ISAIAH 61:1-4

ISAIAH 61:1-4

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me to
Preach the good news to the poor. .
Bind up the brokenhearted,
Proclaim freedom for the captives,
Proclaim release from darkness for the prisoners,
Comfort all who mourn
Provide for those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them
The oil of gladness for mourning
And a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness

Thursday, August 31, 2006

There's an old story about an individual viewing life as a tapestry -- but from the reverse side and wondering about the mass of dark threads. The question the individual had for the weaver was "Why the dark threads?"

The master's response was that without the dark, the bright or light shades don't show to full advantage, they are not appreciated.

It's certainly true that as humans we tend to take for granted those things that are everyday and ordinary. I so remember being in Ecuador and living for several months without a refrigerator and cooking with only one electric skillet and a coffee perculator. (Remember the 70's and electric skillets; they were a necessity in any American kitchen. And what can I say about the electric coffee pot that actually perculated the coffee?)) But electric skillets and coffee perculators were intended to be an adjunct to a stove and other pots and pans. I discovered that a perculator will also cook soup (Yep! We had perculated soup--and not from a can, either) And an electric skillet will cook rice and other vegetables. I became very inventive with one dish meals. (Okay for those of you born AFTER 1976 -- microwaves were very rare and expensive prior to 1976...and only 4% of U.S. households had them in 1975...This in answer to your question "But why didn't you just use a microwave?")

But I digress...

I so remember the day that my refrigerator and stove arrived. A real stove with a real oven. After a year of cooking as best I could with two small electric appliances, the stove was warmly (pun fully intended) welcomed. The refrigerator! Aaah! What can I say about the joys of a refrigerator when one has been living in a climate with an average temperature of 92 without refrigeration? I promised myself that day that I would never again take for granted the privilege of opening the door to the refrigerator in my kitchen. And I do stop regularly and appreciate the benefits of a icy glass of water.

But now, the dark threads of life are once again in focus as I contend with a deadly disease. The "picture of good health" me has vanished (Bright threads to emerge later) and recovering from surgery, learning the options available for chemotherapy come to the forefront.

But I must remember, the masterweaver has the pattern all planned. It will become a beautiful tapestry. I need to keep that in focus.


(photos from Guatemala, courtesy of Rodney Fitzgerald)

church website:

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Worship (with a Jackson Pratt line!)

After I finally was released from the hospital on Friday, I came home and rested for about an hour. But I was getting restless so I decided to go ahead and go to music practice Friday night. I felt better afterward...although I must say the loss of a few million brain cells due to anesthesia was immediately obvious. On one of the songs (one I struggle with a bit anyway and have sung at least two different part for in the past), I ended up singing both alto and tenor before I could settle in on the soprano line. But it went fine this morning (pictured above), Jackson Pratt drain and all ... I had the bulb in an interior pocket, but the line slid out and I didn't even realize it until I saw the pictures.

I also discovered that I have lost the ability to remember a phone number for the space of time it takes to get from my desk to the living room. (About 10 seconds). So much for mnemonic devices: repeating it aloud didn't help, clumping didn't help ... I didn't try the good old-fashioned "write it down". I'm sure memory will recover as surgery effects recede! (In the meantime, I'm carrying a small notebook to write down everything!)

It felt so good this morning just doing what I know to do. Participating in worship is not something I'm willing to forego if I'm physically able. I trust God throughout whatever is to come. I need His strength; one of the ways that I feel strengthened is through worship, be it public or private.

I'm not deceiving myself by believing that there won't be dark days, but as we were reminded in the Word this morning God created both light and dark. He will be with me and guide me, be the day dark or light. It will not be the first time that God and I have traversed the dark valley!

Pastor Phylis

Jubilee Christian Centre Website:

Here I am the day after surgery with my granddaughters who came to visit. I walked down to the gift shop that morning and bought my Sun Times to read.

