Prayer is dependence on God

I wish it was different, but air travel is not what it used to be. Technology, Covid fallout, and rising costs have made flying quite impersonal and complicated — with the resulting onerous squarely on the traveler. Just like everything in our current culture, the doctrinaire is to get an app and it will supply all the information you need. Yeah, right.

What about when no one was at the arrival gate last week to tell us where to go for our specific bus transport? No one in sight. Pick up a “help phone” on the wall outside the concourse bathrooms? No help there either. The app is useless — human beings are priceless.

But our Heavenly Father is always there. Always.

I am reminded of the words of the songwriter:

We have a Heavenly Father above

With eyes full of mercy and a heart full of love

And He really cares when your head is bowed low

Consider the lilies and then you will know.

Those lilie’s in the field depend completely on the heavenly Father. They have no bank accounts, no insurance plans, nor any governmental assistance. They depend fully on the rain, Sun, and natural nutrients the Heavenly Father provides.

They are as perfect a picture as we can get of a dependent believer — trusting God in prayer. They are the example our Savior used in the Sermon on the Mount where He taught us to pray.

Both on the mount (in Matt.6:10) and in the garden (in Matt. 26:42) Jesus taught us to pray the prayer of utter dependence, “Thy will be done.” On the Mount He taught us how to live — in total dependence on our Heavenly Father. In the Garden He taught how to trust Him for eternal life — in total dependence on God’s unmerited gift of salvation.

We use the phrase,”Prayer changes things.” Yes, prayer changes us from self reliance to God focused dependence. Prayer changes and blesses our partners in prayer as they join in the ministry of intercession. But, in actuality, God changes things! He alone is the one who can take our hopeless or seemingly impossible circumstances to reveal His perfect plan and will.

What a privilege to lean on the everlasting arms of the almighty God. Total dependence through the gateway of prayer is the pathway into His protecting and providential presence. Let’s live like the lilies…

Following God’s Leading

Led by His Hand

In the year 2000 Positive Action Bible curriculum commissioned a talented artist by the name of Chris Ellison to illustrate Frank Hamrick’s study entitled Behold Your God. Chris developed thirty-five magnificent drawings depicting the nature, character, and works of the Godhead to introduce each lesson.

My favorite illustration is for the chapter on “His Omnipotence” that shows a mighty hand parting the waters of the Red Sea. Frank begins that lesson with these words from Puritan theologian Thomas Watson. Speaking of God Watson says, “He can do what He will; His power is as large as His will.” We have seen a measure of that power all through the Grace Journey of our lives. But at no time has it been more evident than these last two weeks since the dreaded word cancer became personal.

Today we are making final preparations to depart for Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, on Monday. Later next week we’ll go through medical testing and then on Thursday meet with an evaluating physician who will lay out the plan of attack to address the cancer discovered in my bladder.

I am at peace with this process because I can see the incredible way our faithful Lord has opened doors for this treatment option in just two weeks’ time. The past days have been a blur of preparations for this next step of the journey. God is at work and this cancer challenge is only one of the current issues we’re facing. But in all of these trials we remember our sovereign God’s words, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Charles Simeon in 1759 is reported to have said to his congregation,

“What is before us, we know not, whether we shall live or die; but this we know, that all things are ordered and sure. Everything is ordered with unerring wisdom and unbounded love, by thee, our God who art love. Grant us in all things to see thy hand; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

While studying God’s grace over the last dozen years, I have learned that His grace is matchless, sustaining, and sufficient. Not deterministic, but saturated with God’s superintending direction. So that through our decision making we can have confidence that God’s providential hand is leading and guiding us. I don’t understand it. Just revel in His goodness and grace.

My good friend John Brock said this week in a Good Friday meditation, “Nothing goes off the rails on the train of Providence.” I love that thought. A wise Thomas Watson observes, “Learn quietly to submit to divine providence. Do not murmur at things that are ordered by divine wisdom. We may no more find fault with the works of providence than we may with the works of creation.”

We are so thankful for the multitudes of friends who have sent messages indicating their prayer support. Likewise, we are buoyed by the precious scripture passages that have been transmitted to us. I’ve compiled a growing list of verses that I call “Our Treasure Trove” of God’s promises. We are resting, trusting, and going forward to follow where the Lord leads.

