It has been almost twenty-nine years since I had my cancer surgeries and chemotherapy. I’m very grateful for all the healing that happened in my life. I’m also aware that my cancer experience changed who I am as a person. One of my few regrets from that time is that I feel like I could have been a better patient. One of my long-standing goals is to prepare myself to be a more gracious patient. It is easy to be a faithful Christian when everything is going well, but what about when our world is turned upside down?

My kidney stone surgery was an opportunity to practice being a better patient. I will be the first to admit that this is a minor procedure and does not compare with cancer treatments. It’s good, though, to practice being a stronger Christian when-ever, and where-ever, we get the opportunity. I have little doubt that there will be bigger tests in my future.

I was clouded with confusion when I woke up from the anesthesia. It took me a few moments to figure out where I was, and why I was there. I saw the nurse standing next to me, and she wanted to know if I would like any ice-chips. I’m not really sure that I answered. I might have just opened my mouth. She didn’t know that she was giving me affirmation when she said: “My, aren’t you a mellow patient.” When my wife joined me in the recovery room, the nurse asked her: “Is he always this quiet?” My wife responded that I’m usually joking. In my head I was thinking that I can’t think of anything funny about this situation.

The true depth, and value, of our faith can most easily be gauged when we are traveling on troubled waters. It’s in the midst of our struggles that our Christian faith becomes so essential. It doesn’t necessarily take away our pain, but it does make our pain bearable. Instead of feeling like we are in a free-fall, we recognize that we are wearing a safety-harness that is connected to God. Our Christian faith can eliminate the fear and worry that tries to blossom at the core of our being. Internal peace is a valuable commodity in difficult times!

From a position of peace, it is easier to be a positive witness for our Christian faith. Even as a patient in the hospital, I hope to be able to encourage others to consider the difference that a strong Christian faith can make in their own lives.

As United Methodist Christians, how are we doing at being at peace? We have been on a difficult journey that is quickly headed toward the white-waters known as the Called General Conference. If we are feeling controlled by worry and fear, this might be a good time to re-focus on some of our Christian disciplines. This is a great time to put on God’s safety harness!

One of my concerns is what kind of Christian witness will the United Methodist Church make to the world? The world already has plenty of examples of how to not get along. It is not necessary for us to add to this long list. We have an opportunity to show the world what grace and love looks like in the midst of a major disagreement. To be honest, our track record is not stellar. God is giving us a chance “to do better”. I wonder if we will take it?

Your brother on the journey, Mark

Here is my kidney stone update: the doctor believes that he got 50-75% of the stone. I have a kidney stent that helps to keep the pieces from blocking everything up, but it comes with its own set of irritations. The next procedure will come in about a month. That may, or may not, be the last procedure. Pray that this stone can be completely removed before Charge Conference season starts (yes, I understand that it is tempting to pray in the other direction).


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Author: Mark Conrad

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