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Let’s Try This! A Cancer Treatment Update

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. – Winston Churchill

 

I have an inoperable cancerous tumor.

One year ago I kept having weird episodes where I would get cold and then very tired, or stomach pain that could not be explained. It ended up being a return and growth of my carcinoid tumors, which I thought had been surgically removed 22 years earlier and /or were dormant. Oh, and it had jumped to my liver, so I have stage 4 cancer, but a verrrrrry slow growing version.

So we tried surgery, but after spending hours opening me up and getting to the tumor, the oncological surgeon saw that the tumor was attached to too many organs to risk removing them. I likely would not have survived that surgery, so she wisely closed me up and glued me back together. So now I live with these tumors in me.

Growing extremely slowly.

Chemotherapy is not an option, due to the slow tumor growth rate.

And neither is radiation therapy, for the same reason.

The one option given was a hormone shot, that would cost over $5,000 per month, that would probably slow down the growth further. Of very slow growing tumors. This did not seem like a realistic option.

I did some research into alternative treatments and found these trends:

  • My kind of cancer is pretty rare, with only a couple thousand cases each year
  • Certain herbs like Turmeric and green tea extract had a good track record of attacking the blood supply of tumors
  • Other alternative treatments had shrunk or even removed cancerous tumors
  • Pharmaceutical companies tried to pretend these alternative treatments either did not exist or did not work

I found a good naturopathic doctor and began seeing her in late spring, taking these supplements to counter the tumor. In July I had extensive blood tests and my numbers were up, meaning the tumor was likely more active than desired. I should be feeling symptoms, but I’m not. God has kept me symptom-free except for a couple twinges every now and then. I live an active life. But my doctor wanted to try something else.

So today I visit a doctor who is trying mistletoe therapy to combat tumors. This website: http://believebig.org/what-is-mistletoe/ gives more details but I’ll provide a summary. I get subcutaneous (into my flesh) shots three times a week. The mistletoe stimulates my immune system to protect the healthy cells in my body. It then attacks the cancer cells, accelerating cell death. There are no side effects except for a small rash at the injection site which indicates that the immune system is stimulated.

This therapy, coupled with the herbal supplements that attack the tumors’ blood supply, should start making an impact on the tumors. Because they are slow growing and stubborn, progress will likely be slow. But trying it is worth a shot (har!)

I have felt God’s presence throughout this journey and the support of many friends and family. I am confident that God is with me as I embark on this next step.

Special Birthday Edition: My U-haul List

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry

“I don’t have a bucket list, I have a u-haul list, because it’s too big to fit in a bucket.” – Terry Magee

 

I turned 59 years old last week.

I used to take this anniversary each year to reflect on my accomplishments in the preceding year. What had I done? How was I progressing towards my goals? What was happening in my life?

But although 59 is still called “middle age,” that is not technically true, unless I plan on living to 118. So instead of looking back at what I have done, I’m starting to look forward to what I want to do while I still have time. And I want to do a lot. Here are a few categories, some more serious than others:

Travel:

This category alone could fill a trailer. It seems each trip adds more to the list. When we went to England in 2011, I did not check off England as being done, but added at least three more trips (Northern England, Scotland, and Ireland) to the list. My list includes the National Parks, Hawaii, Family trips, and basically anywhere somebody wants to go. I love seeing things.

Bicycling:

This is a specialized subset of travel. Every year I would ride in the Lancaster County Metric Century, and this year I did a two-day trip in the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. T would be fun to do multi-day trips including the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the Natchez Trace, and RAGBRAI.

Family:

Kim and I have been married 36 years, and we got married young enough that we can hit significant milestones, like 40, 50, or even 60 years. If I reach my goal of 100, we could be married 77 years! I’m sure there are other milestones, but it seems living in a loving, lasting marriage is pretty significant. I would also love to see my grandchildren grow up, marry, and have their own children.

Writing:

I have one book published, and am wrapping up another. I am working on a third book and have ideas for many more. I would love to step up that effort and help people in their relationship with Christ. (Or in the case of my travel books, just have good, clean fun.)

