Saturday, September 28, 2013


My insurance requires a yearly fall "health assessment." It is a requirement that you really can't get out of. So I drove down to the university student center where they were held and got matched up with a young nurse named Brian. 

He did his thing and ran a print-off of my results, which he is required to talk to me about. Brian was citing my results and how good they were.....I had "perfect" cholesterol, perfect BMI, perfect blood pressure, perfect weight, no risk for diabetes, etc.

"You have straight A's across the board here, as you can see here. You really do have perfect health."

There aren't many opportunities to have fun with incurable cancer, but I couldn't resist the moment.

I looked at Brian and said, "Well, as a matter of fact, I really don't have perfect health. I have stage 4 cancer."

His jaw dropped and his mouth went agape and he just stared at me. "You DO?"

"I do. But you know what? I have faith that God is healing me and that I WILL have perfect health again, so I accept your assessment wholeheartedly. You have a great day."

I turned around and left him staring at me as I walked out giggling.


I had the opportunity this week to lay hands on someone and pray for their healing. I take the mandate in Mark 16:17-18 seriously that those who are believers in Jesus Christ need to "lay hands on the sick and they shall recover." The verse says nothing about us believers having any power to heal in and of ourselves, but that God can and will use us as His instruments.

It was an employee at my cancer center who was in great pain and I asked her if I could pray for her and she readily said, "Yes, I would love that." She had tears rolling down her cheeks as I prayed and she hugged me afterwards. I left right after that and do not know if her pain subsided, but it is not important for me to know the results. That is all up to God. I am just trying to walk in obedience. It is always such an honor to pray for healing for people and to talk to them about God's promises for healing in the Bible.


Had a good appointment with my oncologist. As much as I think the world of him, I did flat out tell him that I did not think I needed to see him so often. I proposed seeing him 4 times a year (I am grateful to be a doctor's kid who has no hesitation in challenging the care plan of a pedestals I see). That's what I wanted and that's what I got!! I also reminded him that he WOULD see me healed one day. I don't think he sees divine healing in his practice.

I intend to be the first.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Sofas and pastors.

I tend to be elated when they are polar opposites.

I few years ago, we went sofa shopping. The first salesman said to us, "What style and color are you looking for?"

"We really don't care about color or style," I answered.

With a questioning look on his face he said, "Well, what ARE you looking for?"

"Comfort," I replied. "That's all we want. It just has to be super comfortable."

"Well," he said, smiling as he walked away, "I guess I really can't help you at all."

This is the same way I used to shop for a church and pastor many years ago. I wanted to feel comfortable. I would venture to guess many people use that same criteria. But I am a convert to uneasiness. I will never again use comfort as a measuring stick to decide where to worship.

Feeling comfortable with the church family and leadership? Of course. There needs to be respect, love, fun, and mutual caring. But beyond that camaraderie? Nope. Comfortable is not in my equation any more. 

I have been in churches that have tried to be so comfortable, so "user friendly," that they either changed their name so as not to offend anyone, watered down the gospel  or became so PC that there were no longer any moral absolutes mentioned. Sure it was comfortable. Nothing was expected of you, nothing was taught to be moved by. Sermons in those churches were Feel Good 101. 

What I know to be true is that we can never be more as Christians and disciples of Christ without heeding those hard sayings, those difficult mandates of Jesus. And doing so does not always feel good.

The pastor that put me on this path was a dynamic young man named Cory who pulled me WAY beyond my comfort zone as I soaked up all he had to share about Jesus and how to be sold out to Him. Cory pointed me to biblical truths that rocked my understandings and dared me to step into a discipleship mode that was nowhere close to comfortable. I had to deal with new understandings in areas like sin, cross-centered living, holiness, and forgiveness. But it grew me in Christ to a depth I had never approached before  Because of his ability to make me squirm, my prayer life was transformed, I fell deeper in love with Jesus, I went on my first mission trip, and I started memorizing verse after verse after verse of Scripture.

Soul-agitation is not like cuddling up into a soft pillowed microfiber sofa.

Scripture is laced with God's declarations that we will experience journeys of despair and affliction and bondage in this life. After all, Satan is in business, open 24/7, and never delegates his schemes to lesser demons. He tries his best to makes believers' lives miserable.

