Carol Wilson Update

Stage 4 Cancer brought many challenges--and also a host of loving and praying friends. Almost-daily postings to this site are to help my friends walk with me through this journey, and to express my gratitude to them and especially to God...On 7/8/08 Carol passed through that final curtain of death and is now healed. We thank God for her life and "arrival"! Chuck

Monday, December 31, 2007

Slept in!

Well, once I woke up I discovered that this city is up and busy this morning. There's construction going on outside our window, with plenty of banging noises.

Yesterday's church was a service of lessons and carols for the first Sunday after Christmas. Lovely! An elderly woman at the far end of our row became unable to breathe, and Sue (nurse) went to help. She helped carry her out, squatted down to make a lap for the woman to sit on as they waited for the ambulance, and saw her safely on her way to the hospital.

After lunch, the cold rain started, so we spent the rest of the day at Lisa's home, watching a movie and playing a game. It's just so good to be together. (It never turned to ice, and we're thankful.)

It's hard to believe this is the last day of 2007. Would we really want to know all that lies ahead in 2008--both the good and bad? It's enough, I think, to know the One who has promised strength for each day. And that reminds me of an old hymn:

Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth,
Your own dear Presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine--with ten thousand beside.

Glenda, thanks for writing. We miss you.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Renewed Day by Day

One of the most valuable gifts I received after my cancer diagnosis was a DVD set of talks by Dr. Richard Swenson titled "More than Meets the Eye." In a series of four lessons he blows our minds open with amazing truths about creation, then shows how the One who made it all is very well able to care for us--and, best of all, He wants to do so.

The first one is about the human body, "fearfully and wonderfully made." Here are a few facts he gives: the body has 100 trillion cells. Each cell has a trillion atoms. We turn over a trillion cells a day. ("Though outwardly we are wasting away, inside we are being renewed day by day" 2 Corinthians 4:19.) Our hearts beat on average 2 1/2 billio times in a lifetime, pumping blood through 60,000 miles of blood vessels. Our ears have a million moving parts and can discern differences of sound by a factor of one trillion. Our brains weigh about 3 pounds, but hold the capacity of 25 million books. "The brain," he says, "must act humbly, or it will sabotage its own search." In subsequent sessions, he discusses relativity, space, time, light, and the cosmos. All equally amazing. And then he shows how reasonable it is that the One who created all this says to us "Do not be anxious about anything. Do not be afraid. Do not fret."

Coming at a time when the bottom had just seemingly dropped out of our lives, this DVD set brought hope and peace. So as I was preparing to come to Washington DC for this weekend with our daughters, I wanted to bring them a gift by which to remember this wonderful time together. A funny movie? A fragrance? A book? I settled on a set of "More than Meets the Eye" for each of them. I plan to give them today. They're probably too busy at this stage of life to watch them, but since they're human, sooner or later the bottom will drop out of their lives too. And I hope then they'll find them reassuring. (Ordered from

We had a lovely day yesterday. Morning at the Eastern Market, lunch (gourmet meal) at Lisa's, afternoon at the Museum of American Art and Portraiture. This morning we'll go to her church (mere blocks from our hotel), and this evening we plan to take in a concert at the Kennedy Center--unless the ice storm materializes.

I appreciate Chuck's posting yesterday. In fact, I appreciate so much all the support he gives--and all of you as well.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Difficulties or Opportunities?

Carol’s flight yesterday to join our daughters in DC was through Atlanta. The Atlanta weather delayed her departure from here, which in turn caused her to miss the continuing flight to DC. Her relatively short trip turned out to be nearly twelve hours, but she arrived safely along with her baggage and is enjoying a wonderful time with the girls. Not knowing what kind of internet connection she will find there, I will be the blogger early this morning to be certain that you faithful readers hear from us.

Frequently people ask me about Carol’s fight with cancer, and then ask…”and how are YOU doing?” Depending on the day, that can be a difficult one to answer. I would like to say that every day is filled with joy, hope and anticipation, but that is not always the case. I find that it is far too easy to start feeling anxious or have fears creep into my thinking…especially during the night. That is when I struggle to redirect my thoughts to verses like Philippians 4:6 and I Peter 5:7, but it is a continuous battle to redirect those thoughts and focus on God, letting him deal with those matters, while at the same time looking to Him for direction, guidance and peace.

While I may feel like I am going through difficult times, I am reminded of Paul and all the trials and hardships that we read about him facing. I am challenged by his words in 2 Corinthians as The Message records him saying “Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times.” (4:1) And later on he says “So we are not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” (4:16-18)

I find it amazing how quickly words of wisdom from the Scriptures can come to mind during the day time, but in the middle of the night my recall is much slower. Could there be a relationship there somewhere between the light and darkness? That is something to ponder…but during the daytime, please.

Thanks for that reminder Paul. Okay…I will put those mountains back into perspective…they are only small potatoes compared to what is ahead for each of your people! As God continues to provide the health and strength, we too will not give up. Daily, we are richly blessed by God and by each of you. It is our prayer that we will allow those blessings to flow through us to others.

Enjoy this last weekend of 2007.

Love to you all,

Chuck…and Carol too

Friday, December 28, 2007

Ultimate Mystery

Our Sunday school teacher sent an amazing quotation by Frederick Buechner. So here is one more startling look at the Incarnation.

Christmas itself is by grace. It could never have survived our own blindness and depredations otherwise. It could never have happened otherwise. Perhaps it is the very wildness and strangeness of the grace that has led us to try to tame it. We have tried to make it habitable. We have roofed it in and furnished it. We have reduced it to an occasion we feel at home with, at best a touching and beautiful occasion, at worst a trite and cloying one. But if the Christmas event in itself is indeed -- as a matter of cold, hard fact -- all it's cracked up to be, then even at best our efforts are misleading.

The Word become flesh. Ultimate Mystery born with a skull you could crush one-handed. Incarnation. It is not tame. It is not touching. It is not beautiful. It is uninhabitable terror. It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light. Agonized laboring led to it, vast upheavals of intergalactic space, time split apart, a wrenching and tearing of the very sinews of reality itself. You can only cover your eyes and shudder before it, before this: "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God ... who for us and for our salvation," as the Nicene Creed puts it, "came down from heaven."

