Saturday, February 28, 2009

Afflictions and grace

"If you have shallow sorrows you will receive shallow graces. If you have deep afflictions you will obtain deeper proof of God's faithfulness."
~C. H. Spurgeon, Beside Still Waters

Friday, February 27, 2009

The commodification of life

Yesterday as I was resting, I found myself flipping through the pages of my mother-in-law's copy of Good Housekeeping Magazine. In its pages I found an article about a couple who had conceived a pair of twins via in-vitro fertilization. When the woman's eggs were harvested (after the hormone treatment to boost the number of follicles), the doctors harvested 18 eggs, which were then fertilized by sperm donated by her husband, and frozen. For this moment, let's leave aside the fact that if life begins at conception, which I believe is the only tenable position, we now had 18 human beings frozen in some sort of limbo. I find that horrifying and gruesome, but let's leave that aside for the moment.

The couple had three embryos placed in the woman's uteris, and two implanted: the twins she bore as a result of the process. Let's also leave aside for the moment the troubling fact that a life was created in a test tube that then died immediately, as a high percentage of these embryos do. That is also horrifying, but that is not my point, either.

This couple did a really rather commendable thing, and they are lauded as heroes in this article. When it came time to "dispose" of the remaining frozen embryos, the clinic gave them three options: they could either donate their embryos for scientific research, or donate them to an anonymous pool of embryo donors to be used for infertile couples, or they could pay a few hundred dollars to keep them in frozen storage. In the end, they found two specific families to donate the eggs to, and arranged a sort of "open adoption" for the embryos, which resulted in the births of two more sets of twins. I appreciate that this couple took some responsibility for these embryos, and tried to do a good thing in blessing other families. Again, let's forget for the moment that out of 18 babies, only six survived.

What amazed me was the following paragraph. Having been quoted by journalists, I would not presume that these words actually came out of the mouth of the egg donor, but either way, this is what was expressed:
Keeping their frozen embryos indefinitely did not seem a viable option to Glenda. And they were not the kind of people to throw money away on things they weren't going to use. She didn't have a moral objection to donating them to science. However, she and Scott had not made the embryos for research.

I had to read the paragraph three times before I could believe it. It's that second sentence:
"And they were not the kind of people to throw money away on things they weren't going to use."

The "things they weren't going to use" were babies.

I have read in the abstract about the commodification of human life: how we are beginning to think of our very selves and other human being as consumable items (commodities to be bought and sold). I have read about the pragmatism (if it's useful, it's good) that degrades the inherent worth of people, and heard philosophers and theologians moan about the pragmatic approach to human life. But I've never seen such a mainstream statement of it. It took my breath away.

I am not trying to pick on this couple. They tried, within their own framework, to "do the right thing". I understand the desire that leads to fertility treatments, and can empathize with the pain of infertile couples. But where is the Church? Why aren't we howling over the moral morass that has come from our immoral fertility business? Why aren't we leading in a better way?

I'm afraid God will send judgment on us, and deservedly so. How can so many people who claim the name of Christ see no problem here? That sends me to my knees.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I boldly come

This morning is one of those mornings when just getting up is a chore for me. Facing my day is overwhelming, and I don't really have anything I *have* to do. I keep finding my mind returning to the old refrain, "Is this really all God expects of my life-- that I struggle to rise, and stumble through the day trying not to complain, and accomplish little to nothing?" And these are my thoughts, even though I have little to really complain about. SO how will I get out of this pit?

