I am writing this as the calendar is about to turn to February, and yes, my Christmas Tree is still up, and the colored lights are also shining on our house outside - please, don't judge me.
There is a reason I begged my wife to keep Christmas up all year. My major challenge this year is not Covid - thankfully, I tested negative for that virus three times already – it’s prostate cancer. I found out last Monday.
Down inside, I knew something was not right in my body, and I’m ready to fight this and join my daughter, Abbie, in becoming a cancer survivor, but I do better being surrounded by the reminder of Emmanuel, the name of Jesus that means “God with us.”
This year, I need that truth not just in December. I need the Savior's songs to be my soundtrack as I battle this latest challenge. I need the ornaments to stay out because everyone tells a story of my life to this point.
This is not a time to relegate Christmas to the attic when I need it before me. Hey, family, let's face the facts. God is great, but life can be hard, extremely unfair, and downright painful. This is true even for those who call themselves Christians and try to make a positive difference with every 24 hours they are given.
I’ve been serving Jesus in full-time ministry since 1982. In those years, my wife, Terri, and I have sojourned through the valleys, where we experienced two of our children being miscarried before our son, Rudy, was born, in 1986.
We saw our daughter, Abbie, beat kidney cancer, in 1994, only to see the birth and death of our son, Nicholas Paul, in 1995. Our other son, Benjamin Phillip. came and left just as quickly, in 1999, and then the next year, we saw my dad get hammered by his cancer - his also started as prostate before spreading to his bladder, and he graduated to glory, in September 2000.
We have had ups and downs most everyone who lives on this planet must muddle through.
Joel’s miracle birth, in 2003, and the last Sheptock baby born to die on the day our son, Rudy, graduated high school. Terri’s parents are now both in heaven.
In my heart and mind, I have tasted of what real anxiety and depression are about. I have had a heart attack, mini-stroke, and have twice had shingles. I have learned through personal experiences that I can't expect to get from this world what will only be true by my staying close to Jesus.
This world can never offer some things. There are holes the size of canyons that possessions and places will fail miserably to fill. Love from God and for Him must come first, so that we can operate from a full cup and not hope that bringing our parched hearts to empty wells will deliver.
We need to keep looking up and not around for our peace and purpose. I have been called crazy more than once by the observing crowd, and if I am out of my mind, my prayer is that the real reason is that Jesus is in my heart.
I don’t want to be a casual Christian and live a lukewarm life. I have been longing to live in the wide-open space of God’s grace, with no more worldly weights upon my ankles trying to keep me from His dance floor.
I know too well the obstacles that attempt to steal, kill and destroy what the Lord has in store. I have experienced the sabotage of the serpent when I thought the fruit salad was going to be yummy.
The enemy has robbed me of so much of my past. I would rather not give him dibs on my days to come, so if the cancer is my latest test and trial until I cross the finish line, let's keep singing, even if that means Christmas carols in March.
I need to share some truth with you that I already have learned in just a short week.
Many write and say to me, “you got this.” I’m sorry to disagree, but I immediately know that I don't. I know that I’m kind of a big baby, and this coming series of treatments does make me want to run and hide.
There are moments I wish I could rewind and escape to 1969, when my biggest dilemma was what field we would be playing baseball at on a particular day. I know that God's got it, and, even better, God's got me,
My prayer is God's got you, and you are leaning on Him rather than trying to be all strong and sassy by yourself. The Lord will never leave me or forsake me, and because of that, my inner Barney Fife becomes the outer John Wayne, and we can do all things through Him that not only strengthens us but escorts us side by side.
The other sentence that we just need to delete from the English language is, “at least you got a good cancer.”
I know what people mean, and I am beyond grateful that I have one that has an encouraging survival rate, and I want to live. However, can we agree that a "good cancer" doesn't exist?
My Nana died of breast cancer when I was only 5, and Dad was 67 when he passed. Cancer is part of the curse, and the only good that will ever be realized is how Jesus will redeem what was meant to harm us for His glory.
I know that I will be drawn ever closer to Him in the coming days. Tribulation has a way of mining the treasure in the soul, so bad is bad, but God is the One who can make all things work out for good, so I’d rather say, “I have a bad cancer, but an awesome God.”
Let me close with encouraging words from a great old hymn, “God Leads His Dear Children Along.”
Some through the waters, some through the flood, some through the fire, but all through the blood. Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song, in the night season and all the day long.”
ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.