Jeremy…husband of Catherine, father of Ben, Simeon, Tom, Joshua & Lydia. Up until the end of April 2015, he was pastor/vicar of a group of churches on the edge of Exeter in Devon, UK. In early October 2014, aged 48, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer, a stage four malignant melanoma presenting as a tumour on his lungs. The usual life expectancy is 8-12 months. Then, in late December 2014, 23 year old Ben suffered a seizure. After prolonged medical care for what was most likely to have been a viral infection affecting his brain, Ben died in April 2015. Jeremy has up until recently seemed to have responded well to pioneering immunotherapy treatments that can extend life, but from September 2016 is now facing the fresh development of brain tumours and potentially now just months to live. On January 27th 2017 Jeremy took his last breath and went to be his Lord and Saviour. The family share their thoughts, feelings and reflections as they taJeremy…husband of Catherine, father of Ben, Simeon, Tom, Joshua & Lydia. Up until the end of April 2015, he was pastor/vicar of a group of churches on the edge of Exeter in Devon, UK. In early October 2014, aged 48, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer, a stage four malignant melanoma presenting as a tumour on his lungs. The usual life expectancy is 8-12 months. Then, in late December 2014, 23 year old Ben suffered a seizure. After prolonged medical care for what was most likely to have been a viral infection affecting his brain, Ben died in April 2015. Jeremy has up until recently seemed to have responded well to pioneering immunotherapy treatments that can extend life, but from September 2016 is now facing the fresh development of brain tumours and potentially now just months to live. On January 27th 2017 Jeremy took his last breath and went to be with his Lord and Saviour. The family share their thoughts, feelings and reflections as they take this painful and unexpected journey.

Stirred…but not shaken

Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Tower_of_Siloam_(Le_tour_de_Siloë)_-_James_Tissot

A good friend of mine from Exeter was away this last weekend, speaking at a church in another corner of the country. As Dave and I were talking then praying together about it last week, we touched on the bible passage he was to be speaking on, one from Luke 13. It refers to a tragedy that had taken place in Siloam. A tower had collapsed killing eighteen people. There was no apparent rhyme nor reason to it, and despite people seemingly wanting to explain it by pinning blame on the victims as if they had somehow done something to deserve it, Jesus counters it with a clear, “I tell you, no!”. And now, just last Friday night, news has reached us of the terror attacks in Paris with 132 people dead, all as equally undeserving as any of us or those in Siloam two thousand years before. Another tragedy we face with no small number of questions. There aren’t any guarantees for any of us, no “sky is always blue” in our lives on planet earth, no promises of paradise on earth. Good times are tainted by ensuing disappointment. Pleasure by pain. Happiness by loss, even tragedy.

Good news and not soI’ve been forcibly reminded of it again personally after a mixed-news visit to my oncologist late last week. Whilst he confirmed that my tumour has shrunk, Dr Goodman is now expressing a question. The scan I had a month ago showed a shadowy area on my liver. It’s one that’s been there all along in every CT scan, but he’s always judged it to be a small harmless lesion (a haemangioma). However, because it now appears to have grown by up to 2mm, it could indicate that it’s not actually a haemangioma but a melanoma tumour. Positively, it’s possible that it only appears bigger because of a different angle on the latest CT photo. But negatively, as it’s been accompanied by the appearance of a marble-sized lymph node gland in my left arm pit, he’s concerned about it. To clear up the questions, he’s ordered an MRI scan this coming Friday and is suggesting we might need to consider removing the lymph nodes under my arm.

Either way, if the shadow is either a slightly expanding, yet harmless haemangioma or a tumour, it would would explain why I’ve had a degree of intermittent low level discomfort in that region over the last few weeks.

Disturbance in the forceIt does somewhat downgrade the good news I wrote about here two weeks ago, and (to use Star Wars language), it feels for Catherine, me and the family like a “disturbance in the force”. It has mildly unsettled us. We’re continuing to remember, however, that the main tumour on my lung has continued to shrink. That’s indicative of the immune system doing what was hoped. If need be though, they will with no hesitation, put me straight onto ipilimumab’s son & heir, pembrolizumab. I’ve apparently been quite a celebrated case in the Exeter Oncology Department as I’ve responded so well to the immunotherapy and with virtually no side effects. A praying multitude around the globe I’m sure has been a factor.

Digging down deeperThe question I ask though is, “Where do I go with the thoughts and feelings that resurface again when I get news like this?” I’m no more immune from both the painful and the tragic than those folk in Siloam, in Paris, in Beirut, in Syria and other places. Even as I was reading through Luke 21 yesterday morning as part of Grace Church’s daily reading plan, I was reminded that suffering, even agony, is part of the journey for God’s people. What it does do is to cause me to quarry down deeper into Father’s love and Christ’s perseverance. As I do that, there are always further depths to plumb, gold to be found, shortcomings and weakness to be exposed then respectively forgiven and strengthened. Jesus’ response to the tragedy at Siloam was simple. “Unless you repent, you too will all perish”. He’s getting at the fact that life is unpredictatable. Tragedies happen. Death can catch any of us out at any time, and for whatever reason. But by the word ‘perish’, he means eternal death – not a happy concept! It might seem to our ears initially harsh, but I’m reminded that this is the God who loves me profoundly, telling truth that needs to be heard. If I want to survive a perishing eternity, there’s a way out. Repentance. An honest acknowledgement before God that we’ve lived “too much by the devices and desires of our own hearts” rather than like His perfect Son. Repentance is the first step in an ‘into-eternity’ relationship with God. But it’s also an ongoing necessity in this life for a close walk with Him  – it’s an ongoing entry point for the Holy Spirit to work in me, making me more like Christ. It’s not a route to a pain-free, tragedy-immune life on earth, but it sure is the road that provides God’s great strength (aka his “com-fort”) to carry on in the face of life’s brutalities. Repentance and faithful confidence in Christ is the doorway to the joy-filled life, to the highway of deepest peace. 