To traverse those jagged and harrowing roads, I know I need the faith-deepening maturity that comes through spiritual discomfort.  "Comfortable" simply does not push me to get "my roots to grow down into Him and draw nourishment from Him so I will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth I was taught." (Col 2:7)

We have a new pastor at our church. I had been feeling way too comfortable in my spiritual walk, and I worried that a new pastor would not "bring the goods" that I really needed right now. Truth be told, we were ready to look at other church options.

Steve has only been here 6 weeks. The verdict was out on him about one week in. We all love him. He is a mover and a shaker. His sermons flow with the Holy Spirit's anointing. He is charismatic and energetic and grounded in the mandates and promises of Jesus. He speaks bottom-line truth about how to practically live out the "hard sayings" of Jesus.

And most importantly for me personally, he has made me squirm. He has brought tears to my eyes. Every Sunday he is reminding us of truths that need to be heeded and internalized, because they are things we all get too complacent about. At least I sure do.

Steve is an amazingly easy person to be comfortable around. But on Sunday mornings, he is not there to make us comfortable. He is there for soul-agitation. Man, that feels good again!! How blessed are we as a church!!

I love being in this place where God, through my pastor, is free to shake me up and test me and lead me into greater intimacy with Him. When comfort is a gauge, this cannot happen. I want to "keep working toward the day when I will finally be all that Christ save me for and wants me to be." (Phil 3:12)

Sofas? I want cushy and soft. Pastors? I want them to challenge me to squirm and grow.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


After many hours of "working with it," I have mastered as much of Windows 8 as I need for daily life. I'd readily switch back to Windows 7 if it were an option, but it was an inevitable change that I needed to adapt to, and I did. Why do computer engineers try to think of ways of making operating systems MORE complex instead of less?

For as much of a non-techie person as I am, I am proud to have learned it without help (except for one youtube video on how to transfer the control panel to the newly designed desktop without the handy "start" icon....thank you, youtube). My chemo did not take all function from me.


A week ago I was asked to give the afternoon lecture at a gathering of the state meeting of nursing home activity directors. was so good to be teaching gerontology again!

The year of my diagnosis, I gave up pretty much all work as I was dealing with so many medical appointments and procedures and had significant chemo brain which rendered me word-searching and memory-challenged. I was not up for embarrassing myself and worried, frankly, that I may never be able to regain my gerontological knowledge base again.

Last fall our church put on an 8-week seminar on aging and I taught 4 of the 8 sessions. I took the leap of faith and proved to myself that it had all come back. I felt so great to impart the knowledge I have with others needing it.

Last week's talk reminded me again of how much I love practicing my craft and how much I have missed it these past 3 years. I am hoping to get some more training opportunities through people who were at the meeting.

I am so thankful to God for protecting my body and my brain through those nasty first rounds of chemo.

Our family went to a Vikings game this weekend. Though a miserable outcome, we had a blast being a part of the downtown Minneapolis excitement on Sunday morning. Sam's best friend James was able to join us for one last game at Mall of America Field (still the Metrodome to me).

Row 11, 50 yard line seats were amazing. Many thanks to my nephew Billy!


I am planning to celebrate my October birthday by flying to Georgia to see my friend Susan. I am SO excited! If I could just not fly to get there, it would be perfect. But, that's why they created Xanax, right?

Friday, September 13, 2013


And now....the rest of the story.....

My phone rang. It was "Tina" (from last post). I was beyond surprised. She told me that she called to tell me her cousin died. She had been an only child and was very close to this cousin so his death was really hard for her. I asked a few questions and then listened until she had no more to say. 

I said, "I am so very sorry about your loss, Tina, and I am glad you called to tell me so that I can be praying for you and your family."

She softly said, "I knew you would."


To be pegged as a woman who someone could count on to pray for them when they are hurting....... I can live with that.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


I spent my summer asking God to use me. I have been so blessed in my life and have long felt as if God has never had a real role for me in His business. I've been asking Him to mold me, refine me, open me to His kingdom work here on earth. 

I got my first "assignment" last week.

While on my 2 mile morning walk, the name and face of one of the cashiers at our only large retailer in town came into my mind and would not go away. I knew her name from her name badge and I'd made small talk with her on many occasions. What could possibly have brought her to mind? I was praying for my parents at that particular moment in my walk. But clearly God interrupted my prayers and placed (I'll call her Tina) Tina's name smack on my lips.

"Get your feet wet, Mary. Act in obedience."

"And do WHAT, Lord?"

What was I supposed to do about this sense? I did not know her well. Was I supposed to go to the store and seek her out? And then what? I didn't even know if she was working that day.

"Could you give me a little help here, Lord?"

