Honest Discussions With Life-Long Learners

Hey Friends, I’m starting a new phase of my cancer treatment this week as I prepare to go to OHSU in Portland in a couple of weeks for the long-awaited Stem Cell Transplant. The postponement due to OHSU’s ICU beds being occupied by COVID patients has taken about four months. Without the postponement I’d have completed the transplant and recovery period and would have been back in Bend sleeping in my own bed just before Thanksgiving.

The current schedule plan is for me to go to OHSU on January 24, sign the consent documents, and then begin the actual pre-transplant Chemo infusions on January 31 and February 1. Then the morning of February 2 (02-02-22 does that signify anything special or spiritual?), I’ll receive the transplant of my own Stem Cells which we harvested from my own body back in late September.

I can expect to be in ICU for about two weeks as my bone marrow begins to regenerate and as the amazing Stem Cells begin to reproduce and become the kinds of cells I need to rebuild my immune system, without the mutated cancer cells that have been trying to take over (the Chemo will take them out and I’ll get a fresh start with the 7.8 million Stem Cells that are waiting for me in the freezer at OHSU).

Then as my system begins to stabilize (this is all criteria driven – I must be able to eat and keep food down and must have measurable progress on cell regeneration), I’ll be released to stay at my daughter Stephanie and her family’s home in Gresham (I have to be within 20 miles of OHSU until further criteria are met and to receive any necessary support treatment.)  This could take as much as another four weeks, but we’re hoping for a much shorter period. Realistically we’re looking at five to six weeks from Transplant day to returning home to Bend.

During that time, I don’t know how much energy I’ll have or how well my brain will be working, so my weekly blog post may miss a week or two. GraceNotes daily devotionals will continue to go out daily by email and be daily posted to our ResourceMinistries.org web site.

This week and next, I’ll be having tests and scans and a variety of processes to determine if I’m strong enough and well enough to handle the challenges of the transplant. I’ll have another bone marrow biopsy (not my favorite), EKG, Echo cardiogram, pulmonary function test, PET scan, along with my regular cancer treatment regimen. Thankfully, I can do most of these tests here in Bend before going to Portland.

So please keep praying for us as we go forward into a season in which it seems like we’ll have a little less control of things than we normally imagine we have! During this time, I’m going to try to share with you things I’m thinking and praying about and processing. So hang in there with me!

Here’s my thought for this week:

Today I asked God for opportunities to talk with people who know a little more than I do about things that are important to me.

Wouldn’t it be great to have honest discussions about important things with people who are open to learn from each other?

You know, so often, what passes for discussion is opinionated people taking potshots at each other from behind the concrete walls of their minds – what passes for honest discussion is people tossing word grenades at each other from the concrete bunkers of their minds.

If we viciously attack others over differences of opinion we’re wrong even if we’re right! When we engage in honest, respectful dialog on matters of difference we’re right even if we’re wrong!

I’m a Life-Long Learner. I’m curious. I want to know stuff I don’t already know. I want to have to change my mind about things because I’ve discovered I was wrong!

I know not everyone is like that or is ever going to be like that, but let’s make the effort to respect those whose opinions are different from ours, and to learn from people who know stuff we don’t know.

Let’s make the effort!

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.

And don’t forget to pray for Jean and me as we travel through some uncharted territory the next few weeks!  Thanks!

What Really Matters?

Here we are friends, at the beginning of another year! Glad you could join me! This blog post is excerpted from a message by the same name that I gave at Mountain View Fellowship in Redmond, Oregon on Sunday, December 26, 2021…

New Year’s Resolutions: Good or bad? I wonder how many New Year’s Resolutions are about weight loss or getting in shape? After Thanksgiving and Christmas feasting and snacking, it often seems the most obvious and urgent thing we can do is get (back?) in shape! I don’t know why everyone is so anxious to get in shape! Round is a shape!

I joined a Health Club in January of last year. I found one that is especially for seniors, but it wasn’t working for me so I cancelled my membership after about four months. Apparently you have to go there!

How’s your experience with New Year’s Resolutions been in the past? Well, whatever your relationship with New Year’s Resolutions, this isn’t really about that. This goes deeper and I hope it reaches farther than New Year’s Resolutions do for me. It’s not that getting in a shape other than round doesn’t matter! Reality is that in comparison with the time and energy we spend on discovering and focusing on the things that REALLY MATTER, a lot of our time and energy gets spent on things that matter less. And a lot of the time it’s not Bad vs Good (that’s easy), it’s about Good vs Better, and Important vs Most Important.

“What Really Matters” isn’t the same all the time. And What Really Matters isn’t the same for everybody (all the time). We’d like to make it simple, make a list, plug our lives into the What Really Matters list, and live happily ever after. You see, we’re not intended to live the Christian life on cruise-control. The Christian life is about following Jesus, about learning, growing and changing. And that includes taking time to decide What Really Matters!

