"It is well. It is well with my soul!"
"It is well. It is well with my soul!"
OUR PRAYER WARRIORS
Principal: Anything that causes you to take your eyes off the truth, Jesus, is spiritual warfare.
One thing I promised to do was to blog and share my experience so others could walk with me and with the Lord. As you can see, I jumped from day 3 to day 7 and now want to go back and explain what happened to 4,5 & 6.
On the eve of the 4th day, I wrote out a blog I planned to publish the next day. Little did I know that it would be the start of one of the most significant and most powerful spiritual attacks I had ever experienced. The attack was so strong that it kept me up most of the night wrestling with God. I wanted answers. My main question was, “Why?”
I am sure I am not alone in asking why? Surely, each of us at one-point in our lives has asked the question without an explanation. I was sure my question fell on deaf ears. There seemed to be no explanation. I was convinced that my God did not hear me, that he was not going to heal me, and that he was not willing. Satan had gotten into my head.
John 10:10 tells us, “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; but I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Thursday morning came and I was scheduled for radiation at 8:55. I was incredibly agitated. I was tired and worn out from wrestling with God all night. Nothing had been resolved. I was convinced that my very presence at MD Anderson proved my lack of faith in God to heal me. How could I put my faith in science when the God I knew could take it away instantaneously?
At 7:20 that morning, I talked with Stephanie. I told her that I was trying to discern God’s will and His method of delivery regarding my healing. I told her that my faith in Jesus, led me to believe I had been healed, not would be healed. I asked her, “Is my faith not enough?” I went on to say, “What if, as much faith as I believe I have, it falls short and is not even as big as a mustard seed?”
Matthew 17:20 tell us, “… Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
I told Stephanie that, it was the "what if" that made me want to leave MD Anderson and go home. In a way, I wanted to test God. Was he faithful or not? If I believed I was healed then why stay, why not just go home now. I told her that my presence was nothing more than a lack of faith and I was not going to radiation. I decided I was packing up our car and heading back to Oklahoma, because my God was the great healer and this was not where I was supposed to be. The underlying question was, “Am I even supposed to use science to extend my life and if so, at what cost? I thought, I would rather die than subject myself to this treatment.
Stephanie immediately prayed over me. I told her not to, that my mind was made up. She prayed anyway. We cried. Her heart was broken. After the prayer, she asked me to go. I told her that I would go today for her, but that we were leaving tomorrow.
I went to radiation at the request of Stephanie. For the first time, I did not ask to listen to contemporary Christian music and I did not pray during the procedure. I was only doing it for her. It was a task and I wanted out of it as fast as possible. I was not by any stretch of the imagination, still, which I had been up to this point. I was done and I was out of here. So, I thought!
My treatment was over by 9:10.
At 9:09, while I was in treatment, I received this message from Pastor Danny Duran.
Today's going to be a great day! Love you, praying for you. May God, give you His strength, His peace, and His joy. Never forget that you are not alone! All faith requires is that first step, you can't have faith without it. #TGBTG
I immediately texted Danny back while walking to the car.
Your timing is God's timing. Last night I wrote a blog to my prayer warriors to publish today on day 4. When I had finished, I wasn't sold out on what I wrote. I found myself trying to persuade others that I "am" healed and yet I was asking them to pray for my healing, no side-affects and no symptoms. I asked them, do they believe? That caused me to ask myself, do I believe? Anyway, I wrestled with God all night. I do believe God can heal me right now. I do believe He can remove my cancer with a single word or touch. Yet, I am concerned that my presence here is a lack of faith. There are millions of people who go through here and I suspect most put their faith and trust in the doctors, the machines and the process. I just can't. So, I wrestle. I went to radiation today. I don't know if I will go tomorrow. I want my witness to be about Jesus's healing hand, not MD Anderson and science.
Danny went on to minister to me for some time. He filled my mind with truths and with scripture. He challenged my thinking and pushed to get me to think about the things of God. Here is some of the narrative and guidance that began to change my thinking.
