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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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No words can express, at least no words that I can find can express, the wonderful witness you are Rev. John to the saving and keeping power of our LORD AND Saviour Jesus Christ.You have been used by God to be a witness to bring glory to Him.You have gone through the fire and have come out as Gold.I thank God for you and your witness and pray I would be able to give myself completely to Him as you have done.So proud to be able to call you "family"and thank God for your involvement in the lives of my family.May God continue to bless you as you continue to live for Him.God bless you and your family,Art and Violet!!