A Piece of Advice From a Cancer Survivor

In my post yesterday on being late to class I mentioned I had to give a presentation for school. The topic I was assigned to discuss was children diagnosed with malignant cancer. I was supposed to address specific issues or concerns teachers might face or at least need to be aware of while instructing said students.

At the end of my presentation I asked the class if anyone was a cancer survivor. One man, Matt (not his real name) raised his hand. I asked Matt if he had any special advice for the rest of the class on how we could appropriately interact with people who had cancer. Matt then took the floor for a few minutes and held everyone spellbound. It definitely brought some life to my boring presentation and woke everyone up.

In case you’re curious, one thing Matt said we should do was to just listen and empathize instead of launching into personal stories we may know of others who had cancer. He said that hearing second hand stories of other cancer patients never helped him feel better. In fact, Matt said when people would do that it made him feel like they considered themselves a cancer expert (because of the stories they knew) when in reality he didn’t feel like they understood what he was going through at all.

Matt pointed out too that all cancer stories have one of two endings: Either the person survived or died. In his opinion neither outcome was very comforting and here’s why:

Obviously the stories where the patient died was not very comforting. But the survivor stories weren’t comforting to him either because he felt they implied the individual who survived was especially tough or somehow super human. And Matt said (I’m paraphrasing) he didn’t feel that tough or super human while going through cancer treatments. And wouldn’t that imply he might not make it?

It seems to me that a lot of being “Christ-like” is true humility, thinking about others, putting ourselves last, genuinely caring, and keeping our mouths shut. (All things I don’t do well!)

I love what C.S. Lewis had to say about humble people in his book Mere Christianity:

     "Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will
     be what most people call "humble" nowadays: he will not be
     a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you
     that, of course, he is nobody.  Probably all you will  think 
     about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who
     took a real interest in what you said  to him. If you do dislike
     him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who 
     seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about 
     humility:  he will not be  thinking about himself at all."
Photo Credit: Advice

That’s the Story of My Life – A Day Late and a Dollar Short

So how do I respond when things aren’t going as planned? This morning I got to find out.

Here was the problem: I needed to print thirty handouts for a presentation I was scheduled to deliver this morning in my college summer class. The class started at 7:30am.

On this particular project I had procrastinated so long I was still scrambling to finish up last minute details 5am this morning. Everything was done except for the 30 double-sided Fact Sheets I needed to print out.

Would you know it? My printer got through several and then ran out of ink. Not good news. I was a little peeved but quickly came up with an alternate plan.

Here was Plan B: drop by my parents’ house on the way to school and print the remainder using their printer. Good plan, right?

I breezed into my folks house at the crack o’ dawn. They were still asleep. Slipping downstairs to the computer I had to get down on my hands and knees and crawl under their computer desk to access the awkwardly placed USB port. I was in such a hurry that I accidentally tipped the computer over on its side. No big deal, right?

Wrong. My parents’ computer crashed. Cold. I tried turning it on and off several times. It would try to boot, but then die with a gasp of its jet-powered sounding fans.

Drat. Foiled again.

Time for Plan C: Use my parents’ printer with my laptop. That should work. Uh-oh, I didn’t have the correct printer drivers. Well, perhaps I could download said drivers off the internet? After some travail I got an internet connection, found the drivers on the HP website, downloaded them, installed them, and… their printer still wouldn’t recognize my laptop.

The hands of the clock now stood at 7:31. Class started one minute ago. Time was ticking Cinderella. Quite disgusted, disgruntled, sour and perturbed I flew out of my parents’ house, hopped in my drag car (i.e. aging Jeep) and headed to school.

I think at this point I had forgotten all about the verse:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil 4:6)

To my credit, I didn’t speed. At least not by much. But I didn’t pray either. Instead I stewed and thought, “This is ridiculous! Failure on a triple redundant magnitude!”

Maybe another reason I didn’t pray was because I realized I didn’t have much of a leg to stand on. If I hadn’t procrastinated until the last minute I wouldn’t have been in such a fix.

Plan D. The computer lab closest to my classroom in the Education building. Surely it would have a printer I could use. 7:50 found me standing in front of the doors to the computer lab. The closed doors to the computer lab. The closed, LOCKED doors to the computer lab. The sign informed me it didn’t open until 8 o’clock, ten minutes away.

Plan E. The printers in the library… clear across campus. Hike, hike, hike. Nope, the library was closed too. What about the 24-hour study room? Yes, one aging printer! Perhpas it would work?

One final detail: I wanted to print these Fact Sheets off on spiffy green paper I had brought with me. But what was this? The paper tray on the crazy old printers was padlocked shut!?? How was I going to get an A on the assignment if my Fact Sheets were printed on boring, plain old ordinary white paper? NO! They must be printed on eye-catching neon green paper. It was the only way to guarantee success.

Then I spied a copy machine that didn’t have locked paper trays. Yesss. Insert green colored paper.

Ooops, that was upside down. Ooops, that was the wrong side. Allright, that’s what I want. Print 30 of those suckers. What’s this? Why is the copier spitting out long paper rolls of goobered inky nastiness?

I take my seat in class. Fifty minutes late. Fortunately, I’ve arrived in the Nick of time, only moments before my turn to present.

Yes, now it’s my turn. After first handing out my Fact Sheets (printed on eye-catching green paper) I calmly deliver my presentation. We’ll see what grade I get. The green paper had better of helped.

