August 01, 2004

In the Beginning Was the Blog

For me, life unfolds in larger chapters than days or hours. For that reason a blog or diary has never been appealing. By the time I discern the shape of events they are too old to be of current interest and too mundane to entertain any but the most loyal friends or indulgent family. I am a preacher and tend to think in eighteen minute segments of a classically structured speech form. Good preaching is never preachy, never bores or underestimates its audience, Good preaching is always grounded in the Good News of the faith and even when despairing about some directions of the culture or the people within it, clings to the hope which is grounded in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those events become the lens by which our lives are discerned and placed into perspective. The discovery recently of prostrate cancer and, later, renal cancer has caused me to take life in shorter gulps. My history may be rather brief from this point on, or may extend for an unknown number of years. At any rate, I have encountered the likely cause of my death. Strangely enough, this is neither frightening nor particularly unexpected. I have enjoyed 67 years of good health and never anticipated avoiding my share of dis-ease. So, this blog, with its comments and contributions by others will be a record more-or-less day by day of my meeting with malignancy, my strategizing with skilled physicians, and my reflections on the process. My faith is practical and not at all heroic, but my friends are many and their love and prayers are strong. I will be drawing upon these for the next few weeks. Posted by Donel at August 1, 2004 03:31 PM

Dear Don,
I heard of your unexpected journey from Cheryll Blair, via Hope. I had tried to connect with you earlier, but was unable to find the blog link for some reason. I am glad to hear of your excellent progress and will continue to hold your and all the family in my prayers.

Posted by: Joseph Newcomer at September 6, 2004 06:14 AM

Bright Wings

The world is charged with the Grandeur of God
The world is charged with beauty

It will flame out, like shining from Shook foil;
It gathers to greatness, like the Ooze of oil

Because the Holy Ghost over the bend World
Broods with warm breast and with Ah!
Bright Wings

And for all this, nature is never Spent;
There lies the dearest freshness
Deep down the things;

And though the last lights
Off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink east-Ward, springs

Because the Holy Ghost over the bend World
Brood with warm breast and with Ah!
Bright Wings

(Adapted from "God's Grandeur" by Gerard Manley Hopkins)
Donel: Thank you for sharing this poem. George

Posted by: George Lamb at January 19, 2005 11:26 AM

Dear Don and Marilyn, I dearly wish I didn't have to write a note like this. I know we are not along in sending along our prayers. I believe in miracles and from your entries in the blog, you all have demonstrated great hope and faith. As for me, I'm angry and although I've read "Why bad things happed to good people" a couple of times, it just doesn't always help. My one piece of advice is to stop worrying about how bad we all feel and think of yourself for a change (you're retired now, so that's someone else's job). You've set a very high standard on how to handle such hard news and you've been so upbeat and honest with us. But now, it's You, You, You. And Marily, if there's anything we can do to relieve you or give you a shoulder to lean on I hope you won't be afraid to ask. All our love, prayers, and hope, Joan and Paul

Posted by: Joan and Paul at January 26, 2005 12:38 AM

Dear Donel and Marilyn,

Frank and I have been crying and praying for over a week now about you two and for you two. I know that first part (crying) is partly for ourselves and the loss we feel in not being able to do anything practical for you at this time. I hope the last part is more productive. We have appreciated our association with both of you, and have gained much from it. Love and Good wishes.

Posted by: Clara Porter at February 8, 2005 02:02 PM

Dear Donel,
I read of your struggle with cancer this morning in the Herald and was touched by your 'blog'. I have always believed that each of us touches one another in some unique way and I would like to share how you touched me some twenty years ago. You perhaps don't remember me and I knew you but briefly yet in the brief time I spent with you I recognized that you touched every one you came in contact with in a positive way. The story of our meeting.
I was a member of the "Hobby Club" and in the mid 80's you did a 'paper' on computers and something brand new called the internet. At the time, probably like most members of the Hobby club, I didn't own a computer nor had I heard of the internet, but I was facinated by your presentation. Shortly thereafter I purchased my first machine. What an adventure you sent me on. I shall forever be grateful.
Good luck tomarrow with your visit to the oncologist. I am sure there will be multitudes praying and you my count my best wishes among them.
Loren Webb