Came down. Only then do we dare uncover our eyes and see what we can see. It is the Resurrection and the Life she holds in her arms. It is the bitterness of death he takes at her breast. --by Frederick Buechner

My suitcases are packed and I'll leave soon for the airport, bound for Washington DC. I'm excited about these coming days with our daughters, but I hate to leave Chuck home alone. (He's pretty resourceful.)

Our friend with heart bypass surgery is now recovering at home. He's extremely weak, but essentially pain-free.

Postings here might be irregular for the next few days. I'm always so grateful for your prayers and care.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Is, Was, and Will Be

The year is almost over, and that means I've reached the last few pages in my through-the-Bible reading. Year-end is also a time for reflection, sometimes melancholy, counting the moments and opportunities that are gone forever. I guess that's why I loved being reminded in yesterday's reading that there is One who remains the same forever and ever. Jude 24-25 praises Him with these words: "And now, all glory to God, who is able to keep you from stumbling, and who will bring you into his glorious presence innocent of sin and with great joy. All glory to him, who alone is God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Yes, glory, majesty, power, and authority belong to him, in the beginning, now, and forevermore. Amen."

Only four paragraphs later, in Revelation 1:8, I read the same encouraging truth: "'I am the Alpha and the Omega--the beginning and the end,' says the Lord God. 'I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come, the Almighty One.'" Just imagine! Our moments, our longings, our fears, our hurts, our joys--all wrapped in the loving arms of the eternal One who was, who is, and who will be, forever!

A phone call yesterday brought the great news that dear friends are passing through town today and will join us for lunch. I smile just thinking about it.

I'm still feeling well. I realize the battle for life is still going on at the cellular level, in the absence of chemo, and I'm doing what I can to promote health. I'm glad to recognize that in this battle, God is the Commander-in-Chief.

(David, if you're reading this, thanks for your comment on December 24; I answered you there.)

Blessings for your day,

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Boxing Day

The day after Christmas used to be for boxing up food and taking it to the poor. I wish we still did that, but I suppose we have too many fears about sanitation now. I certainly have a crowded refrigerator after the past days of meals for guests. I also have a heart full of wonderful memories, which is even better.

My Wisconsin friend (Friday's guest) gave me a lovely little book based on the well-known anonymous statement "What Cancer Cannot Do." In this book, Zondervan Publishers have gathered stories from cancer survivors that illustrate the various limitations of cancer: it cannot cripple love, shatter hope, corrode faith, kill friendship, silence courage, etc.

Here are a few thoughts on the new courage cancer brings: "Some of that courage comes from realizing what it means to know that our days are numbered; that the end point of our life has slipped out of the fog, achieved definition, and is now moving toward us. And because we sense the finish line, we want to do everything we possibly can until the race is finished. . . . on another level, courage to try new things comes via an experience tht so shatters your life that you can't help but come back together a new way. Cancer brings you to the end of yourself, realizing you can do nothing to save yourself. You lean heavily on God because he is all you have." This resonates with me. (The book is titled What Cancer Cannot Do, is published by Zondervan, and lists no author.)

On Friday, the 28th, our daughters and I are gathering in Washington DC for a long weekend together. It was their idea, and demonstrates so much love and care. I'm very excited about hanging around together for five days. The idea was born when they realized I'd have no chemo to cause bad days and no appointments to hurry to. Then too, the rising cancer numbers have the effect of making the time we have seem all the more precious. Of course, I'm sorry to leave Chuck home alone for those days. I guess today I'll box up those left-overs and freeze them for him to eat while I'm gone. Yes! Good idea.

The Christmas lights have been so much fun. On a spiritual level, light is crucial. "Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God' (Isaiah 50:10).


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all of you dear and faithful friends! We are reminded that two years ago today, Carol was released from the hospital fighting to recover from surgery for stage four cancer. Your faithful encouragement and prayer support continue to bless us! We enjoyed a delightful Christmas Eve with friends who joined us for dinner followed by an outstanding time of music at church, and a message about the touch of God.

This morning I am taking the blog assignment for Carol as she prepares for guests who are coming to our house for brunch. We have been greatly blessed by your many Christmas greetings, lovely Christmas music and times of special blessing with friends here in Charlotte. This is the first Christmas for many years that we have stayed in Charlotte during the holiday. When we hear about the cold and the storms in the North, we are glad to have avoided them.

Recently I read a book by Chuck Swindoll, A Bethlehem Christmas. One chapter is a first-person account by the angel Gabriel which is based upon Scripture, with considerable between the lines speculation added by the author. I found it to be most thought provoking, so I will share a few quotes from the suggested words of Gabriel that spoke to me:

“I know more than any mortal could, for I stand in the very presence of God and announce his decrees to people on earth. Yet, despite the timeless, heavenly perspective I enjoy as one of His heavenly messengers, one particular mystery is beyond my ability to understand: God’s persistent unrelenting love for people. It began before time and it will never end.”

There is a lengthy discussion between Gabriel and God about the disobedience of people, the separation between God and humankind, and God’s plan of dealing with sin and evil by sending The Messiah to earth to live, die and be raised from the grave, to restore the relationship between God and those/us that He created. After hearing about God’s plan Gabriel was speechless, saying:

“I could not speak. The perfection of His plan—so ingenious, so simple, so intricate—left me even more amazed than seeing him create the universe with a mere word.” Upon hearing about the planned excruciating death and abandonment that the Messiah would experience, Gabriel says: “At this I wept. The immense love of God was more than I could fathom. The selfless grace of God was beyond my comprehension. And for what? Creatures who neither desired Him nor sought Him, who not only failed to believe but refused to believe. This will always remain a mystery to me.”

The narrative wraps up with Gabriel saying “In time, I came to understand the grand truth behind God’s plan. Those who want a Savior will find Him. And if they see Him as He is, they will worship.”

Such an amazing opportunity…to have such a loving God as our friend, and to know him personally. Every day we are so thankful to have him sharing these experiences with us and knowing that when our time on earth is completed we will spend eternity with Him.

With Gabriel and the author, it is our hope that wise people will continue to seek Him.