Danny: Tom I totally understand that. Faith is often hard to discern and follow. Some steps of faith come with a loud yes, while others come with a firm no. I do know that God uses Dr’s and that he says in Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. I can relate to you on trusting Dr’s and the struggle with doing so. I believed that God would heal Lille completely and he didn’t need a neurosurgeon, but I felt like she was to be part of the story. She (the Dr.) in the beginning didn’t believe in miracles. But when she could only take out 75% of the tumor and went and looked after word; all of it was gone. I then understood what God wanted to do. She (the Dr.) then called Lille her miracle patient. It was one of the best parts of the whole process. The Dr’s might say that the side-affects are this and this, but I am praying that God will show them that and that!! Lille was supposed to have speech therapy and struggle with talking. Well we both now she doesn’t struggle in communicating. Ha-ha. Another sign for all to know that He is God. Instead of God healing Lille without Dr’s and it just being our story, He chose to include them and make it all our stories. He’s good like that.
[About Lillie: Lille is Danny and Emily’s five-year-old daughter who is the miracle child described herein. At 18 months, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. They were only able to remove 75% of the tumor. Three days later after the swelling subsided, they completed another MRI and all the cancer was gone.]
Tom: Then, is my walk, for others? Is it to reach the lost or to reach the weak? Am I to suffer so others can see, so they can be part of the story? I truly believe God can heal me now.
Danny: He can... He may choose too!
Tom: I can't imagine the pain and suffering you and Emily went through while staying faithful to Lille's healing. I can't imagine how Lille; a child must have felt.
Danny: We all suffer, but we get to choose if our suffering will bring glory to Him or just to ourselves.
Tom: I agree.
Danny: He went on to share numerous pointed scriptures to build my faith and point me to the truth to break the stronghold Satan had on me.
Tom: Clearly, I need to go open my Bible. I have allowed the attacks of the evil one to gain a foothold. He has no power over me, in Jesus's name. AMEN and AMEN!
Danny: You are not in this alone, but the enemy will try and make you believe that so that you only listen to his voice. It is his greatest tool, loneliness. We all fall victim to it, myself included, but ultimately, we will Rise Against it! Because we are MORE THEN CONQUERERS!! Love you my friend! Always know that I am here, only a text or phone call away!
Tom: Thanks, Danny! Thanks for your faith and shepherding. Much needed today!
Danny: We are family! Forever connected!
Tom: Thank you, Danny! I am so grateful for you. Thanks for being there in my weakness. God knew I needed a brother this morning. He sent you before you even knew the why.
Danny: Just being obedient my friend! Glad I could help!
Prior to coming to MD Anderson, I went to visit my daughter Heather, who works with Danny Duran. The Duran family has taking her in almost as one of their own. While there we had the opportunity to worship and then went to lunch with the Duran family. Lille and I have always been connected, but on this day, Lille, shared some childlike love and faith with me that still speaks to me today.
How often do we miss the opportunity to have love and have faith like a child? Here a five-year-old was ministering to me simply by being love and by being willing to share it openly and honestly. She related with me, she reassured me and she let me know that my life mattered.
Her demonstration of love and faith reminds me of our Father in Heaven and how much he does the same with us. He knows everything. He knows how we feel. He knows what we need. He never leaves us. He never forsakes us. He comes to us and whispers words that give us life. All we need to be willing to do is listen. To stay in-tune with who He is and what He promises. It is so easy to get distracted by the ‘given over of our minds’ to the empty lies of Satan. All Satan wants to do is ‘steal, kill and destroy’. The easiest place to attack is our mind. Too often, we leave ourselves open to these kinds of attacks by not filling our mind with the truth found in scripture. God’s promises are for all of us.
