Soul Letters For The Cancer Sojourner – #3 You Can Change One Thing Today

When cancer comes, it can have us feeling disempowered and helpless. Where before we felt we had some control over our life even if just to a degree, cancer can have us thinking we have no control at all, and as if any control we thought we had was a lie. But cancer is the liar. Even when something like cancer interrupts and intervenes, we always have choices available to us.

As someone with cancer, we may find ourselves in a position where we need to give power over our body to someone else, but we can still choose to nourish and to nurture ourselves – body, mind and soul. We can choose what or whom we allow to come close to us right now, and what or whom we’d like to keep at a distance. We can choose not to accept the premise cancer is stronger or greater than we are, and we can choose to let some things go and hold other things closer. Whilst some choices may be taken away from us in the wake of a cancer diagnosis, changing our focus can help us recognise those areas where we still have control, and are able to keep ourselves in the drivers seat.

image credit: iStockphoto
image credit: iStockphoto

Our frustrations and strong emotions often signal areas we’re feeling a challenge to our power and sense of control.

Whilst we might feel submitting to the inner work cancer seems to require of us to be a kind of “giving in”, it could well be the issues we’re facing would’ve come up anyway, even if we never had cancer. Illness is often a catalyst for change in areas which are already problematic, but which we’ve been able to avoid until now.

Part of surviving is about learning how to keep yourself behind the wheel of your life as you journey through cancer, whilst still accepting the help and support you’ll need from others. This can be challenging, particularly if you’ve been largely independent, or are someone accustomed to leading or caring for others.

Accepting help, change and rest isn’t “giving in to cancer”. It’s part of helping keep yourself strong. Despite how afraid you may feel at the moment, especially if you have more time on your hands than you’re used to, don’t be afraid to look inwards – cancer won’t be found in those deep, inner places. Remember, your body is just one part of you, and there are places – parts of your mind, spirit and soul – cancer cannot touch. In fact, those places may just be about to justify their existence. Don’t fear the work. You are stronger, braver and kinder than you probably have been led to believe.

The changes cancer brings can seem overwhelming and catastrophic, particularly at first. Experiencing cancer may seem to take more than we believe we have to throw at it. But you can do this. Just take one step at a time. You can, if you will, change one thing today – one thing which could make all the difference to you, and to others. One small decision could turn this thing right on its head. Exchange one choice you know compromises you for another one which brings you closer to where you want to be. Taking the best care of yourself possible is not selfishness. You need you to take care of you more than ever before.

Don’t look out there for the difference here – look to yourself. It’s not them, or that, or those, or there. It’s you. It’s in your head, in your heart, in your hands – that’s where your future healing and wholeness is, whatever the outcome of the cancer.

Look to your creativity and to your imagination, and not to your past or your history, for the answer to the question “What one change can I make today which will create a difference in this situation for me?”

Today, decide you’ll spend a moment to recognize you are the small difference needed in this situation. Don’t wait for circumstances or for others to change. Cancer is not in control. You are. Cancer only knows how to do one thing – but you are capable of way, way more.

You can’t change the world right now. But you can change one thing today.


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Your True Calling – How To Tell If It’s God, Or It’s You

Ben and I were talking tonight about the concept of “God’s calling”. You know how Christians often say they believe God has asked or told them to do such and such, or go to a certain place and do a certain thing. I said to Ben how I thought sometimes people said they were “called” to do something simply because that would mean nobody could ever question them on it, and because saying God told you to do something covers any lack of logic which it inspires and provides a convenient opportunity for God to perform a miracle. Ben said I was just being cynical.

Ben was right. He often is.

I’ll now provide some further evidence of Ben’s wisdom.

My husband says you can know for sure God is calling you do do something if –

1) You’re not living in a false identity when it comes to your faith. In other words, you know in your heart you are living your life as the person you were truly created to be, and not pretending to be something or someone else.

2) You are in close relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and with other people. You pray, read the scriptures, and bump up against other human beings at least once in a while.

3) You’re already doing, in one form or another, the thing you suspect you are called to do. Your leap of faith has been preceded by the tiny step of faith, the casual gait of faith, the purposeful stride of faith and

Jesus Calling

the galloping sprint of faith.

Here’s what else we came up with.

A true calling will not need to be called a calling in order to justify it. A true calling will be obvious. It will not need to defend or explain itself. It won’t ever defy logic or tempt fate. It will be a progression, not an ultimatum. A calling wants the best of us to grow even better, and wants the best for everyone else as well.

A true calling requires nobody lose their peace, their personhood or their power to facilitate it.