Well, a response to yesterday's post here helped me to get my frame of mind on a better footing. (Thanks, Adri!) And the answer is the same old answer. Get my eyes off of myself. Get my eyes on Jesus. So come along, Gentle Reader, and reflect with me on just who this God is that we worship. The CD I mentioned yesterday is again playing as I write. Let me share another beautiful song with you:

I Come By the Blood by Steve and Vikki Cook

You are the perfect and righteous God
Whose presence bears no sin
You bid me come to Your holy place
How can I enter in
When Your presence bears no sin?
Through Him, who poured out His life for me
The atoning Lamb of God
Through Him, and His work alone
I boldly come

I come by the blood, I come by the cross
Where Your mercy flows
From hands pierced for me
For I dare not stand on my righteousness
My every hope rests on what Christ has done
And I come by the blood

You are the high and exalted King
The One the angels fear
So far above me in every way
Lord, how can I draw near
To the One the angels fear?
Through Him who laid down His life for me
And ascended to Your side
Through Him, through Jesus alone
I boldly come

So, with this song singing in my heart, I am going to sit in my comfy chair with my heating pad, and read God's word, and remember that He cannot love me less for my sin, nor more for my works. I will boldly come before my Lord, and give him my days, such as they are.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Lamb I crucified

In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.

I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.

Sure, never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.

My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.

A second look He gave, which said,
“I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou mayst live.”

Thus, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.

~John Newton

Today is the first day of Lent, a time the Christian Church has traditionally contemplated the price Christ paid to accomplish our salvation. While I am not in favor of some legalistic observance of Lent, I am in favor of setting aside time in the regular course of our lives to comtemplate such things.

This wonderful hymn by Newton has been adapted to a beautiful contemporary tune by Bob Kauflin. I wept this morning as I sang it during my morning devotions. My sin nailed Him to the cross, and that blood He spilled paid for that sin. What an amazing moment of exchange! Mr. Kauflin adds the following words to the original hymn:
With pleasing grief and mournful joy
my spirit now is filled
That I should such a life destroy
Yet live by Him I killed

Forever etched upon my mind
Is the look of Him who died
The Lamb I crucified
And now, my life will sing the praise
Of pure atoning grace
That looked on me and gladly took my place

This beautiful hymn can be found on this CD, (and if you hurry, it is still on sale during the month of February. It is well worth the purchase!)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reflections on God and man

I never have original ideas about God or man. I have to rely on the ideas of wiser men or women than myself for insight. All my greatest ideas are borrowed! And in the last week or so, I have run across a couple of ideas that I have found fascinating and encouraging, and that I hope you, too, Gentle Reader, will find illuminating.

The first was in our reading of Calvin's Institutes this week. Calvin is talking about God's providential care over all the created order, and the sticky wicket of evil: if God is really sovereign, isn't He the one responsible for man's sin? To this age-old question, he gives a brilliant illustration, which he in turn had borrowed from St. Augustine (so I am in good company in borrowing from others...) Just because God can expose evil, and even use it, does not mean it resides in him. Here is Calvin's illustration:
And whence, I ask you, comes the stench of a corpse, which is both putrefied and laid open by the heat of the sun? All men see that it is stirred up by the sun'd rays; yet no one for this reason says that the rays stink. Thus, since the matter and guilt of evil repose in a wicked man, what reason is there to think that God contracts any defilement, if he uses his service for his own purpose? Away, therefore, with this dog-like impudence, which can indeed bark at God's justice from afar off but cannot touch it.
~John Calvin, The Institues of the Christian Religion (1.17.5)

The second came from Volume 94 of the Mars Hill Audio Journal. I get so many great insights from listening to this! If you are not a subscriber, you ought to consider becoming one to support this excellent work. I always feel that is shakes the cob-webs from my brain. And they now have an option to receive the journal as an mP3 download, which is a bit more affordable than the other options.

I listened with joy and fascination to Jeremy Begbie's interview. He had many fun and interesting things to say, but the one that really struck me, and I can't for the life of me understand why it has never occurred to me, a music teacher, before is this: part of the problem we have with understanding the mystery of the trinity is that we tend to try to think of it in terms of vision. We are an image-driven society, and we try to visualize the trinity, but nothing in our visual vocabulary can really capture it. He suggests we turn to aurally imagining it, instead. He suggests that the trinity is better conceived of as a chord: we hear the notes separately, but also in combination. Each note enhances the others, and brings out the others, while remaining distinct. The over-tone structure of music enables each note to sound best in the company of the others. What a lovely picture!