All I got was, again, "Act in obedience to my nudging. I will walk ahead of you."

I showered, dressed, and headed out to the store, even though I did not need enough items to justify the gas across town. I walked in, grabbed 2 items and headed to the check out area, where I saw her immediately in her lane. She was (no surprise) wide open. I laid down my items, said good morning to and blurted out, "Tina, I was just wondering if there was something you might need prayer for today. God really put you on my heart this morning and I had to ask you."

She just stared at me. Seconds before I started shrinking into the floor from self-consciousness, she started what became a 5 minute monologue about all her current problems. As she was talking, a young woman turned her cart into our line, but (no surprise) stayed way back to read magazines and appeared not to notice us at all, giving Tina more time to talk to me. 

After a couple minutes, Tina started to cry as she finished her "story" and said, "Today I was going to call into that prayer hotline on that 103.3 radio station."

I noticed the woman behind us was now putting her items on the conveyor belt. I wanted Tina to have a minute to compose herself so I felt I should leave. I looked at her and said, "I am so sorry about everything you are going through, and I just want you to know that I will be praying for you and your family about all these things. God does hear your prayers."

She thanked me and I left. I prayed for her all the way home and several times after that.

While my left brain would love to understand the bigger picture in that whole scenario, I must be content with knowing that God trusted me to obey his nudge and act without knowledge of what I was really supposed to do and why. Act without knowing the outcome. I still don't know if I said or did the "right thing."

But I obeyed. Maybe that was the most important thing.

Obedience is not always a clear and organized effort. Sometimes it is just floundering through with nothing more than a hunch, knowing God can use imperfect me and my imperfect attempts to bless others and find moments where I can be, for a few minutes, His hands, feet, or mouthpiece.

Monday, September 2, 2013


I have been around the world multiple times. 

I have spent days in the Andes Mountains suffering with survivors of a horrific plane crash. I have walked the slums of New Delhi. I have spent time on the green terra firma of Ireland and in the backwoods of the Appalachians. I have spent time with men diving for lost WWII submarines in Kiska and witnessed “the lost boys” from the Rwanda genocide making new lives for themselves. I have cavorted with the likes of Robert Service, Charles Dickens, Victor Frankl and John Grisham.

All because I read.

A lot.

The people I have encountered, the locations I have gotten to explore…..they are both real and fictional. I enjoy all genres. Every book….whether biography, poetry, classic, fiction, or non-fiction, enriches me, expands me.

But there is one genre that I steer away from, and that is books on Christian doctrine or systematic theology.


Because with every doctrinal book, you are getting a human slant. All commentary in a book of doctrine is ultimately a discussion from a human point of view.

If someone wants to find “support” for his religious views, he can always find a theology book which agrees with him. All you have to do is find the right author, or team of authors. And often, then, what one reads becomes their new official "stand" on the subject. This is taking human slant as truth.

Human slant is not truth.

And books of Christian doctrine cannot help but be biased.

Truth is found only in the Bible. I want only God’s take on everything. I want only His words and the Holy Spirit’s inspired teachings. If there is something in Scripture that I may find difficult to understand, I ask God to make it clear to me rather than turn to human bias in some book of doctrine. I will read in the footnotes the original Greek meanings of some of the words, and that helps me more accurately internalize a passage.

Let's take healing for an example. An obvious choice for me.

People can read, for instance, all they want in commentaries about divine healing and God’s will in it. But it can be taken totally out of context because the authors are human beings (many with a denominational leaning) who have a set of thoughts about the subject already. 

If those same readers-who-want-interpretation would simply take God AT HIS WORD, accept what He says as truth, they could not deny the place of faith healing in the church today. Scripture makes it clear. The trouble is that too many people read Scripture and then feel the need for an “expert” to dissect it for them, not stopping to consider that the interpretation is human-driven, and therefore, up for debate and bias.

So, I stick with my Bible. I sometimes read 2 or 3 different Bible translations of the same chapter so that the words really sink into my heart. But systematic theology is not the next place I turn. I have learned to take God solely at His word and place my understanding of truth on that alone.

And so I sojourn around the world every day, drinking in all that books can offer (thank you Mom and Dad for giving us 3 kids the love of reading-----we in turn have passed on that avid love of books to all our kids----and we are now seeing the seeds of it in some of the great-grands too!).

But when it comes to issues of faith, there is only one Book. And I won’t water it down by absorbing the partiality of some theological “expert.”

Jesus is all the expert I need.