AUGUST 24, 2006

From a clinical standpoint the surgery was a success.   Doctors believe they were ale to take out all the malignant tissue with adequate margins.  Besides the left breast, the left lymph nodes also contained malignancy.  Still in a ration (3/24) to remain a Stage II cancer (However, later they said stage 2.5.  My opinion?  They didn't want to discourage me withe the "stage 3" label.).  Chemotherapy is required.  I won't know about a treatment plan until I see the oncologist next week.  I was released too late on Friday to make the appointment, so it's a wait and see until I call Monday morning.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Os Hillman's newsletter sent this to me today. It's very appropriate, so I though I'd share it. (24 hours and counting!)

Drawing Near to Darkness
TGIF Today God Is First, by Os Hillman
The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. - Exodus 20:21

Like the nation of Israel, we are each called to the mountain of God, but few are willing to pass through the darkness to get there. God wanted to reveal His glory to the children of Israel, but they were afraid to enter into His presence. They only wanted to know about God, rather than know him personally like Moses did. This grieved the heart of God.

Why wouldn't the people of Israel risk entering the darkness if it meant being in the presence of God? What did the people fear?

Perhaps they had fears like each of us. The fear of the unknown. The fear of what might happen. The fear that God might not like what He sees. Or, perhaps even the greatest fear: the fear of darkness itself and what lies behind that darkness.

Many of us have been satisfied to hear about God from God's messengers. But there is a greater calling for each of us-a calling to enter into His presence. Sometimes entering into His presence means we enter through an unexpected door-a door that appears to have nothing good behind it.

We do not need to fear entering the presence of God even if it means entering through a period of darkness. Above all else we must believe that God is a God of love. If He calls us into darkness in order to enter His presence, then that darkness will become an entry to new levels of relationship with a God who longs for fellowship with you and me.

Monday, August 21, 2006

July 2, 2006
University City, MO

My sister and I were visiting near where we used to live. Neither of us was old enough when we lived there to remember now well enough to find the apartment, (or, are we now too OLD to remember where we lived then? We were only there a couple of months!) so we just enjoyed browsing along this specialty shop area near the University. I just noticed the sculpure. It was funny then; we were laughing, posing by the bigger than life figure. "If you want to seem small, pose by someone or something bigger than you." I thought she made me seem quite petite!

But in the light of my diagnosis, maybe she was symbolic of my future. Or indicative of my subconscious then? Hmmmm. She speaks to me. I just can't understand what she says!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday morning before surgery.

Praise Singers this morningWe had a lovely service this morning. The congregation prayed for me, it was uplifting for them as well as for me. I do think they're all more upset than I am. At one point we sang "Holy Ground," another Christian classic. Then transitioned to "Bless Your Name"

In prisoners' chains
With bleeding stripes
Paul and Silas prayed that night
And in their pain began to sing
Their chains were loosed
And they were free

I bless Your Name
I bless Your Name
I give You honor, give You praise
You are the Life, the Truth, the Way
I bless Your Name
I bless Your Name

Some midnight hour
If you should find
You're in a prison in your mind
Reach out and praise

Defy those chains

And they will fall
In Jesus' Name

Particularly the last verse, is all about the real battle, the real battleground--the mind. My mind is made up! God will see me through, one way or another. Which brings another old song to mind (one we did NOT sing this morning, by the way). I mentioned on June 18 that one of the advantages of being in Chistian ministry and Pentecostal worship for my entire life is that bits and pieces of old songs come to mind just when I need them. This is another one:

Elvis Presley's I've Got Confidence Lyrics

When trouble is in my way
I can't tell the night from day
I toss from side to side
Like a ship on a raging tide
I don't worry and I don't fret
God has never failed me yet
Troubles comin' from time to time
But that's all right, 'cause I'm not the worrying kind

Because I, I've got confidence,
God is gonna see me through
No matter what the case may be

I know He's gonna fix it for me

Job was so sick so long

Till the flesh fell from his bones
His wife, cattle and children,
Everything that he had was gone

But Job he never dispaired
He knew that God still cared
Sleepless days and sleepless nights

Job said honey that's all right

'Cause I've got confidence
God is gonna see me through
No matter what the case may be
I know He's gonna fix it for me

Some folks wonder how I smile

Even though I'm going to trial
How can I have song
Everything is going wrong
I don't worry and I don't fret

God has never failed me yet
Trouble's coming from time to time

That's all right, I'm not the worrying kind
'Cause I've got confidence.....

