Uncle Jim’s Thanksgiving

Maybe I just don’t remember a Thanksgiving celebration quite so impactful, but this one certainly goes to the top of my favorites list.  As I surveyed the faces, I recognized the presence of countless miracles gathered in one room.  In particular, God used the miracle of Uncle Jim to teach me perhaps one of the most important lessons of my lifetime.

Table set and ready for the gathering.

Right at three years ago Uncle Jim received a terrible diagnosis.  It was lung cancer – stage 4. The uninvited and unwelcome malignant tumor had made itself at home between a lung and spinal cord.  Quickly following discovery treatment began. The pressure to make life altering decisions in the fast lane must have been overwhelming.

In my quiet times of reflection, I thought of King Jehoshaphat.  He had once faced a seemingly impossible situation. Enemy forces loomed large over God’s people and land.  In response, King Jehoshaphat called all the people of Judah and Jerusalem together in prayer. Honestly and humbly, the king prayed, “O our God… We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” 2 Chronicles 20:12

Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
2 Chronicles 20:12 NIV

Two years passed and I began to sense that I needed to do more than pray the King’s words.  I sensed the Lord nudging me back into direct contact with my uncle. I cared deeply for this man who had been more like an older brother in our youth, but I felt awkward reaching out across years of silence. There was no discontent between us. Quite simply I had delegated communication responsibilities to my parents. They kept me informed of all the latest news. The busyness of life and miles of distance I now realize are a poor excuse!

Uncle Jim and his son, Jon, fried turkey chefs. They came to visit and cooked too!

The main point of all of this is that you know you are loved.

Sensing an urgency, I wrote a long overdue letter to my uncle.  I told him that I had been praying for him, and I referenced the words of James 5:14-15.  I carefully wrapped a small vial of oil, prayed for God’s favor, and mailed the package in absolute obedience to God.  Once received, Uncle Jim called me. He was curious. Skeptical, yet pleasantly surprised to receive this type of mail from me. For about an hour we enjoyed wonderful conversation full of laughter and honest questions.  I had very few answers.  

Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.
James 5:14‭-‬15 NIV

Before we said goodbye, I asked if I could pray for him.  I encouraged Uncle Jim to contact a local pastor and seek Godly wisdom.  He said he would think about it. Finally, I said to Uncle Jim, “The main point of all of this is that you know you are loved.”

Weeks passed without a word. Then unexpectedly Uncle Jim called to let me know the rest of the story.  His son’s youth pastor had enthusiastically gathered nine other men to anoint Uncle Jim with the oil I sent, and pray a simple prayer of faith. 

My own faith was encouraged as I listened to my uncle relay the details. “It wasn’t weird”, he said, “and I didn’t really feel anything unusual.”  My response was simply this, “Did you feel loved?”  

Fast forward a year later, Uncle Jim received the good news from his doctor.  The beautiful word remission had replaced the terrible word cancer. With strength returning, Uncle Jim and his children made the long drive from South Florida to join us for Thanksgiving.  We joined hands around the feast and called out to God with thankful hearts.

Uncle Jim kneeling in the front. He’s showing off his renewed strength!

So many times in life we do not know what to do, but we have a choice.  We can put our eyes on God. We can trust the fight to Him. We can reach out to touch another human being with encouragement.  Just as critical, we can make sure someone feels loved in the middle of the battle.

Do you feel loved?

This is my #dontforgetthanksgiving story. What’s yours?

Eyes on Jesus and Shine,