Our love to you all,

Chuck…and Carol too

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Christmas Eve

As a child in a Swedish home in a Swedish community (in Michigan), Christmas Eve was the "big deal" for me. We went to our grandparents' home for dinner and gift-opening every year until they moved to Florida. We children always groaned because the grown-ups insisted on washing all the dishes before we could open gifts. Then we'd gather in the living room and sing several Christmas carols. My grandfather, in his soft, deep voice, would read the beautiful account of the first Christmas from Luke 2, and then he'd pray. At last, it was time for gifts. It was only the idea that enchanted us, I'm sure. Most of the gifts I remember cost under $1.00, some as small as combs or pencils. Yet Christmas was magical for me as a small child--and it's still my favorite time of year.

A few days ago I read a short piece by Jill Carattini, of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, titled "Stay Awake." Since Advent is not only the count-down to Christmas, but spiritually is also the time for anticipating Christ's return. she quotes Jesus: "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (Matthew 24:42-44).

"The child who was born in Bethlehem came quietly in the night, unbeknownst to many who dwelled near him, yet leaving prints behind in history, and signs upon our lives. Like a thief, he shattered barriers that told us we were autonomous and invaded hearts we thought were shielded. Yet, Christ came not to steal and destroy, but to dwell in all that he might offer us the abundant life of knowing him. 'He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed' (Isaiah 53:5). The signs that Christ has been here are enough to call us to alertness. Like a thief in the night, he will come again. Let us therefore keep watch."

Yesterday afternoon was a feast of good fellowship with good friends in our dining room and living room. I spent the rest of the day making "Merry Christmas" phone calls. This evening after our Christmas Eve dinner, we look forward to a candle-light service at church. (You see how much more energy I have! Thank God.)

Happy Christmas Eve,

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Art of Living

"The art of living lies less in eliminating our troubles than in growing with them." -- Bernard M. Baruch

A Christmas card we received yesterday contained a hand-written note with this song by Stanley Ditmer. I hope I can find the music; the words are reassuring:

I shall not fear though darkened clouds may gather round me;
The God I serve is One who cares and understands.
Although the storms I face would threaten to confound me,
Of this I am assured, I'm in His hands.

I'm in His hands, I'm in His hands;
Whate'er the future holds, I'm in His hands.
The days I cannot see have all been planned for me;
His way is best, you see; I'm in His hands.

Another Christmas card contained this note: "Carol, you 'shouldn't' be able to keep going as you are with the cancer you have." He ought to know; his sweet and godly wife died of the very same cancer several years ago, after a short and severe illness. We prayed for her too. I'm so grateful for all that God is doing in my life in response to prayer, but I don't understand His ways. "Mystery" is one of my favorite names for God. (By the way, I see people really mess up their brains when they try to put God in a box and insist that He act in a certain way.)

John 1:18 is our assigned Scripture for this morning's class. Verse 14 says, "So the Word [Jesus] became human and lived here on earth among us." Now there is mystery!

Have a great day,

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Reason for the Season

So much love and encouragement our Wisconsin friends brought when they came for lunch yesterday! My heart is still warmed. Then we'd been invited to our neighbors' home for an elegant dinner last evening. It was a treat. He's a former professor of education and she was an elementary teacher. The conversation was fascinating. We stayed up too late, but all is well.

More beauty: Jeremy, our magazine designer at Relevant Media Group, sent the new layout several hours ahead of his deadline. Even better, it's gorgeous. (This is the issue that will be mailed out in February/March 2008.) I was able to get all the minor corrections noted and sent to him before the end of the day. Now Monday can be devoted to cleaning my desk and Inbox.

Our Sunday school teacher sent his usual pre-Sunday letter, and I'd like to quote from it: "Of course, all of us believe 'Jesus is the reason' for the season. But what is that reason?

"It seems to me that we tend to portray Jesus as the answer to life's problems, as though Jesus' reason-for-being is to fix you up and resolve your needs and issues. We rarely say it quite like this, but the idea is that life is about you, or about us, and God saw we were having a bit of trouble in getting through lifie so at Christmas he sent Jesus to be our super helper. . . . In the Bible, it's not about us. Or rather, it's about us only because we each matter to Him. How utterly refreshing! We are part of God's life narrative, not the other way around." So I'm looking forward to class tomorrow!

Yesterday in my Bible reading I found the "Christmas reason" in a surprising place, near the end of the Bible in Hebrews 2:14: "Because God's children are human beings--made of flesh and blood--Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying." Then verse 18 says, "Since he himself has gone through suffering and temptation, he is able to help us when we are being tempted." That's why "Help!" is such a good prayer.

Am I almost halfway through my 8-week break from chemo? I wonder what's going on inside! I'm so thankful to know the faithfulness of God. My friend told me her husband continues to test "clean" from the cancer for which he'd had surgery. "But," she said, "I feel guilty telling you this when you're not getting good news for yourself." Wrong! I prayed for him, and his victory over cancer is also mine. I love hearing about people who get cured or healed. And truly, every day for me is a miracle of life, an answer to prayer, no matter what happens in the future.

We have a quiet day planned for today. I suppose most of you are very busy, but I hope for you at least some quiet and contemplative moments.


Friday, December 21, 2007


Friends from Wisconsin are coming for lunch today. I wish they could stay all weekend. We worked together in church in Michigan, and we've continued to appreciate their friendship. We also have friends coming for a meal on Sunday, others on Monday, still others on Tuesday. It's not our year to be with our family, but friends are wonderful!

Here are some very old words. They're part of a Christmas sermon preached by Thomas a Kempis in the 15th century. "O blessed and joyful birth, which has changed the curse of our first parents into blessing and has turned their grief into everlasting joy. This night is truly worthy of the awe and love of all people, the night in which Christ permitted himself to be delivered in order to deliver all. Blessed therefore be the holy Trinity, by whose goodness and wisdom the dignity of humanity has been restored and the cunning of the devil deceived. I bless you, heavenly Father, who sent your beloved Son into the world for our redemption. I bless you only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, who to redeem us assumed our nature. I bless you, Holy Spirit, who gloriously and wondrously perfected all the mysteries of our redemption from the beginning to the end. To you be infinite praise and glory, to you be honor and empire, O supreme, eternal Trinity, by whose providence and ordering so sweet and solemn a festival has come to us. Amen."

