Can I keep singing?


When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me." They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?" Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you." While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. ~Matthew 26
The evening prior to His death. The long night lay before Him, He had beads of bloody sweat to be wrung from Him in His agony. What did He do, that very last night of normal? He reclined at a table with His friends. He helped them understand the suffering to come. And he sang. Jesus sang?!! I read that this morning in a little book I picked up for $2 at a used bookstore yesterday - "How to Meet Your Troubles", the slim brown volume is titled. I never noticed it before - but He did! The very last thing He did before walking to the garden was sing in worship.

I didn't feel like singing last night, when I typed up the words to this song - "How Can I Keep from Singing?". It has been ringing through my heart for days, as I practiced it for Sunday worship. But I just didn't have it in me last night to post these words...they seemed falsely joyful.

For eight weeks, something has been troubling me. I went to the doctor once and my vague symptoms were dismissed. Since then, they've worsened, and I took to doing a breast exam every day in the shower, looking for what I thought was an infection brewing. On Saturday, I found a small lump, like a pebble under my skin. I found it late at night, after finishing writing on a paper. Aaron was asleep, my mother was asleep. So I spent most of the night in prayer, and woke after just a few hours of sleep to go sing, play my harmonica, play the keys for worship at church on Sunday. Sunday afternoon, I was able to tell Aaron and my parents. We just accepted it. Okay, that's what we'll do next. Figure out this lump business. On Sunday night, again in the shower, I thought I found a larger lump, too.

I went to the midwife yesterday. She has been doing my physical for six years now. She found my thyroid cancer because of her carefulness and knowledge of my body's normal. I hoped she would say I was imagining things. Instead, she carefully measured the lumps - 1/2" for the small one; over 1" for the large one. (that's about the same size as my thyroid tumor when it was removed - between 4 and 5 centimeters) She checked her computer. With normal risk factors (mine are anything but) and only one of my symptoms, the risk of cancer is probably 15%. My own check, combining the three symptoms I have with my risk factors, is around 75%. Oddly enough, that cheers me - the more probably it seems, the less likely it will be true, in my experience so far. The less probable - well, then of course it will be! I know it doesn't sound logical, but it is a small comfort to me that all my previous experiences have gone this way.

Because of my risk and the other potential problems that could cause these particular symptoms, I am already scheduled to meet with a surgeon, regardless of the outcome of my diagnostic tests tomorrow ("smashogram" and level 2, high definition ultrasound). I will probably require surgical removal of the lumps, if nothing more. I will go to sleep knowing I am having lumps removed. They will test the lumps for cancer while I am still under anesthesia, and remove one or both of my breasts and lymph tissue if it is cancer. Going to sleep not knowing is one of the hardest parts of the trial for me to face again.

I don't know what to ask for. Instead, I am back to basics: praying the Lord's prayer. Give me the food I need today, Lord. Forgive me, I am weary. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in my body as it is in your heaven. For thine is the kingdom and the glory forever and ever - so be it.

And yes. I will keep singing. I will keep praying. Words I wrote myself in long-ago days of trouble are echoing in my soul today.

Lord, lead me safely through the path of today,
Reach down and rescue me from hate and from pain,
Set Your laws before me, That I may have a lamp for my feet,
O Lord, guide me.
In this place,
Surrounded by a thousand fears,
Temptation and weakness,
Hatred and lies,
He promised me faithfulness, integrity,
A way that is perfect, a light for my life.
~"Guide" from Psalm 18, 10/02/98


I struggle, God,
You hold me up, I stand.
In your all-surpassing power, not my strength.
When trouble overcomes me, I turn my eyes to You.
For though I may crumble, You endure.

I do not lose heart,
I do not lose faith.
Your promise is my hope, day by day.
I fix my gaze on You, I am renewed.
~"Renewed", 2001

I can sing when I lose my step
And fall down again
I can sing 'cause You pick me up
Sing 'cause You're there
I can sing 'cause You hear me, Lord
When I call to You in prayer
I can sing with my last breath
Sing for I know
That I'll sing with the angels
And the saints around the throne

~ How Can I Keep from Singing,
sung with beauty by the random self-deprecating guy, below,
and words by Chris Tomlin (2006) and Robert Lowry (1860)