Category Archives: Inspiration

Sabbath

Sabbath

Mention the word Sabbath to the average person. If he or she doesn’t give you a blank stare, he or she is most likely entertaining images of puritanical orthodoxy in his or her head, perhaps of quaintly dressed, old-fashioned Quakers or Mennonites.  True Sabbath observation in accordance with Biblical principles in our society is probably limited to a small devout group of Christians of less than 10%, more like 5%.

My Sabbath began with the requisite ferry trip across the river and the customary 40-minute drive to church with the obligatory stop at a local fast food restaurant for a chicken biscuit. The only difference this day was the ferry being bound by fog on the trip across the river. Not quite pea soup, but close, I endured a cold, damp—from the omnipresent moisture—ride. The brightest part of the trip was seeing a little brown and white Sheltie pup for the second time. Since I do not have his master’s or mistress’ permission to use his name in this blog, I’ll call him Winston. (An hommage to Winston Churchill.)  A cheerful, enthusiastic boy, he displayed none of the yappy, anxious characteristics I so often associate with that breed. The deck hands always have a dog biscuit for each canine passenger, today being no exception. My lucky, little tail-wagging friend got two! Perfectly content in his master’s arms, Winston never barked, not once. Just thinking back on the trip brings a smile to my lips.

I have observed the Sabbath from time to time, but I would venture to say that I haven’t done so faithfully for at least two years. Like most people, I have busied myself with all manner of projects and unburdened myself with a nap at the end of each Sunday, but I have not contemplated the Lord and his work as much as I have in the past. A not-so-subtle reminder of my Christian duties came this past Thursday, when I went to an evening presentation on the Sabbath by my friend and mentor, Pastor Eddie. Even though he was giving the presentation to the Methodist Women’s Group, I snuck in.  After all, I reasoned, no one had said that men were excluded from attending. He seemed genuinely glad for the moral support, as he mentioned twice, once while there and once in a post-event email. I commented to him in a subsequent email, “I’ve forgotten how nice it can be to have an evening chat with you!” To Pastor Eddie I owe my understanding of the book of Nehemiah, thanks to Bible study with him a few years ago.

I wholeheartedly agree with Pastor Eddie’s observation that our society would be better off if each of us took the Sabbath. Our families would be stronger, and we would be happier. We might even visit each other and have meals together, a novel thought in this day and age. Citing informal statistics, he noted that we’re killing ourselves with work.  Americans, in his estimation, are working harder and harder each year. If it’s not our boss at our back, we have the drive to make our children happy with the latest toy and to keep up with our neighbors through the acquisition of material possessions.  I’ll often buy something only to regret the acquisition later as happened once with a rather expensive camera I returned to the photography store. It took me hours to decide on this particular model. I brought it home, took it out of the box, messed with it for an hour and knew in my heart that I had made a dreadful mistake. On that gray winter’s day, I even lost time obsessing about the return. With the charge for the memory cards and the restocking fee, I suddenly found myself $400.00 poorer. Lesson learned. Ouch.

Driving home from Thursday’s lecture, I resolved to spend this Sabbath differently. First things first, I would forgo my usual Sunday evening mint julep. Although I enjoy mint juleps immensely—one, mind you—dispensing with one would help me focus on the Lord and lead to a more restful night. I would eat dinner at home and would also stay in with my cats, Raleigh and Georgia, spending more time with them, foregoing the temptation to eat out with friends who usually gather Sunday evenings at a local eatery. I would attend church in the morning, as is my custom, make my usual fast food lunch stop with favorite church friends and try not to make a grocery run on the way home. Once home, I would write this blog—if the Lord’s hand was in it.

