January 22, 2000
Dear friends and family,
Thank you for all the letters of support and encouragement. Anytime I’ve felt like I could use “a boost”, I’ve only had to go as far as “check mail”.
Thank you, too, for, as one person so beautifully put it, joining in the chorus of prayer.
It’s hard to sink with so many people holding you up. It’s also great to know you don’t have to do all the swimming yourself. Thanks for coming, as JP put it in his sermon last Sunday, “into the deep waters” with me.
Some have asked about sharing the letters/writings with others (some already have as I have gotten “reply” letters from second and third parties). Thanks for asking. Feel free to share them with whomever you feel led to, for whatever reasons. God seems to have His own purposes in this.
While I was in the BWCA (where I “went” during the MRI scan), the MRI did not find “anything” (not to be misconstrued as meaning there is “nothing up there”). According to my primary doctor, “The MRI is fine.”
While this greatly reduces the chances this is a brain tumor or related thing, it increases the chances it is indeed Parkinson’s Disease. Since I have not known which is actually the “better” of the two (there are pluses and minuses to each), and have not known which one to pray “for”, I told God it’s His choice (not that He didn’t already know this).
I did ask my doctor, upon his telling me the MRI results, what the remaining options were for this to be, other than Parkinson’s. While he is not a specialist in neurological things, he could not, at this point, come up with any other options.
I now don’t have any more tests until Feb 1, when I meet with a Neurologist who specializes in “movement disorders”. Having eliminated the more time sensitive options, there is not a rush to make a final diagnosis. There is currently no known cure for Parkinson’s Disease, nor any known way to stop its’ progression, just various ways (many very successful for many years) to treat (temporarily mask) its’ many resulting effects (I’m speaking here in strictly human terms – God is not bound to or by any human terms).
Some have commented on how much Parkinson’s Disease has, these past few days, been in the news and highlighted on various TV programs. A lot of it has stemmed from Michael J Fox’s decision this week to quit his TV show to pursue helping raise funds to find a cure for the disease.
Maybe it is just coincidence, or maybe it is related to the prayers of this week. With the number of people who have said they are “joining the chorus of prayer”, God may have decided, if He wants rest from the Parkinson’s prayers, to do something about Parkinson’s.
So, how am I doing? As God and I went on a two hour, two lake walk together last night, He brought two illustrations to mind:
One parallels my experience in the MRI, head-first-into-a-way-too-small-hole, thing: When my eyes and thoughts are on that which seems to be pressing in from all around, I want out. When my eyes and thoughts are on God and all that He is, I have peace.
And God, in His wondrous grace, when He sees my eyes and thoughts stray, seems to reach down, and whisper in my ear, “Over here.”
A second way to describe it is it’s been like the biggest and fastest roller coaster ride I have ever been on.
Roller coasters have always been my favorite amusement ride. It’s hard to make one too big for me. Maybe it’s my predominantly melancholy temperament, but I have always enjoyed the ups and downs.
The past few days have been on a ride like I have never been on before, I have never experienced before. It’s like God has said, “I have a new and more exciting ride for you. It’s designed just for you. Hang on.”
What makes this ride so different than anything else I’ve experienced is it appears, to me, that God is laying the track as we go. I don’t know where this track, or this car cruising a hundred miles an hour on it, is going. There doesn’t seem like there is enough track out there, yet we never run out of it.
There have been exciting new experiences of God as we have shot up new peaks. Then, just as I’m thinking this is great, the track seems to fall out from below me. I’m heading down into a dip, a valley, which doesn’t seem to have a bottom to it (bottomless dips?).
I tell God, as we go down, “My heart was left at the top.” He says, “It’ll catch up.”
As we head down into a valley I have never “tracked” before, there is both fear and peace. The fear seems to come from having not been down this track before and not knowing where it is going. The peace comes from knowing that there is no better place to be in this unknown valley than in the Creator’s car traveling the Creator’s track. It can, at times, take your breath away.
How God’s grace works on a custom designed roller coaster is like this: Just when you think the dip, the valley, is too long, too deep, God’s grace, God’s hands, reach down and turn, bend, the track up. As fast as one was one minute falling, the next he is soaring.
A roller coaster reality: If you want to soar, you have to go through the valley.
Last night, as God and I were walking around the lakes, through the fresh snow, I told God that, as great as the past few days of His new and big custom roller coaster have been, I think I need a break. I need some time to catch my breath. I need a rest. It was like God said, “I know.”
As we were walking the second lake, I noticed my right hand was not trembling. It had stopped. It hadn’t really been “at rest” for a long time. It felt soooo good. I had forgotten how a normal hand/arm felt. Even if it is just a temporary respite, it is so good. The at rest hand/arm, still at rest today, mirrors the at rest roller coaster.
Last Sunday, at church, at Bethlehem, while only God knew about my new news, God used the service immensely in helping me figure out one aspect of how to deal with this news. I didn’t know how or who or when or what to tell people.
When I saw “that servant song”, I had very mixed emotions. It’s one of those songs God keeps using to “pierce” me. It’s an independence/dependence thing. One of my greatest fears, which God has now magnified a hundred times over with this Parkinson’s thing, is the fear of becoming, of being, dependent on others. God knew/knows this. It was of Him that this song was in this Sunday’s service. That night I started writing “The Turn …and The Grace for it” letter. The song I listened to, as hundreds sang:
“The Servant Song” by Richard Gilliard
Brother, let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace to let you be my servant too.
We are pilgrims on a journey, We are brothers on the road,
We are here to help each other, Walk the mile and bear the load.
I will hold the Christ-light for you, In the night-time of your fear,
I will hold my hand out to you, Speak the peace you long to hear.
I will weep when you are weeping, When you laugh I’ll laugh with you,
I will share your joy and sorrow ‘till we’ve seen this journey through.
When we sing to God and heaven, We shall find such harmony,
Born of all we’ve known together of Christ’s love and agony.
While I do not yet know where this “track” leads, it has become very evident that God’s fingerprints, from His caring and creative and loving hands, are all over this. I have not been able to write things down as fast as they seem to be happening, as fast as God is revealing new things, both about life and about Him and His grace.
And, He seems to have known about these days I am facing “since before the foundations of the earth”. He seems to have known what I would need for these days since “before my mother conceived me”. These days already had history before they came into history.
Two weeks ago, a week before I knew, after a time with God, I wrote down on a card the verse I had spent the time with Him on and propped it up on my desk next to my computer. He seems to have known then the words He most wanted to say to me now. The words, still there, and full of deep new meanings:
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 1 v2)
In His Grace and Peace,