The Wrong Trail

Here’s a little background to this post: When I started my blog several years ago I named it “Notes From My Journey”. My intent was to write to you about what was happening currently in my life and dig into what I was learning from life’s experiences day by day. Writing for my blog soon became pretty sporadic as it’s hard for me to track life’s learning experiences on a weekly calendar basis. So in January 2021 I recommitted to writing the blog and began with a series on the Prodigal Son from Jesus’ story in Luke 15. I made a commitment to myself that I’d write a new post every week. Then a couple of months into the year, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma Cancer and a new and amazing chapter of my life began.

In the midst of all that was going on I managed to post something every week for all of 2021. Much of what I wrote in 2021 is series of posts on topics, questions, application of scriptures, and things I think about. There’s some really good stuff in there and you can find it archived month by month at Then along came 2022 and the SCT and my posting took a hit! I was still sending my GraceNotes daily devotional every day (If you’re not already subscribed you can sign up for the free GraceNotes daily email at But it seemed that my blogging took a backseat and ended up being only a health update once a month.

But early on June 5, as I was walking in the desert east of town with Jake the Desert Bone Dog, something happened! It was a damp and cool, post-rainy but still cloudy, Sunday morning. It was also a very sensory morning. There was a little breeze blowing and it felt good on my face. The pungent scent of wet juniper was strong, and mixed well with the comfortable smell of sage brush. It was really nice!

That morning, I had decided to take a trail that led south to the southern boundary of the BLM reserve where we do much of our desert walking. I hadn’t done that trail since sometime before the transplant and I thought I’d like to see if I had gained back enough strength to do it. I was pretty much lost in thought and prayer and watching Jake be a dog and it was a while, but eventually I realized that time-wise I should be there by now! It was a cloudy, grey morning, so there was no sun to navigate by, and if you’ve hiked in a Juniper desert forest, you know that due to the randomness of the Juniper trees, you can’t see very far in any direction. So I began to watch more carefully around me and thought about the trail details and my surroundings: the lava ridge to my right, the very large dead Juniper ahead on my left, and I realized I was on the wrong trail!

I was heading west, not south, and I wasn’t going to get to the fence and the gate I thought I was headed for! And the end of the trail I was on was too far for the time and energy I had this morning. So I turned around and headed back the way I came. I watched more carefully this time and saw where I had drifted right, off the north-south part of the trail and sort of merged onto the largely unused trail that ran a couple of miles to the west boundary of the BLM reserve. It’s a trail I had walked before and it’s got great features! But I needed to be back to town in time for church. This trail would have to wait for another time and another day’s energy and strength.

Getting on the Wrong Trail changed my plans for the morning’s walk. I had to turn around and go back the way I came and didn’t make it to the south gate I was headed for. I did a lot of thinking and praying and keeping track of Jake for the half hour or so it took to get back to the car, but it was really joyful! It felt like the dryness and the “Inspiration-lessness” I wrote about last week was over. The sense of God’s presence was with me again! By the time church was over and the day ended I felt like God has given me a fresh beginning! Let’s see what happens!

The lessons I learned from the Wrong Trail that morning are really important lessons for me in my present situation! Here’s some of what I’ve been thinking:

    • In eight decades of life, I’ve learned far more from my mistakes than from the things I got right the first time. The wrong trail may not have got me where I thought I was going, but if I learned from my mistake and got back on the right trail as soon as I knew what was happening, nothing was wasted. The thing we’ve got to be careful about in learning from our mistakes is not to learn more from the experience than we should. Mark Twain wrote, “A cat that sits on a hot stove will never sit on a hot stove again. But neither will she sit on a cold stove!”
    • I’m realizing (and I’m not sure how to express this the way I’m seeing it) that I tend to have a very narrow, sometimes too narrow, view of “right trail”/“wrong trail”. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t have clarity on right and wrong in terms of moral issues or in terms of things that are harmful or hurtful to ourselves and others. What I do see more clearly is that a thing that someone else does or the way they do a thing may be right for them but not right for me. Or that a thing may be wrong for me right now, but right at another time or in another situation. Does that make sense to you?
    • Next time I can choose to walk the trail that was the “Wrong Trail” this time. I can go out to the desert when I have the time and energy to walk it to the end and it’ll be great! Choosing that trail at the right time in the right situation makes the “Wrong Trail” the right trail.

As soon as time and energy permits, I plan to drive out to the trailhead and choose the “Wrong Trail” and as soon as I choose it, it won’t be the wrong trail anymore. That trail will take me on a very scenic and enjoyable hike (with some twists and turns and ups and downs) to a new destination of my choice. And Jake the Desert Bone Dog will have the time of his life! Maybe he’ll even come up with a new bone or two!

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



In January 2021 I re-started my blog, Notes from My Journey. I made a commitment to myself that I would write a blog post each week for the entire year. I got off to a good start for the first couple of months, then in March I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma cancer, began a first-in-my life round of tests and scans and doctor appointments and began treatment in mid-April with three anti-cancer drugs (targeted chemotherapy).

A pill every day, infusion once a week, more pills every Thursday. Blood tests once a month, bone marrow biopsies periodically, and appointments with my oncologist monthly. I was doing pretty well! Cancer numbers were going down, other stuff looked good, and I was so fortunate to have very little adverse reaction to the treatment.

After a few months my oncologist mentioned a treatment called Stem Cell Transplant that had really good results with many patients achieving full remission from the cancer for  a significant period of time. My oncologist knew one of the doctors at Oregon Health and Science University Hospital in Portland, OR and contacted him about taking me on as a candidate for the SCT. He agreed to begin the testing process, even though at age 78 I was at the very upper end of the age range of patients they would consider. As we proceeded with the testing and scans, my results looked good. I was staying relatively strong, and I was accepted as a candidate for the transplant.

Our daughter Stephanie and her husband Philip and son Jesse live in the Portland area and they made their guest room available to Jean and me for as long as we needed it. So we went to Gresham in September, 2021 and I began a grueling almost two week process of preparation: Scans, examinations, blood tests, and pokings and proddings I will not describe here. This culminated in the harvest of Stem Cells from my blood that would be re-introduced after a two-day chemotherapy treatment that would kill all the cancer in my blood (along with my bone marrow and all the cells that make up my immune system).

Then we experienced a four-month delay in the process! Due to COVID, there were no intensive care beds available at OHSU, so the stem cells had to be frozen and my transplant postponed until beds became available. In January I was back on the schedule at last! Into the hospital on January 31. Stem Cell transplant on February 2, strong enough to leave the hospital on February 12. Then outpatient appointments for the next few weeks while we stayed with Philip and Stephanie and Jesse, and then release to return home to Bend on March 7.

I’ve been making good progress since then. In fact I’ve been fortunate to have very little adverse reaction to all the cancer drugs and treatments since beginning treatment in April of 21. And I stayed strong enough through it all that I was a viable candidate for the transplant. And I’ve recovered steadily (If slowly. At least it seems slow when you’re doing it day by day and hour by hour). And I’m still getting stronger every week.

I’m so very thankful to God that I’m presently in full remission from the cancer! I’m so thankful for the medical teams at St Charles Oncology here in Bend and at Knight Cancer center at OHSU in Portland. I’m so thankful for all the friends and family who have stayed in touch and given encouragement at the tough times in the process. I’m so thankful for everyone who has prayed for us, encouraged us, and given generously to help support us in financial and other practical ways during this process.

Anyhow, here’s an interesting thing! With everything that happened in 2021, I still managed to keep my commitment to myself and my readers to write a blog post every week. But something changed in the process of the hospitalization and SCT. Since February, I’ve only managed to post occasional health updates, and only about once a month. I know I included a little “thought for the day” kind of paragraph in each one, along with a “think about this” sort of question, but the “post every week” thing just crashed! I’m not sure why, but my inspiration tank was on empty. And I couldn’t really figure out how to fill it! I wrote paragraphs about this and that and made lists of things I could write for blog posts, but it seemed completely inspiration-less! I fretted about it, I prayed seriously about it, and finally I mostly accepted it. I guess I gave myself permission not to write anything if I didn’t have anything to write! I wasn’t happy about it, but there didn’t seem to be anything for it but to let it be.

Some lessons learned during my SCT and recovery so far:

    • (Almost) everything is a process.
    • Sometimes you just can’t! And when you “just can’t” just don’t!
    • Don’t give up. Keep looking and listening. Keep pressing into the fog until it clears.

Then yesterday, Sunday morning June 5, I was walking in the desert before church with Jake the Desert Bone Dog, and I got on the wrong trail. I was having one of my usual desert-walking conversations with God and more or less suddenly it seemed like grey turned to sunshine and things started to look brighter! And when we tuned in to online church with the others in our small group of “on-liners”, Pastor Evan gave an exhortation that really made me hopeful, then Pastor Steve spoke a message that spoke deeply to me, and the Holy Spirit breathed something new and fresh into my life! I can’t wait to tell you more about it – in next week’s blog post. Stay tuned!

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