Upon pulling into the driveway in my golf cart, I was amazed, as I often am on a Sunday afternoon, at how exhausted I suddenly felt. Maybe it was the trip, maybe it was the salt air, but after tending to the cat’s needs, litterboxes and food, I lay down on my bed and fell fast asleep. When I awoke, I still felt groggy, so I lay there on the bed concentrating on my state of mind. Was I ready to get up, or still sleepy? I don’t know how long I lay there reminding myself that if the cats were happy, I had no reason to arise, not Facebook, not Twitter, not even the blog would get me out of bed. I don’t know how long I rested motionless, drifting in and out of consciousness. I most definitely felt as if I needed to lie there, so I did, pushing disturbing thoughts and frenetic preoccupations out of my mind. I wanted to write a friend who needed some cheer, but not tonight. Dinner would be a Jersey Mike’s turkey sub with extra turkey and extra cheese, so I needn’t have worried about dinner. Georgia, my almost chocolate-point Siamese cat, slept at the foot of the bed on her favorite pedestal, while Raleigh, my tabby-Maine Coon mix, quite unusually, lay down the hall, serenity and contentment the order of the afternoon.

Christmas has long since come and gone, but yours truly still sports a tree in the dinning room, complete with gorgeous decorations collected by my sister and my friends and miniature white lights, along with a fully set Christmas dinner table of Spode® china. It looked so beautiful when we first set it up, I asked my housekeeper to leave everything in place until the beginning of February. We’re a bit late, as you might observe. The island can be so dreary this time of year—what’s wrong with a bit of Christmas cheer?

Surveying this scene by the light of a single large, green Christmas candle from my place setting at the head of the table, I focused on a simple red, green and white Christmas card that a friend had given me. With its profound message, I had placed it at my setting throughout the Christmas season: “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) Perfect for Sabbath contemplations. God is surely in control, as many have often opined. At the other end of the table, perched on a small empty silver chest, is a rustic cross created from the last wood to come from my dad’s farm. Daily reminded of Christ’s sacrifice by it, I caught a glimpse just before coming downstairs to write this blog.

So, there you have my first Sabbath in a long time.  Nothing spectacular: just a friendly Sheltie dog, church, two blissfully happy, rescued formerly feral cats, a thoughtfully trimmed Christmas tree, a fully set table, a Christmas card, a rugged wooden cross, and my blog. I marvel though: like Winston, having passed the Sabbath in the manner in which I did, I am “perfectly content in {my] Master’s arms.”

Sandman

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Photo credit: Joseph Thomas Photography/Shutterstock

 

Photo credit at top of page: Jerry Wait

 

Advice to My Son….

Still thinking about Father’s Day….

Beating to windward! Ah, how I love that point of sail! Ah, how I love that phrase!  Actually, I love all points of sail;  each has its own rhythm, its own disciplines. To be sure, it is a rhythm with which you must learn to be in sync, and you must adhere to the disciplines or you will betray your course. I’ve been sailing since I was 14, even before that, but at 14, my friend Chris and a few other contemporaries–instructors–who were way ahead of me, made sure that I knew how to handle the helm.  I never was much of a racer, but I have a life-long love of sailing thanks to the Yacht Club at Point O’Woods. 

If you’ve read my post, “Advice to My Daughter,” you know that I do not have a daughter. Well, most unfortunately, I do not have a son either.   About the closest I can come to a son is my young friend Sean, whose career I have followed since he rode his bicycle from the next town over many years ago to mow my lawn.  I have tried not to drown him in advice. Thankfully, he had a dad, a wonderful one at that, who taught him all kinds of practical knowledge, in addition to what I would call the Christian basics. Sean is as bright a young man, as worldly smart as any, but he can also tear apart a car and rebuild it in a manner befitting the best racing mechanics on the track. 

If I had a son, what would I teach him?  If I only had two pieces of advice to give, well, they would probably be “love your neighbor and “love the Lord with all your heart.” Beyond those biblical missives, “learn to sail and get a boat” would surely follow. “Start with a small one you can handle and work your way up to a cruising sailboat. I’ll teach you what I know, and we can fill out the rest of your education with sailing courses, if need be.” My first boat was a Sunfish, my second and last, a 35 foot Catalina sloop.  What a jump!  You cannot “strike a match on a buoy in a 35 foot sloop,” I admonished my cousin Robert during one sail. The Sunfish belonged to my brother Brian, and I bought the Catalina 350 myself. Between ownership of those two of hulls, I assiduously avoided doing what I loved, sailing. Early on, I practiced on Cape Cod Mercuries, fooled around on Thistles and even crewed aboard a graceful Zephyr and Narrasketuck or two.  The latter two boats will take you back in time….

