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This evening ends “Day Nine” of my chemo-journey.

 

Here’s what I want to say to each of you, “Thank you, your prayers made a difference.”

 

At this moment those few words capture what I believe to be true of your prayers for me over this past week.

 

Yet, as I write those particular words I realize how overused and cliché they can sound.

 

Your prayers make a difference” can sound like the religiously canned illusory response effective shtick that drafty “spiritual” professionals commonly use. I ought to know I’ve been a trained, tried and true spiritual-director/pastor/Pharisee.

 

My four days of Chemo this last week were brutal, discomforting, painful and filled with a sobering awareness of my helplessness in spades. At the same time God came in heroic ways for me. I was acutely aware of his presence, goodness, love, comfort and sovereign strength. I saw circumstances unfold in my favor and that reflected his heart, physical reactions that were relatively “mild”, and his provision of people, words, grace, beauty, joy and hope. On top of all this, he gave me eyes to see how ALL of this was connected to and influenced by your prayers.

 

This week I ached, groaned and worshipped.

 

Feeling good enough now to write, I wanted to give my heart voice to the gratitude I feel. In doing so I found myself using, what, to some, is a platitude, that I have ingenuously parroted in the past. For that I now repent.

 

Thank you, your prayers made a difference.

 

 

A week ago Sunday was “Day One” minus one. (In my treatment plan “Day One” is the first day of a twenty-eight day cycle, with the first three or four days involving an IV infusion of Chemo)

 

Having just taken a taxi to M. D. Anderson/Jesse Jones Rotary House I’m rolling our luggage across the threshold/doorway into the building when I’m swiftly T-boned by a wave of emotion. I can’t immediately name it, but its deep, good, powerful and a complete surprise… “Ahh… its God!” He doesn’t speak; I’m simply overwhelmed by his presence. And it lingers.

 

An hour later, Lori and I are enjoying a Reuben Sandwich on marbled rye and a Chipotle Salad with a couple tall frosted glasses of Houston Municipal water with a wedge of lemon when mid-bite I’m staggered to tears again as God shows up. Immediately I’m multi-tasking, trying to swallow, compose myself and interpret what God’s up to. Lori wonders out loud the very words I’m trying to spit out, “Safe, are you feeling safe?” Yes, that’s the word, “Safe”. I’m engulfed by safety, sheltered in some unassailable strong hold!

 

And then, in His presence at that lunch table in Rice Village, he began to unpack the word “Safe” for me.  

 

“I am your fortress, your hiding place, a rock, your salvation, and your refuge. You are cherished, free from harm, impervious to assault, out of harm’s way, hidden, shielded… under my care and guard.”

 

"Rest, lay your sword down… this battle is mine.”

 

 This wasn’t a pre-chemo catharsis, an expression of powerful positive thinking, a breakdown or me “bucking up”. This was My God bringing into my entire being all that he promises us. This was the Word. The Living Word, God being God!

 

And a zillon passages came to mind; here are but two:

 

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, 
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. - Psalm 23

 

Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation." - Psalm 91:14-16

 

I wasn’t to fight, I didn’t need to. I was to rest in safety, to be still and know he is God. He is a Warrior and he had me tucked away in his fortress 979 miles from the front.

 

Thank you, your prayers made a difference.

 

 

Days Three & Four.

 

By all standards, statistically and anecdotally my oncology nurses assured me I was experiencing relatively mild side effects compared to 70% of the patients receiving the same treatment. I totally believe them… I walked the halls and saw suffering on an exponentially higher scale than my current one.

 

Thank you, your prayers made a difference.

 

My big-hearted Jesus loving, Mama comforting, compassionate, joy-bearing soul sister nurses were God to me! There were other nurses I could’ve had, but didn’t. I was surrounded with life-givers. (I cried saying goodbye to them Friday).

 

Thank you, your prayers made a difference.

 

Fatigue is the most disheartening and challenging side effect I’m experiencing from the Chemo. There are times this world changing apostle of joy who’s liberating captives and prisoners around the world has wondered, "How I can possibly move the 12 foot span between my bed and the restroom?" 

 

I have been close to total helplessness. Safe but helpless.Preparing to leave Houston I feared all that was required of me to get back home. Check out of the hotel; get to the airport, through security, to the gate, the plane, to the car and home.  At the same time,God was there… in “it”, over “it”, all over “it”. I knew, really, really knew in places far deeper than my fear that God would come for me in anyway I really needed.

 

No horse pucky, he came! I had strength, endurance and an “I’m on top of the world” attitude all the way home. It was God! I was strong in him.

 

Thank you, your prayers made a difference.

 

Days Five & Six.

 

These were the most agonizing days so far.

 

God had ushered me back to the front and with validating words told me to pick up my sword and join him in the battle. (The breaks from the front are not yet unending.)

 

I could find no comfort. TV and music were no distraction, I couldn’t read, sleep, sit, stand or walk. The icing on the cake was opening a delightfully demonic inspired letter that had been sent over night from my insurance company informing me they had reversed their decision and would not cover any of my cancer treatment expenses at M. D. Anderson!?@#*!.

 

We fight, we resist and at times we’re withered from the battles our lives bring but we never war alone. I was not alone in the trenches… somehow I knew that, and that was all I needed to know.  

 

 I have tasted sweet victories this week, other victories are yet to come, but victory is certain.

 

Thank you, your prayers made a difference.

 

 

Days Seven & Eight.

 

For brevity’s sake I will be uncharacteristically short. I feel great! Not 100%, but great!

 

I don’t think my journey is really much different than yours. My best advice: love God, live free and fight viciously every foe trying to take your life.

 

 Thank you, your prayers made a difference.

 

 

-Craig McConnell

 

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