Lasting Memories

So I couldn’t decide where to post this entry… whether here, or on our April in Paris website. Well… since it had to do with traveling and building important memories into you life through the things you do with the people you love, I decided to put it as the closing entry on our Paris trip we just completed.

Please, though, check it out at this address.

One Final Thought

How important it is to take the time out to build these memories.

Posted in Life Lessons | Leave a comment

Making Choices

My life is filled with difficult choices.

Do I follow this treatment regiment, or another? Do I go to this doctor or another? Do I use this herbal remedy, or is it just a waste of money? Do I keep investing for retirement, or spend the money now? When I buy clothes, do I buy a better quality item that I plan to use for years, or do I just get something less expensive… because… who knows how long I’ll be around to use it?

Bethlehem in the Spring

Bethlehem in the Spring

It seems like the last few months have been filled with these kinds of questions. Cancer certainly takes you through a journey like this, especially when it’s a cancer they still can’t cure. So for the past two months, I’ve been getting a lot of counseling about how I think through decisions. (Because I haven’t been doing such a good job of it!)

In the past, I always had a short-term plan, a long-term plan, and a backup plan. To get there, I would analyze everything out logically, write down options, consider possible outcomes, look through scriptures to see if God had anything to say on it, talk with expert counsel, and then pray and meditate on it. Next, I’d wait for the thought process to complete, and trust that something would come back that I could be sure was a solid plan for years to come. That process served me well for four decades. It empowered my musical career, the dramatic move into ministry, building a church in New Hampshire, moving the family to Pennsylvania, and even my most recent work at Apple. I’ve always relied on vision for what to do next. Ask my kids… I’m a planner, and have continually pestered them with, “What’s your long-term goal in this?” And yes, it always drove them crazy! But it worked for me. In the past.

Now, there is no long term. The way I thought through life’s issues previously just doesn’t work in the present. Planning as a visionary requires that you see into the future. With terminal cancer, the future is at best unknown, and at worst, nonexistent. That means someone like me has to completely relearn the entire process of decision making.

What I’ve discovered, is that my kids may have had the answer all along. (And there’s even a scripture I’ll get to that supports them.) The solution? If you’re not sure what the future holds, don’t plan that far in advance. Simply decide what needs to be done today and work on the rest later.

For months now, I’ve driven my logical thinking brain crazy trying to develop the best strategy when the future is a vapor. When you do that, the primal part of your brain that wants to survive starts forcing your body into stress, panic, confusion, and chaos. Since visionary planning has practically no solutions for terminal illness, that survival instinct runs wild on full throttle. Each day has many issues, and when you combine that with all the possible scenarios of what may or may not happen later on, it’s just too much to process.

Jesus gave us the solution thousands of years ago.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Mt 6:34, The Message Bible)

This past month, I’ve worked extremely hard at getting my brain out of the future. That required some things I’ve never considered before. Instead of trying to find answers, it meant ignoring the questions. On a very simplistic level, it meant not deciding if I would continue on chemotherapy for a year, but just deciding if I would get treatment for this cycle or not. Once cycle at a time I can handle. Ten cycles, twenty cycles, years of cycles….? Too many chemicals to think about.

If Christy were my prom date, it would have been like this.

If Christy were my prom date,
it would have been like this.

Then there is the constant worrying about how much money this all costs. So instead of trying to figure out how if we’ll be able to pay for it this summer, or in the fall, or if this goes on for years… I simply focus on if there’s enough in the bank to do what needs to be done this week, or even today. If the answer is yes, then we do it. If the answer is no, then we don’t. And that’s how we’ll address it next month, and the month after that. The question is reduced to the moment we’re in, not the moments still to come.

Another trick to make this work, is to spend more time distracting the thinking and survival parts of your brain. You can’t shut them off, but you can quiet them down (as I have learned from my wonderful counselor) by stimulating the emotional part of the mind instead. That’s the part that meditates and prays, or gets absorbed in art and music, or visualizes being in places and activities that are pleasant and soothing. It’s the part that loves others, enjoys being with people in conversation or entertainment, or simply sits with someone when words can’t be said. Closeness and touch comfort the emotions, and all of these activities settle the brain, quiet the logical thinking, and convince our survival instinct that there really is nothing to flee from. If we, “Give your attention to what God is doing right now,” we discover we can handle that. We can process that. We learn that whatever needs to be decided for the future, CAN be decided in the future.

Keep in mind, that the particular set of circumstances you’re facing at this moment may never be the same. The future may hold things not even imaginable today. Trying to solve problems for months and years to come is virtually impossible once so many unknowns enter in. The best way to resolve that is to simply solve the problems that exist now — with the information that’s reliable and available now — and leave the rest for whatever may come.

I hope this finds some way to help you as it has helped me. It’s helped me be much less stressed, which ironically has allowed me to think more clearly. I know we’re not all facing the same issues, but I do believe there is some practical benefit here regardless of what may be going on in your life. And as Jesus reminded us, “God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” He always does!

– Sanford Kravette

One closing thought. Many have suggested finding a mantra as a means of quieting the mind. This is something you repeat in meditation over and over again. If you have something that is true, something that you can apprehend or trust in faith, hold on to that. Trust is important. Otherwise, I don’t suggest simply making something up. I tried that for months with no success. If you’re going to meditate on a single thought, it has to be something you truly believe in, or it has no value.

Posted in Life Lessons, On Terminal Illness | Leave a comment


“Because they do not change, therefore they do not fear God.” (Psalm 55:19)

There are two absolute truths in life.

One: God never changes. (“For I am the Lord, I do not change…” Mal 3:6)
Two: We must constantly adjust to change.

