Friday, July 31, 2009

Great News!

Dear Friends and Family,

I spoke with my doctor today after he had a chance to read the CT scan from yesterday. The cancer is completely gone from my pancreas (clear in the entire abdomen) and nearly completely resolved in the chest. In fact, the remaining tissue in the chest may just be scar tissue. He indicated that he could not imagine a better result at this stage. 

We are so very thankful to God for this result and for the many answered prayers from all of you. I am also grateful for the expert care we have received from my doctors and other medical professionals.

I now have two more treatments to complete on August 6th and 27th. Thank you for your continued prayers for complete healing and for no lasting side effects from the chemotherapy.

I have uploaded a picture of my friend Steve Haigh. He is not wearing a hat, but he is sporting a shaved head. Steve has been a close friend and brother since high school, and he has shaved his head in solidarity with me. He said it reminds him to pray for me every time he notices his now bald head.

I am reminded of the Bible verses I shared earlier in my journey from the apostle Paul's letter to the church at Corinth:

"For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many." II Corinthians 1:8b-11

I have watched these verses become more than words in my life in the past weeks. 


In Christ alone,


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Step One: Deny Yourself

Dear Friends and Family,

I cannot express strongly enough how much I appreciate the continual flow of blessings that I am receiving from so many - notes, cards, prayers, words of encouragement, and even some pretty wild hats (stay tuned!).

As I have indicated, this Thursday is a big day as I have a CT scan scheduled for 4 PM to determine how much cancer has been killed by the first 4 treatments. Because of your prayers and God's unwavering goodness in my life, I am not anxious. If the scan shows that the tumors have become smaller, then I will be scheduled for two more treatments in August (6th and 27th). I am beginning to sense that I am on the downhill run. . .

I have been reading through the Bible in a year with the Discipleship Journal Plan (four-track reading plan you can get online), and have recently been reading the gospel of Luke. In chapter 9:23,24, Jesus says the following:

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it."

I would like to take the next few blogs to explore these verses and hear wisdom from others on how they are applying Christ's words in their own lives.

Because of my situation with cancer, I have been thinking about self-denial. We live in a very self-oriented society and age. Self-confidence, self-reliance, self-actualization, self-determination, self-preservation, self-help, self-esteem, etc are all very positively received concepts in western society today. We can only assume that the origins of these now well-developed ideas were present in first-century Israel and among her neighbors. Jesus' comments would likely have been counter-cultural then just as they are now.

What does He mean by denying self? Why is it a prerequisite for taking up our cross daily, following Him and losing our lives for His sake, and thereby gaining it?

By way of background, I don't believe that Jesus  is saying that we should treat ourselves badly through neglect, harm or indifference. His groundbreaking ethic in stating the Golden Rule in its positive form underscores this perspective. "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets". (Mt. 7:12) His assumption is that we want good things for ourselves which in turn should be the standard for our behavior towards others.

Self denial might start with not gratifying our every desire, whether we call it a want or even a need. It could come in the form of food, drink, leisure, sex, material comfort, and so on. I have been experiencing some self denial in terms of my diet, which I describe as the "no meat, no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, no fun" diet. I am eating a healthy diet thanks to my wife, Susan. It is full  of vegetables, fruit, grains, fish, and the like. It has been good for me physically to be on this diet, but it has also been good for me spiritually to experience this form of self denial. Jesus is saying to us: "Don't give into every selfish desire that comes along. Keep the all-encompassing tenth commandment not to covet (desire/pursue) that which you don't have."

A second form of self denial involves being less focused on our problems, and being willing to embrace others. We often tend to behave as if the world is supposed to revolve around us, at work, at home, at school, in traffic. We need to get our eyes off of our own problems, and start to be aware of what is going on around us. I had a friend and co-worker tell me that his uncle used to live by the motto: "Be kinder than necessary to everyone you meet, because everyone is dealing with some kind of problem". How true. I have noticed over the past few months as I speak with people, they are dealing with challenging problems of their own - health, family, job, spiritual direction - that rival my bout with cancer. Jesus is saying to us: "Look around you at others, see them with eyes of kindness and compassion, because the world does not revolve around you and your problems".

A third form of self denial involves the willingness to find ourselves in a story that is broader than just our own. A narrative or worldview that encompasses things far greater than our life story, but one that integrates our story into the bigger text. It means that we are not the main player; rather, we play a small but uniquely important role. I have been challenged recently as I read the book "The Hole in Our Gospel" by Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision. Stearns argues persuasively that we need to find our story inside the broader gospel, and then act to bring that gospel in word and in deed to "the least of these" around the world. I believe we all are searching for the significance that comes from being a part something bigger than our self-driven existence. We seem to be wired to know that just focusing on our own needs and our own story will cause us to come up short in the end. Jesus is saying to us: "Change the title of your life story from 'It's All about Me' to 'A Hitchhiker's Guide to God's Redemptive Plan for the Universe'".