So, Gentle Readers, as you go about your day, I hope you will ponder the justice of God, His providential care over us, and the mysteries of His Triune nature!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Coram Deo

This morning I woke up very early (around 5 a.m.) covered with hives. This has been a regular event for me at various times in my life, but it has been a couple of years since my last go-around. I am one of that class of people who are allergic to the antibodies my body produces when I have a respiratory illness. So the little episode of a week ago was the culprit, and now I am itching everywhere, swollen and aching, and taking more drugs. And to be honest, this feels a bit like something belonging to the "adding insult to injury" category.

I must admit that I started feeling pretty sorry for myself. I'm in the midst of struggling to recover from my breast cancer treatment, and it just seemed like a lot to face this morning. I mentioned my Job-like feelings to Dave this morning, and he gently reminded me that I haven't lost my children, and that boils are more painful than hives. There are times when Dave's faithfulness can irritate me, and it wouldn't be so irritating if he wasn't almost always exactly right.

This morning I read a short article by R. C. Sproul (thanks to T.C.) about the main goal of Christian life being to live coram Deo: before the face of God. He says, in part:
...To live coram Deo is to live one's entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God...

To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God. God is omnipresent. There is no place so remote that we can escape His penetrating gaze.

To be aware of the presence of God is also to be acutely aware of His sovereignty. The uniform experience of the saints is to recognize that if God is God, then He is indeed sovereign...

Integrity is found where men and women live their lives in a pattern of consistency. It is a pattern that functions the same basic way in church and out of church. It is a life that is open before God. It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord. It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance. It is a life lived under the tutelage of conscience that is held captive by the Word of God.

Coram Deo . . . before the face of God. That's the big idea. Next to this idea our other goals and ambitions become mere trifles.

I suppose that hives are not exempt from this call on my life. So, I will spend a quiet day today, trying not to move the itchy and achy parts until the medicine helps bring my body under control again. I will try to please God where I am by humbling myself beneath his sovereign hand, and doing what would honor him. I will resist the strong temptation to throw a hissy-fit, and instead trust that what Satan means for evil, God means for good, even though I can't see what good may come of having the hives. Even with the hives, I need to live coram Deo.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sundays with John

It strikes me sometimes that I live a very eclectic life. And having a post about John Calvin immediately follow a Weird Al post seems like the ultimate example of it!

Dave and I are settling into a nice rhythm of reading most night: after doing a few chores after supper, I sit in my comfy chair with my heating pad, he sits on the bed, and he reads to me from Calvin. We are enjoying it. And here are some of our favorite quotes from this week.
Since, then, we see the flesh panting for every subterfuge by which it thinks that the blame for its own evils may in any way be diverted from itself to another, we must diligently oppose this evil intent. Therefore we must so deal with the calamity of mankind that we may cut off every shift, and may vindicate God's justice from every accusation. (1.15.1)

…[T]hey may safely rest in the protection of him to whose will are subject all the harmful things which, whatever their source, we may fear; whose authority curbs Satan with all his furies and his whole equipage; and upon whose nod depends whatever opposes our welfare. (1.16.3)

…[L]et my readers grasp that providence means not that by which God idly observes from heaven what takes place on earth, but that by which, as keeper of the keys, he governs all events. Thus it pertains no less to his hands than his eyes. (1.16.4)

Therefore no one will weigh God's providence properly and profitably but him who considers that his business is with his Maker and the Framer of the universe, and with becoming humilty submits himself to fear and reverence. (1.17.2)

And it is indeed true that in the law and the gospel are comprehended mysteries which tower far above the reach of our senses. But God illumines the minds of his own with the spirit of discernment for the understanding of these mysteries which He has designed to reveal by his Word, now no abyss is here; rather, a way in which we ought to walk in safety, and a lamp to guide our feet, the light of life, and the school of sure and clear truth. (1.17.2)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Weird Al for Tim