I don’t know how many of you are like me. I absolutely love to think things through, consider all the options, make a plan, and then…. STICK TO THAT PLAN. My logical brain is fixated on this pattern. It sorts everything out, puts it on a shelf, then moves on to the next challenge, fully expecting nothing to interfere with my stratagem.

Speaking of transitions... look at me, sitting in the back of the car while my children Sarah and Aaron drive. Yet one of many changes I'm working on accepting.

Speaking of transitions… look at me, sitting in the back of the car while my children Sarah and Aaron drive. Yet one of many changes I’m working on accepting.

Then life changes.

The world around us, our bodies, life experiences and our emotions are constantly in a state of flux. These things just never stay the same. So what happens when that flux comes crashing in against our well-made plans? Transitions. The dictionary on my MacBook defines transition as, “the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.” Oh, that sounds so uncomfortable for me. As a musician, I find the musical definition for transition much easier to accept. “A momentary modulation from one key to another.” That term, “momentary” is so much gentler than “change.” How I wish that all transitions were momentary. The harsh reality though, is that they are rather permanent. Usually life changing. And if not so, at the very least they dash our plans to pieces and force us to rethink, rebuild, and compensate for an entirely new set of circumstances.

There are many such times in life when this occurs.

I was thinking the other day about the whole process of birth. In the womb we can imagine everything being warm, soft, soothing, comfortable. Then as time passes, we grow bigger and mom reaches a point where her body says, “That’s enough! Time for you to be out on your own!” Labor is the process of transitioning from that warm, liquid-y comfort of development to the harsher world of light, air, cold, heat… and independence. Birth is absolutely necessary, but unquestionably painful for both baby and mom. Indeed, if this transition did not take place, both mother and child would die. However uncomfortable the process is, one thing is certain. Change is necessary.

Interestingly, the process of being born sets an excellent model for many other phases of life. We grow, go to grade school, middle school and high school from the comfort and care of our home. We’re protected, cared for, fed, funded, and nurtured. Then one day we move out. Off to college, off to our own apartment, start working for ourselves, paying our own bills, and learning how to live without mom and dad telling us how. For most young people, this transition is uncomfortable. It involves lots of trial and error, course corrections, challenging conversations, and for most, financial struggles. Transitioning from being a dependent of others to adulthood is such a critical phase of life, but often is like the birthing process where you move from a place of comfort and protection, to a place of facing life’s challenges on your own. Again, change is necessary.

There are two more transitions we’ll address here.

Our physical bodies are designed to regenerate constantly. However, there is a caveat to this process. Over time, the cells that die off begin to outnumber the cells that are created. We call this natural process aging. We ALL age. Sometimes this is dramatically accelerated by physical changes brought about from disease, accidents, or genetics. Whether slowly over many years, or suddenly because of unforeseen events, we all reach a point where we cannot do the things we once did. The way we approach life must adapt to our abilities to do things. The more willingly we accept these inevitable changes to our human body and mind, the more gracefully and peaceably we live our lives. Acceptance and accommodation are wonderful things once a path is found to adjust. So whether you’re like me and are suddenly hit with something like life-threatening cancer, or like my wife who has her full vigor and strength and is aging naturally, understanding the transformation of our physical and mental condition — and then discovering new ways to live life to its fullest — becomes a transition we all must eventually face. Change, once more, is necessary.

Our last transition.

The final transition, death, is the most unknown. In every other situation, we have the luxury of talking with people who have gone through life’s changes. We can ask them questions, seek counsel, receive experienced encouragement, and draw strength by seeing how others adjusted when changes arose. Death, however, is one thing where we know it’s going to happen, but there are no friends or relatives whom we can talk with that experienced it and can tell us what to expect.

We do have comfort in God, however, because Jesus died and rose again. But rather than discussing what He said about “the other side,” let’s look instead at how He faced death.

When He knew His time had come to transition from this life to the next, He didn’t struggle at all. Instead He said these very simple words:

“Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” (Lk 23:46)

This is a Master blueprint for us on how to face the last transition in life… and consequently, how to face any transition in life. Jesus showed us to simply trust God and let go. He showed us that we can’t hang on to the status quo. We need to surrender what we have, and receive whatever is next. I’ve found in life, that what comes next is almost always better than what we so desperately tried to hold on to.

Why do we struggle so with transitions then? That first bible quote at the top of this article says it all. We don’t like change because we don’t trust God. We trust ourselves instead. We like to trust those plans we made and so carefully filed away, even when all the circumstances tell us they no longer work.

So here’s a transition that I’ll challenge you with. It’s also one I am desperately working on myself. It is a challenge to allow yourself to flow through life with a very loose grip on anything that seems important to you. It’s a challenge to willingly suffer a perceived loss, then instead, turn inward to the Spirit who gives life and all the good things that come with that. It’s a challenge to say, “Father, into Your hands I commit my Spirit.”

I am confident that as we learn to live more freely, the more wonderful discoveries we will experience. Give it a try with me, and let me know how it goes!

Posted in Lifestyle, On Terminal Illness | 4 Comments


We spend our entire lives in relationships. For most of us, our existence is spent surrounded by family, friends, co-workers, students, classmates, and even strangers on the street as we pass by.

How many, though, face the loss of health AND the loss of fellowship at roughly the same time?


First signs of Spring this week on my walk. A wonderful reminder that seasons of life do indeed change…

First, comes the diagnosis of disease. Then you hear that disease is terminal. No cure, no real timeline, just the knowledge that as time progresses, you will face more and more physical challenges, until one day… short of a miracle or scientific breakthrough that changes everything… one day, all the money and doctors in the world won’t be able to control what’s happening in your body. With the passing of time will come the passing of life.

