Wife of young missionary doctor with cancer,

team leader in rural Uganda, pointed me to Jesus today, through her story.

–DumbSheepDave, always needing to be reminded he’s a dumb sheep needing his ShepherdJesus

On Wednesday, we headed back to the Infusion Center for Round Three of chemotherapy. School is out so the kids went to the lake with my mother for a few days of fun and, honestly, so they would not have to be here when Travis is sick from the heavy medicines.

I had only stepped out of the waiting room for 5 minutes to call the kids to find that in my absence, Travis was holding hands with another woman!

A bit taken aback, I sat next to him and he introduced me to Virginia, an 80 year old angel who came to pray with us.

Previously, in the elevator to the Infusion Center, we had made small talk with Virginia before heading to our separate treatments. The typical: “You hanging in there?” “Yep.” “How about you?” “Yep, hanging in there.”

As her treatment was finished, she passed by Travis on her way to the elevator and heard the Lord tell her to pray for him. So, she turned from the elevator and told Travis, “I will pray for you every day” and then got on the elevator. Once inside, she heard the Lord say, “Virginia, why didn’t you pray for him then?” She replied, “Oh, Lord, I am sorry! You meant to pray right then too? Ok! But how do I stop the elevator?”

So, she rode the elevator to the bottom floor (because she did not know how to stop it) and rode back up to the Infusion Center. There, she proceeded to pray over Travis from top to bottom and loud enough for the other patients nearby to receive the blessing of her prayer.

And that is when I walked in and found them holding hands. Once I heard her story, I joined them in the hand holding.

And maybe that is what prayer has been for us lately. Hand holding. Like Aaron who held up the hands of Moses so that there would be victory. Like Jesus who reached out his hand to a drowning Peter who had started looking at the deep dark water surrounding him. Like Virginia who is bold enough to ride the elevator back up and hold our hands to remind us that God is with us.

I admit my theology of prayer is a bit wobbly right now. Maybe I am just growing in my understanding of how much I don’t understand the deep mysteries of God.

But what I do know is that God invites us to pray to Him. Alone in tears. Side by side in earnest. And with hundreds, thousands, in chorus, asking him for mercy and healing.

On Wednesday, we threw “the egg of disappointment” into the marsh. Every three years, World Harvest Mission gathers together for a week of teaching, singing, prayer, and just plain fun with other missionaries that are serving in some very hard places in the world. Instead of getting on the airplane to the Team Leaders meeting and then Mission Wide Conference, we were pleading with the airlines for a refund of our tickets. And instead of heading back into Bundibugyo to lead a full summer of interns, new ministries, and welcoming new missionary families, we sit with other cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and waiting for the side effects to subside. Yes, disappointment, indeed.

That is why one phone call was good medicine for our souls. As we were waiting to meet with the oncologist, Josiah Bancroft called us from Spain and we heard the voices of the hundreds of other WHMers that had gathered for the phone call and prayer. Our field director Scott Myhre began the prayer and then was followed by numerous teammates and friends who poured out prayers for courage, strength, and healing. Though we were continents apart, it felt like we were side by side, holding hands, speaking to the same Lord, and being held close to His heart.

When we decided to serve overseas, the advice we continually received was “gather a prayer team.” And we did. And you have prayed us through some really gnarly things: malaria, tribal conflict, dangerous traveling, sick friends, broken relationships, border violence, dengue fever, the need for teammates, and many times when we could not get an email out to ask you to pray, but knew to pray anyway. What a blessing to have a “prayer team” now! Hundreds of friends whom we can email to ask to stand with us, kneel with us, pray with us. To hold our hands.

Our mailbox has been overflowing with kind letters from people who remind us that they are praying each day for healing for Travis. Letters from fifth graders, former colleagues, people we have never met, friends overseas, and even from the “prayer warriors” at Leath Female Correctional Institution in South Carolina! They remind us that their friends are also praying for Travis. It is both humbling and encouraging. And needed.

Please continue to hold our hands in prayer:

Praying for courage to continue in treatment when the road of sickness seems so long…
Praying for the chemo to kill cancer cells and for no loss of feeling in Travis’s fingers…
Praying for faith to take today for what it is and not worry about tomorrow…
Praying for our hearts to be tender to the heart of God and to others who suffer…
Praying for our children to lean into Jesus when their world is shaken…

And we are praying for you too. As Travis is awake throughout the night, he prays for you. If you would like for him to pray about specific things, please email it to us.

Holding hands with you,
Amy and Travis

When I feel alone,

pressured, with a problem to solve, like it’s up to me, or when I feel confident-but-intense in attacking the problem before me, I need the Spirit to freshly convict me of my sin of independence/self-confidence, so I’m returned to Jesus-dependency, curious and expectant to see what my ShepherdJesus does next, in me, others, circumstances.  And thanking Him for me, others, just as we are, and Himself, and His perfect plan for my life that cannot possibly be improved.  Ahhh.