A longer excerpt of that sermon is on Chip Stam's Worship Quote of the Week ( Chip directs the Institute for Christian Worship in Louisville, KY, is the cousin of a colleague at SIM, and is a fellow cancer traveler.

Chuck visited our friend in the hospital yesterday, and was relieved to see him looking much better, though the pain is still intense. We got word that he'd moved out of intensive care yesterday afternoon. We continue to pray. Fran's re-excision yesterday (the third attack on that miserable breast cancer) went well, and now we wait for the pathologist's report. Dear God, let this be the end! She still faces radiation and chemo, her doctor says.

Today our creative designer will upload the layout for the new magazine. We're making a few minor changes to the "look," and I'm very eager to see the new ideas applied to a real magazine.

Blessings for your day,

Thursday, December 20, 2007


The title is a clue; I chose "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" as my favorite Christmas carol to sing in chapel this morning. Then Chuck came home after 13 hours in the hospital with our friend, and (would you believe it?) he'd chosen the same song. But for different reasons. I love it for the heart-stopping truth it tells; Chuck chose it because he's been reading Chuck Swindoll's lovely little book, "A Bethlehem Christmas," which includes a chapter on the incarnation of the Son of God from the point of view of Gabriel and the lesser angels. (I think he'll write a blog about it before the season is over.)

First, I'll report that our friend seems to be doing as well as expected after quadruple bypass surgery. They had a big scare after an hour in intensive care because there was way too much internal bleeding, so back to surgery he went. It was a long day! We were both awake at 4:00 this morning, wondering, so Chuck called the nurse and received a favorable report; we're so thankful. Thanks for your prayers. There's lots of pain, and lots of recovering to do.

We read the news and reflect on our own tangled personal relationships and false moves, and we feel unlovable and abandoned. Then we sing about the One who was "pleased as man, with men, to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel!" We acknowledge mental confusion and physical deterioration, and we feel dark and desolate. Then we sing, "Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of earth; born to give them second birth." I wish you could all join us this morning as we sing these hope-building words from "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," by Charles Wesley.

The phrase "healing in His wings" is curious. I understand that in the Hebrew language, the word "wing" sounds like the name of the knotted fringe of the prayer shawl. (Remember the woman who crept up to Jesus through a crowd, saying, "If only I can touch the fringe of His garment, I'll be healed." And she was, of course.) So Wesley's use of the phrase is perfectly biblical, though strange to our ears. (Frankly, his use of "man" for humans was also culturally acceptable in his day but appalling in ours, but that's a topic for another day.)

I'm so grateful for your love and continuing prayers. When I think about it, I realize that deadly cancer cells are still present, even increasing, in my body. One would never guess that, though, based on how great I'm feeling. We're praying that during this 8-week break from chemo and blood-testing, God will do the work of healing that He chooses to do, all to His credit and glory.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Chuck got up at 3:10 to take our good friend to the hospital for his heart surgery, which was scheduled for 8:00 a.m. (wonder why the prep should take so long). So now we're waiting--for the surgery to start, for it to be over, for our friend to wake up (some time tomorrow, they say), for him to get well. Dear Lord, may it be so! I'm so proud of Chuck for being there for his friend. They're about the same age, 74+, and they both work hard every weekday at the mission.

This is the season for waiting. Yesterday in chapel we sang, "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus."

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

And another favorite about waiting: "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel":
O come, Desire of nations, bind
all people in one heart and mind.
Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven's peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come. . . .

When we're kids, we wait impatiently for Christmas because of the lights, the songs, the treats, the special programs, the gifts. Then we reach the point where our longing shifts from the holiday to the Person (Emmanuel--"God with us"), and we plead, "O come"! A friend wrote that she was carrying many burdens on her heart, and was greatly encouraged by the third stanza of "It Came upon the midnight clear":

And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now! For glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

I get to play the piano for chapel tomorrow, and was asked to select my favorite Christmas song. Oh, please! It would take all morning to sing all my favorites. What shall I choose?

May I ask you to lift up a prayer for our friend's heart surgery this morning, and for his recovery. Bless you! And thank God.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Nativity

A pair of SIM doctors, serving at a hospital in a very needy African country, watched "The Nativity Story" the other night. Here's what they wrote: "We were struck by the similarities of the world that Jesus was born into to the one in which we are living. People live in small houses, the dirt floor covered with sleepers at night. The majority live close to the earth, working small plots of land, eating well if harvest is good, going hungry if harvest is not good. Shepherds wander the fenceless, spare, rocky lands, feeding their herds and flocks wherever they can find pasture. Families are close-knit, but also intricately linked to others in the community. Pressure to conform to the social norm is high, and the price for divergence exorbitant.

"Mary paid a high price in this last aspect of village community life. In the Jewish village of Nazareth, in her parents' social circles, there were few transgressions higher than the one that in their eyes she had committed. She returned from her prolonged visit to Elizabeth, obviously pregnant, to a bitterly disappointed fiance, scandalized parents, and a scornful, cruel community. She is the human being to whom God accorded the greatet honor imaginable--that of carrying within her body the Son of God. Mary, honored above all women, endured shame, though she was innocent of [this supposed] wrongdoing."

These insights are guiding my thoughts this morning.

One of our closest friends here is having triple bypass surgery early tomorrow morning. Would you join us in praying for God's hand on the surgeon's, and for a quick and complete recovery? He's in his late 70s, and yet he faithfully serves daily in his key role at the mission. Also, Fran's third surgery will be Thursday; we're praying the surgeon will finally get all the cancer. How frustrating! And puzzling.

