. I found my self looking at the church and parking lot ,thinking about the Church - that is (of course you know) the people that make up the Sunday Congregation AND the people who make up our Church family overall.

So important to remember how many strides we have made in moving from congregation to Community!
I do long to be with you in a physical Sunday Morning Worship sense, but I also want you to know that I am more than thankful for the love we share and the spiritual connection that God has bound and blessed us with through the Holy Spirit,and our choice to be authentic followers of Jesus.
The acts of kindness, gifts, cards and messages from people all around the province is to say the least, overwhelming. The power of authentic love is incredible, humbling, healing. I receive it with gratitude and thanksgiving. I feel safe because of it!
Yesterday,following morning worship the people of St. Martins held a brunch fellowship. Unknown to me until very recently, this event was a fundraiser for our family. Again, all Karen, my girls and myself I can do is say Thank You. The gifts of money, another, tangible expression of love will be used to defray some of our medical expenses not covered by insurance. I am quickly learning that Cancer is not only a painful,, devastating attack on Body and Soul ,it is also expensive to deal with. The gifts of food,blankets,prayer shawl, email,cards letters and "Smoothies", (thanks Jared!) combined with love and prayer has transformed my thoughts , lifting my spirits more than I can effectively communicate. God working, through the Church is able to so much more than we can ask or imagine. I bless Him,for your hands and hearts.

It is now Monday evening and I am back in hospital. Karen is back and forth like always. This evening she is helping a friend get ready for her wedding which will be this weekend.

Its been a quiet night - almost like a benediction upon what has been a long and trying day.
I receive your blessing Lord ,and ask that it be shared greatly with my friends and family.

The Day
While every person I have spoken to, or had interaction with today ,has been a blessing this day has been filled with reminders of my mortality and weakness. Earlier today I received the call I was waiting for. I was to come to the hospital ,register and be prepared for surgery - one more procedure to help me win this fight. I am thankful for Dr. St. Croix. Her natural compassion,skill and warmth have been a blessing to many,including your's truly.
Because I have been losing weight ,Dr. St. Croix suggested a feeding tube to make sure that my body receives the nutrients to get through the radical ups and downs of Chemotherapy and the upcoming Radiation treatments. I think in total I have lost over 40 lbs. It was a bit of a blow, because I thought I was doing fairly well with my eating!

You all know how much I love to eat with you!

My daughter Lacey and Granddaughter Delilah were here for a few days with us. A wonderful blessing! Today they left to go home.
I confess that I cried after Lacey and Delilah left today. Not for long, but long enough to let out some of the sadness and worry I have been feeling lately. Whenever my girls visit annd leave,I feel a bit sad. I love having them around,and when they are not,I look forward to hearing their voices everyday. Lately I have been a bit more emotional.
You know me and tears...If I go to the post office with a friend and they don't get any mail,i'll cry for them!

I was blessed by Sarah’s visit tonight. Sarah is one of the nurses here . We met when I was in for my first treatment and are quickly becoming friends. She was working on the other unit tonight and when her shift was over she dropped by for a visit and to offer encouragement. All of the nursing staff here are fantastic and caring people!

So here I am
- bald , skinny as a rake, needing help to eat, missing my girls, missing the Church, back in the hospital for another week because my white blood cells were too low for the doctor to install a port. (my white blood cells are up now, but the doctor is on holiday) ,knowing that the treatment I begin tomorrow will make me ill again, and yet......

I promise you, I lift up my heart in thanksgiving and communion with those who love and care. What an influence Jesus has ! Have a blessed evening everyone, I am determined to get better! Tomorrow I have another story of God’s blessings and friendship to share with you.

Friday, July 2, 2010

July 2 (entry 13)

It's been a pretty full day.
This morning we were joined by our three Grandchildren for breakfast;it was wonderful to hear the house buzzing with chatter and laughter.
Jason has taken Joshua and Emma up across Gander Lake for the night.
Tomorrow Chanda heads back to Torbay to work,while Jason remains for the weekend with the kids.

I had an appointment at the Cancer Clinic with Dr. St. Croix this morning. God love her - she brought me back a Teddy bear from her trip. It has an "I Love hugs" logo on it. It made my day!
This morning we visited the results of my last M.R.I. and C.T.Scan.
These tests were ordered because there was an indication of spots - one in my liver and the other in my neck. I am glad to say that neither was anything to be concerned about. We now have a clear idea of my cancer, It is in my tongue,the tissue beneath,and may involve a small portion of my upper throat.

The other concern at the present is my weight loss. I have lost another 11 pounds since beginning therapy ,and we know I cannot afford to lose any more weight,so we will take steps to get the nutrition I need into my body. On Monday I will be having a feeding tube inserted so that I can be fed directly. I will still be able to eat if I choose. (Thanks everyone for the food you have been dropping off. I am trying a bit of everything,and will keep trying!)
The game plan for me this week is to head off to James Paton for admission on Monday,when the feeding tube will be installed. Tuesday I will start chemotherapy for 120 straight hours again. There is a wedding at St. Martin's next weekend that I will be officiating.
I have made arrangements to be unhooked for a few hours on Friday,and Saturday to conduct the ceremony. I am looking forward to celebrating the marriage ceremony with Dean and Tina,and all of St. Martin's. If I am able,I will preside at the 8:30 service this Sunday morning.

My hair loss continued to pick up speed,so we took care of that. Mona (Joshua and Emma's other Nan) came by during lunch time and shaved my head. I look like Shawn Wiseman's older brother! Karen likes it anyway.

I wanted to leave this blog today with a special story. some of the young people of our church who attend Gander Academy gathered together to have a prayer for me. It touched my heart when I found out. It is a wonderful thing when I realise that our young people are not afraid to show their faith. I asked Emily to tell me about it in her own words,so I could share it with you:

What I was saying about us praying is that when we all found out you were sick all the kids in my class from our church sat down together and started to pray. Someone asked us what we were doing and I replied "we are praying for someone we love" they asked who and I said "our priest, he is like family" they then asked how and I said " were a church and were a family" they still didn't understand but to all of us it meant something. We all promised to pray for you everyday and I know I have Rev.John! Love you!! Feel better Rev.John!!
God Bless everyone. Have a wonderful evening!