Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Slow but sure

Hi everyone! It is now four days since the surgery and I feel that progress is very slow as far as pain & discomfort go.Michael's body looks as if he's been in a prize fight & was the loser!
He is still in pain & until the catheter is removed,alot of discomfort
We see the surgeon on Thursday at 3.45 pm & we pray that the lab results will be back & that we will get the best news that the cancer has all been removed,I know you are praying with us.
We are immensely grateful for all the phone calls;visits & the food that has sustained us that neighbors & friends have so generously brought.We feel so blessed to have so many wonderful friends & for us personally to be part of this family of God where we truly loveone another & uphold each other in tough times.
So ,keep Michael in your prayers & we will let you know when we know the lab results
With love & gratitude ,Carol

Sunday, January 29, 2012

We're Home!!!

"Good morning everybody. First, thanks to those who commented on yesterday's blog post - thanks so much for your love and prayers.

Second, we are amazed that they discharged Michael from the hospital last night, considering that he is in much pain and great discomfort. However, it's great to have him home! We have come home with hospital supplies so I feel like I could earn a credit in a nursing course! They have given me so many instructions.

Tomorrow I have to call and get him an appointment on Thursday afternoon, as they have made it for two weeks time, instead of one. This wait will be too much discomfort for him.

Please pray that the blood/tissue results will show that they have indeed got all the cancer from this radical surgery.

With deep gratitude for your prayers, love and thoughts,


Friday, January 27, 2012

The Day of the Surgery

"Hi everyone, Carol here, hijacking my husband's blog on this occasion as he's too ill to speak for himself.

Michael's surgery was today and after a very long day we learned that the surgeon thought that he had removed all of the known cancer visible to the eye and was now waiting on the tissue results from the lab, which we won't get until the end of next week. Those results will tell us if it has spread or not, and we are praying that it hasn't.

As of tonight, Michael is feeling very unwell, after suffering an asthma attack in the recovery room finding it very hard to breathe. This was very nasty and upsetting for him as well as us!

We are so grateful for all your prayers, love and concern during this time. Please continue to pray that all will be well and that tomorrow he will be feeling much stronger and in less pain.


Carol Quicke."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cancer Interrupts (4)

At last the day of surgery is here. Tomorrow I shall be in hospital at 5:00 am (or thereabouts!) for an operation lasting 4-5 hours. The last few days have passed ploddingly with business as usual in seminary work and teaching, yet set against this weird backdrop of cold-blooded surgery. I well remember a past operation when I was in so much pain I was pleading for the scalpel and would have given permission for amputation if that helped! Going into theater was a non-negotiable. Please. Please. But this time the lack of pain and the long wait gives an aura of unreality. Do I really have cancer that needs such drama? Well, apparently so!

Along the way I am sorry to report that I have not been given profound spiritual insights. I know some people do have them. But, for us, there has been a degree of numbness. Yet, part of this numbness actually testifies to workaday peace and faith that has encouraged us to place the future in God's safe hands. Remarkably, we have experienced prayer at work every hour. Formally, we have both been prayed for with laying on of hands and richly affirming prayers of faith in different contexts. Informally, a circle of people around the world has wrapped around us with messages of love and prayer. What a difference such praying has made. I once preached a sermon called: "What happens when we don't pray?" We are so grateful that we shall not find out! And how much we have valued your care. It has startled us what people are prepared to do, like our neighbors here on Fowler Circle who have formed a couple of teams to cook us meals on my return from hospital. This is a special time of receiving love and care. Within it all I know that God is holding us in hope and healing power. Oh yes!

There has been some fun too. I agreed to join a research program into which I (plus around 300 others) have been entered which requires extra pathological tests, bone density scan and very (very) lengthy questionnaires about my fitness and food consumption. I have just spent 1 and a half hours on the densest food questionnaire imaginable. It's all in aid of research to establish whether there is any link between prostate cancer, diet and obesity. Unfortunately my love of ice cream is now on record. Hopefully, such personal details may benefit someone!

Anyway, I shall look forward to updating you on the other side of surgery. Thank you for your continuing prayers.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A worthwhile conference?

