I Hate Cancer, Yes I Do, I Hate Cancer, How About You?

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David Cotham started visiting our church in Houston, the West University Church of Christ, because his son, Jeremy was at MD Anderson being treated for cancer.  David was a preacher, a great guy, and was there every time he could be there.  His wife, Sharon, stayed with Jeremy pretty much all the time.  I witnessed the cancer attack Jeremy’s body.  He started off looking like someone who was just in for treatment, but we all know what chemo does.  It takes your hair, it weakens your body, it leaves you scarred.

He wore a mask when he was able to get out.  He’d sit on the back row.  You could tell he wanted to reach out and talk to people, but he just wasn’t allowed to do so.  Eventually, when I left West U, I found that he had his legs amputated, and the cancer just couldn’t be beaten.  Yesterday, after a long and hard fought battle, he went home to be with God.

I haven’t seen David or Sharon or Jeremy in months.  But I kept up with him.  Each week I’d get several updates from David or Sharon about his condition.  Thousands of people were praying for Jeremy.  I praise God for Jeremy and his influence on so many.  As I read through comments on his Facebook wall last night and this morning, you could tell he had a tremendous impact on many.  The last email that came through today said this:

Many of you have probably heard by now, but it is with great sadness that I have to tell you that our sweet, beloved son Jeremy passed away this afternoon.
 
Recently as ESPN commentator, Stewart Scott, also passed away due to cancer; but before his death, last July, at the ESPY awards show, he received an award named after Jim Valvano, a former NC state coach who died of cancer in 1993 at age 47.  In accepting the award, Scott is quoted as saying, “When you die from cancer, that does not mean that you lose to cancer.  You beat cancer by HOW you live, WHY you live, and in the MANNER in which you live.  So, live!  Fight like heck (but he used another word); and when you get too tired to fight, then lay down and rest, and let someone else fight for you!”  So now someone else is fighting for Jeremy, and now then Jeremy really did NOT lose then his battle to cancer this afternoon; but he beat cancer by “how” that he lived his life in the last 6 years since he was diagnosed with leukemia.  He was an inspiration to all of us in “how” that he battled cancer!  He was strong until the end!  Never complained about his lot that life had dealt to him!  He was the best son that any parents could have ever asked for, but he was taken from us way too young!  
Your immediate family will miss you (mom, dad, and Amber) (Bear too!)

And your large, huge extended family (relatives, friends, church members, doctors, nurses, medical staff, etc.) will also greatly miss you too!

Cancer stinks.  I hate it.

When I first moved to Houston with my family to work with the church there, just a few days after we arrived I found out that my sister, in her mid thirties, had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She had the treatment, and the surgeries, and now, she is cancer free.

When my wife and I moved to Nashville, after about 10 months, we found out that Nathan, the boy of the family my wife helped so much as their nanny, was diagnosed with cancer.  A hard fought battle, and several years, later, he’s cancer free.  His parents informed us that if he had been diagnosed with the cancer he had just a year or so earlier, he would not have made it.  That’s how far some cancer fighting technologies have come.  Praise God.

A teenager at the church my parents attend, Whit, had some discouraging news today.  He was diagnosed with cancer a few months back.  His family wrote today – “For those who don’t already know, we got bad news yesterday. The cancer has spread to his brain and spine. He will start chemo today and will be on the original schedule but higher doses plus a chemo pill. The doc says he stands a good chance of the chemo getting it all but won’t know until the next MRI in 6 weeks. Thank you all for your love and support.”

Cancer stinks.  I hate it.

My closest and dearest friend that I grew up with, Jason, lost both of his parents to cancer.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that all of us know someone who has gone through this.  Some defeat it.  Some do not.  I don’t understand why.

Today, i’ve shed a few tears thinking about Jeremy.  His parents loved him so much.  They spent so much time away from home, traveling back and forth to Houston, but I consider them heroes.  Kerry and Melinda Lackey, are heroes.  Jason and his sister Tara, heroes.  Tammy and Neal Robertson, heroes.  All of you who fight the fight alongside those who have the disease are heroes for helping them, being there for them, loving them, being selfless.

