My Prayers and Desires As A Cancer Patient and Tickie, The Dog

24 11 2007

Since I’ve become an Orthodox Christian, I’ve learned to read the Gospels more.  They just were not emphasized that much in my Protestant faith.  My particular background viewed the Gospels as part of the “Kingdom Age” and thus not important for doctrine.  The Lord’s Prayer was never uttered.  I don’t mean to act ugly about this–it is just plainly sad.  I used to spend most of my time in the Epistles.  Now my heart is so hungry for the Gospels.  I read them each day.  I say the Lord Prayer at least twice a day.  When I feel stuck in knowing what to pray in a difficult situation–I always say the Lord’s prayer.

I used to mock people who fasted.  I would tell them that fasting was from the “Kingdom Age” and not appropriate for our present day.  We fast a great deal in the Orthodox Church.  We fast on Wednesdays and Fridays and for long periods during The Navity Fast and during Great Lent.  However, we are never to judge anyone by whether they actually keep the fast.  We are not to interrogate our brethen.  This is something we do quietly and in obedience to our faith. ( Our fasting consists of voluntarily giving up all animal products)

Over the past year, I’ve seen how God has quieted my heart by voluntarily giving up some of my desires.  I don’t claim to understand how this has all come about , but I know it has.  Last winter, I really had issues with one of my Orthodox sisters in Christ.  I made her life fairly miserable by bringing up all of her faults.  Through the winter and spring months-we were totally disconnected.  Through reading the Gospels and the works of St Theophan  the Recluse, –I realized that I was indeed the one who needed cleansing.

My friend was so bitter against me that she didn’t want to even talk to me –when I begged for a meeting.  Finally, in early June–she came to my home and talked this situation over with me, on my front porch.  She told me that I had “put her through hell.” Furthermore, she told me that even though she forgave me—-she didn’t want to be my friend.  I felt very sad that she didn’t just instantly have the emotions of loving me again. It took months for her to want to even acknowledge me. 

Finally, little by little she seemed softer towards me.  She came by labor day weekend to show us pictures of her Alaskan Missionary Trip.  I even was restless one night and prayed for her continually.  Later, I learned that she was back East with her father who is close to dying.  She was in deep crisis that night.   Mary , my other close Orthodox friend, had related to this lady how I was sleepless and concerned for her.  That really touched her and she opened up a little more.

She came to my open house and gave us some Holy Oil that she has gotten in Alaska.  She also gave us some incense.  Last week, she asked us to stop by her apartment in Clarksville, Tn on our way home from church to pick up a television she wanted to give us.  Our set had so many reddish tones in it.  Mary had told her how awful our television was.  So she gave us an extra one she had. 

On Tuesday of this week–when I found out I had cancer, I immediately called Mary.  She then called this lady.  She called me immediately and told me how much she loved me and that she would be there for me.  The long journey of distance between us was over.  I know we will walk many a mile together during my cancer recovery. 

What I’ve learned most of all through all of this, is that we are to keep our own hearts clean and to let go of our petty grievances against others.  The Beatitudes give a clear prescription of daily medicine for our soul.  I’ve lived so long with the “judge and jury” view of the church of the West.  In the East, we view the church as a hospital and that we are all sick to a greater or lesser degree.  We get well by keeping obedient to the Church and faithful to things like keeping our fasts, daily prayers and almsgiving.  We also go to confession and get prescriptions from our priests.  Our confessions are not like the ones viewed on television or in the movies.  We don’t sit in a little box and whisper things to a priest who can not see us.  No! Our priest stands with us before the icon of Christ.  We talk to him about the cancers of our souls and he gives us help.  This has been a wonderful sacrament to obey.  Always, my priest can push me in a direction…that maybe I can’t see for myself.  There is no condemnation.  When we finish, he puts his sash over my head and gives me absolution.  It is a sacrament of spiritual healing. 

In facing cancer, I want to let loose of all pettyness and bitterness.  I want to keep my own heart clean.  I love how our study Bible describes the disciplines of the Beatitudes:“These disciplines help us find true wisdom, which consists of: 1. the love of God and pursuit of His righteousness by bringing our treasure (Matt.6:19-16) as alms to God, our worries (Matt. 6:22-7:34) in prayer and fasting to Him; and 2.  the love of human beings and pursuit of righteous reconciliation with them by submitting our judgments of them (Matt 7:1-6) to God’s severe mercy. For these difficult tasks we need divine discernment and guidance, which God provides to those who follow Jesus’ spiritual rule (Matt. 7:7-12).  Thus, our natural impulses are redirected toward their proper goal: the righteousness of God in His Kingdom (Matt. 6:33).”  These quotes were taken from The Orthodox Study Bible, page 13. 

Now for a less serious note.  Yesterday I talked about how we got Rudy, one of our dogs.  I promised to tell how we got Tickie.   Maria’s husband (my daughter) found Tickie on a country road.  It was apparent that she had been wandering for a long time as she was full of ticks.  Kirk brought Tickie home and spent about $300.00 getting her shots and medicine for having all those ticks.  Then later in the summer, he decided he didn’t want an indoor dog afterall.  Maria brought him to our home , hoping we would take Tickie.  Again, it seemed hard to say “No”.  So Tickie , a full blooded Shih Tzu joined the fun with Rudy.  They became fast friends and boy–can they ever be bad.  However, when I sit to read a book –they are right by my side.  When Vera lived with us last–we both got flu together.  We loved having Rudy right beside us in the bed.  Dogs are wonderful!  I didn’t grow up with any pets but my own children pushed the issue until I relented.  I was  34 before I ever had a pet in my life.  So now I’ve been enjoying them for many years.  We’ve had several dear cats who have died of cancer.  The last one was “Jackie” who we had to have put down last Christmas.  “Jackie”  had been a part of Vera’s life since she was in the sixth grade.  She considered “Jackie” her special cat.  Again, as Orthodox Christians , we take comfort that even our pets are considered very special to their Creator, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Many of the Saints have had a special friendship with animals , particularly wild animals.  I have a little icon on my desk of St. Seraphim of Savro, feeding a wild bear.  St. Herman of Alaska also bonded with the wild animals.  Praise the Lord that all of creation is wonderful!   A good Psalm to explain this is Psalm 148.  It is one of my favorite Psalms and is quoted in our Divine Liturgy each week.

God Bless each of you!

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