Twice I have taken part in events to raise money for brain tumor research and been given the title of “Survivor”.  I was even given a button to wear that simply read, SURVIVOR. Apparently, a cancer survivor is a person who has or has had cancer and is still alive. Don’t get me wrong, I would rather be called a survivor of a brain tumor than a victim of a brain tumor. However, I don’t think of myself as a survivor.  I think of a survivor as someone who has been found to be “cancer free” and now is living a fairly normal life again.  I think of myself as one who so far is just surviving brain cancer. I am so thankful that my rare and unusual brain tumor is dormant right now, but I never forget that it could come back at any time.  In many ways it feels as if I have a ticking time bomb between my ears.  This reality makes me especially grateful for the gift of each new day and the people in my life.

Speaking of being a survivor, many you have shared with me that you are a survivor of one sort or another.  Possibly you are a cancer survivor or the survivor of a difficult childhood, marriage, addiction or an abusive relationship.  Possibly, you feel like me. You are facing a real challenge and surviving it. What do we do when we are confronted with a serious challenge and want to go forward with life?  My advice is to do everything you humanly can to change your situation and turn the rest over to God.  This takes faith, strength, courage and determination.  On those dark days when my physical, emotional and spiritual energies are low I ask God to help me. I trust that God will once again give me my “daily bread”, which is more than food. It includes the physical, emotional and spiritual energy to meet them on has taught me that there is an essential element to surviving and becoming a survivor. It is to practice gratitude!  Say thank you to God for the blessing of each day and the people in it, no matter what kind of a day that it is. Learn to even be thankful for life’s challenges,because it is in the challenge that God is most real.

The big news in the Hogenson house this week is that the dogs brought a rabbit’s head into the house.  That’s right. I said a rabbit’s head!  Being the only guy in the house, having only one working hand and being in a wheelchair made it a very memorable experience.  Apparently our chocolate lab Piper ate the rabbit, which has resulted in several trips to the vet.  This means that it not only was a bad week for the rabbit but a bad week for our bank account as well!

This past week I celebrated my birthday (I am 58 in case you are wondering).  I am amazed by God!  I am amazed because I was not supposed to be around for last year’s birthday much less this one. I don’t expect to be around for next year’s birthday, but that is up to God!  I use my birthdays as my annual meeting with myself.  I look back and ask myself if I gave God and the people in my life the best that I had?  What did I accomplish and did I reach my goals for the year?  I also look ahead, set goals and make plans to achieve them.

What are my goals? I want to activate my website and complete my first video devotion/story.  I have long term goals, such as somehow crossing the finish line of the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon again, and finishing a book I am working on, “Your Better Self”. Most of all, I want to use my situation to strengthen peoples’ faith provide them with help, hope and inspiration. I want to make a difference. When it is clear that my time on earth is coming to a close, I want to be able to say I did the best with this situation that I could.  So far, I feel that I have.

Together, let’s go beyond surviving to thriving, and no matter what your situation is, use it as an opportunity to glorify God. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers, your constant encouragement and so much more.  Together, let’s keep the faith, “Look upward, travel onward and be not afraid”.

Blessings to you,

Pastor John Hogenson

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