I'm feeling well this morning. I made a date with a neighbor to go for a walk before work. It's turned bitterly cold, and I wonder how brave we'll be.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Glory, Glory, Glory

Last evening we crowded four friends into our car with us and went to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens (again!). Like last week, the lights were amazing. But our purpose was to hear the choir of the St. Stephens African Methodist-Episcopal Zion Church. This concert is one of the defining events of our annual Christmas season. One of the bass singers welcomed us and announced, "The entire purpose of our singing is to bring honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we are singing about." And they did! With full voices, precise singing, swaying and clapping, and radiant faces. I thanked him afterwards, and he said he was so nervous--that he really hates to get up in front and speak. Well, he and the entire choir were extremely effective. Also the small band and the only caucasian member, a professional jazz saxophonist whom we've heard before. So good! Several of the tunes keep ringing through my soul.

A friend, who came early to help me prepare for the brunch on Saturday, told me that her husband always prefers to say, "We're getting closer," rather than, "We're getting older." I like that! Closer to the life we all long for, even when we're not aware of it--life that's full of everything good and especially life lived in the real, discernible presence of the God of love. That would be heaven! Life here is sweet, and we certainly don't wish it to end soon, but it really is true: We're getting closer.

This morning I actually have to "look" for that pain in my lung. I'm so thankful to the Lord for His healing touch, and to you for praying.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

So much better!

We've had another answer to prayer. Last night the pain in my lower right lung was amazingly less than the night before. I can still feel it this morning, but it's so much better. Phone calls yesterday raised the possibility of pleurisy or blood clots, and I promise to pay careful attention and call the doctor tomorrow if it's not improving further. (The weekend emergency room is a grim last resort.) But for now, I'm thanking the Lord for answering prayer. And I thank you, too, for praying. (Blood clots are a general risk with chemo, and a specific risk with tamoxifen, so no wonder my medically trained loved ones thought of that. I did too.)

Yesterday's brunch with the business department of SIM USA was so much fun. They all brought the food, which was wonderful. We sang carols, and Chuck's boss, the director, thanked the members of the department for serving faithfully in their roles so he could devote much of his attention to his special assignment in SIM's global response to HIV and AIDS. "I couldn't do that," he said, "if you weren't covering the local responsibilities." Then--at my urging--he gave a brief report of a number of high-level meetings he attended last week in Washington DC with groups from both the U.S. government and the U.N. It's very encouraging to see the respect they have for the AIDS ministries of SIM and our partners, which results in funding for the medical aspects of several programs.

One of the songs we sang yesterday was a folk song discovered in the North Carolina mountains during the Depression by John Jacob Niles, "I Wonder as I Wander." He paid a young girl a few pennies to sing the haunting tune over and over as he jotted it down in his notebook. The song calls us "poor on'ry (ornery) creatures"--and that we are, for sure! The question it asks can be answered by one word only: love!

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
But high from God's heaven a star's light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God's angels in heaven for to sing
He surely could have it, 'cause He was the King.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

Let's make time soon to wander out under the sky, and wonder!


Saturday, December 15, 2007

What is this pain?

I have often expressed gratitude for freedom from pain. During the past 12 hours, I've been learning to appreciate that freedom. Behind my lower right ribs there's a sharp, piercing pain that won't let up, and it's more intense when I inhale. At first I assumed I'd merely pinched a nerve and it would soon be fine. But it's still there. I wonder if I can work it out. We're having about 20 people here for brunch today (the SIM business department). Most problems do disappear with time.

Here's a cool story from Thailand. One of our friends teaches art in a Christian school there. Tanya, a student who is passionately against slavery of any kind, painted a shocking picture of child soldiers in Uganda. Apparently it was so daring that it upset the other school children. So our friend had a talk with Tanya, whom she knew to have a rebellious heart. They talked about Tanya's true purpose in her art--to shock people or to teach them. Our friend showed her how God can use her art to share her passion with others. It seems it was a teachable moment. Tanya has been thinking about her purpose in life, and she now intends to share faith through art, to help those who are victims of slavery and oppression. Our friend says, "She's still a rebel, but that is what God is going to use. I am so excited to see her working through this."

I'm not an artist, but here and there, now and then, I get an opportunity to talk about the scope of slavery in our world, and possibilities for stopping it.

Have a great weekend.


Friday, December 14, 2007

To see an end of slavery

Last night the Carolina Clapham Group (anti-slavery) met again. We're still in the stage of discovering what our role might be. There are other groups in this area that are also concerned about freeing people who are being held and used against their will, both here and more blatantly in other countries. One member of our group is very involved in opening a "safe house" in a country south of here. Staff members will provide counseling and comprehensive after-care for women being rescued from slavery. Even though I was ignorant of the scope of modern-day slavery until only a few months ago, many people have been aware and working hard for a long time. The stop-slavery movement is big and growing. If you live near Charlotte, the Clapham Group would welcome you; we meet the second Thursday of every month. And, of course, we can all boycott chocolate--half of which is produced by slave labor.

A few days ago, I read Colossians 3:1,2 in my morning reading: "Set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God's right hand in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth." It sounds good, but it's hard to do! The realities I see, enjoy, dislike, must do, and interact with are so insistent for attention. Yesterday a friend asked how having cancer has changed the way I think and live. I thought for a moment and then replied with the thought of this verse. Realizing the possibility of being there before long really does make it easier to "set my sights on the realities of heaven"--at least once in awhile. I also believe that every time we make choices based on what will please Christ (who sits "in the place of honor and power"), we are allowing heaven to fill our thoughts. That's good.

I'm still feeling well. I like this new rhythm of weeks not punctuated by chemo!

Fran sees her surgeon today; we're praying for clarity and wisdom for both of them.

Have a blessed day.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


People join SIM and prepare to move to the country to which God has called them. Then, in some cases, they hit the sticky problem of getting visa; it seems almost every day when we meet for prayer, we're asked to pray for at least one visa application that's stalled somewhere. So I got thinking about the One who came to our planet and entered our race. What if He'd had to get prior permission from the United Nations? Imagine His visa application:

Name: The Sent One, aka Messiah
Date of Birth: None; I have always existed
Father: God, Creator of the universe
Mother: None, yet
Length of stay: 33 years--then in spirit until the end of the age
Purpose of your visit: preach, heal, die (temporarily)
What will you preach? That I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Response: Visa DENIED
Reason: Applicant would upset the status quo

Well, enough imagining. He came so simply, a mere embryo/fetus/infant. Only a few had even a hint that His birth was THE defining moment of time.