Posted by: Loren Webb at March 27, 2005 01:11 PM

Dear Don and Marilyn: We have thought about you today and hope the meeting with the oncologist went well. It is our continuing prayer that your "dance", no matter how long or short, will continue to be a good one. As we have said so often, you are a real inspiration to so many. Thank you both for the good, open, sharing people that you are. Much Love, Bob and Dova Thirsk

Posted by: Bob and Dova Thirsk at March 28, 2005 06:23 PM

Donel: How it i that Life happenes when you're making other plans. When I turned to the Church's web page to check out email addresses for you and Cynthia, I found your blog and the latest developments.

Maybe I can do for you as you so generously did for me and my sister, Karen, -- son and daughter of Margaret & Oliver Johnson; extending to you my loving kindness and join the circle of abiding comfort and support. In our last time together I taught you and Cynthia a song that we sing at Judson Memorial Church in NY. The words are by Gertrude Stein and come from her work, "In Circles" the music was written by Al Carmines. It goes,

I leave you there.
Do not, do not despair.
Remain in a Circle and do not despair.

I wanted to let you know that friends and I will be passing through Bellingham in mid June and we hope to attend church on the 19th. You will remain in my prayers until we meet again. Love and a reminder, Life Is Good Dave Johnson

Posted by: David Johnson at March 30, 2005 08:30 AM

Dear Donel: Thinking of you and your family at this difficult time. Your attitude is marvelous and it will help all of us prepare our hearts for the end, and the beginning of your next adventure. You have shown such grace and enthusiasm as you lived your life, and no less at now. I remember the movie, "The Doctor" with William Heard and Elzabeth Perkins. They were out in the desert dancing as she was dying of brain cancer, but she didn't pity herself, or give up and just "let it happen" she celebrated the life she had, as are you. Thanks for showing us the way! God bless!

Posted by: Sandi Bride at March 31, 2005 02:49 PM

Greetings: We were hoping for better news from your visit with your oncologist. Sounds as if even though the news might not have been what was desired it has been somewhat freeing with better appetite and maybe less anxiety. And so your dance will continue perhaps a bit more slowly, maybe more repetitive and somewhat more contemplative, but it will continue. We hold you and yours in our thoughts and prayers. You continue to be a huge inspiration and we thank you. Much Love, Bob and Dova

Posted by: Bob and Dova Thirsk at April 1, 2005 04:21 PM

Connie Joy Newcomer asked us, JAM (Jesus and Me) Bible Study group @ Mission Community Presbyterian Church in Spokane, Wa to join all your brothers and sisters in Christ with prayers of thanksgiving and healing. We are grateful for your godly example to her and will be faithful in praying for you.

Pastor Carol

Posted by: carol williams at April 1, 2005 10:31 PM

Donel: This morning during my walk with Carol along the waterfront, I thought about you and the fear of dying and about the antidote for fear being Love. And I thought about your witness to that cure and my appreciation for it. Thank you. I also was reminded of this old sentimental song, "Loves Old Sweet Song": Just a song at twilight, when the lights are low And the flick'ring shadows softly come and go. Though the heart be weary sad the day and long, Still to us at twilight comes love's old song, Comes love's old song. Corny but touching.

Posted by: George Lamb at April 2, 2005 09:32 PM

Friend Don, I have been followig you on this marvelous site since John R told me of your advanced state of cancer. Your words - and those of your friends - are amazing as you are! I well remember and treasure the many good times we hd together in the SCal Conference at the Pines, Annual Meetings, and various and sundry other opportunities for give and take. How I enjoyed thhose times. And how uch we both always appreciated your enthusiastic support of our work at Laguna Niguel. I need to tell you - I have become computer literate, though not nearly so as our daughter, Vicki, who seems to live and work in Martin's style. I also need to tell you that you stand among that elavated, but too small, group of colleagues for whom I have the greatest respect and affection. Though miles have separated us for two decades, the years we shared in close contact in ministry were precious. I only hope my own battle, so reently begun, will be as sucessful and rewarding to me and others as yours has been. With all our love and appreciation and special blessings on Marilyn, Ruth and Dave Sandberg

Posted by: Ruth and Dave Sandberg at April 12, 2005 08:48 PM

Wow, I am so inspired by you and your family. It will be a great honor and privledge to help you in you journey. Have a good weekend and call if you need anything. Nancy

Posted by: nancy at April 13, 2005 09:06 PM

Hi Don and Marilyn,

Mary just sent me an update. I see that you're handling this with courage and grace. (Why does that not surprise me?)