Teaching:

I have been teaching on mission trips with TLI for three years and love it. I hope to go on many more trips, teaching pastors and church leaders. I also teach in Sunday School and other speaking events. I love teaching as a ministry and hope to continue as long as possible.

Other Random things:

Those lists did not include other random things it would be great to do, including but not limited to: hiking the Appalachian Trail, seeing Macchu Picchu, seeing the Northern Lights, and singing the National Anthem at a baseball game.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21

I recognize that this is an ambitious list, even if I reach my goal of living to 100. But I don’t want to look back and just have done things, as fun as it is to do and see things, but to be known. Specifically, to be known as being transformed by God and reflecting Christ in my life. That would be the greatest thing.

God’s Fallible Church

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” – (Jesus) Matthew 28:19-20a

 

Our church had our annual baptismal service last week, with about sixty people baptized. Many were high school students, some were new believers, and some long time believers who felt the call and time was right for immersion baptism.

This is a great event held on the front lawn with multiple baptism stations. The person getting baptized presents their testimony about what led them to this step of faith. They then make a confession of faith in Christ and are baptized by either a pastor or a mature Christian, often a mentor of their choice. This year we added food and games afterward to make it a church celebration day.

Yet while this is happening I know of marriages struggling or failing, or people cycling in various destructive habits, of egos hampering ministry efforts, or blatant apathy or hypocrisy. That is God’s kingdom and His church with all its warts and ugliness.

It remains at least partially a mystery as to why God works through people. The obvious answer is that this ministry is part of the transforming process being done in all believers. And yet, the resulting process is so inefficient and often counterproductive. Surely God could have come up with a better way to spread His kingdom.

With all our ugliness, with all our lingering sin, with all our uneven efforts done with mixed motives, God chooses to work through us. We are His church, His ambassadors on earth, often poorly preaching a message obscured by our baggage that we refused to shed after salvation.

Perhaps God uses us to guarantee He gets the glory. After all, if we were shining examples of Christlikeness in action, the world might be pulled in by our radiance. As it is, hardly a week goes by that I do not hear something along the lines of, “If that is what it means to be a Christian,…” or “I can’t believe those people are Christians.” Yes, God and not we will receive the glory.

Then there is the infighting, the battling over the trivial while neglecting the important. The turf wars and ministry battles. Efforts to present a united stand on critical issues are met with catcalls from others. In every multi-church gathering I have attended the plea was for unity in Christ.

So God’s fallible church limps unevenly along. Those being baptized showed a willingness to proclaim the name of Christ and to announce their intention of following Christ. Every person showed evidence of being mentored and/or discipled. Their goal is to use the day of baptism to launch themselves into greater surrender to Christ. That is the mission of the church.

Sudden Death

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” – (Jesus) Matthew 6:27

This past week I attended the funeral for the husband of a friend. He had been apparently healthy and working, and then he died suddenly.

There is the obvious shock and jolt to her life, as the pieces of life now need to be reassembled in the midst of grief. And the funeral included the testimony of many lives he had impacted for the better and the loyalty of lifelong friendship. He will be missed.

Death is always a sobering reminder of the fragility of life. The older we get, the more our peers are leaving us here on earth. The span of life is something we can neither plan for nor count on, with a total inability, other than avoiding reckless actions, to determine the number of our days.

Yet there are two wrong responses to the uncertainty of life. The first is to live in fear, avoiding any and all risk, hunkering down in our homes as if they are bunkers to wait out life and hang on as long as possible. The second is to race though life in a hyper-spastic fashion, furiously checking off accomplishments without ever enjoying them.

God has given us two competing perspectives on life: the desires to accomplish things, savor life and appreciate the passage of the years; and also the knowledge that we do not know the length of our lives and all our wishing cannot extend our lives. How do we operate in the tension between these two perspectives?

First, we give our lives to God. Since He is the author of our days, including their number, we return to Him the ownership of our days.

Next, we understand our purpose God has given us and then move purposefully through our lives. This does not mean to hurry, as Jesus on His way to Jerusalem allowed interruptions, including dinner with Zacchaeus. Jesus saw that the pause was part of the overall purpose. We must have purpose without succumbing to tunnel vision.