At this moment, many thoughts go through your head. For this post, though, we’re going to focus only on relationships, or the loss thereof. The reality is, so many of those we know have no idea how to deal with bad news. Sure, they can handle passing bad news. But permanent bad news? News that does not improve over time, but worsens? Well, that’s too difficult for most people to accept. So what happens? Withdrawal. A certain percentage of those relationships simply disappear when you need them most, because folks just don’t know what to do.

Now if we were strong enough, we could become the initiator… the one to keep people close by. But just when we need that extra strength of mind, endless doctor appointments, blood tests, and body scans come. Chemotherapy and radiation come. Hospitalization comes. Then comes that turning point when we’re told our survival is limited. Energy levels simply cannot sustain a lifestyle of reaching out… initiating contact with everyone… asking for help. Our strength will be spent working through the physical and emotional stress of the day. Our body will not have the energy it once did to multitask, to think clearly, to brush away the fog of depression and be that cheerful point of connection to the world. We will be using all our energy to simply live, breath and think.

This must be accepted. We will not be able to be in control over all that was once so easy.

As for our circle of people. They now have to deal with death. And let’s face it, people don’t do death well. It can be hard for someone who has never faced it to know anything at all about how to be that supportive person, to sit by our side and offer comfort. Even family members and those we care for the most will be at a loss. Coming to a place of acceptance on our condition is not easy for them. You and I have already done the “DABDA” steps. (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.) Maybe we’ve done them 20 times that day. But for others, getting stuck at Denial is entirely reasonable. They’re not “in” it. They don’t feel the disease in their gut. It’s so easy for them to believe, “Oh, so-and-so will get better. Just have to stay positive about it all and send some good vibes their way.” In some cases, that’s called Hope. But for terminal patients, it’s called Denial.

Most of those in our closest circles may not come to a place of Acceptance until long after we are gone. Delayed acceptance happens. Frequently. It’s okay. We have no control over how long it takes others to process difficult emotions. So let go and give them space.

Where does this leave us? In the absence of connection, in the absence of knowledge and training on loss, there is distance. Distance in relationships is the fuel for loneliness.

In my journey, loneliness has become my greatest hardship. Many days are spent on my own for hours on end. I feel more and more that the loneliness we experience while terminally ill, is simply a way to prepare us for the solo voyage from this life to the next. Part of the process is learning how to do that trip by yourself. It is a ticket for one.

But, there are things we can do to break that barrier and maintain some of the most important relationships.

First of all: Be. This may be tough for those like me who are domineering. Stop trying to change anything about anyone. Simply find joy in being present in the room with other people. We’ve spent a good portion of our lives wishing for all kinds of things for those closest to us. We had our chance to try and change them. Now we have to stop all that nonsense and simply enjoy being with the people we love… just as they are. Don’t let anything wreck the moment. Give up frustration… for fellowship. Give up anger… for acceptance. Give up control… for releasing the moment to whatever happens. At least try. Our participation is much less important than our presence. Being there in the midst of others is FAR better than not being there. Even if they don’t talk much with you, just “be” around others. That’s our challenge.

Second: Communication. If at all possible, let someone else take care of updating the world about your condition. They will not only be more objective than you are (and closer to the truth), but the mere fact that they are doing this act of compassion for you will encourage others to act too. They’ll see how easy it is to do something small that makes a big difference in your care and support. When I was first diagnosed, my son stepped forward and created a website for fundraising and awareness. He did it all. It was successful far beyond what we imagined. Everyone got involved from my place of work, to my wife’s place of work, to our friends, and even folks we didn’t know. I’ve been doing my own updates lately, but it’s not the same at all. Trust me. Ask someone else take the lead on this, and let them tell the world why you are worthy of their care and attention. It works better that way. Really.

Third: Reconciliation. If you have wronged anyone, or if anyone has wronged you, by all means use this valuable time we have to make things right. Apologies are good. Forgiveness is better. Traveling to see long lost friends may be a significant step in your emotional well-being. (Or ask them to travel to see you.) Working things out with broken relationships is important. It gives back what the world has robbed you of. It can be scary, but it is easier than we imagine.

For me, I had been out of ministry for ten years. Going back to my old church, seeing the faces of people I hurt ten years ago when I left ministry was a fearful thought. So many open wounds had never healed. But from the moment we arrived there, we began to see a slice of heaven come to earth. It was like we never left. All the good memories that happened for so many years had washed over the short time of division and confusion. In just a moment of willingness to be together, God restored our love for each other, our friendships, and our fellowship. It was miraculous. It was a taste of being reconciled together in eternity.

Now, there may be some relationships that just don’t get worked out. For me, it was with the senior pastor who sent me off into ministry. Of all the men in this world, he meant more to me than any. It was his church where I met and married my wife. It was that church where I was trained in serving God and man. It was where I was ordained. It was that fellowship where I was discipled and learned how to live as a man of integrity, serving God in my heart and loving my family as myself. So much good, yet, he was the one person I reached out to who seemed too busy to make things right… to bring an end to years of silence… to restore fellowship. I understand though. I’m just one of many thousands of people touched by him. He seemed busy because he is busy.

So when the impossible comes up, just do your best. Then it’s out of your control and you can let go, forgive, and move on. Who knows what may happen later, maybe even after our time on earth has ended. Many great people were not respected until they had been dead many years. We may not see reconciliation everywhere, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come eventually. Do your part. Live in hope. Die in hope.