–DumbSheepDave, who loves his life as a dumb sheep more than he can express, hoping the pre-believers around him are noticing the difference Jesus is making in his life in 2013

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“When I strive for excellence,

accomplishment, performance, worthiness, righteousness, I will receive love from others and from self.”  This is the unconscious lie I have believed since high school, perpetrated on me by the world we live in, outside the Church and inside too.  I never understood why I have been such an over-achiever.  I always thought it was a good thing to be ambitious, hard working, dedicated, conscientious, concerned about my appearance.  I never understood that what I’ve been looking for, is love.

It was really helpful for me to go through World Harvest’s Sonship Course, and to spend the next 29 years discipling others to live out of the reality of being unconditionally loved by the Creator of the Universe.  In fact, I am convinced I would never have been able to look inside to see the major dysfunction/neediness I see today, had it not been for years of soaking in the Good News of His unconditional love for me.  But I came to realize, that I needed something more than His love.  I used to be a world-class people pleaser, desiring love from others through my performing well, appearing well, or loving them well, but that has dissipated over these 29 years, to where today I don’t feel the need so much for others to love me, admire me; I now have more of a healthy indifference; the idolatry has significantly dissipated.  Most of the time it’s none of my business what others think of me.

But.  It has become my business what me thinks of me.  I’ve begun to see how much I need me to love me.  And when my focus is on performing/accomplishment/goals/judging-myself-and-others, I’m distracted from loving the real me, and Jesus, and others.  I am using me, to get what my flesh thinks will bring me self-love/self-acceptance.  My flesh is woefully deceived.  My performance addiction or my judging addiction or my appearance addiction will never satisfy my need for me loving me, just as I am, just as Jesus loves me.  Jesus doesn’t love me more when I do more, do better: He loves me just as I am.  My performance/judging/appearance addiction — another way of talking about my flesh, doesn’t care about the real me: it only cares about my perceived worthiness/righteousness in the eyes of others and myself, when I win, and delivers self-contempt when I fail.  This is not self-love, but conditional self-love.  Lousy love.  No love at all, really.  My flesh uses me to get what it wants, to get what it thinks will satisfy my craving since childhood that I never understood I had — my love-vacuum.  Human accomplishment, reputation, somebodiness, will never ever satisfy a love-vacuum, because a love-vacuum needs unconditional love.   Jesus created us humans this way.  But not even the unconditional love of  Jesus satisfies my love-vacuum.  Unless.  I am enabled by Him, to accept, enjoy, love, myself, unconditionally, just as He loves me unconditionally.  I’ve believed for 29 years that Jesus loves me, just as I am, and now I’m coming to also experience the love of Dave for Dave, just as Dave is, the inner Dave, the true Dave, and this is satisfying my soul, filling my love-vacuum.  Ahhh.  Priceless.

All humans have a love-vacuum, and most try and get it satisfied by performance, or relationships, or judging, or better, by Jesus, but as long as the devil can keep a believer from loving him/herself unconditionally, the believer will be a workaholic, performance-aholic, over-achiever or under-achiever, constantly judging others and self, living on the edge of burnout or in the middle of misery, without joy and peace unless things momentarily go his/her way.

So these days, when I notice myself intense, hurried, or judging others/self, it’s a red flag, indicating that I’ve been snookered again, into a performance-based, pride-based, strategy to fill my love-vacuum.  Conditional self-love never works, never satisfies.  Pride.  Thank You, Jesus, for thwarting my attempts at getting my need met by performing/judging, instead of me enjoying the me You have been creating over these 71 years.  Just as I am, warts and all.  Thank You that I don’t get distracted from unconditionally loving You and others, when You enable me to unconditionally love myself.  Thank You for opening my eyes to see that dying to self, is dying to selfishness, dying to conditional self-love, dying to pride, dying to achievement-addiction, judging addiction, appearance addiction, being wise in my own eyes, leaning on my own understanding.  My flesh would love some of the credit for this awakening that is only due You.  Get used to disappointment, Dave’sFlesh/ShepherdDave.

My flesh needs worthiness, but my soul needs love.  Love from Jesus.  Love from Dave.  Unconditional.  A loved soul is a loving soul.  Loving others, even enemies.  Loving Jesus, and His perfect plan for my life, which includes suffering, sometimes brutal suffering, for my growth in Jesus-dependency.

