Saturday, March 30, 2013

Verne Strickland talks faith, healing, and God's blessings. It is Easter.

By Verne Strickland / March 30, 2013

The enormity of what is happening to me is not in my conscious mind often enough. It should be.

I was introduced to a new rheumatologist a couple of weeks ago. A routine check-up -- though when you're 76, no physical problem seems routine.

"You have polymyalgia rheumatica."

"I did have."

"It is chronic and incurable."

"I was healed."

"Okay. I accept that. And you have spinal stenosis. What happened there?"

"I prayed my way through it. I was scheduled for surgery. When I came back for an evaluation, the doctor told me the problem had somehow cleared up.



"Your bone cancer? Healed?"

 "I don't know. But I am in remission. My oncologist called my progress remarkable. I no longer need radiation. Or chemo. I see him once a month for check-ups. Maybe it's a miracle. He doesn't flatly deny that."

What has happened to me? What has transpired in my life? My family is delighted, of course. Relieved. They've seen me endure pain and suffering. But never despair. Not even serious doubt.

How? Why? I know how and why. I've been blessed beyond measure. Through prayer and faith. God put His hand on me and brought me through.

Many would call me an old man. I don't feel it. I'm told I don't look it. I have energy and physical well-being and optimism that don't belie my age.

One thing I haven't mentioned -- my diagnosed Alzheimer's. That troubles me. It has taken a lot from me. Despite taking two powerful prescribed medicines for the disease, I struggle with my memory. Am confused many times by simple problems. Sometimes get lost. It's frustrating.

But I am able to write with gusto and confidence. I kept that. I say this is why God put me here. It is His plan for me. I write about politics, government, the exceptionalism of America, abortion, global tensions, family, and the honesty and responsibility -- or lack it it -- that our leaders show us.

And God. A lot about God. My blog and Facebook page often deal with Christianity, prayer, faith, and "competing" religions. I share the Good News of redemption and the incomparable love of Jesus Christ. I think what I write is important to some people. They seem buoyed by the encouraging words, interested in how God has affected me in my personal, family and professional life. It's an "open book" discussion.

I am not boastful of any of this. I have no need to be. I only bring myself to the table. Just As I Am. God takes it from there. I talk about it -- personal experiences, doubts, concerns, and that sort of thing. Some comment that they receive inspiration from this. I am flattered and humbled.

A reporter at heart, I asked my new rheumatologist what attracted him to this particular field of medicine. What he said was unexpected. 

"I deal with despondency and discouragement, as well as the courage and strength of my patients. Progress is slow and there are many failures. But I'm always looking for that golden nugget -- somebody who has gone through it all and is still standing. Your case is the reward. I see how all of the research, treatment, financial sacrifice, and dedication of professionals in this field can come together for a real victory. It is very heartening."

Dang. I could not have expected that. But it reminds me anew of how God works in our lives. And how we must be doubly grateful for the good things he shares with us.

I look back over my time in chemotherapy, hooked up with a IV feed, receiving the cancer-fighting fluids that keep us alive and functioning. There is much time for reflection during those hours. I spend my time reading, thinking, and talking with other patients, many of whom shoulder a bigger burden than I -- breast cancer, brain cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer. While others deal with bone cancer, as I do.

They are dear people for whom I feel great compassion. And they are courageous, uncomplaining, brave, stoic, and so special.  I talk with them frankly about their plight. I'm accepted. I am a member of the club. I share cancer's presence and threat with them. I pray for them and with them. Many I have not seen since.

"All things work together for good to those who are in Christ, who are called according to His purposes." Such promise. Sweet verses such as this sustain me. I share them with my wonderful fellow travelers. They receive them quietly -- some with a nod, others with a gentle smile.

I have gained much from this journey, with which I am not done yet. I look forward to a deeper relationship with my Savior Jesus Christ, who has been so generous with me. His most precious gift has been forgiveness. Salvation.

This is what we thank Him for this Easter in the Year of Our Lord 2013.