Thursday, October 21, 2010

An illegal pregnancy and a legal abortion

Luo Yan Qua and Xiao Ai Ying do not know how their story got posted on the internet. They were too distraught and shocked to have even considered reaching out to media as an option.

There is the possibility that someone in the government, aware of their situation and sympathetic, quietly released information about them on a popular Chinese website which works in the same way Twitter does.

Their story is macabre. Family Planning officials decided Xiao Ai Ying, eight months into her pregnancy, had violated China's one-child policy and forced her to have an abortion.  

The couple already have a daughter and this second pregnancy was accidental, but when it was confirmed three months in, husband and wife both felt it was too late to have an abortion and assumed the most that could happen to them was a heavy fine.  

Instead, Xiao Ai Ying was dragged kicking and screaming out of her own home by authorities.
What we have posted here is eight minutes of the interview we had with her husband, Luo Yan Qua, recounting the events. While there was not enough time to broadcast this interview on the channel, we felt his words so compelling that they merited being heard in full and have made this a web exclusive.

When we met wife Xiao Ai Ying, she was in the hospital. They had given her womb an injection, and she was waiting for the operation in which doctors would remove the dead foetus. Our report as it aired on the channel, is below.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Meditation reduces depression, fatigue, anxiety in MS patients

October 15, 2010

A new Swiss study reports that a form of meditation known as mindfulness may help patients with multiple sclerosis.
Patients with MS — a nervous system disease that typically surfaces in early adulthood and can cause muscle weakness, coordination/balance problems and thinking and memory problems, among other symptoms — often suffer from depression and anxiety.

The study compared multiple sclerosis patients who meditated to MS patients who didn't. Dr. Moses Rodriguez, a professor of neurology and immunology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who's familiar with the study's findings, said meditation is safe and cheaper than the drugs that MS patients take.

"Patients should try it and see if it is helpful for them," Rodriguez added.

Previous research has suggested that half of MS patients suffer from depression during their lives and that anxiety disorders affect one in four. About two-thirds say they feel fatigued, with up to 50% saying fatigue is their most disabling symptom.

Researchers at University Hospital Basel randomly assigned 150 patients to either take part in an eight-week meditation program based on "mindfulness" or receive regular medical care. The study defined the meditation, which included yoga, as "nonjudgmental awareness of moment-to-moment experience."

The participants in the mindfulness meditation program reported lower levels of fatigue and depression for up to six months than those receiving standard care. And the meditation participants had better quality of life, according to the study findings, published late last month in the journalNeurology.

Those in the meditation program, in fact, improved in almost all the measures of fatigue, depression, anxiety and quality of life, while those who received usual medical care declined slightly on most of the measures. For instance, those who took mindfulness training saw their depressive symptoms drop by more than 30% than those study participants who took no training.

"The patients responded very positively to the program," said study author Paul Grossman. "There was a very small number of patients that did not complete the course (5 percent), and the attendance rate was extremely high: On average over 90% of all sessions were attended, although many patients traveled several hours to attend the weekly sessions and people with MS often have difficulties walking and other symptoms that make travel difficult."

"Also, patients reported a high degree of satisfaction in meeting personal goals that were individually stated before the intervention started," Grossman added.

In an accompanying commentary in the journal, two physicians from the Cleveland Clinic noted that the findings of the study, which they called "solidly designed," were limited because the researchers didn't compare meditation to another form of extra treatment. That makes it difficult to understand if meditation is uniquely beneficial, they wrote.

But neurologist Dr. Jinny Tavee, one of the commentary authors, said she has seen positive effects of mindfulness in her own practice. The problem with medications, she said, is that patients are told, " 'Here are some drugs that make you sad, tired and depressed, but nothing will effectively take away your disease.' They're left with no effective treatments."

Enter mindfulness meditation. "You learn to objectify what you're feeling, be it pain or anxiety or depression, and see it as a separate entity that's not part of yourself. It helps you let it go," said Tavee. "You're getting to the heart of the symptom rather than just covering it as you do with medications."

