Prayer

Experience the Joy!


Jesus

“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25)

Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. (Psalm 28: 6-8)

Have you ever experienced the joy? I don’t mean momentary joy. I mean true joy that never ends no matter what circumstances arise. Take a few minutes and think about the times in your life when you have been joyful, filled with happiness and overflowing with excitement. What comes to mind?

Some things that come to mind for me are my wedding day, the births of our children, the day we finalized the purchase of our first home, confirmations, graduations, family weddings and on and on. There are many. But how long did those moments last before becoming overshadowed with the disappointments of life and become only distant memories?

My husband and I were blessed with almost 45 years of marriage, but that joy we experienced on our wedding day is now overshadowed for me by a funeral – his funeral. He was called to his eternal home not so long ago. There were times during his illness when we both wished we could go back to happier days – when our children were small and life was fun and exciting. I am comforted by the fact that through faith in Jesus, he is with the Lord and I will see him again, but I still miss him. Every beginning here on earth also has an ending.

So, where can we find true joy – a joy that will never fade or end in disappointment? There is only one place to look for pure, never-ending joy in this life, and that is in our Savior, Jesus. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1: 3-5)

The joy we find through faith in Jesus is never-ending. In Jesus, we have peace for this life because we know He has paid our debt of sin. We are recipients of God’s wonderful grace which will never fail us no matter what we have done or not done. In Jesus, we have hope for eternity. We are covered in His holiness and He has reserved a place in heaven for us. We need not fear death. For those who love God, death is not the end, but the beginning. At our death, we will step over the threshold into a new life forever with the Lord.

As Christians, we walk with the Lord daily. His Spirit lives in us. We belong to Him. God is our loving Father. He will never forget us. He knows our needs before we do and He gives us what we need when we need it.  He doesn’t only meet our spiritual needs, but also our physical needs. He even cares about the small things in life – things which we would consider to be unimportant to an Almighty God and the Creator of our universe.

I recall one day losing my car keys. I was all ready to leave for an important appointment and my keys were nowhere to be found. In desperation, I prayed; “Lord help me remember where I put my keys.” After I prayed, I thought for a minute and remembered I had been searching through a little basket in my hutch for something. I bent over and pulled out the basket and there they were. I had dropped them there without thinking.

Often we are so busy trying to figure things out for ourselves that we miss God’s loving and divine intervention. But as we grow in faith and become more in tune with His Spirit, we will slowly become more aware of His presence in our lives.

I encourage you in the days to come, to ask God each morning before you begin your day, to make you aware of His presence and touch you with His Spirit. You will be amazed when you look back at the end of the day. I can pretty much guarantee that at some point; you will realize His divine providence. It will draw you closer to Him in your daily walk.

God is good. He lives in you. He loves you as if you were His only child. He, along with His holy angels, walks by your side daily, waking and sleeping. He will touch you with His power and with His Spirit when you least expect it. If you are not tuned in, you may miss it, but when you do see it, you will be filled with joy. Your heart will soar with amazement.

Seeing the Lord at work in our lives fills us with joy and confidence. That doesn’t mean there will never be sorrow, sadness or disappointments. It doesn’t mean that each day will go without trouble and irritation. But knowing that your God who is much stronger and bigger than you are is by your side, will give you confidence. It will lift a huge weight from your shoulders.

Remember, He has your back, and no matter what happens in life, you are a winner. He even cares about the little things, like misplaced car keys. He is a “Good Good Father”. Take a minute to listen to the recording below by Chris Tomlin.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:11,12)

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

My son, Robert, who has terminal brain cancer, inspired me to write this blog post. As we were driving home from a Dr. appointment one day he began sobbing. I asked him; “What is wrong?”, thinking he was in pain. He replied; “I am so blessed to see the Lord’s hand working in my life. It is amazing that He loves me so much.  His tears were tears of joy!

This is true, incomparable Joy! Gloria Dei! Amen.

Categories: Eternity, Faith, Happiness, Prayer, Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THAT H.O.G. MOMENT


And call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you will honor me.
(Psalm 50:15)

Have you ever heard of a “Hog” moment? I hadn’t until several months ago when it was explained to me that “H.O.G.” stands for Hand of God. “Oh, right”, I thought. “That makes perfect sense.” It is the moment/moments in one’s life when the light bulb comes on and the handiwork of God in a life situation, is clearly seen. I think it is something all Christians can relate to. In truth, nothing happens by chance in this life. Our God controls the lives of Christians and non-Christians alike.