I have just returned from speaking to the African American pastors' conference on preaching. (see last post) Carol ably assisted me with the flip-chart, handing out papers and overseeing the bookstall. Earlier, several factors had seemed to create difficulty. Last night over 6 inches of snow fell dramatically in the Chicago area, which meant most people had struggles to dig out cars this morning. Illness prevented some pastors from attending and, of course, my own schedule with pre-op yesterday and surgery next week somewhat clouded the day.

But, it turned out to be a glorious occasion. Why?

  • the levels of attentiveness. I was speaking after lunch to pastors who had 101 other things to do. I took one passage for study: the stilling of the storm (Mark 4: 35-41). One of them commented they had seen it "hundreds of times" before! YET, they engaged from the start as though it was fresh text, with high energy.

  • collaboration. When I asked them to work with their neighbor the decibels shot up and responses overwhelmed the flip chart. With care and depth the pastors gave their best.

  • appreciation. There was great warmth towards us both at the end - several commented that to see my "first lady" so obviously committed alongside me had been a highlight. How often she has been taken for granted. Not today!

  • prayer - at the end hands were laid on us and a moving prayer was offered for us both as I face surgery next week.

It was an invigorating, stretching experience. To be the only two white people surrounded by such surging love and interest was a great privilege. Really. I know I am the last person there to comment objectively on whether it was a worthwhile conference, but I know we experienced the love and commitment of a great group of leaders. I look forward to seeing where it leads.

Monday, January 16, 2012

An unusual opportunity

In these days leading up to surgery (on January 27th) I have been glad to be absorbed in teaching duties and also prepare for an unusual first. On Saturday I will speak at an African American preachers' conference to be held at Northern. Seminary classes enjoy great diversity with a sizeable African American proportion. Indeed, one of my current classes is 50% black with extraordinary stories which I learned as students shared in the introductory class. One of these students has been preaching for 18 years and pastor for the last 7 years. Another is only 23 years old but has been preaching for 11 years and is currently co-pastor of his church. Yet another has been preaching for 32 years and has been pastor of a historic Chicago church for the past 10 years.

When the last introduced himself I laughed and said I wondered why he was in this basic preaching class. Directly he answered: "Because I want to learn to preach better, Doc."
With humility (which makes for great teachability of course) he has greatly benefitted the whole class experience for all of us. But, imagine my surprise when he asked me to speak at a conference of pastors from his convention (of which he is President). He has organized it specially at the seminary in order to introduce pastors to our set-up and to me. Bluntly he told me to deliver the goods. "Teach them preaching 101!" he said.

What a unique opportunity for a white teacher to address a group of black preachers, steeped in their powerful rhetorical tradition, political edge, congregational interaction and celebrative outcomes. I know I need humility and care but how much I look forward to it. I'll let you know what happens.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Stop talking

This term my preaching classes are learning to preach from 1 Corinthians. It's an extraordinarily vital letter for the church then and now. As I rev up attention on this text I was struck by something I read today from an older commentator (H.L.Goudge) on 1 Cor 14. , which is all about talking in church.

Not even conscious inspiration gives a person the right to monopolize attention. God's message can be spoken briefly. It is vanity that leads speakers to make excessive demands upon the time and the attention of other people, not respect for the divine message that they have to deliver.

That seems rather harsh. It may not be vanity that is the root cause but the expectations of a congregation that evaluate sermons by length. I remember one preacher saying that he had to preach for 45 minutes or his people criticized him. However, I recall another preacher who went to a church used to sermons lasting 25 minutes and shared with a fellow pastor that his ambition was to increase sermon length to a proper time of at least 40 minutes.

We do seem to live at a time when many evangelical preachers do seem to assume that longer is better and I wonder if this challenge about vanity has some validity. What do you think about the ways that we preachers use time ?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Nearing Home

Billy Graham (nearly 93) has written a book: Nearing Home - Life, Faith and Finishing Well. It well deserved being in the top ten non-fiction best sellers for several weeks. As I read it I was struck by his immense honesty about getting old (coping with ageing and grief), his gift of interlacing Scripture seamlessly within his writing, and the hugely practical advice he gives throughout. Above all, the book is filled with Christian hope.

