When I was a little girl I remember sitting on Sunday afternoons at the piano with my mother as she tried to teach me to read and sing harmony. We would open the old red UM hymnal (or as I call it, the REAL hymnal) and sing. I remember singing over and over again the harmony part to the hymn “We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” I don’t know why, maybe the repetition of the harmony, or the repetition of the words, but every time we would sing it I would break down in giggles. My mother would get frustrated after the third time, and we would move on to “Jesus Keep me Near the Cross.”
This week our scripture from Genesis 31 is the culmination of a three-chapter novella of Jacob’s journey to the “old country.” We will look at the struggle of Jacob and his uncle (turned-father-in-law) Laban and the idea of learning to move forward after a difficult relationship. But as I was reading the chapters between last week and this week’s pericope, I read the story of Jacob’s dream about a ladder and was struck by the promise God makes to Jacob in the dream. Repeating the promise that had been reiterated in the generations before, Jacob now receives personally the words from God, “I will stay with you. I’ll protect you whe rever you go.”
Those words have meant a great deal to many of us this week. It’s October – Breast Cancer Awareness month, and while pink is everywhere, we here at St. Luke’s need no reminder for we are all too aware of breast cancer. Many members of our congregation are battling this disease and as you may know, Pastor Jad’s wife Shelly just went through surgery for a bilateral mastectomy on Tuesday. The surgery was successful and she is now home resting. All along you have shown the Denmarks, and others God’s promise, “I will stay with you. I’ll protect you wherever you go.”
But like the repetitive verses of the old hymn of climbing Jacob’s ladder, every round goes higher and higher and now I have another round of news to share. As if we weren’t aware enough, last Friday I was diagnosed with breast cancer as well. Thanks to the amazing work of the radiologists, and the persistence of my doctor, a St. Luker as well, it seems we have caught it while it is contained.
Today I meet with my surgeon. We will not know the kind of cancer or the treatment plan until pathology is complete. But we didn’t want to go through this process without being open and honest. Especially since the radiologist knew that the patient was the wife of “Mr. SW” from Palm Lake Elementary.
And so now it is our turn to trust. To trust fully in the words God said to Jacob during that fantastical dream in which angels of God went up and down a ladder from heaven. I know that no matter what we face, God promises, “I will stay with you. I’ll protect you wherever you go.” I also know that as you have been for Shelly and Jad Denmark and for Jayne and Chris Andrews and the countless other members who have fought this fight – you will be angels for us, coming and going, offering us blessings, prayers and support. You will remind John and I and our kids of God’s promises of presence and protection.
And don’t worry – I’ve even found the grace to giggle a little in the midst of it all. After sharing the news with my children on Friday night, as we were processing the different possibilities, one being losing my hair, Sam (my youngest) looked at me with all seriousness and said “Mom, you do remember the video from Hard Rock right? They predicted this.” I couldn’t figure out WHAT he was he was talking about. Then he explained. “Mom, remember the Commit Video from November when the three daughters of the pastors (my own daughter-Grace, Ca rrie Harnish Ferenac, and Kristin Barnes Allgire) were interviewed They warned you all the lead pastors of St. Luke’s lose their hair eventually!!”
As my mom would say…”Let’s sing Jesus Keep me Near the Cross.” And so we begin the journey with a few tears, a great awareness, faith in the promise, and even a few giggles.
Grace and peace – Jenn.
To subscribe to St. Luke’s Weekly Update emails, please complete the form below.