Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Providence, Part One

We can make our plans, 
    but the Lord determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

This is a God post. I haven't written one of these in a while. But there will be no preaching. Only testimonies of how God's Providence has been made real to me throughout my journey. Time after time I've seen his hand at work. You may not see it that way, but it's obvious to me.

Let me just say to start that I am not one who believes in fate. I don't believe that "everything happens for a reason." I think some things just happen. Like cancer. I don't believe God gives anyone cancer, or helps anyone win the lottery, or decides what I should have for lunch tomorrow. But I do believe God has a plan for us, and he provides for us along our way. I also believe that the closer we draw to him, the more clearly we can see him working for our good. That certainly happened for me.

I have so much to tell you, I can't fit it into one post. So this one will be in two parts. I have five stories to tell in chronological order, and I'll only get to two of them in this post. But they're amazing.

The word providence is often used to mean fate or destiny, but that's not what it means. According to Dictionary.com, one of the definitions of providence is a manifestation of divine care or direction. That's what I mean by Providence. Manifestations of God's divine care and direction. For me, they have been many, and they have been almost constant since I was diagnosed. Actually, it's been going on my whole life, but most of the time, I was too spiritually dense to see it.

The word providence begins with the word provide. It's not about law or predestination. It's about provision and guidance. I'm not talking about manna from heaven or pillars of fire and cloud. Most of the time, God's Providence is shown through people. That's where I'll begin.

Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start, or so I'm told. Let's start even before I was diagnosed. The day I got the blood draw for the PSA test that changed my life forever. April 3rd, 2015. The blood draw was in the morning. It was part of my regular checkup, albeit my first one in several years, and with a new doctor. I had no doubt I'd be in perfect health. Always had been. But God knew better.

That afternoon, my wife and I ate on the patio at a favorite place close to home. We brought our dog, as usual. We sat at a table next to a young couple who also had a dog. A Boston terrier. Or maybe we got there first and they sat next to us. I don't remember. We exchanged friendly banter between tables about our dogs. After a while, they came up and introduced themselves. Their names are Derek and Amber. I've talked about them far more in this blog than they are comfortable with, and I'm about to make it worse. Sorry, guys. I can't help myself. This story still blows my mind. And it's bigger than just the four of us.

When Derek and Amber introduced themselves and we did the same, they sat down at our table. And we've been sitting at the same table ever since. Our friendship has been an immeasurable blessing for the past two years and counting. I've often told them that I believe God put us together at this particular time for a reason. For starters, he knew what a benefit they would be to us at a very difficult time. He also knew the positive influence we would be on them.

But as I said, it's not just about us. When I was diagnosed, I asked Derek if his caregiver could help me. But Derek's caregiver wasn't set up to treat cancer. He did, however, know someone who was. That guy was looking for his first real cancer patient. He wanted to start treating cancer patients with something called Rick Simpson Oil. I became his first patient. He's been my caregiver ever since. But not just mine.

My caregiver began refining his process. He went beyond Rick Simpson Oil and Full Extract Cannabis Oil, or FECO, and created an ultra-refined version of FECO that he calls Cannabinoid Distillate. He developed the process for making it, and he's now treating many patients with this oil. He's also started a new business making CBD products, also to help people with various ailments, especially dementia and seizures.

I'm sure my caregiver would have eventually found a cancer patient if he hadn't found me. We're pretty easy to find, unfortunately. But he and I found each other at the right time for me, and for him, and for everyone else he is now helping. All because we met Derek and Amber one day. The day I had the PSA test that started all of this trouble. And when I knew I had cancer, Derek knew a guy who knew a guy. And now, many people are being helped that we know nothing about. And we have a priceless friendship to boot. That's what I call Providence.

In November of 2015, I had just gone public with my cancer in October. Lots of our friends and acquaintances still hadn't heard about my diagnosis. I performed at an annual event here in Denver called Prog Fest. I've performed with friends at this event for years. In a way, it was my "coming out party," where many in our circle learned that I had cancer, and that it was serious. It was a very emotional and meaningful night for me.

My friend Todd also performed with a talented group of kids and teenagers that he always manages to field. After the show, I told him I'd like to work with the kids in some way. I knew they already had a vocal coach, so I suggested that I could help with stage presence. I kept bugging him about it until he finally gave me a shot. I worked with the kids for one rehearsal and one show. That was the extent of my stage presence coaching career. But I did meet one very special young singer. More on her later.

In December of 2015, I met Todd's wife Sandi at a Christmas party. Sandi is a therapist, and she helped me a lot with just one conversation. We hit it off, you could say. Three days later, her dad suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. I immediately reached out to her, and we began supporting each other through some terrible times for both of us.

Since then, my friendship with Todd and Sandi has been one of the best parts of my journey. Like Derek and Amber, they are part of my inner circle. Sandi has made frequent appearances in this blog, inspiring several posts. The Gift In The Wound and Sitting In The Mud are two of my favorites. And the musical collaboration Todd and I have had the past year has put making music back in my life just when I'm trying to retire! Our friendship was providential. It was something God provided for all of us, I'm convinced of it.

But back to the story. Still reeling from my diagnosis of aggressive, inoperable prostate cancer, (I wasn't Stage 4 yet - technically) I found it impossible to get music work done. Sandi used her connections to find me a therapist who helped me get past that and much more. But not just any therapist. The exact one I needed. The one who will be my therapist for the rest of my life. Provision.

When rehearsals for the next show were coming up, Todd told me that the vocal coach he'd been working with wasn't available anymore. He asked if I'd be interested. I jumped at the chance, and we've never looked back. Rehearsals are long and taxing, but so much fun. And it's really helped my singing voice. It forces me to warm up and sing a lot regularly. I'm in the best vocal shape now that I've been in years.

And I love those kids. Working with them is rejuvenating. I feel like I'm making a difference. Not just with the singers, but with all of them. But since I work mainly with vocals, it's the singers I've gotten to know best. I want to help them get better, and teach them the job of being a singer in a band. I want to help all of them get to the next level, whatever that means for them.

But there is one I feel a special calling to help as much as I can. I can't give you her name, but you'll all know her name soon. I really believe that. I feel very strongly that one of the things I'm supposed to do with the rest of my time here, however long that is, is help her get started as much as I can. I can't teach her how to become famous. If I knew that, I'd be famous. But I can teach her the job. I can give her the benefit of my experience. I can help get her some exposure. I can and will do those things for as long as I can, or until she doesn't need me anymore. Which I expect to happen at any time. She's already a better singer than I am, in many ways, at age 17.

It's very important to have a purpose, especially when you have a terminal illness. It's very important to make new friends, because when you have cancer, you tend to lose some of the old ones. Can I get an amen? My connection with Todd and Sandi resulted in an abundance of both; friendship and purpose. And my therapist for life. Providence.

I've only scratched the surface. But this post is already too long. Next, I'll tell the amazing story of how our closest friend suddenly reappeared, just when we needed her. I'll talk about finding my medical team, who I love and trust. Priceless and rare, as it turns out. And I'll close with the miraculous lack of pain I experience with cancer ravaging my skeleton. It's one example of God's Providence after another. His provision and guidance. I hope you'll join me for Part Two. #waroncancer #bearingwitness

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Matthew 6:26

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