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
--from "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

For some reason, I thought the chemo effects would fade more quickly. But of course, it's only slightly more than two weeks since the last infusion. And there's nothing to complain about, only mild neuropathy and some gut misbehavior. I am thankful to feel so well. And I'm taking extra nutritional and supplemental steps to encourage healing. Above all else, we look to God to heal.

Fran's surgeon called yesterday to say that there's still a "margin" of cancer penetration that didn't get excised. So she'll need to go back for a third surgery. It's all very confusing. Please pray for clarity and guidance. Thank God for the peaceful heart He is giving Fran.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Good News

I hardly ever turn on the television, but I do listen to the radio when I'm driving, and I skim a news magazine each week. I think I keep up on world news fairly well, and there's certainly a shortage of good news these days. Perhaps for most people at the time of Jesus' birth, their world seemed full of bad news too--even though it reached them by rumor rather than radio or newspaper. The darker it is, the more brightly shine these words from the angel to the shepherds: "I bring you good news." The same good news comes to us this morning. Immanuel, God is with us, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And then the hosts of angels echoed, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among humans with whom God is pleased." Isn't it amazing to think that God was and is pleased with people? As much as we mess up? Still, He takes delight in His creation. The coming of Jesus to be one of us is the ultimate expression of that delight. He loves us! Let that truth overshadow whatever news we hear today.

There's no new news about my cancer. I believe prayer is never unanswered, and God is at work in ways that are now secret to accomplish His perfect purpose.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Christmas Story

Little Misha was an orphan in Russia, shortly after the Soviet Union dissolved. Some Americans came to Russia to teach morals and ethics based on the Bible, at the invitation of the Russian department of education. They visited the orphanage several times, and just before Christmas, they told the story of Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem where Mary gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God. Then the missionaries gave each child a cut-out manger to assemble, along with some paper to shred for straw and a small felt baby figure.

Misha's assembled manger held two babies. Through an interpreter, he repeated the Bethlehem story accurately, until the birth. Then he added this: The baby Jesus looked at him and asked if he had a place to stay. Misha replied that he had no mama and no papa and no place to stay. Jesus invited him to stay with him, but Misha said he couldn't because he had no gift to give. Suddenly he thought of one--he could keep Him warm! So he got into the manger, and Jesus told him he could stay with Him for always. Misha dissolved into tears as he finished his story. At last he had found a safe place, and a Savior who would be with him forever. Misha would be about 20 now; I hope he's still walking close to Jesus. (I hope we all are!)

Thank you for continuing to pray for me. With no chemo, there's little to report. I'm hoping that the neuropathy (nerve damage) in my fingers and feet will retreat now that chemo is no longer attacking. I definitely feel my energy returning. And I'm fully relying on God to drive back the cancer. He can!

I hope you'll have a great day.


Monday, December 10, 2007


What difference does anointing with oil make? I don't know, but God called for it often. Teacher Tom says oil symbolizes both the Holy Spirit and healing, both of which are highly relevant. I'm deeply grateful for the anointing and the prayers offered for me yesterday morning in Sunday school. I'm going to take the attitude that I am being healed by the great Physician day by day.

One of our favorite themes at Christmas time is peace. After all, the angels proclaimed "Peace on Earth." Why do we have so little of it? Probably because we are committed to having things our way. Ulrich Zwingli, a Swiss theological reformer, was once in disagreement with another reformer, Martin Luther. The conflict bothered him. One morning he saw two goats approaching each other from opposite directions on a narrow mountain path. As they came together, they could have butted heads in a contest for right-of-way. Instead, the one heading upwards lay down on the path, and the other goat stepped carefully over his back and continued his downward journey. Not very culturally correct, but I think it's the way of Christ. (I don't mean we should casually lay down essential truths of the Gospel for the sake of peace; I think our conflicts are usually more selfish than that.)

Chuck and I strolled the paths of the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens last night to see the lights--more than 400,000 of them. Artistically arranged in trees, shrubs, and on the ground, covering many acres alongside canals and fountains, the lights are a splendid sight. The weather was so mild that it was a pleasure, especially for Chuck whose lungs can't handle cold night air.

Fran is home and although still in pain, she says she's doing well. We visited her yesterday afternoon, and she was up and about.

Thanks for all your prayers. I feel very undeserving of them, but oh, so grateful!


Sunday, December 09, 2007

More Prayer

"Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. And their prayers offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well. And anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven." James 5:14,15

A colleague read those verses in chapel last week. It struck me as a command that I should obey. So I "called," and this morning during Sunday school, some of the spiritual leaders of our church will anoint me with oil and pray for me. During the past two years, I've been the beneficiary of thousands of prayers offered in faith. But I hadn't yet asked for anointing with oil. I don't understand it, but it certainly seems good to follow the Bible's instructions.

The devotional reading for Friday in "Streams in the Desert" was also about healing. A B Simpson wrote, "Whenever I have seen God's wondrous work in the case of some miraculous healing or some extraordinary deliverance by His providence, the thing that has always impressed me most was the absolute quietness in which it was done. I have also been impressed by the absence of anything sensational and dramatic, and the utter sense of my own uselessness as I stood in the presence of the mighty God, realizing how easy all this was for Him to do without even the faintest effort on His part, or the slightest help from me. It is the role of faith not to question but to simply obey."

I would welcome a miraculous healing. I also will welcome as good whatever God chooses to do.

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the diminishing effects of chemo. Yesterday I raked leaves, cleaned the house, baked a cake, and entertained new neighbors in the evening.

Have a great day.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

He Is here

Dear neighbors went with us to a Christmas concert last night. It was a gorgeous blend of singing, instruments, drama, dance, and reflection. The program was titled "Immanuel, God with us," which was also the theme song. It continues to sing in my heart.

Our God is with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us
Our God is with us
(by Michael Card/Birdwing Music)

That's a truth to sustain us at all times. Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, which "lives in infamy" for us, as does the same-day 66th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Another thing about "God is with us": remembering that makes me want to live thoughtfully in order to please Him.

Our editorial meeting by phone yesterday went well. After that I spent several hours at the hospital with Fran. Her pain was so bad that she stayed another night in the hospital, and she hopes to return home today.