Positive Action grants Gerry Carlson free use of this image for non-commercial purposes. When presented, note that permission was granted by Positive Action Bible Curriculum and that the original art was by Chris Ellison.

The Cancer Journey Begins

Journal Entry: Written on Sunday, March 26, 2023

In an increasingly interconnected world, it is fitting that I was informed about cancer from a very impersonal app on my iPhone.

On Friday afternoon, a text message appeared on my phone informing me that I should check in for a doctor appointment on Monday morning. I was confused because I thought that all appointments with my urologist had been canceled and replaced by a three month follow up visit. I tried to cancel the new appointment through the app and when asked in a dialog box why I was canceling, I explained in a few short words that I was confused.

Then just a few minutes later, I discovered an email telling me there were test results now available in the digital portal of my AdventHealth app. I accessed the app to hunt for the latest test results, and lo and behold, I discovered a report on the tissue that was taken from the bladder resection surgery that I had two weeks previously.

I printed out the report and realized it was brutally honest to this very untrained layman. This was not the message that we were hoping to receive. It said in bold type, “Invasive high-grade urothelial carcinoma.”

So, I texted Connie‘s brother and sent him via email a copy of the pathology report. He is a brilliant retired veterinarian surgeon. Within 20 minutes he called on the phone. After catching up on some family updates, I said, “OK, tell me about the report I sent to you.” He replied, “Gerry, words mean something, and the words in this report that mean something are invasive high-grade carcinoma.” He said, “If I were you, I know what I would do. I would go right to aggressive treatment at the very best cancer option and proceed as swiftly as possible.”

I told him then that the person who had just replaced me at Maranatha Village had recently retired from Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Her job over the many years was as an executive secretary to chief of the all cardiologists at Mayo. During the last few years of her career, she handled many notable patients that came to Mayo for various kinds of treatment. She has extensive contacts within the Mayo Clinic system in Rochester.

A number of years previously Kaye had opened the doors for my sister Cheryl to be admitted to Mayo within a few days and receive lifesaving treatment. Then a few years after that, her husband Dwight faced life-threatening heart issues. Once again Kaye was able to open up the doors and get him lifesaving procedures. And just last summer, she was able to open the way again for Dwight to return to Mayo for successful treatment on a persistent and debilitating neurological issue.

So, I immediately called Kaye on the phone and told her about this new challenge. She said, “Bring the report to me at church on Sunday and I will make contacts on Monday morning.” I replied that I’d like to bring it over to her right now, and she came back with, “OK give me 15 minutes because I just got out of the pool.” Connie and I jumped into our golf cart and took the two-minute ride over to the Halstead‘s villa. As soon as she saw the actual report, her eyes widened and she said, “I know the secretary to one of the four best urologists in Mayo Clinic. I’ll send this to her”. I told her that I’d already sent her a copy via email. Kaye is emailing it tonight because she knows her friend looks at emails over the weekend.

We went back home with our minds spinning in a whirlwind. I immediately thought of our neighbors, who we’re not able to return this winter because the husband had in recent months gone through a cancer journey at Mayo. I remembered they had reported in an email to our village community how they were blessed by being able to stay at a wonderful facility in Rochester.

Within a few moments we had a conversation and they described the blessed ministry of Hope Lodge that is within walking distance of the Clinic. It operates expressly for the purpose of serving cancer patients as a place to stay where there are others who are walking the same pathway.

We don’t know what the road ahead looks like, these are just the first steps of this stage of our Grace Journey. Doors will have to open, and medical help will be needed in the days to come. Just this week I started rereading Robert Morgan’s wonderful little book Red Sea Rules. He begins the Preface by quoting Charles Haddon Spurgeon with this comforting thought:

“The Lord will make a way for you where no foot has been before. That which, like a sea, threatens to drown you, shall be a highway for your escape.”

Subsequently we have gained an appointment at Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, for April 12th. Pray that the Lord will be glorified in all that transpires. We are trusting our Lord to lead us down that highway.

Several friends have already given us uplifting scriptural promises to guide and encourage us. We will hold fast to God’s almighty hand.

“The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” Nahum 1:7

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” Isaiah 41:10, 13

A number of months ago I took Psalm 71:18 for the remaining days of my life on this earth. I offer these words each day as a prayer of trust in the abiding will of our great God and loving Savior.

“Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; Until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.”