Lynn Anderson and lung cancer
Lynn Anderson, former minister at the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, is battling lung cancer. He’ll debut his new book, Talking Back to God: Speaking Your Heart to God through the Psalms, at the 67th annual Pepperdine University Bible Lectures in Malibu, Calif.
Via Abilene Christian University (Anderson’s book is published by Leafwood/ACU Press) come these excerpts from an interview by ACU’s Grant Rampy with Anderson last week:
“I definitely am getting help from the Psalms — more than I could have expected — as I’ve been battling cancer. But my readings aren’t a new thing. For several decades I’ve been reading and praying a psalm every day and also memorizing a psalm every month. The Psalms have always been food for my God-hunger.
“The people of God have used this ancient book of song and prayer for 3,000 years. The Psalms have been read, sung, prayed, studied and memorized. Through the years, these songs in all their power have been bringing us into a deeper relationship with God, helping each of us in our personal ministries by the way we apply them.
“I started writing the book years ago, long before my diagnosis. I have been teaching this material in mentoring groups with ministers and elders for more than a dozen years, so the book isn’t really a reflection on my current situation.
“I can’t, however, fail to address my current situation through this project. At different times in my treatment, there have been different psalms from which I’ve gained strength. There were the early stages, with the shock that came with my diagnosis and then facing chemo and radiation, and now I face the possibility of my own death.
“At first I went to the psalms where God promised over and over again he would provide his presence. I don’t believe God gave me this disease, and he didn’t tell me why I got it. He just tells me that he’ll be there through it, and he will use it in some way.
“My problem was that I would keep reading these psalms, like Psalm 121. It reminds us over and over again that the Lord watches over you and he will protect you from all harm; he won’t let your foot slip; he watches over you day and night and he will be so now and forever more. In my head I believe that, but in the dark morose feeling that came on in the early stages, I kept saying, ‘So God, you’re saying you’re with me – but I can’t see you and I can’t hear you.’
“The big psalm for me then became the 13th. It basically says, ‘How long, oh Lord, will you forsake me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long will I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will you let my enemies triumph over me? Hear, oh Lord, and answer me. Be light to my eyes or I will sleep in death, and my enemies will say I have been overcome and my foes will rejoice when I fall.’ That’s how it starts, and I have really lived in that for a long time.
“And then I began to move more to the second half of the psalm which says, ‘But I will trust in your unfailing love, and my heart rejoices in your salvation, and I will sing and make music to the Lord.’
“There was a time when I didn’t know what I was asking for. I would wake up in the middle of the night and look into the dark corner of the room and think, God is lying in that dark corner. ‘Why don’t you come out of there? Why don’t you show me your glory? Why don’t you in some way assure me of your presence, besides just saying in an old document that you’ll be there?’
“I don’t know what I was expecting — maybe something glowing in the dark or a voice from heaven — but God began to gently help me see that he is there, to see the evidences all around me; I just took them for granted.
“There’s the blessing of having a wife like mine. I fell in love with her the first time I saw her, but I had no idea what I was getting. I just took her for granted, until, with this illness, I’ve been able to realize what she is, that she’s a.gif?Action=thumbnail&Width=460&algorithm=proportionalt from God. And my kids — the intimacy with them has grown by fathoms.
“There are the thousands of people praying for us. When I can’t pray myself, I have the knowledge that they’re there, and that God’s there through them.
‘The elders from Highland (Church of Christ in Abilene) came down and visited. I hadn’t worked there in 20 years. It’s those kind of things that are really helping me through. I notice the everyday things of life that I had missed: cardinals nesting outside our kitchen window, how many wildflowers there are in Texas in the spring — all manifestations of God’s grace.
‘I began to see that every good and perfect thing comes down from the Father. Man, I love a thunderstorm. I can hear God shouting at me. I can see him sending me fire signals. I hear the rain on the roof, and I’m reminded that he’s whispering to me: ‘Of course I’m there. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.’ In that sense, the second half of Psalm 13 has become even more true to me; so I’ve been able to pick up on more of the other assurances.
“You’ve got to remember: 60 percent of the psalms are not happy; they’re laments; they’re about anger. And I began to feel God’s permission to speak out my anger at him and lament my lot, even though, when it comes down to it, I’ve never been able to think of a good reason why I should be exempt from suffering when so many other people suffer worse. ‘Why do I have to suffer God?’ — the psalms are full of that.
“Psalm 88 doesn’t have a happy ending. It closes, after many verses of bemoaning, ‘My friends have turned from me. My bones ache.” The last line reads, “Darkness is my only friend.’ How’s that for cheering a guy up?
“The psalms have helped me identify with the fact that God knows the reality of those feelings. And he doesn’t want any of us to pretend they’re not there.