And only at this moment in time did I realize that was an Elvis Presley song! now that makes me laugh. When I was in Bible School about a million years ago, the Parker Trio sang that song. One of the Parker sisters, Kathy, maybe? is married to Mike Hayes who pastors Covenant Church in Carrollton, Texas. The other siblings are also involved in Christian Ministry and fairly well known in Pentecostal circles.

I just had an aha moment. We were attending a very conservative Bible College. Subsequent to the Parker Trio singing at a wonderful spirit-filled meeting, their tapes (I said it was a million years ago) and records (did I mention 8-tracks?) were banned from campus. The line was they are too rocky. Now I get it!!! Banning them didn't help. We all walked around humming the tune and singing that song anyway. (And sneaked into rooms after lights out to listen to the tapes! Aaah we were very bad!) But now at least I know where I could find a copy of the song. We may just have to sing that oldie but goodie! I KNOW! When I do a movie of my hospitalization and recovery, I'll use "I've Got Confidence" as the sound track!!!

I just have to sign off on that note!! Keep up your confidence!! God will see you through too!


Saturday, August 19, 2006

This is the me with the registration lady from UIC when I checked in for the liver donation last December. (She was soooo helpful and stayed late in order to obtain a bed for me) I was excited; I was on a mission. But isn't all of life a mission? If I really believe God, each experience in my life is a mission from Him. So...maybe I'll take along my camera and record this one too!!

Back on August 5th I said I'd finish the article later. Now is later. I wrote about Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' stages of receiving catastrophic news that have been more recently called the stages of grief.
Denial and Isolation

(SIDEBAR: Of course, my readers didn't know it at the time, but I was dealing with receiving catastrophic news. I had a mammogram August 2nd and my doctor called me within 45 minutes of the procedure (Trust me, that's not good!) to tell me that the x-ray was "highly suspicious" of malignancy and the ultrasound was "highly suggestive" of malignancy. The mammogram was following a doctor's visit July 20th specifically to do some routine stuff before summer was over.)

(Back to the process of grief) However, the counselors at "Dealing with loss" give a different definition of the grief process, the acronym TEAR:
T = To accept the reality of the loss
E = Experience the pain of the loss
A = Adjust to the new environment without the lost object
R = Reinvest in the new reality

Note that "Grief Work" by this definition only begins where the 5 stages of "grief" leave off. At acceptance. This concept of "Grief Work" is often used by grief professionals to help the bereaved through grief resolution.

From where I sit now, this puts an entirely new slant on my situation and gives me a new appreciation for what I have. Meaning, I'm not losing anyone at this point, only a body part and facing an uncertain future. This whole idea of coming face to face with one's mortality is a shocker however. I mean, we all know we're going to die someday, but the idea that it could be in this way and maybe sooner than we thought is disconcerting.

I don't know if it shows in this writing, but I'm much more at peace with the upcoming events than I was on August 5th. I was still dealing with receiving
catastrophic news. Today I'm at least at acceptance of the situation. Probably later, I'll have the experiencing of pain and adjusting to the new situation to struggle through.

But for today, I'm at peace. God's hand will carry me through this difficult time. I have a malignant intraductal carcinoma. The growth is diffuse and spiculated. It is approximately 2.5 cm, flat rather than round. (I should say was, because the doctor did remove the lump during the surgical biopsy on the 15th of August). At the time he told me it was not healthy tissue that it was either necrotic or malignant. I went back the next day and received the news: the lab found the lump to be malignant.

The surgeon's strategy is to do a modified left mastectomy (taking the lymph nodes as well). He sent me to a second surgeon -- the plastic surgeon to see about the reconstruction process.

