Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mary's Song

Have you ever really thought about what it would have been like to be Mary?  Can you even imagine actually having God-incarnate inside of your womb?  Could you dare to comprehend raising and caring for the one who would redeem the world with His very life and resurrection?  The weight of this concept is so enormous, yet its practical implications yield an equal burden.  From the time that she held the infant boy in her arms to the days when he accompanied her throughout town as a grown man, she received sideward scowls and judgmental glances from the townspeople.  No one else prior to or after Mary had ever been "divinely impregnated," so adultery was the only logical conclusion.  She received the news directly from an angel; the others had not.  Joseph probably received similar treatment.  His character was tainted in the eyes of his friends and family because he refused to divorce his unfaithful wife.  And eventually this family would have to flee the country to escape the murderous King Herod.  Was the task of raising Emmanuel so glorious after all?  

This couple was certainly endowed a privilege and responsibility of the greatest proportions.  They were hand-picked by the God of the universe to care for His only son.  But this was no walk in the park.  Mary and Joseph encountered angels, yet they were helpless to make the others believe their story.  It was illogical in every way.  They were thrust into a circumstance that they had no power to change... yet Mary's response is captivating: 


And Mary said:


"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed, 
For the Mighty One has done great things for me- holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.  
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, 
Remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, 
Even as he said to our fathers."


(Luke 1:46-55)


No hint of remorse.  No complaints.  No questions of "Why me?" or "Couldn't you have picked someone else?"  Instead, Mary's heart is, at its core, a worshipping one.  She uses this situation to bring about the glory of the One who had chosen her to be a part of His grand story.  She speaks of a God of mercy, might, and goodness.  Mary and Joseph were selected to be a part of this scene in God's masterfully composed redemption story.  He did not need them, yet He chose them.  Their response is of the utmost importance to us.

Mary and Joseph's involvement with the life of our Savior was not necessarily a case of suffering, but it was not easy by any means.  Even still, they portray the same faith in the big picture that men like Job and the Apostle Paul did.  They model for us the great reminder that we are not in control of what happens to us; we are responsible for how we react, with the end goal being Christ's glory.  Imagine how different the world would look if we were like-minded with Mary and Joseph in our approach to life's twists and turns.

Submission to the Father's story at the expense of your own comfort (or even safety) is no small thing.  But if I could ask Mary if it was all worth it, I have a sneaking suspicion she'd say "yes."


So grateful for her example,

MH




Saturday, December 3, 2011

Victory

When the whistle blows at the beginning of a wrestling match, both competitors know that they will walk off the mat with one victorious and one defeated.  No matter how long the match, no matter how great the struggle, there are no "ties" in wrestling.  Whether you barely broke a sweat or you leave with fresh battle scars, it all boils down to getting your hand raised.  It is the motivation for getting up at 6am for a sprint workout.  It is the driving force behind the desire to endure the most grueling practices you can imagine.  It is the essence of victory.      

And here we are.  I've been looking forward to "getting my hand raised" for 8 grueling months.  They were some of the longest, most taxing months of my life, yet as sit here in retrospect, it all seems like it took place in the blink of an eye.  Here at the end of treatment, it is easy to feel like I just gutted it out.  It is tempting to feel that things like perspective and attitude were fruits of my own efforts.  It's true... I did defeat cancer, but I cannot claim glory for myself.

Cancer is such a unique opponent.  It is not selective in it's choosing.  It takes any and all challengers regardless of age, physical fitness, wealth, or social status.  But we can be honest.  My particular diagnosis was not so life-threatening.  This scenario made it easy for me to put my hope in doctors, in chemotherapy, and in radiation.  But such a hope was falsely placed.  Clearly, the Lord was capable of healing me right from the get-go, but He chose not to do that.  He allowed the sickness to run its course, but then heal me through the use of those doctors and treatments.  He had a plan for this situation to serve its purpose and enlarge my view (and the view of those around me) of His steadfast love and faithfulness.  He instilled in me the peace that I would get my hand raised at the end of this; it was just a matter of time.  He was the one  who conquered.

But the mere fact that treatment is over and I am healthy doesn't mean that the battle has been won, for this struggle was against something greater than just cancer.  There is victory because my story (as a part of the big picture) ends well.  There is victory because Satan's efforts to bring despair and fear have failed miserably.  There is victory because this circumstance brought about the glory of the one who allowed it to happen.  I am not so ignorant to think that I will never have to endure suffering again and that there are still many battles to be fought.  But I am encouraged because we will never be put to shame and hope is never out of reach because we serve the Almighty God who never allows His love and faithfulness to leave us:

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:37-39)  

These are words to live your life by.  Scripture tells us that there is absolutely nothing in all of God's creation that can separate us from Him.  Not one single thing!  That alone is motivation enough to fight the good fight.  

I must thank each and every one of you for your prayer and support since Day 1.  You all have been the most tangible example of the Body of Christ that I have ever experienced and I just don't have the words to express my gratitude!  There is so much of the story that is yet untold, so I will do my best to spread some hope as it unfolds.  I encourage you to do likewise.


12/3/11
           

Victorious through HIM,

MH

Monday, November 28, 2011

Big Task, Bigger God

With only 6 radiation treatments left to go, my mind has been pressed for some time now to look toward my future with FCA and start to attack the fundraising component.  But let's back it up and let me bring you up to speed with those plans.  A lot has changed...