Tavee said she sometimes sees furrowed eyebrows when skeptical patients hear about this approach. "But the thing is that this is free," she said. "You can learn how to do it by yourself. There's no side effects, and if it doesn't work for you, you've lost nothing. It's one of those things that can help and won't hurt."

Love is a powerful painkiller, study finds

Researchers say just a photo of one's beloved activates the brain's reward centers something like a drug might. Learning how to harness this could help relieve pain without drug-induced side effects, scientists suggest.

By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times

5:27 PM PDT, October 13, 2010

Sooner or later, love usually ends up hurting. But in its early, blissful throes, it actually lessens pain — at least of the physical kind. That's the finding, reported Wednesday, of a study by pain scientists and a psychologist who studies love.

The study, published online in the journal PLoS ONE, sprang from a meeting of minds between Arthur Aron of State University of New York at Stony Brook, a longtime researcher of the science of love, and Dr. Sean Mackey, a pain scientist at Stanford University. The two shared a hotel room while attending a neuroscience conference a few years back. Their epiphany came one evening over drinks.

"I'd had a couple glasses of Zinfandel and was chatting about pain and the brain systems involved … and he was chatting about love and the brain systems involved," Mackey said. "And we realized, you know, they could be influencing each other."

They knew that a few earlier studies had suggested that love relieved pain, but they wanted to go further and find out just what was happening in the brain. They put out a call on the Stanford campus for people who were in the first nine months of a relationship and still in the throes of romantic passion.

"It was clearly the easiest study we've ever recruited for — within hours we had these students banging on our doors saying, 'We're in love! We're in love! Study us,' " Mackey said.

Jarred Younger, then a Stanford graduate student, and the team tested 15 subjects. All were asked to bring in six photos: three of their beloved and three of a comparably attractive person they knew. The researchers heated the palms of the subjects' left hands to a point that caused either a moderate or high degree of pain, at which point the subjects looked at a photo, either of their beloved or the acquaintance.

In a third round of experiments, the researchers tested the effects of mere distraction, which is known to reduce pain, by having the subjects perform mental tasks (such as thinking of all sports that didn't involve a ball) while their palms were heated.

The photo of the beloved and mental distraction appeared to reduce pain by about the same amount: 36% to 45% for moderate pain, and 12% to 13% for high pain. (The photo of the peer had no effect.) But when the scientists redid the experiment while scanning subjects' brains with a functional MRI, they saw that the photo and the mental-distraction task activated very different parts of the brain.

The distraction task engaged the higher, thinking parts of the brain. A photo of the beloved, on the other hand, engaged the more primitive, "reptilian" regions — reward centers related to urges and cravings that are also implicated in addictions.

Learning how to harness the power of a loved one could help relieve pain without drug-induced side effects — or perhaps help people quit smoking, the scientists suggested.

"Will I be going back to my patients and prescribing one passionate love affair every six months? I don't know if I'm going there," Mackey said. "But it tells us there's a lot more to the experience of pain than just the injury."

Bruce Naliboff, co-director of the UCLA Center for Neurovisceral Sciences & Women's Health, said that the next step could be to separate out how much, if any, of the pain reduction was related to sexual desire.

"It'd be interesting to do an experiment with not just an acquaintance, but someone you feel close to — just not a sexual attraction," said Naliboff, who was not involved in the study.

That might include budding platonic relationships. Recalling that first meeting of minds over drinks during the conference, Aron said, "Talk about novel, challenging, exhilarating.... That night, when we had our conversation, if you heated my arm I wouldn't have felt anything."

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chilean Miners Emerge Changed Men after Rescue

Thursday, October 14, 2010


An epic drama came to an end late Wednesday night when the last of the 33 trapped Chilean miners emerged from their captivity. They had spent more than two months underground and came out to a hero's welcome. For many of the men, it has been a life-changing experience.

The rescue exceeded expectations every step of the way. All 33 men were freed in just 23 hours.
"We 33 miners are walking hand in hand with God," said miner Mario Sepulveda.

