#37–Peace Beneath the Clamour

It’s 11:00 on a Friday night. I find myself in a drab hospital waiting room, hoping my turn on the MRI machine will arrive soon, as my appointment was for an hour ago.

I’m here to set up targeted radiation treatment for an unexpected – and unwelcome – occurrence of cancer. The hospital has phoned just hours earlier to ask if I’ll take a cancellation, and of course I said “Yes!”

Waiting impatiently, I almost laugh as I recall the loudness of the MRI machine, which I will now experience for a second time.  It groans…it clicks…it hisses…it gives off a steady buzz – all at extreme volumes which require ear plugs and ear muffs.

Then suddenly, without warning, a snippet of an old hymn comes to me, loudly, insistently, then the whole first verse:

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul….”

When my turn finally comes, the song accompanies me into the room and into the MRI machine.  In my spirit, When peace like a river drowns out that exceedingly noisy equipment. I’m so relaxed I nearly fall asleep….

I paid attention to that snippet because I always do when old hymns appear unbidden, believing they have something significant for me now (See Blog #1). I also paid attention because this seemed such a lovely counterpoint to “Michael above the Trumpets” (see Blogs #34 and 35). Music nourishes me both by rising to the heights, and by under girding me and  sowing peace. When peace like a river  is now prominent on my playlist when encountering  diagnostic or treatment equipment, whether the machine in question is noisy or eerily quiet….

So, besides snippets of old hymns, what else has grounded and nourished me as my journey with cancer proceeds?

  1. Receiving short notes and prayers from many people, including a prayer circle at my home church the Sunday morning after my diagnosis.  Ever since, that space feels different, calming me, embracing me with God’s presence, keeping me safe….
  2. Butterfly-pictureSitting before the Icon of the Holy Trinity (Blog #32) in the dark with a lit tealight candle. The candle illumines a circle which includes me facing Jesus as he points to the cup of blessing, whether that blessing may come in joy or in suffering or (most likely) in strange combination.
  3. Identifying with the butterfly (Blog #31) as a beautiful, fragile creature, soaring in flight, symbolizing transformation. Each day I colour one from Peterson Field Guide Coloring Books: Butterflies. I choose one in  colours which fit my mood or the spirit of the day, and paste it into my journal at the end of my entry. And I cherish my Christmas present – a print of an illumination from the St. John’s Bible of butterflies feeding on milkweed.
  4. I also revel in the view outside our large tenth floor condo windows, whether of sunset or fresh snow on roofs or sun reflecting off high rises. Or, as we saw the other morning-into-afternoon, the beauty of hoarfrost on many trees, evoking a pure, white winter wonderland and these verses:

He sprinkles snow like birds alighting,
           It comes down like locusts settling.
The eye marvels at the beauty of its whiteness,
          And the mind is amazed at its falling.
Over the earth, like salt, he also pours hoarfrost,
          Which, when it freezes, bristles like thorns….
We could say much more and still fall short;
          To put it concisely, “He is all.”

          -Ecclesiasticus 43: 19-21, JB  


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I am now just past the halfway mark with the 70 weekly blogs I hope to write in gratitude to God for nourishing my spirit through 70+ years of life. My gratitude for this nourishment continues unabated.

I intend to keep writing these weekly blogs, but may adapt the form to something simpler from time to time or skip a week here or there as cancer treatment continues….

As we prepare to enter 2018, this quote from a colleague nourishes me daily:

 “May you know that you are held in the great sea of Mercy where you cannot not be in the presence of God; where you cannot fall out of God’s care.”

Happy New Year!

Question for Reflection:

What spiritual practices do you keep which nourish your spirit in difficult times as well as good times?

Next Week: The Christmas Jigsaw Puzzle

6 thoughts on “#37–Peace Beneath the Clamour

  1. How beautifully you have woven your journey with cancer into the theme of your longer series! Such elegant examples of how joy and hardship and the way we face them are of one garment, just different hues.
    I am so thankful for your constant assurance that what you need will be given to you when you need it.
    Thanks so much for this. It gives me an idea – of reading this to DC on my shift at Grand River. I trust that would be okay?
    I hope and pray the treatments are effective and efficient in doing what they are intended to do.
    Happy New Year to you too, my friend.

    Muriel Bechtel
    515 Langs Dr., Unit J,
    Cambridge, ON
    N3H 5E4
    Home telephone: 519-219-3344
    Cellphone: 226-338-6915

    Every sunrise brings the promise of a new beginning.


  2. Hello Sue

    I have only recently started reading your blogs and in so doing came across blog #1 and want to respond to the point of reflection about “circumstances of your birth”.

    79 years ago my mother was having difficulty with her first birthing. Uncle Bernie was summoned to take the fastest horse and ride hard for30 miles to Biggar (New York is big but this is Biggar) to fetch the doctor. Somehow the doctor in his model T Ford found our poplar log cabin and delivered me on the dining table. This is the table which my mother brought to the marriage from her work as a domestic at the home of the manager of the Bank of Nova Scotia in Saskatoon. The story of the table has a sequel because it now resides in our dining room. When it came to dispersing family assets mother said, “And Henry gets the table since he was born on it”. When we are entertaining dinner guests Nancy loves to make conversation not quite in keeping with fine dining by stating” And Henry was born on this table”. If ever I seek corroboration of the story all I need to do is examine my Birth certificate which says I was born at “Sec. 21, Tp.39, Rge. 13, W3rd, Sask.

    So what am I thankful for?

    1. A fast horse willing to ride hard for 30 miles (Riding terminology says you ride hard not fast)

    2. A miracle that the model T found its way over dirt trails to the log cabin.

    3. That mother and her first-born both survived

    4. But more importantly, I am thankful to you Sue for pastoring our congregation all those years and on a personal note what I learned from you about care and nurture in a congregational setting.

    5. On a very different track I am thankful for a recent visit with Dave Cressman. We had had some one-way conversation when I asked “So Dave, how are you today?” He slowly navigated around his communication board and then pointed to “Happy”. I was flabbergasted. In your condition, Dave, how can you possibly say you are happy? But maybe compared to yesterday, today is a “happy” day. I will remember and cherish that moment.



  3. Sue: I am trying to come up with comforting words…Your cousin Jerry had that genius! But I can say that I am praying for you, and wishing best of health! I really have appreciated your words—especially the post on “Essie” as Jerry used to call his mom. I love the hymn story—I had the same experience—I was in India just before Christmas for my niece’s wedding—and while on the jeep safari rides all I could respond with was “This is my Father’s World!” Will continue to pray for healing….Julie



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s