Fourth: Do. In our weakened physical state, if there is something you CAN do, then do it. When I am tired, I rest. When I have strength and energy (usually in the mornings), I go on my errands. I’ll go to the job site where I’m on leave of absence to say hello… to remind everyone I’m thinking of them and tell them NOT to wait for my calls, but to reach out to me whenever they’re free. There’s a hundred of them and one of me. I need their energy right now. I go to the grocery store for my wife. I’ll hit Home Depot for small, doable things I can manage in keeping the house working (nothing involving chainsaws or things with sharp edges!). Big projects are off the list, but little things to keep the place going… when possible, I’ll do some of those. If you want more, volunteer somewhere. One day a week or whatever works. Giving yourself in the service of others is the fastest way to conquer loneliness. Period. (A topic for another post.) We just have to learn to serve in small doses… as God allows.

Fifth: Mind & Body. Journal. Write. Meditate. Pray. Do yoga. Go for a walk. Ride a stationary bike. Get a massage or make a physical therapy appointment. (Whatever activities your doctor allows.) Our bodies are under attack. Light exercise, stretching, and eating well reward the body for the fight it’s entered into on our behalf. We only have one body, so help it out. Make friends with it. Listen to what it is trying to tell you. Who knows? All those billions of cells may know how to heal themselves despite the odds.

Our minds are also under attack. A good way to put off depression caused by loneliness is to do something with the mind. Get a counseling appointment. It clears your head. Read books that apply to your condition, and find some that are simply FUN. Watch a movie. It can make you laugh. I read, write, and go to a small bible study where I can share ideas with others (my high point of the week for socializing). Activities with low stress and immediate feedback are usually quite rewarding.

Sixth: Marriage. Take care if you are still married. Love your spouse, and use these days to make sure they know your love. Taking care of us is hard, and they are fatigued. Be sensitive to that, and simply overlook anything that’s wrong. If it can be easily worked out, fine. But we don’t want to spend our last few months here on earth with any kind of disharmony at home (#JustNotWorthIt). Value joy and peace above right and wrong. We just don’t have time anymore to make everything right. So forget about it. Love unconditionally and enjoy the time you have with your lifelong companion. There may be moments when this is not easy, but it is certainly the second most important thing that needs doing. The only task that tops this is next…

Seventh: God. “On the seventh day, God rested.” Find a place for God and learn to rest in Him. There are many believers who can introduce you to Jesus if that’s what you need. Those of us who are terminal are pretty much promised that we will finally discover what it means to leave this world and stand before our Creator. I don’t trust most of what Christian teachers tell me about the after life. Everyone who wrote about heaven in the Bible shares their story and goes on to say how dimly we see eternity, how difficult it is to understand it in this mortal body, how indescribable it was. They did their best to put heavenly visions into words they knew, but implied that we will not fully know until we arrive there. That’s why it’s called a journey of faith. But, we do know we will meet our Maker. We want to be ready for that, and it really is quite easy to seek Him now. He loves us so much and there’s nothing we’ve ever done that is not forgivable in Christ. So go for it. Make things right with God, and then find peace in that relationship.

I hope these points are helpful in facing and conquering loneliness. As for me, these seven steps are most certainly a work in progress. But as I get better at each one, things improve. It’s like learning a new piano sonata. It takes a lot of practice to get things right. Just keep at it!

One closing thought. If the number of people you interact with drops as time passes and your condition worsens, don’t worry. That can happen. Stay thankful for those who stay by your side. It only takes one person to have a companion. And as you read this, know that I am here too. We can be companions together.

– Sanford Kravette

Posted in On Terminal Illness | 2 Comments

At the Precipice

Years ago I was shown a picture taken of a friend, resting on the edge of Half Dome’s summit in Yosemite National Park. Images like that always brought fear to my heart.


Sitting at the precipice.
One step back? Life.
One slip forward? Death at the end of a five thousand foot fall.

Yet each year, thousands of people face these fears and dare to sit on clifftops, or parachute from a plane, or bungie jump a canyon, or point their skis straight down a mountain covered in fresh powder and experience life more fully than many of us may ever know. Even if death is a real possibility in each of these activities, some people face it, accept it, and then confidently look the other way and live for the adventure.

There are also many others who end up sitting on a different kind of precipice. It’s called terminal illness. They didn’t choose to be there. It just happened. They were brought there against their will. Each day after that diagnosis, if all goes well they live, and if anything goes wrong they die. It’s that simple. And for the vast majority of those who receive this dreadful news, all paths inevitably end the same. We’re told, “It’s just a matter of time… there is no cure. As long as the disease is controlled, there’s life. If it cannot be controlled, life will eventually come to an end.”

Once that reality of all this hits, a new journey begins. It’s a journey about how to live while time passes… live, not wait.

Working through this challenge myself, is the reason why I chose to include the topic in my blog. I don’t intend for it to be depressing or dark. It’s not meant to draw sympathy from anyone. Instead, the purpose of this series is to come alongside any others who are struggling with health, or like me, are mentally working through a diagnosis of terminal illness, and want a companion along the way.

I know some of you will think that by writing on this subject I’ve given up hope. Think of it instead, as a hiker who has looked at the possibility of death, but chose to look the other way, to sit on that precipice and enjoy the view rather than turn away worrying, “What if I slip…” or “What if the ground gives out under me…” Also, I’ve made it this far on my journey thanks in part to those who have come before me. They’ve written books on facing cancer, given inspiring talks while diagnosed with the same fate, or done research on sickness, fear and depression, and shared their discoveries so those of us who face life’s uncertainty day by day can find the tools to do so with courage, hope, and joy. The time has come for me to do the same. Share now, or forever be silent.

Having said all this, remember that we are all terminally ill. From Adam and Eve through to present time, every single person has eventually faced death and could not escape. In this, we are all the same. So if you’re reading and haven’t been diagnosed with a terminal illness, know that life will end one day anyhow. If there is anything in this series that can help you find more purpose for each day you do live, then we have accomplished a second goal. Comforting the terminal, AND inspiring those who are not yet there, so both can find full and meaningful lives.