Early on, the men said they set aside time to pray daily.

Christian groups converged on the site, ministering to families and sending mini-Bibles and magnifying glasses down to the miners.

An audio adaptation of the Jesus film was sent down on 33 MP3 players. Local ministers said two of the men gave their lives to Christ.

Others said they grew closer to God.

"There are actually 34 of us, because God has never left us down here," 19-year-old miner Jimmy Sanchez wrote in a letter.

They went into the mine as workers. Now they are not only national heroes, they are changed men. They are beginning to tell the stories of their difficult times -- and how they never lost hope.

The rescued men were all wearing similar t-shirts when they came out of the mine. They were sent down by a brother of one of the miners.

The shirt says on the front "Thank you Lord" and on the back it says "To Him be the glory and honor."

It's taken from the Book of Psalm 95 verse 4: " his hands are the depths of the earth."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Sexes See Sex Differently

Why 70 percent of women would rather have chocolate than sex

In the February 2007 issue of Redbook magazine, a survey said 70 percent of women would rather have chocolate than sex. I read this statistic to my husband, my brother, and my dad. Their faces froze.

"Wow," my brother said and raised his eyebrows.

"Wow," my dad said and shook his head.

My husband, Loyd, just looked at me.

This is a generalization here, but most men want sex often. And more than that, they want their wives to want it often too.

Sexual intimacy makes marriage different from every other relationship. But in my marriage I've found that "intimacy" means different things to Loyd and me. I like to cuddle; he wants to make love. I like to talk; he wants to make love. I like to share time together; he wants to make love.
Early in our marriage, I was hurt to think he had one thing on his mind; he was hurt to know I didn't have the same thing on mine. After 34 years of marriage, we've forgiven each other for being different, but we are still different.

Most Men Crave Sex, While Most Women Crave Romance

Recently, we prepared separately for three days together in the mountains with no electricity or cell service. I packed a good read-aloud book, walking maps, and a deck of cards. When we arrived at the cabin and pulled out our supplies, we both laughed. Loyd had packed a couple bottles of wine, his MP3 player with speakers, and a few blue pills (Viagra). I teased him about being such a man, and he made fun of me for being such a woman.

Although not all men and women are wired this way, generally, most men crave sex, while most women crave romance.

As newlyweds, Loyd told me men want a woman who acts like a lady in public and like a hooker in the bedroom. He wanted me to flirt and tease, to be seductive and to want him with wild abandon. He believed the cliché, "A good wife needs to be an angel at home and a devil in bed."
But instead of that type of wife, some husbands have found that their wife make them beg for sex or withhold sex to get something they want.

And many women, that 70 percent who would rather have chocolate, settle for just enough sex to get their husbands to stop pestering them. They shrug and say, "I'm tired." They push their husbands away with, "I'm not in the mood."

I've been there. I've been tired and not in the mood, and I know this rejection puts my husband on the defensive. I'm sure it works that way with other men too. They want sex all the time, and they just don't understand why women don't.

According to research, sex is the number one way husbands feel close to wives. When they are close physically, they feel close emotionally. But to get close physically, women need to feel close emotionally. Romance ignites that desire.

I used to read romance novels and watch soap operas. I'm not alone. Romance is a best-selling genre, and a huge market supports daytime dramas. I indulged until an older woman told me that romance novels and soap operas fill the same need for a woman as pornography fills for a man. I don't know if this was her opinion or if she'd read research, but I do know I was shocked.

As I pondered her words, I saw the correlation. Porn objectifies sex. Romance genres glamorize it. Neither matches reality. Just as my body pales in comparison to the women in Playboy, my husband's charm fades in comparison to romance heroes. When I realized my passion for romance could be just as destructive to our marriage as Loyd's viewing pornography, I quit reading the novels, turned off the soaps, and told my husband I needed him to romance me. I needed him to be attentive, affectionate, and tender. I needed him to talk and cuddle and kiss. I needed him to do these things so I would want him in bed.