Have a blessed day.

Friday, December 07, 2007


John Piper, a pastor in Minnesota, wants his daughter (age 12) to "settle some things with God now, so that when little or big losses come--and they will come--her pain will be bounded and will not carry her out, like a riptide, into the terrifying darkness of doubt about God. So as we read God's word together twice a day, I point out the mysterious ways of God."

That's wise parenting. The principle also works for us at any age. Here's more from his weekly "Desiring God" email:

"When huge pain comes into your life--like divorce, or the loss of a precious family member, or the dream of wholeness shattered--it is good to have a few things settled with God ahead of time. The reason for this is not because it makes grieving easy, but because it gives focus and boundaries for the pain.

"Being confident in God does not make the pain less deep, but less broad. If some things are settled with God, there are boundaries around the field of pain. In fact, by being focused and bounded, the pain of loss may go deeper--as a river with banks runs deeper than a flood plain. But with God in his firm and proper place, the pain need not spread out into theendless spaces of ultimate meaning. This is a great blessing, though at the time it may simply feel no more tender than a brick wall. But what a precious wall it is!"

A friend sent me this: "What you know is more important than what you feel." This is not to deny the high value of feelings, but rather to affirm that knowing truth--God's truth--really does build good boundaries for pain. I've said it before: I'm so glad that before this cancer road intersected my life journey, I'd formed the habit of spending time with God daily and reading His word. I don't say this to sound holy. I simply tell you that there have been many, many days when the truth I connected with in the early morning gave me courage and strength for each moment of the day. And in a broader sense, the basic knowledge of God as good, reliable, mysterious, and faithful forever became the firm ground I have landed on whenever disturbing bumps in the road have tossed me around.

Since your road may contain bumps too, I recommend this habit.

Last evening a former pastor called. After family updates all around and words of blessing and encouragement, he prayed for us. Right over the phone line. It was obvious that he and his wife pray for us regularly (as we do for them), even though he's moved to new responsibilities with lots of new people to care about. What a beautiful gesture of love and faith!

I continue to feel very well. You know, I'd gotten so accustomed to having my life punctuated by chemo sessions that at times I almost feel disoriented. Not that I liked them or miss them; it's a subconscious thing I guess. Odd!

I'll have a phone consultation this morning with the layout designer at Relevant Media Group in Florida to discuss our vision for the SIM magazine that I uploaded for him a few days ago. Then it's up to him to make it beautiful, and I'll do my part by praying for him.

Fran's surgery yesterday went well, and she expects to come home today. Since the excision this time is larger, and includes many more lymph nodes, her pain will probably be greater than following the first surgery. She'll continue to need lots of prayer.


Thursday, December 06, 2007


Yesterday our sweet neighbor read my blog, cried, and then went to her keyboard and sang all the stanzas of the old song, "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand." After she told me, I did the same thing. The words are an important reminder. I'll quote them here--the version our British friends sing:

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
no merit of my own I claim,
but wholly trust in Jesus' name.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand--
all other ground is sinking sand.

When weary in this earthly race,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
in every wild and stormy gale
my anchor holds and will not fail.

His vow, His covenant and blood
are my defense against the flood;
when earthly hopes are swept away
He will uphold me on that day.

When the last trumpet's voice shall sound,
O may I then in Him be found!
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before His throne.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

Right! That's where I stand.

This neighbor's husband is having knee surgery today. We're praying for him.

Fran's second surgery for breast cancer is this morning; she should be checking in to the hospital about now. Dear Lord, please quiet her heart and guide the surgeon. (You may recall that I was with her for her first surgery a few weeks ago, and afterwards the doctor was so pleased. But more extensive pathological testing revealed the presence of very invasive lobular carcinoma, requiring this further surgery.)

Yesterday I did some internet research on the results of tamoxifen for advanced ovarian cancer. Let's just say it didn't provide any solid ground to stand on.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Break

One of my daughters asked me last evening how I feel about stopping chemo (see short posting below for that news). I feel that I can trust God with this; He is as able to give me life without chemo as with it. So many were praying for wisdom for the doctor and for us. Also, I was emotionally prepared for it by my somewhat irrational wish over the past week to get a break. To be honest, the dark side of my mind mutters, "I knew we'd eventually run out of options." Maybe that's true too, but does it matter?

I dreamed last night that I heard about a young father who was facing 48 chemo infusions and was scared. I kept trying to reach him to tell him that God would be with him and he'd be okay.

Many dear people are telling me about sure non-medical cancer cures they've heard of. Some sound pretty convincing. Most involve severe changes in food and drink (hey, I'm already careful). Some sound purely hokey. I confess to some confusion here. I'm listening for God's guidance, and trying not to be stubborn.

We keep reminding ourselves to FROG: Fully Rely On God.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I get a break

I'll be taking a break from chemo for 8 weeks. I actually had a strong longing for a break after learning that the cancer numbers were rising, and then this morning the oncologist recommended it. He does want me to take a daily pill, tamoxifen. This is the pill given to breast cancer survivors after their cancer is gone. He says there are some cases where it's been effective with active ovarian cancer. In any case, this is as good an opportunity as any for God to continue to do his good work. I said Goodby to my much-loved chemo nurses with some sadness, but I smile to think of 8 weeks with not a single hour spent hooked up to fluids. So this is how God answered my prayer this morning to be able to work a couple of hours to do some needed tasks. No question! He is good.

Thanks for your prayers.

Climbing Rose

E'en for the dead I will not bind my soul to grief;
Death cannot long divide.
For is it not as though the rose that climbed my garden wall
Has blossomed on the other side?
Death does hide,
But not divide.
You are but on Christ's other side!
You are with Christ, and Christ with me;
In Christ united still are we.

I read that poem yesterday in my devotional, "Streams in the Desert," and thought of the two dear women in our close circle who are facing their first Christmas without their beloved husbands. And then I thought of a friend in our Sunday school class who wept speaking of the death of her husband--and she's been a widow as long as we've known her. That kind of grief never really goes away. Yet Christ very specifically offers comfort and eternal hope. And these women, along with dozens or hundreds of other friends, give evidence of it.