I’ll be adding a number of posts under this subject soon. Looking forward to the journey!

– Sanford Kravette

—-  Photo credits, Terrie DeBord.  This shot was taken of a good friend of mine (and best man at my wedding!), Bruce DeBord in 1979 at the top of Half Dome’s visor. Bruce, you’re an inspiration and always have been. 

Posted in On Terminal Illness | 1 Comment


Once in a while, people tell us things and we go for weeks, months and sometimes even years before we “get” it. I had one of those moments today. river_b2Friends, family, counselors and books all tell me that it’s okay to be depressed and sad about the diagnosis I received. But eventually, it’s important to get to the place where you can accept it, learn from it and move forward. Not so easy to do when it comes screaming at you, kicking down your door and robbing your life in all ways imaginable. BUT, today I got a taste of acceptance, and it feels pretty good.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

I cannot change how strong the cancer in my body is, but God has given me some control over how strong I am.

For instance, I know that if I eat good foods, my body will be stronger and less drained from trying to digest processed foods, sugars, carbohydrates, etc. I also know that if I sit around all day, the blood clots in my legs will get worse, but if I get up, go outside and walk around the block a few times, it will improve my circulation, and at least in a small way help me stay alive. I also know that if I stay hydrated and drink water, smoothies, herbal teas, etc, then my body can process the chemicals from chemo better, keep them moving through my system, and shorten recovery time. So yes, I CAN eat well, exercise safely, and drink fluids to make my body stronger. What can a stronger body do against cancer? Let’s see!

I cannot change how long I will live, but I have been given a choice as to how I will live until the day I die.

Last week, a doctor told me I had three to six months – maybe a year – to live. Honestly, he may be right, but he may also be absolutely wrong. So do I want to live each day waiting for his inevitable? No. I’d rather live each day hoping my inevitable is a LONG ways off. Living in hope is a much better option than waiting to die, and I can choose not to predict the future. We all will pass one day, so while we’re alive, we get to choose how we will live each of those days. Hope is a good choice.

I cannot change how other people will see me while I am sick, but I can can choose how I will see others.

I’ll be honest. When you’re sick, you need help. You need caregivers who watch out for you, pick up after you, go to doctors offices with you, and drive you around when you’re too weak or medicated. There are moments when I am too drained to answer a text, make a phone call, or get out of bed. But all moments aren’t like that. Thank God for the help people have offered me and my family. We couldn’t do it without you. However, there is a point where I need to see myself still as a functioning part of society, and learn what my new responsibilities are, how much weight a can carry, and be obedient to care for those around me just as if I were not sick, as best as I can. Otherwise, I become someone who has nothing to offer to society. Instead, I’d rather see others with the same value as before my diagnosis, and learn how to continue to serve them, to be of use, to offer something helpful to the world around me.

I cannot change things that happened in the past… even if some of those things contributed to the cause of my disease.

However, I can acknowledge my mistakes, apologize to those I’ve hurt, change any patterns that are unhealthy in terms of mind, body or spirit, and allow God to finish the work He began in me when I got saved. At this point, I can truthfully say I don’t want to remain the person I was last year. I want to be less controlling, more spontaneous, more positive about life, more generous, and less hurt from things that happened long ago that can no longer be changed or righted. It is time to simply forgive and move on. Life IS better that way.

So those are some of thing things that I’ve started accepting.

Yes, I still have life-threatening cancer. Yes, the doctors still don’t know if I’ll live or die (actually, only one I know believes I have a fighting chance, and that’s why she’s my oncologist again). Yes, this is all quite scary at times. So in the face of all that, I will try to stay focused on only those things that I CAN do. As for the rest of it… it’s simply out of my control, and right now, that’s okay.

– Sanford Kravette

Posted in Life Lessons, On Terminal Illness | 12 Comments

Waiting for Life to Return Again

Today I am given the task of writing about something I am terrible at doing. But anyone who knows me well will trust I’m not going to try to do this unless I found a role model to glean from. I’ve always taught, in order to learn a life skill, you have to study the successes of someone who has mastered the objective. For this lesson, our role model will be nature itself. Follow along with me.

Here’s our new challenge to master: To learn how to simply do nothing in and of our own strength, while waiting for an intensely important area of life to return again.

This subject came to light while out for what felt like an early spring walk last week. Actually, it’s still officially winter, but this particular day was unusually warm for early February. My wife, son and I took advantage of the thaw and went for an afternoon walk in an Allentown park. (Thank you, Josh!) About mid-way through, we came across the following scene. There was this shimmering blue sky, contrasted by bright green grass popping out from under the dull remnants of melting snow. Then, in a clearing, this massive tree with no buds or obvious signs of life was standing bold and strong, arms reaching up to heaven, doing absolutely nothing except feeling the warmth of the day, seeing the world around itself waking up from Winter’s freeze, and knowing with full confidence that soon buds will pop out, then leaves, then full foliage, followed by an entire season of warm summer days. But today, it did nothing other than wait in stillness, in praise of it’s Creator. Go ahead… take a good long look and meditate on this picture. It’s not such an unfamiliar scene these days, but has much to teach us.

When I think about the potential static energy found in this massive plant, possessing such power I will never know, and to see it just standing there, doing nothing to bring about what must seem to it so natural, so inevitable, expected and anticipated; yet offering no outward signs whatsoever of struggling to burst into life… I was humbled. This tree demonstrated perfect, complete and utter trust in God, that He alone would defrost the soil around it’s roots, flood it with water and nutrient filled dirt, blow gentle wind over it’s branches, and bring an occasional gail-force breeze to prune dead limbs so as not to zap life from healthy new shoots; day by day heating up the air, until one Spring morning, at a just the right moment, all the forces of nature would proclaim, “Now! It’s time! Bloom into life once again!” The moment was amazingly awe inspiring.