Men Want the Lights On While Women Want Them Off

Many women hide their bodies from their husbands. I did. Like those fertility goddesses in the paintings, my breasts are large, my abdomen full, and my thighs big. I didn't like what I saw when I looked in the mirror at my naked body, so I thought Loyd wouldn't like it either. I turned off the lights to undress. But he would always turn the lights back on. Why? Because he likes looking at me—big thighs and all.
Loyd thought I was sexy, and it insulted him when I complained about my body. Of all the women in the world, he had been attracted to me. He considered me a prize. When I belittled myself, I berated his taste in women. He wanted to believe he had good taste. When I shared with him my shame at resembling those statues, he reminded me that female form was the representation of a goddess. As long as I worry about how I look, I don't act sexy, and my husband wants me to act sexy. Men love to be stimulated visually.

We Need to Communicate Our Needs and Desires

I recently drove past the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo with my daughter-in law. I pointed to the white lighted venue and sighed. "Loyd and I spent our twenty-fifth anniversary there in the caveman room."

She laughed. "My Mom and her second husband spent their wedding night in that same room!" she said.

Over the years when I've mentioned the caveman room, others have shared their desire to spend a night there. Something in us longs for the primitive passion the caveman room implies. Sex is one of a human's basic needs, rating after air, water, food, and shelter. So why would a majority of women say they prefer chocolate to sex? Maybe they aren't asking for what they need.
The Song of Songs is a collection of love poems exchanged between a man and a woman, but the woman speaks more often than the man. She enjoys her sexuality. She speaks provocatively. Here in the Bible is a clear celebration of physical love. The man expresses his desire to touch the woman, and she welcomes him with the expressed desire to give herself to him. They relish sensual bliss. They talk. She tells him what she likes, and he tells her.

In the late 1940s, zoologist Alfred Kinsey's research on human sexuality challenged the status quo. He had trouble consummating his marriage. His inexperienced wife wasn't open to his untrained and awkward advances. When he discovered he and his wife needed help, he went with her to a professional. They learned to enjoy lovemaking. As a consequence, he pushed for open sex instruction. He believed the inhibited society of the '40s caused sex problems. Kinsey encouraged people to ask for what they needed, and his teachings were scandalous.

On our wedding night, Loyd confessed he would never welcome pajamas in our bed, because he would read my wearing them as a "Not tonight, Dear" message. Yeah, I've gone to bed on occasion in pajamas and the message has clearly been, "Don't even think of it. I'm mad at you!" But generally, I've honored his wishes. If he hadn't told me about his feelings toward night clothes, I would have gone to bed each night unaware of the hostile message I was sending him with my pajamas.

The Quality of Your Marriage

In a women's group my pastor's wife shared: "As your sex life goes, so goes the rest of your relationship." When their relationship was good in the bedroom, they enjoyed harmony in other areas of their relationship too. But when they weren't making love, everything seemed out of sync. My pastor's wife was right: Research suggests that there's a direct correlation between frequency of sex and satisfaction with the quality of a marriage.

Sex was God's idea. He created the different parts, made them fit together, and told the man and woman to become one. Sex is a drive. Barring physical limitations, if a husband and wife don't enjoy a healthy love life, they don't share a full and complete marriage. Sex is that significant.
One morning The Today Show broadcast a statistic that on the average, married couples make love once a week, and newlyweds make love twice a week. If frequency of sex increases marital satisfaction, why aren't married couples having sex more often? Maybe they aren't because 70 percent of women would rather have chocolate. They see sex as duty or drudgery.

In a marriage sex isn't always romantic. It's often just functional. I've had mountain peak sessions of ecstasy with my husband, but there have been a lot more Larry the Cable Guy sessions of "Get 'er done!" This is a fact of life. However, if a husband works to feed his wife's need for romance—cuddle, talk, share time together, bring chocolates and roses more often—that 70 percent might have chocolate and sex too.

Sherry Van Zante lives on the central coast of California. After 34 years of marriage, she and her husband, Loyd, still work to communicate and understand each other.

