#26 God’s Healing And Peace

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

 This story is about my friend, Bob (name changed for privacy). Bob worked hard all of his life, graduating as his high school valedictorian, then working to pay his way through college, pharmacy school, and dental school. And his hard work paid off. By his early 50s, Bob  was doing well financially, had a busy dental practice, a loving wife, good kids in college, and had suffered no major health issues throughout his lifetime.

That all changed in 2003, when his wife noticed a place on his back that didn’t look right. It turned out to be malignant melanoma, a type of skin cancer that can be life-threatening. A surgeon removed the melanoma along with some lymph nodes. Afterwards, the doctor told Bob that the lymph nodes were not cancerous and that he had removed all of the cancer. The chance of recurrence of the cancer was only about 25 percent.

But Bob didn’t feel very relieved. He felt like up to that point in life, he had been in control, but after his cancer diagnosis he felt God was telling him, “You are not really in control.” Bob was baptized when he was 14 years old, but he was a worrier, and had always struggled with leaving things in God’s hands. As a man, he wanted to take care of himself and his family. The diagnosis of cancer was a wake-up call. He felt his dependence on God more strongly than ever before. 

He also found himself asking, “What is really important?” He had always wanted to teach, so he sold his dental practice and was hired as a full-time faculty member at a nearby dental school. Eight years later, against the odds, the melanoma recurred on Bob’s left lung. The surgery to remove the cancer from his lung was successful but it was very painful, as was his 10-week recovery.

In 2013, the doctor found another melanoma on Bob’s right lung. He went through the same painful surgery to remove the cancer from his right lung, but this time he went into renal failure in the hospital. Bob’s wife is a pharmacist and she noticed that the medications they were giving Bob could be causing the renal failure and demanded that the medications be changed. The medications were changed and his renal failure reversed. This time the recovery was even longer. But because Bob was a full-time university employee, he was able to take a three-month fully paid medical leave. Bob feels that God gave him the foresight to sell his dental practice and begin working at the university, as he would need the good benefits the university provided during his illness.

Two years later, in 2015, the cancer recurred in both lungs and his chest wall. Surgery was no longer an option and his oncologist suggested that he seek care at a cancer center. Bob’s daughter had gone to school with a fellow who was doing melanoma research at Duke. He had been Bob’s dental patient and his parents were good friends of Bob’s in high school. This fellow recommended a cancer doctor at Vanderbilt and Bob was able to get an appointment. The Vanderbilt doctor told Bob that they had discovered a treatment for advanced melanoma—immunotherapy—and that worked in 40 percent of the patients. The treatment cost $150,000 to $200,000 and Bob was the first patient whose insurance agreed to pay for it.

After the first three months of treatment, Bob’s cancer was shrinking; three months later it was shrinking further. Now the PET scan shows that Bob is cancer-free. When I hear Bob tell this story, I think of all of things that had to fall into place for Bob to now be cancer-free. 1) His wife noticed the place on his back and suggested he see a doctor. 2) His surgeries were successful and lymph nodes weren’t involved. 3) He sold his dental practice at a time when dental practices are hard to sell. 4) He got a full-time job at a dental school when that, too, was challenging without a specialty like orthodontics. 5) The job at the university provided Bob good insurance, paying for very expensive treatment, and provided paid sick leave that he wouldn’t have had as the owner of his own dental practice. 6) Bob’s wife, a pharmacist, noticed the medication problem causing the renal failure and demanded that it be changed. 7) Bob’s former dental patient was a melanoma researcher at Duke and knew the best physician in the nation to deal with advanced melanoma. 8) If Bob had presented at Vanderbilt only two years earlier with advanced melanoma they wouldn’t have discovered the treatment yet. 9) There was a 60 percent chance the immunotherapy wouldn’t work, but it did.

My friend Bob has been through a lot in the last 13 years, but he says he feels blessed. Bob is now at peace with whatever happens. He feels content and prepared for whatever God has planned for him. 