This posted as a condolence to our son, Tim, who was outbid for a car on E-bay with 4 seconds to go. We sorrow with you, Tim!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A wonderful surprise

Last night, after Dave had done some work for his chemistry class and I had replaced books on a bookshelf in our repainted office, we decided to call it an early night, turn out the lights, and head to the bedroom to read. As I was checking my e-mail at about 8:45, my cell phone rang. It was our friend Greg, the amazing friend who has been my second opinion, read all my scans, and been our adviser through many trials. He asked how we were doing, and I told him we were fine. He asked if he was getting me out of bed, and I laughed and said, "No, we're just checking e-mail." Then he said, "Well, do you think you could come to your front door?" And there he was! What a lovely surprise! He was, huggable and in person! It turns out he is doing some collaborative/oversight work at Sandia National Lab in Albuquerque today, and he drove up last night to pop in on the bible study at church, and then drop over here. I'm still smiling today.

Greg, and his dear wife, Lauri, are some of those very special, life-time friends. They lived here in Los Alamos years ago, when Greg was doing a post-doc at the lab, and they are amazing people. Greg is brilliant and hard working, and Lauri is the most wonderful support for him. They are wonderful parents and friends, godly encouragers and prayer warriors, and they both have huge hearts that are always giving. They lived outside of Detroit during the years our boys were in college in MI, so we got to enjoy their hospitality several times. Now, we are looking for ways to get to Hershey, PA, or get their whole family to come visit us!

We love Greg and Lauri. They are part of the network of blessings God has brought about in our lives to uphold us and encourage us. You all would love them, too!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A missing blog...

Hello, Gentle Readers. For some reason today when I go to my blog, the heading is there, but the content is missing. Is anyone else having that problem, or is it just me? I feel as if I've entered some twilight zone...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Like an obedient child

Today I had a pulmonary function test, and saw the pulmonologist again. The upshot of both the pulmonary function test and the high-resolution CT-Scan is that he does not think that sarcoidosis is currently a problem in my lungs. My asthma, however, is a bit of a problem. He gave me a rather stern talking to, regarding the fact that I should not be afraid of my asthma meds (especially my Advair), but I should be afraid of my asthma, and gave me some good guidelines for my treatment of it. On the small chance that my asthma symptoms *are* indeed the sarcoidosis, we would treat it with Advair, just like the asthma, so we are covering that base.

Over all I think I continue to see very small improvements in my energy and stamina. So I am hopeful that eventually, and very gradually, they may both increase. The challenge I am facing is dealing with the tamoxifen side effects. (The pulmonologist said, "Tamoxifen makes everyone feel like crap, but it's better than having a breast cancer recurrence!" and he's right.) I am such a coward about pain...I hate the aches and pains, I miss being able to sing, and I'm tired of the headaches and brain fogginess. I would like to wake up one morning and think, "Ah, a new day!" with joy and anticipation. Instead, I have to struggle to thank God for getting me through the night, ask Him to help me face the day, and struggle to get moving.

But when I think about it, I know God has his purposes even in this. How else should I be starting every day except by thanking God and committing myself to him? It is a testimony to my own weakness and self-centeredness that it takes pain to force me into this habit of the heart. So, may the Lord keep me where he wants me until those habits are ingrained and part of me. May his goodness extend to me in the pain that keeps me focused on him. And may I learn my lessons like an obedient child.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The good and the genuine

"The supreme end of education is expert discernment in all things; the power to tell the good from the bad, the genuine from the counterfeit, and to
prefer the good and the genuine to the bad and the counterfeit."
~Samuel Johnson

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sundays with John

Here are a few favorite quotes from this week's reading of Calvin's Institutes. First, his beautiful description of the Trinity. it is still a mystery, but put so aptly:
There are thus three, not in status but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in its manifestation.
~Calvin, Institutes 1.13.28

Next, a great summary for us to remember as he opens Chapter 14, part 1. Many errors would be avoided by keeping our curiosity at proper bay:
We cannot and should not go behind God's act of creation in our speculation.