Several places struck me but in the last chapter he shows his delight in others' preaching. He describes how a telecast from Spartanburg. S. Carolina has helped. The preacher, Dr. Don Wilton

"began ministering to my heart through his messages, and I found myself looking forward to the next Sunday's program. Some months later, I called to thank him for his ministry and invited him to my home. We enjoyed wonderful fellowship together. Since that time, he has graciously driven ninety miles from Spartanburg for a visit every week. We have lunch together and discuss everything from family to world evens. But the most meaningful part of our visits is when we look in to the Scriptures together and spend time in prayer. Often he shares a sermon outline he is working on and with enthusiasm asks for my thoughts. There have been times I have asked for his assistance with thoughts on various passages as I prepare statements and brief talks. It is a great privilege for me to have fellowship with a great teacher of Scripture and to feel a unity of purpose and desire to see others come to Christ. This is the work God has for all his people - now"(page166).

What encouragement to keep working with others in the task of gospel sharing. Shortly, as term classes begin, my students will hear my exhortation that they work together in looking in the Scriptures to prepare their sermons. Collaboration is such a vitally important element to keep growing spiritually .....right on through to the end. Thanks Billy Graham for such a positive book and challenges to preachers like this one

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Antidote to sermony

Before cancer rudely interrupted me, I was ruminating about this word 'sermony' and the disturbingly accurate way it describes sermons that sound like sermons yet leave no imprint on the soul. Before losing sight of this troubling occurrence, I need to post the antidote to sermony.

There are many ways by which a preacher can safeguard against delivering twenty minutes of stuff. But, for me, there is one golden rule. If there is one action more than any other that counteracts sermony stuff it is this:

This lies at the heart of preaching's dynamic. Scripture is highly active, not only conveying powerful thoughts but impacting lives when the preacher immerses not only in what God is saying but God is doing. Taking seriously the message and its purpose (to rebuke, correct, affirm, encourage, praise God, teach, etc. etc.) ensures right use of Scripture. Combine sensitive discernment of the text's saying and doing with a disciplined structure to move a sermon forward and, above all, openness to creativity generated by Father, Son and Holy Spirit brings life and conviction. And the sermon will not be sermony!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Cancer Interrupts (3)

So many people have kindly asked: "How do you feel?" It's easy to answer on the physical level. Even though the cancer has been growing for many years I don't feel any different today now that I know! Of course, the emotional level is more complex. Three weeks today I have my surgery but each day of waiting seems wearingly longer than usual. Dark thoughts can break in and the sheer uncertainty of everything can puncture the hopefulness. And I know it is more difficult for Carol than for me as I continue to work. Teaching begins next Monday and I have a full schedule, including a day conference on January 21st. which positively fills this time of waiting.

However, on the spiritual level, which should hold together the physical and emotional, I do know God's love and encouragement. I am reminded that the Holy Spirit is not just the Comforter (a traditional translation of the Greek paraclete). He is certainly that , but he is the come-alongside Lord who enables us to cope with life courageously...and our waiting bravely. Part of the word comforter comes from fortis - which means brave. The Holy Spirit puts bravery, strength, iron and guts into living. That's the strength I am seeking to live by.

Thank you for all your messages, stories and prayers. We have been deeply moved by your support and shall keep you in the picture.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Being Intentional

Reflecting on yesterday's post made me realize how important it is to focus intentionally on specific God words. Those of us who go to church services, attend Christian meetings and read daily devotions have so many words, good words, directed at us. I sometimes think of the sermons I preach (and hear) and realize how every week they layer more and more promises and challenges on top of each other. Every time I read Scripture something jumps out as important.

Now, of course, we should expect fresh daily words to sustain us. Yet, the very mountain of daily words can bury key challenges God has for us. The multiplicity of important good words so overwhelms that we do not act on any particular one!

I have placed Col 3: 17 in block letters on my prayer desk to make sure it does not get buried too quickly. In order for its power to make a difference I must be intentional. Less is more. I look forward to other fresh words but I know this New Year verse will go the way of all resolutions unless I am intentional in focus and prayer.

I am saying the New Year's prayer:
O God, our heavenly Father, grant us your grace that in this new year we may begin all that we do, in word and deed, in the name of Jesus, and through him give praise to you; and continue and increase therein all the days of our life until at last, when time is ended, we may praise and adore you in eternity, through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

HAPPY NEW YEAR with intention!