These past few weeks I’ve really been struggling. waitingforlife2Not so much with the physical issues I’m facing from cancer, but from the spiritual and mental lessons needed to be learned from my diagnosis. The core challenge I face is found in Psalm 46:10 where the writer says, “Be still and know that I am God.” It sounds so darn easy in those eight little words that could be translated like this, “Sandy, do nothing right now but praise Me.”The tree in that park had mastered this concept, yet I squirm in my seat and use up every ounce of mind-power (Power? Really? Not much power found there to be honest!) trying to solve the vast complexities of biology and oncology to stay alive. Such an impossible task I’ve imposed on myself.

Do you do that too, with whatever challenges you face today? Questions about career, marriage, relationships, a move, finances or health?  Truly, all the fretting, planning, and struggling we do to force things, people, and even God into action, can eventually turn us into disquieted monsters that are unenjoyable to be around. We lose friends and quality relationships with loved ones as a result of self-inflicted isolation, disappointment, despair, depression, and gloom. It leads to manic and sometimes addictive behavior as we search for something to replace our lost senses of joy and confidence. Some turn to substance abuse… maybe like me, in the smallest amounts, like a drink at the end of the day to blow off some stress, or the need to go out and spend money on some article of clothing, the latest electronic gadget, decoration for the home, or over-eating our favorite comfort food, or obsessive behavior at the gym or at work. (Dear Lord, we waste so much trying to fill our frustrations from stalled efforts with poor substitutes for all the blessings otherwise so freely given by You.)

In his book, You Can Help with Your Healing, author Vernon J. Bittner writes these words. “I found myself all alone, and I could find no solution to my problem. No matter how I tried to unravel the patterns I was used to, my efforts did not work. I had never learned how to have healthy, mature relationships with people. My feeling of isolation was heightened by self-hatred and self-pity and by the resulting depression. Those were dark, hopeless days—days of suspicion and unbelief. My life was out of my control, and I was governed by all that was evil and destructive in myself.” ( Bittner, V. J. (2008). You Can Help with Your Healing: A Guide for Recovering Wholeness in Body, Mind, and Spirit (Revised Edition, p. 20). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.) 

These past months, I feel myself so dangerously close to that state, a pattern so opposite to the lessons learned from the tree in that park who is so vastly more aware of God’s peace and control in all circumstances. How desperately I need to once again “First seek the counsel of the Lord.” (1 Kings 22:5); to simply meditate, doing nothing other than lifting still arms in surrender and frozen patience, waiting for God, and not struggling to find the next “logical” step in my own thinking – which inevitably requires manipulating everyone around me to fall in line with my plans for their lives.(My poor oncologist must be so exasperated with me by now! Not to mention my wife and children.) Think about it. This methodology is really no fun for anyone at all.

In contrast, June Hunt, in her study on facing terminal illness, writes so clearly and elegantly, “Territory is gained in the emotional battlefield of acceptance. When your heart is willing to trust in God’s love, you depend on His grace to live day by day. A new freedom emerges within … the freedom to live or die under the ‘shelter of His wings.’” (Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Terminal Illness: How Can I Ever Let Go? (p. 7). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.) How many of us long to dwell in that tranquil place of life right now? That place where we can truly let go and still trust it will all work out in the end.

There have been a few times when my family suggested I re-read my former posts when facing seemingly unsurmountable challenges (and soured behavior). I’m confident this will be one article they will continually refer me back to, as I am so bad at letting go of being in control. My entire life was spent as the master musician, senior pastor, building contractor, “Genius Bar Specialist” at the Apple Store, and most importantly, almost 30 years as father and head of household for the most wonderful people I have ever known, but have always felt so (overly) personally responsible for. At a time in life where illness has taken virtually all of this confident ability to do anything away from me, I find I’m left – and truly we ultimately all share in this commonality regardless of our health – with only one lasting challenge: “Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Ps 27:14)

Some may suggest that God is aware that my days may be limited and He is therefore preparing me to pass on all my responsibilities to others. However, as I walk through this journey I continually find the opposite to be true. Whether we have months, years, or decades left, each moment is far better spent in quiet submission to God’s love and understanding of His good plans. The time for control and manipulation of our will must come to an end regardless of how long we have left to live. This is really the only way to fully experience peace, love, joy and fulfillment. And when we reach the day when it finally IS time to pass from this life to the next, we’ll be able to look back on years gone by with a deep sense of awe and satisfaction, and confidently be ready for that which comes next.

I hope we are all able to seek out and enjoy those moments of being a big, tall, strong, still tree… doing nothing at all to change our circumstances, other than simply trusting God, and waiting for life to return again.

– Sanford Kravette

Posted in Life Lessons, On Terminal Illness | 7 Comments

Difficult Decisions

This weekend, I find myself in a situation where I must make a potentially life changing decision with very limited understanding of the facts. But since “time is of the essence” (a legal phrase indicating that potential, devastating consequences may occur without actions made within a set timeframe), a choice will be made with lots of hope expressed that it will produce the desired outcome.

dark_road_bThe short story is this. I am a late stage, pancreatic cancer patient. My latest test results demand a return to chemotherapy, but my blood counts are too low to start treatment. I have two oncologists with widely differing views of what to do next, and I must decide who’s care to place my life in. Both options are risky in that either may be right and prolong my life, and either may be wrong and bring about a series of consequences I may not recover from. So… how to proceed?