Let me give you an example: 1978. We lived in Tri-Cities, WA and were part of the leadership team of a Jesus People Church. I had been traveling teaching seminars for nearly 50% of the time that year. Our daughters were 7 and 12. We were presented with an opportunity to go to the south pacific and start a training center. It was a six weeks commitment. Another six weeks away from the girls. We had a perfect setup for my parents to stay in our home and look after them. But we cancelled. It mattered, but right then our relationship with our girls mattered more. It was a hard decision. It looked like a door was closing, probably for good. But it was the right decision. Then in the 80’s and 90’s when the time was right, we started training centers in Jamaica, the UK, and three nations in Africa.

What Really Matters changes with the seasons and circumstances of our lives. It’s different for different people. And it requires diligent thought, prayer, and often some really difficult decisions. Because you can’t do everything. You can’t have it all. And the thing you choose to do creates some things you don’t get to do!

In January of 2009, I decided to begin writing a daily devotional based on my current through the Bible in a Year reading plan. I made a list of people I knew who might like the devotional and offered it to them free by daily email. We’ve just finished 2021! That’s been 13 years and GraceNotes has been sent every day of those 13 years. Why? I guess because it’s one of those things That Really Matters to me.

Different seasons, Different situations, Different Importances!

The important thing is that you address What Really Matters in each season of life. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach for each of us. What Really Matters changes with the seasons and situations of life. What really matters is different for different people relative to specific interests, talents and abilities, and passions.

The key is more a matter of being awake and aware and seeking God’s “What Really Matters?” as we move forward in life.

    • This requires thought and prayer and focus.
    • This requires developing Kingdom of God values.
    • This requires a willingness to learn and grow and change.
    • This requires being a disciple, a follower of Jesus.

What Really Matters to me now? Not the same as when Jean and I were in Richland, WA in our early 30’s, running our business, with two daughters in school. Not the same as when we lived in Medford in our early 40’s with two daughters in school, starting a church. Not the same when we lived in Jamaica, with one daughter in school, one daughter in the US, starting a Bible Training Centre. Not the same as when we moved from Jamaica to England and started Bible Training Centres in London, then in Ghana, in Uganda, in Malawi… Not even the same as when we moved back to the US and got involved in local church ministry here in Central Oregon. What Really Matters to me, age 78, with cancer? I’ll let you know, friends. It’s a moving target!

What Really Matters to you, in your life, right now? Age and stage, situation and circumstance… What Really Matters to families with kids in school? What Really Matters to people who have recently retired and need to know what to do next?

I did an informal survey of some people in different ages and stages of life and it was interesting what I found. I found some expected and very significant differences in their “What Really Matters” lists, but I also found some things that seem not to change much with age and stage.

    • Braces for the kids, figuring out the school dilemma, needing a bigger house.
    • Medicare supplement, health issues, downsizing, are we going to get to travel like we’d hoped and planned?
    • Some degree of financial security.
    • Opportunities to serve, to help others, to make a difference.
    • In common: Relationships, family and friends, purpose.

Picture this with me:  Life is a journey. We are here, at the end of 2021, at the beginning of 2022…

    • We’re standing at the top of a hill
    • We’re standing at the turn of the year
    • We’re looking back, looking forward, looking around…

Looking back at the past year: Does it seem mostly good or bad?

    • What stands out? Disappointments or accomplishments, good times, successes?
    • Look for lessons to be learned. Let go the disappointments and mistakes.
    • Be thankful that God has brought you this far.

Looking forward to the coming new year: Good or bad?

    • Anxiety or hopefulness?
    • Look forward with gratitude and thanksgiving.
    • Remember God’s faithfulness in the past.
    • Look forward in hope.

Making important decisions and acting in the present.

    • Think about Your present “What Really Matters.”
    • Make a decision to focus your eyes on and to apply your time and energy to what really matters right now.

Take some time this week, before you jump back into the pace of things, to think and pray through What Really Matters as an individual or as a family in one’s present season and situation of life.

Ask: What Really Matters? Ask yourself, ask God, ask your family members, ask your friends. Here’s what I’d like you to do: Ask What Really Matters at least five times every day this week.

Here are some “What Really Matters” questions to stimulate your thinking:

    • What does my budget and calendar say about What Really Matters to me right now?. Are there things that use significant amounts of my resources and time that I know are not “What Really Matters” kinds of things? What can I do about that?
    • How can I start a conversation with my partner or family about “What Really Matters?”
    • What have I been wanting to bring to the top of my “What Really Matters?” list, but I just keep putting it off? What can I do to make that happen now?
    • Who among my friends and associates seems to really have a handle on their “What Really Matters?” Could I make arrangements to talk with them about how they do it?

Prayer:

Father, How did we ever get to this place? How did we make it through all we’ve been through? It’s by your grace and mercy! How are we going to make it through everything we’re facing, make it through all the unknowns of the days and weeks and months of an unknown 2022? It’s by your grace and mercy.

We pray for wisdom as we face decisions and choices large and small. We pray for a continuing awareness of your presence with us and your guiding and protecting hand on us for the new, unknown year that’s just before us. May we stand in your presence a year from now, filled with gratitude for all you’ve done for us and filled with hope for the next trip around the sun!

And may we live this year with the sense of purpose that comes with seeking and doing What Really Matters with the time, energy, and resources you’ve trusted into our hands. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.