Over the last three days, a lot has happened. Satan attacked my mind. He got me to think more about me than my Lord and Savior. Thus, I found myself glorifying myself more than glorifying Him. Every word I said or every action I took seemed to magnify me instead of magnifying Him. Please understand, while in the midst of the attack, I was not aware that I was under the shackles of Satan’s attacks. However, by the grace of God, He, in his almighty power, unloaded a legion of angles we call, ‘Our Prayer Warriors’ to fight off Satan’s attacks. Even while I was consumed with myself, He brought forth, hundreds, if not thousands of people to pray on our behalf. They filled our FB, our text, our email, our blog, through my kids posts, through cards, through scriptures in a bottle, and through phone calls and videos. There was no end to the amount of prayer occurring to fight off the spiritual attacks that was destroying me. I am so thankful for all of you. I am so thankful for a faithful God. I am so thankful for Jesus and how He is the center of my life.
I now know, again, that I am to walk this walk with all of you. I believe each of you is part of the story and part of the miracle.
To God be the glory and may His son’s name Jesus, be magnified!
We love all of you beyond measure,
DAY 3 - BE STILL
You have no idea how much this speaks to me. Every morning they snap me in and then tell me to "be still". I immediately go to my happy place and get still before the Lord. It's a challenge to breath comfortably. It's a challenge to not focus on the moment, but when they say "be still", I do.
Today, I prayed the Lord's Prayer and sang the Sanctuary song over and over, until it was over. Talk about still with the Lord. It was over in a blink of an eye. 2 of 33 down.
May the Lord continue to strengthen her and allow her faith to be a witness to others. I am so thankful for her and I am so in love with her. She is truly a woman of God. I pray for the Spirit of God to provide her emotional security, peace, and endurance. Ephesians 5:31-33 reminds us, “… and the two will become one flesh”. When two become one, nothing can affect one without affecting the other. Becoming one with each other frees each of us. It means to be who you are as an individual. You are also called to care for your spouse, as you care for yourself, learning to anticipate his or her needs and helping your spouse to become all they are meant to be. Sacrificial giving should be at the center of your every thought. You should not want anything for yourself, so long as, your spouse has a need of any kind. Each of us should lay down our selfish desires to meet the needs of our spouse.
For me, as a husband, there is nothing I desire to do more than serve my wife by laying down my life for her. Sadly, I have failed more often than I am willing to admit. Humbly, I sit and accept my wife laying down her life for me. Anyone who knows her, knows that she has a servant’s heart so big it consumes her every waking moment. Heck, I think while she is sleeping, she is making a list of who or how she is going to serve when she wakes. She has high expectations and thus seeks to draw the potential out of herself and everyone else she knows. She leads with love, compassion, and conviction. Did I mention she leads with conviction? She never gives up! I am the recipient of her care in my time of need. I am thankful for her … so thankful. God has blessed me with Stephanie and we have become one. I feel everything she feels and she feels everything I feel before we know we feel it.
Here is a quick example of her heart. Everyone knows she is a clean freak. Like, she is so committed to getting the dust and dirt off the baseboards, she is willing to take the shellac off them or she is willing to take the chrome off a sink if that means killing one more un-expectant bacteria. We arrived in Houston on Sunday at 8:00 PM. By the time, we went to bed all the counters, tables, shelves, cabinets, handles, etc. were wiped down with alcohol wipes, all the dishes were washed by hand or placed in the dishwasher, all the appliances where wiped down clean inside and out, etc., etc. Her goal was to have a sterile environment for my care. She made a germ-free haven for me. How great is my wife!
If you are married or thinking about getting married, I want to encourage you to seek to serve your spouse. Learn to give up your rights for your spouse. Don’t hang on to a thread of selfish desire or pride. Don’t wait to be asked to do something, just do it. Ask yourself, if you were ever in need, who would you trust to be there for you in your greatest need? If it is not your spouse, change that now. Build into your relationship until you can say you have become one.
Stephanie, I love you with my whole mind, body, and soul. You are my everything and I give God thanks that He gave me to you and you to me … forever! We are one! Tom
Our “to do” was NOT a secular contract, but a spiritual decision almost 33 years ago, and it will always be. Praise be to God!
