Ringing The Chemo Bell

This week’s sober moment:  Hearing someone ring the chemo bell at the Kirkland Clinic in Birmingham.

I didn’t notice the bell on our way in, though it is mounted to the wall just inside the door to the Infusion Therapy waiting room.  Infusion Therapy is a kind word for chemo.  As I sat waiting for my friend to begin her 14th treatment, the bell clanged and the overfull waiting room broke into applause and weary but genuine smiles.

I turned to my friend and she explained.  When someone finishes chemo, when they have their last infusion, they ring that bell on their way out as a declaration of victory.

I don’t know what it is to receive a dose of Red Devil.  But I can attest to the hope that that bell gave me.  And if it gave me hope, what must it do for the drafted soldiers, there under duress and unable to leave.  The room, a little alternate world, was so full, and stayed full the whole time.  Old and young, rich and poor, black and white, cancer has no preferences, only a huge, endless appetite.

But the bell said, “It is finished!”

So many of my friends are sitting in life’s Infusion Therapy unit right now.  One buried her son Saturday.  One went back in to emergency surgery after a mastectomy.  One is preparing for her child’s surgery with an unknown outcome.  One friend’s child is suffering unexplained seizures.  Another’s child is fighting a decade-long battle with a seemingly unsolvable brain fluid leak.  Another is in the foreign country called Divorce In Your 50s.  And, of course, my dear friend on treatment 14 of a medicine so toxic that the nurse who administers it has to wear a hazmat suit and which brings side effects that take her right up to the edge of endurance and make her watching friends holler along with Job ‘Stop! Enough!’

But then, I hear that chemo bell. I hear it as a promise and a declaration of victory.  On the cross Jesus suffered cancer and the Red Devil.

And then he rang the chemo bell and said, “It is finished!”

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23



Also Because It Makes Me Happy


(Photo cred:  www.carolinamountaindog.com)

I recently discovered a new depth of ‘amazing’ to the grace I’ve known since I was eight years old.

It is, of course, amazing because I’ve never deserved it, and because God is so amazingly different from me.  Everything He has done has been exactly opposite of the way I would have done it, and has been achingly, beautifully successful according to His plan.  I am talking here about everything from the two hummingbirds fighting over the feeder to the certain moment when He returns and every knee will bow, willingly or not.

But it dawned on me the other day that His grace is also amazing because He kindly knows I love, need, and want to be amazed.  I am made to be amazed by Him and my highest joy is when my mouth is wide open in awe that, yet again, He has orchestrated a beauty that none of the masters of any artistic medium could come close to; that He has calibrated a meeting of two people, or moments, or events that no engineer or architect could approach even with impeccable mathematics.  He, the chief Architect, Engineer, Mathematician, Artist, and Lover of His children, amazes me because He knows it makes me happy.

And that’s just another way of saying that He loves me.  And that’s amazing.

It’s amazing, too, because it is so easy not to believe it, or to forget it.  As the hymn writer says, sometimes, “darkness veils His lovely face.”  It does.  A cloud of my ignorance and dust-weakness covers me, and I feel the God of the universe at war with me.  Being thrust exposed before the lions in the coliseum, heart-stopping as that must have been, is nothing to being thrust exposed before the Lion of the tribe of Judah in His righteous wrath.  This is the outer edge of darkness and abandonment.  But the hymn writer reminds me that when that happens, as it does to every earnest heart, it is then that “I rest on His unchanging grace.”

His grace hasn’t changed.  It is there all the while, a rock for me to stand on as I grapple with the darkness that would vanquish me, but can’t!  It is the daily experience of one of God’s own that ‘weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning!’

The shell-shocked man whose wife has left him discovers new love in a sweet woman.  The anxious mother takes her child to college and the first person she encounters on the new campus is a blood relative!  The rebellious, drug-addicted teenager stands before his church a repentant young man declaring God’s drawing him out of the fire. The sweet and sassy saint waiting three more long weeks for her cancer surgery dines with friends under the evening sky and says, “God is faithful.  He is taking care of me.”

Examples of amazing from the last 24 hours of my little life.  How kind He is!