So to answer my original question, “How do I respond when things aren’t going as planned?” I would say poorly at first, then better. When my printer ran out of ink at my apartment I was filled with malaise and a sense of impending doom. Then at my parents house when their computer crashed I got irritated. Like, really irritated. Ok, like, well, REALLY irritated.

However, by the time I was at school standing in front of the locked computer lab doors I was finding the situation nearly comical. Nearly. But hey, it all worked out in the end, right? Just like Paul said,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

Photo Credit 1: Are We Running Out Of Time?
Photo Credit 2: Getting There On Time

Crazy Love Part 2

continued from Crazy Love, Part 1

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

I personally own a lot of stuff. If I were to count up every single material possession I own, the list would be extraordinary. It would take several days just to make the list I’m sure.

For example, glancing into my closet just now reveals I own about ten pairs of shoes. Soccer shoes, jogging shoes, three pairs of dress shoes, cowboy boots, hiking boots, sandals, cleats, etc.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the “Parable of the Soils.” In regards to that parable, Chan had this to say:

“I think most American churchgoers are the soil that chokes the seed because of all the thorns. Thorns are anything that distracts us from God. When we want God and a bunch of other stuff, then that means we have thorns in our soil. A relationship with God simply cannot grow when money, sins, activities, favorite sports teams, addictions, or commitments are piled on top of it.

Most of us have too much in our lives. …A lot of things are good by themselves, but all of it together keeps us from living healthy, fruitful lives for God.”

Does the stuff I own weigh me down? Do I own more than I need? Is my stuff really poison to me like Chan suggests? Perhaps, though I think the stuff which requires my time to maintain is more poisonous to me than the possessions which just sit around waiting to be used. Time wasters are real poison.

My biggest time waster is probably computers and the internet. Sometimes I wonder if I should just get rid of my internet connection… (which I eventually did) Thankfully I don’t have a TV.

One thing I do try is to consider my possessions tools that can be used for helping others. Maybe the important thing to strive for is an attitude of contentment, not greed.

Mental Health & Weighted Jackets

I learned in this education class I’m currently taking that children suffering from certain mental issues (such as autism) can benefit from wearing a “weighted vest” or sleeping under a “weighted blanket.” This gives them what is called Deep Pressure Touch Stimulation (DPTS).

Ok, got it: Autistic kids can find comfort in the touch stimulus provided by weighted clothing and blankets.

Now read this about autism:

“Autistic children and adults don’t like being touched, they might not like certain textures or sounds, they might cover their ears at very loud noises, they tend to blank out certain things…” (What is Autism?)

Isn’t it interesting how those suffering from autism frequently are uncomfortable with human touch and yet still benefit from the touch stimulus of a weighted jacket or blanket?

I got to thinking, “Isn’t that how I frequently am toward God?” Recoiling from being touched and molded by the master creator of the universe? The one who molded me into existence? And don’t I frequently try finding fulfillment in things of this world: in hobbies, in gaining accolades from others, in relationships with people who will disappoint, in being a good person?

Yet how many times do these “replacements” leave me cold and empty inside? God is the only one who can breathe warmth and joy and fulfillment into my being. His Holy Spirit can produce the Fruits of the Spirit in my life. He can and will do that. That is, if I only allow him to “touch” me.

Photo Credit: publik15

Crazy Love Part 1

Recently I read Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan. In fact, I read it twice. Chan defined who this book was written for in his Preface:

    “This book is written for those who want more of Jesus. It is for those who are bored with what American Christianity offers. It is for those who don’t want to plateau, those who would rather die before their convictions do.”

The website crazylovebook.com has video clips of Chan covering the main points of his book. They’re free to watch, you don’t even have to register… so if you don’t have time to read the book, check them out!

The first section begins with a look at the attributes of God – specifically God’s Crazy Love for us – with the goal of bringing the reader to a point of standing in awe at just how amazing and generous God is towards us.

Then Chan turns a corner and takes a hard look at the certainty of death and how we frequently live as if we’ll be on Earth forever. Chan quotes Frederick Beuchner,

    “Intellectually we all know that we will die, but we do not really know it in the sense that the knowledge becomes a part of us. We do not really know it in the sense of living as though it were true. On the contrary, we tend to live as though our lives would go on forever.”

At the end of the discussion on our mortality, Chan concludes, “The truth is, some people waste their lives. This isn’t meant to bash those who are gone, but rather to warn those who are alive.” Blunt, but true.

The next two chapters are titled, “Profile of the Lukewarm” & “Serving Leftovers to a Holy God.” These are meant to be a critical look at how shallow oftentimes many of us are in our relationship with the God whom we profess to be Lord of our Lives. Shouldn’t our lives be marked with an all-consuming devotion? Isn’t this what Jesus himself meant when he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”? (Luke 10:27)

Chan then briefly touches on the importance of having an eternal focus – particularly storing up treasures in heaven, not on earth – before moving into a bulleted list of items he calls, “Profile of the Obsessed.” These include having a giving attitude, being concerned more about character than comfort, and thinking about heaven frequently.

A number of inspirational true life stories are then shared of people who were truly sold out for God. George Mueller was the one most inspiring to me.

At the end of the book Chan concludes,

    “I wrote this book because much of our talk doesn’t match our lives. We say things like, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ and ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart.’ Then we live and plan like we don’t believe God even exists. We try to set our lives up so everything will be fine even if God doesn’t come through. But true faith means holding nothing back. It means putting every hope in God’s fidelity to his promises.”

Maybe the single biggest thing I took from this book was the challenge to put myself more in situations that require total faith, where I have no “backup plan” if God were to not come through.

continue on to Crazy Love, Part 2