“Sailing and maintaining your own boat will teach you just about every skill you need to advance in life, especially if you own one big enough to invite others aboard, either as passengers or crew.”

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Photo credit: cdrin/Shutterstock

That’s what I would tell my boy, if I had one. Continuing on: 

“Sailboats require work.” You cannot just turn on the engine, point the bow and and run from point A to point B as power boats do.  If the wind is in your favor going out, it will be against you coming back, unless it changes during the day. The same is true for the tide. “If the wind and wave oppose, you’ll get the heck beaten out of you. So, you have to plan your trip.” 

“Your crew can turn a pleasant sail into hell on the water.” Not everyone likes to sail. “I don’t like it when it tips,” is a sentence I have heard many a trip. No matter how I tried, I could never convince some reluctant crew members that we weren’t going over. He or she had apparently never been exposed to a pendulum. I had a girl I was dating who actually thought we were not going to make it under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge when she spied it from our location off Ellis Island. Despite the fact that I assured her I had been underneath at least 100 times, she just wouldn’t take my word for it! Choose the wrong person or people, and you are in for a miserable day, morning, afternoon or evening.  “As captain, you learn quickly who can be trusted, who is lazy, selfish or short of patience. You learn who has a Napoleon complex, who thinks he or she is a better sailor.  As captain, you learn to forgive and who forgives.”   In all the time I sailed aboard my boat, I only had to put two people off, one bi-polar young lady (I decided she had to go), and the other–let’s just say– he decided to return to shore of his own volition. With his USCG license, he outranked me, and I wasn’t slavishly taking his direction aboard my boat. It was clear, however, that neither person had the respect for the captain, the boat or for the other crew I had aboard, and this was a situation I couldn’t tolerate. “You don’t have time for people who don’t respect you.” 

“As captain, USCG licensed or not, you are responsible for the safety of your boat and your crew at all times. If you don’t want to be in charge and take the risk, you shouldn’t be captain. If you want to be crew, be crew.  No shame in crewing, but make yourself invaluable.” Captains don’t have it easy.  Twenty-four-seven responsibility is the reason, I never drank a drop of alcohol when I was at the helm. I also watched the amount of alcohol my crew consumed, if they drank at all. (Two beer limit over an afternoon.)  Most drank nothing, as I kept them busy trimming the jib or main.  “If you want to find out what someone is made of, teach them a skill and give them a job.” I would share the wheel frequently. “A drunk crew is useless in an emergency and might even create one. Forget about drugs.” If you strike a match aboard my boat, it better be to light a barbecue grill.  Stoners never boarded my boat. If someone was feeling seasick or uneasy, I would turn to him or her and say, “I’m not feeling that well myself, you had better take the wheel.”  You would be amazed how well people responded. “Challenge your crew; give them a reason to be aboard.”  Thank you Ernie McVey.  (it’s been a long time. Hope I got your name right.) 

“Finally, the boat itself must be well-provisioned and kept in great shape, since there are no pit-stops at sea. You have to learn to make do with what you have.” From hardware to provisions, you had better have planned ahead.  You cannot repair engines and your boat with tools and hardware you don’t have, and you cannot dine on what you didn’t bring.   Fire extinguishers are a must. I have put out two fires in my life, and one was aboard my boat.  Quick thinking and actions by me and Captain Harris who helped me sail her from North Carolina to New Jersey saved us from having a smoldering tachometer turn into a raging inferno. Great team effort. (Floating fiberglass hulks that have burned to the waterline are not a pretty sight.) As luck and planing on my part would have it, I happened to have the exact replacement part aboard. (The tachometer hadn’t been operating correctly before the trip.  Something told me I needed to have a spare.) We were able to make it to port where timely repairs could be made. “The right tool in your toolbox is vital.”  If I reached for a tool on my boat to find that I didn’t have it, the next trip out I would have whatever it was stowed safely below. 

“You learn so much about yourself–what makes you tick, and about your crew, when you sail. Every day–fair weather or foul–can be a learning experience.”  This is why I have always loved sailing.  The wind and the waves can be unpredictable and unforgiving at times.  “Much like life, you have to be practical, and have to rely upon common sense honed by experience.” Electronics can help you, but they cannot save you if you don’t know what you are doing.  “Men have been sailing for thousands of years. Learn a bit of the wisdom they knew.” In a gale, or a bad storm, you can lose your boat, a limb or even your life, not to mention the lives of your crew, if you are not careful.  “Prepare and prepare, but you still learn your most valuable lessons through trial and error.” Hopefully, your trials and your errors won’t cost you too much.  Ask me about dislocating my left shoulder sometime.  I would chance dislocating the other one for one more opportunity to sail aboard my Catalina. 

For the love of the sailing–to me the essence of freedom–you learn and you challenge yourself.  You sail day in and day out regardless of weather in hope of the gentle zephyrs gracing your boat.  Ah zephyrs….

Sandman

P. S.  Begun in June, I am still not sure this is ready for prime time.

 

(Photo credit – top of page Sailing Yacht: Cameris/Shutterstock)

 

 

 

 

Advice to my Daughter

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Winston Churchill

Happy Father’s Day to all! Thought I might write a little about my father, but perhaps that’s a book and not a blog….While the rest of the world is celebrating Father’s
Day, I have been thinking….

Not being a father, I don’t have a daughter, but if I did, and if I only had one thought with which I could leave her, it would probably be this: “Always remember: You are the prize. If a man doesn’t realize this, then he doesn’t need to be in your life.” Over the course of my wanderings in life, I’ve run into so many women who, for whatever reason, are broken, chronically broken-hearted, recovering from a series of horrendous relationships.  To start, somehow, each one came away from her family with such low self-esteem. The very thought makes my head spin.  All of them are beautiful, inside and out. Aside from a rocky start, many have found the wrong man along the way — some regrettably more than once — and each accordingly has suffered and is suffering mightily. Low self-esteem—unless one is vigilant—is like gout; it never really goes away and can flare up disablingly under the worst circumstances. 

If I had her attention, I might go on to say this:

You are not ugly. You— darling one— are beautiful, so very beautiful!  Your mother and I celebrated the day you came into this world.  You are not a faddish cell phone to be carelessly tossed out at the earliest opportunity in favor of a newer, shinier, younger model. You’re not, forgive me, a what my father delicately referred to as “a lady of the evening,” —a woman who sleeps with a man for money, status or power — perhaps all three. Cherish your many God-given gifts and do not share them with just any man. Make a man prove himself to you, prove that he is worthy of your love, your time and your affection. You—dear one—are the gift. 

You are, quite simply, a divinely-inspired gift from God. He was proud of His creation when he made you, and he gave you to the world to be unwrapped as the precious gift that you are.

Honor your Father in heaven by the way that you behave. Glorify Him in the way you comport yourself, most especially, in your choice of a mate, and let your mate do the same with you.  Your mother and I will always be here for you, as long as God gives us breath and life. We have faith in you. You will make the right choices.  When you are unsure seek, first and foremost, your Father’s counsel. His wisdom— ageless and unfaltering— will serve you well. 

God bless you,

Sandman

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Photo credit: David Porras/Shutterstock)

 

(Photo credit at top of page- Rose: Maglara/Shutterstock)

What If?

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Photo credit: Artit Fongfung/Shutterstock

God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’

Billy Graham

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Photo credit: Merlin Halteman/Shutterstock

What if you one day found yourself alone? What if—through no fault of your own—the family you were raised in drew away from you? What if your nieces and nephews, or your grandchildren, were too busy with their own lives to take the time to visit you, or even to call? What if no cards came from them at Christmas? What if all those friends who promised always to be there for you were too far away or too busy to spend an afternoon on your porch, share a meal, or to visit your house?  (Imagine a table for eight with seven perpetually empty spaces.) What if you couldn’t get to church because the weather was too bad, the snow was too deep, or you were too sick with a cold or the flu to risk exposing the congregation? What if you—despite your best efforts—always found yourself alone on every major holiday, every Easter, every Labor Day, every Christmas, and every New Year’s day, often even in a room full of people, friends and acquaintances? What if you were a Christian in an increasingly secular world? What if you suffered the soft bigotry of disassociation? What if the only other voice you heard in a single day was your own echo? What if every rock of your life suddenly turned to sand? What if your walk in life was a solitary one?