Ever been there? Trust me, by nature, I’m the kind of person that can’t easily decide what to pack for a weekend trip! I’m the epitome of “buyer’s remorse” even when I purchase the right item! I usually agonize over the smallest decision, fearing that the outcome will somehow bring ruin to my life. The worst part is, I know all this strife is ridiculous, especially considering that most poor choices can easily be rectified, usually by a simple course correction. Yet my struggles continue, so I’ve needed to find some guidelines to help me through the process.

Here are the steps I’ll be taking. They are shared here because I know that you may also face similarly difficult decisions. My hope is that these four steps will help us all while making important choices.

First. Take as much time as is available to be sure you understand the choices at hand. We never want to act on impulse to later discover it wasn’t based on truth. This means that we must confirm what our real options are and think them through. It may mean studying up on the issue academically. It may mean consulting with experts in the field, or people who have more experience. It usually means taking responsibility for your own life, and not letting others dictate your fate. And it always means wisely using the time given. No procrastination allowed. We must deal with issues directly and not put them off.

Second. Come to a place of acceptance for all possible outcomes. This removes the fear of what your answer may bring. The reality is that we never really know what will happen later today, tomorrow, or next year. How sad it is when we make choices based on “what if’s” when honestly, the ultimate outcome is unknown. Pushing all those potential fears to the side is an important step in dealing with reality rather than the undeterminable. In my circumstances, that means finding peace with both surviving medical treatment, and also with the possibility that my disease may be incurable. Either outcome has to be okay, or my decisions will be prejudiced by thoughts truly impossible to know for certain.

Third. One of my favorite hymns says, “It is well with my soul.” You’ve got to get in touch with the soul to determine what IS okay, deep inside. This transcends fear, scholarly opinions, the voices of loved ones, finances, past experiences, and even our self-imposed limits of what’s possible. For me, I pray and ask God to guide me. Then I wait in meditation until I feel confident I’ve found the right path. God does promise to answer if we call on Him (Ps 91:15) and who knows the future better than God? The soul is that part of us deep inside, that place of communion with Him. The soul is what remains long after our body and life fail. It is the essence of who we are. It is also the source of how we ultimately express ourselves to the world around us. If our decision making is not rooted in answers that spring from the soul, then our lives are confused and filled with change, turmoil, and often, regret. When choices are at peace with who we are in our core, then we can be at peace with the outcome of those choices as well.

Finally. Once you’ve taken time to understand the issues, accepted all possible outcomes, and found a place of peace in your soul, you must take that difficult step and choose the option that best represents who you are. Your choice may seem illogical in the moment, but we don’t live for the moment, we live by faith… by what we believe in. Your choice may not make the most sense to others, but that’s not important. It only needs to make sense to you. And most importantly, your choice may end up being the wrong choice, even by your standards. You might discover an hour from now, a day or week from now, or years from now that after doing everything possible to choose wisely, the choice was still wrong. If that happens, take it in stride and learn from the mistake. It will help you make better choices next time. And since you also chose to accept all possible outcomes (remember step two?), honor that and move forward. Hopefully our choices will, from time to time, produce the results we are really looking for in the end. Hopefully those choices will give you a sense of satisfaction and clarify your purpose in life. If so, well done! All the more reason to remain confident in the future. Because it’s inevitable, more difficult decisions will arise throughout life.

So back to my current dilemma. Where will I be treated for cancer? I know my current oncologist is well experienced, genuinely cares for me as a patient and person, and did a great job with my care in the past. I am choosing a different path now, however, for other reasons as outlined above. 1. During the last six months of care, my wife and I have dug deep into the world of cancer, pharmaceuticals, alternative care options, and my particular diagnosis. We’ve learned a lot, and though we’re not experts in the field by any stretch of the imagination, we have formed opinions on what is helpful and how we want to see medical care universally offered in the future. 2. I have accepted that stage IV pancreatic cancer is generally incurable. I’ve also accepted that there are the rare miracle stories of survival, and I hope to be one of those. Either outcome, however, is something I can now live with, enjoying each day as much as I know how, and seeking new ways to enjoy the life I’ve been given. 3. In my soul, I know what I want to live for, and what I want to be remembered for. When it comes to medical care, I want to trust God for the miracle of life, the miracle of our amazing immune system, the amazing foods He planted on this earth, and the power of nature and faith. I also believe in the ability He gave mankind to reason, solve problems, and develop sciences to improve healthcare and save lives.

No one in the medical science field is promising me a cure. My care is classified as “sustaining” and not “curative.” That means that the best modern science has to offer, is to prolong my life a bit and keep me comfortable as long as possible. Any cure needs to be less of science and more of something else. My first oncologist may indeed have proven her medical experience, accentuated by her years of practice. But she is bound by a system where licensing, insurances, liabilities, and regulations create an obstacle between that and everything else out there for cancer care. Those limitations are not something I choose to be bound to. The new clinic I visited last week incorporates oncology, nutrition, naturopathy, faith, emotional therapy and more under one system of care. Do I believe they are the best in all those areas? No. But it is my higher hope that eventually, all medical care will embrace not only science, but the whole person and the powers found in God’s amazing creation as well. I choose to participate in this system, not to save my life, but because it is closer to who I am, what I believe deep inside. There are times when we must choose the path of our soul whether it brings life or death. Remember… that outcome is too far in the future to be afraid of. So today, I choose what I know, what is well with my soul.

I hope this article helps you with whatever difficult decisions you may be facing. Please, feel free to share your story here or via email.

– Sanford Kravette

Posted in Life Lessons, On Terminal Illness | Leave a comment

All About Fellowship

This past January, I was able to visit with folks from our former church in the Mount Washington Valley of New Hampshire.