Anointing for Mental Disorders

ROME, OCT. 12, 2010 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Could someone who has mental problems/disorders receive the anointing of the sick? For example, people who battle an illness such as anxiety/panic disorder, bipolar, depression, schizophrenia, etc. I would think that these types of illness are not in and of themselves necessarily life-threatening, but they could be and could lead to life-threatening situations. I have a friend in Nova Scotia who visited a shrine in Quebec last summer. The shrine held a special anointing of the sick, but the priest announced that it was only for those truly ill and/or with a life-threatening illness. My friend was truly upset and didn't know whether to receive the anointing. She has had cancer and now suffers an anxiety/panic disorder, always living in fear of the cancer returning. -- T.O., Vermont

A: In general the sacrament of the sick is reserved for serious (but not necessarily life- threatening) physical illness which significantly affects one's health and well-being. It can also be administered before a serious operation or one that requires complete sedation, even if the underlying condition is not in itself life-threatening. It may also be administered to those over 65 if notably weakened, even if they do not suffer from any particular illness.

Historically the Church has not administered this sacrament for less serious illnesses, even if chronic. Until relatively recently, mental illnesses were not usually considered as subjects for anointing.

Medical science, however, has discovered that some hitherto mental illnesses are in fact symptoms of physical imbalances. For example, the dementia associated with Alzheimer's is apparently mental, but it is also a fatal, and still incurable, disease.

Even if the serious mental illness is not caused by known physical phenomena, No. 53 of the introduction to Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum (PCS) opens up the possibility of the use the sacrament in such cases. To wit: "Some types of mental sickness are now classified as serious. Those who are judged to have a serious mental illness and who would be strengthened by the sacrament may be anointed. The anointing may be repeated in accordance with the conditions for other kinds of severe illness."

The minister should proceed with some caution with respect to anointing for mental illness. There is no clear cut standard to determine "seriousness." For this reason, such situations should be handled on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with the person's physician. As stated in PCS, No. 8: "A prudent or reasonably sure judgment, without scruple, is sufficient for deciding on the serious of an illness. If necessary a doctor may be consulted."

Also PCS, No. 52: "Those who receive this sacrament in the faith of the Church will find it a true sign of comfort and support in time of trial. It will work to overcome the sickness if this is God’s will."

Finally, while it is possible that anxiety and similar mental strains could reach a stage of seriousness that would warrant anointing, it is also important to recall that the Church's habitual sources of grace such as frequent recourse to the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist, closeness to the Blessed Mother, as well as prayer and seeking spiritual guidance are of great benefit in helping us to overcome these burdens or at least bear patiently the trials permitted by God.

Jesus' Love Shines in Tokyo

PitcherWaterTowelSometimes in places where Believers are few, they bear a stronger resemblance to Jesus.  Japan is one of those places and Midori is one of those Believers.  She leads the singing in a church of 25 souls and cleans the rooms in a Christian guesthouse.  But a particularly Christ-like act of love by Midori happened in a Tokyo coffee shop.
The “Sonrise Café’” is a new ministry recently opened by TEAM missionaries in Tokyo.  The café’ exists to bring Japanese into genuine relationships with Jesus through those whom He has redeemed.  There, Midori’s humble, loving service has found her favor in the eyes of a patron...

Midori works part-time at the cafe, and one customer frequently asks "She will be here on Saturday, right?"  One Saturday, Midori extended kindness by massaging this woman's deformed hand.  The next week, a missionary co-worker at the cafe noticed a strange clicking sound and looked up to see Midori clipping the woman's fingernails for her.  Hmmm... strange.  A few minutes later, Midori was on her knees on the hardwood floor and spent a long time clipping the woman's toenails.  As it turns out, the woman's toenails are also deformed and very difficult to care for.  The woman has no family and had not found anyone willing to trim her ugly toenails – until she met Midori.  The missionary co-worker watched in amazement.  She saw the grace and the glory of God in that act of selfless love.  Perhaps the Lord will draw this woman’s heart to Himself through the love of Jesus in Midori.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. – John 13:12-14

Monday, October 11, 2010

Stories of survivors of domestic violence who killed their husbands.