I hope to hear some of your thoughts on denying self. . .

In Christ alone,


Friday, July 17, 2009

. . .and she gave me a Charlie Horse!

Dear Friends and Family,

My new picture reveals yet another hat I have received. This one comes from my sister, Elyse, a faithful prayer partner and consistent encourager through my cancer trial. She was concerned for my bald head burning in the hot Indiana summer sun, so she bought me a cowboy hat, a Charlie Horse Hat to be specific. 

It happens that today I will get to see my daughter, Jensen, ride in her third horse show down at the Indiana Fair grounds. So, I will be wearing my hat with pride, even though Jensen is an English saddle rider, not a rough riding western type.

My 4th treatment went fine yesterday. Although each one seems to be somewhat more of a burden to my system, I am pulling through them without many serious cumulative side effects. I am grateful. 

My blood counts were good, although the white cells continue to be lower, but not yet at a level that would prohibit treatment. My LDH (a non-specific cancer blood marker) was down considerably from my first test prior to treatment. This could be a good sign. I have a CT scan scheduled for July 30th that will reveal the damage done to the cancer by the 4 treatments when compared to the pre-treatment scan. I am praying that the scan is as clear as the Indianapolis sky was yesterday morning when I was walking my dog.

Thank you for your faithful prayers and kind thoughts.

In Christ alone,


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Semper Fi

Dear Friends and Family,

"Always faithful" is the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps. In my uploaded picture, you will see one of my new hats, thanks to my sister, Elizabeth, and her husband, Mark, who is a Marine.

We are all proud of Mark and Elizabeth for their choice to have Mark join the Marines and serve our country.

Benjamin Franklin, one of our country's founding fathers, wrote the following statement in 1775 as part of a proposition for the Pennsylvania State Assembly:

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
(see Wikipedia)

This quote reminds me that we have men and women in our armed forces, especially those in the Marines, who put their "little temporary safety" aside to fight and defend our "essential liberty". We need look no further than what has recently happened in Iran's elections, in the coup in the Honduras, in the despotic rule of North Korea or Venezuela, or the loss of basic freedoms in Russia to understand the importance of liberty and consequences of its absence.

I would encourage us all to take a moment this day and pray for our men and women in the armed forces. Let's all look for opportunities to "pay forward" some act of kindness toward them, returning to them the faithfulness they show each of us and our country through their service and willingness to sacrifice.

In Christ alone,


Saturday, July 4, 2009

"Oh Beautiful. . ."

Dear Friends and Family,

For fellow country men and women, happy Independence Day. For non-US citizens, I hope that our country has been a blessing to you in some way, although an imperfect one at times.

I have two beautiful things I want to highlight on my post today. 

As it is July 4th, I would like to say despite the controversies and difficulties of the recent years (and living abroad for five years, I am quite aware of them) that I am so very proud to be a citizen of the United States of America. 

I have always been touched by Katherine Lee Bates words set to music in "America the Beautiful". It might just be a worthy refrain and prayer for many of us to sing and say this day as we seek God's grace for our country and for the rest of the world:

O beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.
O beautiful, for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw;
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!
O beautiful, for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness, and ev'ry gain divine!
O beautiful, for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years,
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!

The second beautiful highlight of today is my wife, Susan. It also happens to be her birthday today, so all who know her please take a moment to wish her well on her birthday! My wife indeed is a beautiful blessing to me in so many ways. She has the heart of a servant combined with a keen mind and a determined work ethic, a combination that I have not seen matched by anyone else I know.

A very important mentor of mine, Alan Clark, used to say to me (you can substitute the Scottish accent): "Young Crenshaw, some people say that adversity builds character, but I say it only reveals it." Although I knew it from the first time I met her, my situation with cancer has underscored this truth as it concerns my faithful partner, Susan. She is a woman of deep and substantial character, rooted in her faith in Christ and sustained by her walk with Him.

I am grateful to be an American citizen. I am blessed to have a wife and partner in Susan. God has surely "shed his grace" on me.

In Christ alone,


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Trivia Time

Dear Friends and Family,

As you can see by my profile picture, I have a new photo and a new hat to cover up my increasingly hairless head!

The hat was compliments of my cousin, Mark Ferrara, who is like a brother to me. For me, this hat has significance which is why Mark knew to buy it.

Ok, all you baseball trivia nuts, here are the questions about this particular hat:

1. Which team (easy)?

2. What year/era (moderate)?

3. What longstanding record held by whom was broken by which player of this team during that era (hard)?

4. Extra credit: Can you provide exact statistics? Can you provide exact date? What was the opposing team name? Can you provide any interesting facts about this modern-day sports hero?

More hats are coming. . .I must say I have received a few interesting ones in the mail lately!

Thanks for your continued prayers. By God's grace, I am plodding through these middle innings, trying to get some good pitches to hit, trying to get on base and every once in a while even score a few runs.

In Christ alone,