Pastor Timothy Herron
I contacted Pastor Tim when Donna was first diagnosed, now over 5 years ago! His story and words of encouragement gave me something to hold onto at a time when my world was crumbling all around me. His testimony gave me the hope I needed at a time when I needed it most!
If you would like to contact Pastor Tim, you can email him by clicking here.
Below is a book that he has written and has recently emailed me. Please note that this material is copyrighted and is used by permission. Posted 11-27-05.
By REVEREND TIM HERRON BS, ThM.
Chapter One - Who signed up for this, anyway?
Chapter Two Ė The Making of a Pastor
Chapter Three - Preparing for a Trial
Chapter Four - Donít Write the Script
Chapter Five - Another Treatment, Another Place
Chapter Six- Itís not just about me!
Chapter Seven - Moving to Houston
Chapter Eight - "Itís Never Really Finished. You just run out of Time."
Chapter Nine - Thorny Issues
Chapter Ten - Overcoming, you can do it too!
When God wants to drill a man
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world will be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts his beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good he undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And with every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try his splendor out Ė
God knows what He's about.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be,
ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of
your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though
it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory
at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in
whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy
unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the
salvation of your souls.
This book tells the story of Godís intervention, in a most outrageous
fashion, in the life of the most improbable candidate - the author of
this book. I will not be relating the story of a saccharine creator,
there to gratify our whims and grant grace when, where and how He chooses,
because that would not represent reality. God can seem harsh and
severe, even as He blesses us with His mercy, and one of the great challenges
that facesface every one of His sons and daughters is that of learning
how to see His grace in the midst of the darkest moment. I will show
you a God who comforts and perplexes at one and the same time Ė a
Savior who sometimes delivers through adversity rather than through trials.
Reading these pages will challenge both reason and emotion to the point
where you may wonder if you are reading a work of fantasy. Believe me,
the story that lies ahead is very, very real, and the scars on my head
are testimony to it.
In these pages, I share with you some of the most beautiful and most
terrifying moments of my life, and the insights and lessons that I
learned as I lived through them. Together, we will grapple with those most
difficult of all questions: If God loves us, why does He let us suffer?
Why does He allow terrible things to happen to good people? How can we
learn to submit to His will, even when it seems horrendously unjust? How
can we, apparent victims, transform ourselves into Overcomers, and join
the ranks of those who have, throughout the centuries, struggled with
Godís challenges, and succeeded in becoming better servants of the Lord?
At a stage in my life when everything seemed to be going swimmingly, I
developed a malignant tumor in my brain, and was told that I most
probably had only weeks to live. At that time, I was a young pastor, with a
wonderful wife and a healthy, growing family of five children, one of
whom was just a newborn. I was noted for my ambition in ministry, and my
ability to handle complex theological arguments. I had every reason to
think that I would be able to take my calling to where I thought it
should go. But God had other plans for the Herron family. The effect that
this life-threatening illness had on me and on my wife, my children and
everyone around me was incalculable. One doesnít not have to be a
Christian to understand the anguish of a family told that it is facing
the loss of its father. The language of tragedy is a universal one,
cutting through differences of culture, faith and race. Families can be
devastated when a parent dies; some never recover at all.
Despite the dismal prognoses we received from experts in the field of
brain cancer, I recovered. In many ways, however, my life had changed
completely. One thing was perfectly clear Ė from the years of anxiety,
pain and fear that I experienced, I became equipped to offer a very
special ministry. Since then, my lifeís calling has been to share my
experience and knowledge of serious trials and the conquering of fear with
those offered the greatest challenges that God can put in their path. I
donítdo not claim to have all the answers, but in this book, I will take
you on a journey through doubt and trepidation to acceptance,
resignation and joy.
We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking only to learn
it is God shaking them.
To a Christian, a fearsome trial is an opportunity to rise above pain
and insecurity and embrace God with an open heart. Throughout this book,
IíveI have scattered some of the wisdom that has been most valuable to
me over the years during and after my trial. I hope that it will be
similarly insightful for you, and a tool that you can use to
transform yourself into a true Overcomer.
This book is dedicated to all of those who overcome Ė those who have
taken on the trials of life and won. By doing so, they join the ranks of
those Overcomers recorded in Scripture:
Revelation 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith
unto the churches; to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the
tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
Revelation 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith
unto the churches; he that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second
Revelation 2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith
unto the churches; to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the
hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name
written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
Revelation 2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the
end, to him will I give power over the nations:
Revelation 3:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white
raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I
will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
Revelation 3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple
of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the
name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new
Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon
him my new name.
Revelation 3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in
My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in
Revelation 21:7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will
be his God, and he shall be my son.
Chapter One - Who signed up for this, anyway?
If you wear out a pair of shoes in East Texas, youíve found a
home for life - friendly advice to a pastorís family before moving house.
Deep in the woods of East Texas, the small city of Longview is
nestled, home to a community of 70,000 people. Longview is located halfway
between Dallas and Shreveport, and the first time we saw it was in
April, when the landscape of that part of the world is at its lushest and
greenest. In Spring in Texas, you can almost watch the grass
grow before your eyes. Texas is a state notorious for the flatness of
its terrain, and in that level context, Longview almost qualifies as a
mountain town - hence the name. Even from its modest height, it commands
a view of the surrounding countryside. The city developed during the
first half of the twentieth century, and main-street buildings from that
period testify to its history. During the Second World War, Longview
was the site of a camp for German prisoners of war, and one of the
legacies of that time is an airport far from commensurate with the townís
modest size. Although quite a variety of religious denominations is
represented, most of the inhabitants share a family-oriented view of life and
a resistance to the globalization and corporatization that threaten to
engulf contemporary American society and replace godly standards with
secular ones. All in all, Longview certainly is an excellent home
for a young couple and their growing family. We were confident that we
would be happy there.
Leaving my first pastorship at Cypress near the Texan city of Houston,
I first came to the Fellowship Bible Church in Longview as an ordained
pastor in 1984.In one of the first messages I received from God after
my arrival, I had a vision for the church. At that time, it was meeting
in a facility that had previously been a nightclub, perched on a hill
above the city. Although the congregation was enthusiastic and committed
to growth, membership was still low. The vision I cast was that the
day would come when Fellowship Bible Church would be so dynamic that
one of the major news stations would be drawn, not by the scandals so
beloved of journalism, but because the love and power emanating from the
church was so strong that the news people just had to come and find
out all about it. This prayer was revealed to be prophetic.
Many different people have played important roles in the events that
unfolded over the years following my arrival in the city. They contributed
to the services offered by the church, and the lives of the people who
worshipped there. They also helped to turn a potential tragedy in the
life of a young pastor and his family into an experience, which, although
difficult, was enriching for everybody involved.
Back on that very first day in 1984, we had three small children
snoozing in the back seat of the car. When we left, nine years later, our
family had been blessed by another, and we certainly had a story to tell!
The 1980s were happy days for us Ė Kathy, me, and our growing family.
We moved into an old house in a pleasant, tree-filled neighborhood,
remodeled the bathroom, knocked down walls, built closets, buffed the oak
wood floors and installed a fort over a sandbox in the yard. Our home
was seated on almost an acre of property, with enough creeks and trees
and wildlife to keep the children entertained for hours. They rode their
bicycles, had adventures along the banks of the creek, and made dozens
of friends among the neighborsí kids. I used to ride a mower around our
ample grounds, and the children loved to "help", riding along with me.
One of our elderly neighbors, a Mr. Gilgowat, was regularly banished to
the front porch of his house by his wife, who did not share his love of
pungent cigars - but our five children werenít not put off, and
they loved to visit with him. All the kids still cherish fond memories of
that house and garden and the many happy years that we spent living in
Longview. At that time, those of school age were taught at home by
Kathy, giving us the freedom to travel with them when the opportunity
arose, and to ensure that the values instilled by their education were
compatible with those held by Kathy and me. I think Kathy still misses our
home in Longview at times - including all the closet space we built in
to fill with toys and clothes! Our house in Longview wasnít not our
first family home, but it was the homeliest.
As our children grew and flourished, so did the church, growing quickly
from just 60 members at the outset to 250. Our emphasis as a church was
always to put people before programs. This was an approach that
enabled us to thrive as a community. Together, never forgetting that
Christ is more important than theology, we all worked to build a church
family that supported its members in times of need, rejoiced with them
in times of happiness and supported them through the ups and downs of
everyday existence. Above all, we always put families and their
relationships with God before practical issues, before ambition, and before the
personal aspirations of any single church member. We also strove to
share our joy with the world, in maintaining a strong emphasis on
missionary activities. The role of the pastor in all of this was not so much to
lead, as to help church members to enable themselves to develop
healthful relationships with Christ and with their families and communities.
The process of achieving our goals drew us all very close together. I
remember standing in the kitchen one evening with Kathy as we embraced
and agreed that these really were the good old days! Everything seemed to
be taken care of. I had a loving personal relationship, wonderful,
healthy children and the pastorship of a growing church. We had so much to
be thankful for, and the future was bright. What could possibly go
wrong? Well Ö
Christmas fell on Sunday in 1988. I had been suffering from the stress
that the Christmas holiday brings to all pastors, and so the headaches
I experienced that morning did little more than annoy me. I felt sure
that I would be better once the holidays were over. I preached that
morning, and was relieved when I came to an end (as was everybody else),
since I had spoken for over an hour on a day when most pastors are wise
enough to let their congregations get home to their holiday meals and
families. Although I was still unaware of it, a tumor inside my brain was
causing me to lose my mental capacities. In fact, several people had
already noted my increasingly dangerous driving during the months prior
to the onset of the symptoms. My co-pastor, Jim Johnson remembers:
"I was doing a whole lot more driving than usual because I was
reluctant to have Tim behind the wheel. Iíd noticed that he was zoning out and
going through lights and things like that, although none of us knew
why. It was a time of grave concern. We knew that something bad was
happening, but we didnít know what it was."
I had no idea that there was anything wrong either, although Kathy had
also become privately concerned about the strange behavior Iíd been
displaying recently. The same failure to connect that was affecting me
while driving also translated to behaving in a peculiar manner at home.
Still, there was nothing concrete, nothing that we could "put a finger
on" and besides, we were both looking forward to the imminent birth of
our fifth child.
Kathy and I had first noticed that my headaches were getting more
severe and frequent around the end of October, when we organized a Farm Fair
for the children of the parish, but they werenít bad enough to cause
serious concern. Iíd always been inclined to suffer from allergies and
from minor sinus problems, and we probably assumed that these were behind
the problem. However, by the time our daughter Ginger was born on
December 14th, I was really worrying poor Kathy. Around that time, we went
to the Longview neighborhood of Wildwood to admire the locally famous
Christmas lights display. Instead of taking pleasure in them, the bright
lights confused and disorientated me, and we had to return home. On one
of the childrenís visits to our family physician, Kathy mentioned the
recent problems Iíd been experiencing, especially with orientation and
following directions. Without me there Dr. Marshall really couldnít give
an informed opinion, so he said that he would pursue the issue with me
if it became more problematic and less vague. There was no reason to
suppose that the problems were caused by something serious. Even though
it was hard to put a finger on exactly what was going wrong, Kathy was
actually concerned about leaving the other children in my care when she
went into hospital to give birth, and in the weeks that followed, my
increasingly dangerous driving and unusual general behavior gave more
cause for anxiety. Fortunately, considering the months that lay ahead,
Ginger was a particularly placid baby. A little sister for our other four
children, John who was eight, Joseph, seven, Crystal, four and David,
still a baby himself at one year old, she never cried more than was
strictly necessary, and was easy to love and take care of.
A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a
thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.
- - - Garrison Keillor
Looking back it still seems crazy that we did not detect my tumor
earlier. Our memories only take us back to an Halloween substitute at our
church where I went all out and made animals for the children out of
balloons that were very hard to inflate. This alone would account for a
headache, but on top of it I was asked to play my bagpipes. Now bagpipes
donít take much air but what you deliver has to be under a great deal of
pressure. So between this and the balloons and all the noise and
demands on a pastor, we thought it understandable that I had a headache and
that it last for more than a day or two. The headache never went away
but could be controlled with aspirin, so we wrote it off as seasonal
stress and not anything serious.
On the day before Christmas Eve, I went out with Crystal to buy a new
television and Nintendo system - our annual gift to ourselves as a
family. Kathy was terrified that Iíd have an accident and worried and prayed
as she waited for us to get home, which we managed to do. In fact,
although I managed not to crash the car, later that evening I dropped
Crystal while we played amid the excitement of setting up the new system.
The indentation caused by hitting her head cheek against the hard edge of
the sofa can still be seen on her face today, as a rather becoming
dimple. Christmas Eve saw a further deterioration of my condition and
behavior. Our family tradition had always been to gather around a manger
scene to recount the story of Christmas with the children, but this year I
wasnít able to participate properly, and I found myself staggering from
the bedroom to the couch while I apologized for holding everybody up.
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. -
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813-1855).
What more eloquent way of expressing why a just God allows His
people to suffer! Often, it is not until something goes wrong that we
realize that God is with us always. Then, we understand that apparent
hardships are really blessings in disguise.
The next day - Christmas day - saw things come to a head. I walked from
the church into the bright sunshine and towards the car, wishing
everyone a happy New Year. Then I climbed into the car and started for home.
Or so I intended.
"Are you OK, Pastor?" one of the congregation called over with a note
of concern in his voice. His anxiety stemmed from the fact that I had
backed the car out, put it into drive, and brought it slowly forward into
the corner of a house that sat on the edge of the church lot. The
astonished, horrified gaze of the young couple who lived there brought home
what had happened. Their property jutted out and members of the
congregation often joked about the inevitability of someone bumping into it
one day, never thinking that that person would be the pastor, who used
the parking lot more than anybody.
"Iím fine," I assured the anxious church member, as I apologized to the
couple, "I just need to get these kids home and have a rest."
"Thatís good," he said, continuing to look at me with a worried
expression on his face. Saying goodbye, I drove my family home. In retrospect,
the fact that I have no memory of the trip from the church to our home
is terrifying. All I can really recall is collapsing into our warm,
soft bed while the children, eager to open their gifts, protested. Poor
kids! I stayed in bed all day, trying to sleep despite my pain. It wasnít
until that evening that I managed to stagger out of bed and into the
living room where my family was trying to be festive. I recall taking
some pride in the fact that the kids all knew the Christmas story so well,
while regretting that, for some reason, I just wasnít able to join in.
I knew that there was something wrong with me, but I didnít know what
I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me
I remember little of the two days that followed, until Tuesday when I
took our newborn daughter, Ginger, for her two week checkup. It wasnít
until after sheíd been examined that I mentioned my own headaches. From
the symptoms I described, Dr. Marshall thought it likely that I was
suffering from a severe sinus infection, as so many people do in East
Texas, and he prescribed a strong antibiotic which he expected would have a
rapid effect on the symptoms.
The next morning, however, my headache was worse. The intensity of the
pain caused me to vomit and any medication taken by mouth was quickly
rejected by my stomach. I tossed and turned, and tried lying in
different places Ė the bed, the living room couch Ė but nothing helped.
Thatnight day, my head hurt so much that I could not stop myself from
screaming with pain and begging the Lord for help. Kathy poured me a
scaldinghot bath, a measure which had often soothed me in the past. I crawled
into it, but to no avail. There didnít seem to be anything that could make
me feel better.
There are no words capable of describing the pain I endured. If, at
that moment, I had been given the choice between ending my life and
enduring the torture, I would certainly have chosen the former. It felt as
though Satan himself had reached through my skull with his clawed hand,
grabbed a fistful of my brain, and squeezed, twisted and pulled it
without mercy. To anyone who has never had a brain tumor, that might sound
melodramatic. Believe me when I tell you that it is not. And because the
pain was in my head Ė the center of all thought and feeling Ė there was
no way to escape, beyond submitting to unconsciousness.
1 Cor. 10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to
man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond
what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of
escape also, so that you will be able to endure it."
This passage came to my mind when I was in the deepest despair before
the first surgery. I could scarcely imagine brain tumor being something
common to man, but far be it from me to disagree with the passage. I
wrote this one up to something I would ask God when I saw Him face to
face. However, knowing that there was a way of escape was very important
when the pain was the greatest. In time God proved faithful and He
graciously provided a medical way of escape. Had that not been possible,
death itself would have been blessed relief!
While all of this was going on, Kathy had bhustled the children into
the front of the house to keep them out of my way. Over the next hours,
she monitored me, called the available physician for a prescription for
the vomiting and waited for the pharmacy to deliver the medication to
our door. She didnítdid not feel that she could leave me, even for a
short trip to the drug store. All the while she ministered to my needs,
she managed to keep the kids quiet and entertained with videos and games.
They were young enough not to be too frightened by my cries for relief,
although both John and Joseph do remember that horrible day, and their
childish prayers to God, that He help me to be better soon.
I tried to endure things as they were until a more convenient time to
seek medical help, but that proved to be impossible. At 10 that evening,
our family physician came back on call and Kathy rang him. He suggested
that we wait until regular office hours the following morning, but
Kathy insisted that IídI had been suffering all day long and just
couldnítcould not wait. In fact, the excruciating pain hadníthad not left me,
even for a moment. Kathyís urgency communicated itself to Dr. Marshall,
and he told us that heídhe would call the emergency room at the local
hospital, and alert the staff to the fact that I was coming in. A CAT
scan was going to be necessary.
We felt that the children would be frightened to see an ambulance
pulling up outside, so Kathy contacted my associate pastor, Jim Johnson, who
came immediately in his family station wagon, and helped me into the
car. I collapsed into the passenger seat, my head falling onto his lap,
while he drove to the emergency room. Shortly afterwards, I was inside a
CAT scan machine, trying to stay immobile while the medical staff took
images of my brain. Wave after wave of unspeakable pain made keeping
still difficult, despite the morphinemorphine, IídI had been given. When
the scan was over, I was taken to the emergency room where Kathy was
waiting for me. The pain-killing drugs began to give me some relief, and
I was able to talk with Jim and Kathy, although I have no memory of
what we said. All I can recall is the agony and the relief that followed
when the morphine finally began to take effect.
At that point, Kathy received a call at the nursesí station from our
family physician, Dr. Marshall. That was the moment, sitting alone at the
station at 11.30, that she received the devastating news that the scan
had revealed an extremely large mass in my brain. Dr. Marshall tried to
be reassuring, telling her that for the moment there was no way of
knowing what the mass was - perhaps it would turn out to be benign. Surgery
would have to be performed, and a biopsy taken to determine the nature
of the tumor before a diagnosis could be made. Somehow, Kathy found the
strength to deliver the news to Jim and me. It was too late to start
asking questions and making decisions, so the three of us prayed
together, and Kathy and Jim left me, as I was wheeled down the hall to my room.
A restful night was not meant for me that night, and at some point the
nurses had to restrain me to preventprevent, me from thrashing around -
behavior that they later informed me was an effect of the medication.
When Kathy came to see me in the morning, she was alarmed to find that I
had been stripped of my clothes - my underwear had even been cut off.
All I was wearing was a hospital gown, and the marks of the restraints
that had held me in place the night before were still visible as weals
cut into my flesh. Despite all that, she was initially relieved to see
that, although I was groggy, I was calm. Her relief began to fade when
she saw me struggle to move the left side of my body. I was barely able
to walk from my bed to the bathroom without support and guidance. My
left arm seemed to have a will of its own and moved unexpectedly and
Our morning was punctuated by the visit of Dr. Guierra, the
neurologist, who ran me through a series of elementary neurological tests. These
included such simple actions as touching my nose with my left finger (I
failed), walking toe to heel (I almost fell over) and alternately
raising my knees while in a standing position (I fell over onto the bed).
The doctor informed us that Tthe brain scan had revealedthe culprit to be
a large, invasive tumor, and it was immediately apparent that I would
have to have surgery. It appeared that a cyst was rapidly growing around
the tumor, and this was the factor that was causing the rapid
deterioration of my coordination, the pain and the many other symptoms that I
was displaying; my erratic behavior, severe headaches, and tendency to
respond irrationally to irritants. The right ventricle in my brain was
almost completely blocked and the midline of the brain was pushed way off
center. All of this indicated more than clearly that my case was an
emergency, and surgery could not be delayed. Dr. Guierra . left to make
the necessary preparations.
Kathy stayed with me through lunch, watching as I vainly tried to
wrestle some lime jello into my mouth. After IídI had eaten, she left me in
the care of others and went home to take care of Ginger, who was
dependent on her for nursing, to call family and friends and to prepare her
for my probable surgery the following day. She promised to return that
afternoon with news. My doctor, Dr. Marshall, broke the news after
speaking to the radiologist
While I waited in the hospital some of our friends lovingly stood guard
at the door of my room. Among them was Bart, a former navy man with a
heart as caring as his exterior was gruff. HeídHe had brought a long
extension cord for the phone so it could be answered by whoever was at the
door - and there was always someone there, watching and waiting,
regardless of the time of day or night. One of the newer additions to the
congregation, a gentlemanman called Lawson Younger, came and sat by my bed
and read Scripture to calm me while I drifted in and out of
consciousness. In fact, all of the church members showed their love and support
without ceasing during those difficult days. Although Kathy and I were
facing the greatest trial of our married lives to date, the knowledge
that members of our church were in the waiting room, praying and
encouraging Kathy and one another gave me some peace. When I was able for it,
small groups were ushered into my room to encourage me with their words
of comfort and cheer. Some popped in briefly to greet me, while others
stayed, offering soothing words. Even though IíveI have forgotten the
details of those comments, I can still feel the care that they conveyed.
