WHAT I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS

It‘s getting close to that time again. It’s been six months since my last one. It’s not something I look forward to, but I have to do it. It’s time for another check-upAllWantForXmas, scheduled for Tuesday, December 15. It has been two years since I completed radiation treatments for prostate cancer. I had been going every three months for a check-up and blood work, but on my last appointment in June the doctor moved me to every six months. I am most grateful that the previous visits to the doctor my blood work has come back good and I seem be doing very well.

My appointment is only ten days before Christmas, so I bet you can’t guess what gift I want for Christmas! You may ask, “If your previous check-ups have produced good reports and you are feeling well, what is the worry?”

I would be less than honest if I didn’t confess that every time a doctor visit pops up on the calendar I am revisited by those same emotions that welled up inside of me on June 14, 2013. That was the day I hesitantly answered the phone and heard the doctor say, “Rev. Merritt I wish I had better news, but…..” There aren’t words to describe the disbelief, numbness, detachment, and anxiousness that you experience at the moment you hear those life changing words, “You have cancer.”

The paradox of emotions that engulf you as your new journey begins is like riding on a roll-a-coaster. While there is anxiousness, there is a sense of His calming peace. While there is uncertainty, there is a sense of His assurance. While there is detachment, there is a sense of His abiding presence. While there is human weakness, there is a sense of His divine strength. While there is a lack of human sufficiency, His grace is sufficient.
How can one experience such a paradox of emotions all at the same time? I don’t know how, but I am here to tell you that I did and that I do again each time another doctor’s appointment draws near. In my humanness I ponder how the check-up will turn out, in my spirit I know that He is with me and will never leave me or forsake me no matter the result. I have learned that prayer is not me trying to change the mind of God, but me discovering the mind of God for my life and realizing He is at the helm of the ship of my life’s voyage.

I trusted Christ as my Savior many, many years ago and while I have failed and made a mess on more occasions than I would like to admit, there is one truth that has remained constant: He has never failed me and He has never been unfaithful to me. My life is in His secure and strong hands, and after the journey I embarked upon two-and-a-half years ago I am more keenly aware of that today than ever before. I am here to tell you, “He is faithful.”

I now see each day as a precious, precious gift. Each sunrise, each moment, is to be treasured. I love life and nothing gives me greater joy than to be used by Him to invest in the lives of others. My desire is to hang around and do that as long as possible, yet each of us are only one heartbeat away, only one step away, from eternity. I know that someday, unless the Lord returns, I, as well as you, will find the flower of life wilting before the rays of a setting sun. But here is the difference: if you know Christ as your Savior you can say with David, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for THOU art with me” (Ps. 23:4). The long shadow of our last enemy ever lingers near the paths we walk, but we have the assurance of Christ who proclaimed, “I am the Light of the world. He that walks with Me walks not in darkness” (John 8:12). His Light shines brightly in our darkest night and guides us in all of life and, as well, as we travel beyond the veil of time. O, what a Savior.

While I will anxiously await the report from my blood work following my doctor visit, I will trust and not be afraid, for because of His shed blood on my behalf on Calvary’s Hill I have already received the greatest healing of all, the greatest gift of all – spiritual healing from my trespasses and sins. I may answer the phone with a paradoxical calm yet trembling hand, listening intently as the doctor tells me the results; but the Rock I confidently stand upon will never tremble.

Bet you can’t guess what I want for Christmas!

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

THE LORD IS FAITHFUL

On June 13, it will be a year. It is hard to believe a year has passed since I got that dreaded phone call. It’s a phone call I will never forget. It was 6 p.m. My wife and I had just sat down to eat supper. I had only taken a few bites. The WXII news was coming on the TV…and then the phone rang. The news of the world had to be put on hold as I awaited news regarding myself. The phone rang one more time before I could answer it, but I instinctively knew who was calling.LordFaithful

On Monday, June 10, 2013, I had a biopsy to determine if I had prostate cancer or not. The doctor said he would call when the results came back. While only three days went by before the doctor called with the results, each passing hour of those three days was filled with anxious anxiety. I nervously said, “Hello.” The doctor didn’t mince words, he got right to the point. “Rev. Merritt,” he said, “I wish I had better news for you but of the twelve samples we took nine came back cancer.” My heart sank as I listened in disbelieve. I had no symptoms of any kind that would suggest such a diagnosis. I thought to myself, “Surely he has gotten my samples mixed up with someone else.” Even in bad news there was some good news, as the doctor added, “We have caught this very early, your prognosis is better than 90% recovery rate. We will sit down and look at what your best options are.”

I honestly cannot remember much of what else was said because I was numb from what I had been told. I wasn’t the first person to receive news like this and I certainly won’t be the last, but when it is you receiving the news that puts a different perspective on the situation. As I slowly hung-up the phone I tried to explain to my wife, as best as I could remember, what he had said. We both sat in stunned silence. I tried to finish my supper but my appetite had vanished like a leaf in a wind storm. The thoughts in my mind were twirling faster than a mid-west tornado. Over the years my phone has rung thousands of times, yet that phone call turned my world upside down and put me on a path of uncertainty.

For the next eight weeks my time was spent reading everything I could read on prostate cancer, talking to men who had traveled this same road, visiting several doctors discussing my best options, and finding shelter under the Wings of Christ and in the Words of Christ. I would be less than honest if I didn’t confess that there were many anxious and fearful days. There were times I felt like a trembling cat treed by a big bad barking dog. There were times I got by myself and wept. Our God wept through human eyes (John 11:35) so tears are a language He understands. Through it all the Lord was/is faithful (I Thes. 5:24; 2 Thes. 3:3) and His sustaining strength and grace was/is ever present.

After much prayer and consulting wise doctors, which I was so blessed to have, it was decided my best option was to take 43 radiation treatments. They began on Sept 10 and ended on November 7. There were times I thought they would never end, but “this too shall pass.” When my treatments started my PSA was 6.4. A month after my treatments ended my first check-up revealed my PSA had been cut in half to 3.1. Three months later, in March, I had my second check-up and it had been cut in over half again to 1.3. The goal is to get it under 1 by November. My next check-up is in July. I am praying that the goal will have been reached by then. I realize I will have to have check-ups the rest of my life. But that is ok.

It has been a year now since I got that shocking phone call and I am here to tell you, the LORD IS FAITHFUL. He has been with me every uncertain step I have taken. His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us is true. That He is a Shelter in times of storms is true. That He is our Certainty in uncertain times is true. That He is an Anchor when the ship of life is being tossed about is true. That He is a Rock that never trembles when we are trembling is true. That He who is the Prince of Peace is able to speak peace to the troubled waters of our souls is true. That He is our Foundation when we feel like we are sinking in quicksand is true. That He is our Strength when we are weak is true. That He is our Burden-Bearer when the load is too heavy to carry is true. That He is our Wisdom when our minds are perplexed is true. That He is our Great Physician when sickness invades our lives is true. That He is our Rest when our soul is restless is true. That He is our Courage when we are cowards is true. That He is our Light in our darkest hour is true. That He is our Way when we can’t see the way is true. That He is the All-Sufficient One when our sufficiency is lacking is true. That He is the Great I Am who is in the present tense of our every circumstance is true. Yes, the Lord is faithful.

We never know when that life-altering phone call or knock at the door will come. But I can assure you when you answer the phone He already knows the contents of the message you are about to hear. I can assure you when you answer that knock at the door He already knows who stands on the other side and why they are there. We can always be assured He is there no matter what we are confronted with or what we go through. He is there and that makes all the difference in the world, in eternity…and in our lives.

The Lord He is faithful.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan