Authentic Christian Experience

“When we learn to read the Story of Jesus and see it as the Story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves – that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is the heart of authentic Christian experience.”

~ N. T. Wright

Chemotherapy

One down, fifteen to go.

Carrie-Anne endured her first round of chemo yesterday at the Allison Cancer Center here in Midland and I’m posting here mainly to keep everybody up to speed with her treatments. I don’t really have any deep theological thoughts on this thing yet. We’re flooding Carrie-Anne’s blood and bones and organs with a mix of poisons that kills all fast-growing cells – the healthy ones and the harmful ones, the cancer cells that are hurting her body and the normal cells that are supposed to grow quickly – in the hopes that the cancer cells will die and never come back and her good cells will withstand the torture and be okay. Naturally, we’ve got mixed feelings about all that. It’s troubling and complicated.

The first infusion was set to last 90-minutes, but it’s not just sitting in a chair and watching the clock. We’re using what are called “Cold Caps” during her treatments in an effort to save her hair. The caps are made out of a weird gel that must be kept at 35-degrees below zero and tightened onto her scalp with a series of Velcro straps. So on the morning of the treatment, I wheel my Igloo ice chest into the Market Street grocery store, load up with 50-pounds of dry ice, and pack the caps inside. During her treatment, we change out the caps every 25-minutes and continue it for five hours at home after the infusion. On top of that, we’re also rotating frozen gloves and slippers – not quite as cold as the caps – every 30-minutes in an attempt to save her fingernails and toenails. Needless to say, there is no relaxing during the chemo. We roll two ice-chests, an electric blanket, and a whole duffel bag full of accessories into the fusion room, set up shop, and work hard together for a little over two hours. It takes almost five minutes to get a cap out of the ice chest and onto her head, five minutes to get the cap off her head and repacked and, during the fifteen minutes while she’s wearing the cap, I’m rotating out the gloves and slippers. It got easier and better as we went along, but it was a stressful couple hours. More math.

Twenty minutes into the chemotherapy, Carrie-Anne did have a scary reaction. She began experiencing severe chest pains and couldn’t take a deep breath. She described it as stabbing pains through her chest and into her back, through her entire body, and she wasn’t breathing very well. They stopped the infusion, checked her vitals, and shot some steroids into her port. Her oxygen levels and pulse stayed good through the whole thing, but it was a little scary. They contacted our oncologist, gave her Benadryl and Pepcid through her port, waited about 20-minutes, and began the chemo again at a slower pace. Things calmed down, we finished out, and got home at 1:00 in the afternoon.

So far, she’s handled the whole thing really well. No nausea, no pains, no bone soreness. She slept almost ten hours last night and feels a little tired and run down this morning, but she seems to have come through okay. The encouraging thing is that the first treatment is supposed to be the most difficult one. Her body will supposedly get used to these treatments over the coming Fridays and each one will be easier. If that’s the case, we’re in really good shape.

We feel like we’re in really good hands with Texas Oncology and we’re overall very confident in the plan. Earlier this week, Carrie-Anne and I had a serious conversation about going forward with the chemo and came to the quick conclusion that it’s silly to talk about second opinions. We’re with M.D. Anderson! Who are we going to call? We’re also trying to temper our expectations with the hair. The results are mixed and the medical opinions are varied as to the effectiveness of these Cold Caps. If it works, if she only loses 30-percent of her hair, which is the goal, then it will have been worth it. If she loses her hair, we will know we did everything we could to save it. And it will grow back. It always grows back. They can’t guarantee it’ll grow back the same color, but it will grow back.

And, again, we are overwhelmed by the love and generosity we are receiving from our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. Our church family at GCR is simply unbelievable in blowing way past our expectations as they take care of my wife. Food, cards, phone calls, flowers, texts, visits, prayers – it’s over the top. We’re hearing from Amarillo, Mesquite, Fort Worth, and Marble Falls; we feel so much love and are so grateful to God for the wonderful friends he’s given us over so many years.

By God’s grace, we’re in a good place today. Thank you for your love for my wife and our family.

Peace,

Allan

Less Moore is the Same

Dallas Cowboys, OC Kellen Moore mutually agree to part ways

The Cowboys “mutually” parting ways with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore tells me Jerry Wayne has given Mike McCarthy one more year to get Dallas over the divisional playoff hump and if McCarthy is going down, he’s going to go down swinging and calling his own plays. McCarthy’s oversized play sheet isn’t just a coaching prop anymore, he’s actually going to be calling each play for the Cowboys offense starting this next season. Which means… what?

Nothing.

I can’t imagine Moore was doing anything the past three seasons that McCarthy didn’t ultimately approve. If anything, not having Moore on the sidelines might mean more double reverses and more going for it on 4th and two from their own 30-yard line and more two-point attempts to tie a game in the second quarter.

At the very least, it’ll be the same.

The change that needs to take place is with the coach in the owner’s box. I haven’t seen this addressed anywhere since it happened, but immediately following the Wild Card win in Tampa Bay,  Jerry Wayne told reporters in the locker room that he and Mike McCarthy were in agreement all week that Dak needed to win the game for the Cowboys. Dak had to have a great game. He and Mike agreed on that. Then Jerry said he had a talk with Dak right before the game. He told Dak he had to be aggressive on every play. “Don’t be anything less than aggressive.”

That’s a problem.

Aggressive means zipping the ball into double-coverage over the middle or forcing an out route off your back foot when you’re under pressure. It means interceptions. Aggressive doesn’t work with Dak. Did Jerry’s advice go against what McCarthy and Moore were telling him? I don’t know! We’ll never know! But Jerry personally coaching the quarterback on the field minutes before kickoff is a problem that’s not going away.

McCarthy won a Super Bowl a long time ago with Aaron Rodgers in his prime. Dak is not Aaron Rodgers. And McCarthy is not Tom Landry as Jerry called him after the Tampa Bay win. And Jerry is not Clint Murchison. If Jerry were more like the other 31 NFL owners, things might be a little less interesting off the field, but a lot more interesting on it.

Kellen Moore has bolted for the Bolts in San Diego and an owner you can’t name and a generational talent at QB in Justin Herbert. McCarthy stays in Dallas. And so does Jerry. Which means nothing changes.

Peace,

Allan

The Thing

Nobody gets out of this life without going through a thing. Something unexpected that changes everything. Something hard. Something painful. Sickness. Loss. Betrayal. Divorce. Death. I’m certain you can look back at your life and tell me about the thing you went through. It might have happened a long time ago or you might still be in the middle of it, but everybody goes through a thing.

Carrie-Anne and I are in the thing right now.

My beautiful wife has an echocardiogram at Midland Memorial Hospital at 10:00 this morning and we have a mandatory Chemotherapy Orientation class at Texas Oncology this afternoon at 2:45. Tomorrow it’s blood work and a couple of other labs. She gets her port installed under her right collarbone on Wednesday. And then the first of her 16 chemotherapy infusions will be at the Allison Cancer Center here in Midland on Friday. Carrie-Anne will have an infusion every Friday for 12 weeks and then every other Friday for the last eight weeks. After that, a 92% chance we’ll never see the cancer again.

As I’ve said before, we are both committed to paying attention to our Lord together while we’re faithfully dealing with this thing. We want to hear what God is saying to us, we want to see what he’s trying to show us, we want to receive the gift he is giving us through this thing. We are trying, by God’s grace, to adopt the apostle’s attitude in 2 Corinthians:

“This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” ~2 Corinthians 1:9-10

The Scriptures say these tough times are to teach us, to show us, not to rely on ourselves, but on God. God is at work during this thing. He hasn’t abandoned us. He hasn’t left us. It’s not like God is on vacation and can’t see us until a week from Monday. He is near. He is with us. Where can we go to flee from his Spirit? Nowhere!

So, Carrie-Anne and I are really leaning into the formation zones right now. All four of them. We are reading and learning and listening to testimonials to continue gaining knowledge about breast cancer and its treatments and about how God has been powerfully at work through other cancer situations around us. We are fully engaged with our community of faith at GCR Church and all our Christian brothers and sisters in this congregation, and we are moving forward with our plans to start a new small group with Alan and Jo Douglas. Carrie-Anne and I are in Word and Prayer together every day. And we’re focused on ministering to others. We do not think it’s a coincidence that on two of our trips to M.D. Anderson, Ashleigh Reedy and her family were there at the same hospital at the same time.

The thing gets all of us. God is at work in the thing. And we need to pay attention.

It’s just life. And when life happens, we can wring our hands in despair and say, “I don’t know!” Or we can lift our hands to the Lord and exclaim, “God knows!” We can align our lives with Christ Jesus. We can say with Peter and the apostles, “Only you. Only you, Lord, have the words and the way to eternal life.”

God’s promise in Christ is that everything that’s broken is being fixed and everything that’s gone wrong is being made right. He has proved that promise in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Everything is being made perfect. You and your circumstance. You IN your circumstance.

The Holy Spirit says God will bring to completion the good thing he has started in you. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Amen.

Peace,

Allan

Losing Proposition

Some of these teenagers here at GCR Church are desperate to get me up front on a Sunday wearing a Dallas Cowboys tie. The problem is that they keep betting on the Cowboys, and that’s always a losing proposition.

The latest delusional young person to bet on the Cowboys with me is Graden McQueen. He’s about as hard core a Cowboys fan as anybody I’ve met not named Whitney. Graden approached me last Sunday with the wager. We negotiated the details and came to the agreement that if the Cowboys make it to the Super Bowl, I would wear a Cowboys tie on Super Bowl Sunday and if the Cowboys don’t make it to the Super Bowl, Graden would wear a t-shirt sporting the logo of the team that knocked them out.

It’s a sucker bet. But Cowboys fans are suckers.

Graden took it hook, line, and sinker.

When Dak threw his first interception against the Niners, I texted Graden’s dad, Marc. “Ask Graden what size t-shirt he wears.” About a minute later, I received the reply: “Graden responded with some trash talk that might get him grounded.”

Well, Graden made good on his bet today. He wore the ugly 49ers shirt I got him and he wore it well all through Bible class and our worship assembly. He’s a good sport and a great young man. And I think he enjoyed the attention a little more than he was supposed to.

Peace,

Allan

Yeast and Flour and New Creation

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is like…” And those listening to him thought, “Kingdom of God! Yes! Power! Force! Strength! Numbers! Asserting our rights! Finally getting our way!”

Jesus says, “No, the Kingdom of God is like a little old lady who mixes a little bit of yeast into some flour until the yeast has worked all through the dough.”

It’s not about taking something little and making it big. It’s not about mixing the two things equally together. It’s about taking the qualities of the yeast and encrypting them into the flour until the whole thing is changed. The whole thing becomes something brand new. New creation.

A little bit at a time. An act of grace here. An act of mercy there. Forgiveness in this situation. Sacrificial love in that circumstance. Service. Justice. Generosity. Subversive acts that disrupt and reverse the world around us until the world around us has completely changed. Until it’s totally different. That’s the Kingdom of God.

Peace,

Allan

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