The news came like it often does: straight out of a clear-blue sky, like a thunderhead that wasn't on the radar.
Because the radar on Pam and Ken's life looked pretty clear:
They have been married 43 years, have huge hearts for ministry and have a bunch of grandchildren who adore them. (It wasn't long ago that Ken drove 45 minutes to return Piggy and Bunny so that his two granddaughters didn't have to miss a single night without their best sleeping buddies.)
But that one one word shows no deferential regard. You know the word --
It's the word that always lands like a thud in the gut.
On Tuesday, Ken received news that melanoma had migrated from his skin to his brain and lungs.
But that's only one piece of the bigger story. Yes: It's a shift in the plot, an unexpected twist in the story-line, an unwanted chapter in the book.
But for Pam and Ken, this is the place where faith isn't just spoken, but lived. It's the moment where we know that faith is more than a mouthed abstraction on a Sunday morning -- that it's the only fuel that will get us through the valley.
After the news sunk in, Pam announced it publicly on Facebook. This was the opening of her announcement:
"I just had one of the most precious moments of my entire life. I was sitting on the deck contemplating how my life and Ken's life have changed since Tuesday."
She continued, telling about that thunderhead overhead. Turns out, those thunderheads bring some of the most beautiful, gentle rains.
Because the telephone rang. It was her prayer group. Each woman took turns praying aloud into the phone for Pam and Ken.
"As they prayed, I watched the sun rise above the neighbor's house," Pam wrote. "Thank you, Jesus, for giving me this blessed assurance through this amazing experience."
She returned to the deck the next morning holding her cup in her hands, and later typed this to her Facebook friends:
"I was out on the deck again this morning with my coffee, reading all the pamphlets containing the word cancer. An Asian woman came down the bike trail right next to our house. I have often crossed paths with her on my walks and we would greet each other. She called out to me, "You walk today?" When I said "no," she asked, "Why not?" I ran out to her and briefly explained my husband has cancer. I was not even sure she understood what I was saying. Her response? "I pray for you," and she grabbed my hands. "You're a Christian?" I asked in amazement. And then she prayed to Jesus in her broken English for Ken and me.
Join me in praising God for holding me 2 mornings."
And then, on the third day, Pam returned to the deck as the sun peeked over the horizon. Pam wrote:
"I am on my deck with a cup of coffee again this morning waiting with joy to see what blessing God has ready for me."
This is the mark of the truest saints. This is expectant faith, believing that God is good, even when life looks bleak. This is what can happen when everything breaks. And for all of us, something will break. We could limp around on fractured faith, or we could lean on the Reason for the hope that we have.
Christ is more than a crutch. He is the way for the broken and the bloodied and the battle-weary souls.
When the thunderhead appears overhead, I might be inclined to stay indoors and draw the shades. But maybe? Maybe I could go outside, and sit in the gentlest rains, expectant for the blessings, watching for "one of the most precious moments of my entire life."
I want a faith like that. I want a faith that is not the mouthed abstraction of a Sunday morning theology. Not some diluted joy based on circumstantial evidence. I want the joy that marked the life of a Savior. For the joy -- the joy! -- set before Him, Christ endured the cross.
I want the peace that surpasses understanding, the peace that pervades Heaven, and the peace that descends on places like backyard decks because I believe enough that a blessing will come. That God is the silver lining on every cloud.
I want to live eyes-wide-open, with expectant joy like Pam, who lifts her cup and her heart "to see what blessing God has ready for me."
Friend where are you today?
Are you on the deck, waiting for the blessing? Does it all look rather hopeless? How can we pray for you?
Or, perhaps, you the one who could pick up the phone -- or walk to the backyard deck of a friend -- to be the blessing under the thunderhead? If you're in need of prayer, let us know. Or if you feel led, please pray for the person who is sitting on the deck today, right here, or in your neighborhood.