And from that same section, a wonderful quip:
When a certain shameless fellow mockingly asked a pious old man what God had done before the creation of the world, the latter aptly countered that he had been building hell for the curious.

And these lovely and true words conclude Chapter 14:
To conclude once for all, whenever we call God the Creator of heaven and earth, let us at the same time bear in mind that the dispensation of all those things which he had made is in his own hand and power and that we are indeed his children, whom he has received into faithful protection to nourish and educate. We are therefore to await the fullness of all good things from him alone and to trust completely that he will never leave us destitute of what we need for salvation, and to hang our hopes on none but him! We are also, therefore, to petition him for whatever we desire; and we are to recognize as a blessing from him, and thankfully to acknowledge every benefit that falls to our share. So, invited by the great sweetness of his beneficence and goodness, let us study to love and serve him with all our heart.

Amen and amen.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Miscelaneous items for Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Here is a photo of me with my sweetheart, taken over 30 years ago. How time flies when you're having fun. (And Greenwalds, if you read this, this photo was taken by Randy at your rehearsal dinner!)

One of the most touching articles I have read so far this year came (amazingly) from the NYTimes. This columnist captures the reality of love. (WARNING: this short article talks pretty honestly about many aspects of marriage. It may embarrass younger readers, so read with care.) Thanks to T.C. for posting this link.

I found an interesting update this morning from Joshua Harris, author many years ago of the book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, one of the books that launched the modern courtship movement. He says, in part:
I still stand by the message of that book that premature, short-term romantic attachments can be a big distraction from serving God—especially for teenagers. But in the years since I've also seen that a legalistic application of these ideas can be unhelpful, too. One of my main concerns in my church or any other church is that there be no disunity among Christians over issues of dating and courtship. We need to learn to hold our own convictions on this matter with charity. Most importantly we need to make sure that our convictions are shaped by scripture—not culture, church culture or my books.

Harris links to several sermons on the topic that sound helpful as well.

And finally, how about rethinking our two-kid culture? Here are some interesting thoughts on large families, again from the NYTimes (and linking to the NYT twice in one post, both positively, should show my open mindedness...)

Now, don't spend all of Valentine's Day reading blog posts. Hug your sweetie, and appreciate the great blessings of family and love in your life, Gentle Reader. And praise God, who is the author of all good gifts. After all- He is the definition of love.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
~James 1:17-18

Friday, February 13, 2009


This morning I ran across this on Geoff's blog. I thought it was a good way to set my thinking a little straighter about my worship time this coming Lord's Day. Any of you recognize yourselves in here as I did? I may not want a pony, but it sure would be nice if the music revolved around my tastes, or the hot water for tea didn't taste like coffee, or... fill in your own blank.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

News Flash on Nikki

She's legal! Nikki received her "conditional permanent resident visa" today. Hurray! And thanks to all of you who have been praying for this to come! The "conditional" part is apparently because they have been married less than a year, and means they have to send in a form in two years, and then the "conditional" should be removed. I'm sure Nikki and Tim are looking forward to having all this paperwork, bureaucracy, and waiting behind them! They had a very friendly, nice INS agent, and it all went very smoothly this morning. From there they were headed to Arizona Motor Vehicle to try to change drivers licenses and register car. I am glad this morning's appointment went so well for them, but fear no trip to the DMV can be very successful on first try...

A prayer request and a sales announcement

As I write this, Tim and Nikki should be meeting with INS officials in Tucson to see if Nikki can be approved for her permanent residence visa. Please keep them in your prayers! Pray that they will meet friendly, reasonable people who will be well-disposed to approve this visa.

And secondly, as I wrote here, check out the great February sale over at the Sovereign Grace Store. Great deals on great materials.