October 11, 2010

Domestic Abuse: Coming to a Church Near You

Christian filmmaker Olivia Klaus goes inside California prisons to hear the stories of survivors of domestic violence who killed their husbands.
sinby.jpg“How long am I to remain in this relationship?” This is the haunting question 65-year-old Glenda Crosley asks in a documentary, Sin by Silence, about the abusive husband she killed in 1986. She has been in prison for as long as she was married — 24 years — and wonders when her ordeal will be over.
In the film, shot almost entirely inside the California Institution for Women, Crosley says the first time her husband, Sam, “truly got physical” was when she was eight months pregnant with their second child. He shoved her into a wall. Eventually she came to believe that the violence wouldn’t end until one of them was dead. According to The Bakersfield Californian, at the time of Sam’s murder, the couple was separated and having an argument in a parking lot. When Sam walked away from her car to the trunk of his, she believed he was going to get the tire iron he had threatened her with the week before. She rammed him once, drove away, then turned her car and hit him again. He died at the scene.
Elizabeth Leonard, author of Convicted Survivors and professor at Vanguard University, a Christian college in Costa Mesa, California, says in the film that women who leave abusive relationships are often subject to “separation assault” and are 75 percent more likely to be murdered than before they left. So the answer to the question: Why didn’t she just leave? is not a simple one. In the same 2009 Bakersfield Californian article, Crosley’s daughter Stacy is quoted as saying she remembers her mother trying to leave several times and each of them ending with her father’s rage. She even blames herself for her father’s death because one of the times her mother returned was because a judge wouldn’t release her from a group home unless her parents were living together.
“We are offenders, but we’re victims,” says Brenda Clubine in another Sin by Silence scene. Clubine is founder of Convicted Women Against Abuse (CWAA), the support group at the heart of the film. Brenda’s tireless work helped change California law in 1992 to allow expert testimony on Battered Women’s Syndrome into court rooms and again in 2002 to allow women whose convictions predated the 1992 ruling the same right on appeal. Clubine tells viewers, “This group is not about staying in the victim role.” It starts there, helping women to recognize the process that led them to murder their spouses, but then its goals move to education about and eradication of domestic violence.

Dr. George Wood discusses Domestic Violence

Twenty CWAA members have been released from prison in the nine years since director-producer and Vanguard professor Olivia Klaus first began attending its meetings. A desperate phone call from a friend started her on a journey to find out why abuse happens, why the one-in-four American women who experience it once in their lifetime stay, and how they can get out. Klaus says, “Being from a Christian family, I never thought domestic violence would come into my circle. . . . It completely shattered my world.” Klaus turned to Leonard, a colleague at Vanguard. Leonard told her that if she really wanted to understand domestic violence and help her friend, she needed to go with her to prison to “learn from the experts.”
Klaus says, “From that first day, these women completely changed my life. . . . What society has labeled as murderers, I see as mothers, as grandmothers, or even myself. Domestic violence has no boundaries and it can happen to anyone, and it can happen to the point where you have to defend yourself.” The 32-year-old filmmaker adds, “Spiritually, this film has been the glue for my beliefs. Once my friend opened up to me about her relationship and once I met these women, I could no longer see the world with rose-colored glasses. . . . Domestic violence is something that we’ve overlooked for far too long. We have women in our churches who are in pain and need help.”
Klaus hopes that other women’s groups will do as the women of Newport Church in Newport Beach have done. The women not only gave generously to finance Sin By Silence, they also provide significant support and resources for CWAA women when they are released from prison.
Throughout October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Sin by Silence can be seen at in virtual screenings that are hosted by key project participants. Among them is Brenda Clubine. Her heartbreaking and hope filled story provides this film with an ending so surprising that you will have to see it for yourself to believe it. I urge you to do so. But don’t stop there. How about turning your next church women’s social into an opportunity to respond to domestic violence?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Joni Eareckson Tada on Something Greater than Healing

Now facing breast cancer and chronic pain, the author, speaker, and advocate talks about the blessings of suffering.