The problem is that we sometimes become so focused on the divine that we fail to recognize His presence in the form of physical help. I would like to relay a story about this exact type of situation to you. It is a story you may have already heard from a pastor or Christian friend, but maybe some have not. It is an old Christian fable very similar to the type of stories Jesus told during His ministry. The man in this story was so focused on expecting a miracle from God, that he didn’t recognize the hand of God in the help that was being offered and he lost his life because of it. It goes as follows:

God Will Save Me
A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.
A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”
The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”
As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”
The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”
The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.
A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, “Grab my hand and I will pull you up!” But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”
Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.
When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”
And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”

Can any of you relate to this? This story is rather extreme, but I believe there are times in each of our lives when God uses physical means to rescue us from difficult situations and we miss the help He is offering because we are only focused on the divine. We expect “all” from God or “nothing”. We fail to see His helping hand right before us because we are expecting Divine Intervention rather than trusting in His Divine Providence, and sometimes he allows the situation to require of us a little effort and common sense of our own.

Robert 2

Before illness

I have experienced this in my own life recently. My son who is 40 years old, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in April of 2016. At the time we were informed of the treatments offered. The first step was to remove the tumor as best they could. Following surgery he would undergo radiation for 6 weeks along with chemotherapy. That was Phase One. He would then get a 1-month break after which Phase Two would begin. Phase Two includes a maintenance dose of Chemotherapy for 1 year, and a treatment they call “Optune”.

Robert before surgery

Before Surgery

The Chemo is the easy part, or it seemed so at the time. Optune is a different story. It involves time, help from a caregiver, and finances. The following link is an explanation of Optune:

Robert after surgery

After Surgery

Optune

Basically Optune uses electricity to interrupt the growth of cancer cells in the brain. The patient must shave his/her head completely and wear a “cap”. The cap contains electrodes that direct electrical charges to the section/sections of the brain where the cancer is located and must be activated 18 hours per day in order to be effective. It is an optional treatment, but it is proven to be effective. It has improved the statistical survival rate of 2 years, by 50%. It is not a cure, but it offers hope and may buy time for patients until a cure can be found. The cost of Optune per patient is $21,000 per month, but financial assistance is offered and according to the above link, no patient is ever denied the treatment.

After bandage removal

After bandage removal

So what does this all have to do with a H.O.G. moment?

With Optune

With Optune

Well, overall the treatment sounds very overwhelming and difficult. When it was offered to my son right after his surgery, we both agreed fully that he should try it. When it was almost time to start it though, we dragged our feet a little. It sounded difficult to do, and the commitment of time, and care sounded huge. And would it even work? My question posed to the Oncologist was this; if this was you or one of your family members, would you recommend it? Without hesitation she answered; I would do it, hands down! That pretty much made the decision for us.

We had been praying for a miracle from God. We were hoping that God with His almighty power would heal Roberts brain of the cancer, and certainly He could, if it were His will to do so. But finally the light bulb switched on in my brain and I realized that maybe Optune is the “car”, the “canoe” the “motorboat” or the “helicopter” that God is sending to save Robert’s life. This could be the miracle we have been praying for and we almost missed it because our human minds were expecting/hoping for divine intervention. We almost turned away from the help offered because it was going to take a little effort on our part. God gives good gifts. His never ending grace is free and Jesus did the work, but He doesn’t always allow earthly gifts to just fall into our lap. God gives us choices and sometimes those choices require prayerfully considering the means He is setting before us.

Robert is now undergoing the Optune treatment along with Chemotherapy. He is doing well with it. He has not had any adverse reactions and it is not as difficult to use as it sounds. The “cap” stays on for three days. (I had pictured having to remove and replace it every 18 hours.) He carries a battery pack over his shoulder which he is getting used to. He can turn it off after 18 hours or leave it on continually. After 3 days I peel it off his head and he is able to wash his head and be without it for up to 6 hours. He then shaves his head and the “cap is replaced by a new one. He will never have hair again, but the “cap” generates heat so it will keep his head warm in the winter. And how important is hair in light of living or dying? I would encourage anyone in a similar situation to give Optune a try. Only time will tell if it is working for Robert, but in the meantime we are living life as normal as possible.

Miniature golf

Life as Normal

 

Optune is not a cure, but it is a treatment that will hopefully extend his life. We thank God for medical technology. We will accept whatever the future holds knowing that we have a powerful and almighty God who loves us and will never leave us to face these difficult times alone. For Robert it is a win win situation. If he lives he gets to stay here with us. If the Lord calls him home, he will be forever with God in the mansions prepared for him by Jesus.

Kevin Toree Caitlyn 2016

Three of his special people

In the end, I am beginning to see that Optune, rather than Chemo is the easy part. Chemotherapy is exhausting for the patient. Of the two, I think I would rather have to deal with Optune the rest of my life than Chemo.