Physically, I was cycling in and out of pain according to when my last
dose of morphine had been, or whether or not I had Ginger in my arms.
Holding that tiny little bundle of life and promise was better and
sometimes more effective than any drug.
Get Real, Not Religious
Piety will not help you through a crisis. "Religion" is manís
attempt to appease God on His own terms, but Christianity is a
relationship. It is about God inviting you to know, in person, the one who made
you. It is about God inviting you to receive the free gift of eternal
fellowship with Him. A relationship with God takes you through the valley
of truth. Religion leaves you in the wastelands of self, guilt and
Among the first peoplepeople, Kathy contacted were two physician
friends of ours, Mark and Dwight. They promised that they would begin to pray
immediately, and start making their own inquiries as to the best course
of action. One of them lived and worked on the west coast, and one on
the east. Between them, they would be able to find out the best
treatments available in every part of the country. Because of family and
practice responsibilities Mark was unable to leave his home but Dwight, who
was unmarried, said that he would do all he could to be on the next
flight to Longview to be with me. The fact that my friend of a lifetime
would put everything on hold for us was tremendously encouraging.
So far, Kathy had been unable to contact my parents, who had forgone
their usual Christmas with us to spend their holidays in sunny California
with thousands and thousands of RVíers at the Rose Parade in Pasadena.
TheyídThey would come to see each new grandchild shortly after birth,
but this time, they planned to come a little bit later. Remember that
this was before the days of ubiquitous cell phones, so it seemed likely
that finding them would prove impossible. The daunting task was left in
the hands of my two sisters, Lynda and Julie.
The hospital staff at the Good Shepherd hospital tried to postpone
surgery until after the holiday season, but I was quickly losing my
faculties and power of reason. The surgeon and oncologist urged us to operate
immediately Ė there wasnítwas not even time to have me flown to the
nearest major cancer center in Houston. As I was wheeled to the operating
room, I drew strength from the words of a hymn that is very dear to me:
"If ever I love Thee, Lord Jesus, Ďtis now."
My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ítis now.
I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvaryís tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ítis now.
Iíll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ítis now.
In mansions of glory and endless delight,
Iíll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
Iíll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ítis now.
Aware of the dangers I was facing, I focused especially on the verse
that says: "I love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death Ö " This hymn
was the perfect expression of my commitment to live for Jesus Christ,
regardless of what happened. To die for Him, if that was His will.
Although I was drugged and confused, I thought about the possibility that I
would perish while undergoing surgery, and wondered what it would feel
like. The image of a roller-coasterroller coaster, with all kinds of
folk waiting to ride, while others stepped on, occurred to me. I was
waiting in line to ride! The happy faces of the people stepping off the
ride in my vision were a comfort.
Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm
yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the
flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of
his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
These were my thoughts as I looked up at the face of the
anesthesiologist, who was also a friend of ours. I could see the conflict in his eyes
as he administered the drugs, and the sober expression on the face of
Dr. Marshall, who stood beside him. With that, I drifted into
unconsciousness, all the while singing my song to the Lord, and to myself.
Thanks to the efforts of the anesthiologist I remained blissfully
unaware of what was going on throughout the course of the operation. Later,
I learned that the pressure inside my skull was so strong that as soon
as a piece of the cranium was removed, my brain sought relief from the
pressure by expanding through the opening and onto the operating table.
The surgical team realized the extent of the problem immediately and,
unable to do more, they lanced the large cyst that had formed as a
result of the tumor, took a sample for a biopsy, and sewed me back together
again. Later, the doctors working on my case told me that the
atmosphere in the operating room, not optimistic to begin with, dropped when
they saw how serious the tumor was. One of those doctors was Jim Maudlin,
who had delivered Ginger just weeks before. Although his specialty is
gynecology, Jim oversaw the operation so as to be able to provide an
extra witness to the procedure, and report back to Kathy and our family
"Although it was clear from the scan that the tumor was probably
cancerous," he recalls, "nothing could be confirmed until after the
operation. Once they went in, it was obvious that they were dealing with cancer,
and that the situation was grave."
While I was undergoing surgery there were about twenty people in the
hospital waiting room at any given time, sharing the tasks of
telephoning, playing with the baby and keeping up to date. Not long into the
operation, Ginger needed to be fed, so Kathy took her to a quiet spot and
waited with Bart and Irene, two of our closest friends from Longview.
They all knew that things were not going well when it was clear that the
surgical intervention had ended after less than half an hour. (is this
right?) If the doctors had felt that there was a chance to help me by
operating, they would have done so. Instead, they patched me up, sent me
to Intensive Care and went to break the news to Kathy and our friends.
"Iím thankful that Bart and Irene were with me," Kathy remembers, "not
just because of their support and love, but also because itís always
important that more than just one person hear what doctors have to say at
moments like this. As Timís wife, I was too close to him, and too
involved with my emotions to listen properly to what the surgeon had to
Both of the doctors who had performed the surgery sat with Kathy and
explained how the procedure had gone. Although I was doing well, and the
pressure had been removed, they had been unable to deal with the tumor.
That would have to come later.
Later that day, Kathy was able to come and visit me in Intensive Care.
ItísIt is surprising how quickly you come around after brain surgery!
I spent the night after surgery in the dismal, windowless cellar that
was the Intensive Care Unit at the Good Shepherd Hospital. Coming to
after the anesthesia, I felt myself to be in complete control of my
senses. ThatísThat is why the extraordinary behavior of some of the people in
the room was so confusing. I was sitting in front of the nursesí
station when I saw an orderly enter the room, carrying an empty plastic milk
jug. As I watched, he took out some glue, smeared it around the inside
of the container, and started to sniff, all the while bragging to the
nurses that this was the best way to sniff glue. The nurses seemed quite
unconcerned. Why should they care? They were all busy painting silver
face masks with paints of many colors Ö they were only disturbed from
this strange activity when more orderlies entered, put the man in the bed
next to mine in a body bag and left.
I had no idea that the strange people I was watching were all
manifestations of my befuddled mind. When my friend Dwight and the doctor on
charge came to see me in the morning, I had prepared a few stern words
about the inappropriate behavior of the hospital staff. The two men
exchanged a knowing look, and the penny dropped Ö "Donít tell me Iíve been
Even if your world seems to be falling apart, God is still in
charge, and He knows what to do. Donít forget that God led you through
rough patches in the past Ė Heíll do it again. Give Him a chance to prove
that He loves you and knows what He is doing. Cast your fears on him.
Fear is what we feel when the demands of life seem greater than
our resources. Never forget that Godís resources are unlimited Ė but we
must be prepared to outstretch lifted hands to reach them! Throughout
the Bible, God tells us not to be afraid. The reason is always the same
Ė His protective presence is always with us. As the psalmist said: "If
God be for us, who can prevail against us?" But God canít help us if we
donít take our troubles to Him; "[cast] all your anxieties upon Him,
because He cares for you."
I was allowed home a few days after the operation, while the tissue
that had been removed from my brain during surgery was sent to pathology
for examination, and Kathy and I waited for the news. At last, relief
from waiting came in the form of a telephone call from Dr. Marshallís
office, summoning us to hear the verdict. We left straight away. It was a
cold, January day, and there were still patches of snow on the ground
from a rare East Texas snowfall. After parking in the lot of the
doctorís surgery, we sat for a while and talked about the news that we were
likely to hear from the physician. Our pattern for dealing with crises
has always been to consider the worst that could possibly happen, so we
shared our deepest fears of the news that we were about to hear. The
scenario that frightened us most was the prospect of a short life riddled
with physical and mental deficiencies, followed by a painful death.
Then, as always when facing a trial, we visually imagined the strong hands
of a loving God bearing us through the worst fate we could imagine. I
think that it was Corrie Ten Boom who said that there is no pit so deep
that Godís presence does not reach, and exceed its depth. This proved
to be very much the case for Kathy and me.
The operative staff had been unable to remove the bulk of the tumor, so
most of it was still inside my head while pathology inspected the
sample that had been taken. An examination of the excised tissue had
revealed it to be an example of Glioblastona Multiformae, of fourth degree
malignancy Ė the deadliest of brain cancers. At that time, less than one
in a thousand Glioblastona Multiformae victims survived the first year
of the disease, and beyond that, there were no statistics. This was the
news that Dr. Marshall had to break.
When Kathy and I entered the doctorís office, it seemed to us that the
staff were averting their eyes, and in fact we were already resigned to
hearing bad news. When a doctor calls you in for a meeting, the
prognosis is rarely good.
"I told you when I discharged you from the hospital that I felt that it
was likely that the tumor was cancerous," Dr. Marshall told us gently,
"but that we should wait for laboratory reports before making a
definitive diagnosis. I also expected the tumor to be low grade and slow
growing, because your scan showed evidence of calcium deposits in the area
of the tumor. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Itís a malignant,
rapid-growing tumor called Glioblastona Multiforme, or GBM." He paused, and then
added, "I wish there were a cure."
This wasnít the first brain tumor that Dr. Marshall had treated, but it
was one of the worst. There are different types of tumors, with
different types of predicted outcomes and responses to treatment, and mine was
in the category of "almost impossible to treat".
I met Dr. Marshall recently, many years after my last doctorís
appointment with him, and we spoke of how very difficult it is for doctors to
break bad news to their patients. When I became ill, Dr. Marshall and I
were much the same age, and we were both fathers of growing families.
He had successfully treated my daughter Crystal when she was ill with a
potentially fatal condition, and had been our doctor for several years.
When he looked at me, and thought about the five children I had at
home, it was easy for him to empathize, and extremely difficult to be the
one to have to alert a young family to a tragic situation.
"Itís one of those situations that every doctor hopes heíll never have
to deal with," Dr. Marshall recalled, "but you just know that sooner or
later you will. Inevitably, every doctor has to break the news of a
serious diagnosis and a bad prognosis. The hardest challenge to cope with
is that of telling parents that their child is gravely ill. Timís case
was hard, too. He had five kids, including a new-born daughter. His
wife was still recovering from her delivery. It didnít take much to
realize what sort of impact the illness was going to have on the Herrons. It
Dr. Marshall was the first to admit that he was not an expert in
neuro-surgery, and together we perused his journals of medicine for any
information we could find about my particular type of brain cancer. What we
uncovered was far from reassuring. According to the somewhat outdated
publications on his shelves, I had a 0.04% chance of survival. Kathy and
I both protested that I was a child of God, not a statistic.
The Lord was working through Dr. Marshall as he was through us.
Fortunately, our family physician was comfortable with acknowledging the
importance of spiritual health in a clinical context. He believes that God
works through him, and recognizes that there have been times when his
diagnoses and treatment decisions have been inspired by a force much more
significant than all his years of medical training. Heís also had many
opportunities to see how a healthful relationship with God helps
patients to deal with illness and treatment. Those who love God and know that
He loves them show higher levels of recovery, greater stamina and
forbearance in pain, and greater calm and acceptance when things do not work
out as they had hoped.
But despite the fact that Kathy and I knew that God was acting through
me, and that everything would ultimately be for the best, despondency
was an unwelcome guest hovering on the fringes of our every thought. We
struggled not to loose our grip on hope.
The hard thing about trials is that life is lived forward and
When someone is undergoing a trial, itís important for them to
keep their eyes focussed on the future: "Why has God chosen me for this
challenge? How will this make me a better person, a better Christian?"
In order to be hopeful, itís important to be able to think of the good
things to come, rather than dwelling on the past. Itís not easy. Of
course itís not. But donít forget that, as difficult as it may be at times
to understand why God does the things He does, hindsight is always
clearer. Some day, when all of this is behind you - regardless of the
outcome - youíll understand why it happened with wonderful clarity!
Chapter Two Ė The making of a pastor
Blessed is the man who finds out which way God is moving and then
gets going in the same direction. -- Source Unknown
Have I grabbed your attention yet? I guess now itís time to introduce
myself properly, and tell you a little about who I am, where I come
from, and what Iím all about. My name is Tim Herron, and together with my
wife, Kathy, I have been called by God to minister in a number of very
Although my lifeís calling has been to work for God, I was not raised
in a particularly religious household. My parents, to whom I was born on
February 27th, 1953 in Washington, D.C., were irreligious - an
agnostic, engineer father married to a Christian Scientist mother. When it came
to rearing their children, they compromised. I remember being taken as
a small boy to Sunday School and the usual Easter and Christmas
services, but little more.
During the Summer vacation, I was sent to camp Oceola, a summer camp
sponsored by the YMCA. We were there to have fun, but the leaders did
speak about Jesus sometimes, and even at the age of 10, I found this
intriguing. As soon as I left the mountain location of the camp, however,
all thoughts of Jesus and traces of spirituality evaporated as quickly as
did the rain from the streets of southern California, where we lived.
Little changed until I reached adulthood and left home for college.
Although I never imagined that I would become severely ill while still
young, I was familiar with chronic, severe pain from childhood. My
mother was born without a hip socket before anything could be done about
the condition, and she suffered constantly with what I perceived as
senseless, excruciating pain. In the 1970s, she was among the first to have
an artificial hip socket implanted. Sadly, it didnít repair well, and
caused her pelvis to twist, which in turn led to the slow deterioration
of the disks in her spine, making the pain even worse. In retrospect, I
have to acknowledge her as a real "Overcomer", although with the
selfishness of childhood, I could only see how her problems restricted my
adventurous spirit. I remember once complaining to my father about Momís
apparently constant state of anger. He cut me off in mid-sentence, and
told me with great emphasis that, despite the difficulties that her
illness had brought to the family, he had never regretted marrying her. My
eldest sister Lynda also suffered throughout her life with both
physical and emotional pain. Born 13 years before me, she had a condition
called Turnerís syndrome, and was ill throughout much of her childhood.
I was my parentsí fourth child, and the only boy in a family of
daughters. My reaction to a potentially stifling family situation was to
strive to achieve. In every field Ė academic subjects, marching band,
athletics Ė I just had to be the best. I had to show the world that I could
conquer anything and everything. Eventually, this drive propelled me
towards a position in the United States Air Force Academy, which I
experienced as a great honor Ė I acquired quite a high opinion of myself,
considering myself to be hot stuff, at the top of my "groove". I wasnít
really all that interested in the Air Force per se, but I wanted to show
the world, and myself, that I could be accepted by a notoriously elitist
Entering the military was the beginning of a new way of living - a new
understanding of the world far different to anything I had ever
imagined. At the academy, I was assigned to a dormitory room with two other
young men who happened to be nominal Christians. Although they attended
church no more than I and seemed to live lives no better or more
spiritual than mine, I was impressed when they spoke of Bible verses with some
familiarity, and about God as if they really knew Him. One of the Bible
passages they showed me related that, in order to see the kingdom of
Heaven, one must be born again. The concept was completely new to me, and
the idea that two of my peers - who were obviously not ministers -
could open their Bibles and find help was very novel. My roommates were
unable to answer any of my questions about rebirth, although they did try.
Their responses were not easy for me to understand, but my interest had
been very much aroused. I wanted to find out more, and was unsure of
where to look. As irreligious as my family background was, I felt,
nonetheless, that I might discover some answers in the church and so, when I
read a notice that the cadet choir was seeking new members, I put my
My first discovery was that my talents did not lie in singing! The
Bible was never opened during choir practice, and no one mentioned anything
about being born again. Not until one of my upper classmen broke
protocol to "fraternize" with me - a lowly "dooly" - in order to fan the
smoldering fire in my heart, or perhaps because God moved Him to seek me
out when he found out about my questions. Using his Bible, he explained
that religiosity is not helpful in terms of seeking for God. God, he
told me, is by His very nature holy and perfect, a reality that is
difficult for human beings to grasp in its entirety. Some days later, my new
friend approached the topic of spiritual rebirth. The explanation, which
came from a passage in the Bible, was straightforward. It demonstrated
that whoever believes in God and His only begotten son will not perish,
but have eternal life. Good works, no matter how earnestly fulfilled,
were not enough. I was excited to hear this, and to find that it made
perfect sense. This knowledge was a gift. Shortly afterwards, the
opportunity arose to attend a retreat organized by the Baptist Student Union
in Colorado. Cadets were encouraged to attend with promises that we
would have a chance to spend some days out of uniform, and to meet some
attractive girls. I donít know why the others went, but my mission was to
find out more about Jesus and His gift to humankind. There, I was moved
to stand up and, with great determination, placed my faith in Jesus
Christ as my savior. The other people at the retreat told me that I had
done something wonderful, something that I would never forget. They
crowded round me, but all I wanted at that moment was to speak with God on
my own, so I hurried outside, kneeled beside a great pine tree and
stayed alone and quiet for a long time.
The vast expanse that was the Colorado sky was bright with stars. Who
can gaze at the night sky without a sense of his own smallness and the
immensity that is God? These were my thoughts, and now I received Jesus
as my savior, concluding that, if He was the Lord of the universe, He
must also be the Lord of my life. It was at that moment that I committed
myself to giving everything to following Jesus Christ, telling the Lord
that, whatever challenges He chose to send me, I was prepared to stand
firm. I was confident that He would listen to my prayer, but never
imagined that this might take the form of brain cancer, many years later.
On returning to my dorm, I rang my parents in southern California to
tell them about the wonderful revelation that I had just had. I had
expected that they would be overjoyed to hear of my newly discovered faith,
but their response was rather muted, to say the least. This was
disappointing, but I had hopes of the second call, to my girlfriend of four
years. I was very much in love with her, and sure that my feelings were
reciprocated, so I had no doubt that she would understand and be excited
when I told her that she, too, could have a personal relationship with
Christ and be reborn. Again, I was let down. She seemed less than
impressed, and I had the feeling that she was dismissing my sincerity as
More disappointments awaited me on my arrival home. I had believed my
girlfriendís line about waiting for me to get home from my tour of duty,
and expected to be able to return to my old life. Instead, I found that
she had replaced me with another young man and a much racier lifestyle.
Faced with a choice between a newly religious old boyfriend and a
flashier new contender for her heart, she made her decision, and it did not
involve me. This was hard, but it was for the best. We no longer had
anything in common, not least our disparate views on faith and
What to do? I was secure in my newfound faith in Jesus Christ, and knew
that I had to grow spiritually, but I had no idea how. For the want of
another plan, I found an old house in the roughest part of Los Angeles,
and rented it with another young man on a month by month basis. At this
time, I was studying for a degree in engineering at the University of
California, following in my fatherís professional footsteps. Our
arrangement lasted for four weeks before we realized that it just wasnít
working out. My roommate was a former Mormon, and was interested in no
spiritual exploration beyond the restraints of the religious tradition he
knew. Shortly after our household broke up, a group called The
Navigators discovered that I was in town, and came to look me up. The fact
that they sought me out was impressive, as I was living in the very
roughest of neighborhoods! In fact, when Jerry, the member who had been sent
to meet me, knocked on the door, I almost didnít answer. In an area
like that, one couldnít be too careful.
Without even knowing the number of the house that I lived in, The
Navigators had done their utmost to seek me out, so when Jerry suggested
that I move to share an apartment with him and three other men, I didnít
hesitate. Later I discovered that, on learning of my Christian faith and
of my situation, they had been worried that I might get sucked into the
Mormon church, being as yet ungrounded in the Scriptures. I lived in
this household Ė a "training apartment" of the type where men or women
lived communally, learning to be Christians Ė for two years. It was here
that I learned to lead a devotional life, which provided an environment
in which I could develop my personal relationship with Jesus. One of my
new friends and spiritual advisors taught me how to memorize Scripture,
a skill that was to be invaluable later, when I became ill with cancer
of the brain. Another helped me to understand that differences are
valuable and appreciated. To these men I owe my grounding in the basics of
the Christian faith.
God prepares us for challenges long before we have to face them.
Iíve already mentioned the fact that many of Godís interventions
in our life can be hard to understand when they happen, but marvelously
clear later on. During my early days as a new Christian, I memorized
countless passages from Scripture. At the time, my motivation was simply
to know God better. In retrospect, I can see that He was also preparing
me for the challenge that I would later face. Even when I was at my
most confused and ill, Godís word, as revealed in Scripture, never left
me. What a wonderful gift I had been given by Him years before I became
Rebirth as a Christian changed my life utterly, but it took some time
before I began to consider becoming a pastor. Although I was deeply
involved in ministry during my university days, it was not with a church
organization per se. In fact, there was an ongoing joke among The
Navigators that pastors were good because they were paid to be, while the lay
ministers were good for free! Many felt that the ministry of a lay
person was at least as valid Ė if not more so Ė than that of a pastor.
However, as my desire to teach the word of God grew, so did the
recognition that I lacked the tools and learning to study His teachings
properly, and the realization that it was time to enter a seminary for some
formal training. In my mentors, Joe Aldrich and Chuck Swindol, I found
the models I needed. They knew the word of God inside out and could even
read the Bible in its original languages, Greek and Hebrew. These
academic achievements leant a great deal of credibility to their teachings.
