Daily blessings

A disaster, such as cancer, makes us count them

Issue: "One president, under God," Feb. 3, 2001

The diagnosis of cancer last year (WORLD, June 17, 2000) drove home the truth of mortality as this reality changed my life. Characteristic self-confidence had to give way to dependence on God's grace and daily provision. Every day became a fresh gift, as living moment by moment took on new meaning. Surviving surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and two life-threatening infections seemed, and indeed was, miraculous. A friend with cancer summarized his initial prayers, "It's just you and me, Lord." Later he altered this to, "It's just you, Lord."

After a while, living with cancer becomes a way of life. Yes, there are daily reminders like soreness at an old surgical site, or air hunger while throwing hoops with my teenage son, testing the one good lung. But you don't dwell on these things. Hey, you're alive and there is a blue sky outside. Thank you, Lord, for a fresh crisp breeze, bright sun, and another day to walk the dog. Actually, he walks me as we play tug of war at each end of his leash. Neighbors laugh.

Daily blessings typically come through the good graces of family and friends. It's been that way for years, but maybe I wasn't really paying attention. As I return from taking the kids to school, my bride of 27 years has already made the bed and cleaned up the breakfast dishes. Spotless, just like that. Her hair is back and she is wearing those sleek black tights, slim sweat shirt and sneakers, ready for morning aerobics. But first, we actually sit together over tea and a devotional. We even pray for the day. Maybe a few words about school games or visiting grandparents.

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Outside, Pokey the dog rolls leisurely on his back in the frozen brown grass, like he's on a hot beach. Reminds me of a wrestler warming up. (I think he is getting ready to trounce me again on the walk.) Simple things like that, and it's only 9 a.m.

How many family outings have we taken over the years? No idea. Was I paying attention? Today my youngest son has no school, so we head off to the new BMW "Zentrum" Factory Museum and look at generations of motorcycles and formula racing cars. He had no idea, and neither did I, but now all those model cars at home-like the yellow, bullet shaped land speed car that reached 339 mph in 1994-are coming to life. Outside, we look at the Z3s and X5s in the employees' parking lots and look behind at the high-tech plant where they are made. Driving home we have a contest counting out-of-state license plates. We make bets on the mileage, the temperature back in the mountains, and then monitor the dials. Just a morning with my son.

A father once wrote in his diary, "Boring day, nothing much happened." His son had written, "Best day of my life. Played basketball with Dad and took a long walk together." Could that have been me? What was I thinking? What else was so important? Must we endure disasters to keep priorities straight? No wonder God wants to get our attention.

Got to walk that dog in time to join Tom at the gym. He's the ever-faithful friend who decided I needed a little conditioning before surgery, and now thinks it will serve me well indefinitely. This man's heart was transformed as God's Spirit prepared him to help me, then others. Tom was there, ever smiling, all the way. He actually took off a week to accompany me to Houston for the big operation. Kept saying how I needed to be buffed. Showed me light in the hardest moments. By now he's introduced me to all the serious body builders: They've taken me under their big biceps and offered any help, any time. Never knew that a gym could be a fellowship hall. No question that He meets you where you are.

What's ahead? I don't know. Take it a day at a time. After all, there are enough blessings to keep anyone fully occupied, if we look. It's refreshing in a way not to have a five-year plan. Keeps me close to Him. Sure, there are bumps in the road, big bumps. I've watched others get sick and die while I'm still around. Thought for sure I'd be first. That hasn't been His way. So who am I to question? Be thankful; seize the moment. Don't even try doing it alone. It's really OK. In fact, I am a new creation. You too?

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