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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.

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

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Three Years In...Walking out of the Shadow of Death

 I had wanted to get a few miles behind me before I continued to write about this trip.
October 1 marked the third anniversary of finishing the brutal blessing of Cancer treatments.
 I chatted with Dr. Savoury at the Bliss Murphy center a few months back at my last appointment and sort of whined about how devastated I was still feeling because of the emotional and physical impact of these side effects that just won't go away. 
"It affects your Spirituality too ya know?...." Says I, looking for a pearl of wisdom....cough...cough er,... some sympathy.
 He quietly smiled and said "I know. But we see the other side here in the Clinic. We see people who haven't had the treatments, and believe me it's much worse at the far end."

These words have sat with me since my last visit to the Cancer Clinic in town. They were timely words, and provided a little push that I needed. "Get off your butt boy, you do have something here to be thankful for!"
        There is an old saying..."You only need one nail to hang your hat". Time to take that hat off the nail, put it on and go for a walk.
 Today I am heading to James Paton Hospital for an MRI and Chest X-ray . Next week back to the clinic in town to get the results and have another consult.
The week after that.... I will be marking another transition. It's taken a while for this one to come into focus.
     When I was first diagnosed with cancer, my spiritual framework immediately provided me with a shelter- Call it Beth-El if you want. ( The house of God) .  I knew that I had to embark on a journey ...there was no choice.  I turned to a familiar image that helped: Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
I was convinced that no matter how rough things got, I would catch glimpses of  His Grace and Love through the Journey.

  I thank God for the life I have today.  Struggles? Yes...there are many, but All that surrounds me has meaning and purpose when I connect it to the perspective that Life is a Gift of God...and even suffering is a means of His Grace.
I am about to start writing about how I have dealt with what happens after the treatments are done, the caregivers say "Goodbye and Good Luck"....the journey is still long for many of us,  so I hope to provide some help and encouragement for those who might need it.
I have finally set it in my heart to do what I have been talking about for the past few years as I hoped for physical strength to return.
A 20 Kilometer walk to symbolize walking out of a dark place, into the light.

A 20Kilometer walk to Glenwood in support of the local cancer clinic.
There are many reasons why I want to do this...........
 My own need to do something physically difficult after the ravages of Cancer  and the treatment and in spite of

    the side effects which will accompany me for the rest of my life.
 To honour the people of our parish and beyond,my caregivers, doctors and the Nurses who were incredibly wonderful and supportive ....Spiritually... Physically ....and Financially.

Also...just to lend a helping hand.  In the middle of my treatment I remember meeting a working couple who were unable to meet transportation and lodging costs, so the treatment needed was deferred. It broke my heart. All they needed was a little help with Gas and food...and some encouragement.

The walk is scheduled for  October 26.
I have been already been blessed beyond words by the actions of those who wish to make a donation, and walk with me down the road. I love it when People Walk together.

 You can read about it here: http://www.ourcommunion.org/walk