Finally, we must understand our purpose in the light of eternity. We are part of a grand relay race, as we have received much of our ministry and direction from previous generations and will pass them along to those succeeding us. God’s work did not begin with us, and neither will it end with our demise. We must assume the appropriate humility in our efforts.

What does end are our relationships on earth. Those left behind are missing the place in their lives we provided. While for casual acquaintances it is likely a small hole, for close friends and family it is a substantial gap. Let us maintain these relationships, shoring up any weak spots without delay, to gain the maximum benefit and enjoyment from our loved ones.

The Focus of our Ministry

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry

 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” – Revelation 4:11

Why do we do what we do? What is the motivation or inspiration for our ministry efforts?

There are many wrong answers, or mixed motives that can pull down our ministry efforts. Some people are building monuments to themselves, to draw admiration from others. Some people are fighting insecurity, in that if they achieve enough they can meet the elusive dream of proving themselves capable. Some people have a misguided notion that they must earn or pay back their salvation, a debt which can never be paid. All of these and other motives are exercises in futility which can never fully satisfy. They are, as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, a “chasing after the wind.”

So what should be our driving force, or our focus, in our ministry efforts?

I believe the answer is revealed to us in two visions of heaven described in Revelation.

The first vision, concluded by the above verse, directs glory to God. We see all of heaven focused on praising God. All of creation itself points toward God. All things find their origin, substance and meaning in Him.

Then we see the second vision in Revelation 5 how glory ascribed to the Son of God, the Lamb on the throne. Handel portrays it brilliantly in the chorus “Worthy is the Lamb”:

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by his
Blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour,
And glory, and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto
Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.
(Revelation 5:12-14)

 It is appropriate that Handel wrote this chorus as the finale to the Messiah, since all of history will culminate in this image of everlasting praise to God, declaring His glory and sovereignty over all creation. And the Lamb receives the honor and glory and blessing as well for His great act of love in redeeming us to God. The conclusion of all things will be God on the throne being praised for both His creative sovereignty and His overwhelming love in redeeming mankind.

This is why we labor in ministry, and this should be our motivation in ministry. Not to stoke our egos or feel better about ourselves. Not to do God a favor or somehow pay Him back for His multitude of blessings. Our ministry focus should be for the honor and glory of God. Forever and ever.

Ministry while doing other Ministry

Ministry while doing other Ministry

 “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” – Luke 9:51

When I was younger a local newspaper columnist would periodically run a column titled “Things I learned while looking up other things.” It would be a general collection of tidbits of information unrelated to anything else. But in the days when research was done through encyclopedias and a lifetime of accumulated notes, the writer would share fascinating trivia discovered while researching other topics. Being a lover of trivia, I enjoyed these columns for the random pieces of data offered for public consumption. To me, it was valuable nuggets made all the more precious because they had not been expected. These bits of information were like surprise gifts.

In our lives God can also present amazing opportunities for ministry that are unexpected and unplanned for. It may be a chance encounter of someone in a store. It might be a need presenting itself. It may be an issue that lay dormant for some time but suddenly now springs forth in full crisis mode. Whatever it is, it is not what we had planned.

Jesus had a clear mission while on earth. Once he was reaching the end of His ministry days, He knew the final destination for His ministry, and could not allow interruptions or detours that would steer Him away from His course.

But should we be so inflexible in our lives? Is our planned ministry so consuming that we cannot allow what could be a divine appointment in our lives?

I had a friend who once missed church because he was helping a family with car trouble. This was in the 1980s before cell phones were common, and getting help meant walking for help. No cell phones also meant he could not call and let anyone know he would not be coming. He was missed at church because he was the song leader for congregational singing. But at that moment he felt that the most important ministry was attending to that need. Once we realized he was not coming, someone else could fill in.

We have our ministry callings, and we should be diligent in fulfilling those. We should not let every distraction derail our efforts in following God. Yet we should not be so single minded that we neglect or miss the opportunities around us. It takes discernment to know the difference. And walking closely with God to build discernment.