Over the weekend, while reading from Hebrews 12, I read –

Great cloud of witnesses“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Among that great cloud of witnesses are the many (and often stumbling) men and women who feature in the pages of scripture. Others of them surround our family at home and at church; still others are friends near and far. They’re all there cheering us on and keeping us buoyed. As I head towards my MRI scan on Friday and then wait for the results, I hold onto all these things, aiming not to lose heart. I’m keeping my eyes on Him who died for me and now sits at the right hand of the throne of God. It seems to me a great place to focus.

PS I’m really thrilled that Joshua has contributed something today in the column alongside, now entitled, “Joshua’s Encouragements from the Scriptures”. It encouraged me too. He’s currently living in East Devon working for The Community Church, Honiton. 

 

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Comments on: "Stirred…but not shaken" (12)

  1. Jackie O'Malley said:

    Hi Jeremy – I am overwhelmed as I read your thoughts and then reading Josh’s thoughts from his reading of Revelation it is truly inspirational, you both encapsulate in your words the wonder of knowing Jesus. We will hold you all in prayer on Friday x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Margaret and David Judson said:

    We’d like to share a poem written by our friend Heather Smith during her terminal illness in 2006:

    I will not die when Death says die
    I will not lie in passive acquiescence
    While all that is my essence fades away
    -I am a new creation awaiting endless day

    My frame is subject to decay and loss
    It bears the marks of struggle and survival
    While making its denial through these years of pain
    -I am a new creation I shall live again

    I know these times will pass
    “All flesh is grass” the scriptures say
    My time is in His hand and He’ll not stand
    and watch while mine is snatched away.
    -I am a new creation waiting break of day.

    I’ll bow obedient knee to none but He
    Whose Radiant features see my greatest gain
    I won’t be pushed –I’ll jump at the first note of the last Trump
    And gladly throw these flesh and bones away

    It wont be death shall come
    to bind me in its shroud and lay
    me captive in a prison tomb

    My new creation life shall burst alive
    and far outgrow the body that I own.
    I am a new creation taken home.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. heather wheeler said:

    Dear Jeremy, I haven’t been much in touch on here , but I have you all in my thoughts and prayers. There are just no words sometimes. But your words are inspirational and real and the Truth and Love of our Father shines out from them, shouts out I should say. Thank you.
    How proud you must be of dear Josh’s walk of faith and his profundity. I thank you Joshua for allowing God to work through you and reach many. Much love to you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Laura and Bob. said:

    It seems everywhere I turn there is bad news ,not only monstrous world atrocities; but much bad news closer to home among st MARYS congregation .although it’s 12 years since Sts-eves death ,it was all brought back again as I was doing the sermon in St Georges Hall ,Liverpool for World Remembrance Day for Road Victims and now your ‘Rainbow ‘ but although there is ‘disturbance in the force ‘ .He that is with us is greater than he who is in the world .By the way did you get the pics from St Mary’s Centre ? Laura Arnold

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Like jackie I am moved by the challenges you have faced, and inspired by the words you have shared from the scriptures . I hope that you and your family continue to find comfort and love and pray for blessings and healing to comfort you.
    All best, Gail

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jeremy;
    I am still amazed by the grace of God and his hand that is on you and your family. Like you I don not understand, but your journey has renewed my strength and boosted my faith. Know that you are in my prayers daily, each and every time the Lord bring you to mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yvonne Howarth said:

    Jeremy, Catherine and the family,
    I’ve read your recent contributions Jeremy and Joshua and I stand amazed at your honesty, openers to share and deep meaning of the scriptures.
    It saddens my heart Jeremy to read of your problems, but who am I to be anxious, when deep down I know who has the future and that life is worth the living just because he lives.
    I feel blessed to have lived in an age of scipture being put to song almost all the time and every often when reading your blog, I burst into an old chorus or hymn that repeats your words.
    Praying for you all as always but especially on Friday.
    Much love Yvonne X

    As Laura says we are going through tough times at St Mary’s, but as you remind us we will.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yvonne Norris said:

    Will continue to pray love to you all Yvonne & Mike

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mary Georginal Ann Hunt said:

    Inspirational words from you yet again Jeremy. Peter and I continue to pray for you all especially on Friday – we do so hope and pray that the result will be good.
    .How proud you must be of Josh to write such wonderful words especially from one so young
    You all remain in our thoughts and prayers’
    Much love from Mary & Peter. x

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Bonnie Bradley Bailey said:

    Jeremy, thank you for your openness and inspiration. You will be prayed for from Chennai, where I am currently assigned by Trinity. So thankful that though one of my hotel rooms was slightly flooded, I have carried on His wings when flying between cities with cyclones swirling about!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. praying for you all as we do daily. Especially for your next round of tests. God has been with you every step and we know he will draw closer than ever. With our love to you all xx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Michael Hewat said:

    Dear Jeremy
    It’s great to have the regular updates – thank you. What you write is always inspiring, reminding me of what Isaiah calls “the treasures of darkness”. You have a perspective which most of us do not, and what you write is a testimony to the faith you have always had, albeit now being tested and refined as never before.
    Great to read Josh’s comments alongside yours. I decided long ago never to read blogs, but I make an exception in the case of you two.
    Praying for the MRI today, that the shadow on the liver is not an advance in the cancer.
    With our love and prayers as always
    Michael and Kimberley

    Liked by 1 person

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