I was already blessed with some teaching ability, but lacked their
intellectual training, so when I heard that both were graduates of the
theological seminary of Dallas, it seemed inevitable that I should study
there too. Despite my deficiencies in history and languages, my
application was accepted. I would be lying, though, if I did not admit that I
still harbored some residual doubts about my calling. Because I had not
grown up in a religious family, I was unfamiliar with the concept of a
call to ministry, and I was unsure of what God wanted for me. In short,
I entered the ministry with little or no idea of what was in store for
me. All I was certain of was my need for further training. Joeís advice
was that "the church is a lot like Noahís ark. If it were not for the
storm outside, the stench inside would be unbearable." His message to me
was that it is not always easy to be in the church. Another mentor
added, even more prosaically, "If you canít stand the smell of sheep, you
shouldnít be a shepherd." Like any organization, the church sometimes
falls prey to the all-too-human flaws of quarrelsomeness, pettiness and
excessive bureaucracy. One of a pastorís many tasks is to negotiate all
of these problems while holding on to the real light of faith and the
truth and beauty of the church as a spiritual and community entity.
As well as discovering my love for Jesus, I had recently discovered my
love for the woman who was to become my wife, Kathy Tarczynski. I was
living in the dormitory at the University of California at Urbine, part
of a brand-new complex where nobody knew anybody. More or less by
default, I became the leader of the Christian students in the complex, and
one of the things that we did each year was to reach out to the entering
students, especially those who were Christians, to encourage them to
join the Christian organizations on campus. Kathy was one of these new
students, and she was assigned to my dorm complex by accident - a good
accident! We lived in the same building, so I initially met her just as
one of my fellow residents, finding out soon thereafter that she shared
I was one of the few car-owners of the dorm, and I used my vehicle on
Sundays to take as many students as would cram in to church. I invited
Kathy, and she accepted. But when I opened the door of the car for her,
she responded by saying, "My arm isnít broken!" I was quite taken
aback, because Iíd always felt that men should be courteous to women, in the
old-fashioned sense of the word. And I have to be honest - I was
slightly chauvinistic back then, too. This was not love at first sight. Kathy
was from a feminist background, and felt that she had to demonstrate
her strength at every opportunity. Each of us realized that we were on
different wavelengths, but over time we came to appreciate each other. I
became less chauvinistic, and she became more accepting of
The ice began to melt when I began a series of early morning prayer
meetings, and Kathy attended. All of the students would pray for this or
that, but Kathyís prayers were truly intriguing and obviously heartfelt.
As time went on, the attendance of the prayer group shrank, and
eventually it grew so small that sometimes just Kathy and me turned up. I
think it was in listening to each otherís hearts through prayer that we
fell in love. Despite my feelings, I made no overtures towards her beyond
making myself available to take her, along with other students, to
different events. One Thanksgiving, I invited Kathy and a bunch of other
students to my home. Kathy had a good time, and so did everybody else.
After the party, my grandmother announced that she could see that Kathy
and I were in love! I donít know how she knew, because we certainly
didnít. We hadnít even been on a proper date. In fact, I wasnít looking for
a girlfriend - I and several other fellows had dubbed ourselves
"Bachelors till the Rapture!"
As my contact with Kathy grew, my admiration for her became stronger.
We talked about her parentsí divorce, which was affecting her at that
time, and talking about her difficulties gave us the opportunity to
become closer. Now, the young men in the ministry were committed to
accompanying the young women across the campus after dark, and I always went
out of my way to be the one to take Kathy back to the dorm. Kathyís
girlfriends, like my Grandmother, felt that we were right for each other,
and kept insisting to her that we belonged together. At the end of my
senior year, I made appointments to say goodbye to various students who
were special to the ministry. Kathy and I arranged a breakfast date. That
morning, we walked to the university restaurant, and ordered our food.
I prayed before eating as usual, but our conversation was stilted.
Kathy was probably surprised when I stopped to pray again, for help in
finding the right words. I told Kathy, "I donít know what to say, because
Iíve pledged not to tell any woman that I love her until Iím able to
marry her." Kathy said nothing, but her smile told me that she understood
that, in my own way, I was telling her that I loved her and was asking
her to be my wife.
Despite my misgivings, I left for the Dallas Theological Seminary the
very next day. Kathy and I continued our relationship on the telephone
and by writing letters. At Christmas of the next year, we met up in
southern California and I took Kathy to Disneyland, planning to propose to
her while the mass choir sang Hallelujah. It didnít work out, not least
because my parents were also there. Later, we went to the coast where I
intended to make a second attempt. The picturesque spot Iíd chosen
wasnít available, so we huddled in the cold on a bench and I handed her the
letter Iíd received from her father, granting me permission to ask her
to marry me. An old-fashioned approach, perhaps, but I wanted
everything to be just right.
"Kathy, I wanted to grow old with you," I told her, "and I want you to
have my children." She shivered for a moment, in the cold winter wind,
and then sealed my happiness by saying, "yes". We agreed that Kathy
would stay at university to finish her degree, and marry only then. It was
important to us both that she achieve the goal sheíd set herself. When
she graduated with a degree in Computer Science from the University of
California she wore a sign pinned to her back that read, "Just
Married". Our wedding had taken place the day before. Kathy was beautiful in
white, and I wore a shirt embroidered with flowers! Surrounded by our
family and closest friends, our wedding was perfect, as was our honeymoon,
which we spent hiking through the mountains.
During my four years of training at the Dallas Theological Seminary I
worked hard and succeeded both academically and socially while Kathy
labored in a computer firm and I put in nights as a waiter. I didnít want
Kathy to have to be the sole breadwinner while I studied. On completing
my studies, I was still unsure as to the form that my calling to
ministry would take. Godís answer did not take long to arrive. Just days
before graduation, a pastor from Houston came to the seminary. He was
looking for a co-pastor to help him minister to Cypress, a northern suburb
of the sprawling Texan city. When my fellow students heard that he was
interviewing me, they didnít hesitate to tell me how lucky I was to be
able to serve him. When we met, we were both tired, and knew little of
each other Ė we didnít particularly take to each other. It can only have
been the hand of God that brought us together and lead me to serve with
him in Houston. Kathy and I had decided to have a child as I approached
the end of my studies and our son John was born shortly after my
graduation, and just before moving to the city.
I went to work with Cypress Bible Church in 1980. One great Ė and
unforeseen - source of joy during these years had been my fatherís blessing.
As you know, my family background was far from religious. My fatherís
early reaction to my new priorities was ambivalent, to say the least,
and he had been openly suspicious of The Navigators Ė accusing them at
one point of being "a cross between Billy Graham and the CIA." When I
entered the seminary, however, he told me that, while he had several
friends who had entered the ministry, none had seemed as devoted as I. This
meant a great deal to me, and may have been the first step he took
towards his own rebirth as a Christian.
I spent four years at the Cypress Bible Church, with the official title
of "grow co-pastor with an emphasis in Christian education." In short,
I was effectively the chief cook and bottle washer, there to do
whatever was needed. I was delighted to find that I loved being pastor! But
not everything was easy from the very beginning. First of all, the
congregation did not always respond so well to my messages as had my seminary
professors. This was frustrating at first, as I felt that I was being
judged lacking. It took some time to learn how to speak to a very
different audience than that of the highly specialized environment of the
seminary. Fortunately, God arranged for me to attend a counselor training
week, allowing me to leave my office and go to where the people were.
During this time, I learned a lot about hunting, fishing, tennis and
other everyday activities of my congregation, allowing me some insight
into their world. At the same time, I was given an opportunity to reveal
myself as a real person and not just a pastor.
The first year of pastorship was an opportunity for growth. The second
began with a crisis for the church. My co-pastor became involved with a
member of the congregation who was not his wife. Both were married, and
each had four children. When they parted together, they left
destruction in their wake. Suddenly, I was the senior pastor of a disillusioned,
hurting church. This was a real challenge to my abilities, and
confirmation that I was really living my vocation. Fatherhood was a constant,
joyous challenge during these years too, as our eldest son John was
followed by Joseph and later by a beautiful daughter, Crystal.
My second pastorship was in a small city called Longview in northeast
Texas - the city you were introduced to in the first chapter of this
book. We spent nine years there, and they were wonderful. The ministry was
challenging and fruitful, and the church group open, and rich in
numbers and maturity. After the first two years of my pastorship had been
completed, I was hired as a full-time associate pastor, working with Jim
Johnson. Our partnership was to last for five years.
Jim and I were very different. He was always very preoccupied with
details, and was extremely conscientious and diligent. Despite my
philosophy of determination, I was not Ė not because of laziness, but because I
believed that one of the most important tasks a pastor has is to lead
the church to be the church. By this I mean that, while the church was
composed of many fine, responsible people, they didnít have the chance
to function well as a church family if they were too strictly
administrated by their spiritual leader. Many pastors, by becoming bogged down in
details, can unwittingly hold the church back from maturing as the body
of Christ. To my way of thinking, Jim took care of his congregation too
well, doing things for them that they could and should have done for
themselves. I was not present at every meeting, or a member of every
board. While there were many practical things that I could have done, I
chose not to. Later my approach paid off as, when I became ill, I was
often unable to attend to my duties for weeks at a time, and my future in
the church seemed uncertain. Because members had learned how to take
care of themselves, the church did splendidly, with or without me.
Jim remembers the differences in our approaches to pastorship with a
similar frankness. On a recent visit to Fellowship Bible Church, he said
"One of the things that always struck me about Tim was his academic
ability, and his memory. I remember sitting with him in the office
talking, and he suddenly quoted a paragraph or two from a book heíd read five
years later. When he gave his messages from the pulpit, he usually just
carried notes, and was able to build a message spontaneously, from the
reservoir of learning heíd accumulated. His flaw, if we can call it
that, was that he was probably too academic for a lot of people. Lots of
the references he made went right over their heads. He was pulling out
Greek terms, together with the lexicon explanation! A lot of people just
didnít know what he was talking about."
Jim also comments that I gained a more acute sense of empathy only
after being ill. Before that trial, I was known as a good speaker and
communicator of the Lordís Word, but less of a "people person". This is
something of which I am also very aware, and I can see that suffering has
taught me how to comfort people on a very human level, as well as a
spiritual one. Back in 1993, I was quoted in the Houston Chronicle as
"The power of my ministry is greater [since being ill]. Before, I was a
very good academic preacher. Now, I am more compassionate. Now, I want
to love the people before me and minister to them. If the cancer means
I have less years, so be it. It has made my ministry so much deeper,
and itís why Iím able to say I am glad I had this tumor."
These are words I stand by today.
So far as our mutual pastorship was concerned, it suffices to say that
at our best, Jim and I were a wonderful complement to each other, each
bringing out the otherís strengths, and compensating for his
weaknesses. My illness gave us both the opportunity to develop our skills, and
deepen our relationship with God. I have often had the honor of
counseling sufferers who were referred to me by Jim and by members of Fellowship
Bible Church. Jim is still senior pastor at Longview, and presides over
a thriving, healthy church with a strong missionary program. He also
sings and records music, and Kathy and I love to listen to his work!
Chapter Three - Preparing for a trial
A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected
without trials - Chinese proverb.
Life is not always easy. We all know that there are trials in our
future Ė but how few of us stop and prepare for them. Why is this? Do we
suffer from a kind of fatalism that trumpets "Che sarà, sarà, whatever
will be, will be. The futureís not ours to see Ö."
From the evidence given to us in Scripture, and from my own experience
of being suddenly afflicted with brain cancer, I believe that we can
prepare ourselves for trials as yet unimagined in many ways, ranging from
the spiritual to the physical and the practical. Letís examine some of
the important things we can do to make future difficulties as
manageable as possible.
Donít be afraid to ask God to help.
Thou art coming to a king.
Large petitions to him bring
For his grace and power are such
none can ever ask too much.
Iím often asked by people how they should pray to God during
their trial, or during their day-to-day existence. While there isnít one
"right" way to do it, I often quote the above. God made the universe and
everything in it - donít be afraid to approach Him with what seem to be
momentous requests. Do you think that a God capable of making this
world, and of sending His son to die for our sons, is unable to deal with
your prayers? Donít offend God by underestimating Him! Whether or not
your prayers are answered the way you initially hoped, He knows what is
best for you, and will see that His will is done!
Major difficulties often make us cry out in anger and wave our fist at
God. The impetus behind the rage isnít hard to understand. If God is
sovereign, or in charge of all things, and omniscient, or knowing all
things, then, we think: "He must share some responsibility for my plight!
How can He let this happen to me?" Any major trial predisposes us
towards spiritual crisis.
"Can I really trust God, who is in control of all things Ė including
what is happening to me Ė to be good, and to care for my well-being?" is
the question of sufferer. Theologians have wrestled with the same
thorny issue for millennia. Itís all too tempting to throw up our hands and
wait for God to "ambush" us with a trial. However, if we have already
built a relationship with Him on the basis of His great grace, rather
than our works, we have come to understand the full extent to which He
can be trusted. We are able to accept trials as examples of His blessing
- perplexing examples, perhaps, but blessings all the same.
When I was diagnosed as having a hopeless case of brain cancer, many
cried out that God did not know what He was doing. In all honesty, I can
say that I never joined that particular cry. Godís grace in allowing me
to be a pastor for nine years before becoming ill had given me the
opportunity to develop a relationship with Him and the promises in His
word. So as to present Godís word to others, I had already explored the
most difficult issues that life can present. I never imagined that my
ministry to others would serve me so well when I found myself in need of
In the earliest days of my new life as a Christian, I became sure that,
in order for God to use a man greatly, He must first hurt him deeply Ė
not because God derives any joy from our pain, but because we simply do
not understand the deepest issues of life, and our relationship with
Him until we have suffered. In fact, at that time, I offered myself to
God for whatever trial or difficulty He felt would make a better
Christian of me. This belief was of great service when doctors told me that I
was probably terminally ill. I realized that God had sent me this great
trial so that I could minister more effectively to others. Even though
I was prepared to die at any moment, I somehow knew that it was too
early to give up, because God was using me in the lives of my family Ė
which included a new baby, and a wife who threatened to kill me if I died
The knowledge that there is a God-given purpose to our suffering, and
that our pain is never dealt out by a capricious creator is a wonderful
source of hope. Developing this understanding, and level of confidence
in God Ė found in prayer and the study of His word Ė even before a
challenge is thrown in our path is one of the most important steps we can
take. Never forget that God will not subject you to more than you are
capable of handling. When trials are harsh, understand that God knows
that you are strong enough for the ordeal, and that you can, and will,
emerge stronger, wiser, and closer to Him.
Eccl. 4:9-10 "Two are better than one, because they have a good
reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his
companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help
True friendship matters. When one is going through a trial, it is
more important than ever before to have someone you trust. Someone who
will support you spiritually and emotionally, and is strong enough to
remind you that God is there for you when your hope starts to falter.
Too many of us see relationship building as an optional aspect of
Christian living Ė something that we can always get around to later.
However, the type of relationship described in the passage above takes time to
grow and flourish. If you wait until the night before your "test",
youíll discover just how limited cramming is. If it didnít work for you
back when you were in school itís not going to work for the really big
examinations of life! True friendship, to the full extent of the meaning
of the word, develops and matures over time.
When I was ill, and facing the likelihood of my imminent death, I knew
straight away that I would need extra help and emotional support..
Although I depended on my wife Kathy for much of this, I alsoSo, contacted
four men with whom I enjoyed a close, long-term relationship and whose
wisdom I greatly respected. I asked them to meet me once a week for the
first few years of the trial, to help me to think through decisions
that would have to be made for myself, my family and the church that I was
still pastoring. Because of the trust developed between us over the
course of many years of friendship, they all accepted, and our weekly
meetings in a little diner over coffee and bagels became precious to us
all. In the fullness of time, we ceased to meet every week, but the
experience had drawn us closer, and that closeness will be with us always.
In the words of the poet, no man is an island. Severe trials prove this
to be true. Understand the importance of developing intimate
relationships with people of like hearts and minds, long before the trials even
glower on the horizon.
If there is one thing Iíve learned through my ordeal and
counseling hundreds of others is that God is to be trusted in all things. His
provisions are rarely early but they are never late! Try to reach an
understanding and acceptance of this now - even if you have not yet been
presented with a challenge.
Because we have not thoughtoften just donít think through the basic
issues in advance, few of us are mentally prepared for severe trials. It
always seems that bad things Ė car accidents, destroyed homes Ė happen
to other people, but not us. Many of us feel ourselves to be
invulnerable. Manyalso, are Christian "couch potatoes", thinking that life should
be like a vacation on the beach, and that eternal life is simply an
extension of that. Wrong! We need to approach life proactively Ė not watch
from the sidelines. To be forewarned is only to be forearmed when we
take the warning seriously Ė and do something about it.
The reason why so many of us are allowed to live for many years before
facing terrible trials is to allow us time to prepare. How do we do
this? By making the foundation of our houses the truth of
scriptureScripture, and not the whims of our culture or our personal inclinations.
Didnít we learn at our mothersí knees that we should build our homes of
solid brick, just like the three little pigs? from the three little pigs,
at our motherís knee, to built homes of solid brick? Havenít we
understood the lesson of the man who built his house on sand, only to see it
washed away, as opposed to the man who built his house on rock, and saw
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them
into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The
rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against
that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the
rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them
into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain
came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that
house, and it fell with a great crash."
Now is the time to garrison our minds with truth, and to live according
to it, with ruthless honesty. Letís be realistic Ė the statistics
suggest rather overwhelmingly that all of us will die of something! The time
to prepare for that eventuality, and the suffering that will precede
it, is already upon us. Never forget that the time we spend on earth is
brief, compared to the vastness of eternity.
The earthly bodies that God has provided us with are the only ones
weíll have during this lifetime, and it behooves us all to take care of
them. I have a friend who had been a state champion weightlifter, and
developed severe back problems. However, because of his training before the
problem developed, and his determination throughout the trial, he built
up his back to the point whereby today he earns a living taking
businessmen on moose hunts. Their job is to pull the trigger, his to fling the
moose over his shoulder and carry it back to the truck. Now, we canít
all be champion weight-lifters or strong enough to carry an adult moose,
but making sure that we are as physically fit and healthy as we can
possibly be is a great asset during trials.
By getting rid of clutter
Everyone knows how quickly life can be subsumed beneath a mound of
clutter, both physical and spiritual. Thereís nothing quite like facing a
crisis to make one realize what truly matters. But donít wait until
youíre ill, or dealing with another serious challenge, before setting
yourself the task of sorting out your life. Simplicity is the key to a
healthful relationship with God and with those you care about. In the course
of everyday living, you may be asked to participate in any number of
activities, from PTA to environmental work. Before committing yourself,
take time to pray and discover if this is what God really wants you to
do. The amount of time that you have free to give is finite, so allot
your hours carefully. If you donít respect your own time, who will? Donít
be afraid to say "no" when necessary.
Sit down and think carefully about what your priorities are. Do you
need a home full of purchases? Do you really care about catching every
episode of your favorite soap opera or watching every single ball game of
the season? When facing a crisis, many people regret not having spent
more time with their families and the people they love, or not having
invested enough of themselves in cultivating a healthy relationship with
God. Very few sigh: "If only Iíd caught every episode of ER Ö" or, "if
only Iíd spent more time reading the funnies Ö" or, "if only Iíd spent
more money on brand-name clothes Ö" Remember: itís better to work
towards a good family and spiritual life than to answer every single email,
surf all the chat rooms, and collect all the collectibles. Decide what
matters, and concentrate on that. The time will come when you are glad
that you did.
In short, get insured. The term "life insurance" is a misnomer. It
should be called "income insurance" because no amount of money can replace
a human being. However, loss of income, especially if you are the
primary caretaker of the family, can be devastating. Donít let this happen.
Term life insurance is relatively inexpensive, especially while weíre
young and donít think we need it. And itís the most effective way to
give you and your family some peace of mind before and during a trial. Of
course, the edge is the place to live for a vibrant spiritual life, and
putting oneís sole trust in earthly securities can only disappoint and
lead to apathy of the soul. He who puts his total confidence in the
Lord will be strong and fruitful regardless of what happens, but insurance
is a good investment for those we love.
Find Things To Laugh About
As a pastor and public speaker, I knew I needed to put people at
ease by finding things in life to laugh about! When I returned to the
pulpit shortly after receiving radioactive implants, I looked out over
my beloved congregation and saw the concern on all their faces. They
knew that a massive amount of radiation had been implanted in their
pastor's already chewed up, radiated-to-the-max, chemo-soaked brain, and they
couldn't fathom my having much more left to work with. So I sat on a
stool behind the pulpit and gave them all a good eye to eye work over.
Then I broke the silence by saying "Folks, I have good news and bad news.
The good news is you won't have trouble finding me in the dark. The bad
news is that I'm killing all the plants in the church as I pass by
them." The belly laugh was good for us all!
Never forget, though Ė ultimately, it is God who will take care of you.
The best preparation you can make is to start working at building an
honest, worshipful relationship with Him.
Chapter Four - Donít write the script
Celebrate the joys and victories of others
A week after my first surgery, and the grim diagnosis, I was well
enough to go shopping with my wife Kathy. The Christmas season was
ending, and to me, everyone seemed young, beautiful and carefree. I started
resenting them, one and all, for having everything that I was losing.
But I did realize that I had a choice. I could either wallow in
self-pity and allow myself to grow bitter Ė and bitterness is the cancer of the
soul Ė or I could learn to celebrate the joy of others, and of life.
The more attractive option wasnít hard to pick! We all hold invitations
to the joyous party that God is throwing all around us Ė but sometimes
it takes a hopeless prognosis to make this clear!
On hearing of my dismal prognosis, the congregation at Fellowship Bible
Church was not prepared to accept my imminent death, so they gave
themselves to praying for healing, and for grace so that our family would be
victorious, regardless of the outcome. The response was overwhelming.
Cards and telephone calls flooded in from individuals, families,
churches and Christian schools, all promising to pray for me. A large map of
the United States was posted in the foyer of the church. Soon, it was
covered with thousands of tiny pins, each of which represented an
individual or church which was praying for my recovery. Churches even urged
their congregations to donate towards my medical expenses. Although my
daughter Crystal was still tiny at the time, the image of that pin-filled
map, representing the thousands of people who were praying for us,
remains one of her most vivid memories of those difficult days, and a
vibrant demonstration of the power of faith and prayer. Joe shares her
memories, although he expresses his enthusiasm more prosaically: "The map
was really cool! Knowing that there were people all over America praying
for Dad and for us made me feel really special." Co-pastor Jim also
remembers that time, and the way in which members of the church rallied to
"Tim and Kathy were very loved. People were constantly coming to them,
and to me, and saying, Ďwhat can we do?í Ďhow can we help?í It seems
that, when there was a need, it was catered for."
Within our own community of Longview, the various denominations present
in the town all showed their support by praying, and by offering
spiritual and practical support. In a society in which those who worship
differently all too often find reasons for discord rather than harmony,
this was a wonderful example of how the whole Church - the whole body of
Christ - was able to transcend difference, forget disagreements and
political allegiances, and unite in prayer for one of its own. Even today,
when I visit Longview, I run into members of the different churches who
recall being told of the young pastor whose life was threatened by
brain cancer. "But I remember praying for you!" they tell me, looking at me
as though they were looking at a ghost. Jim tells me that pastors and
members of other churches still ask him what happened. In most cases,
they assume that I died long ago and find in me a living example of the
efficacy of prayer. This is just one more example of how the trial
inflicted on just one of Godís servants can bring light and hope to many,
During the stressful period immediately after my diagnosis, practical
advice was on hand as well as spiritual support, and life-long medical
friends helped me to identify the best physician and institution for my
case. There was no time to waste, and we didnít delay in boarding a
plane from Longview to Houston, ready to face a second operation. Kathy,
Ginger and I, together with our friend Barbara packed our bags and
embarked on the trip. Barbara and Kathy had grown close through their mutual
involvement in Bible Study. Barbara is a mathematics lecturer at the
LeTourneau University, but she took time out to accompany us to the
hospital in Houston. The pilot of the small plane was also a member of our
church. By this time, my parents and my sister Julie had managed to make
it to the city to comfort Kathy.
Before long, I was seen by a world-renowned neuro-oncologist at the
prestigious MD Anderson Medical Center, which sprawls across many blocks
of downtown Houston, and attracts sufferers from all over the world,
desperate for a cure. The Center was founded in the 1950s, and has become
one of the most important - if not the most important - hospitals for
the research and treatment of cancer in the world. Knowing its
reputation, Kathy and I expected it to be a gloomy, overbearing establishment,
full of long, dark corridors and grim medical staff. Nothing could be
further from the truth. Alongside cancer sufferers from all over the
world, I was treated in a bright, colorful environment, peopled by smiling
faces and an atmosphere of optimism. Here, one can see the most
incongruous combinations of people - a Muslim girl in a veil alongside an
African-American youth in a tank-top; an elderly European gentleman in a
waistcoat exchanging views with a young Mid-Western wife and mother. All
are bound together by the struggle they share, the treatments they
undergo and the hope they reach towards. The Texans are proud people, and
they make sure that theirs is one of the best hospitals in the world by
never letting it run low in funds. Very Texan in spirit, this complex
of hospitals is a real gift to the world.
We all hoped that the consultant would be able to encourage us with
news of the latest medical advances. Instead, Dr. Levin doubted that I
would survive even the first six weeks of radiation, and he made it clear
that he believed that there was little hope beyond that period. This
was our lowest point. The heavens seemed to be brass, and our prayers
were bouncing off! When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping, and
thatís what Kathy I did that afternoon! At least we managed to make grim
jokes about whether or not it would be worth investing in a pair of
shoes for me, considering that I might not be around for long enough to
break them in.
That evening some friends came to spend the evening with us in our
hotel room in Houston. Kathy and I had met and grown close to Mike, Rowena
and Dave during our time at Cypress Bible Church. Now we prayed
together, and asked God for His grace in dealing with the challenge that faced
us. The proximity of true friends, and our joy at being able to pray
together in these difficult times relieved the tension and we all vowed
to do our best to put our faith in God and not man.
God listened to our prayers, and provided a supremely self-assured
neuro-surgeon who persuaded the tumor board that another craniotomy, under
more controlled circumstances, could remove the bulk of the tumor. A
stocky, bearded man whose incipient baldness did nothing to detract from
his powerful image, the first thing we noticed was the aura of
confidence, bordering on arrogance, that Dr. Moser brings with him. On entering
the room, he made everybody else seem suddenly more subdued. His
approach was best summed up by the words, "I can do that."
We knew, even at this early point, that the surgery was not going to be
enough to kill the cancer, necessary as it was. This would be just
another step in the process of fighting the disease. But it would be an
Despite everything, Kathy and I were confident that God would not
subject us to more than we were capable of, and we fought our feelings of
desperation and fear with prayer. The comments I made to one of the local
newspapers after surgery sum up my feelings at that time:
"Satanís purpose is to destroy. I think Satan wanted to destroy me, the
church, the hope and faith of many Ö a brain tumor is about the only
thing that can knock a pastor down and keep him down. I think that is the
nature of Satan - he knows where we fear and thatís where he attacks.
His whole aim is to prove that we will abandon the Lord if enough is
taken away. [We] have to say: "Lord, if thatís what you have for me, I
will not surrender to the Enemy."
Satan doesn't work for God; he's self employed. But God has him
on a short leash!
The surgery seemed to be endless for those who were waiting. Kathy
probably measured it in terms of Gingerís feeds. At just a month old, she
still needed nursing every few hours. From time to time, news from the
operating theatre was fed to the nurse in the waiting room, so that she
could keep family and friends up to date. Kathy and the others knew the
exact moment when surgery began, and updates came in every half hour or
so, even when there wasnít necessarily all that much to tell. When the
procedure was finally over, Dr. Moser came out, still wearing surgical
"We got it all," he told Kathy.
"What do you mean by that exactly?" Kathy wanted to know.
Dr. Moser informed her that every piece of tumor, both those parts
visible to the naked eye and those only visible microscopically, had been
excised. I was awake and able to receive visitors within three quarters
of an hour. I greeted them from my ICU bed with my head swathed in
bandages, and was as pleased as they were to hear that they "got it all".
"I was with Tim and Kathy in Houston," Jim Johnson remembers, "we were
expecting the doctor to remove part of the tumor - enough so that it
might respond to treatment. Well, when he came out he had a look of
amazement on his face when he said Ďit looks like we got it allí. Tim must
have been in surgery for about seven hours. I recall this as one of
those instances when I had the opportunity to see the grace of God,
something which is always there, if not always immediately evident, in the
course of everyday life."
Be proactive, not passive
Patients always do better when they refuse to give up, and to
become passive. Donít let everyone else acquire the information and make
the important decisions that affect you. Of course, you should respect
the wisdom of the good people around you, but never lose sight of the
fact that this is your life! You are the one who must decide how Ė and
even if you are going to live it! Doctors know a lot, but they donít
always know whatís best for you.
Kathy told me later that, while they waited, they all took turns
holding Ginger, and providing support for each other during the operation.
Kathy even found time to do some needlework while she waited. This was
also an opportunity for friends from the two different churches to meet
and get to know each other, and it must have been comforting for my
elderly parents to see how many good friends their son and daughter in law
had. The hospital stay lasted for just three days, and I was allowed
home to Longview to continue my treatment at the local facilities, which
had been sent instructions from the doctors at MD Anderson.
Although I resumed many of my duties as pastor at this time and worked
as hard as I could in my weakened state, inevitably my co-pastor Jim
had to shoulder extra responsibilities. He was more than able for the
task. Today, he remembers:
"I was very busy, almost too busy to worry. I had to work extremely
hard to keep things under control so that Tim and Kathy could focus on
Timís getting better, and on just living. In many ways it was a difficult
experience, for me and for the church too."
But his own experience in the past brought an extra burden to the
equation. Some years before, a close friend of Jimís had also been diagnosed
as having a brain tumor, and Jim had accompanied him through the
difficult period. While in one way this experience made him hopeful for me,
as his friend had survived, in others it made him dread for the future.
As he perceived it, his friend and singing partner had not been left
unscathed by the treatment. Although perfectly functional, he seemed to
Jim to have lost a lot of his drive, his ambition. Jim recalls being
afraid that this might happen to me, and I think that the experience of
watching his co-pastor go through brain cancer meant that, to some
extent, he relived the trauma that affected him when his friend was ill. By
allowing me to become ill, God was also offering Jim a challenge and the
opportunity to grow.
Insert a relevant reading
The case for real hope
"Other men see only a hopeless end, but the Christian rejoices in
an endless hope." C. S. Lewis.
When one is confronted by oneís own frailty in the form of a
life-threatening illness, it can be difficult to remember whatís most important.
Panic and despair set in, and sufferers become preoccupied with what is
happening to them, and what will happen to family and friends if the
"worst" occurs and they donít get well. God created us in His image to
love and be loved, but most of us donít seem to care. Until we need Him,
we devote ourselves to the senseless pleasures of life, and give little
thought to the real purpose of existence. In the Bible, God beseeches
us to come near and know Him better, but few of us lift the book from
the shelf until we have been humbled by circumstances greater than
ourselves. Then, at last recognizing Him for what He is, we call out for Him,
and find Him waiting. God never apologizes, or reprimands, but
accompanies us in our sorrow. In God, we find all our needs. He can be relied
upon to lead us through even the most trying of journeys. I speak from
experience; becoming ill with brain cancer lead me to an even closer
relationship with God. Far from being angry with Him for allowing me to
become ill, I am able to rejoice in the fact that He felt that I was
strong enough for a truly great trial, and worthy to perform the ministry
that this trial equipped me for.
Throughout my years as a pastor and in the ministry I now
practice, the stars have often appealed to me as providing the perfect
metaphor for Godís sometimes puzzling tendency to impose challenges upon us so
as to see how we can rise to meet them. The stars are always there,
although we can only see them when itís dark. In just the same way, we
cannot always appreciate the many wonderful things that God does for us
until we are subject to trials.
Even the sufferer who welcomes his or her trial must resist giving into
the temptation of egoism. Grave crises donít just affect the person who
is ill or suffering in some other way. They also change the lives of
everyone around him. When I was diagnosed as having a brain tumor, my
wife, Kathy, had five young children Ė one a newborn. At a time when I
should have been able to look after her, and help her to care for our
growing family, she was forced to worry about me, fear for the future and
look after our sons and daughters by herself. Instead of becoming angry
with God, or submitting to despair, Kathy put all her faith in Him.
Later, she was to write;
I donít know how often youíve heard that God is always with you. This
simple, true saying, which brings comfort in times of need, is worth
saying. But how many of us really believe it?
When Timís cancer was first diagnosed, I knew, intellectually, that God
would always be with me. But it wasnít until I tested the truth of this
saying that I really knew it in my heart.
The moment came when we were on our way to Houston for the first time
to meet with a world renowned brain cancer specialist. Ginger, Tim,
myself and a close friend, Barbara, together with the car seat, stroller,
suitcases, diaper bag and an armful of hope piled onto a private plane.
A chauffeur and limousine met us at the hangar, and as we zoomed to the
Texas Medical Center, Tim carried on an animated conversation with our
driver. Ginger, still a baby, entertained Barbara from her car seat. I
worried: "What are we going to do with all of this stuff when we each
the hospital?" I envisioned us standing on the curb, absolutely alone in
front of a big, busy hospital on a big, busy street in a big, busy
Through the chaos in my mind, I could barely hear Godís still, small
voice, saying; "Havenít I been with you this far? Hasnít everything been
taken care of?" These words calmed my thoughts and I relaxed,
peacefully waiting for God to supply what we needed.
We arrived at the curb of the hospital and a tall man in a volunteer
uniform stepped forward, helped pick up all our belongings, and whisked
them off to a storage closet. We were on our way to Timís appointment
with no time to spare.
Later when I had time to reflect on this incident, Godís care
overwhelmed me. He was with us just as He promised. He still is with us as He is
Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to
control our fears, not to oust them. ~Vincent McNabb
As someone who has survived a brain tumor, I am often asked to recount
my experience, to tell others what God has done for me, and impart
hope. I sometimes worry about the possible repercussions of this. Might I,
unwittingly, foster false hope? Will others expect a guaranteed
recovery from their illness if they do exactly what I did? How will they
suffer if the outcome of their crisis does not fulfill their expectations?
In preaching hope, do I help those in despair, or could I be making them
vulnerable to disappointment?
Shortly after I was diagnosed as suffering from brain cancer, I was
introduced to a man who had been given the same diagnosis. That was five
years earlier, and he was still alive. This man was sure that his
survival was due to a special cancer-fighting diet, and he urged me to follow
his example. A few years later he died, leaving a young family. I had
allowed myself to place undue hope in his diet, and was also badly
affected by the news of his death. The faith that this man had in his diet
had caused me to trust in it, and use it as a reason for hope.
"With everybody leaning on it so much you might think hope would
be tired but it is OK!
Hope is not a non-renewable resource. You werenít allotted a
finite amount of that most precious of gifts when you were born. No - God
has provided you with as much hope as you need - an infinite quantity!
But one must never forget that God is the source of true hope. Put your
faith in Him, and He will ensure that you are always hopeful. He knows
what is best for you, and He will make sure that you have everything
you need. Realizing this, how can anyone fail to be hopeful?
Hope is not a cure-all. It should not be based on blind faith, but on
knowledge, experience, and reason. To a Christian, God is hope Ė but He
does not automatically dispense healing when supplicated with formulae
of faith and prayers. We cannot manipulate Him with words into
providing us with the outcome we desire - and the outcome that we think is the
best one for us may not necessarily be so.
Even the most earnest and well-meaning Overcomer can impart false hope
to someone who is suffering. We must have a firm basis for hopefulness,
focussing on the reality, character and promises of God.
Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the
desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the
parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.
Blessed is the man whose trust is in the Lord, and whose hope is in the
Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out
its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf
will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will
cease from yielding fruit.
We have learned through the years of walking with God that He is to be
found as much in the little things in life as in the grand, flashy
events. All you have to do is adopt an air of childlike anticipation. Jesus
spoke of this when he reprimanded his disciples for acting like
henchmen, and keeping children away from him instead of recognizing them for
the models of innocence they can be. Iíve urged many an anxious patient
to remember all the wonderful things God has done for then in the past
so as to help them understand that He will do so again!
Chapter Five - Another treatment, another place
Again, I seem to be a bit confused about the order of the treatments -
were there two periods of chemotherapy, one before and one after the
radioactive seed implants? Please check this chapter, and let me know
what needs to be adjusted. The chemo therapy came first, then the
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the
that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh,
quickened by the Spirit.
If God decides that you are strong enough to face a great
challenge, you should be honored. It wonít be easy, and you will find yourself
tested every step of the way. But in suffering, you share a fraction of
the pain of Jesus when He died on the cross for the sins of the World.
Observe the hands of God as they reach out of give you comfort and hope
- are they not marked by the wounds inflicted when He was nailed to the
cross? Even though you may be in the midst of pain, God can be trusted.
Give yourself to Him.
Even though my surgery went amazingly well, none of us was under the
misconception that the tumor was gone. You might say that cancer is
biological demonic possession, and medicine still an imperfect exorcist! I
was going to have to undergo both radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
We started with the chemicals. For several months, the chemotherapists
administered a cocktail of three drugs that promised the most effective
therapy available at that time. Fortunately, Longview was home to a
center which administered chemotherapy, and I was able to receive
treatment there, rather than having to travel elsewhere.
The medical staff warned me that the chemicals that were being pumped
into my circulatory system were extremely caustic and that under no
circumstance should I allow the substance to come in contact with my skin.
The thought of losing several layers from my arm did not appeal, and I
was always extremely careful to make sure that the needle had been
properly inserted before allowing the care-team to start the flow of
chemicals from the drip. The fact that our veins are able to cope with
substances too aggressive for our skin was a source of some astonishment!
The room in which I was cared for looked out onto a small forest and
although I knew that I would soon be feeling ill as a result of the
strong chemicals being introduced into my system, I always took comfort in
the view. The trees and their wild inhabitants were a reminder of Godís
presence in nature, and how His hands encompass literally even the
smallest of His creations. Such a loving God would never abandon even the
most insignificant of His faithful!
The medical personnel who oversaw my case still recall the highly
aggressive nature of the therapies that I had decided to pursue, noting that
they were much harsher than the treatments usually provided to patients
with brain cancer at that time. I was warned that the side effects of
treatment were likely to be considerable, and very unpleasant. Now,
Kathy and I knew what we were letting ourselves in for, but we felt
strongly that this was in the direction in which God was leading us. Despite
all the treatments, and my generally encouraging response to them, my
care-team was far from convinced that the battle was over. The consensus
was that if we did not do more to fight it, the tumor would recur, and
it was decided that the best way to combat this eventuality was to take
treatment a notch higher. Over time, the void where my tumor had been
had shrunk to the requisite level, making me a candidate for radioactive
seed implants, a relatively new procedure.
By the grace of God, a medical friend of ours alerted us to the fact
that this treatment was offered at the University Hospital in San
Francisco. The procedure required over a week of treatment, during which time
I would be in isolation, so Kathy stayed at home with the kids while I
flew to California. We knew that it was dangerous for family and
friends to visit me, as I would be extremely radioactive while undergoing
therapy, so it was with a heavy heart that Kathy and I accepted that she
would not be able to come. With a father gravely ill, the last thing our
children needed was the exposure of their mother to potentially
As I left, Kathy pressed a cassette tape of Christian songs for fathers
into my hand. She hoped that they would be a comfort to me, but she
hadnít read the lyrics, which vividly described the importance of a father
in his daughterís life as she matures. In fact, I can still remember
the awful picture the songs painted of daughters who have to grow up with
no father figures. The thought that I might not be around to watch my
own little girls grow to womanhood was too much for me to bear, and as I
sat beside a sweet little old lady, I began to cry - much to her
I was afraid of being lost to my family, but not of the medical
procedure, although if Iíd been a little more familiar with the process, I
might have been more concerned. I was going to have what is known as
"brachial therapy". In order to deliver a great amount of radiation to a
very small area inside the brain, I was going to have holes drilled in my
skull, and radioactive isotopes placed in the center of my brain.
As soon as I arrived, the neurosurgical team clamped a "halo" onto my
head Ė a metal ring screwed into my skull. They quickly attached a
"cage" to the ring, and slapped me down for an extensive series of CAT
scans. The images showed the areas of concern as well as the "cage", to
enable them to trace the site of the tumor. The computer cranked for hours,
analyzing the situation so as to determine exactly how much radioactive
material had to be placed in my brain, and where. When the computations
had finished, I was rushed into the small operating room, dressed in
traditional hospital garb Ė almost nothing Ė and placed into what looked
like a dentistís chair. I couldnít help but notice, as the staff
attended to me, that they were all dressed in protective garments to prevent
damage to themselves from the radiation, while I shivered in a cotton
robe. Even more alarmingly, a nurse passed me with what seemed to be my
Black-and-Decker drill from home in her hand. Somewhat irreverently, I
wondered if I couldnít perform the operation by myself! Using the metal
halo as a guide, the team attached devices which would guide the drill
into my skull in the locations and to the depth the computer
prescribed. When the holes were drilled, they placed exactly calibrated shunts
into them. Each of these shunts was to receive a radioactive pellet, and
guide it down into its proper location, deep inside the tissues of my
brain. Here, they would act by subjecting the tumor area to so much
radioactivity that the cancer would be unlikely to reappear - so long as I
survived the treatment, that is.
Before long, the doctor and his assistants fled. At that point, I
noticed that the room had its own small elevator, so that the medical staff
could deliver the radioactive material from the laboratory without
having to pass through the rest of the hospital. This gives some indication
of the extraordinarily high levels of radiation that were being dealt
with! The elevator door opened, and a man dressed in what looked like
astronaut garb walked out, holding a tiny box in his huge, gloved hands.
The new arrival asked me to stay still, and I did my best to do so as,
one by one, he took the little pellets and dropped them into the
shunts. Then he wished me a good day and left. Moments later, the medical
team reentered. The doctor checked that everything was in order, and
sealed the shunts to ensure that they would stay in place for the next few
days. I was going to have to spend that time under close supervision,
as I was now highly radioactive, and a potential risk to others. I was
not to leave the room they had assigned me to, and I was to face a
certain outside wall at all times. I also had to restrict my visitors to a
minimum, and ensure that when they did come, they wore special vests and
hats to protect themselves from the radioactivity. I was a one-man
nuclear hazard. Just before he left, the doctor advised me to relax and let
It is at times like these that oneís real friends are revealed. During
my stay, I received a number of visitors, each of whom bravely exposed
themselves to me, being possessed of love greater than their fear.
After a week of semi-solitude with little to do other than contemplate soap
operas and wonder why it was that I could feel nothing of the
radioactivity inside my brain, the door to my room opened and in walked a friend
to whom I had grown close in Longview some time before. I had
ministered to his "significant other", an early victim of the AIDS epidemic that
affected the homosexual population so severely at that time. His friend
died, and I had been able to provide a funeral service that encompassed
the disparate needs of the various mourners (perhaps the first time
that a crystal was incorporated into a Christian burial service in
Despite our many differences, my new friend and I had grown close.