Words fail me here, so please just know that this old heathen is holding you all close to his heart.

Bill Becker

Posted by: Bill Becker at April 16, 2005 11:17 PM

Donel: I read Bright Wings every few days and copy excerpts that touch deeply....even as I envision you with "Bright Wings" which have fluttered throughout my life the past 10 years, in and out of cyberspace. I enjoyed reading about the worship experience with Bobbi on Sunday--what a wonderful evolution in your journey with her. And I am tracking your prayers and poems and chakra accounts. Presently I am working in Berkeley with Pat de Jong and sustaining "California energy" is being sent your way. Hugs to you and Marilyn!

Posted by: Bea Stoner at April 18, 2005 10:09 AM

Dear Don,
I have thought of you and your lovely family often over the course of some twenty years, in part because you are linked to a special time of healing for me. I just recently re-read my copy of "Five Sermons on When Bad Things Happen to Good People" from the Lenten season of 1982. In your sermons, you point out that God's creation on earth is not yet complete and that we sometimes get caught in the little pockets of chaos. The consolation you offer, what really helped me, is knowing that all our suffering and all our joy is shared with God. I can think of no one better prepared for the journey you have ahead of you. Tonight when I pray for comfort to you and your family, I will also thank God for what you have taught me. With love, Brian

Posted by: Brian Rick at April 23, 2005 12:03 AM

Libby and I have been recounting the ways that you have been special to us. You have projected a loving, wise and enduring influence in our lives through our personal contacts and through your remarkable gifts of preaching. Given that we have been members just over six years, we can only imagine the wisdom and love you've shared with members who have been with you longer.
In a piece of fiction in the New Yorker magazine some years ago, the author had the following thoughts about how we view our lives, how we remember past events and how we assess this journey. He said,
"I had this sudden awareness of how the moments of our lives go out of existence before we're conscious of having lived them. It's only a relatively few moments that we get to keep and carry with us for the rest of our lives. Those moments are our lives. Or maybe it's more like those moments are the dots and what we call our lives are the lines we draw between them, connecting them into imaginary pictures of ourselves. . .
"I realized we can never predict when those few special moments will occur and how there are certain people, not that many, who enter one's life with the power to make those moments happen.
"Maybe that's what falling in love means - the power to create for each other the moments by which we define ourselves."
Donel, you certainly have created several memorable dots in our lives. Thank you.

Posted by: Clair & Libby Weiss at April 26, 2005 08:27 PM

I think I have been "stuck" in the anger stage for the last few months about your dance with cancer. After 40 years of searching for a spiritual home I found the First Congregational Church after listening to you and Cindy tell your stories of the Bible. I hesitate to call your stories "preaching" as I always had a negative connotation about that word growing up. In my search for a church home, I found pastors who berated their flock into believing everything they did or thought was evil and had to repent or risk losing their soul. To me, that was "preaching". But you and Cindy made wonderful stories of the Bible and helped me understand — I came to realize that my actions, or lack thereof, made a difference in people's lives as well as my life after death. I have been able to ask God for forgiveness truly because I wanted to and not because I was supposed to. When I found you and the First Congregational Church, I felt like I was home at last for the first time in my life! Since that time you baptized me, welcomed me to the church, and married Mark and me. My soul has truly been enriched by you!

One of the stories you told in church one Sunday was about a woman who was sitting with her dying mother. (I'm probably badly paraphrasing here — but this is the "jist" of it!) She said to her mother, "When you get to Heaven you will meet all the people you love." The mother replied, "Honey, when I am in Heaven, I will love all the people I meet". That story was so powerful to me and I will never forget it. I have enjoyed every single one of your sermons, Don, but that one stands out in mind the most.