If a mammogram merits a comedy routine, so does a visit to a plastic surgeon for breast work. Just like on tv, he actually took a sharpie marker and drew on my breast. "We'll cut here and here," etc. The upshot is that if surgeon number one is able to leave enough of the skin (Intraductal carcinoma involves the ducts and the mammary gland, but should leave most of the skin unaffected) to use for reconstruction, he will place an inflatable plastic implant and sew the breast together . Then on a weekly basis (or as I heal), saline solution will be added to the implant so that the skin will stretch and match it's former size (and the other one). Well, actually it will be overinflated (Please God let it get cooler so I can wear jackets to cover the mammoth breast!!) and then the saline one will be replaced by a correct-sized silicone implant which will then allow the breast to hang (sic) normally. (You should see the picture of the overinflated one the surgeon uses to demonstrate!!! It really is hideously funny when I'm thinking that could be ME!) Later a nipple is made and grafted on and tatooing completes the areola so that the two sides match. Isn't that funny?? I told you this could be a comedy routine.

We do have our comedic moments. Waiting for the lab reports from the biopsy, the surgeon had said the lump could have been necrotic fatty tissue. (From an injury, the fat tissue could die) I like bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches with extra bacon. As I'm biting down on this delicious BLT, Bob quips, "maybe that's where the bacon has gone." (Nothing like gallow humor) It was funny at the time, but maybe you had to be there!

Surgery will be Wednesday at Sherman Hospital. Please remember to pray for my family. We're coping well, humor and all. But I do think family members have a harder time facing the mortality of a loved one than the individual facing illness. But God is able for them too. Just pray for them.

It's the aftermath that will be most traumatic. We'll have to see whether or not the lymph nodes are also cancerous. If so, chemotherapy will be required. If not, that would be good news. Since they're doing the mastectomy, radiation will probably not be recommended. However, I don't see the oncologist until after the surgery to determine follow-up treatment for the cancer. So far, I'm only concentrating on surgery and finishing that process... One step at a time!
It does seem ironic that after attempting to help Victor fight his cancer, I should now have to personally battle the beast. But God knows. His hand is upon me no matter what.
I know some of you have been fasting and praying.  I believe the peace that I
feel is due to your prayers.   I know that God is able to deliver.   He's healed
before--at the last minute.  But whether I will be delivered FROM this or
delivered THROUGH it, I trust Him.   Thank you for helping me to achieve that


Friday, August 18, 2006

Here I am singing almost three months after the liver donation.
(I didn't realize how ill I still looked even three months later.)
The song on the screen is "Shackles" (Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance)

I have a sense of peace about this upcoming surgery. Denial is sloughing off like the peel of an onion. I can now say cancer, although mastectomy is a more difficult word! I'm massively (no pun intended!) relieved that surgery will be a single mastectomy and not double. Somehow that seems less debilitating, not so drastic.

Having served in Christian ministry for years does have it's advantages. In my down moments, I find fragments of songs, sermons, or scriptures coming to mind that answer whatever question I may be entertaining at the time. Today it was: "God has been good to me." Andre Crouch, I think. Or maybe not. circa, 1965-66. I just went looking for the lyrics and couldn't find them. But wouldn't you know: I can remember them all!! (If you know who wrote it, email me!)

God has been good to me.
He's been so Good to me
More than all the world could be
He's so good to me.
His Spirit came to me
And He gave me victory.
God's been so good to me,
I can't complain.

Verse 2
Sometimes the clouds hang low
And I'd like to see them go
I ask this questions,
"Why so much pain."
But then I look about
And think these things all out
All of the good things
Outweigh the bad things
I can't complain

Verse 1
I've had bad days
And I've had hills to climb
I've had sad days
And then a weary mile
He knows what's best for me
Although I cannot see
All of the good things
Outweigh the bad things
I can't complain.