A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty
by Joni Eareckson Tada
David C. Cook, September 2010
224 pp., $15.99

Joni Eareckson Tada might be mistaken for a modern-day Job. The disabilities advocate was severely paralyzed in a diving accident at age 17. For the past ten years, she has endured chronic pain. Now, at age 60, she confronts breast cancer. Sounding upbeat and confident after surgery, she spoke with Christianity Today about her latest book, A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty (David C. Cook), where she outlines her theology of suffering.
How has your perspective on suffering and healing changed since your breast cancer diagnosis?
Thankfully, it hasn't changed at all. You examine Scripture again and follow every passage regarding healing. I did that with my quadriplegia, and I did that again 10 years ago, when I embarked on a whole new life of chronic pain. Just a month ago, getting diagnosed with breast cancer, I looked at those same Scriptures, and God's words do not change.
Even though it seems like a lot is being piled on, I keep thinking about 1 Peter 2:21: "To these hardships you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps." Those steps most often lead Christians not to miraculous, divine interventions but directly into the fellowship of suffering. In a way, I've been drawn closer to the Savior, even with this breast cancer. There are things about his character that I wasn't seeing a year ago or even six months ago. That tells me that I'm still growing and being transformed. First Peter 2:21 is a good rule of thumb for any Christian struggling to understand God's purposes in hardship.
Can you elaborate on new ways you think about God's character?
In John 14, Jesus says, "Anyone who has faith in me will do … even greater things than these." We tend to think Jesus was talking about miracles, as if Jesus were saying, "Hey guys, look at these miracles! One day, you'll do many more miracles than me!"
The thing that Jesus was doing wasn't necessarily the miracles. He was giving the gospel; he was advancing his kingdom; he was reclaiming the earth as rightfully his. When Jesus gave that promise, he was saying, "I'm giving you a job to do, my Father and I want the gospel to go forth, and I promise you'll have everything you need to get that job done, and you'll do an even better job than me." Jesus ministered for three years, and at the end, he had a handful of disciples who half-believed in him. After Jesus went to heaven and the Holy Spirit came down—my goodness, Peter preaches one sermon and thousands believe. That's the greater thing that God wants us to do.
That's what I have been seeing this past month. Every x-ray technician, every nurse, every doctor's secretary, every clinician, every person I meet in nuclear medicine and at the MRI—it's amazing how many opportunities I've been given to see people hungry and thirsty for Christ. I knew that was true before, but there seems to be something special that is accompanying this diagnosis. I'm just so amazed by people asking me, "How can you approach this breast cancer with such confidence in a God who allows it?" And I'm being given the chance to answer.
The greater thing is not the miracle; it's the advancement of the gospel, it's the giving of the kingdom, reclaiming what is rightfully Christ's.
You have hinted at a classic question: How can a good God allow such suffering in the world? How does your latest book, on God's sovereignty, address that?
When people ask that question—even I struggle with that question—we aren't accepting the fact that this earth is wired to be difficult. The rule of thumb is that we experience much suffering because we live in a fallen world, and it is groaning under the weight of a heavy curse. If God being good means he has to get rid of sin, it means he would have to get rid of sinners. God is a God of great generosity and great mercy, so he is keeping the execution of suffering. He's not closing the curtain on suffering until there is more time to gather more people into the fold of Christ's fellowship.
That answer suits me, and I think it would suit others if they stop and think: Suffering is connected to sin; if God were to get rid of suffering, he'd have to get rid of sin, and then he'd have to get rid of sinners—and God is too merciful to do that.
Is it different when the cause of suffering is natural? For instance, you might not have control over getting breast cancer. Do you cope differently from someone who has something done to her by another person?
Certainly I could have controlled this one; I should have gotten a mammogram five years ago. I have no one to blame but myself. I can't point the finger at secondhand smoke in restaurants. I should've gotten a mammogram, and I did not. I failed to do it, and I regret that. (If I were to tell your female readers anything, I'd say, "Get a mammogram.")