A School Prayer for our Children

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry

 “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” – Jesus, Mark 10:14 (NIV)

 

My granddaughter started school last week. Others begin this week, or are already at college. We have purchased our school supplies, written the tuition checks. We cried after dropping off at the bus stop (or the dorm room). We have done everything we can to prepare our children for the next stage of independence, whether it be three hours of kindergarten or three months away at college. We are sending them into unfamiliar or even potentially hostile territory.

Having done all we physically can, we place them in the hands of God. But we cannot just sit passively as this portion of our lives unfolds. So how do we respond? We pray. Like this:

Lord, you gave me these children as a gift and a blessing. I sought to raise them as best I could, knowing I was incapable of completing the task on my own. So I ask You for help, seeking Your guidance and wisdom as I forge new steps in raising one of Your children.

There were times when I was blessed beyond comprehension, and times when I felt overwhelmed and entirely inadequate for such a large responsibility. I knew I could not do this without You, and You were always there when I sought You. My children have reached this milestone today because of what You have done in our lives.

So I seek You again because of a new phase in the life of my children. Each year they grow a little more independent. Each year they need my daily care a little less. Each year they move a little closer to maturity. To know my years of active parenting are diminishing and moving toward a conclusion brings both pleasure and loss. I will miss these years someday but I want them to grow up.

But I never want them to grow independent of You, Lord. Just as they hold on to my hand less, I want them to hold on to Your hand more. Just as they seek my counsel less, I want them to seek Your counsel more. Just as they know longer need my daily care, I want them dependent on their daily walk with You.

Grant my children Your peace, safety, and wisdom. Give them Your presence moment by moment, especially when temptation is lurking nearby. But most of all, let them grow into a life of living for You. Of all the things I want for my children, what I want most is for them to know and be known by You. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.

What Ministry is all About

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry

Out group of teachers and pastors during training in Liberia. (Photo by Weymann Lee.)

Out group of teachers and pastors during training in Liberia. (Photo by Weymann Lee.)

 

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent. Equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

I just returned from Liberia, teaching a group of pastors and church leaders about the attributes of God. They were a great bunch, asking questions and probing for more details. Sometimes the questions were related to the topic, seeking to get more information. Sometimes the questions were picking my brain of any knowledge they wanted to get that related to their ministries.

In Liberia, they honor wisdom and experience, something that America increasingly eschews in search of the newest and shiniest thing. They respect their teachers, and think of us as helping them in their quest for growth. For the group picture, they wanted us seated in front, a position of honor they felt was due us. When we left, they presented us with gifts that were tokens of their appreciation.

They are exuberant in their worship of God. Exuberant, but not out of control. They have a genuine joy in following God and it springs forth in their worship. They are celebrating what God has done for them in Christ.

So take a good look at the men and women standing in this picture, for they are what ministry is all about. It’s not about feeling better because of doing something good. It’s not about any personal sacrifices we may make in serving others, although that is laudable. It’s not about our plans or agendas.

Ministry is about these people, called by God to serve in their local communities, making daily sacrifices most of us would shy away from. It is about these lives that are changed for the better. If we think ministry is about ourselves, we are sadly mistaken. Ministry is about others, the pouring of our lives into the lives of other people.

Pray for these pastors and church leaders in Liberia. We served and returned home. They stay can continue to pour themselves into their churches. Hopefully they are better equipped and are on a path to more effective ministry. But they stay and serve.

On Mission in Liberia

(Note from Terry: This week I am in Liberia with Training Leaders International, actually in the type of ministry I am preparing for. This week’s entry is my blog entry from the TLI blog site.)

Our TLI team in Amsterdam on our way to Liberia (photo by Weymann Lee)

Our TLI team in Amsterdam on our way to Liberia (photo by Weymann Lee)

“I am physically tired but spiritually invigorated.”

That one statement sums up our first day of teaching The Attributes of God in Liberia. The students are motivated and engaged in class, they bring questions and insights to the discussions, and they are all there to learn as much as they can in one week. Under National Leader Pastor Dyonah Thomas’s superb organization and leadership partnering with out TLI team leader Weymann Lee, we got everyone organized and ready to start class.