Former CFNE property in Ctr Conway, NH

When the church closed ten years ago, it was an extremely difficult time for everyone.  Our fellowship and the patterns we had for gathering together were broken apart. For many of us, the get together last month was the first church service we’d attended in years. For all of us, it was a loving reunion of friends long ago separated. So yes, it was a very blessed time together… a taste of what joining together in heaven will be like!

For those of us who had been out of church for many years, the quesiton came up of how to reinstate that sense of Christian community once again. The answer we’re looking for can be found in the Bible in Acts 2:42-47 which says:

“(The believers in Jesus) continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers… Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

This passage reveals what true fellowship was like in the first century church. It is still our guideline for what it means to be the body of Christ today. It’s rooted in simplicity. It did not require a mega-church atmosphere. It did not require a church building. It did not rely on dynamic musicians creating a moving spirit of worship. It was not centered around a single man, other than Jesus. There were no pews and no pulpit. It was simply a group of people, living together for the Lord. So let’s break “church” down into seven key componants as outlined in the passage above.

1. They studied what it meant to be a Christian (“apostles doctrine”). This is as easy as simply opening a bible with a few friends or reading a good book about faith or lifestyle and talking about it together. No “gifted speaker” necessary. Just reading, learning, asking questions and sharing what you learned.

2. They were together (“fellowship”). No 501(c)(3) non-profit church corporation. No bylaws. No committees. No real structure at all. They just hung out and developed relationships with each other. Isn’t that SO easy to do?

3. They ate meals together (“breaking of bread”). Hey, I like that part! Food is awesome stuff, and sharing it with friends and family is what holidays are made of. We all do food. Who would have thought so much of Christian fellowship is simply about sharing a meal together? (It would be even better if – just like in the first century – it was organic, free-range, non-GMO, etc. But more on that subject another time.)

4. They prayed for each other. We ALL need prayer. Why? Because no matter how complex life gets or how obvious a solution may appear for simple issues, no one knows what’s best for our lives like God does. He’s got it all figured out, and He’s absolutely willing to clue us in if we simply pray. Easy. And prayer works even better when done with others. Just open the mouth and do it.

5. They helped each other out with material needs. Let’s think about this for a moment. The church I came from in southern California spent around a hundred thousand dollars each month on utilities and rent alone. Many churches spend tens of millions (or hundreds of millions) on building programs. The church I pastored in NH spent roughly 85% of the offerings on the facility, salaries, and structures of ministry. Now, compare this to the first century church. They spent ALL their money (that’s 100% of the offerings) on taking care of each other’s personal, financial needs. Wow. Modern Christianity has a long ways to go here. Church finances should be all about caring for others. Not caring for property and budgets. The body of Christ really needs to make drastic changes here.

6. They met together in open, public places and in each other’s homes. Again, this speaks to the simplicity of fellowship and the low financial cost of gathering together. Do we have this down? You don’t need property to be a church. You do need fellowship, and that fellowship can happen at the town park, or in someone’s home.

7. The life they lived together was the best evangelism project of the first century (“the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved”). Today, churches spend vast resources of time and money on outreach events, buying and selling books on evangelism, and attending conferences and training seminars on impacting the community. This is all so contrary to what we just read. GOD added to the church daily, and He did that through showing off how wonderful His family of believers lived their daily lives. So it appears that the best outreach plan is to simply live in fellowship as followers of Jesus. No stress. It’s all about that genuine lifestyle of faith.

We live in an age of mega-churches and so many stories of traditional churches struggling with attendance. Really folks, it’s not that hard to simply live as a community of believers. My challenge to you is to NOT wait for some new church movement to begin. Don’t keep waiting for the “right” church to attend or for something or someone else to change things for you. Instead, simply BE the church using these seven steps outlined from the book of Acts. Any of us can read. Any of us can hang out with others. Any of us can share a meal, pray, or give some money to a friend in need. Any of us can open our home for a small, informal get-together. We can do this.

Do you see how easy this is? Just start being church and the blessings will follow. Got it? Awesome!

– Sanford Kravette

Posted in Fellowship | 4 Comments

Valley of the Shadow

One of the best loved Psalms in the Bible is the 23rd. As a pastor, I read that passage at many services and prayed through it with many people. It covers all phases of life, from good times to difficult challenges, and even death. For our soul to reach inner peace under any circumstance, we must come to terms with its message.

path“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)

So here’s the real question: When God guides us down a path we did not choose on our own, will we still trust Him? Green pastures… still waters… restored soul… goodness and mercy… Sure. Those are the happiest times in life. But what about the next part? The valley of the shadow of death. Not so easy.

For me, God has always been gracious and good. I can recount so many times when He has been my comfort and relief. He has been my answer to prayer. He has healed and restored me physically, emotionally, and financially. But now, as a cancer patient, I daily face the reality that God may be done with my purpose here on earth at any time. It’s been a challenge to find peace and acceptance in the possibility that His path might take me through the valley of the shadow of death. Maybe you’re there too, or someone you love. The psalmist looked at what we face and concluded, “I will fear no evil.” Simply experiencing God’s presence was all the comfort he needed.

I’ve found that when coming from a place of fear, I usually make poor, reactionary decisions I later regret. How much better would it be to start from a place of contentment, regardless of the outcome? What if we knew that whether we face good or evil, life or death, God would be there as our companion? Wouldn’t that free us up to spend more energy on making good decisions and give us a greater sense of joy? That’s been my goal… to be at peace, regardless of the path. And if that path happens to lead through shadowy valleys, it’s okay. In the valley and beyond, we’ll be with God and His mercies. Forever. As John the apostle put it in 1Jn 4:18, “There is no fear in (God’s) love; but perfect love casts out fear…”

Hearing His voice and finding His path end up being the only real challenges. More on that another time!

– Sanford Kravette

Posted in Bible Study | Leave a comment