Thank you, Gentle Readers, for your attention and prayers!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Your name alone we bring to remembrance

Last night, as is our custom, Dave read a chapter of scripture to us after dinner. We have been wading through the "woe"s in Isaiah, and came last night to chapter 26. It broke upon my soul like water in a parched land!
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.
~Isaiah 26:3-4

What words of comfort! Notice there is no promise of an easy road. On the contrary, it is God, not our circumstances, that is trustworthy.

In the path of your judgments,
O LORD, we wait for you;
your name and remembrance
are the desire of our soul.
My soul yearns for you in the night;
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.
~Isaiah 26:8-9a

And in the midst of the storms that surround us, we are offered comfort. These verses seem so appropriate:

For when your judgments are in the earth,
the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
If favor is shown to the wicked,
he does not learn righteousness;
in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly
and does not see the majesty of the LORD.
LORD, your hand is lifted up,
but they do not see it.
Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed.
Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.
LORD, you will ordain peace for us,
for you have indeed done for us all our works.
LORD our God,
other lords besides you have ruled over us,
but your name alone we bring to remembrance.
~Isaiah 26:9b-13

Amen and amen.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Being held

I'm almost afraid to write, or say it out loud, but I think that maybe I am noticing a little improvement in my physical stamina and in how I am feeling. It's so little and so gradual...but I think it is really there. I have been able to return to more household chores as well as get to a little sewing from time to time, on top of exercising and resting. What a pleasure to tackle a small project and actually finish it! God is very good to me, in so many ways!

One of the ways God has been good to me is that I got excellent results from my high-resolution CT-scan. Apparently everything looks normal, meaning that I am not dealing with sarcoidosis in my lungs. Hurrah! I must admit that tests and scans post-cancer are tougher than they were pre-cancer. And good news is even better.

So, I am still not running any marathons, but I am dealing with my life as it is, as it comes from the hand of a caring heavenly Father who knows what is best for his children. Next week I have a lung function test, and then see the pulmonary doc again. And in March I have mammograms, and in April another CT scan. I know the Lord will hold me through them all. And on the days I wear out before I want to, and have to stop doing whatever I want to be doing, I will try to remember he is holding me then, too. And he is good. And if some of those future tests bring bad news, I will be held then, too.

I love the words to the following song, because it talks honestly about what it means for God to hold us. It doesn't mean no bad things will ever happen to us. It means when they do, we are held.

“Held” by Natalie Grant

Two months is too little.
They let him go.
They had no sudden healing.
To think that providence would
Take a child from his mother while she prays
Is appalling.

Who told us we’d be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We’re asking why this happens
To us who have died to live?
It’s unfair.

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held.

This hand is bitterness.
We want to taste it, let the hatred NUMB our sorrow.
The wise hands opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow.

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held.

If hope is born of suffering.
If this is only the beginning.
Can we not wait for one hour watching for our Savior?

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Happy Birthday, Nikki!

Today is our sweet Nikki's 25th birthday. Happy birthday blessings to the newest Finnegan! We are blessed to have you in the family, Nikki!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sundays with John

Dave and I are still on schedule in our reading of Calvin's Institutes. But due to travel and our varied pattern of reading, I failed to bookmark my favorite passages this week. So I will only encourage you to keep reading, and look up Blogging the Institutes here. And it is always worthwhile for us to think more about the trinitarian nature of our great God!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Marching onward

I am posting from my parents' Mac this morning-- a first for me! So if you notice any odd formatting, you'll know why. I am spending a couple days here while Dave is on travel, and headed home in the morning. Glad Marilyn is holding down the fort...

Yesterday I went to see the pulmanologist. He grew up in Los Alamos, so we had a lot of chat about that. We also chatted about my sarcoid. I discovered there is not much of it in this part of the country: it is a Northern climes disease mostly. And while the doctor is skeptical that my current symptoms are associated with sarcoid, he has his own batch of tests he wants to run to make sure. So, Thursday I will have a high-definition CT-scan of my chest to look for a strange presentation of sarcoidosis that doesn't show up on regular chest x-rays or CTs. And as soon as they call me to schedule it, I will be doing a complete lung-function test/work-up again. Apparently there are also some calcium issues that can be associated with sarcoid...but the doc said we would discuss that when I return following the lung function work-up. Oh joy. More tests.