Mark and I have read your blog since the beginning and have wanted to contribute something profound and meaningful. Not knowing the proper etiquette for voicing our feelings and concerns on the blog (is there one?) — Should this be private? Should I be doing this in a personal note to you instead? Is this meaningful or profound? What inspired me to write was Scott Opsahl's note "From the Pastor" in the April 20th edition of The Full Circle which gave me strength to contribute now. I need to let you know how much I admire you and how blessed I have been to have you in my life. You are to me, "dad", in my spiritual guidance.

Sorry to bring this back to the anger thing - I thought (in my "denial mode") that such a wonderful gift to the world such as you would be with us for many, many more years — you have so much yet to teach us! How can such a gift to his family and the rest of us with all your wonderful deeds, love, and teachings be called by God home NOW? I'm thinking that God has bigger plans for you, and needs you more with God than with us. And, while it has been physically painful for you and emotionally painful to the rest of us who can do nothing but stand by and let this cancer control the next few months of your physical life on earth, I think God knows that what you are teaching us now is probably one of the biggest lessons each of us will ever learn in our lifetimes. You are teaching us all how to move on to the next journey in our spiritual lives.

We love you so much Don and Marilyn. Thank you for the grace, dignity, love and devotion you have shown to the rest of us. For the rest of my life, and especially at the end of my physical life, I will be thinking of the lessons you have taught me. I look forward to one of you wonderful embraces in Heaven when my physical journey on earth has ended as well.

Erin Schlichting

Posted by: Erin Schlichting at April 27, 2005 08:44 PM

When I began living with cancer it was you who gave me the strength to face each day. For the third time in three years the Lord has, through much prayer from my friends and acquaintances, made me free of any tumors through surgery. As I live with cancer and wait for its next visit my thoughts are ever with you.

It was great to visit with you in church a couple of weeks ago. It was difficult for me to say what I wanted and needed to say to you because I was celebrating being free of tumors and on the mend after surgery at the UW and you were living with cancer walking faster than you.

My prayer is that I will live with cancer and pass on to a better place with dignity. You are a great inspiration to me.

My big fight today is with pain and pain killers don't work for me. I am so happy to hear that your pain level is low and I will be praying profusely that the pain remains low and your comfort level remains high.

With great love and admiration
Steve Cronkhite

Posted by: Steve Cronkhite at May 3, 2005 09:54 AM

Donel, Some time ago you read a poem at church that caught my attention; I took the liberty of re-writing it to meet my own needs as one of my siblings read it at my Mother's Celebration of Life yesterday in Seattle. Just thought I would share it back to you:

The Kitchen Table

Life began at our kitchen table.
It was the center of attention.
Fresh flowers decorated it with hope.

It was a time to gather each morning, to greet one another as family.
The goals for the day were set at this table.

And for this table, food was prepared with caring hands
From the gifts of the earth outside the kitchen window -
Food that nourished our bodies and souls.

Dreams were shared and realized at this table
Somewhere between the Sunday chicken dinner,
The holiday pies, and the Saturday night popcorn.

It was a time for hearing life's instructions on how to be a good person,
Knowing right from wrong.
It was a school for review and a church for prayer.
A congress for debating the world's concerns,
And a desk for homework and creations.

The birth of children was planned at this table,
And it was around this table that our parents were prepared for burial.

This table has known joy and sorrow, heard laughter, seen tears,
Acknowledged accomplishment, built trust, and even met fears.
It was a source of strength for all who gathered 'round it,
And brought unity at the close of the day.

This kitchen table was not a thing,
It was not a place.
It was a memory with a face.
And if we keep it in our heart,
We honor those who must depart.

Thank you, Donel for teaching me how to dance with mixed emotions. I have learned so much from you, and it is your wisdom that has often given me the answers to in turn, help others. God's blessings to you, Donel. Tim

Posted by: Tim Shepherd at May 8, 2005 09:09 AM

Megan and I were singing our favorite Jack Johnson lyrics this morning and trying to hug as we drive to school: "It's just so easy when the whole world fits inside of your arms." Thank you for sharing all your thoughts and welcoming us to this dance. I wish I could offer some comfort now as you are all in my thoughts and prayers. I hope you feel my embrace and those of all who love and care for each of you. Beverly Porter

Posted by: Beverly Porter at May 13, 2005 10:26 AM
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