And in the end, doing something awesome to help others doesn’t need the concept of being a “calling” attached to it to make it worthwhile. A lot of people feel the pull towards doing a great work for others, but walk away citing a doubt “it was God’s calling”. God always, always wants us to act for the good of others, even if sometimes it’s to our expense in some way. I think the question of whether something is a “calling” or not if more often a matter of fear, resistance and a sense of not wanting to fail than it is a true question of faith. And insofar as helping others is concerned, the special Messenger and the special Message about that has already been and said all there was to say on the matter.

Is it your “true calling”? It is God’s special mission on earth for you? If it helps others, is genuine, and motivated by a true need to empower or encourage others, does it really even matter?


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The Proviso


From Burial to Banqueting Table.

I want to tell those of you who don’t believe a person can be transformed, or that people don’t or can’t change, you need to come and see what God has done at my house.

Point in case; on Tuesday night, we had six adults besides ourselves, two teenagers and four children at our house for dinner, and my husband Ben was there the whole time. You would have to know what life was like before to understand how this is different. We didn’t have folks to our house for dinner before, because Ben would be present with us for about one minute and forty five seconds total. He would be a no show at his own dinner party.

As we were getting ready for bed after Tuesdays dinner, Ben congratulated me on successfully cooking a lamb roast for fourteen people, saying, “Well, that was a success!” I froze. A success? Since when did you consider having a dozen people in the house would constitute success? Who are you? And what have you done with my husband?

You see, Ben once was a master of the duck and weave. He was, as we used to joke, a professional skulker. He was in hiding. God was looking around, calling out to Ben for a long time, just like He did Adam in the Garden, “Where are you?” Ben, like Adam, did not want to be found.

Adam hid because he was ashamed. Shame will drive a sane person underground, and have him behave like a mad recluse. The shameful hide from any situation where they are forced to pretend to be anything better than the filthy, helpless sinner they know themselves to be. The will sabotaged by secret sins, they know their facade will not hold up under the scrutiny of accountability, or friendship. Those filled with shame avoid relationship, for fear they will fail others the way they have failed themselves.

What cured my husbands’ debilitating shame? He stopped hiding and allowed God to find him. I know it was frightening for him. Ben was trained to believe that God is an iron-fisted Father quick to anger and slow to forgive. Ben knew He could not pay the price he believed God would exact for his wrongdoings.

The thing is that Ben is not a bad guy. He never robbed a bank, or killed a man. He has been a faithful husband and gentle father. Ben’s wrongdoings were no worse than any mans; merely springing from an inability to deal with his own weaknesses and shortcomings, and which brought him undone.

When I became ill with cancer, Ben suffered terribly with anxiety and guilt because of what our family went through. He hurt. And he had no way to get God into that hurting part, or draw on God’s strength to get him through it. He believed God was waggling his head, telling him to smarten up and get a backbone. He was ashamed of his own weakness, and he hid. God said “Where are you, Ben?” and Ben couldn’t hear Him, because he was down the back yard with a cigarette and a six pack of beer, medicating his shame.

In rehab, Ben learned to hear God’s voice. He learned to put out a hand and draw on God’s strength when his own failed. He learned to stay in the room, even with the shame, until he was loved enough to know it was okay, God wasn’t going anywhere. When Ben finally peered out from between his fingers he found God waiting for him. Here, Ben, this is some righteousness Jesus organised earlier, I think this will fit you fine.

I have seen my husband rise up from a long sleep of self-hate and humiliation, and sit up to God’s banqueting table. He is making a pig of himself I can tell you. The empathy I see in my husbands’ eyes as he tells me about the people God brings across his path makes me fall back in wonder. How God can take a man who emptied himself out in self-disgust, and fill him with such goodness and compassion is beyond my comprehension.

A pastor once told me, “People change, but not that much.” Sorry, I don’t believe that. Fear and guilt stunt the soul – but mercy draws the withered ones stumbling forth for their healing. The enemy wants us bound in the dark, but God wants us free in the light.

Change is possible. It can happen. A man can come back to life. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Don’t give up hope. I thought Ben was gone forever, but I was wrong. The good thing about this was that I truly let him go to God. I was prepared to be an Abigail before Him. Ben was lost, but was also beyond the reach of my rejection, hurt and demands for restitution. But he came back. He was truly raised from the dead.

Ben doesn’t like it when I brag about him, but I can’t help myself. Those friends and family who saw me last year will understand how what we now call normal around here is such a miracle. I doubt that anyone present for dinner on Tuesday night would have any idea why I was staring at Ben in wonder as he carved the lamb and cracked the jokes. There, thanks to the grace of God, goes my husband.

You can read Ben’s own account of his journey through alcoholism and recovery here.