What would you do? From whom and from what would you draw the strength to get out of bed in the morning?  Whose hand would take yours every day, especially when you needed a reassuring grip? Who would listen to your troubles, joys, your blessings, your stories? Who would tell you some of his own? Who would keep your daily company?

On this Easter, I reflect upon the many millions of people who find themselves in this situation—so distant from their fellow man. Modern life, with its abundant distractions:  iPhones, iPads, headphones, podcasts, radio, and television, has almost perfectly engineered a pallid, prison-less solitary confinement.  I can experience it any day and every day, and I watch as others do the same.  No one, it seems, has time to talk, to be a true friend. I wonder sometimes if true friendship is a fanciful conception one outgrows in one’s childhood, at best by the time one graduates from college. I guess I didn’t. 

Rough and tumble from time to time, growing up at the beach on Fire Island in the summers, suburbia and a great big farm in the woods of Bucks County (The Farm) in the winters, Huckleberry Finn was my hero. I lost myself in Sunken Forest, the fields, woods and streams of the Farm. The kids with whom I attended grade school with were always eager for adventures—we always were—and they didn’t leave me behind, even when I came back from surgery.  No, they wheeled me all over town that day, so much so that my casts created quite a rash that evening. My best friend still is one from grade school Imagine that!  Hank, I have known him since I was five years old.  

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Photo credit: Vasilyev Alexandr/Shutterstock

In ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had.

Mark Twain

About to crash land into 60 years of age, I have so many elderly friends, men and women at least twenty years my senior to whom I have reached out and who have reached out to me for companionship, comradeship, kinship. I find it curious the average age of my friends is in the neighborhood of 75. Perhaps it has to do with complete acceptance of each other as we truly are. After all, it’s a bit late to stand on the youthful stage of pretense. Some can barely stand at all. Some are bedridden, delicately, ever so delicately crossing into their late 90s, some trundle along at church with canes and walkers. All have the most interesting, poignant, sometimes sorrowful, assuredly engaging life stories, especially the veterans, if one takes the time to listen. Listen.  Time to reflect and listen, truly listen. I am so grateful to each of them for what they have taught me along the way.  When one of them passes, as unfortunately happens from time to time, I erase his or her earthly address from my Outlook contacts and replace it with Heaven. Why not? I am quite sure not a one of them will not be there.

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Photo credit: allstars/Shutterstock

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.
-Doug Larson

On this fine Easter morning—one so sunlit blue, bright and refreshing that I have the true feeling of spring—I reflect, as I think of the cardinals whom I spy daily all over this island, as I listen to their songs: I think of our risen savior, Jesus Christ, who gave his life that we might have eternal life. Has He not been my companion throughout my life? Has he not made himself known to each of my elderly friends? I reflect upon Christ’s lonely, agonizing journey to the cross, one burdened with the foreknowledge of the Hell He would have to endure on our behalf. Most of all, I reflect upon His precious gift to us, to each of us. He gave his life for you, for me: John 15:13 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

Just like my swift-winged friend the cardinal—a bird I have loved all my life—Jesus accompanies me daily and He has been with me throughout my journey, even in the depths of crushing despair.  So, on those mornings when I find myself alone, which is most of them, I reflect upon Jesus gift to me, the meaning of His life, His wisdom. His song.  Rather than immerse myself in self-pity, I understand I must reflect and listen. The drama of the cross occurred 2000 years ago; although its portent resonates throughout the ages, to find Christ in this cacophony one must quiet oneself.  Jesus is surely with me now, but He is quiet, discreet, unobtrusive: To see him, to hear him, I must reflect and listen. He might draw my attention to him with a cardinal’s flight or melodious song, but to hear it I must listen. 

Sandman

 

 

Kindness

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

Mark Twain

I routinely go up to the altar to pray in church after I have listened to Pastor Eddie’s sermon and as the congregation is signing the last hymn. I use the time to pray for family and friends, Pastor Eddie, and the congregation, as well as to confess sins and ask the Lord for forgiveness. Often, my confessions and prayers lead to tears, as they did today. I am not embarrassed about my frailty in the moment; it is cathartic. I let the Lord lead me, as I did this afternoon.