Perhaps the fact that we both grew up in southern California helped us to
find some common ground. In any case, his stereotypes about Texan
pastors were corrected during our time together, while my preconceptions of
Californian homosexuals were largely confirmed. Still, he was a kind,
caring person and it was a pleasure getting to know him. I was happy to
see him again now, and impressed by his courage in exposing himself to
the hazardous effects of radiation. My only other visitors were two
people whom I had known in college, now living in the area, as well as my
sister Pat, who flew in from Oregon. Again, the fact that they all
risked their health to see me was deeply moving. Their visits were brief,
but they have stayed with me to the present day. Many people called and
asked if they could visit, but I advised everyone to stay away. There
was little point in risking the health of others.
During all this time, I could feel nothing in my head at all. Iíd
expected some sensation - perhaps a sensation of heat. I even asked the
doctor if he was completely sure that the pellets were in place. The doctor
assured me that some months would pass before I could feel anything. At
that point, my brain would be scanned again, to see how the site of the
tumor was progressing, and to assess how my brain was managing to
process the dead tissue. The doctor had already informed me that
approximately 35 percent of patients undergoing this process had to have another
surgery to clean out necrotic tissue, and that it was likely that I
would fall within this category.
The next stage of treatment was the medical equivalent of bringing on
the cavalry, in the form of chemo- and radiotherapy. The philosophy of
both treatments is the same; the body is exposed to an agent that
strikes good and cancer cells alike. When this works, the good cells, while
damaged by the treatment, are able to recuperate, while the cancer
cells, equally damaged, are degenerate and thus unable to recover from the
onslaught. My treatment began with radiotherapy. Dr. Ozarda of the
Longview radiotherapy center was a kindly, elderly man in a lab coat, more
than willing to follow the instructions of my doctors at MD Anderson.
The job that he, his staff and facility had to perform was to deliver
7800 rads of radiation to my tumor as best they could, while minimizing
the damage to the healthy brain tissue so far as they were able. He took
the scans of my brain, with indications of where the tumor had been,
and plotted out a way to block the radiation from going elsewhere. Before
letting loose with the radiation, Dr. Ozarda sat me down, and drew
lines and squares on my bald head with a purple pen. This added insult to
injury, in that, like every cancer patient, I felt bad enough anyway,
without having to expose myself in public with dark purple lines etched
all over my head screaming "Iím ill! Iím ill!" to all and sundry. I
pleaded with him, saying that when I was growing up, I lived next to
Disneyland, where customers would have their hands stamped with invisible ink
that only showed up under ultraviolet light. I insisted that this would
be a better technique than these lines. But doctors are not always as
sensitive as they might be towards the indignities of being a patient.
For about six weeks, I preached with lines all over my head that were
visible from the back of the auditorium.
Insert reading or quotation here.
Other than having "targets" drawn all over my head, I suffered no
ill-effects until a couple of weeks after the radiation treatment stopped,
making me wonder if they were "shooting blanks", but eventually, while I
was sitting behind my desk in the office one day, the regrown hair
started falling out. I went to the bathroom and dragged a comb across my
head, as handfuls of hair fell into the sink. Hair loss from radiation,
unlike that that can result from chemotherapy, tends to be permanent, or
to grow back in an erratic pattern. My radiation therapy left me with a
large bald patch on each side of my head. "At least I know theyíre
hitting the target," was my attempt to be jovial, when I made a comment to
my secretary. By now, the scar left by surgery was horribly visible on
my largely bald head, and like most cancer patients, my struggle with
the indignities of the treatment was almost as hard as my battle with
the treatment itself.
Pretty soon, I had a collection of at least half a dozen hats. I was
particularly fond of a leather hat which I fancied made me look like
Indiana Jones, if not feel like him. Although radiation made me feel
slightly tired and left me very hairless, I continued to minister as a pastor
and counselor on a full-time basis, doing my best not to let the
situation slow me down. At this point, no cancer was apparent on my scan. The
purpose of the radiation therapy was to kill any residual cells that
might have survived the surgeries, although there was no way to confirm
what was happening. After radiation, we progressed to the chemicals.
Chemotherapy was relatively benign when compared to the other
procedures I underwent. I would be taking a "cocktail" of three different drugs,
procarbazine, vincristine and CCNU. Each was delivered in six week
cycles, with recuperative time in between. The first cycle was the CCNU.
When I arrived home, I looked at the large, brown bottle of pills,
knowing that they were essentially poison, and that we had just spent 100
dollars on them, and I thought about how incredible it was that I was
voluntarily going to take them, especially as I had also been given
prescription pills to counter the nausea that I was bound to suffer. I took
them both, went to bed, and to my delight woke up in the morning feeling
well. This continued to be the pattern. With each dose of "chemo" I
escaped secondary effects other than experiencing a profound loss of
appetite. I was blessed in managing to avoid nausea and vomiting, but I just
didnít want to eat, and my weight fell to an all-time low of 145
pounds. Kathy tried to help by experimenting with my diet. She joined an
organic food co-op and tried to cook with as little meat protein as
possible, providing me with a modified macrobiotic diet with lots of fresh
vegetables and soy products. Donít think me melodramatic when I tell you
that there were times when I felt that it would be better to die than to
have to spend the rest of my life eating like that! Everything I liked
was out of the question. Even after abandoning the macrobiotic diet, I
continued to shrink, until two men in the church kidnapped me for lunch
and a visit to the local haberdashery, where they bought me a suit more
appropriate to my dwindling size. I would wear suspenders to keep my
pants up but I felt like a clown because I could pull the waist band 3
inches away from my body. Once, Iíd admitted to the congregation that I
was fond of chocolate milkshakes, and, to my delight, parishioners often
stopped by the office to keep me supplied. I only called this off when,
one day, I found three on my desk at once! Sadly, when the chemotherapy
stopped, the milkshakes did too (not only for me, but also for the
kids, whoíd joined me on many trips to McDonaldís for delicious,
calorie-laden shakes). Eventually, I returned to normal.
Remembering that Scripture tells us about the wide range of foods,
including meats, which God has created for us to eat, nowadays I am an
Insert reading or quotation here
In September of the same year, I developed an infection at the surgical
site. The repeated surgeries and the regime of radiation therapy had
left the skin on top of my head stretched and fragile, and it was into
this skin that the incision for the implants and drill holes for the
shunts had been made. After the first few surgical interventions, my skin
had been held in place with staples, but as time went on it grew
progressively thinner and more delicate and the closures had to become smaller
and smaller. The infection started to fester under my skull at the
point of one of these small incisions, and was exacerbated by the fact that
the skin had been exposed to external radiation, too. Antibiotics were
ineffective in treating the problem, because no blood vessels led
directly to the area of infection. As the sore on my head oozed with pus, I
became increasingly ill with what seemed like a dreadful case of flu.
When I acquired a high fever, and just didnít respond to anything, I
went to MD Anderson again, and was immediately hospitalized for two days
while the medical staff struggled to get the infection under control
with intravenous antibiotics. This was followed by yet another surgical
intervention. My scalp was opened, the bone plate removed and the
infection flushed out, while the site was treated with topical antibiotics. To
allow the area to heal, my head was sewn back up without the bone
plate. The plate was sent to the dental lab, where a replica was made in
acrylic, for insertion later. I emerged from this intervention feeling
absolutely dreadful, and was not comforted by the burly nurse on duty, who
tried to push an anti-seizure drug into my vein with hearty enthusiasm.
Iíd been through that before, and had no intention of letting her do it
again. Kathy and our friend Lee sat at my bedside. They tried to be
comforting, but their empathy for my pain had them in tears. Later, Kathy
told Lee that this had been the most painful episode of that whole
awful year. The stress that had been accumulating since I started suffering
from severe headaches had built up to the point whereby it just had to
seek some release.
The rest of the hospital stay - at nine days, the longest of all -
continued to be dreadful. I was sent for a spinal x-ray known as a
myleogram, but what really got me down was the fact that, because the bone
plate had been left out, I had a large sunken cavity on the side of my
head, through which my brain could be seen pulsing, rather like an
oversized babyís fontanel. I was not a pretty sight. To have a semblance of
normality, I needed something to cover up my deformed head - not so much
for the sake of my wounded vanity, as for the comfort of those around
me. A lot of people seemed too uncomfortable to look at me in the face
when we met. Children would stare, only to be reprimanded by their
parents. At that point, a friend arrived from Cypress, kidnapped me from my
hospital bed, and took me and Kathy to shop for a wig. A nice thought -
but not a great idea. Iíd underestimated how miserable I was going to
feel when I got up on my feet. After the first trying session, I felt
that I couldnít cope, and begged Kathy to take me back to the hospital
even though the trip had had my full approval. My concern with obtaining
an appearance as normal as possible had caused me to minimize the
reality of my misery.
Once I was stronger, Kathy and I did go shopping for a wig, and I grew
to cordially detest the hairpiece after wearing it just a few times. It
was hot and itchy and made me feel like someone other than myself. My
opinion was shared by at least one very special person. On one of the
first occasions on which I wore it, I came downstairs and kissed Kathy,
who was giving a tiny Ginger her breakfast. Ginger, whoíd never seen her
father with hair, shot her mother an indignant look, as if to say:
"Whoís this stranger kissing you, and whereís Daddy?"
Since the days of surgery, Iíve undergone regular scans to check for a
re- growth of the tumor. We had one scare when a significant shadow
appeared on a follow-up scan. Was it a recurrence, or necrotic tissue? The
doctors tried to answer the question with a PET scan, which displays
metabolic activity in tissue, hoping that the surgery could be avoided if
the scan could lead us to conclude that the area of concern was either
"cool", indicating normal tissue, or "hot", indicating a tumor. The
test was inconclusive, requiring surgery to biopsy the tissue. The sample
indicated no malignancy.
During the period of treatment, I began taking a drug called Delantin -
which I still use today - to combat seizures. After each surgery I
underwent, I also took Decadrom, a steroid that helps to keep down swelling
following an operation. This is especially important in the case of
brain surgery, as there is no room for expansion within the bony confines
of the skull. I had to take the steroid for about a month, with a
gradually reducing dosage, following each surgery. As with many steroid
drugs, a secondary effect was swelling of the face - I looked a lot like a
squirrel gathering nuts for winter. Compared to a lot of the things I
was putting up with, this was almost a bit of light relief!
"Radiation or radishes"?
Determine to trust God, not Man
Society tends to look up towards doctors as if they were
omnipotent. Perhaps this is where they got their god-complex from! But
Scripture warns us against making gods of men:
Thus says the Lord, "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and
makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. For
he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity
comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt
without inhabitant. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose
trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes;
but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of
drought nor cease to yield fruit.
There are dozens of different approaches to cancer treatments, and
patients who are told that they have this terrifying disease can find it
too overwhelming to process all the information that is thrown at them.
One of the biggest problems is that experts in the various fields of
health care tend to be antagonistic towards each other, and there is
little or no cooperation between them. Making an educated decision about
which course to take is almost impossible, especially for those who are
ill, and have little time to spend prevaricating.
It seems as though no cancer patient manages to avoid what I call the
ĎGreat Dilemmaí - namely: "Should I submit to conventional cancer
treatment such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, or is there a better
way? Specifically, can I really build up my immune system to fight off
the cancer naturally? What approach is closest to what God wants for
The battle rages. In one corner, we find the physicians and their army
of lab technicians, oncologists, surgeons, pathologists and more. On
the other, the naturalists, who somehow find ĎBiblicalí justification for
their return-to-nature approach. Neither side has much respect for the
other, and each promises to provide an exclusive approach to health,
while condemning alternatives as futile. Between the two, we find the
cancer patient who, despite feeling unwell, has to make the all-important
decision about what sort of treatment to opt for. And he has to make it
quickly. Itís a cruel situation to be in.
Initially, I decided to opt for the Ďnaturalí approach. Early in my
trial, a friend of mine informed us that he knew someone else who had been
diagnosed with the same time of cancer as me. This guy had been
diagnosed five years earlier, and he was doing very well - he might even be
completely cured. Now, Iíd been told I had only weeks to live, so the
thought of still being around in five years without having to undergo
painful, invasive medical procedures was very attractive. I wanted to meet
this survivor, very much. After speaking with him on the phone, my
optimism was even greater. I pumped my new friend for details about his
treatment. He spoke briefly about chemotherapy and radiation, but was most
enthusiastic about the cancer-fighting diet he was on. He managed to
persuade me that the key to his survival was his diet, and urged me to
meet with his nutrition guru in Dallas. Soon after, my family and I went
to Dallas to meet the nutritionist, who spoke to us with evangelical
fervor about the ignorance of the medical establishment and its sinister
agenda to monopolize the money from the cancer industry by suppressing
the facts about the role of nutrition in fighting disease. Now, what he
didnít know was that my two best friends, neither of whom was ignorant
or greedy, were a physician and a chief of pharmacy at an important
cancer hospital. With this in mind, the nutritionistís argument was hard
to swallow. Nonetheless, I decided to follow his regime. Soon, I was
eating nothing I liked, and learning how to swallow 20 or more pills at a
time. Pork chops, milkshakes, pizza and all the other things that make
life worth living were definitely out of the question. Iím no doctor,
and so Iím unqualified to comment on the efficacy of diet in fighting
cancer. In my particular situation, however, it didnít seem that there
was time to take risks. The nutritionist spoke about reintroducing
certain foods to my diet in a yearís time - and I had been told that my fate
would be sealed within a matter of weeks!
Like most cancer sufferers, the very thought of aggressive treatment
frightened me. Chemotherapy, radiation, surgery Ö even the words were
alarming, summoning up images of pallid, feeble sufferers being subjected
to who knows what sort of torture in the name of treatment. On the
other hand, well intentioned people try to assure you that if you are
careful to live and eat properly, your cancer can be reversed and even
cured. So far as naturopaths are concerned, nothing is worse than taking
poison (chemotherapy), cutting open the body (surgery) or radiation
treatment, which seems to have overtones of Chernobyl and nuclear warfare. To
them, these are not treatments, but interventions to be shunned. On the
other hand, the medically trained find the idea of treating cancer with
something as simple as a diet quite ridiculous. The messages coming
from these two opposing camps are, by definition, in conflict. The medical
world, with its studies, its experts in dazzling white coats and its
technology is persuasive - but the fruits-and-vegetables people point out
that few medical schools train their students about the importance of
vitamins, diets and natural health. They indicate the huge sums of money
maintaining the drug and medical technology fields, and the hefty
salaries paid to doctors. Even if they donít go so far as to say it, they
suggest that there are underhand dealings afoot. Finally, many
naturopaths believe that they have the Bible on their side. At least, thatís how
they prefer to interpret it. They point out that God created a garden
first, not a butcher-shop. Because of my theological background, I was
attracted to this argument and decided to at least incorporate some of
the teachings of the naturopaths in my battle with the disease.
But what does the medical establishment have to say of the natural
approach? First, they point to the absence of rigorous scientific controls
and suggest that naturopaths are motivated by uniformed zeal and
anecdotal evidence. Thereís very little science behind the claims that
healthy eating actually fights cancer. When I sought affirmation from my
neurosurgeon for my decision to eat healthful food, he only smirked and
informed me that "cancer cells like vitamins too."
It seemed that instead of taking advantage of the expertise of both the
medical and the naturopathic schools, I was torn between the two
schools of thought. I was living on the sort of diet no man should have to
endure, while still not managing to avoid surgery.
Things donít seem to have improved much with respect to finding some
common ground between the nutritionists and the medical industry, and
cancer patients and their families still find themselves caught in the
middle. Itís important for both camps to remember that compassion is more
important than pride.
It is seemingly unavoidable that any person diagnosed with cancer
suffers a dilemma caused by well-intentioned doctors who, on the basis of
scientific research, have discovered that a variety of aggressive medical
techniques fight cancer. They donít always expand on the many obvious
drawbacks, even when the cancer is successfully conquered. Equally well
intentioned, fervent naturopaths are convinced that the problem of
cancer is the result of a compromised immune system. In other words, they
are sure that if your body is given half a chance, itís able to fight
off cancer without recourse to destructive medical treatments. And where
does the truth lie? In all likelihood, both holistic and surgical
approaches to cancer have something to offer the patient. That one should
eat healthfully in order to be well makes perfect sense, and God has told
us that we should avail ourselves of all that He has provided for us.
On the other hand, He has also awarded human beings with brains capable
of investigating the natural realms, and identifying manmade ways to
conquer disease. One can only hope that, in the future, practitioners of
the various treatments on offer will lay down their ideological weapons
and agree to work together for what is, after all, a common cause.
Take one day at a time
God dispenses His grace for living in 24-hour increments, as He
did with the Hebrew children in the wilderness. For 40 years, He fed
them Manna from the sky, directing them to take only enough for one day at
a time, thus learning to rely upon Him for the future. Even today, God
dispenses His grace one day at time. The same message is clear when
Jesus tells us:
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life,
as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as
to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more
than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor
reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are
you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can
add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing?
Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they
spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed
himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field,
which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He
not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then,
saying, ĎWhat will we eat?í or ĎWhat will we drink?í or ĎWhat will we wear
for clothing?í For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your
heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His
kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to
you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own. Give no thought for tomorrow,
what you shall eat or what you should wear if you try to solve tomorrow's
problems with only today's grace you will crater! Yes, make necessary
plans but don't take them seriously for only God knows the incredible
future He has for you and He isn't going to share it with you lest you
crater in fear or get puffed up with premature pride.
If you are ever called upon to make a decision about an approach to
treatment, remember that your input will affect the outcome. Always ask
for a second opinion. Always research all of the options available. When
I was ill, Kathy and I felt that God wanted us to pursue an extremely
aggressive approach to the disease - literally, a "kill or cure"
attitude. Not everyone was convinced that this was the right way forward, and
our then doctor, Dr. Marshall, still remembers the exceptionally firm
line we took. There is no one "right" way to deal with disease, so donít
let yourself feel pressured or bullied into one approach or another.
The decision you take must be both yours and Godís. Godís leadership and
your own research will show you the way. You must never forget that
while both chemical and natural approaches to the treatment of disease may
help, there is one type of "medicine" that helps more than either;
prayer. Iíve always known that prayer not only strengthens our relationship
with God and our spiritual well-being, but also makes an active
difference in determining the outcome of problems. Some members of the medical
profession are reluctant to admit the truth of this, but not all. Dr.
Maudlin, who is familiar with all of the twists and turns of my disease
and the treatment process, is very willing to recognize the importance
of prayer, saying:
"Itís well known, and scientific studies have proven, that [sick]
people of faith do better. People that are being prayed for do better.
People who have faith and trust in God stay in hospital for less time, they
have better outcomes and suffer less complications. Itís very clear
that God works through prayer. He works through our lives, and we as
doctors should be more willing to recognize and work with this."
As a pastor, and as someone who has returned from serious illness to
living a full life, I have to agree.
The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created
Because of the radiation treatment, and the multiple occasions on which
my head was opened to allow the doctors access to the tumor site, the
skin on my head is extremely thin and delicate. Exposure to the sun
risks serious burning, while every gust of wind or tap to the head causes
pain. Because my baldness made me particularly vulnerable, Kathy and I
decided that it would be valuable to visit the reconstructive surgery
unit at the MD Anderson center as soon as it was clear that I was
unlikely to need further surgery. One of the members of my congregation had a
brother employed there as a plastic surgeon, offering reconstructive
interventions to people whoíve undergone radical surgery because of
cancer. One should never underestimate how important it is to many people to
feel that they can return to living and looking as they did before.
Dr. Miller inspected my scalp, and felt that there was a good chance
that heíd be able to extend my hair growth to cover most, if not all, of
the bald areas. The treatment involved the insertion of balloon-like
objects beneath those parts of the scalp that still had hair-growth.
These objects were expanded until I could stand the tension no more, and I
was allowed home for a period of some weeks, to allow the skin to
stretch so that it could be pulled across the bald areas. We achieved
partial success with the treatment, and the conviction that itís definitely
not worth embarking on another series of skin-stretching treatments!
However, many patients enjoy much more successful outcomes with cosmetic
surgery. In the past, many interventions resulted in people spending
years of their lives living with a very visible symbol of their former
status as a cancer patient. Breasts, limbs, even jaws had to be removed,
and prostheses were not then available. No one was able to forget, even
for a moment, that they had once been ill with cancer.
Because the reconstructive procedure I underwent was only partially
successful, my hair still grows in irregular patches on my head. Iíve
dealt with this my allowing my remaining hair to grow long, and every day I
pull it back to form a very bohemian ponytail - not a common look for a
Texan pastor, but it does the job! Fortunately, the hair that I do have
is thick and full. And of course no one is quite as adept with a can of
hair-spray as a teenaged daughter, so Iím lucky to have two young
ladies answering to that description in my house!
Chapter Six- Itís not just about me!
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of
the continent, a part of the main .. (John Donne, 1624)
Serious illness is not just about the person who is sick. In the case
of the Herron family, Kathy and the children also had to struggle with
my illness and with the uncertainty of the future. All of those who were
involved with us, whether professionally or personally, had to go
through a struggle too. The challenge that God gave me the opportunity to
overcome was also theirs. My cancer was not just "mine", for it affected
the entire family as well as those who cared about us. If I were to
die, Kathy would have to take over the role of both father and mother, and
my two youngest children would grow up without even vague memories of
their Dad. The older kids had to be told that there was a very real
possibility that I would not survive, and had to learn to cope with this at
an age when most children are still struggling to understand death as a
mere concept. Kathy had to ask herself difficult questions that must
have seemed almost impossible to answer at times. Her faith, and trust in
Godís grace brought her through. But although she seemed very much at
peace with Godís plan for us - and was, to a large extent - sheís also a
human being, with all the doubts, fears and anxiety that the condition
entails. After the most difficult years of the trial were over, Kathy
put pen to paper and wrote the following piece about some of the issues
that she struggled with during those difficult days:
"What on earth is God doing!?" The answer is that God is doing His will
in the lives of all the Herrons, including me.
Was Tim's illness Godís will? Everything that happens is the will of
God. If it is not, then our God is impotent when faced with the struggles
of our lives.
Was a sudden career change for Tim part of God's will? If God uses all
things to work for good, the answer is yes!
Does Kathy believe this wholly? No. I struggle daily with God over
these very issues. And these very struggles bring me nearer to the One who
loves me most.
Will there be the power, strength, and wisdom to handle Godís will? The
answer is another resounding yes. God will not lead me where He has not
The absolute thrill is that now I have the privilege of sharing this
with others who are struggling too. I have seen that God wants us to know
Him. In the center of the trial, struggle, pain, sorrow, or illness, He
desires us to know Him better. He is always there waiting for me and
As Iíve said, the children had their own battles to fight too. John,
now an adult, recalls the period as one of confusion and fear. Medical
terms he didnít understand were bandied about, and the kids found
themselves being babysat by different people every day, moving from house to
house as Katy and I traveled in seek of a cure. Children need stability,
and this constant movement would have been difficult even at the best
of times. And these were not the best of times, even though we knew -
and tried to explain to the kids - that Godís hand was still on us.
"The most frightening moments," John remembers, "were when Dad was
having headaches. He would go to lie down, and even though the bedroom door
was closed, we could hear him crying out in pain. For me, this was
scary, because it was so unlike him." Joseph, the second oldest of the
children, recalls sitting in the bath while I howled in pain in another
room. "I was frightened," he admits, "and there didnít seem to be anything
I could do other than just pray."
John remembers seeing the stress that his mother, Kathy, was
experiencing. She spent hours talking on the phone, and was constantly surrounded
by friends and neighbors who wanted to help; "I remember eating all the
casseroles that were brought over - boy, did we eat some strange food
when Dad was ill!" As a small boy, there was little he could do, beyond
keeping up with his chores, and out of his motherís way. As the eldest
child, John also felt responsible for his younger sisters and brothers
and he tried to concentrate on their needs, encouraging them, and
letting them know what was happening. All of the children, however,
recognized that the situation was difficult for their parents, and they did
their best to behave as positively as they could, eating foods they hated
because they knew that theyíd been lovingly prepared by friends, and
accepting regular disturbances in their routine. Now that I was ill,
Kathy didnít have time to teach them herself, and they started to attend
public school for the first time. While Kathy and I were occupied with my
illness, we tried to give the kids as much attention as we could, and
they all came through. As young adults, Iím proud to say that they
display great maturity (yes, Iím being completely objective!) and Iím sure
that our experience with cancer, as a family, has contributed to that.
Although the children had been told by Kathy, myself and my co-pastor
Jim Johnson that there was a very real chance that I might not survive,
not one of the three elder kids ever felt that I was really going to
die. Joseph says that he knew it was serious, "Ö but for me it was a bit
like having a broken leg. It hurt, but you just prayed to God, and
eventually it would be cured."
Although the time of their Dadís illness must be remembered as a dark,
difficult period, John is now able to see the wisdom behind it, and the
benefits it has ultimately brought to me, his father, himself, and
"The illness gave my father a powerful tool for ministry, which is
wonderful to see. I canít even imagine what my life would have been like if
he had not become ill with cancer, either. The episode taught me a lot
about faith and power of prayer. If Dad had never become sick, I might
never have gone to camp and dedicated my life to Christ. His cancer has
put me where I am today." John is in the process of forming his own
ministry, Consuming Fire Ė a performing arts ministry that uses juggling
and fire performing to bring the good news to the public.
It is often said that the most difficult challenge that can face any
parent is to watch their child die. This is true even when the child is a
mature adult. When I became ill, my parents were already elderly, and
the news that I was likely to perish was devastating. The weekend of the
initial diagnosis Ė Christmas weekend Ė was supposed to have been a
great event for Mom and Dad. At that time, they had a large recreational
vehicle which they drove to Pasadena, California to see the Tournament
of Roses, a huge parade of music, floats and more. Their vehicle was
crammed into a parking lot along with hundreds of others, and we had no
apparent way of getting in touch with them, as they carried no phone. A
miraculous series of events enabled my sisters to contact them, and they
received the horrifying news of their sonís imminent surgery for brain
cancer. But how could they get out of the parking lot, when they were
jammed in on either side by a hundred recreational vehicles? This was
one of those faith-affirming occasions when the best in people came to
the fore. Word of the dilemma spread throughout the crowd, and everyone
was galvanized into action, getting into their vehicles and inching back
to allow space for Mom and Dad to get through. Later, the memory of so
many peopleís unselfish efforts brought tears to my parentsí eyes.
Within an hour of receiving our message, they were on the road to the
nearest airport, where they picked up the first available tickets to
Longview, Texas. They were not on time for the actual surgery but, with Godís
help, arrived shortly afterwards and were there to support Kathy and
Insert quotation here
I think that the experience of seeing me after my first surgery was
even more difficult for my mother than my father. No matter how mature and
responsible one grows, a Mom can always see her little boy or girl.
When I came home from the hospital and removed the turban of bandages from
my head, Mom couldnít bring herself to look at the track of staples
that held my skull together. She cried, apologized and fled to a back
room. I kept my head covered in front of her from then on. Dad was rendered
speechless, but his emotion was more than evident.
The arrival of our baby daughter, Ginger, just two weeks before I
became ill, was far from a burden. The timing of her birth must have been
part of the Lordís plan for us, because she was an easy, placid baby from
the start, and a wonderful comfort to us all. Her presence on her
Grandmaís lap seemed to calm fears and foster hope. For me, holding Ginger
provided more relief from pain than morphine, even though I was unable
to hold her properly. My left arm had become paralyzed, and she had to
be propped against my side. Ginger also became the focus of many
peopleís prayers, as they beseeched God to spare me so that I would be able to
see her graduate from high school, and walk her down the aisle when her
time came to be married. What prayer could be more beautiful? Today, of
course, Iíd like to apply for an extension! Ginger is now a young lady
in her teens, and her adulthood is no longer a remote eventuality.
A profound crisis can have the affect of drawing the sufferer close to
others, often in ways that he or she never imagined. As Iíve already
mentioned, I contacted four of the men I esteemed most highly, and asked
them to be there for me throughout the crisis. One of these four was
Birne Wiley, whom I had known since before becoming ill. My sickness gave
us all the opportunity to become close friends, and their prayers
offered the support I needed at the most difficult of times. Birne and his
wife Lynella, also a good friend, were already familiar with the trauma
caused by illness, but this was the first time theyíd gone through it
with the Herron family, and there were days when our decisions seemed
strange to them.
"At times," Birne remembers, "the actions chosen by Tim and Kathy
seemed to be contrary to all logic or reason. Yet to them, they were founded
upon an absolute confidence in the sovereignty of God in their lives,
to the point that one almost felt "unspiritual" if the action was
questioned. Undoubtedly, this was a growing time for Tim and Kathy Ė and for
those of us who were privileged enough to go through it with them.
Those were very special times in each of our lives."
Iíve talked a bit about the challenges that my illness brought to my
co-pastor and the church. Jim Johnson remembers that period as being a
time that was "bright" as well as difficult:
"I think we came to really meet the Lord intimately at that time, as a
consequence of the struggle. Of course, the struggle was principally
Tim and Kathyís, but because he was pastor, he took the whole church with
him. I remember one night in the Herronís house when the elders came
together and everybody prayed. We anointed Tim with oil, according to
James 5. "
Another family that was positively affected by my illness was that of
Dr. Maudlin. Although we had already become friendly before I grew ill,
our relationship became much closer throughout the course of my
treatment. Partly because they witnessed how the members of Fellowship Bible
Church worked and prayed together to make a real contribution towards my
recovery, Jim and his wife became members of the church and they remain
Do we need trials?
I had always thought of hurricanes as something mankind could do
without. But recently I learned that they are necessary to maintain a
balance in nature. These tropical storms, with winds of up to 150 miles
an hour are accompanied by torrential rains, glaring lightning, and
rumbling thunder, and they can be devastating. Yet scientists tell us they
are tremendously valuable. They dissipate a large percentage of the
oppressive heat which builds up at the equator, and they are indirectly
responsible for much of the rainfall in North and South America.
Meteorologists, therefore, no longer use cloud-seeding techniques to prevent
them from being formed. They are convinced that hurricanes actually do
more good than harm. The Bible teaches us that the afflictions of God's
people are like that. Though they bring temporary pain and grief, they
can produce eternal dividends. (Psalm 119:75) This is certainly the
thrust of our life testimony!
We are told that pearls are the product of pain. When the shell
of an oyster is chipped or pierced by a worm or a boring parasite, a
foreign substance, usually a grain of sand, gets in. The inside of an
oyster's shell is composed of a lustrous substance called nacre. When a
grain of sand gets into a shell, the nacre cells get busy. They cover the
grain of sand with layer after layer of nacre in order to protect the
soft body of the oyster. The result is that a beautiful pearl is formed.
An oyster which has not been hurt does not grow a pearl, for a pearl is
a healed wound.
Have you been hurt by an unkind word of a friend? Have you been
accused of saying that which you have not said? Have you worked hard in
the church and had no one expresses appreciation? Have your ideas been
rebuffed? Then grow a pearl. Cover your hurts and your rebuffs with
layer after layer of love. Just remember that an oyster which has not been
hurt does not grow a pearl -- for a pearl is a healed wound.
Some of the greatest difficulties surrounding the period of my illness
related to issues other than the strictly medical. One of the outcomes
was that I had to leave Fellowship Bible Church and, for me, this was
one of the most difficult issues of all.
Shortly after I received my diagnosis, I met the leadership of the
church, and asked them for their support. I beseeched them to continue to
be completely honest with me, and to let me know if I became ineffective
as a pastor in any way. My fear was that I would damage the church by
holding on to my position in it after being disabled in some way by the
tumor. I may have been in error in using the word "effective" as it is,
at best, a subjective term Ė even when there is no brain tumor
My fears were not without foundation. Even when the immediate crisis
had passed, I was a changed man. My short-term memory had been damaged,
making it difficult for me to remember peopleís names, or details about
them Ė and any good pastor should be able to call his flock by their
names! People tried to comfort me by saying that they, too, had
difficulties remembering names, but I knew that in my case, the situation was
bad. Even now, I still have difficulty remembering past events and future
plans as I used to. Shortly after surgery, I seemed particularly prone
to become confused and forgetful about the most important appointments
and assignments. These problems meant that the other pastors and
members of the congregation had to be patient with me, and compensate when
necessary. My co-pastor Jim Johnson had to bear much of my load, and I
will always respect him for doing so. With characteristic modesty, he
shrugs off comments about all the extra work he did at that time, pointing
to the many godly men in the congregation who were ready and able to
step into the pulpit when I was unwell. Indeed there were many such men -
but Jim was still more than busy. There were a number of very painful
episodes when, because of my problems with short-term memory loss, I
disappointed people who needed my support. On one occasion, I was supposed
to attend to the spiritual needs of a family who were saying "good-bye"
to a loved one in a funeral home. I never showed, and my absence must
have hurt them badly. When one enters the seminary, one often doesnít
realize how much of being a pastor involves the daily grind;
administration, organization, all the nitty gritty of running an organization
involving lots of people. The details of these everyday responsibilities
tended to elude me.
Recognizing all my problems for what they were, I was still reluctant
to resign. I felt that there was every reason to believe that Godís hand
was on me and, by association, on the church which continued to grow
despite my illness and reduced ministerial capacity. The congregation was
bigger than ever and bills were being paid. When it seemed likely that
I would not recover, a member of the congregation was inspired by God
to give an anonymous donation of a substantial sum of money, intended to
pay for my treatment and funeral expenses, and perhaps to help Kathy
and the children when I died. Fortunately, there was a proviso that the
money could be used for the church if the unlikely happened and I became
well. When my recovery was evident, these funds were given to the
church building fund and used to purchase 12 beautiful acres with existing
church buildings and room for more. Without my tumor, in fact, there
would have been no money to buy this property! This is just one more
example of how, in Godís hands, incidents which seem irredeemably dreadful
can lead to wonder. For this reason, and many more, I did not feel that
my term as pastor should come to an end. As time passed, however, it
seemed that God was calling on me to change direction. It was time to
develop a new ministry - one that reflected the new talents that God had
given me through the experience of suffering with brain cancer. These
talents lay in my newly acquired ability to relate to people in pain. Iíd
walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Those who suffered
seemed to be attracted to me for exactly this reason. They knew that I
understood them and they realized that I had some insights that might
help. Several people, including Jim, commented that my struggles with
short term memory loss were compensated by a heightened sense of empathy.
In meeting with the elders of the church, it was suggested that I
investigate the possibility of becoming a hospital chaplain.
It was still unclear in which direction God was going to lead me, but
with some reluctance I recognized that He was calling on me to leave
Fellowship Bible Church. With heavy, but accepting hearts, Kathy and I
accepted His decision. It wasnít easy. No one likes to have to admit that
they are no longer able to perform as well as before, and even though I
was being shown a new path for which I had only recently become
qualified, these were testing times, involving a brief period in which Kathy
and I continued to live in Longview, but felt it necessary to attend
other churches in order to avoid causing dissension in Fellowship Bible
In the years that followed, the wisdom of my decision to leave seems to
have been vindicated. Fellowship Bible Church has continued to grow
strong and unified and my associate pastor became senior pastor in my
place. I take great comfort in the fact that now, Fellowship Bible Church
in Longview is a thriving, unified church in the charge of my former
co-pastor and brother in Christ, Jim Johnson. It remains located on the
beautiful plot of land located in the hills near Longview, and Kathy and
I visit regularly.
God never wastes our sorrows
The early Christian leader and martyr, Steven, was a man with
great potential for God. He was gifted, educated, bold and committed. All
of this seemingly went to waste before he started. They stoned him to
death after he preached before a crowd of antagonists. They responded to
the altar call by killing him (Acts 7).
What a waste of potential! Or could it be that our dying rather
than our living can sometimes serve God more?
In Stevenís case, the way he died so infuriated one Saul of
Tarsus that he redoubled efforts to single handedly eradicate the Christian
faith. This reaction caused the early church to scatter all over the
known world, resulting in almost complete world evangelism in one
You know not for whom you suffer and what you and God might be
accomplishing through your trial!
How to help
When someone is gravely ill, or undergoing another type of
despair-inducing crisis, it can be heart-wrenchingly difficult for those who care
about them. What can family and friends do to help? Letís explore the
role of the second parties to a crisis.
When it comes to helping people who are hurting, we all have ideas. But
what can one do when faced with abject despair? For example, how can
one comfort someone whose child has just been killed in a car accident?
This tragedy occurred in the family of one of my deacons, when his
daughter was attending her first prom. That dreaded call came at midnight:
"Mr. Collins, this is Lt. Jones of the Houston Police Department. I
regret to inform you that your daughter has been in a terrible accident. In
front of your house an officer and a chaplain are waiting to speak to
Sweat broke on his brow as he opened the door, and his wife crouched on
the stairwell in her robe, listening. The chaplain spoke simply and to
the point. Their beautiful daughter was dead. The mother groaned and
retreated upstairs. The father, in a state of shock, managed to ask about
how it happened. But he was unable to hear the explanation Ė his mind
raced with incoherent thoughts. The chaplain called me and asked me to
come over straight away.
What can one do in such a situation? I have served three years as a
hospital chaplain, four years as a police chaplain, and thirteen years as
a senior pastor. And now, through the ministry of Overcomers, I deal
with even more of these heart-breaking situations. Over the years, the
following guidelines have served me well:
Ã Satan will try to convince you that you are not equipped to be at the
side of someone in crisis, but you are! People need each other,
especially at times like these. Most people retreat and hope that somebody
else, like the pastor, will jump in. The pastorís presence may be
perceived to be powerful, but what is needed is simply a listening ear. Those
enduring great suffering need someone to show compassion, and help them
keep their eyes focussed on eternal matters.
Ã Remind sufferers of crises they have survived in the past. They need
to grasp onto the resources that will help them through each day.
Ã. If you feel you have nothing to say, thatís just fine. Words rarely
penetrate into the heart or mind of a hurting person. What you say will
be forgotten, but the memory of your presence will endure.
ÃLeave a gift behind - even something as simple as a card, newspaper or
magazine. A token, reminding the sufferer of your visit, will be a
source of comfort and encouragement long after you have left.
In order to have the utopia we all desire, God would have to do a
free will recall!
Itís not always easy to know what is the right thing to do in the
many difficult situations that life prevents us with. Perhaps you think
that, in an ideal world, weíd all know what to do, all the time. Not
so. As sentient human beings, each of us is possessed of a wonderful
quality - the quality of free will. We are free to decide how to react -
all the time. This is a big responsibility, itís true, but itís also a
great honor. God knows that you have the capacity to look inside your
heart and understand the best way forward. Trust yourself, and learn how
to let God work through you.
Helping the terminally ill
Many of us are frightened by thoughts of the terminally ill, confused
by questions such as; What should I say? What should I do? How can I
help? Should I go or do anything at all?
The answers to these understandable misgivings are simple:
Donít let nervousness take the upper hand!
Your friend needs you more than ever. Dying is a lonely experience.
Even if you say nothing at all, the fact that you are present is a
wonderful ministry. A few comforting words, or the simple act of touching the
arm of the person who is hurting reminds him or her that God is there,
and is acting through His people. Iíll never forget ministering to a
young man dying of AIDS in the early 1980s. I entered his hospital room,
walked over to his bed and shook his hand. "Arenít you afraid to touch
me?" he asked, "most people just wonít do it." (Back in the early 80s,
there was a lot of confusion about how AIDS is spread, and many people
suspected that infection could be caused by casual contact.) I know
that that simple act made his day easier to bear.
You are not alone
Trust in the Holy Spirit to be with you, and give you the words you
need. Training and preparation give you nothing in comparison to the
insight that the Spirit has, and can lend you. Go with a pure heart, and
watch him work through you. Donít worry that your words of comfort may
seem empty or lacking in profundity. What your friend needs at this time
is love and comfort, not profundity.
Many of the terminally ill have ceased to focus on themselves, to worry
about the loved ones they are leaving. Reassure them that their
survivors will be able to cope. Remind them that God does not give people
trials that they are unable to handle. If God has seen fit to send your
friendís family this challenge, it is because He knows that their faith is
strong enough to be tested. Perhaps the time has come for your friend
to die, but God will not abandon those left behind.
Donít try to be profound or sophisticated!
This is not the moment for expounding deep thoughts. At this point in a
personís life, the basics are best! A great theologian was asked on his
death bed which of the many magnificent truths he expounded during his
life was most important to him now. His reply startled his disciples:
"Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so!" I can
empathize. When I was bleeding to death from inside my brain, I didnít want to
hear subtle arguments about the hypostatic union or transdusionism. I
just wanted godly people to quietly remind me of the ABCs of faith. For
all my sophisticated knowledge of theology and holy writs, I rarely get
beyond Psalm 23 with a dying person. Keep it simple, straightforward,
and full of love.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside
the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I
will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my
life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Be explicit about showing that you care.
Part of being human is wanting to matter to others. Although we all
grow up and become adults, no one ever completely ceases to be a child in
need of reassurance and comfort. This is especially true in times of
crisis, when one can all too easily succumb to feelings of unworthiness.
When you go to visit someone in need of help, express your concern and
affection clearly. Remember that we cannot see the true value of a
person from their outward appearance. All people are fashioned by God, each
with his or her own intrinsic worth. God smiles when we find the
treasure that He has hidden within a special person. When you talk to someone
in need, look them in the eyes. The eyes are the window of the soul,
and to look into anotherís eyes is to acknowledge them fully, and a gift
that anyone can freely give.
Fix Your Eyes on the Greater Goal and the Joy of Reaching it
What is the purpose of life? Consider what God says to a
persecuted people in Hebrews:
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses
surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so
easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set
before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author of faith, who for the joy
set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down
at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has
endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow
weary and lose heart.
Donít forget to listen
Ministering to someone is just as much about listening as it is about
talking. And listening is about not talking when itís time to be quiet.
Donít just sit through what the other person is saying, waiting for the
moment to interject with your own thoughts. Donít let your mind wander.
Donít analyze what they are saying, looking for the "right" moment to
say your piece. Listen.
Leave them wanting more
Donít try to wrap up your visit neatly, and leave feeling that youíve
provided answers to all the questions. Itís wiser and more honest to
admit that there is a lot you donít understand, but that you will devote
some time to thinking and praying about them. Snappy answers to
difficult issues are an offence to the suffererís concern.
To those going through a protracted ordeal we must give reason to
persevere. Several compelling incentives are contained in the following
Suffice to say, God will amply reward any effort or sacrifice
made on His behalf ... He will be a debtor to no man!
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the
churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life,
which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." - Rev 2:7.