That didn't even take too much effort. My brain still works...lyrics to hundreds of old songs still lurk in the shadowy synapses of my cerebral cortex! Want to hear some more??? Just kidding.

Thank God for his blessings. I'll appreciate your prayers!

(And go schedule that mammogram! No, there is no history of cancer in my family, certainly not breast cancer. All four grandparents died of heart related illnesses: both grandfathers of heart attack, grandmothers with congenital heart failure, and cerebral hemorrhage. My father is still living at 81 and my mother died from an accident (house fire) at age 36, but her only sister died at 84 from heart attack. All of my mother's brothers died from heart ailments or alcohol-related incidents. I am a prime candidate for a stroke, {and would probably be prone to alcoholism if I drank: my dad had two alcoholic brothers as well.} but not for breast cancer. It was a complete surprise.)


Thursday, August 17, 2006


(Taken at Brad's birthday dinner in July-and that's olive oil on the table!!!!)
Bob just handed me a new version of Daniel 3:16-18 (the official Huerta version!)

"Our God, whom we serve is able to heal Phylis from the breast cancer, and He will deliver us from the hand of the enemy, but if not, don't worry, we will not serve the gods of despair and discouragement, nor will we worship at the altar of hopelessness."

Onward and Upward!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


It Bites!

The news from the surgeon was what I expected: the tissue is malignant. So...on to the next step. I still have to consult the other surgeon in order to schedule the procedure.

Onward and upward!

Thanks for your prayers.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bob and I at Navy Pier, August 13, 2006


Waiting is the hardest thing to do, and I, personally, am especially bad at it. Today was the biopsy, but the results were not clear cut. So, I'm waiting again for the labs. We have a consultation tomorrow. Wait.

However, partial good news is better than none. The right side is normal. Only the left side had either necrotic fatty tissue or malignant tissue which he removed. However the lump itself was diffuse and spiculated. Therefore removing all of it will require either total or partial mastectomy should the tissue be malignant.

Sigh!! I must wait and see. Of one thing I am sure, God does have his hand in this. Come what may.

It does, however, seem the biggest irony that after donating my liver for a friend with liver cancer, I may now face the beast myself. Just in another place and another form. Jehovah Nissi!

Your continued prayers are appreciated.

Monday, August 14, 2006


We just celebrated 25 years of ministry here at JCC. This weekend has been hectic with all the festivities, but it was wonderful. We had a great time.  

This has also been a tense time for me. I go tomorrow for a biopsy. Last week a mammogram came back with a mass "highly suspicious" of malignancy. The ultra sound said, "highly suggestive" of malignancy. My surgeon said it was probably a 50/50 chance that it was benign. (The glass is half full!)
But then, regardless of what the doctors say, it's all in the hands of God. So in the next couple of days I will know. I haven't told the church -- didn't want to put a damper on festivities this weekend. But my family knows and I emailed a few good friends.
Assuming I recover quickly tomorrow, I'll post again on Tuesday...God willing.
Thanks for your prayers.

Monday, August 7, 2006


My Own Expression of Belligerance!
To brighten your day

1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me alone.
2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and leaky tire.
3. It's always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it.
4. Don't be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.
5. Always remember that you're unique -- just like everyone else.
6. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
7. If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.
8. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.
9. If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.
10. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
11. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
12. If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
13. Some days you're the bug; some days you're the windshield.
14. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
15. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.
16. A closed mouth gathers no foot.
17. Duct tape is like 'The Force.' It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.
18. There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.
19. Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.
20. Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
21. Never miss a good chance to shut up.
22. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

Saturday, August 5, 2006

A Page from my scrapbook - Budapest, Hungary, 1998

I just checked out the site meter and am always thrilled to see readers from places like Budapest, Hungary; Malasia; Ontario, Canada; Portugal; Spain; as well as places in the U.S. from Rhode Island to California; Texas to Michigan. Drop me a line here or through

"Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying, Macmilan Publishing Company, 1968, presents 5 stages a patient goes through upon learning about their terminal illness. She presents them as "an attempt to summarize what we have learned from our dying patients in terms of coping mechanisms at the time of a terminal illness." The five stages have since been dubbed the five stages of grief, but originally she called them "Five Stages of Receiving Catastrophic News."