I did find out some interesting things about this disease. It can look like almost anything. The biopsy I had is not considered final or official diagnosis: that can only be had by performing a bronchoscopy with biopsy of both tissue and fluid in the lungs. Apparently there can be other reasons for granulomas in the lymph nodes. (Again, oh joy...) It seems the bronchoscopy is the only sure-fire diagnostic tool for this disease, and even if the disease is not active, it will show up in those places. The doc warned me that this may be necessary in the future.

I also have continued to research tamoxifen, and have discovered many additional things, including a whole long list of foods and drugs I should avoid while I am on it, a good explanation of the mechanism of the drug, and support for dealing with symptoms. *sigh*

So, Gentle Readers, please don't stop praying for me yet (or ever!) Onward we march in this adventure, looking to God to provide the sure foundation only He can.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Well, I have a sweet husband. Today, in order to encourage me, he found several sites that discuss the side-effects of tamoxifen, the drug I am taking to discourage recurrence of my breast cancer. Tamoxifen beats estrogen to any residual cancer cells, and hooks up with them so they can't feed on estrogen. And my oncologist insists that it has no side-effects of the sort I have been experiencing. She agrees there is a risk of blood clots, and a risk of uterine cancer, but denies the others.

So this morning my dear husband did some hunting about, and found listed the following side-effects, all of which I'm experiencing...
*hoarseness of voice
*thinking/memory issues
*increased temperature sensitivity
*peeling of finger nails
*body aches and pains
*cramps in legs and feet

You may be asking, why did he think this wold encourage me? Because, Gentle Reader, it means I am not loosing my mind, or dealing with other disease processes (at least not necessarily). There is a real, physical reason that I can't think anymore, that I am tired all the time, that my joints and muscles hurt, that my feet cramp, etc.

And this means I just need to pray about the wisdom of staying on this drug, and ask God to help me learn to deal with the side-effects. I'm also thinking that it is time to find a new oncologist, who is not so ready to write me off.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Sundays with John

This week we walked through Calvin's argument regarding images and why we shouldn't use them. I thought it was fascinating and encouraging, even from the viewpoint of a culture that is saturated with image. Philip Ryken gave a very good, brief overview of the argument here.

My favorite quote about images is the plain truth here:
For just as soon as a visible form has been fashioned for God, his power is also bound to it. Men are so stupid that they fasten God whenever they fashion him; and hence they cannot but adore. And there is no difference whether they simply worship an idol, or God in the idol. It is always idolatry when divine honors are bestowed upon an idol, under whatever pretext this is done. And because is does not please God to be worshiped superstitiously, whatever is conferred upon the idol is snatched away from him.
~Calvin, Institutes, I.11.9

Under the category of "nothing is new under the sun", I loved this bit:
I know that certain rascals bawl out in corners in order to display the keenness of their wit in assailing God's truth. For they ask, Who assures us that the books that we read under the names of Moses and the prophets were written by them? They even dare to question whether there ever was a Moses. Yet if anyone were to call in doubt whether there was ever a Plato, Aristotle or Cicero, who would not say that such folly ought to be chastened with the fist or the The law of moses was wonderfully preserved by heavenly providence rather than by human effort...
Calvin, Institutes, I.8.9

And lastly, Calvin draws a beautiful picture in the section about the inseparability of the word and the Spirit:
Certainly a far different sobriety befits the children of God, bereft of the whole light of truth, so are not unaware that the Word is the instrument by which the Lord dispenses the illumination of his Spirit to believers. For they know no other Spirit than him who dwelt and spoke in the apostles, and by whose oracles they are continually recalled to the hearing of the word.
~Calvin, Institutes, I.9.3