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#25 His Love And Light Lead The Way

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I laid down ‘my career’ to follow Him.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. (Philippians 3:7-8) 

I was baptized at Southland Christian Church on Easter of 2009. Having participated in my first Bible study just three months earlier, I was seeing Light for the first time and in awe of God. My life was surrendered that day and the pastor said that God would do a circumcision on my heart to remove whatever is blocking me from Him. Just three days later, the earth shook. My role with my company suddenly was changing and the Lord, in His love and grace, gave me a choice to make… Continue working in the glamorous industry of sports or lay it all down to follow Him. Thirteen years had been spent building “my career”… working for major companies, high profile people, and championship-level programs. I knew in my heart that God was calling me to do something else. So eight days following baptism, my resignation was submitted… laying down “my career” to follow Him. The next day, the Lord led me to write my testimony, repenting of a work-a-holic lifestyle where “my career” was the center of my universe. I had been a perfectionist, independent in about every way, materialistic, and in the race to be first. The Lord helped point me to a new vision with Hebrews 11:1 leading the way, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

I was hoping for three things in life…

  1. God’s grace

  2. That I do His will

  3. For that great, Christian man He has for me (whenever that may be)

And that my life would be…

  1. Full of faith and love for life

  2. Every day an exploration

  3. Every year a “Bucket List”

  4. Healthy and fit physically… in-sync with a free and joyful spirit

  5. Making a difference

  6. A bright light

  7. Balanced personally and professionally

  8. Valuing every dollar ($0 debt, saving, giving and receiving)

  9. Connected in a special way with people, animals and the earth

  10. Rock solid in God’s word

I also had a new passion for helping broken people and felt called to be a leader working for a great cause.

Seven adventurous years have gone by since then and the Lord is so good and faithful. The whole miracle of life is found in Jesus. In him we live with God’s eternal love and infinite grace… and He is that which truly fulfills us. For so many years, I sought fulfillment and happiness in career accomplishments and success, busy doing one deal after the other, and one task after the next. Now, His love and light lead the way and I pray to be thankful and content in whatever season we may be in. Love is patient, this I now know.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God had done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God”. (Ecclesiastes 3:11-13).

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#24 God Never Gave Up On Me

Photo by Erin E. Photography

I grew up in the Bible Belt in a dry town in Appalachia. My parents never drank and I lived a pretty sheltered life. I’m very grateful for the foundation my parents provided and the church we attended, where there was a passionate love for the Lord. I knew who God was and I knew what Christ did, but there was not much emphasis on a relationship with God. Instead, God was to be feared, just waiting to punish me.

That lack of relationship made me more vulnerable when I moved away to college where the university motto was “question everything,” and there were lots of opportunities to get in trouble. When I started, I didn’t have one friend. I joined a fraternity but didn’t really fit in. I drank a lot and there was a lot of promiscuous behavior. I lost sight of what I knew was right. I didn’t go to church and my spiritual life seriously declined. My prayers became a list of wants and needs, no gratitude. I prayed from a place of entitlement, where there were no “thank yous” but lots of “why me?”

But God did not abandon me. When I graduated, I moved in with three guys: an atheist, an agnostic, and the other, I just don’t know. I got a job and one of the guys I worked with had a resounding joy… in fact, I thought it couldn’t be real. He was being sued and had recently suffered serious problems but he was still so joyful. I didn’t understand it.

He tried to get me to go to church with him time and time and again. Finally, I agreed—mostly because I thought it would help my chances with the girl I liked. Wrong motives, but God made good of it. This was a different kind of church; the preacher’s messages really resonated with me and there was a real emphasis on our individual relationships with Christ.

So, I joined a small group at church and became great friends with the leader. He eventually started these dinners on Thursday nights where there are now about 80-100 people in attendance on any given night. My Christian community went from one person to a huge community of light. In this community, I experienced the grace and love of Jesus. I then became involved with a ministry to help inner city children. This has made a huge difference in my perspective and taken my relationship with God much deeper. In working with these children, I have experienced God’s presence in a way that I never had. Before, I always felt like I had to do something for God in order to earn His love. Now I have a relationship with a God that doesn’t want to slap me on the wrist, but with a Father that just wants to spend time with me.

God intervened for me. I truly believe that God put that joyful guy at work in my life to begin turning me around. He didn’t work there long and really had no real reason to be there. God put my small group leader in my life and gave me a community of light. He led me to a group of children that allowed me to experience true joy and taught me how to be generous, grateful, and humble. He used these kids to show me that there is never anything I can do to earn His approval, praise and His love. The fact that I am His son is enough. God never gave up on me. After four years of wandering in a wasteland I came away with nothing, but by God’s grace I was led to another place. A place overflowing with hope. To God be the glory for all He has done for me.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.