Denial and Isolation

Most of you are probably familiar with these five stages as they are well accepted in the professional community. However, I have noted that those who work with grief counseling are aware that these first five stages are just the tip of the ice berg. Or as Kubler-Ross originally labeled the list, they are the five stages of receiving the news. At that point, the stage of acceptance, grief begins.

TLC Group in Dallas, Texas uses an interesting analogy from everyday exerience to explain the five stages.

One day you head out the door to go to work and the car won't start.
  1. DENIAL --- What's the first thing you do? You try to start it again! And again. You may check to make sure the radio, heater, lights, etc. are off and then..., try again.
  2. ANGER --- "%$@^##& car!", "I should have junked you years ago." Did you slam your hand on the steering wheel? I have. "I should just leave you out in the rain and let you rust."
  3. BARGAINING --- (realizing that you're going to be late for work)..., "Oh please car, if you will just start one more time I promise I'll buy you a brand new battery, get a tune up, new tires, belts and hoses, and keep you in perfect working condition.
  4. DEPRESSION --- "Oh God, what am I going to do. I'm going to be late for work. I give up. My job is at risk and I don't really care any more. What's the use".
  5. ACCEPTANCE --- "Ok. It's dead. Guess I had better call the Auto Club or find another way to work. Time to get on with my day; I'll deal with this later."
We can all relate to the dealing with daily losses. And...have inevitably come across people in daily life who are in the "Anger" phase and take it out on the nearest object - sometimes the nearest unsuspecting person.

That happened to me the other day. I was angry about something...a perceived loss...and while sitting at a stop sign waiting for cross traffic to break, some woman drove up behind me and hit my car. Granted, it was a very light bump, but a bump none the less. Most days I would have glanced in the mirror and driven off. On this day, however, I got out of the car, walked back to check my bumper (which was not the least dented and I knew it wouldn't be).

The other woman must have been in the denial stage, "I just barely bumped you. There's no damage," in a why-are-you-making-a-big-deal-out-of-this-tone.

"Fine. Just go around bumping into everyone." was my brilliant sally as I jumped back in my car and drove off. (Of course by now there was no cross traffic.)

It's funny now (especially when you consider that my car is a well-driven, 10-year old with enough dings in it to qualify for a derby), though a little embarrassing to admit. It wasn't funny that day.

How often do we run into people in the course of our lives whose reactions we don't understand? There's a quote often attributed to Native American Folk Wisdom or sometimes to Will Rogers (I couldn't verify either source) "never judge your neighbor until you've walked a mile in his moccasins." We are so good at hiding our pain behind a mask of anger, indifference or belligerence.

bel·lig·er·ence Pronunciation Key (b-ljr-ns)
n. A hostile or warlike attitude, nature, or inclination; belligerency

And take care to save your belligerence for Spiritual Warfare. We know who deserves our anger -- and it's not the unfortunate neighbor who rocks your boat a bit (or bumps your car).

Enough for one day. I'll save coping with Grief when one has come to accept an calamitous situation another day.

Do let me hear from you!!

Friday, August 4, 2006


If Entropy = available energy not being used, my computer has a severe case. I'm ready to scream. (Hmmm. Would that be energy being used -- or is energy used for useless activity also entropic?) And...I have a severe case of the doldrums!

dol·drums (dldrmz, dôl-, dl-)
pl.n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
    1. A period of stagnation or slump.
    2. A period of depression or unhappy listlessness.
    1. A region of the ocean near the equator, characterized by calms, light winds, or squalls.
    2. The weather conditions characteristic of these regions of the ocean.

        1. -Roget's online thesaurus (

But my mother always taught me that nothing beats just doing what needs to be done...simply do the next thing. So here I to scan old pictures and finish the media presentation for next weekend.