"And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I
will give power over the nations..." - Rev 2:26
"He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God
and he shall be My son." - Rev 21:7
Donít try to diminish grief
Some people, with every good intention, try to minimize the grief
experienced by those in pain. It is always hard to process the profound
emotions deriving from bereavement or the likelihood of bereavement and
death, but it is important to remember that grief is not bad or "socially
unacceptable". Grieving is a part of living. Of course time will help,
and pain will recede as those left behind, or the person who has
reached acceptance, become able to concentrate on happy memories. But now is
not the time to insist that the sufferer set aside his or her grief.
Respect their emotions as valid. Hold them, pray with them, comfort them
and help them to remember to take care of their physical well-being.
Gently remind them that God is watching over them, and that He has not
caused them to suffer needlessly. Respect the fact that there is no fixed
time period within which grief should end, while understanding that
indulging in self-pity is not a positive response to pain.
What not to say to someone suffering
People often wonder what they should say to those who are suffering Ė
and lose sight of that fact that what they should not say is just as
important! Letís examine some phrases to avoid.
"I know exactly what you are going through"
You donít. Regardless of what your experience is, you canít know what
someone else is going through. Claiming that you do diminishes the
uniqueness of their personal struggle. Instead, try to communicate your
understanding by asking honest questions and by listening carefully and
actively to their answer, rambles, or silence.
"Iím so, so, so, so sorry!"
Those in pain may crave pity. Usually, however, they donít. In any
case, pity is unhelpful and frequently condescending. Let your sorrow be
expressed in tears, and show that you care for the sufferer. We all want
to be loved and to know our lives are meaningful.
"I know someone who had the same problem and they..."
No two experiences are ever the same. Unless you intend to put the
sufferer in touch with the other person, leave anotherís struggle and
victory aside. Recounting it can make the person you are trying to counsel
feel discouraged, as they compare themselves unfavorably to the person
in the story.
"All you need to do is trust the Lord!"
Many well-intended Ė and true Ė expressions have the opposite of the
desired effect, implying that the sufferer is stupid and dull. The most
frequent response to this counsel is "Iím trying to Ė tell me how."
Without losing sight of the truth in this statement, keep it to yourself,
unless you can pinpoint a specific way in which the confused sufferer is
not trusting God.
"Maybe God is trying to teach you something"
This was the presumptuous counsel of Jobís friends. It presumes some
deficit or guilt on the part of the sufferer that accounts for the trial;
a deficit or guilt that may not actually be there! Remember, there are
many potential reasons for suffering other than divine discipline; Job
himself suffered not because of his sin but on the contrary Ė he
suffered as a direct result of his exceeding righteousness! Above all, never,
ever try to suggest to the parents of a grievously ill child that the
sickness may be the result of sin on their part. They are suffering
enough as it is.
He prayed for strength that he might achieve;
He was made weak that he might obey.
He prayed for health that he might do greater things;
He was given infirmity that he might do better things.
He prayed for riches that he might be happy;
He was given poverty that he might be wise.
He prayed for power that he might have the praise of men;
He was given weakness that he might feel the need of God.
He prayed for all things that he might enjoy life;
He was given life that he might enjoy all things.
He received nothing that he asked for, but all that he hoped for.
Prayer does not change God, but changes him who prays.
How to help children who hurt
Witnessing children struggling with serious and even fatal illness
causes a very special sort of pain. Why would God allow them to be born,
only to take them so quickly? But who needs support more? Anyone serious
about getting to know God must first learn how to love children. Sick
children face some of the same challenges as sick adults, but their
needs are quite different. A sick child suffers the same symptoms, but has
less understanding of the possibility that he or she might not survive
the trial. More than any grown person, they know the secret of taking
one day at a time. Few children ever reach the point of abandoning hope
- many suffering children see God as a friend, someone who cares for
them and is helping them.
Donít patronize children. Their still forming brains may not be able to
grasp complex concepts, or look far into the future, but their emotions
are just as real as those of any adult. While you should help a child
to overcome his or her fears, never dismiss them as silly. Feelings of
panic, denial, shock, grief, victimization and rage are all normal
reactions to serious illness. Reassure the child that you will always be
there, try not to display your own fearful emotions and try to cultivate a
positive outlook about the future.
Children who are not ill themselves, but are struggling with the
problems of having a seriously ill parent, also need support. When I was ill,
three of our children were old enough to have some concept of what was
happening, and Kathy and I had to decide what approach to take. Should
we pretend that nothing was wrong, and hope that they wouldnít notice?
Should we tell them the whole story, even though they might not be able
to understand? Itís important not to underestimate children, and not to
treat them like fools. If there is a crisis in the family, theyíll pick
up on it. Explain the situation to them in terms that theyíll
understand. Tell them that Mom or Dad is very sick, but that God has not stopped
caring. Remember: children can handle anything that adults can;
children are more frightened by the unknown than the known, and one should
explain issues to them in terms that they can understand; children, like
adults, are all different and all respond differently to bad news;
children need to know what to expect, although itís not necessary to go into
too much detail; children need room to manage their grief; children
must be shielded from toxic adults; children need a firm basis for real
The parents of sick children also need some very special help. While
they may be suffering, emotionally, even more than the child, they need
to appear strong and in control of their emotions. If they visit when
they feel and look drained, exhausted and stressed, they will communicate
these negative emotions to the child. Help them to keep themselves
fresh by taking care of the details of life - drop over with a cooked meal,
make sure that their lawn is mowed, and offer to take care of other
children in the family when needed.
Ö and above all
Donít hesitate to respond when God prompts you to visit a patient. Be
respectful of hospital policies and others around you. If in doubt,
check at the nurseís station for advice. Donít do or say anything that
would erode your loved oneís confidence in the doctors or the course of
treatment. But donít let the Enemy deter you from your mission.
Insert quotation or reading
Chapter Seven - moving to Houston
It wasnít long after the realization that the time had come to leave
Longview that Kathy and I received a clear indication of how God wanted
us to move forward, at least from the point of view of my ministry. What
could be better than a position has hospital chaplain? I knew that here
I would be able to bring my experience of Godís grace, and my struggle
with pain and suffering, to help those who were just embarking on their
own journeys of pain and loss, as well as those whose trials were
drawing to a close. The church was extremely supportive at this time, as I
attended training and began to shift my pastoral focus. We were given an
extremely generous severance package, to cover the expenses of moving
home and making all the necessary changes. But our concerns were not
about money - at first, we just didnít know what God wanted us to do. As
you know, Kathy and I were both originally from California, so we toyed
with the idea of moving back there. But there was more than one good
reason not to. First of all, California is a much more expensive state to
live in than Texas, and we would have needed to triple our salary to
support ourselves and the kids. But more importantly, we realized that
our attachment to California was based more on nostalgia and sentiment
than reason. What were we to do? Now, for obvious reasons, it was
important for us to live in a city that had a major cancer center, preferably
one that dealt with brain cancer. For this reason, the idea of moving
to Houston kept cropping up. Some close friends of ours had moved there
recently, and they encouraged us to join them in a satellite city
called - of all unlikely things - Sugarland. Sugarland! How could we even
begin to take a city with a name like that seriously? But, the more we
looked into it, the more apparent it became that this is were we were
being called to live. While I continued to offer a different kind of
ministry in Longview, Kathy began to visit Sugarland, and look into the
logistics of making the big move. As always, we were not alone. God led us
to find the house of our childrenís dreams - a substantial, two-storied
home in which the kids have full run of upstairs while Mom and Dad are
out of harmís way (and earshot) downstairs.
Moving home isnít easy even for adults, and relocating to Houston was a
difficult time for the kids as, indeed, it was for Kathy and me.
Longview is located in a beautiful part of Texas, full of rolling hills and
forest. Thereís more shade there than in the rest of the state put
together! But so much more important than the surroundings were the people.
I loved the church, I loved being a pastor, and as a family we were
blessed with many close friends. The first time we took the children to
look at our new home, they complained that the trees in the neighborhood
were "too straight". Used to the more chaotic, natural environment of a
small provincial city, they were surprised to encounter trees that had
been planted in uniformly straight lines! Even David, who was just
seven when we left, has fond memories of playing in the creek and missed
his old home. Crystal was older, and she was more upset about the change.
Life in Longview was a lot simpler in many ways than life in the big
city, and she was used to meeting and getting to know people from a wide
variety of backgrounds. There are more materialistic pressures in a
city suburb, where priorities often seem to be focussed on property and
possessions. As she faces adulthood, however, sheís grown to accept and
even welcome the change. The opportunity to study Japanese is one of the
perks of living in Houston that pleases her! Crystal, John and Joe are
all still in touch with friends in Longview.
Making our own mark on our new home helped us all to feel that it was
really ours. When we moved in, the floors were covered in a tatty old
carpet. We didnít delay in pulling it up and replacing it with tiles. The
whole downstairs area became one open-plan living and dining space
which pretty much embodies our spirit as a family - all for one and one for
all. Something else that helped the kids feel that they had found a
home was not exactly welcomed by Kathy and me. On one of the first
evenings in the new house, Kathy saw something moving in the fireplace. I
dived in and pulled out a 16 inch rat snake. Now, this delighted the boys,
who were sure that were thereís one rat snake, there are plenty more.
They had dreams of pet snakes, although to our relief, most of the
wildlife of Texas has stayed outside. Our two boisterous dogs more than
fulfill the role of pet.
As a former patient at the Anderson Medical Center, I was now in quite
a unique position as a hospital chaplain. Not only had I grown used to
providing ministry for the seriously ill, I was more than used to being
seriously ill. People who are facing the possibility that their disease
might kill them often find it easier to confide their fears - and their
anger - to someone who really understands.
After some years, Kathy and I recognized that it was time to take our
ministry to another level. The term "Overcomers", suggested by the
Bible, presented itself as the perfect name.
Chapter Eight - "Itís never really finished. You just run out of time."
Of movie-making, Whoopi Goldberg once said that you never really
finish, you just run out of time. When Kathy and I heard that particular
interview, we had to laugh, because those words also sum up the experience
of anyone going through a trial, including a bout with serious illness.
Now, many years have passed since my initial diagnosis, and Iím still
here, still sustained by the Lord and those who love me and rarely out
of the pulpit. I still suffer from slight neurological problems but,
considering the dismal prognosis I was given at the onset of the disease,
these are negligible. As for the "hole in my head", Kathy says itís
extra space wherein the Holy Spirit can reside!
Walking the walk
"Itís always too early to quit" is my battle-cry, and the title of this
book. But do I believe and practice this today? You can be the judge of
that! Just recently, I became a first-time student of martial arts. How
did this come about? Well, when I accompanied my then 16 year old
daughter, Crystal, to her first Karate class, I met one very persuasive
instructor. As Crystal paid and registered, I took the opportunity to chat
with the owner and main instructor and find out a little about his
values, and whether Crystal might expect to be exposed to Eastern
philosophy or religion during the course. I was comfortable with his answers,
and before long, he began challenging me to join too! Well, I wasnít
expecting that, and I began to protest, using my loss of memory, left side
weakness, poor balance and so on as excuses. But Iíd chosen the wrong
instructor. This guy was not about to give me up as a lost cause - he
must have been a used car salesman in another life, because he answered
each of my objections persuasively. I joined a week later.
Has studying martial arts been a happy experience for me? I canít say
that it has. In fact, I would have quit long ago if I werenít so
desperate to get rid of the cane I had recently started to use. By now, Iíve
stuck it out for six whole months. In the beginning, I wasnít even able
to tie my own belt because of my numbness, and other students had to
help me. And then when it came to leaping and kicking, I learned that I
was fat, dumb, slow and way out of my league. Let me tell you, the
temptation to give up has been immense. But Iíve hung in there and am on my
way, with the help of my children and the wonderful instructors, to
earning the dubious honor of being the worldís oldest living white belt.
And even if Iíll never be a karate star, I am already much stronger and
more balanced than I was six months ago. Iíve tossed aside the cane,
and am actually spinning and kicking as I never thought I would again.
Iíve lost 20 pounds, and gained the motivation to let God prove His power
and grace through my struggles.
The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a
--Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
So much for my physical development Ė what about the intellect? Well,
shortly before becoming ill, I had enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry
Program at the Dallas Theological Seminary. The first course was well
underway when the headaches began. I was supposed to complete a paper
after the course, but this dropped on my list of priorities when the tumor
struck, and family and ministry absorbed all my attention. For years, I
assumed that my doctorate was a lost cause. However, encouraged by
others in academia, I have returned to the program. Now Ė will Dallas
Seminary award a degree to someone whoís not in his right mind?
When Iím not wearing my "student" hat, I don my professorial one. Soon
after arriving in Houston, the College of Biblical Studies approached
me to see if I would be interested in teaching Bible Study methods in
their degree program. Was I? You bet I was! This gave me the opportunity
to teach the class things that they would need for their lives and
ministry, and also mentor them in the process. Even though instructing is
not directly related to Overcomers, it has been a wonderfully enriching
experience so far, and a great outlet for my teaching skills. Twice a
week, I face 20 or 30 eager adult students, and provide them with the
tools theyíll need for a lifetime of ministry. I donít tell them that
theyíve been taught by a person "not in his right mind" until the end of
Not least of all my roles Ė pastor, teacher, student, - is that of
father. Having five children, ranging in age from 13 to 21, would be a
challenge to the sanity of any parent, and in this respect Iím no
different. My wife and children always try to be gracious to me when they come
across my struggles, but with the best will in the world, they donít
always succeed. There are times when itís clear that they experience me as
a nuisance, and probably wish I were more like James Bond than Clem
Kaddidlehopper. They chauffeur me about instead of the other way around.
As for me, my personal struggles and even anger with God and myself
sometimes spill out in the form of a short temper. Iím assured that they
all love and respect me, but there are times when I canít help imagining
how difficult it must be to have a father like me. You can imagine how
grateful I have that all five of my kids are doing well, and that I
enjoy a rich relationship with each of them.
Life is good, but there are a few things Iíll never be able to do
again. During the early years of my struggle with cancer I continued to
drive a car, finding an excuse for every close call or bent fender.
Increasingly, I found myself, white knuckled, hanging over the wheel and
trying to drive safely. I had to struggle with both my memory loss and my
inability to scan quickly. Finally, I missed a red stoplight and plunged
my Chevy Suburban into the side of a mini van. Both cars were
destroyed, although both drivers escaped serious injury. I havenít driven since.
In a society in which it seems that everybody Ė and especially the man
of the family Ė drives Ė it was difficult to stop, even though the need
to do so was compelling. There is some hope that I would benefit from
special therapy directed at getting people whoíve had brain injuries
back behind the steering wheel. But until or unless Iím sure I wonít be a
danger on the road, I wonít be driving. After all, recognizing oneís
weaknesses is a part of being strong.
I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me
So, Tim Ö was it a miracle?
In 1993, I visited a neuropsychologist, Dr. Barry Rath, for assessment.
After putting me through as series of tests, his formal statement about
my condition reads as follows:
"In 1988, the patient suffered a glioblastoma of the right parietal
lobe and has had extensive surgery and radiation treatment. The patient
indicates that he has been in remission for a number of years. The
patientís neuropsychological performance is truly remarkable given his
medical history. I have had an opportunity to look at the patientís MRI
films, and the magnitude of the lesion in the right hemisphere is
extraordinary. Despite this, the patient maintains excellent verbal intellectual
abilities and seems to compensate for his visual-spatial deficits
The dry language of medicine almost distracts one from marveling, but
my firm belief is that my delivery from brain cancer was a miracle.
Godís print can be seen on every decision that Kathy and I made. We felt
called to pursue the most aggressive course of action then available, and
it worked out. God was behind us every step of the way, in providing
friends in the medical profession, access to the best surgeons of the
day, and ensuring that at all times we were surrounded by people we loved,
and who loved us back. God was also behind the decisions of many of the
people who were involved in our case.
Not everyone is comfortable with the term "miracle". For many within
the medical profession, the word seems to suggest a slight on their
professionalism: "Miracle nothing! It was my surgery that cured this man!"
The strongest statement that my surgeon at MD Anderson, Dr. Levin, has
made was, "The case of Tim Herron resulted in a happy outcome." To
understand the nature of miracles, we have to recognize that ordinary men
and women, simply doing the jobs that they were put on earth to do to the
best of their ability, can be agents of Godís miracle-working on earth.
Not all medical professionals share Dr. Levinís skepticism.
Three of the doctors who were involved in my case, Dr. Marshall, Dr.
Maudlin and Dr. Miller, donít hesitate to classify my recovery from brain
cancer as miraculous.
"If we define a miracle as being any supernatural
intervention in what would normally happen in the physical realm," says Dr.
Marshall, "then Tim definitely represents a miracle. You can have responses
to medical processes. Our expectations of Tim doing well were low to
start with, and heís far exceeded even our most optimistic projections,
that he might still be alive in three or four years. Perhaps he falls
within the statistics, but I donít think so. Everyone is delighted that
heís doing so well. Now, Iím not saying that he could have done this
well without the medical intervention, but God is definitely behind Timís
cure. No one could have imagined that heíd escape as free from
complications as he is."
Kathyís obstetrician Dr. Maudlin had been given the
opportunity to witness my initial surgery, and even though he was not directly
involved in my case, he did accompany us as a friend throughout the
process. He largely concurs with the views held by Dr. Maudlin:
"My view of Timís cure is that we all did see God at work.
Whether you see this as a supernatural process, or as an example of His
leading Tim and Kathy to make the right decision, the end result is the
same. They were certainly lead to seek out certain doctors and to
undergo certain very aggressive procedures - much more aggressive than those
usually recommended at that time. In the process, Tim was healed of his
tumor. Was this supernatural, or was it because God helped the doctors
to undertake treatments that they normally would not? Perhaps it
doesnít matter. The bottom line is that God was behind the process, He was
with the Herrons, and He led both them and their doctors to follow
Tim, I donít want to head off on my own here, but this would seem a
good point for a discussion of the concept of miracle from a more
theological point of view, perhaps with some extracts from scripture? I think
that this subsection warrants expansion.
Is Timís Healing a Miracle?
A miracle is Godís special intervention in the affairs of earth for the
purpose of authenticating His message to those who are seeking Him.
A while back I was with three pastors and a dentist playing golf. The
whole was a par 3 and we all watched in amazement as John Fite hit the
ball with a wonderful high arch and it struck the green and disappeared.
We all concluded it either hit a rock somehow and bounced off the
green, or it was in the hole, and my friend had just hit the first
hole-in-one I his life. Now in golf no hole-in-one matters unless there are
witnesses. In this case he had himself three ordained pastors as
eyewitnesses. The question might be asked, was his hole-in-one a miracle? He
wasnít that great a golfer, so that would figure in, but still a
hole-in-one is remarkable. Is it a miracle? Does an event that is very unlikely
make that into a miracle? If so, what if he had hit two holes-in-one in
a row? or maybe eighteen? When does it become a miracle? So defining a
miracle just as an exceptional event is problematic. Timís recovery
from his cancer is extremely rare, but few of his physicians get
themselves to call it a miracle. Even thinking theologians might question it.
What else does it take to make something else a miracle? How about if
my dentist friend had told us the day before that he would hit all
eighteen holes-in-one. Would the fact that he predicted it make it a
miracle? As you can see, even defining a miracle is difficult. We know all
miracles are exceptional events, meaning that God has interrupted the
normal flow of cause and effect events. But does it have to be a special
event to be a miracle? To put it simply, I think a miracle has to be an
exceptional event with godís fingerprints on it. In other words,
miracles donít happen haphazardly but always have purpose, at least in
scripture. God uses miracles to endorse His message or His messenger. They are
never there to entertain us or satisfy our whims.
Another part of Godís miracles is that they are generally
instantaneous, indisputable, complete, and permanent. When God heals a person they
stay healed. When God heals a terrible malady it takes no more time than
to speak the words. When God does a miracle, even critics are forced to
take notice. Now given all of this, is Tim Herron a miracle?
Was it just a coincidence thatÖ
1. God chose a pastor of a reasonably well-known church to take
through this ordeal? Or was this part of Godís fingerprints who endorsed
the future ministry of this man? Is it only coincidental that all the
details make for a very dramatic story, or was this Godís plan to win
2. Timís church was trying to get out of a store-front location
into a permanent building with land to expand and that out of the
abundance given to Timís certain demise the excess would buy 12 acres of the
finest church property that could be imagined in the city with a
building already on it and paid cash? Ö
3. At 17 years old as a brand new Christian Tim prayed for God to
use him greatly and even urged God to hurt him deeply if that was what
it took? Ö
4. Tim cast a vision when he first came to FBC that included a
major network coming to the church to film what was happening not because
it was scandal but because of God doing a very unique thing? Ö ABC sent
a reporter and a full camera crew to record Tim preaching and the whole
service for an expose on miracles! Wasnít this what Tim prayed for? Ö
5. Timís tumor was in the right perital lobe which could take
tremendous abuse and keep ticking? Ö
6. That two of Timís life-long friends had become physicians
practicing on opposite coastlines, yet agreeing where and whom Tim should go
to for treatment?
7. That when Tim was diagnosed with such a dismal prognosis that a
friend of a friend of a friend knew of a five-year survivor for Tim to
speak with and get encouragement?
8. That the Herrons had just delivered their fifth child such that
she could be a tremendous encouragemeant to them, motivating Tim to
face whatever procedures that were reasonable without a second thought?