Every time I mention death, someone scolds me, as though by saying the word I were inviting the event. I'm not. But this is the truth: death and earth-life are inextricably bound together. Let's not fear, but rather prepare.

My oncologist's nurse called yesterday to say that he had studied my report and had already arranged for a new treatment today. I feel blessed to have a doctor who is conscientious. Thanks for praying for wisdom for him--and for us. Oh, I really need to have a functional brain and body for at least a couple of hours this afternoon or tomorrow morning because of two urgent tasks that didn't get done yesterday. It seems that the chemo that's mean to me tends to be the chemo that also drives down the cancer, so that's what I want. Still, I pray for at least a couple of hours of "daylight."

A word to my grammarian friends: I know that book titles should be in italics. But my version of blogger stopped accepting italics several weeks ago, and I haven't been able to fix it. Every time I use quotes where they don't belong, as in the first paragraph, I feel the need to apologize. There, I did it!


Monday, December 03, 2007

Dark and Light

For years I've felt a deep sadness on the day after Midsummer, knowing that daylight hours would be getting progressively shorter for half a year. I loved long days. But as I walked around the house this morning turning on all the Christmas lights, I got a flash of insight. If this were June, it would be daylight already, and tonight we'd be in bed before dark. No point, then, in Christmas lights! There's a lesson here--so obvious that I won't bother to explain. (Dear friends in the southern hemisphere, do you bother with Christmas lights?)

I'm happy to report that Chuck slept soundly last night. Thanks for praying. I also slept well, as usual, and I'm feeling well this morning.

Our Sunday school lesson yesterday was from Romans 1. Teacher Tom helped us see that the worst thing we can do is to elevate ourselves or any other person or thing above God. "Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn't worship him as God or even give him thanks" (Romans 1:21). And verse 25: "Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies. So they worshiped the things God made but not the Creator himself, who is to be praised forever. Amen." There are Christians in some circles who are picking fights with secular society/culture over specific behaviors. I think we'd be better off to elevate God to His right place in our own lives, and see how He changes us. We are so blind to our poorly-chosen priorities.

I'm looking forward to a good and productive day today; I hope you are too.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Anticipation and Joy

Greens, lights, angels! Both indoors and out, we are visibly looking forward to Christmas. In my heart, I am too. Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Churches used to encourage fasting and penitence during the first weeks of Advent, because it was our sin that made it necessary for Jesus to enter human history as our Savior. Liturgically (and popularly), fasting and penitence are not much practiced these days. Maybe that's because Christians understand the instant forgiveness that follows confession of sin. Why save it up for a season? (I hope it's not because we have lowered our standards and think we're no worse than anyone else, so why repent? Not true!)

In any case, Advent is surely a time of anticipation and joy. But let it not be only for the pleasures of family, friends, gifts, and song. Let it be for the coming of the saving, healing Christ into the deepest and neediest places of our souls and our world.

I'm later than usual this morning. I lingered in bed hoping Chuck could catch some sleep, after several wide-awake hours during the night. Please pray he'll sleep better. (I almost always sleep soundly.)

I heard from a beautiful friend yesterday that her doctor is almost certain she's in the early stage of Alzheimer's disease. My heart cries No No No No No . . .! I pray it's something curable, but whatever it is, I pray for God's grace for her.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Time to Dance

Late yesterday we received the results of my CA 125 test. They were not what we'd hoped for: a significant rise to 520. I posted a few more details last evening. For the moment, nothing has changed. I still feel very well. Christmas is coming; in fact, last evening I climbed into the garage attic to get the Christmas decorations and I'm going to decorate today. I love this time of year. So I decided to share this beautiful story.

[My friend Howie Brant sent me this story. Before I tell it, I must remind you that a few generations ago, conservative Christians believed dancing was wrong. SIM and other mission organizations carried that view to their places of service. If you are reading our magazine or website ( now, you’ll know that things have changed and we wholeheartedly affirm the art of the ethnic worship dance as described here.]

Northern Ghana is not an easy place to live -- for anyone. The people suffer with drought, malaria, and heat. If you see them in the daytime they appear rather lethargic, slow, and unmotivated. But when the evening shadows grow long and the sun goes down -- when they have had their evening meal and the moon comes out -- and when they feel the sound of the African drum booming in the night -- they come alive. Singing and dancing are perhaps the soul of the people. When asked which tribe or ethnic group they come from, they will respond, "I sing in Kassem, and I dance in Kassem."

Many years ago, the Gospel was just coming to the Kassena people in Northern Ghana. A local SIM director came to visit us and the new believers put on a welcome dance for him. Soon we received a rather stern warning that we should not allow new Christians to dance. We were not so convinced. We could see that the people danced because it was their way of showing joy or happiness.

A few months later, it was Christmas time. A leader from SIM International came to visit us. The Kassena believers invited our team to one of their villages to celebrate their first Christmas. We went, not knowing what to expect. They sang a few songs, served an African meal, and someone told the Christmas story. We were just about to leave when a solid "thump, thump, thump" rang out in the night. A shot of embarrassment went through me! No! These people were not going to dance again!

But they did. Out came the drums and they began their sophisticated rhythms. Very soon a long line formed and everyone joined the line. In the moonlight, they danced back and forth -- about 10 feet left -- and then about 10 feet right -- back and forth.

Then they began to sing their song. At first we didn't understand, but gradually we discerned the words. It was their first Christmas song.


Over and over again, into the night. Jesus Christ is the Son of God... and He was born in Bethlehem. All this of course came with the powerful sound of the drum that went right through you. You could feel the vibration. The music went right down into your soul. And it made you want to get up and move and shout it out with them. Jesus Christ is the Son of God... and He was born in Bethlehem!

Well, so much for my embarrassment. Whatever my superiors might think, this was absolutely beautiful to me! Here was a clear, sincere, indigenous expression of these believers on their first Christmas, Kassena style. It was just as wonderful as "Joy to the World" or "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem." Jesus is the Son of God, and He was born in Bethlehem. They danced on into the night.

The hour grew late and we had to leave. I expected to face the disapproval of my mission leader. But as we drove home, he said, "That was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen."

And it was.

So, let's dance.