Whether hardship is brought on by our own negligence or through the direct assault of the hand of a wicked person, or our own ignorance and misinformed decisions, or our lack of awareness or misdoings, or some catastrophe of nature—these things fall under the purview of God's overarching decree. A close look at the New Testament shows that God's sovereignty extends over all these things. God permits all sorts of things that he doesn't approve of. He doesn't approve of my spinal-cord injury or my cancer, but in his sovereign decree he has allowed them. I don't care if you use permitallow, or ordained; it's all the same thing. Ultimately it goes back to God being in charge. I don't think there is a real difference.
The greater thing Jesus promises we can do is not the miracle, but the advancement of the gospel, reclaiming what is rightfully his.
Suffering is hardship and heartache. It's one package. Yes, God could have prevented it. He could prevent a thief from breaking in and stealing, he could prevent a wicked man with a gun from firing it, and he could have prevented my cancer. He could have put in my heart:Go get a mammogram. If he chooses to allow these things to occur, it doesn't mean he's any less caring or compassionate. His will, purpose, and sovereign design may be a bit more ob-scure and enigmatic on this side of eternity.
When you discovered you had breast cancer, was your reaction different from all your previous experiences of suffering?
I don't fall apart emotionally. There's a lump. Wow, okay, let's get this taken care of. I broke my neck. Yikes. What is this going to mean? Okay, let's buckle down and move forward. I'm the kind of person who cannot allow those emotions to go down the grim path of despair. It's too deep of a miry pit. I'd rather face life head-on and with full force and take things as they come, learn from those things, and move forward.
How should we respond to someone who is suffering?
It's important to follow injunctions from God's Word: Go to the elders, be anointed with oil, and confess sin. If you feel you need to go to a special prayer service, by all means attend it. Have a pastor anoint you with oil and lay hands on you. After you do, you have to keep on living. That's what happened to me when I was first injured. I confessed sin and was anointed with oil. Do I sit around for my hands and feet to get the message? I have to live in the meantime. If you feel led to, pray and seek healing, but keep living while you're looking for the healing.
Even if the focus is on living, shouldn't Christians prepare themselves for further suffering and death?
None of us, in our culture of comfort, know how to prepare ourselves for dying, but that's what we should do every day. Every single day, we die a thousand deaths. We don't just walk through the valley of the shadow of death when we get a medical report or when we survive a stroke. We go through the valley of the shadow of death every time we say no to our selfish desires. When we say yes to the grace of God, we are learning how to die.
This past weekend, I was singing hymns with friends. One of my favorites is "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah," but the words in the hymnal we were using had been changed. They took out the verse on death: (singing) "Death of death and hell's destruction, land me safe on Canaan's side." They exchanged the wonderfully rich, pithy, deep, hard words with something vague like, "Help me through until the other side." They extricated those words about death and hell's destruction. Why do that? We need to learn how to die every day. Suffering does that. It prepares us. Every time we go to sleep, it's a rehearsal of the day when our eyes will ultimately close and we wake up on the side of eternity.
What teachings of Jesus especially help you understand suffering?
There's the portion of Scripture in Matthew 18 where Jesus says, "If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off. If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out." Here Jesus, the one who delighted in healing hands that could not work, restoring feet that could not walk, giving sight to eyes that could not see—here he is, saying cut off your hand, gouge out your eyes, if these things are causing you to sin. Jesus underscores his priority that yes, the physical body counts, but it does not trump the health of the soul.
When people ask about healing, I'm less interested in the physical and more interested in healing in my heart. Pray that I get rid of my lazy attitude about God's Word and prayer, of brute pride—set me free from self-centeredness. Those are more important, because Jesus thought they were more important.
Go to for "Something Greater Than Healing," a Bible study based on this article.