(The following Letter was shared with the laity and staff of Christ UMC in Memphis, TN on March 6, 2014).
By now many of you have heard that the doctors at Mayo informed me today the treatments for my liver disease did not achieve their goal. Of course, we are very disappointed in these results and have shared our emotion and confusion with God about this outcome.
And, yet, all the while I was ‘giving God a piece of my mind’, I felt as though God was wrapping his arms around my family and me.
I don’t believe it is a coincidence that I received this news on Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the one day of the Christian year when we are reminded of the vulnerable and fragile state of our mortal lives. And, we remember that though this body may crumble, God has something very different planned for our souls. No, our mortality has been matched and trumped by God’s grace for eternity.
Where do we go from here? Well, the very good news is that the liver condition is stable and my comprehensive score that the doctors use for gauging the seriousness of my disease is still very low.
This means we begin the next phase—looking for a doctor here in Memphis who will treat the disease as a chronic illness until we are able to begin the next set of treatments. And, there are some great opportunities for treating and curing this disease currently in the FDA pipeline—many with far fewer side effects than the last treatments.
Therefore, my outlook and spirits are very high—but, more importantly, I believe that God has only begun to use this journey for His Glory!
Friends, I have never been so excited and optimistic for what God has in store for our congregation. Our team is incredibly gifted, our lay leadership is some of the finest, most effective leaders on the planet, and God has planted us in a place and a season where miracles are ready to happen. What more could we ask!!!!
My next moves are to be a faithful husband and father, a somewhat compliant patient (yes, I will most certainly do my bestJ), a committed friend, and dedicated leader—but more than anything, I plan to continue leaning on the only real source of strength I ever known—Jesus.
We have much to do! Memphis needs us to ‘leave a trail’ of grace, forgiveness and new beginnings.
Someone asked if I planned to slow down or let up—Are you kidding! That is just what the Adversary wants me (us) to do. Absolutely not! On the contrary, Satan’s latest attack proves only one thing, my friends--Satan does not want us to achieve what God has planned!
So, please keep praying for my family and me. I have felt and been sustained over the last year by your prayers and support. Don’t stop!
I can’t wait to see what God does next.
I love you all.
Be Salt and Light… You Matter!
Matthew 5: 13-16
Shane Stanford is a pastor, teacher and author committed to sharing the hope of Jesus Christ with the world.