Extreme Deity, Extreme Faith, Extreme Prayer, Extreme Thanks, Praying with a Thankful Heart

An Incredible Year

If you know me, you may be thinking I’m looking ahead to 2022. Actually, it was one year ago on Dec. 30, 2020, that I tested positive for Covid. And what a year it has been.

When I photographed other cancer survivors in 2010-11, I was often deeply touched by their deep appreciation for life, by the passion with which they embraced life. They seemed to cherish life and appreciate every moment. In some ways, I couldn’t fully understand it. My own brush with cancer seemed so “mild”—so “treatable”, from what my doctor told me—that I never really felt that it was life threatening. I knew any cancer could be fatal if left untreated, but we had caught mine early and the prognosis was good. Granted, I was shocked by it, and knew it was serious. It was a bit scary, and I told Trish, “It’s time to put up, or shut up. Either the things we believed and taught about faith and thankfulness would see us through this, or they won’t.” That was one major reason I was able to keep a positive attitude. The doctor’s were amazed at how quickly I recovered.

Okay, enough “backstory.” Fast forward to last December.

At the end of the month, I developed a hard cough, with a fever. The fever clued us in that this wasn’t just allergic bronchitis. That’s when I got tested. The cough got worse. Hard and deep. I ran through most of the other Covid symptoms at one point or another over the next few days. My oxygen saturation would drop to the 78-80% range, then bounce back up into the 90’s. On January 10, it plummeted into the mid-to-upper 40% range, and wasn’t bouncing back. Trish called an ambulance and I was transported to the only hospital around that could take me. For the first day or two, they didn’t have a room for me. I was in the emergency room waiting on an ICU room to open up. It was so crowded they had made make-shift cubicles so patients wouldn’t be sharing the same room in emergency. The doctor was telling me I needed to be on a ventilator. He told me I had a 50-50 chance of surviving if I went on it, and none if I didn’t. I agreed to it, and on Jan. 12, I was intubated.

During this time, the nurses would call my wife daily, and the doctor called about every other day. He told Trish that he could offer her no hope that I would survive. (So much for 50-50, huh?) She told him, “That’s okay. My hope isn’t in you or in your medicine. My hope is in the Lord. There are people all across the country praying for him. So stand back and watch for a miracle.”

And so it began—a month in the hospital; three months in rehab; another 8 days back in the hospital with pneumonia; home health; outpatient physical therapy, with a heart procedure thrown in just to make it interesting. I’ve shared a lot of the details and progress since I returned home from rehab. If I share much more here, it would just be redundant. Mainly, I wanted to share specifically Trish’s conversation with the doctor about hope, prayer and a miracle. And, I want to put a wrap on this year with a brief summary of lessons learned.

A quick health update first for those who have been praying and/or following my recovery: I am still getting stronger. There are still days I use a cane to provide a little stability when I’ve walked a lot and my left leg starts feeling “heavy” and tired. I still get fatigued from time-to-time, more than I’d like. However, I can lift more, do more, not get fatigued as easily, and bounce back more quickly when I do push my limits.

This has been an amazing year. It’s been a good year. In some ways, it’s been the worst year ever for Trish and me. In more important ways, it has been the best year ever. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood (not even at the viral/bacterial level). Our battle, all our battles, every battle you and I face is a spiritual battle. The “enemy” didn’t really care whether or not I was sick, or how sick I was. He only wanted to shake our faith in God. He wanted to destroy the progress we were making spiritually, and distract us from the lessons we were learning and sharing regarding faith and thankfulness.

He ran smack into Hebrews 2:14—”Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” “Render powerless“: the Greek word here literally means “make of no effect.” It is a doing without a resulting deed. It’s effort without effect. It’s work with no results to show for it. Instead of separating us from God the Father, this year has taught us to embrace His presence with more faith and confidence, more awareness of how real He is. Our faith has grown. The lessons on giving thanks for all things—Extreme Gratitude—have become more real, and more a part of us, as we have applied been reminded of them over and over and applied them more consistently. Prayer has become a more effective and consistent part of our lives. The things we already knew about it have become more real to us, and we have seen with our own eyes, in our own experience the power of interceding for others before the Father. And now I truly understand—and share—that appreciation for and passion for life that I saw in those other cancer survivors a decade ago.