For the past few months, I have been walking up to the altar feeling an uncomfortable weakness in my legs, a result, I am sure, of my having sat too long—months at a time—and exercised too little, not daily as I should have. Others may not notice it, but I feel it most definitely. My footfalls are increasingly tentative. Time will tell if I can rebuild my strength. For now, I will leave the situation in the Lord’s hands.

As I was walking up to the altar this afternoon, a bright young lady—in all senses of the word— arose from one of the pews across the aisle with the same idea in mind that I had. For whatever reason, she wished to take my hand and to travel as a pair until it was time to kneel. At first, I was taken aback by this most unexpected gesture on her part, not knowing what to make of it. I knew it wasn’t a romantic gesture as much as a courtly one. Be that as it may, the epitome of kindness will forever be represented in my mind by her simple desire to take my hand at that moment.  I will forever remember her smile and the contagious joy she radiated.

Sandman’s Fifth Rule of Chivalry: If pretty girl takes your hand, let her. (I’ll pass on the first four rules, as soon as I have written them down.)

Unbeknownst to her, I had wrestled with feelings of abject loneliness throughout the night, spinning in my bed from side to side all night long with Raleigh to the right of me and Georgia on a pedestal at the foot of my bed. Both cats, it seemed, were doing their level best to make sure that I knew they needed me. To be clear, this feeling wasn’t despondency, nor even close to what Pastor Eddie refers to as “the dark night of the soul.”  I just have to feel, and if I do, I am going to feel with an intensity which scares most, but not me.  I am glad I do. Feeling even profound sadness proves to me that I am still very much alive, and that I have a soul.

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Photo credit: salmon-negro/Shutterstock

As the day began, I honestly didn’t know how I was going to make it through church without falling asleep during the sermon—as I had embarrassingly done last week.  Throughout the service, I sipped some iced tea, hoping the caffeine would provide enough of a lift to get me through to the end. Thankfully, our church secretary had asked me to read scripture, Mark 14: 32-42, and the fear of wanting to do it well also contributed to keeping me awake. (You can Google the scripture.)

I was struck by this beautiful young lady’s kindness toward me this afternoon, and I have thought about what she did ever since I left church. She made my day a happy and fulfilling one by shifting my focus. The first thing I wanted to do after church, if I had the chance, was to thank her, which I did.

How often do we go through our days so wrapped up in our own lives that we never stop to be kind to someone whom we don’t know or don’t know well enough?  How often do we bless others with our words and actions?

Thank you, my dear friend, for bringing joy to my heart today.

Sandman

 

(Photo credit at op of page-holding hands: lightpost/Shutterstock)

Cancer

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Photo credit: Digital Storm/Shutterstock

“Cancer.” No one likes to hear that word, unless it is followed by the words “You are cured.” Or, “Your cancer is in remission.”  In early December, I heard that word. Cancer. The word struck me with a fear greater perhaps than the deadly power of the disease itself. A veteran of many surgeries over the course of my life, I have learned that I am only granted a reprieve between the last one and the next one. The first one occurred the day that I was born, saving my life and making sure that my parents had a family of four and not a family of three. Since then, I have had twelve. I think the number is high, but those who deal with burns will tell you that it is nothing. The same for war wounds.  I humble myself before these brave souls.

Apparently, or so the doctors thought, I had what appeared to be a cyst in my right kidney that could have been cancer. The doctors proceeded along the line that it was cancer. The thought was that a portion of my kidney would probably have to come out, or even the whole kidney, even if it were not cancer. I also had something going on in the left kidney, but it was too small to be a problem at the moment. After the initial shock, about 24 hours, I asked “Why me?” After all I have been through in my life—all the surgeries—four alone on my back, the Lord had me wondering. As I wondered, I could feel myself becoming angrier and angrier. Angry with God. I wasn’t quite at the state of disbelief in Him, but I was angry at God. Furious with the Lord. Not a good place to be. I had to let my work go that week. I just could not concentrate—not on work, not on anything: “How long do I have? Will I die soon? Does anyone care? Do I care?”  I seriously had thought I would never get cancer. Friends have died from it. Two of my uncles died from it. My father died of cancer; others in my family had had it, but surely I would be spared, or so I thought. Vanity.