9. That Tim had been the pastor of literally thousands of
Christians before the tumor hit, giving him a tremendous base of prayer and
10. That Timís associate pastor was already experienced and sensitive
to brain tumors because of his best friend in earlier years having had
the same type of tumor?
11. Was it merely a coincidence that at a cancer conference of a
thousand people Tim should be selected by a newspaper to interview and
publish an article that the next day would be read by Charles Hadlock, a TV
reporter for a major network and that that should inspire him to come
to Longview and film the church?
12. Was it merely a coincidence that Tim and Kathy should become
pregnant while covered by a flimsy insurance policy, one that was ultimately
to fail and leave them with $6000 worth of bills, because that failure
was to cause them to buy a major medical policy, one that did handle
all Timís medical bills?
Critics could be dubious saying I am just the results of modern
medicine or even very lucky, but how could anyone take these coincidences in
account and not conclude that what happened to Tim was absolutely a
miracle, despite his reticence to accept that title?
Chapter Nine - Thorny issues
Serious illness raises many difficult philosophical and spiritual
issues. People who are suffering great pain and anguish, for example, often
consider suicide as a way of ending it all. Increasingly, this is a
view that is supported by the public and even by some members of the
medical profession. In the United States, assisted suicide is already
permitted under some circumstances in the state of Oregon. Several European
nations have also recently legislated for legal suicide when patients
are terminally ill. But is euthanasia really the dignified answer to
From my personal experience, and from my many years of ministering to
people who are going through great physical or mental pain, Iíve
observed that one of the most compelling factors that attracts sufferers to
thoughts of suicide is the idea that their pain is without purpose. As
death looms, their despair and suffering grow.
However, those who see great significance in their suffering - even if
relief seems impossible Ė are not drawn to thoughts of "ending it all".
They live longer, suffer less, and change the lives of those around
What is the vital factor that makes the difference? In my experience,
it is the degree of intimacy with the Lord, and faith in His promises.
Recent advances in medicine have been tremendous Ė but science doesnít
provide enduring hope! For this reason, Christians who know the Lord and
the Word of God must carry themselves with confidence and poise. They
must not allow themselves to be intimidated by medical professionals and
their magnificent machines. The simple believer armed with the Word of
God has more life-giving power than a whole hospital.
Doctors in favor of euthanasia have received more than a little media
attention in recent years, and Iím sure that at least some of them
sincerely feel that they are doing the right thing. We all know how
difficult it is to watch someone suffer in an apparently needless way. But even
in the medical professional, opinions are very divided on this
contentious topic. Fortunately, the doctors who worked on my case share my
"Life is sacred. Itís a gift from God," was the recent comment of my
former doctor, Dr. Marshall, "and itís our responsibility to always
regard it as such. To extend life without a personís permission is wrong,
but unless a person is dying by natural means, shortening a life - even
with the intention of releasing them from pain - is also very wrong.
Deciding who can live and who can die is not the responsibility of a
doctor or any other human being. Where there is life, there is always hope."
Five excellent reasons not to kill yourself
Each of these reasons might benefit from the exclusion of some
appropriate short quotation or reading
How will it impact on my family and friends?
Every personís death affects many other people, especially those
closest to the one who has died. When someone kills themselves, the pain they
leave behind is a thousand times worse. Family members and friends of
suicide victims suffer terrible feelings of guilt, from which they often
never recover. They ask themselves whether they did something wrong,
something that prompted the dead person to make that fatal decision to
end it all. If you are ever in a situation whereby you feel tempted to
"end your suffering", stop and think. Many families live out their lives
without ever recovering from the effect of a suicide. If you make that
decision, you might be destroying a whole family, not just yourself.
Remember the past
When you are depressed, it is hard to remember the past, when things
were better and you were much happier, healthier and more fulfilled.
Donít lose sight of the fact that if life was worth living once, it can be
worth living again.
What is on the other side of death?
Christians know that after death, there is eternal life.
Those who subscribe to other beliefs generally know the same thing. And
most of these people will agree that there are plenty of bad things that
can happen after death, especially if the soul in question belonged to
someone who was not at peace with God.
You have a purpose
You may feel at times that your life has no meaning. That is
emphatically not the case. All of us are placed on this earth for a reason, even
if we donít know what that reason may be. To walk away from our
potential is a horrible waste.
The most important reason of all
God made you, loves you and understands how you feel. Even
when no one else understands you, He does. He sent Jesus to die for
you. He created you for a reason. If you allow Him, He will lead you
through depression, or whatever other problem you may have. There is no need
for you to be alone, because He can heal your loneliness.
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who
loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels,
nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to
separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Chapter Ten - Overcoming, you can do it too
God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.
-- Augustine of Hippo
An Overcomerís Love Letter
In 1912, a group of disoriented and exhausted Englishmen
abandoned all hope of rescue and settled down, waiting for death in an ice-hut
in the wild Antarctic. One of them, the doctor (Edward Wilson) of the
party, was writing home to his wife. This is what he said:
Don't be unhappy ... We are playing a good part in a great scheme
arranged by God Himself, and all is well ... We will all meet after
death, and death has no terrors... All is for the best to those who love
God, and ... we have both loved Him with all our lives ...
Life itself is a small thing to me now, but my love for you is
forever and part of our love for God. All the things I had hoped to do
with you after this Expedition are as nothing now, but there are greater
things for us in the world to come... all is well.
My struggle with brain cancer left me with partial paralysis on one
side and other physical and mental challenges, but it also left me with a
gift Ė the ability to help others who are going through similar trials.
In 1990, I founded Overcomers, a non-profit Christian ministry which
offers a solid basis of hope to those who need it. Even before the
organization came into being, Kathy and I had become aware of the strength of
our testimony regarding the Lordís deliverance of me from a supposedly
hopeless case of brain cancer. Thus from the awfulness of brain cancer
was born the Overcomer ministry. You see, God had not just thrown me a
challenge Ė he had given me the opportunity to make of myself a better
pastor, and one with a special insight into the issues facing those in
We Ė the founders and coordinators of Overcomers - believe that even
the most tragic of ordeals brings with it the opportunity to enhance
life, by overcoming the obstacles thrown in our path. Some of us may face
more dramatic trials than others, but nobody escapes severe difficulty
during their lifetime, be it physical, emotional, spiritual, or derived
from relationships. Often, these trials seem way beyond anybodyís
ability to cope Ė but they are not. God has offered us Himself as traveling
companion down the same winding path. He is also embodied in those
people who act as His ambassadors on earth in bringing hope and faith to
those who need it. Overcomers connects those entering trials with those
who have already lived through them, and are on hand to comfort others.
An Overcomer hymn, by William W. How
Thou waste their rock, their fortress, and their might, Thou,
Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight; Thou in the darkness drear
their one true light O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old and win with them the
victors crown of gold!
O blest communion, fellowship divine! We feebly struggle, they in
glory shine. Yet all are one in Thee for all are Thine.
But lo! There breaks a yet more glorious day; The saints
triumphant rise in bright array; The King of Glory passes on His Way!
From earth's wide bounds from ocean's farthest coast, Through
gates of pearl streams in the countless host, Singing to Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost... Alleluia!
God's plan is clearly communicated in Scripture:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of
mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation,
that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the
comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
But what is an Overcomer?
Is every true Christian an Overcomer, or only some? Thereís a lot of
confusion about this issue, arising from varying interpretations of the
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the
victory that has overcome the world - our faith. Who is he who overcomes the
world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
In properly understanding the idea of overcoming and being an
Overcomer, one must approach this verse carefully. The passage begins with the
assertion that whatever is born from God overcomes the world, not that
whoever is born from God overcomes. If the former were the case, no true
Christian could fail to overcome. With this interpretation, the term
"Overcomer" becomes, simply, a synonym for "Christian". If only things
were so simple! Some, although they are genuinely born of God, will not
avail of the spiritual resources that He has provided. Under trial,
their faith fails, and they do not emerge victorious. The verse, instead,
promises that whatever is generated by God overcomes. Specifically, it
points to our faith.
During any period of intense difficulty, Satan hopes that our faith
will fail, causing us to lose confidence in God. When that happens, it is
only a matter of time before we curse God and die. God, instead, is
using the trial in order to test, perfect and display our faith. Our faith
will not fail, because the object of it will not fail! Overcomers,
then, are those people who persist in believing that God is still there Ė
loving, saving and keeping us, even when life is at its bleakest. They
may seem to all intents and purposes to be "ordinary" people, but there
is nothing ordinary at all about being an Overcomer. Chapter eleven in
the book of Hebrews, often referred to as the "roll call of faith"
might be called the "roll call of Overcomers". Hebrews 11:4-35 talks about
the heavyweights that we all know; Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob,
Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Rahab and David. But continue reading and youíll
find Godís everyday Overcomers:
Ö and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and
imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were
tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in
sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom
the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves
and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through
their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had
provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made
In Godís kingdom there are no "ordinary Christians" and no "ordinary
ministries". Instead, each of us has unfathomable significance. You, too,
may feel like an ordinary Christian struggling to stay alive, much less
receive heavenly accolade. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Try to remember that Overcomers are defined not by the end result of
their deeds, but by the process. They walk humbly in faith one day at a
time and trust in God to provide the best results. Ultimately, we do not
control the end result. However, we can walk humbly in faith, one day
at a time, and leave the results to God.
God is looking for people who will stubbornly live for Him in the
presence of "undeserved" suffering and in the absence of expected blessing.
Does that describe you? Then you are an Overcomer, whether or not
anybody else ever knows about it.
An Overcomersí statement of faith
1. We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three
persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
2. We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible
authoritative Word of God.
3. We believe in the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His
virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and
atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His
ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in
power and glory.
4. We believe that regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely
essential for the salvation of lost and sinful men.
5. We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit, by
Whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live the Godly life.
6. We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost
- those who are saved to the resurrection of life, and those who are
lost to the resurrection of condemnation.
7. We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in Christ, and
the evidence of that unity being shown by how we love one another.
Can one be an Overcomer and fail to conquer the problem?
Of course! God does not have the same plan for everyone, and there are
some people who will become ill and not recover or face bankruptcy
without regaining financial security. This does not mean that their
struggle has been any less meaningful. Scripture tells us that an Overcomer is
someone who has suffered well. Overcomers are ordinary people who do
not lose sight of their calling, regardless of how severely they are
tested. We must never forget that Overcomers are defined, not by the
outcome of the trial, but by their behavior throughout it. The proof of this
is seen in the life of the greatest Overcomer of all Ė Jesus Christ.
Just hours before He was crucified, He said: "In this life, you will have
tribulation, but take heart Ė I have overcome the word!". Overcomers
take the worst that Satan can hurl at them, and fling it right back in
his face by demonstrating their stubborn love for their Savior.
Recently, I found myself at the bedside of a man dying from cancer. As
his battle drew to a close, he added false guilt to his torment,
convincing himself that, as I had survived brain cancer, he should be able to
survive lymphona. In the presence of his family and best friend, I took
his hand and said: "My friend, the only person you are going to
disappoint is Satan. You have won! The only thing for you to do now is to
claim your reward. We all will miss you. You've fought the good fight.
You've kept the faith!" That man, too, was a true Overcomer.
Overcomers share their experiences
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of
their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. - Rev
In Jesus Christ there always good reason to be optimistic! But itís not
easy to express in words to someone who has just begun to suffer,
unless the bearer of the good news is one who has already borne the weight
of a similar, or even more difficult challenge. Those who overcome the
challenges presented them are Overcomers if, afterwards, they use their
experiences to bring hope and joy to those who need it.
Overcoming when there doesnít seem to be anything to overcome
When one is going through a crisis, the obstacle that must be overcome
is there for all to see. It would be easy to think that, in order for a
person to become an Overcomer, they must endure a dramatic trial such
as illness, divorce, bereavement, abuse or betrayal. If you have not
suffered, can you really be an Overcomer? Yes! You can steel yourself to
overcome the very real trial that is the monotony of everyday life. Now,
Iíve been through cancer treatments, and Iíve also spent plenty of time
just living, and itís my experience that living faithfully through a
crisis is less difficult than living faithfully throughout those
uneventful times. When I was ill, I had only the Lord to cling to. As a
"healthy person" I live with daily expectations that are always with me. Being
persistently faithful can seem like a chore that will never be
finished. The answer is to take one day at a time. Loving that which seems
unlovable is a prospect that fills me with horror if I look at the future
expanding before me, but with Godís help, I can love simply and
selflessly today. Thirteen years ago, doctors warned me that my life was likely
to end in a matter of weeks. It did not, and now I live, along with the
rest of humanity, in an apparently endless sea of mundane chores,
choices and chances.
So, donít forget that no matter how ordinary and uneventful your life
seems to be, and regardless of how trivial your trials may look, today
is your day to overcome. Concentrate on the moment, and donít worry
about tomorrow. God is there to help you overcome whatever obstacle appears
in your path.
Knowing when itís time to be alone
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
Overcomers know that they need to ask for help sometimes,
and accept the support of family and friends throughout a trial. They
also know that there are times during a challenge when itís better to be
alone with God. Take time out to spend some quiet time with the Lord.
If possible, go somewhere where you can relax, without having to stop to
answer the phone or attend to any of the duties of everyday life. God
is with you throughout your trial, but sometimes He is speaking very
quietly, and you wonít hear Him unless you listen!
It is always too soon to give up on God!
Some say, that for Christians, trials are merely blessings
disguised as problems! My study of Scripture, and personal experience with
trials confirm this for me. In 1984, I signed my family up for a health
insurance policy tailored for pastors. It offered wonderful benefits
designed for this very specialized group. Apparently, the insurance
company felt that pastors were an exceptional bunch, on the basis of their
particular lifestyles, and reputation for integrity.
In any case, when we needed reimbursement of $6000 for the birth
of one of our children, the company refused to pay! As we discovered,
it was going bankrupt, and leaving thousands of pastorsí families
without coverage. Our health expenses quickly exhausted our savings, and we
took the experience as a lesson on not relying overmuch on any man (Cf.
Jeremiah 17) and bought a new policy with a large, reputable company.
Shortly afterwards, I became ill with brain cancer and our
earlier experience, which had seemed so unfortunate, suddenly made perfect
sense. As unlucky as we had felt ourselves to be, Godís hand had been
behind it all! Those who keep their trust in God, and their hearts held
high will always be rewarded Ė often in surprising, unimaginable ways. I
have heard of so many cases of help coming when it was least expected.
Let me digress, to tell you a story! In Enterprise, Alabama, one can
see an truly extraordinary monument, built in honor of the boll weevil.
This little insect almost destroyed the cotton on which the economy of
the town depended.
"Why, then, would they build a monument?" I hear you ask. Well,
before the weevil struck, all of the local families depended on cotton
for their livelihoods. Afterwards, they realized the wisdom of
diversifying, and began to plant peanuts. Their new crop was a great success.
The inscription on the monument reads:
"In profound appreciation of the boll weevil and of what it has
done as the herald of prosperity, this monument is erected by the
citizens of Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama." 
Are there any more books youíd like to add here?
Suffering is often a deeply lonely process, and one can
feel isolated and unattached to the world. Reading is one way to learn
that others have gone through similar ordeals, and succeeded to win the
battle against despair. Some readings that you may find inspirational and
helpful are listed below.
Allender, Dan. The Wounded Heart.
With professional skill and spiritual insight, The Wounded Heart will
help you explore the secret lament of the soul damaged by sexual
abuse-and uncover the hope buried there by the One whose unstained image you
Anderson, Greg. The Triumphant Patient.
A reviewer from Rochester, Minnesota says: When I was diagnosed with
Grade 3 Pancreatic Cancer in 1993 I felt that I was a 'dead man' with a
life expectancy of six months. "The Triumphant Patient" became my game
plan of coping and survival. Five years later I still use, recommend and
gift this book to other Cancer 'Survivors'. If you are in a
'Life-Death' struggle with Cancer and want a book to help you 'fight' and live
your remaining life with "The Triumphant Patient" by Greg Anderson.
Billheimer, Paul. Don't Waste Your Sorrows.
Good book from a pastor's heart on the biblical purposes of suffering
and how to cooperate with them.
Boom, Corrie Ten & Sherrill, John, The Hiding Place.
Here is a book aglow with the glory of God and the courage of a quiet
Christian spinster whose life was transformed by it. A story of Christ's
message and the courageous woman who listened and lived... The true
story of two sisters sent to a Nazi concentration camp for helping Jews,
and how they survived.
Brant, Paul MD, & Yancy, Phillip. The Gift of Pain.
Pain is nothing that most of us would count as a blessing, but what it
is and why we need it if we're to live life fully, is brought to light
in this book.
Bunyan, John. The Pilgrimís Progress.
Here is John Bunyan's timeless classic, an allegory of man's walk with
God. Join Christian and his companions on their journey to the
Celestial City, as they pass through many experiences common to us all and
travel in triumph with the King.
Chapin, Shelly. Counselors, Comforters & Friends
This is a book for those who want to be truly helpful to those in
distress by a single woman who overcame divorce and cancer and learned what
helps and what doesn't.
Within the Shadow.
A biblical look at suffering, death, and the process of grieving.
Lewis, C. S., A Grief Observed.
The intimate reflections of a new widower after his wife's death. Good
for giving permission to grieve! This is the book that inspired the
film Shadowlands, but it is more wrenching, more revelatory, and more real
than the movie. It is a beautiful and unflinchingly honest record of
how even a stalwart believer can lose all sense of meaning in the
universe, and how he can gradually regain his bearings.
The Problem of Pain.
C.S. Lewis, the master apologist, tackles the question that has plagued
humanity for centuries. If God is both omnipotent and good, how can we
explain the pain and suffering that people experience daily? And what
of the suffering of animals, who neither deserve pain nor can be
improved by it? With compassion and insight, C.S. Lewis proposes reasonable
answers to these critical theological problems, sharing his wisdom with
those who seek true understanding.
Mason, Mike, The Gospel According to Job.
Through this devotional study, the reader discovers that it is all
right to doubt, be confused, get angry--in short, to be completely human.
From Job we learn that the mark of true faith is not happiness; rather
that one's deepest passions are being engaged by the enormity of God.
And through Job, we learn the secret of the gospel: "mercy is the
permission to be human."
Schaefferi, Edith. Affliction.
This book is for those ready to be ruthlessly honest about life and
suffering. It gives good answers to the hard issues but not easy answers.
The author has a great illustration that can be used to communicate
God's plan for seemingly senseless suffering. Edith's Christian
philosopher husband, Francis Schaeffer, died of cancer.
Tada, Joni Eareckson. An Unforgettable Story.
The unforgettable autobiography of Joni Eareckson Tada and her
struggles to adjust after a diving accident leaves her paralyzed from the neck
down. This story has encouraged and inspired millions of readers.
Yancy, Phillip. Disappointment with God.
Yancy is a superb Christian thinker and writer. In this book he deals
with the issues of Is God there? Is He silent? Is he hidden? His
thoughts are thoroughly Biblical and relevant.
Where is God When it Hurts?
Why, in a world of love, is there so much pain? Is pain God's big
mistake? Is there a message behind the suffering? "Where is God When it
Hurts" is a true inspirational classic, a revealing, loving, and powerful
book that deals realistically with crises of pain and suffering in all
our lives. Philip Yancy takes us into his own life and others' lives to
witness what few of us have ever seen: the true purpose of pain.
 By Angela Morgan, as adopted by Paul Billheimer.
Holy Bible, King James Version, 1 Peter 1. 1995 Electronic edition
of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (1 Peter 4:1-2).
Oak Harbor, WA, Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Words by William R. Featherston, 1864.
 The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (Electronic edition of
the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (1 Peter 4:1-2). Oak
Harbor, WA.,Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 1 Peter 5:7 (NASV).
 Turnerís syndrome is a congenital condition which causes sufferers
to have a disproportionately large trunk, and shortened limbs as well
as a number of other problems.
 The Navigators are a nondenominational Christian ministry that
focusses on leading people to Jesus Christ as savior, and helping them to
follow Him as Lord by becoming disciples, or learners. In Jesusí time
learners followed their master around, gaining everything they could get
from him, rather than studying his words in a classroom setting. The
modern Navigators were founded on ships in Long Beach Harbor, when a
sailor called Dawson Trotman became discouraged by seeing so many people
accepting Jesus Christ as their savior, and then, apparently, doing
nothing about it. Trotman felt that a Christian should grow in his
relationship with Christ and other people, helping them to come to Christ. In
the early days, the Navigators worked mostly on military ships, but after
the Second World War they spread throughout the world, largely through
their activities on college campuses. I had encountered them at the Air
Force academy, but was initially unimpressed. Later, at UCLA, they gave
me the grounding I needed.
 Matthew 7, verses 24-7, King James version.
 Jeremiah 17: 5-8.
 The Holy Bible, King James Version. 1995 (Electronic edition of
the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (1 Peter 3:18-20). Oak
Harbor, WA.Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 This is not a medical term!
 Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NASV)
 Matthew 6 (NASV)
"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let
him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the
elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name
of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person
well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be
forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so
that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and
effective." James 5, verses 5-13.
 Finding God When Life's not Fair; Lee Ezell, Reevel publishers,
 Hebrews 11:1-3 (NASV)
 Romans, chapter 8, verses 37-9.
 (2 Cor. 1:3-4)
 1 John 5:4;5 (NKJ)
 Heb. 11:36-40. Emphasis added. Taken from the NASV, Lockman
 -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard
Publishing Company, 1997).
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