Ten Years Cancer Free & Still Learning

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This month marks a decade since I finished treatment for head and neck cancer. By God’s grace I remain cancer free. I have remarked to others more times than I can recount a single thought: “Cancer is a terribly effective tutor.” Here are several lessons I learned through the healing journey and continue to learn as the Lord kindly gives me length of days.

  • One, the actual moment of a believer’s death is a terribly significant matter in the heart of God (Psalm 116:15).
  • Two, illness is a form of suffering which God uses to train us in holiness (Psalm 119:71).
  • Three, God’s grace is sufficient to sustain even when healing is delayed or doesn’t come at all (2 Cor. 12:9).
  • Four, one’s capacity to comfort others in their affliction increases significantly to the degree one has experienced comfort from God in something similar (2 Cor. 1:3-5).
  • Five, dying is gain for the believer, but remaining alive to serve others is better for them in God’s providence (Phil. 1:21-26).
  • Six, God sees the tears and hears the prayers of His people when they cry out to Him (2 Kings 20:5).
  • Seven, joy doesn’t depend on circumstances but rather on the filling of the Spirit which focuses on giving thanks in all things (1 Thess. 5:16-18).
  • Eight, true worth comes from who we are in Christ, not what we can or cannot do for Him (2 Cor. 5:17).
  • Nine, prosperity and adversity both come from God and require different responses in faith (Ecc. 7:14).
  • And, ten, life is a vapor, faster than a weaver’s shuttle, requiring one to live every moment’s anticipation of the future governed by a careful “if the Lord wills” (James 4:13-15; Job 7:6).

These lessons and more I have learned and continue to learn as I live one more day cancer free to the praise of His glorious grace.

What Kind of Reader Are You?

Hopefully you and I are readers, period.

That assumed, it remains to examine one’s approach to reading.

Unlike TV or movies, you can’t really go passive in the discipline of reading, especially works of nonfiction. You have to engage.

Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren argue in their book How to Read a Book: the Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading that reading more actively vs. less actively makes for the better reader who actually demands something of himself as he reads. Therefore he earns a higher return on his investment as opposed to the more passive type that coasts through a book or article.

Nowhere does this show itself more plainly than in tackling the work of a more demanding author. Case in point? William Wilberforce and his Practical View of Christianity. I saw that deer-in-the-headlights look from some of our men at Saturday’s Oxford Club meeting as we tried to make sense of the introduction. I likened the book to treasure to be mined, not at six feet under, but more like 600 feet under. It won’t give way to its rewards without a lot of digging.

In the interest of warding off attrition in our club meetings and in promoting the virtue of reading in a demanding kind of way, I pulled Adler and Van Doren’s book from the shelf looking for help.

Perhaps more insight will come in further posts, but let me start here with their simple prescription for active reading: Ask questions while you read–questions that you yourself must try to answer in the course of reading. What questions, you may ask? They suggest the following:

There are four main questions you must ask about any book.
1. What is the book about as a whole? You must try to discover the leading theme of the book, and how the author develops this theme in an orderly way by subdividing it into its essential subordinate themes or topics.
2. What is being said in detail, and how? You must try to discover the main ideas, assertions, and arguments that constitute the author’s particular message.
3. Is the book true, in whole or part? You cannot answer this question until you have answered the first two. You have to know what is being said before you can decide whether it is true or not When you understand a book, however, you are obligated, if you are reading seriously, to make up your own mind. Knowing the author’s mind is not enough.
4. What of it? If the book has given you information, you must ask about its significance. Why does the author think it is important to know these things? Is it important to you to know them? And if the book has not only informed you, but also enlightened you, it is necessary to seek further enlightenment by asking what else follows, what is further implied or suggested.

You don’t have to participate in the Oxford Club for Men to aspire toward becoming a demanding reader.

As for me and my house, the more demanding readers in our church, the better.