DAY 1 - REJOICE
Stephanie and I moved in to our apartment yesterday on a "rainy" Houston day and woke up to more of the same; but I was reminded of these song lyrics again. As I thought about Psalm 118:24 and that "This is the day", I was drawn to the reality that I am not alone. I get to be here with my beautiful wife, Stephanie, and with my Lord. How blessed am I? I get to walk this path with my soulmate and with my Savior. Now that brings great peace.
Make it a great day and be sure to rejoice as today is only here for a moment and you don't want to waste even one second of it. Hug someone, love someone, hold someone, forgive someone ... but in all of that, rejoice, for this is the day, the Lord hath made!
"This is the day, this is the day.
That the Lord has made, that the Lord has made.
We will rejoice, we will rejoice,
And be glad in it, and be glad in it.
This is the day that the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
This is the day, this is the day
That the Lord has made."
Today we wrap up our visit to MD Anderson with a consultation with Dr. Fuller. He is our Radiation Oncologist. He will give us his final radiation recommendation. His level of care and concern comforts us greatly. Personally, I like him because he is matter of fact. I like the truth, nothing but the truth. We gain incredible confidence in his words. We will return on March 6th to start treatment.
I was recently reminded of the scripture below by Connie Hallam and how, "The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still." These are great words. To be still means to rest in the Lord and trust that he will deliver you. These words were especially comforting yesterday as they completed a detailed MRI to develop a specific radiation plan. In fact, I had no choice but to be still. They built a mesh mask for me to wear during treatment to keep me still. Boy did it ever, they put the mask over my face and stretched it so tight it caused my scan to poke through the mesh and it left a mesh pattern on my face when it was over an hour later. As I was lying there, completely unable to move my head, Connie's words came to mind. While I was anxious at first, these words comforted me and helped me to be still, not only during the MRI, but also in my spirit. I simply asked the Lord to give me peace and comfort and He did. He delivered me from my own anxiety. I was able to cast my fears on Him and he received them.
As you read the scripture below, please notice the response of Moses and the people of Israel. They sang, they rejoiced, and they exalted His name for the victory He had given them.
My request and prayer for all of my family and friends are to join us and sing, rejoice and exalt His name for His victory. God is so good and the only reasonable response to any storm or challenge is to give Him the glory. He will use it for good. We love you all and pray that your faith is increased. Thanks for walking with us and for your prayers.
PLEASE READ AND PRAY THESE WORDS WITH ME
Exodus 15:1-3 NLT "Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD: “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise him— my father’s God, and I will exalt him! The LORD is a warrior; Yahweh is his name!”
RICH MULLINS AND THE RAGAMUFFIN BAND
His words have so much reality and compassion in them, they can't help but draw you in. He finishes with a beautiful song and video about a father who leads his son to walk again. It may cause a tear or two.
Step by Step by Rich Mullins
Don't Focus on the Storm!
Just prior to the versus below, Jesus was healing the sick, speaking truth into their lives and filling the bellies of over five thousand people. Remember, Jesus had crossed the lake to get away to rest and pray. He had not yet done that as he had compassion on the people and their needs.
Matthew 14:22-33 NLT “Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.
What a good lesson for all of us. Jesus wanted to be alone with the Father in prayer, he wanted time to rest and be refreshed, but his compassion for the people came first. However, as soon as he had gotten the disciples on their way and dismissed all the people, he remembered to worship and pray to the Father. He pleased the Father by serving and tending his people, but he knew the importance of setting time aside to be refreshed in prayer and worship. Are you as guilty as I am? It seems I make excuses all the time. What excuses do you make about serving others, about not worshipping, about not praying or about not reading God's word ~ enough? Are the things of this world really that much more important than a relationship with God, through his son, Jesus? I figure, if Jesus, can stop what he is doing to serve me, I can and should stop what I am doing to serve him. How about you?
Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here! ”
While Jesus was still praying, he was aware that his disciples were in a storm. These scriptures give us great hope and assurance that he is always with us and is always aware of what is going on in our lives. Jesus came to the disciples by walking on water. Check that out, he was walking on water in a storm. The disciples were in a boat. The disciples fear must have already been on high alert because, even though they needed help, they were terrified to see him coming to them. Jesus spoke to them at once to calm their fear. He said, "Don't be afraid, take courage ~ I am here!" Imagine Jesus speaking to you in your storm right now. He is saying to you, the same words he spoke to the disciples, "Don't be afraid, take courage ~ I am here!" Oh, how that is music to my soul. How about you? Do you receive great comfort knowing that Jesus already knows your storm? That he is present with you. That you are never alone.
Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed."
Even though Jesus already spoke to the disciples and assured them that he was here to help them, Peter still asked for confirmation. He said to Jesus, "Lord, if it's really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water." Without hesitation, Jesus said, "Yes, come". So, Peter obeyed and was walking on water until he got distracted by the storm. He allowed his fear to set in and he allowed his own lack of understanding to distract him from an intimate moment with the Lord. He took his eyes off Jesus and immediately began to sink. How often do we do the same. We call on Jesus and then when he doesn't respond immediately or doesn't respond in a away we expect, we get distracted by our own efforts or our own back up plans. Whatever happened to waiting on Jesus? Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. Let me re-state that Peter was walking on water. Then he wasn't. Even though Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink, he still knew he needed Jesus and yelled out to him in the midst of his distraction. Jesus reached out his hand and saved him. Jesus said, "You have so little faith. Why did you doubt me?" How often are we just like Peter? The good news is that Jesus knows us and came for us. He will return to collect his own. Are you one of his own? When they got back into the boat, the wind stopped. After they saw the miracle, they worshipped him. I think we should worship him before we see the miracle. We should have faith that Jesus always keeps his promises. How often are we amazed like the disciples and exclaim, "You really are the Son of God!"
I hope you find these verses encouraging and full of great hope. For me, they speak volumes into my life as I am in a storm. I know I have to keep my eyes on Jesus and I have to believe in his promises, no matter how he chooses to deliver them.
Look into his eyes and accept him into your heart. It will change your life, just like it changed mine. I love you, but Jesus loves you more. Thanks for your prayers. Our Lord and Savior loves to hear our voices.
90 DAY LIST
As you consider what's important in life, I want you to make a 90 day list. What would be on your list?
Time would be on my list. We have nothing but time, until we don't. Then everything is subject to time. Time is more valuable than all the riches in the world.
Friends and family would also be on my list. We don't need them, until we do. Then everything is about those we love. Time or the lack thereof, softens the heart. It breaks down all barriers. Compassion cuts to the depths of our souls. Love prevails.
Your salvation decision is on my list, until it's not. You will either accept Jesus or reject Him. I pray and hope you will consider accepting Him into your life.
While there are so many unknowns; we serve a great God! He loved us so much, He sent His one and only son, Jesus, to heal us from our sin.
Romans 10:9-10, tell us that, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord (total surrender),” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified (declared not guilty), and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved (from eternal death)."
If you haven't already accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, won't you consider doing that right now by reading and claiming the words of Romans 10:9-10 for yourself?
As Stephanie and I ramp up for a 90 day journey, I find myself being overwhelmingly grateful for a God who loves us; for all the friends and family with their unstoppable faith, that have and are still praying for my complete healing with no side affects; for all those who have been a listening ear; for all those who have quietly behind the scenes taking actions to help us prepare; and for those who have agreed to fill the gap in our absence.
Love you all!
Making Memories - I received this heart-warming card today from Katherine. Her card caused me to reflect on all the youth that God has put in my life. While I was their to help them, little did they know, that they were my life blood for so many years. Their joy was contagious week after week. I am so thankful that God allowed me to be part of their life then and now. Thank you, Katherine, for your kind words and sharing your memories. I can't wait to see you and Lily. I love you and remember, Jesus loves you even more!
TOM O'KEEFE BLOG