Today being the first day, we made introductions and explained the TLI program. These necessary opening activities cut a little into teaching time, but enabled us and the local pastors to start getting to know each other. Additional introductions were made in class after we divided into six separate classes to keep class sizes manageable.

The initial registration was for 100 students. Unfortunately, some could not make it due to transportation or road issues. But since we had more than 100 people interested, Dyonah was able to reach out to those on the waiting list and hopefully get them in to take the remainder of the course beginning tomorrow.

Most students are from Liberia, but Pastor Dyonah has a bigger vision that encompasses all of West Africa. He is seeking to start churches in other countries and training pastors for that purpose. The TLI program is helping to equip pastors that can impact Liberia and beyond. God is on the move!

Yesterday (Sunday) our team divided up to preach in area churches. Some churches are thriving and growing, some are small but working hard, and some have suffered attacks. The church I spoke at recently lost their property to the government. They lost their land and their building, and have had to start over in a temporary facility. While the upheaval caused them to lose a lot of people, they are looking to God for renewed direction and growth.

After church our caravans reunited us and brought us to Pastor Dyonah’s house for lunch. We got to meet his wife and some of his family, and enjoyed excellent fellowship before returning to our hotel for rest and preparation for the teaching time.

So after a brisk shower and early breakfast, we were off to Grace Life Church to begin our classes. Because of the national accreditation, we need to give quizzes, reading assignments, and other activities that make this class more than the standard course. This additional effort on everyone’s part should help reinforce the concepts taught. Our goal is more than just knowledge, though. We want to see them draw closer to God and use this knowledge to help equip their congregations.

Today we covered foundational topics, including what is an attribute of God, the knowability of God, the incomprehensibility of God, the unity of god, and the Tri-unity of God. We emphasized that because God has revealed Himself to us through creation, His Son, and Scripture, we can know God truly. But because God is beyond our comprehension, we will never know Him fully. This was a great start to what is hopefully a blessed week.

Here are some ways that you can pray for us:

  • Finish well. That we can build on this great start and see God work throughout the week
  • That we stay strong and healthy as the week’s activities wear us down.
  • Team Unity. We have drawn close already, but that we stay close and build deeper relationships as we minister together.
  • That what we do and what these pastors learn have an impact far greater than this week.

Ministry and Support Systems

Preparing for Retirement Full Time Ministry

 “And although a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not easily broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12

 

Tomorrow I head to Liberia on a missions trip with Training Leaders International (TLI). As part of a team of seven, we will be teaching pastors and church leaders about the Attributes of God, the first class in a three-year course of study. Our goal is to help equip church leaders with good biblical theological knowledge so that their lives are transformed, so that then they can in turn better equip their churches.

Part of my preparations was to seek prayer support. I already have several people praying for me, and I feel their support. Ideally the prayer support continues during the trip and after I return. Sometimes the most intense spiritual attacks occur when someone returns, because they are tired and let down their guard. And this is for just a short term trip.

All good ministry work needs support. First and foremost, prayer support invites God into the event. Other areas of support include financial support, logistical support, and even emotional support for long term work. We have friends who served in Papua New Guinea in strictly a support role. Of course they witnessed to the local people and led Bible studies. But their primary role was as support staff to keep the Bible translators out in the field.

However, if someone is constantly in a “requesting support” mode, the burden might just be too much for them. If we are always drained, we are not relying on God’s strength and are instead pulling from others. We might even degenerate into “taker” mode where we feel our entire world is our support system. This is not a healthy place in which to remain.

Instead, support should be reciprocal. There are times when we will need support because of a large task or heavy burden. But there should also be times where we are supporting others.

So I will head to Liberia tomorrow, confident in my prayer support and the logistical support of TLI. For those ten days, I will pour myself into those pastors, doing the best I can to communicate God’s truths in a life-changing way. But I will also seek to be sensitive to the needs around me, from either a fellow team member, a church leader I am working with, or someone back home.

I will do my best to support them even while completing my ministry, and when I return home, I will be in a season where I can put more support into others, as part of God’s community.

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