“You begin to see the enormous resources we can take from the Psalms, which most people shy away from because they can’t pick up on abstract metaphorical language. You can’t interpret a psalm like you can Acts 2:38. It’s not meant to be interpreted; it’s meant to be experienced and expressed.
“Virtually all of the Bible is about God talking to us. The Psalms give us a voice to talk back to him in every circumstance we’re in.”
Feedback[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bobby Ross Jr., hoccyp. hoccyp said: A video interview with Lynn Anderson last Sunday about his lung cancer. http://bit.ly/aGzz0V (via @CofCnews). […]Tweets that mention Official News Blog of The Christian Chronicle � Blog Archive � Lynn Anderson and lung cancer — Topsy.comApril, 29 2010Lyn, you are in my prayers. I agree that the book of Psalms is a fabulous piece of writing that both speaks to us and allows us to speak back to God. I have long looked at Psalms as you are looking at it. I have had a physical orthopedic problem that I’ved had to deal with most of my life, and the Psalms have been a great help. God bless you.
James Haney, Retired minister and now office manager of Salado Church of Christ
Salado, TexasJames HaneyApril, 29 2010Hello Lynn,
I just happened to find your blog because of the Chronicle. It was a wonderful surprise.
This gives me the opportunity, even the obligation, to communicate with you for a moment. I conduct a small group in which we have two men who are not believers. It is a joy to see them, ever so slowly, open their minds and hearts. A couple of weeks ago we had the great surprise to watch Lynn Anderson on the Lee Strobel video. Watching your part on that video was wonderfully timed because one of these men had just talked with me about his serious doubts. He took comfort in your excellent presentation and it has made a difference in his interest and growth with the remainder of the material. I have known him for 30 years and to see him, at this stage being drawn to God is a thrill. You played a serious part in that transformation. He has not yet taken the step to baptism and more active belief but he is closer than he has ever been and I am very hopeful. The other man is younger and much more open. I believe that he will take that step – possibly this next week.
This gives me the opportunity that I should have excersised many years ago. That is to say THANK YOU for your powerful and excellent teaching and writing. You have truly been a great help for me and my family. I am grateful to you and for you.
I know something about serious and disabling illness. In recent years I have developed a condition known as Degeneration of the Spine. It simply means as one of my doctors stated “Mr Fletcher, your back is worn out” The bones in my back are turning to mush. But, I get around, with a scooter mostly and we try hard to keep going. I truly consider that I have been blessed mightly.
I rarely talk about my condition but it seems to me that it would be appropriate to mention it to you in that I think I know how to identify with your thoughts and feelings. How do people who do not have faith deal with these matters? My doctors frequently ask me about my mental state. They tell me that many people give up and commit sucide. Faith is a powerful blessing at all times but when we are in circumstances such as yours and mine it is the power that keeps us going. My prayer is that your faith will continue to grow and that you will find even more ways to minister to people. You have the role of being a powerful role model and teacher and in this stage of your life you may teach some of your most powerful lessons.
We will be thinking and praying for you and your wife. Thank you for all that you have done and are doing for The Kingdom. Also, thank you for your thoughts on the Psalms.
WLW.L. Fletcher IIIApril, 29 2010Dear Bro. Anderson,
Thank you! Thank for for sharing your faith, your courage, and even some of the fears and loneliness you’ve felt at times since you’ve been diagnosed with cancer.
It’s one thing to *read* the words; it’s quite another to *see* the joy and assurance in your face (especially your eyes and your smile) as you talk about your walk with God and cancer.
My prayers are with you in this win-win situation, and I will most assuredly be sharing this video clip with many, many others. I am certain that your words and your faith will help many who are seeking, searching, and feel lost and without hope. Again, thank you for sharing!
Clara HintonClara HintonMay, 1 2010Dear Brother,
You are in my prayers. The Church in Oporto, Portugal, is praying for you and your family too.
God bless you, my Brother.
A big hug in Jesus Christ. Alice, my wife, salute you!
AdelinoAdelino D’SilvaMay, 4 2010Dear Lynn,
It’s so good to see your face again after so long and to know you are not letting your battle get you down! We are praying for you to get well! Thanks for all the encouragement you’ve given me and the wonderful things I’ve learned from you.
JeanetteJeanette TackettMay, 10 2010Dear Lynn:
I have fond memories of our days together in British Columbia (lo, these many years ago!). I appreciated so much your interview and admire your faith. You are in my prayers. May God bless you.
DaleDale FosterMay, 29 2010Really good sharing this.Christian LouboutinMay, 30 2010Hi Lynn,
Thank you so much for sharing this part of your journey!!! Years ago, I began to learn that those who have the Holy Spirit within are sustained by God’s Breath.
Dan and I will bring you and Carolyn to our worship tomorrow and the prayers of Christ Church in the Foothills will be added to all the prayers that are being offered for you.
Grace and Peace,
Margi RhodesMargi RhodesJune, 12 2010