–DumbSheepDave, experiencing like never before, the abundant LIFE, that his ShepherdJesus promised, hoping the pre-believers around him are noticing the difference Jesus is making

To receive my weekly updates, email me, or search for GospelFriendships (one word) on Facebook, and “like” the page, or subscribe to my blog: dumbsheepdave.com

The chief torturer of my soul,

is not the devil, not my deceased dad, not others.  The chief torturer is me.  And what this tortured soul wants in this life, in my less sane moments, more than anything else in the whole wide world, is to be accepted and enjoyed by TheGreatestJerkOnThePlanetToDaveMcCarty.  Dave McCarty is a cruel taskmaster to me, and will not cut me any slack at all.  No grace.  Dave McCarty will not give me acceptance and enjoyment, just as I am: I have to earn it.  Dave McCarty has integrity about granting acceptance and enjoyment, especially to me.  It’s not grace, but a merit system.  When I perform well, make great decisions, Dave McCarty will extend limited acceptance and limited enjoyment to me, but his acceptance and enjoyment are limited to right now, because Dave McCarty is always looking down the road to the next opportunity for me to fail/succeed, and so Dave McCarty withholds unconditional acceptance and enjoyment of me, because he has to wait and see if I really deserve to be accepted and enjoyed.  I see it now like never before.  Constant pressure to perform well.  Terrible way to live.

But in my saner moments, after I’ve been freshly convicted of my prideful, conditional, self-acceptance, I’m able to extend the same grace to myself, that my ShepherdJesus extends to me, and suddenly the whole world looks amazingly different.  Ahhh.  And I find that it’s so much easier to extend grace to others, when I’m able to extend grace to myself.

–DumbSheepDave, living with more freedom and reckless abandon than ever before, sometimes, because folks have been praying, hoping the pre-believers around him are noticing the difference Jesus is making

To receive my weekly updates, email me, or search for GospelFriendships (one word) on Facebook, and “like” the page, or subscribe to my blog: dumbsheepdave.com

I’ve been good at faking emotional health,

all my adult life, not only to others, but to myself.  Embarrassing today to see it, but enormously freeing to embrace and enjoy myself, just as I am.   Others too, just as they are.  Circumstances too, just as they are.  I feel no pressure to be something I’m not, in my saner moments, and the joy and peace I experience are priceless, worth selling all to get.

–DumbSheepDave, having more fun than ever, because folks have been praying, hoping the pre-believers around him are noticing the difference Jesus is making

To receive my weekly updates, email me, or search for GospelFriendships (one word) on Facebook, and “like” the page, or subscribe to my blog: dumbsheepdave.com

 

I honor Jesus with my lips,

but my heart is far from Him, when I’m leaning on my own understanding, wise in my own eyes, confident I know what’s best for me and others, pursuing my agenda, asking Him to bless my agenda, so I reach my goals, feel worthy.  When I function as an independent/shepherd/CEO, I have the name of Jesus, but not the benefit of Jesus.  Only Jesus-dependents experience the joy and peace that has nothing to do with circumstances, is contagious to others.

Jesus-dependency is impossible for me to generate from within, is not a fruit of discipline, is a work of the Spirit, a fruit of fresh conviction of the sin of independence.  I get zero credit for any dependency anyone might ever see in me.

–DumbSheepDave, baby steppin in more-dependent directions because folks have been praying, hoping the prebelievers around him are noticing the difference Jesus is making

To receive my weekly updates, email me, or search for GospelFriendships (one word) on Facebook, and “like” the page, or subscribe to my blog: dumbsheepdave.com

Young doctor/team-leader of missionaries in rural Uganda,

just diagnosed with colon cancer.   All of World Harvest is in shock.  I’m copying his letter to his Pray-ers below, because it will point you to Jesus.  This is for your benefit, not his.  He has plenty of folks praying for him.

–WeakDave, trying to promote the Jesus-dependency this friend is requesting

 

This past Friday I was diagnosed with adenomcarcinoma of the colon- colon cancer.  When the GI specialist told us he found a suspicious mass on a colonoscopy, tears fell down my face.  I was hoping he was going to show me a 12 foot long tapeworm that he pulled out of my gut.   I feared maybe some sort of inflammatory bowel disease.  I did not expect cancer.

I am thankful for how Africa has given me a chance to walk closer with Jesus. There are three things that I have learned these past three years that He has reminded me over the past several days.

First, suffering is a part of this life.  It is not an anomaly.  We all suffer.  Most of the world suffers much everyday.  If you have not read “Insanity of God” by Nik Ripken, please do.   We live in a broken world in which suffering is as assured as the sunrise.  So, my reaction is not “why me” but more “why now?”

Secondly, Jesus is in the depths of suffering.  He purposely does not prevent suffering.  He purposely draws near to us in our suffering.  The believers I know who have suffered much, know Jesus deeply.  Instead of praying daily, they converse with Jesus continually.  I have learned this from some of my dear Uganda friends.