The apostle Paul encourages us; Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is Gods will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Heavenly Father,
Remind us each day of your presence in our lives and help us to remember that nothing happens by chance. There are many situations in life which are completely out of our control. At these times, remind us that you ARE in control and that you always have a plan, in which all the pieces of the puzzle will fit together perfectly for the good of your children.
In Jesus name we pray,
Amen

To God be all glory!

by Christine

 

Categories: Eternity, Faith, Family, Prayer | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Living in the Shadow


"Funny" - Really?

Shadows of Evening

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…  (Psalm 23: 4)

Death is a scary thing isn’t it? I mean, we all know we are going to die someday right? Every human dies. Every living thing dies. Some die young and some live to a ripe old age, but death is no respecter of persons. There are no exceptions. When thoughts of death creep into our consciousness, we tend to push them aside as something to deal with later. We tell ourselves that death is in the far off future for us. We don’t need to think about it right now. But that isn’t always the case. This life we live here on earth can be over in an instant. We can be here one day and gone tomorrow. It is something we have no control over.

Our bodies are tough, but also fragile. We can be perfectly healthy and be killed in a car accident instantly. We can think we are healthy and strong only to find out that we have a hidden illness which has not yet manifested symptoms. These are constant reminders to believers and unbelievers alike that this physical life is temporary. It is only a baby step away from eternity.

  I think it safe to say that all of us have had the false misconception at times that tragic accidents which cause fatal injuries, and/or illnesses that cause death, happen to others not to us or to our family. As we travel through life we eventually learn that death touches every family sooner or later.

It has touched my own family in recent months. My husband passed away this past February after being ill for over 3 years. He was diagnosed with a terminal illness in October of 2012. At that time the doctors told us he had months, but God had a different plan. He lived for 3 ½ years after his diagnosis. During that time we always felt a shadow above our heads. It followed us everywhere.

At first I cried every day. But at some point I realized that I couldn’t live life that way. It wasn’t healthy for me or for the rest of the family and especially for my husband. So instead of crying I made up my mind to go on with life, keep it as normal as possible and enjoy our time together. I continued to work, and on my off days we did normal, and often fun things together as long as he was able. The last year of his life wasn’t so much fun, especially for him, but we made the best of it. We lived life.

My husband passed away February 2, 2016. As difficult as it was and still is, it was a relief that his suffering was over. In Jesus we have a living hope for eternity. He promises; I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11: 25, 26) I am sure that Bob is now experiencing the joys of heaven. I miss him terribly, but am confident that I will see him again when the Lord calls me home.

After his death my life settled back into a “new” normal…until April of 2016. God wasn’t done with us yet. The evening of April 9, 2016, I received a text from my 40-year-old son informing me that he was in the ER. It read; “I am in the ER, but don’t worry mom, I am okay.” That was it – that’s all it said. I immediately dialed his number. He answered and informed me that he had a severe headache and that they were giving him what is known as an IV cocktail for migraines, then he would hopefully be sent home. “ok”, I said; “just keep me posted”.

I hung up the phone and thought to myself; “That’s strange. He has never had a migraine before that I can remember.” I set that thought aside however and decided it best to just wait and see. I talked to him several times throughout the following week and he seemed to be doing somewhat better, but still had a headache. On Friday, although his head still hurt, he felt he should try going back to work.

Robert

Robert “Cruise”

That evening I called to see how his day had gone. He said; “My head is still hurting really bad and every time I move I get sick. I must have been sick at least six times at work today.” I replied; “Robert, something is seriously wrong. You need to go back and get checked out again. He replied; “I will if I’m not better tomorrow. The kids will be here soon for the weekend.” He hung up and when I tried to call him back, I got no answer. I texted Sean and informed him that his dad was feeling really bad and waiting for them to arrive. He texted back that he was waiting for his sisters to get their things together. They would be on their way soon.

When I called again later Sean and the kids were with him. His Dr. had prescribed him something for the upset stomach, so at least the vomiting had stopped. My granddaughter Toree said to me; “don’t worry grandma. We are taking good care of dad.  He isn’t throwing up anymore.” Bless her heart…I love her for being so brave.

They made it through Saturday, but on Sunday as soon as I got home from church. I texted Sean to find out how things were going. He replied; “We are in the ER again grandma. They are doing a CT scan of his head to see what is going on.” The next text read; “He has a mass.” I immediately called and asked; “do I need to come?” The answer of course was “yes”.

Milwaukee is a 6½ hour drive from Grand Blanc, MI and I had never done it alone before, but I had a good car. I called it my “smart” car because it had turn by turn navigation through OnStar. What a blessing! I packed my clothes, made arrangements for family members to care for my menagerie of pets and by 3:00 pm I was on the road.

I arrived at the hospital at 9:45 pm (10:45 Michigan time). At that time, he was finally resting comfortably in NICU (Neuro Intensive Care Unit). He had been given medication to relieve his pain and steroids to reduce the swelling in his brain.