If you know someone struggling with cancer today – send them a text, write them a note, give them a call, go and give them a visit, and let them know you’re there for them.  May God strike down this horrible disease.

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A Prayer – for Hurting Ministers

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When I was a child, my father was usually the preacher wherever we went.  While it was not his full time profession, he was always preaching.  I always assumed that churches were perfect, never had problems, and that ministers like my daddy were the greatest people in the world.

I never fully understood about how churches can really be a painful place until I got into full time ministry.  I can’t even begin to count the number of ministers I know who have been let go, fired, asked to leave, left out of frustration….the list goes on and on.  I never knew this happened.  It made it all the more real to me when I saw that it did.

Churches are full of people, and people mess up.  People struggle.

I write this today, because I learned today of a college friend of mine who was let go from a church this past week.  In the past 2 months, I know of 10 ministers who have been let go or fired, or have had to move on.  While I don’t know the specific details of every situation, I know one thing – they are hurting.

Ministers are human.

Ministers have feelings.

Ministers love their churches.

Ministers give their heart and soul for the congregation.

The church family IS the minister’s family.  Your minister prays for you, and does so often.  So tonight will you do me a favor?  Pray for your minister, your pastor, your rabbi, your reverend…whatever title you give the guy that serves your congregation.  Pray for them.

It breaks my heart to hear of a minster being let go, especially in the middle of the school year.

Encourage your minister.  Lift your minister up.  Send them notes of encouragement.  Tell your elders how much you care for them.

Are they perfect?  Nope, not even close.  But, they are human.

Tonight, my prayer is for all ministers, both those who have lost their jobs, and those who will wake up to their job tomorrow morning – to be blessed.

To All Who Have Been Bullied (The One Where I Talk About How to Deal With Bullies)

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I grew up being picked on.

The first bully I ran into was in Kindergarten.  The very first day of school I ever had, he stepped on my hand while I was playing with blocks.  He continued to bully me all through elementary school and junior high.

As I got older, I got fat.  And then, I got acne…bad.  And then, I got glasses.  In fact, in sixth grade, I looked like a kid from “The Far Side” comic strip.  I was mocked and made fun of, daily.

I tried out for the basketball team in 7th grade, and didn’t make it.  I got made fun of.

I was still fat.  I was still covered in acne.  I had greasy hair.  Fortunately, I had gotten contacts.  That helped a bit.

Since I wasn’t the most athletic of folks, I ventured into the fine arts.  I was in the chorus and was in all the drama productions.  That ended up being a blessing.  I found an outlet where I could pour myself into, and found friends who cared about the same thing.

To be honest with you – from about 3rd grade till 9th grade, I was miserable.  I went to a private school, but only was able to go because my father worked there.  We didn’t have money like a lot of others did in my class, so I never had “designer” clothes, or the latest and greatest gadget.

The sad thing is – bullying is one of those things that never stops.  Even now, as a 37 year old, I get made fun of.  My weight, my bald head, they draw a lot of critiques.  Granted, the bullying is different these days, but it still is a shame that adults make fun of other adults.

I guess this hit a nerve with me the other day.  My sweet little girl honestly has one of the kindest, gentlest, sweetest spirits of any little girl I’ve ever known.  There are two young girls in her class that make fun of her.  They won’t play with her.  Its sad that even in the first grade, there’s already “popular” kids.  I hate that word – “popular.”

She has come home several times, saying these two girls made fun of her on the playground, at lunch, etc.  Of course, my wife and I try to tell her – “Just don’t pay any attention to them…”  But, I know better.  Its hard.  Its hard when you long to be accepted, and you’re not.  Its hard when you just want to be nice to everyone, but they don’t want to be nice back.