Jesus is in the midst of this newest trial/adventure/curveball/scare. It is amazing to me that we are near my family with a caring church and some of our closest friends.  This was planned before I had symptoms.  We have already been showered by these dear friends and family with prayers, help, words of truth and ministry of presence.  I am in the US and not in the jungles of Africa.  I am near a fantastic medical center. We have a place to stay, a job that allows me to be available for appointments, and a mission that is praying for me from all over the world.  I had a colonoscopy because of symptoms similar to amebiasis.  The symptoms are not necessarily related to the mass I have, especially given the smaller size of the mass.  These symptoms have largely resolved over the past week since my colonoscopy.  It could be that my symptoms are from an infection or the strange fever I had last fall and only related to the mass by the hand of God, who wanted the mass to be found.

Sometimes I find myself stuck on a passage and meditate on it for days or weeks. This month, I have been camping out on Psalms 16.  I wasn’t sure why Jesus had me there, until after the diagnosis.  I re-read it that afternoon and the words seem to jump off the page as if the Holy Spirit was speaking directly to me.  In all of these I am thankful to say that we have seen and felt profoundly Jesus’s presence and His tender care to go before us.  I have another chance to walk with Him grasping His hand tightly.

Thirdly, prayer moves the heart and hand of God.  Over and over again in Uganda we saw how your prayers seemed to change outcomes, overcome fears and open up doors for Jesus to be worshiped.

So, once again, I ask you to pray.  I know God hears.  I know He cares.  I know He acts when His people ask.

Please pray for the following:

Pray that we can listen- that we may be able to take the time to see how Jesus is present and working around and through us.  We do not want to be so rushed in “fixing” the problem to miss an opportunity to walk with Him and hear what He is saying.

Pray that we will know the right treatment plan of cure for me.  There are a couple of surgical options and chemotherapy options that are available.  We want to be wise and correctly treat the cancer I have.  We want to be aggressive.  We do not want to walk in fear and take an approach based on fear of what might happen down the road and could lead to unneeded side effects or outcomes.  I don’t know what is best at this time.

Pray that God will protect our minds in Christ Jesus with a peace that passes all understanding.  Today I can honestly say I do not fear the cancer. I do see this as a chance to walk with Jesus.  I also know this will change daily as news causes me to vacillate from confidence to being disheartened.

Pray for Amy and I as we walk this together.  She will be bearing the brunt of the changes and consequences.  Pray for encouragement for her. Pray that we can communicate well.

Pray for our children.  As always, my prayer is that they will know and love Jesus more because of my life.  Pray that we go to Jesus together constantly and I know how to include them in this chapter of our life.

Pray for our team, friends, and ministry in Bundibugyo.  We will certainly be delayed in our return which will impact a lot of people.  Pray for wisdom as we try to sort out what the plan forward should be.

Thanks so much for your friendship and love.  Thanks for your prayers and words of encouragement.  Keep them coming.  We are desperate for these.

Thankful for you,

Travis

Chaplain leads resident to Jesus.

For the past twenty years I’ve mentored this former pastor, now chaplain of a large nursing home.  Jesus is growing him wonderfully as an example of what GospelFriendships is attempting.

–WeakDave, trying to get us believers to do the impossible, operate with Jesus-power — Jesus-humility and Jesus-love, so we will fruitfully love pre-believers into the Kingdom

To receive my weekly updates, email me, or search for GospelFriendships (one word) on Facebook, and “like” the page, or subscribe to my blog: dumbsheepdave.com

I received paperwork on a new resident who went to church when young, but with an alcoholic father.  Never went as an adult.  I picked up my Bible and song book and started down the hall to “bring her to Christ”.  Half way down the hall, I had a strong sense something was wrong.   I sat down on a chair in the hall, repented of being in the flesh, and asked God the Spirit what He wanted me to do.  A song came to my heart from a popular movie, not a church song!  I left my Bible and song book on the chair and went to this 86-year-old lady’s room — with no “righteousness” of my own, and no agenda but to love her.  I knocked, she answered and I told her who I was and she rolled her eyes in disgust.  “Are you going to read the Bible and pray?”  “No,” I replied.  And after a moment of awkwardness, I said, “Where did you get all these wonderful paintings?”   She said, “I painted them!”  And proceeded to tell me about all her paintings over the next half hour.  “I have to go,” I said.  Then she asked, “Are you going to read the Bible and pray?”   “No,” I replied, “But I think God wants me to sing you a song.”   I proceeded to sing If I Were a Rich Man, from Fiddler on the Roof, with blushing gusto.   I obeyed but I did not understand.   She laughed and said, “You are an odd minister, but I like you.”  Two weeks later we had a heart-to-heart talk about family pain, God, etc., and she gave her life to Christ right there.  She still comes to my services today, three years later.