Struggling that week just to put one foot in front of the other—making sure that only a select few people knew until I was ready to tell the world—I spent time looking around at all my books and thinking I should start giving them away. Giving everything away! By Saturday of that week, I had had enough. Suddenly remorselessly fatalistic, resigned to fate, I had given up. “If the Lord wants me, he should take me.” That is what I growled to my brother. “Would I go to church that Sunday? Would it matter?” God had let me down. Thirteen surgeries later, I felt I had kept my end of the bargain, entering every one thinking it would help me, make me well, restore my freedom of movement, improve my vision, just to name a few of the goals. Saturday night I went to bed depressed, despondent, ragefully angry, and furious.  It didn’t keep me from sleeping, but church would be a wait and see for me.

Rising that morning, I resolved I would attend, because I had nothing else. What would I do instead? Sleep in with the cats? Go to a mediocre brunch, sit by myself and think about how long I had? Church, I resolved, church it would be. Good to see my friends there. Always the tonic of laughter around the table at Hardee’s. Good to see Pastor Eddie, maybe ask for a healing. Prayer warriors would pray over me, as Pastor Eddie would make a moist cross on my forehead by dipping his finger in water from the Jordan River mixed with Brunswick Country water. I had been a prayer warrior for others confronting cancer—seen their lives extended—now I would be the one to be prayed for. “You must get up and go.”

Once aboard the ferry, I sat down to read the morning’s tweets on Twitter, something I do daily, looking for headlines upon which to follow up, if need be. If it wasn’t a tweet by Thomas Sowell, then it was within the first three tweets. I think it was the first. Franklin Graham had posted Mark 4:37-41. Here it is for the uninitiated:

Mark 4:37-41King James Version (KJV):

37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.  38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?  39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?  41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?  

Reading this tweet, here I was sitting aboard this ferry on the upper deck directly behind the pilot house—crossing the Cape Fear— its normally wavy waters motionless as a mill pond. As a looked over the starboard rail on the lower deck back toward the island at the stillness before me, I realized that my storm had passed; my blind rage had ended: Here was Jesus saying, “[H]ow is it that ye have no faith?” The Lord reassured me in the tranquility of the morning, just as Jesus had done with his disciples. Was I not one of His disciples? To be sure, He wasn’t saying, “Sandy, you have been spared” No, He was saying, “I am with you.” Reassurance full of fortitude with a divine healing power all its own.  My great friend Joe has reminded me of this in the midst of my diagnosis

Joshua 1:9 King James Version (KJV):

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

So, as we entered the marina, I felt a new sense of assurance, resolve and determination, knowing that whatever lay ahead in this life’s journey, my Lord had once again shown Himself to be true to me, as He always has. It was I who had—once again—foolishly doubted Him.

My wondrous friend Billie had long ago introduced me to this Bible verse from Ephesians:

Ephesians 6:10-18 King James Version (KJV):

 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, at ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;  15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:  18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints[.]

She expressed her feelings this way on that particular morning five years ago: “Every day when I get up, I like to put on the armor of God.” Profound then. Profound now. Was this crossing under the watchful eye of the Lord not arming me for the battle ahead?  To rousing applause, I opined as much in church later that morning. “Armour of God.”

As I felt Pastor Eddie’s calming finger form a cross on my forehead and all the love and prayers of my friends and fellow parishioners surround me that Sunday, I was glad that I had not given in to my misdirected rage and self-pity the night before. Whatever this life had in store for me, I would face this cancer challenge with renewed strength, courage and wisdom. 

My family and most of my friends know the good news by now, shared via a post elsewhere, but for those who are wondering, I include a portion of it here:

[Eighteen] days ago, I had it confirmed to me for the second time that I do not have cancer. This gives me more time to do the Lord’s work, and that is exactly what I intend to do. I don’t care if I am one[,] and the only one, I will fight for this amazing God whom I serve until I can fight no more. I have fought so many battles in my life and struggled to survive. I won this one, but will ultimately lose, as will we all. Vanity makes you think you have time. As we begin our journeys into old age, I leave you with these words from John Wesley [first taught to me at the close of a church service by my mentor, pastor and friend] Eddie Hill:

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
― John Wesley

Blessings to all,

Sandman

(Photo credit-top of page-Sailing: cdrin/Shutterstock