We were told the next day that he would need surgery. He had 2 masses in his brain, both on the right side. One was on his right temporal lobe and was displacing his brain, which was what had been causing the excruciating pain. It would have to be removed. The other mass was deeper and a little more to the left, but still in the right lobe. They would not remove the second mass. Because of its location they would not touch it unless they absolutely had to, in order to prevent further injury to the brain.

In spite of the seriousness of it, we were told he was fortunate he hadn’t had a seizure – and also that it was a good thing the masses were on the right side of his brain. Had they been on his left side it would have been much more debilitating. His motor skills would have been affected. He may not have been able to walk or even stand.

In all of this, I was thinking to myself; “This can’t be real!” I just lost my husband, now my son too?” I asked the Dr.; “Is this cancer for sure? Could it possibly be benign tumors?” He said; “This is cancer. We just don’t know for sure what kind until the biopsy comes back.

th

There is Hope

The cancer turned out to be Glioblastoma stage 4. It is the worst kind of brain cancer. It is fast growing, (which the Dr. said is good, in the sense that it will respond well to treatment), but it is terminal. We were told; it is not a matter of “if” but “when” it will return. Statistics give him 14 months to 5 years. It seems the “shadow” has returned.

We are encouraged because Robert has done very well since his surgery. He just finished his first round of treatment (Radiation and Chemo) on Friday July 1, 2016. He has a month off now to rest and regain his strength and then he will go on a maintenance dose of Chemotherapy for a year. He hopes to be able to go back to work during that time.

Scan_20160629

Five good reasons

He has five good reasons to live. They are Sean (age 17), Kevin (age 15), Bailey and Caitlyn (twins age 13), and Toree (age 11). He loves them so much and they need their dad. At the same time, we must remember that God knows what is best and we must trust Him.

So the Pocza family is living in the “shadow” once again. But we all live in that shadow from the moment we are born and before. We hope to live a long life here on earth, but no matter how long we live, physical death will always be the end result. God did not create us to die, but because of sin it is certain.

Death is not something we should dwell on and be worried about every day. God gives life and it is a blessing. He wants us to serve Him joyfully each day and enjoy our life. But He also wants us to be prepared at all times for the day He will call us home to eternal life. Being prepared means loving Jesus and living to glorify Him. He died in our place and paid our debt to God for our sins. Through faith we are covered in robes of righteousness and are holy in God’s eyes and fit for heaven.

Without faith in Jesus, our physical death means we will live eternally separated from God. That is a big deal because eternity is forever. Here on earth believers and unbelievers alike receive blessings from God. Being completely separated from God means there will be no light, laughter and love. Without His presence there will only be darkness, pain and sadness for eternity.

God has perfect timing and we trust His timing knowing He loves His children with an unconditional and perfect love. He will always do what is best for us. Knowing that however, shouldn’t keep us from asking, even begging Him for a miracle. I pray each day, for God to heal Roberts brain and extend his life. But at the same time Robert, through faith in Jesus is sure of where he is going. He said to me one day shortly after his diagnosis; “Mom, I am not afraid to die”. My mother’s heart however does not want to let him go. May the LORD’S will be done.

Jesus promises to never leave us (And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20), and He promises to carry our burdens for us. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30) We must let go of the things in life which are out of our control and trust Him.

Robert feels it an honor to be disciplined by the Lord in this way. My son do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son (Hebrews 12:6). He is using his illness to reach out to those who don’t know the Lord and is setting an example of faith and trust in his God. His strong faith and love for the Lord are his strength.

So my new normal now is living in Oak Creek, WI with my son. I am happy to be here and we are enjoying this time together. I am enjoying seeing and spending time, with my 5 grandchildren who have always lived so far from me. I am learning to find my way around Milwaukee and the surrounding areas. I have connected with an old friend from my high school and college days. I am spending time with my dear cousin and her husband who have been wonderful support for not only myself, but for Robert also. My sister, who was alone in California has also come to live nearby which is a true blessing.

I was lonely in Michigan. I missed my husband so much and life was just not the same. I still miss him, but I have other things to think about and other people who need me. Although I wish I would have come here under happier circumstances, I feel blessed to be here. I would have never made the decision to come here on my own, but this is where God wants me and He knew how to get me here. He just keeps me moving and I am willing to go wherever He sends me. I don’t know what the future holds but God does, so there is no reason for me to worry about it. The shadow still follows us closely, but we are ignoring it and enjoying this time God has given us.  When/if tears and sadness come, the Lord will be right there by our side.

…for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me…surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:4, 6)

 

Gloria Dei!

by Christine

Categories: Eternity, Faith, Family, Heaven/Hell, Prayer | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

%d bloggers like this: