Facing Melanoma with Faith [Guest Post]

Darren Murray’s Story

I knew. I just knew, when I received the call from my dermatologist office just a few short days after having a biopsy done on a spot on my back, I knew that is was cancer.  I wasn’t supposed to hear back for a few weeks, but they called to have me come in to see the dermatologist right away.

Facing Melanoma with Faith - Darren Murray’s Story

I knew exactly what he was going to say.  Sure enough, he explained that I had a sizeable melanoma and that surgery would be required to remove it.  He would refer me right away to a plastic surgeon and they would do everything they could as fast as possible. I thanked him and went on my merry way; not really getting a sense of the seriousness of my situation.

I told my wife when I picked her up from work that it was cancer and that a plastic surgeon was going to just cut it off.  To give you some perspective, I am very naïve when it comes to health matters.  I told her that it wasn’t a big deal and I wanted to stay positive.

I told very few people, but those I did tell greeted me with the same reaction – “I am so sorry to hear that.”  I would respond with a smile and say, “It was no big deal – just slice it off and put a Band-Aid on it! I will be fine.”

Within a month, I met with the plastic surgeon and the date had been set to have my surgery.  He explained that he would remove the melanoma along with taking my lymph nodes in two different areas.  They would test the lymph nodes to determine if the cancer had spread to those areas.  I remember asking him, “How serious is this anyway?” He looked at me and said, “This is as serious as it gets for me.” He said that I was his top priority and the surgery would be done in 3 or 4 weeks.

The surgery came and went and I was now the new owner of 3 scars.  I still, at this point, had no real concept of how serious this was.  I then met with the surgeon and he gave me the great news that the lymph nodes came back negative.  He said that I was very lucky as the melanoma I had was very deep but they were successful in removing it.  “Thank you God,” I reacted!

A few weeks later, I ran into my family doctor at the grocery store.  She immediately gave me a hug and told me how sorry she was.  She is not the touchy/feely type and this reaction from her surprised me.  Wow, this must have been more serious than I thought.  I went right home and researched the cancer.org website.   I was not prepared for what I read:

Really…I have only about a 40% chance of living past 10 years?!1

The next few months we very difficult for me.  Physically, I was spared from any pain as a result of my cancer.  Mentally, however, it was a painful process. What do I do with my life?  Do I continue to save for retirement?  Will I see my children graduate?  I had many questions!

As I gave God more of me, His plan for my life began to reveal itself. #faith #Melanoma Click To TweetAs I went through this journey I gained perspective and I began to let God into more of my life.  As I gave God more of me, His plan for my life began to reveal itself and I began to listen instead of trying to figure things out on my own.  I had been running from God’s plan for many years but even though I was running away, He was still preparing me for His plan.

You see, having cancer gave me the opportunity to get closer to God.  He had to do something dramatic so that I would fall to my knees and surrender to Him.  God called me to full-time ministry with Operation Christmas Child.  I am thankful for His grace, patience and His hand of protection over me.  I am now closer to Him than I have ever been in my life and I have a strong desire to know Him better every day.

I now have the privilege to lead an amazing group of Christians spreading the Gospel to millions of children through the simple act of packing a shoebox.  I can think of no greater joy than this! I can honestly say that I am grateful to God for the cancer scare.

I do not know what the future holds, but my trust in Him grows stronger every day and my resolve to serve Him until my last breath could not be any stronger.  I pray each day that He will use me as He desires.  “Here I am, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

Your turn…

If you’ve been inspired by Darren’s story, please share this post so others can be inspired today!

If you, or someone you know, has an encouraging story or testimony of how God has helped you in your journey, I’d love to help you share it!  Please send your story to andrewholm@gmail.com, and we’ll post them throughout the year!  Blessings!

References   [ + ]

30 Goals for my 30s

What will the next ten years look like?

I know age is only a number, but I’m not satisfied for my 30s to simply be a duplicate of my 20s.  In an effort to grow, I’ve put together some goals for my next decade.  Some of these are more general aspirations, but you’ll get the idea.

30-goals-for-my-30s
  1. As a family, define, establish and live by our family mission and values.
  2. Get up earlier to start my day earlier.
  3. Consistently arrive home before supper-hour.
  4. Delegate my general roles; protect my unique roles.
  5. Schedule and protect personal hobby time.
  6. Make exercise and physical activity a priority.
  7. Schedule and protect time with my kids.
  8. Love their mother (Deidre, my wife) so they learn what to expect from a relationship.
  9. Build value in them so they learn self-respect.
  10. Teach them that God loves them no matter what!
  11. Teach them that ministry is our response to God’s love, and not God’s love itself.
  12. Make the first day of school as special as possible (Sept 2019; Sept 2021).
  13. Love Deidre during this transition (ie. Make sure she has a tea from Tim Hortons).
  14. Make it a habit to pick them up from school.
  15. Find a need and volunteer at their school.
  16. Continue to tell Deidre how much I love her every day.
  17. Protect date night.
  18. Plan something incredible for our 10 year wedding anniversary (July 2019).
  19. Live closer to “enough;” less in “excess.”
  20. Become more strategically generous.
  21. Pay final student loan payment (2020).
  22. Become a home owner (2025).
  23. Be a continual learner.
  24. Continue to take healthy risks.
  25. Make the most of every opportunity.
  26. Don’t let every opportunity take the best out of me.
  27. Become better at learning, remembering and using people’s names.
  28. Be faithful with the ministry I’m called to lead.
  29. Annually increase engagement with my blog (The Journey Holm).
  30. Write a book (2024).

To make sure these goals and aspirations become a reality, I’m going to need to do a few things:

  • Stay in line with SCRIPTURE – These goals are important to me, but if I leave what I believe and value the most behind, my success in these 30 will be in vain.
  • Add SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE and TIME-ORIENTED goals – this public list shows my intent, but it doesn’t completely capture the “how.” In order for me to succeed, I have to write how and when I’m going to accomplish them.1
  • Ensure ACCOUNTABILITY – I always ask God’s Spirit to keep me in line and I’ve made my list public (that helps), but I also need honest people in my life (wife, friends, mentors…) to hold me accountable so that the next ten years are actually a success. Let’s face it, the Spirit prompts us, but often has to use someone else to nudge us.

Your turn…

So now that I’ve been pretty open and transparent, it’s your turn to challenge yourself!

What do you hope to accomplish in the next stage of your life? How and when will you make it happen?

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

References   [ + ]

Have We Derailed Christmas?

Chaos, Family, or Mission?

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” sang Andy Williams.1  I completely agree, but I’m not sure we all agree with what makes it wonderful.  I actually think many Christians have missed the mark when it comes to Christmas.  It may even be possible that we have merged the good parts of secular Christmas with the mission of Christmas.  The only problem – we may have derailed the mission altogether.

christmas-derailed

When I think of Christmas, I think of three possible mindsets: Christmas Chaos, Family Christmas, or Christmas Mission.

1. Christmas Chaos

Everything is busier during Christmas!  Calendars are full of concerts, shopping, recitals, shopping, dinners, and… did I mention shopping?  If you’re not buying a gift, you’re in anticipation of opening a gift.  Every day is faster than the next and the temptation to “keep up with the Joneses”2 grows continually.

2. Family Christmas

Christmas becomes warm and sweet.  It’s when Christmas is about gathering together as a family, experiencing tradition from one year to the next, and celebrating the holidays with “good cheer.” It’s not about the gifts, but the people you care about.

3. Christmas Mission

This is when we focus on God’s ultimate gift to us – Jesus.  We remember God’s mission (gifting us with Jesus) and act in our mission (sharing that gift with others).  Just as God selflessly gave his Son to us to provide hope and peace, we act selflessly love others to share in that gift.

Is it possible to experience all three of these Christmas mindsets during the season?  Absolutely!  Can you focus on all three?  Impossible!

Most would agree Christmas Chaos, and the commercialism that surrounds that, is completely missing the mark of Christmas.  But where do we go from there?

We may #believe in the #Christmas #Mission, but do we actually value it? Click To TweetI think we may have fallen into the trap of believing that Family Christmas is the actual meaning of Christmas.  We may have actually derailed the beautiful hope that Christmas brings.  Yes, we may believe in the Christmas Mission, but do we actually value it over Family Christmas?

We know Family Christmas can’t be the center of Christmas, because not all of us have family.  If family doesn’t exist, does that mean that Christmas doesn’t exist?  No, of course not!  It’s a good thing that the Christmas Mission includes everyone!

Does that mean that Family Christmas isn’t important?  Absolutely not!  Family remains an important part of our lives.  It just means that Christmas doesn’t surround the family.  Instead, Christmas is about how family and friends experience the Christmas Mission.

Here are some ways we can refocus our thinking:

  • Care for those in need.

Nothing refocuses us towards the Christmas mission like selflessly giving.  It’s counter-intuitive for our culture to focus on giving, let alone giving selflessly.  What would Christmas look like if we, as family and friends, gave up something to help someone else?  We’re too quick to say we can’t afford to give, and yet focusing on mission means focusing on giving, not receiving.

  • Protect and embrace the birth of Jesus.

It’s one thing to read the Christmas story before we open our presents on Christmas morning, it’s another thing to allow the Christmas story to impact everything we do. I think we all too often get the “religious” thing over with so we can have fun.  We probably forget that, without Christ, the hope of tomorrow is gone.  Christmas time should be sacred.  That doesn’t mean Christmas is always serious, but our activities should bring us closer to Jesus, not further away.

  • Experience Advent.

You may worship in a denomination where the advent liturgy is practiced, or you may now.  Unfortunately, I come from a denomination that has not traditionally practiced advent.  However, I grew up in a local assembly that did.  At Bethel, where I lead, we work through it every year.  It helps build anticipation of the arrival of Christ.

  • Share Christmas.

Spread love, joy and peace to those around us.  Live out the Christmas mission.  Show those around us that knowing the Saviour is life-changing and life-giving.  That might mean giving of our resources, or it might mean extending moments of love, joy and peace during moments of chaos.  It could drastically impact how you react in a busy mall parking lot.

Family is always a vital part of the Christmas Mission, but the focus can’t be on family.  If we do it right, our families should experience the Christmas Mission together.

Your turn…

What is the focus of Christmas?  What makes Christmas “wonderful”?

I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, on social media, or by email (andrewholm@gmail.com).  SUBSCRIBE HERE!

References   [ + ]

How Do We Know If We Are Spending Our Money Wisely?

#MoneyMatters is a Q&A category based on questions I have received on the topic of Christians and wealth, money & possessions.  If you have a question, email andrew@andrewholm.com , and I do my best in writing a response!

money matters

If there’s one thing everyone has to deal with, it’s money.  It’s impossible to live and raise a family in this world without dealing with money.  Unfortunately, money issues are frustrating and tend to cause problems.  In fact, among couples, it’s often the first thing to be ignored, resulting in pulling couples apart.  I want to offer three questions that will help all of us to discuss and decide how to use our financial resources more effectively.

Before looking at the three questions, we have to realize we often live in complex and diverse family situations.  Here is a brief outline of where we may find ourselves:

Before a relationship…
As a single person without kids, there is one decision maker and one receiver.  It’s still possible to be in financial crisis; however, all decisions are made by one person and affect that same individual.  As a result, working through how to spend money is fairly simple and can often be decided by sticking to a personal budget.

In a relationship…
As a couple, the situation is completely different.  Instead of one decision maker and one receiver, there are two decision makers and two receivers.  Decisions are no longer one-sided, they take on the needs of two people and impact two people.   In a relationship, it’s very important to learn how to talk about money matters.

In a relationship with kids…
As a family, there is a new dynamic added.  There are still two decision makers; however, now, there is at least one more receiver (depending on how many kids).  Two people are making decisions which impact a number of other people.  As a result, it’s very important to make sure the family is on the same page as they discuss money matters.

Kids with no spouse…
As a single parent family, the situation is slightly different again.  Instead of two decision makers, there is one decision maker and a number of receivers.  While it may seem this is easier, the pressure is on one decision maker to ensure all receivers are taken care of.  Without a doubt, it’s vital to ask the right questions to make sure the budget is balanced and healthy for the family.

Mature relationship with grown-up kids…
As a mature family, the focus changes from direct receivers, to being supportive of many receivers.  Once the kids have grown up and start their own families, financial discussions and decisions directly impact the couple, but no longer have the same affect on their once dependent children.  Their financial decisions do, however, have the potential to help support the newly formed immediate families.

 

In either situation, the key is understanding that there is always at least one receiver, and in many cases, several receivers.  In other words, the financial decisions we all personally make, affect those around us.  Therefore, no matter where we find ourselves, the following three questions will help guide our financial discussions and decisions.

 

AKSING QUESTIONS:
Whether you think you ask questions or not, everyone asks questions when we discuss money matters.  The most common question we ask will focus on WHAT we, or our spouse, spend money on.  In other words, as soon as we see or talk about a purchase, we often focus on the product or service in question and immediately determine if it’s profitable for our desires.  We’ll ask, “what in the world have you bought now?” or “how many of those do we need?”  While we may have reasonable concerns, our focus needs to be on the receivers in our lives and not only ourselves.  To do this, we need to ask three important questions:

1. WHY are we spending money on this product or service?
In order to make healthy financial decisions, we need to make sure we know WHY.  We need to set goals and objectives that are profitable for the receivers in our lives.  We may never fully understand the WHAT, but if we can discuss the WHY, there is a better chance we’ll understand each other.

2. WHEN are we spending money on this product or service?
Some purchases are required immediately; however, others can be placed on a timeline according to the priority of the receivers in our family.  We can understand the WHY, and know it follows our goals and objectives, but if we don’t decide WHEN to purchase it, we may spend outside our means or avoid a purchase that is more important.

3. HOW are we going to make it happen?
If we know the WHY and the WHEN we have to figure out the HOW.  We have to ask ourselves, “how will we pay for this purchase?”  The answer to this question could be as simple as placing it in your personal budget; however, it could also be as complicated as adjusting the WHEN in order to save for the purchase.  The HOW could also be to chose to use our current savings, cashing in an investment, or as simple as using a gift-card.  In either case, a healthy financial decision will include an answer to this question.

 

Let’s look at a few examples…

Saving for retirement…
WHY: So we can afford to live without working after we retire.  This is profitable because it benefits all receivers in the household.

WHEN: The earlier we save, the less it will impact our daily lives and the greater our savings can grow with interest before retirement.  The exact timeline, however, may be determined by student loan payments and/or the costs of raising children.

HOW: By setting aside regular amounts from our income.  In some cases, our employer helps contribute to this investment as well. The amount may depend on the final decision on WHEN.

 

Another example…

Spending money on a hobby…
WHY: So we can relax and enjoy a favourite pass-time.  This is definitely profitable for the receivers who enjoy the hobby, but may not be profitable for those who do not.  Priority would be set based on the involvement and enjoyment of the receivers in the household.

WHEN: The hobby could be seasonal or all year long.  It could require an initial investment, or an ongoing expense.  Maybe the WHY has placed this on hold for a while and the WHEN could be after the kids have grown up, or another significant moment.

HOW: Depending on the cost, it could mean saving over a period of time, or placing it within the current month-to-month budget.

 

Final example…

Supporting a local church ministry…
WHY: Helping to support a church as they help support the community with their local ministry.  This is profitable for the whole family in that it practices generosity and local responsibility.  Priority may be set based on the importance of the local church among the receivers.  For example, a Christian would feel the responsibility of supporting their local church.

WHEN: Depending on the type of ministry, it could be helpful to make this a weekly, monthly or even an annual matter.

HOW: In its simplest form, supporting with our regular income would be most common; however, using an inheritance or investment could also be an option, especially for one-time projects.

 

As we continue to make important financial decisions, I hope and pray these three strategic questions will help develop our final decisions.  While the examples used here show a particular rational, it is very important to use our own specific contexts as we discuss our financial decisions. These three simple questions of WHY, WHEN and HOW will help us do just that and make choices that help benefit the entire household.

In terms of a direct biblical response to this question, refer to Part 2 of the Money Matters series on Bethel’s podcast: http://podcast.bethelbr.com/?p=216

[Guest Post] “Dear Parents with Young Children in Church”

My wife and I pastor a church that has a whole lot of kids!  It’s awesome!  But, with a lot of kids, comes a lot of noise, commotion, laughing, crying, talking, and sometimes even screaming.  Tradition would say, “it’s inappropriate during a Sunday morning service.”  I ask, “how can we modify our Sunday morning service to include our kids?”

While we think on that, read how one mother reflects on bringing Children to church in her blog post “Dear Parents with Young Children in Church“…

“You are doing something really, really important. I know it’s not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring.

I watch you bounce and sway trying to keep the baby quiet, juggling the infant carseat and the diaper bag as you find a seat. I see you wince as your child cries. I see you anxiously pull things out of your bag of tricks to try to quiet them.

And I see you with your toddler and your preschooler. I watch you cringe when your little girl asks an innocent question in a voice that might not be an inside voice let alone a church whisper.  I hear the exasperation in your voice as you beg your child to just sit, to be quiet as you feel everyone’s eyes on you. Not everyone is looking, but I know it feels that way.

I know you’re wondering, is this worth it? Why do I bother? I know you often leave church more exhausted than fulfilled. But what you are doing is so important.

When you are here, the church is filled with a joyful noise. When you are here, the Body of Christ is more fully present. When you are here, we are reminded that this worship thing we do isn’t about Bible Study or personal, quiet contemplation but coming together to worship as a community where all are welcome, where we share in the Word and Sacrament together.When you are here, I have hope that these pews won’t be empty in ten years when your kids are old enough to sit quietly and behave in worship. I know that they are learning how and why we worship now, before it’s too late. They are learning that worship is important.

I see them learning. In the midst of the cries, whines, and giggles, in the midst of the crinkling of pretzel bags and the growing pile of crumbs I see a little girl who insists on going two pews up to share peace with someone she’s never met. I hear a little boy slurping (quite loudly) every last drop of his communion wine out of the cup determined not to miss a drop of Jesus. I watch a child excitedly color a cross and point to the one in the front of the sanctuary.  I hear the echos of Amens just a few seconds after the rest of the community says it together. I watch a boy just learning to read try to sound out the words in the worship book or count his way to Hymn 672. Even on weeks when I can’t see my own children learning because, well, it’s one of those mornings, I can see your children learning.

I know how hard it is to do what you’re doing, but I want you to know, it matters. It matters to me. It matters to my children to not be alone in the pew. It matters to the congregation to know that families care about faith, to see young people… and even on those weeks when you can’t see the little moments, it matters to your children.

It matters that they learn that worship is what we do as a community of faith, that everyone is welcome, that their worship matters. When we teach children that their worship matters, we teach them that they are enough right here and right now as members of the church community. They don’t need to wait until they can believe, pray or worship a certain way to be welcome here, and I know adults who are still looking to be shown that. It matters that children learn that they are an integral part of this church, that their prayers, their songs, and even their badly (or perfectly timed depending on who you ask) cries and whines are a joyful noise because it means they are present.

I know it’s hard, but thank you for what you do when you bring your children to church. Please know that your family – with all of its noise, struggle, commotion, and joy – are not simply tolerated, you are a vital part of the community gathered in worship.”

Let’s rephrase that last sentence… “Please know that your family – with all of its noise, struggle, commotion, and joy – are not simply tolerated [at Bethel Pentecostal Church in Bay Roberts, NL], you are a vital part of the community gathered in worship.”  Hopefully we can all insert our local assemblies.  If we can’t…

Let’s think about this…
If you’re a parent of young kids, do you bring your kids to church?  If you don’t, is it because of what others may think?  If you do, know you’re making an awesome impact, can keep doing it!

If you’re not a parent of young kids, how do you respond to “noise and commotion” during a service?  Remember being reverent is more than being quiet, it’s also acting in obedience – Jesus said, “let the children come to me.”

The next time you see a young mom or dad in church with their young children, make sure you let them know how proud you are of them!