The thing that scares me is that this is only the beginning.  She is only 6.  If she’s only 6 and she’s already being put in this awkward position, I know we’re going to be holding her many times over the next 20 years, listening to her cry about how mean someone has been to her.

Some people say “that’s just how they are…”, or “their heart is in the right place…” but I’m don’t buy it.  A bully is a bully.  Whether its physically bullying someone, or verbally bullying someone, or just an attitude of overconfidence – its not fun to be around those people.  How a bully becomes the most popular person in their circle of friends is beyond me.

The bible tells me that I’m supposed to love my enemies.  Some of the hardest people in the world to love are bullies – the ones who hurt us.   I often don’t want to forgive them, much less love them.

But Matthew 5:38-41 (NLT) says “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.”

And when I feel like getting revenge, I need to remember this, from Romans 12:19-20 (NLT) “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,‘ says the Lord.  Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”

Its one of those lessons that’s a lot easier to say than do.

Remember, you will always have bullies in your life.  Oftentimes, the bullies in your life don’t even realize they are bullies.  Continue living for God.  Continue to remember the golden rule – to treat others like you want to be treated.  If someone is mean to you, treat them with kindness.  And above all else, remember that according to Matthew 7:2, Jesus says “For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

How Your Saturday Can Affect Your Sunday

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When I was in high school, and then even into college, I lived for the weekends.  “What are you doing Friday and Saturday night?” was a common question.  Often, those nights were spent hanging with friends, playing ball, watching movies, or various other activities.  I was never one to go out and “party” or do anything stupid, but I was one that loved to stay out late.

I would most often find myself, especially in college, staying out till curfew, and then going back to my room, hanging out with my roommate, playing video games, talking, or playing cards till the wee hours of the morning.  It was okay though – I didn’t have class the next day.  On Saturday night, we’d do it all over again.  It was okay though – I didn’t have class the next day.

I ended up sleeping through Bible class, waking up about 10 minutes before worship, and we would run over to the church that met right next door, sneak in, and get settled right before worship began.  I have to tell you – I don’t think I could have told you one thing that happened during any of those services.

I wasn’t encouraged.  I wasn’t uplifted.  I wasn’t happy.  I didn’t feel like I had worshipped.  I knew I had not given it my all.  Sure, I was there.  At least, physically I was there.  But mentally, I was still fast asleep, my mind was not awake, and I really didn’t care about what I was doing.

Fast forward 15 years.  Are things any different?

I’m not suggesting you cease all your Saturday activities, and stay at home meditating with your legs crossed and humming the Old Rugged Cross all day.  I AM suggesting that maybe you make sure that you get home at a decent hour, with time to calm down before bed, and spend some time Saturday evening focusing on the cross.

When you have a big presentation at work, or have a major test at school, or anything else similar – you usually spend the night before preparing.  I don’t think we spend enough time preparing to go and be with our church family on Sunday morning.  For so many of us, we wake up just in time to throw an outfit on, rush the family out, and show up 10 minutes late.  While its great you’re there, and its better you’re there than not there, ask yourself – are you ready to worship?  Are you ready to learn about God’s love and grace and mercy?

On Sunday morning, how prepared will you be to sit in the presence of God surrounded by brothers and sisters while singing and listening and encouraging?  Tonight, make sure you plan your evening around your Sunday morning plans.  It may just make your Sunday morning awesome.

I Don’t (just) Believe in Jesus

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Do you believe in Jesus?

Tonight, a simple thought that I hope will challenge you as a Christian:

Belief in Jesus just isn’t enough.  There has to be behavior that follows.

Do you remember what James 2:19 says?  It reminds us “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”  Satan and his demons believe in God, believe in Jesus, and believe in the Spirit.

Believing is great.  I believe in Jesus.  But that is not enough.

There has to be action.  There has to be response.  How will you show you are a believer?  What will you do to show that you’re a follower of Jesus?  Belief is just a step.  Taking action is a big step – will you take it?