Way back in the spring, I interviewed with FCA for an Area Representative position in Central Pennsylvania.  But shortly after that, I was diagnosed with lymphoma and my start date was pushed into the "to be determined" realm, since the duration of my treatment was unknown.  The doctor was finally able to project a completion date back in October, so we began the process of figuring out when I could come on board.  In a two week blur of decision making, phone calls, emails, and interviews, I was offered the opportunity to transfer to work with FCA in the Greater Philadelphia area.  The switch offers the same wonderful chances to minister through the medium of sports, but the most beneficial aspect is that it provides a scenario that could make my future plans with a special someone much easier.  We could both be in one location where we are being obedient to our call and doing what we love to do.  

Among so many other things, I feel that my health situation was God's hand-picked method of moving me onto His timeline.  I certainly had my ducks in a row and thought that my plans for the future were set, but He turned that upside down for something even better!  This position in Philly was not available when I first interviewed, and so He found a unique way of making me wait.  I have so much peace in my heart about this decision, despite the drastic change that it will be.  My ministry resume doesn't include extensive inner city work and, to some degree, it is intimidating.  Yet I feel such a strong leading from His spirit and I take comfort in the stories of men like King David and Moses.  The shepherd boy David was but a pre-adolescent boy when he took down a battle-tested giant with a mere stone and Moses went to Egypt kicking and screaming; yet God used both men in a mighty way for His glory.  Who am I to think that He is incapable of doing the same with my story?  Someone once told me that "God doesn't call the equipped; He equips the called."  I think there's some truth in there.  I believe that my entire athletic career and recent battle with cancer is forging a testimony that will be very useful in this particular ministry.  

Here's the thing:  my work with FCA will be entirely faith-based.  That means that I need to raise support before I can do it... $70,000 if I want to come on full-time.  That will cover a salary, benefits, insurance, etc.  Right now, the challenge seems like an immovable mountain, as I would love to start by the Summer of 2012.  Luckily, I serve a God who specializes in such tasks.  I would like to appeal for your help.  I humbly ask for your investment in me and in the work of building The Kingdom in the Greater Philly area.  The most helpful way that you could contribute would be through a monthly partnership;  such donations would be tax-deductible and would equip me with a steady income to make more informed ministry and stewardship decisions (obviously, one time gifts would also be accepted and appreciated, but monthly gifts will provide the backbone for my income).  Again, this seems like such a daunting venture, yet I don't believe that God called me out here, only to leave me hanging.  The funds will come in through His provision and timing.  Will you prayerfully consider the investment?  Will you be a part of what God is doing?  Your contributions will impact inner-city coaches, athletes, and communities in a permanent, gospel-centered way.  That is what it's all about.

If you don't need to hear any more and would like to join my "Home Team," then please contact me at mchlhojnacki@gmail.com and let's get started!  If you would like to hear more about the ministry, my story, or explore the best way for you to help, email me and let's grab a coffee or arrange a time to chat.  To embark on a journey like this, I realize that there needs to be some clarity about the particulars.  It would be my pleasure to do that for you!  Here are some links that might be helpful to you if you are not familiar with FCA...

Fellowship of Christian Athletes (main):  www.fca.org
Greater Philadelphia FCA:  www.phillyfca.org

If you are reading this, chances are you have been following my story for some time and I truly have appreciated the never ending supply of prayer and support.  Please consider being a part of God's work as He closes one chapter and begins another... for HIS glory.    

In Faith,

MH

***Please feel free to share this post and help me out as I set out on my fundraising journey!    

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Eagle Wings

6 months, 25 days, 2 hours, 20 minutes and counting...  By my best "guesstimation," that is the amount of time that this journey has taken thus far (and there's still some left to go).  Occasionally, it feels like time has flown, but on gloomier days, the time seems to have slowed to a crawl.  The toll that it has taken exceeds the physical.  There have been vicious struggles on the emotional, psychological, and spiritual fronts as well, so describing the experience as a "roller coaster" might not do it justice.  Yesterday was one of those struggles.

Monday morning's visit to the Cleveland Clinic was a preliminary appointment to set things up for my ensuing radiation therapy.  I was informed that it would be starting a full week later than I anticipated, and the additional appointment yesterday brought all of my exhaustion and frustration to the surface.  There have been numerous points throughout my treatment where I thought I was so close to finishing, yet it just kept getting dragged out longer and longer.  This timeline of completion has caused some unwanted repercussions with the plans that I had previously made before my diagnosis.  The struggle of choosing to have confidence in God's sovereignty and timing has slowly bled me of my energy.  After several hours of frustrated venting and worrying, I had nowhere else to go but His word.  I came across this well-known passage from Isaiah 40 and in it, I found solace...          

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God?"  Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (v. 27-31).

These words had been committed to memory since I was a elementary school boy, but they struck new meaning for me this time around.  You see, my subconscious desire was that the Lord would mount me up on the eagle wings and carry me far away from this desert to the lush oasis of cancer-free life.  I'd prefer to close my eyes and wake up the next morning and be free of appointments, needles, treatments, and 45 minute drives to the clinic.  Is God capable of doing that?  Absolutely.  Will He do that?  This passage suggests that He probably won't.  The precursor in these verses is that our everlasting God created the ends of the earth with a knowledge that we are hopeless to understand.  That means that my 16 years of top-flight education make me totally and utterly unqualified to question His timing and His purposes.  But He doesn't just leave it at that and tell us to simply deal with it.  To those who wait, He renews their strength... so that they can run again.  He mounts them on wings like eagles... so that they can put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.  

Maybe you're like me.  Maybe you want a quick fix to things that aren't going to well in your life.  Maybe you have prayed for the eagle wings to take you far, far away from your problems.  I hate to admit it, but we've goofed up; we're asking the wrong things.  We need to pray for the grace to acknowledge His sovereignty.  We need to pray for strength that we clearly don't have.  And we need to pray for the endurance to not just run, but run well, a race that is worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mounting up,

MH        

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Time Not Wasted

Just a quick thought for today...

The past few days have been jam packed with reflection over the past six months.  It really started to hit me when I went in for my radiation simulation on Monday.  As I closed my eyes and passed in and out of the big doughnut shaped CT scanner, the realization swept over me that the finish line was less than one month away.  It was surreal to comprehend how I felt at the start of it all, how I had no idea what to expect.  It was like taking a big breath before the plunge.  The process was a draining one that I just desperately wanted to get though and be done with.  But now, in retrospect, it feels like a mere blink.

Such is the reality of life and of suffering.  One phone call can instantly re-route our plans and outlook on the future.  But even though that may be the case, we cannot waste such times.  I have mistakenly told inquiring people that my life has been "put on hold" by this cancer.  It was all too easy to think that just because my plans didn't pan out that this was just a storm that I had to hunker down and wait out before I could move forward.  Then it hit me:  this period of my life was not an accident.  It didn't occur outside of God's plan, so that means that it was granted to me as yet another opportunity to be refined, to grow, and to testify to His faithfulness.  I don't need to wait until I finish treatment; I can testify right in the eye of the hurricane because I still have life, breath, and the peace that transcends all understanding.  It's easy to do it on a blog like this, but I've also come into contact with hundreds of new faces.  They are hundreds of new conversations to be had and as many opportunities to share good news.  I can only hope that I made the most of this storm and desire to do the same with the grey clouds that will surely be coming my way in the future.  Whatever happens, it is imperative that He gets the glory and that His gospel becomes more real to the world around us.    

Are you wasting your storm?

MH

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

(Almost) On My Way

I will never forget my first chemotherapy treatment.  Besides being on the threshold of completely uncharted territory that was my treatment regime, I got a front row seat to the infamous "Ringing Out Ceremony."  Patients at the Taussig Cancer Center get the special opportunity to read a poem and ring a bell three times to signify the completion of their chemotherapy.  This bell happened to be right outside my door way back in May.  As the nurse was prepping my medication, a lucky patient rang the bell and the hallway erupted with the applause of hospital staff and close family members of the triumphant patient.  Camera reflections bounced off of the glass and a chorus of sniffles tried to contain the tears of joy.  The nurse turned to me and said, "You're going to get to do that when you're all done."  Chills ran down my spine as I exchanged smiles of anticipation with my mom and Lindsay, but I knew that there was a very long road ahead.

And a long road it was.  My experience with chemotherapy was everything I was warned it would be and sometimes, even worse.  It was the longest, most grueling 6 months of my life and the hardest thing I've ever done.  But this trial can't hold a candle to the overwhelming amount of little graces scattered along the way, the ever-present affirmations of faithfulness.  My Heavenly Father said He would be faithful, and He consistently outdid Himself. 

Treatment is not quite over just yet.  I will take a 3 week break to let my body recover with some to appointments thrown in there to address the ensuing radiation cycle.  But from what I'm told, the hardest part is over.  I went in yesterday planning to sleep for the duration of the 3 hr. treatment, but that was wishful thinking.  It was comparable to Christmas morning, but way better.  Despite feeling like a tranquilized bear from all of my nausea medication, I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face as I rang the bell, hugged my mom and nurses, and then walked out on Cloud 9.  I was grinning ear to ear because God was faithful, just like He said He would be.  For a believer, there can be no greater source of joy.


Ring this bell
Three times well
It's toll to clearly say
My treatment's done
My course is run
And I am on my way
Almost there,

MH

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Photo Reel For Faithfulness

If you've been keeping up with this blog since the start, you might remember that the prayer I found myself praying that God would be faithful.  I wasn't asking that He would take my cancer from me; I just asked that He would be faithful like He said He would.

Well He certainly has been and we caught it on camera...


 

  



 



 












 


         
These photos still give me chills when I look through them because they are a testament to His faithfulness.  They are evidence of the shadow of His wings.  They are the proof that the Body of Christ is alive and well.  This night only represented a fraction of the people who have tirelessly come around me and my family and made God's presence that much more real.  We can't say thank you enough.

Truly blessed,

MH 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Put Down Your Stones

I'm taking a little detour from my typical ramblings on hope this week.  I was blessed with the wonderful opportunity to write a guest entry for RedLikeBlood.com.  First of all, if you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it!  It is a raw and captivating book about grace in full fledged accounts from its co-authors, Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington.  Secondly, I highly recommend that you subscribe to the blog to receive constant updates, reminders, and stories about the utterly transforming power of the Gospel.  Anyways, here is my most recent encounter with grace...

http://www.redlikeblood.com/2011/10/04/michael-hojnacki-cancer-and-grace/

Enjoy,

MH

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Of Bad Things and Good People

I have known about God for a pretty long time.  Over years and years of being raised and educated by people that feared Him, I invested a lot of time wrestling over aspects of His character and trying to glimpse just a bit more of His divine mystery.  For the most part, I felt that I had a decent handle on being able to articulate what I thought about Him (at least as well as anyone else my age could).  But there was always one question that made me wilt like a young seedling in the desert sun.  I was never quite able to come up with anything substantial to answer the age old question: "Why does God let bad things happen to good people?"  Every time I was approached with it, I retreated with my tail between my legs.  Here I was choosing to give my life to this God, who I claimed "so loved the world" and I couldn't provide an account for natural disasters, disease, death, and the like.  I felt like a fool.

But the recent months of my life have slowly but surely begun to forge a response to this question.  This question is an important one and the inner struggle it creates causes many to turn from Christianity because they don't want anything to do with such a God.  We believers need not shy away from the issue, but attack it head on and validate that our God does, indeed, love us and that He is worth submitting our lives to.  So out of relevant life circumstance, here are a few thoughts... 

To answer this question, there are a few unspoken assumptions we have to uncover. 

Assumption #1:  There is such thing as a "good" person, and such people are undeserving of pain, suffering, and/or heartache.

Problem with Assumption #1:  The term "good person" is about as ambiguous as it gets.  As far as I'm aware, there is no standard or cut-off to clearly delineate the bad apples from the good ones.  Anyone resting under that title would never claim to be perfect, but they would use the term as a form of self-righteousness to make themselves feel better than the guy who is on death row in Florida for 1st degree murder, robbery, and kicking a few puppies.  The Bible is pretty clear that we all fall short (Romans 3:23).  It doesn't matter if you miss the mark by an inch or a mile... we all fall short.  We seemed to have something wired in our DNA for us to think that because we're "good," we should be exempt from the "bad."  Matthew 5:45 says, "For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."  That's just life.    

Assumption #2:  When God says that He loves us, that means that He desires for us to be fat, happy, healthy, and wealthy.       

Problem with Assumption #2:  Even if we can humble ourselves off of our high horses and accept the fact we're not as awesome as we once thought, a conflict still remains over what God really means when He says that He loves us.  To answer this, we have to dig deep down into the roots of our cultural brainwashing.  Every commercial, every ad, and everything marketed to us in our society screams that our comfort and pleasure are the top priorities.  Unfortunately, we unknowingly try to fit our notion of God into that box.  At the mention of the word "love," our minds tend to jump to the happy, fluffy stuff that reminds us of Valentine's Day.  There is no kind of Scriptural basis to support that definition of love, yet it is the one that we often superimpose on God.

To put this issue to rest, we have to pull our perspective back to the big picture.  It is not a matter of our momentary pleasure, but rather, it is one of redemption on the grand timeline of eternity.  Here is what it ultimately comes down to:  God's deepest desire is not our comfort; His primary concern is that our character be developed so that we will come to a greater understanding of the salvation He has made possible for us through His one and only son, Jesus Christ.  I don't claim to know a God who is up in heaven trying to keep a bunch of people happy who have sinned against Him in every which way possible.  I claim a God who sent Jesus to die for us "while we were yet sinners" (Romans 5:8).  Though He owes us absolutely nothing, He has given everything and will hold nothing back, including trials, so that we will have our eyes opened to how badly we need Him.  He is interested in the big picture.  He is finishing what He started through the good and the bad.

This is not to say that suffering doesn't sting.  It doesn't mean that, in our humanity, that we will never draw into question God's plan.  And it doesn't mean that we won't lose sight of the big picture in the midst of horrendous hurt and showers of tears.  I would be lying myself if I said that this battle with cancer hasn't been the most draining, most trying experience of my entire life.  But what joy it brings my heart to be able to say that I know my God better... because I have cancer.  I have a deeper and truer understanding of His love for me... because I have cancer.  Other people people are getting a glimpse of the big picture... because I have cancer.

Oh, how I wish this would have happened a lot sooner.  Not really, but you catch my drift.

Resting in the big picture,

MH

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Special Announcement (For Me At Least)

Thought I would switch it up this time around and give you a video blog for something pretty cool that is in the works.  You decide.



Let me know what you think,

MH

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Story Ends Well

I've been thinking a lot about hope lately.  Can't really say that it was totally by choice.  When my life took an unexpected turn just over 5 months ago, I was forced to think about if what I said I believed really was true... and I have never been the same since that moment.  Like an anchor to a ship in stormy seas, the hope of heaven has kept me in place amidst one of life's greatest tempests.  That doesn't mean I haven't been shaken.  That doesn't mean I haven't doubted or wanted to give up at times.  But it does mean that I have not despaired, because this isn't the end of my story.

In this morning's sermon, Pastor Coffey preached about a living hope.  I Peter 1:3-7 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to His great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, through now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith -more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."  Joe's summary of the passage was something to the effect of "the story ends well."  Upon hearing this, my heart leaped and I wanted to start cheering!  That is exactly what I have been trying to articulate in every blog entry leading up to this point; I've just rambled and fumbled around different ways of saying it.  In my understanding, this is what it is all about for those who claim to know Christ.  Jesus' resurrection and victory over death sealed the deal and now our future is set.  Safe.  Secure.  Guaranteed.  That is more than enough to completely upend your perspective and way of living.  And it is so contagious to this hopeless world that is desperately scratching and clawing for something to cling to.

God made this world very good, but we fell very far from His original intentions.  In this sad state, there is some pretty rough stuff that can happen.  The most tragic things that the world could possible throw at us like murder, disease, rape, death, or or all kinds of injustice are enough to derail some people for good.  But when you have living hope, you can still bless His name... because the story ends well.  When you have living hope, you can continue to find purpose in your life, despite unspeakable pain... because the story ends well.  When you have living hope, you continue to read, even if this particular chapter is gloomy... because the story ends well.      

We know that the story ends well because God has promised it in His word and because Jesus validated it through His death and resurrection.  Everybody loves a good story that is full of drama, plots twists, and victory, but it's hard when you're the main character.  Rest in the assurance that God is a brilliant author.  He is writing a completely unique masterpiece in and through your life that will result in His praise and glory.  I only pray that when all of this takes place, my story was one in which hope emanated from every single chapter.

This particular chapter in my life has been a difficult one to soldier through; it's entitled "Hodgkin's Lymphoma."  But I'm excited to keep reading because I looked ahead to the last chapter... it's called "Jesus Wins."

Excited to Keep Reading,

MH 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

When Bad News Comes...

Had to re-post this.  It's another in-your-face reminder of some great truth from Charles Spurgeon.

"He is not afraid of bad news."  (Psalm 112:7)

Christian, you ought not to be afraid of the arrival of bad news; because if you are distressed by such, you are no different from other men.  They do not have your God to run to; they have never proved His faithfulness as you have done, and it is no wonder if they are bowed down with alarm and cowed with fear.  But you profess to be of another spirit; you have been born again to a living hope, and your heart lives in heaven and not on earthly things.  If you are seen to be distracted as other men, what is the value of that grace that you profess to have received?  Where is the dignity of that new nature that you claim to possess? 

Again, if you should be filled with alarm like others, you would no doubt be led into the sins so common to them under trying circumstances.  The ungodly, when they are overtaken by bad news, rebel against God; they murmur and maintain that God has dealt harshly with them.  Will you fall into that same sin?  Will you provoke the Lord as they do?

Moreover, unconverted men often run to wrong means in order to escape from difficulties, and you will be sure to do the same if your mind yields to the present pressure.  Trust in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.  Your wisest course is to do what Moses did at the Red Sea:  "Stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord."  For if you give way to fear when you hear bad news, you will be unable to meet the trouble with that calm composure that prepares for duty and sustains in adversity.  How can you glorify God if you play the coward?  Saints have often sung God's high praises in the fires, but when you act as if there were no one to help, will your doubting and despondency magnify the Most High?  Then take courage and, relying in sure confidence upon the faithfulness of your covenant God, "Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."

Trying to be brave,

MH

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Flickers of Light

Although I've never been stuck in a cave, I've seen enough "Man vs. Wild" type shows to know the joy that sweeps over a hiker stuck in a cave when he sees little slivers of light cut through the blackness.  The light is hope.  It is the hint that the end that is near.  And it quickly blots out the previous and current struggles that brought you to the present place in time. 

Today was one such experience for me.  The CT scan that I had last week yielded that I would need more chemotherapy, but we didn't know how much.  Upon meeting with the doctor today, things became much clearer as he gave us an end to look forward to.  The remainder of my treatment schedule should look like this...

-  2 more months of chemo (3 treatments after today)
-  3 week break to recover
-  3 weeks of radiation
-  Anticipation of being wrapped up by the end of November

Today was a tough treatment day.  I sought to christen this fall season with a Spiced Pumpkin Latte from Starbucks, but that didn't stay down too long and I was dead tired.  This experience has been the toughest thing I have ever done, but typing out that remainder of the treatment schedule puts a fresh burst of wind in my sails, even though there is another 3 months left to go.  I can see the finish line in the distance and you can bet that I'll be in a full out sprint physically, emotionally, and spiritually until I finish.

There is short time on the clock and I don't plan on wasting it.

Making the most of what's left,

MH 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Purpose Driven God

I'd like to re-visit a John Piper statement I cited in one of my previous entries.  His words "God pursues His own glory in all that He does" have resonated between my two ears for some time now and I'd like to continue to unpack them.  So here we go...

Some time ago, I was enjoying a tasty afternoon lunch in the always cozy T.J. Rockwells with some great friends.  As we chipped away at the mountain of food in front of us, the topic of spiritual gifts came about.  Our conversation essentially boiled down to the simple question of "Why?"  Why does God choose to heal some who are suffering and not the others after they have both been prayed over?  Why do a select few receive the gift of prophecy or gift of tongues?  Or why have only the seemingly privileged felt a physical stirring of the Spirit within their bodies?

These questions stir up a bigger pot of issues.  They beg for answers as to why God does (or does not) act, answer prayers, enable His people, or "show up" when we think He should.  This issue is a foundational type of issue for us to wrestle with because it reveals what we think about the person of God.  But that God is a big God.  Real big.  Trying to wrap our feeble little minds around the motives of the Almighty is as futile as trying to empty the ocean of its water with a coffee mug.  Nonetheless, the Scriptures offer some great insight if we look close enough (go figure).  Take these few examples...

Yaweh empowers Moses to split the waters of the Red Sea during the exodus from Egypt so that "the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen" (Exodus 14:18).

He gives strength to a baby faced teenager named David to slay a giant so that "all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear.  For the battle is the Lord's , and He will give you into our hand"  (I Samuel 17:47).

Jesus even allows his friend Lazarus to be delivered to death's clutches, only to raise him up again "so that the Son of God may be glorified through it" (John 11:4).

This is our God.  His purpose?  His own glory.  I'm still in the process of taking Piper's challenge: to read everything in the Bible under this context.  So far, I haven't found any evidence to disprove his theory.  Take your pick: miracles, signs, wonders, protection, provision, or a complete lack thereof.  If He grants them, He gets the glory.  If He doesn't, He will somehow still get the glory (even if we don't understand how).  In my current circumstance, He has determined that He should get greater glory in my sickness than in my health.  Let me just admit that that thought is a tough pill to swallow (both literally and figuratively).  But through the process of obtaining glory, He is bringing hearts back to Himself and moving ever closer to making all things new.  His methods are strange, wonderful, difficult to understand, beautiful, and confusing all at the same time.

But He is God and I am not.  I find strange peace in that purpose.

In the Shadow of His Glory,

MH    

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Get Up With The Gratitude

Short, sweet, and to the point...

So today I was in tune enough to recognize several little graces that God so generously doled out today.  First, it was unbelievably gorgeous outside today so, naturally, I had to take advantage of it.  After I gassed up the tractor, I pushed play to the ever-encouraging lyrics of Kristian Stanfill and gave the lawn a fresh cut.  Secondly, in a non-cancer patient fashion, my legs held up long enough to endure a resistance band workout and bike ride around Hudson.  What a joy it was to "feel the burn" again!  Finally, I capped off the day with some summer grillin' and a wonderful sit down dinner with my family (minus one brother).  This day was the first in a long time that I haven't thought much about my current circumstance very much.  I was just happy and content to still be doing life. 

There was nothing extraordinary about this day.  Nothing happened that will show up on the evening news.  But I was reminded today to be thankful for the places and things where we seem to miss God the most: the simple things.  I don't know where it is you are in life or what you are doing.  To be honest, it doesn't matter.  Thank God that you have life.  Thank God that you have breath.  Thank Him for giving you the privilege of waking up today to serve Him.

As PAX217 used to say... "Get up with the gratitude!"   

Thankful,

MH

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Save The Date: Team Hoj Fundraiser

Hello everyone,

We hope this message finds you all in the midst of a great summer!  TEAM HOJ has an awesome opportunity to share with you in a continued effort to support Michael!  On August 21st, TEAM HOJ will be hosting a fundraiser at The Block in Hudson, OH from 6pm to 9pm.  The night will be jam packed with several components including live music, a silent auction, desserts, coffee, and a great time of fellowship.  Michael will also be sharing from his heart and reflecting upon this chapter of his life.  We are anticipating a wonderful evening, but there is no way we can pull it off alone.  We need YOUR help; here's how...

1.  Sign up to donate a tray of desserts for the fundraiser.
2.  Donate items for the silent auction by August 14th (i.e. sports tickets, business services, gift baskets, etc.)
3.  Sign up to volunteer for the evening (i.e. set up, tear down, etc.)
4.  Attend!  And help spread the word!
5.  If you are unable to attend for any reason, but would still like to give to the cause, send your donation to...

     TEAM HOJ
     PO BOX 448
     Valley City, OH 44280

We would truly appreciate your participation!  If you would like to help in any way or if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, email TEAMHOJ@gmail.com as soon as possible so that we can continue assembling the details for the night. 

Hope to see you there,

Uncle Jeff and Aunt Karen

Friday, July 29, 2011

Platforms

I would ask you to close your eyes, but you obviously can't if you want to continue reading, so try to get this imagery in your head...

The whistle has just blown.  A sea of people immediately erupts with applause.  The camera flashes become blinding.  Exhausted and drenched with sweat, you walk back to the middle of the mat and remove your anklets, and it begins to hit you.  As you shake your opponents' hand and the referee raises yours, a lifetime's worth of preparation and work has just become a reality: NATIONAL CHAMPION.  The thousands of hours logged on the mat, on the treadmill, in the weight room, and in the van... all of the weekends sacrificed for a handful of matches... all of the doubters and critics who said you couldn't make it... they are all but distant memories to be blown away by this wind of accomplishment.  Of the thousands of young men who compete around the country in college wrestling, you have just joined the upper echelon, the elite group of young men who have gained near immortal status.  A mere ten will be inducted into such fame and notoriety this year.  Welcome to the club.  When the referee finishes presenting you to the crowd, you jog over to shake the opposing coaches' hands and then head towards your corner where a pair of open arms are waiting to catch you and kick off the celebration.  With a final salute to your fan club, you head down off the elevated mat towards a cluster of reporters, whose cameras and notepads are at the ready.  They are waiting for you.  What will you say?   

I know I'm biased, but if that doesn't give you goose bumps, I don't know what will!  This scenario had played out in my mind over and over throughout my career.  If my mind was a record player, this one would have been worn out from over usage.  I visualized it after our team's morning runs in the crisp October air.  I saw it week after week amidst grueling practices.  And I used it as motivation for workouts at stupid hours of the night that no one will ever know about.  You see, Coach Brunk had asked our team to take over this mindset and I had even taken him up on his challenge to write out what I was going to say once it happened.  I knew how it was going to go down once I got my platform:  I was finally going to get there and God was going to get the glory.  Win, win.

Well unfortunately, my dream didn't play out exactly like I planned.  The season ended and I was not standing on the top of the podium.  A few months passed and I was standing on top of another platform that I wasn't necessarily thrilled about.  I wanted a national championship and got cancer instead.  God has a sense of humor doesn't He?  Even better, He's got a plan!  For reasons that are still unknown to me, God decided that His kingdom would better be made known through my sickness rather than my athletic successes.  Through numerous conversations, I am beginning to understand that for a believer, every circumstance in life (for better or for worse) provides some sort of platform on which we have the chance to stand and give Him glory.  It might be a big one or it might be a small one.  You might like it, you might not.  You might have thousands of eyes watching you, or maybe just one pair.  Regardless, God is asking that we be responsible with what He places in our laps and use it for His glory.  In this light, suffering becomes opportunity and hardship becomes a gold mine for hope if we become willing to view it as such.

I recently heard John Piper say that "God pursues His own glory in all that He does."  This quote is now taped to the inside of my Bible.  We can read any passage in the Scriptures and draw that conclusion.  He gives both great blessing and allows painful suffering so that His gospel will become more real to mankind.  If we claim to be His children and identify with the new self, should we not be pursuing His glory in all that we do?  When He gives us platforms, do we waste them on our own fleeting glory or merely discard them as harsh circumstance?  Unfortunately, I have had to plead guilty on both accounts. 

Here is the challenge for us all.  God grants us all platforms of different sizes, durations, and significance throughout our lives.  For 4-6 months of my life right now, mine just so happens to be Hodgkin's Lymphoma, but that will most likely change in the near future.  Our struggle is to faithfully identify what God has placed in our lives to direct glory His way.  It could be anything... a job, an injury, a family circumstance, or a hidden talent.  You name it.  God can use it.

You're at center stage and the world is watching.  What are you doing with it?

For His glory,

MH

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day Follows Night

This is from a devotional I'm working through by Charles Spurgeon entitled Morning and Evening (thank you, Mrs. Finelli) and I felt compelled to post it.  It's a jam-packed paragraph if I've ever read one...


Can you answer this, believer?  Can you find any reason why you are so often mourning instead of rejoicing?  Why yield to gloomy anticipations?  Who told you that the night would never end in day?  Who told you that the sea of circumstances would ebb out till there should be nothing left but long stretches of the mud of horrible poverty?  Who told you that the winter of your discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow and ice and hail to deeper snow and yet more heavy tempest of despair?  Don't you know that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter?  Be full of hope!  Hope forever! for God does not fail you.  Do you not know that God loves you in the midst of all this?  Mountains, when in darkness hidden, are as real as in day, and God's love is as true to you now as it was in your brightest moments.  No father chastens always.  The Lord hates the rod as much as you do; He only cares to use it for that reason that would make you willing to receive it-namely, it brings about your lasting good.  You will yet climb Jacob's ladder with the angels and behold Him who sits at the top of it-your covenant God.  You will yet, amidst the splendors of eternity, forget the trials of time or only remember them to bless the God who led you through them and works your lasting good by them.  Come, sing in the midst of tribulation.  Rejoice even while passing through the furnace.  Make the wilderness blossom like the rose!  Cause the desert to ring with your exulting joys, for these light afflictions will soon be over, and then, forever with the Lord, your bliss shall never wane.

Faint not nor fear, His arms are near, 
He changeth not, and thou art dear;
Only believe and you shalt see,
That Christ is all in all to thee.


Refreshed again,

MH

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Treatment's Top 5

Psalm 145 says that one generation will pour forth the fame of the Lord's abundant goodness and His wondrous works.  As my chemotherapy progresses, I've had a lot of conversations about how crappy I feel or how tired I am or whatever.  I understand that this is just the nature of the treatment, but I would be remiss if I failed to remind myself and others of the Lord's abundant goodness and wondrous works.  By now, I have completed 5 treatments in 2 months, so I wanted to step back and compile the Top 5 ways in which the Lord has manifested His goodness to me in this storm.  In no particular order...

1.  Visitors:  In the last two weeks, I've been so blessed to have some very special people come visit me here in Hudson.  My favorite RD couple, Dave and Emily Downey, were able to swing by on their way home from Chicago and one of my best friend from high school, Henry Hasson, also stopped in from Michigan (guaranteed laughs with this guy).  Last but not least, I was spoiled to have Lindsay in town for a week and a half!  It was an amazing privilege to have her here for a treatment week and she made it that much easier.

2.  Team Hoj:  When this all started and my family and Coach Brunk came up with the Team Hoj idea, I was absolutely flattered, but wasn't sure what to expect.  I've been absolutely blown away as support, both financially and prayerfully, has flooded the Hojnacki household.  If as that wasn't enough, the Team Hoj bracelets and shirts came in and they came out better than I could have hoped for!  Thanks again Uncle Jeff, Aunt Karen, Marky, Coach Brunk, and Coach Vogel for putting those together!

3.  CCC Cafe:  This Sunday marked the first time since I began treatment that I have been able to sing and what a blessing it was.  With the tumor being situated in my chest as it was, my pipes were out of commission for sometime.  But with the reduction in the size of the tumor, I was finally able to sing again.  Despite not feeling well this morning, being able to participate again and do what I feel I was made to do brought such joy to my heart.  The cherry on top was being asked to sing Kristian Stanfill's "Always."  If you haven't heard it, look it up.  The lyrics speak for themselves and, in my current situation, I had a difficult time keeping myself from tearing up.  What a great reminder that our God always comes through!

4.  Home:  Although I knew that coming home for treatment would be for the best, I was still having a hard time coping with the delay of my work with FCA and not being where I wanted to for this summer.  However, my Heavenly Father has reaffirmed that this is where I should be.  I have been able to spend wonderful amounts of time with my family and friends in the area.  And what would summer be without campfires and grilling?  I have spent a "devoted" amount of time in front of the TV perusing the Food Network for killer new recipes and have resolved to cook one third of my meals on the grill.  But by far, the best part of being home is just being home.  Knowing that I am in the best place I can possibly be to fight this and that I have all the support anyone could ask for... it's good stuff.

5.  Up and About:  On the select days when I have been up to it, I have been very fortunate to get some workouts in.  It may sound peculiar, but you have to understand that for this wrestler, only being able to do a one or two workouts every other week is a far cry from two to three times a day.  Nonetheless, such workouts are little "pick-me-ups" to my spirit.  Next to music, wrestling is the thing that I feel I was created to do.  Unfortunately, I am unable to wrestle right now, but exercising is the next best thing and every time I am able to go for a run or hit the resistance bands is nothing short of a gift.  I absolutely cannot wait to strap my shoes up again and feel that Resilite underneath my feet!  Give me patience, Lord!


Remember, this isn't about cancer.  This is about God's faithfulness and goodness. 

Encouraged,

MH

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Halfway Point?

As I write to you today, I am currently at The Cleveland Clinic for Treatment #5. We saw Dr. Pohlman today and he showed us the results from the CT scan, which shows about 40-50% reduction in the tumor. Praise the Lord for that! He couldn't predict a definite time frame for the finish line, but it looks like it will be somewhere in the September to October range, so we are about halfway. Coming off of such a rough treatment last time, I had a portacath installed in my chest and it has made things tremendously easier thus far (for those of you who aren't medically inclined, here is a link explaining what the port is and what it does... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_%28medical%29).  It was a bit painful getting used to it, but I wish I would have gotten one from the start.

Even though the last round was tough, the Lord has so graciously dropped hints of encouragement in my lap left and right. It has been great to have several amazing people visit, as well as be up and about more frequently. We also got the first shipment of Team Hoj shirts and Coach Vogel and Coach Brunk did an amazing job on them! So to all of you who have been a part of this journey, I just want to reiterate a special thank you. You all mean so much and the Lord is using you to add to my strength each day. It's hard to imagine doing it without you all!

Chuggin' along,

MH

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Devil On My Shoulder

One of the things that I dislike about my blog is that it tends to give an unrealistic depiction of how I really am.  Up to this point, I've released a very limited amount of information as I'm not the type to wear my heart on my sleeve (or my blog for this matter).  Consequently, it has been relayed to me that I struggle much less than the average Joe when it comes to this whole suffering thing.  Nothing could be farther from the truth, so let me unpack that.  Time for good ol' transparency...

It's been a while since my last entry and there's a reason for that.  I've been in the proverbial desert.  It has been a season of my life in which I couldn't bring myself to open my Bible for several weeks.  I prayed only when I wanted and felt drained of my true joy.  You see, for the first time since I was diagnosed with cancer, I have felt the effects of toxic feelings such as anger, bitterness, jealousy, and resentment start to creep into my attitude.  Such feelings stemmed from the seeds sown by the little devil on my shoulder.  It feels just like the cartoon.  He is the little red devil version of me, outfitted with horns, a pitchfork, a long gotee, and some bad tattoos.  It is in this suffering that I hear him most clearly.  When I can't sleep, he tells me that I did nothing to deserve this.  When I can't shake the constant nausea, he questions how a loving God would allow this to happen to me.  When I think about the long remaining months of treatment, he tells me to throw in the towel and stop fighting the good fight.  It was in such a weary, vulnerable state that I began to feast on those lies like homeless man at a buffet.  

But by God's grace, this little devil is not my only companion.  I also have a "mini-me" on the other shoulder, complete with wings, a white robe, and a halo.  His voice is always very quiet, barely above a whisper.  He doesn't shout or scream or compete for my attention.  Despite these momentary hardships, he speaks truth to me.  He reminds me of the past events in my life in which I have seen God's faithfulness over and over.  He tells me how much I am loved, even if it doesn't feel like it right now.  Most importantly, he repeats again and again that I am not alone by any stretch of the imagination.  Very slowly, but surely, this active and living Spirit of God is re-focusing my perspective back on eternity.  Deep down, I know these truths to be real and concrete.  It's just that the lies have won on the battlefield of my mind.  But make no mistake, truth has a strong foothold in the war for my heart. 

My friends, I am not bulletproof.  Oh how I would love think I am sometimes.  These past few weeks have entailed nothing short of my greatest struggles with God.  Luckily, He can handle it.  If you would be so kind, I'd like to swallow my pride and enlist you in prayerful support.  I would like to ask for reminders of truth in these desert seasons.  Pray that God would overwhelm my heart with reassurance of His presence.  I don't foresee the rest of this journey getting any easier, but by God's grace alone, I will finish well.  I'd like to leave you with the quote that became the fulcrum for the change in my perspective:

"Rejoice, O my soul, that you are spared to testify of the faithfulness of the Lord.  The seasons change, and you change, but your Lord abides evermore the same, and the streams of His love are as deep, as broad, and as full as ever."  

- Charles Spurgeon
            
Eyes on eternity,

MH

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

All Kinds of Stuff

There has been quite a bit going on lately, so I thought I'd do my best to catch you up on a few events, happenings, and things that are unrelated to each other.  So here it goes!


Medical Update Today was my 4th treatment (ideally the halfway point for the chemotherapy) and tomorrow I will go in for a CAT scan to see how much I have progressed.  I know what I want to hear, but we'll leave that up to God.  We had a potentially very discouraging situation on our hands today.  When the nurses went to put the IV in, my veins "blew" four times, as they were unable to hold the medicine without leaking it out into my arms.  Since the chemo can burn and potentially cause skin grafts, it was no good.  So before my next treatment, I am going to need a procedure to install a mediport in my chest that will make this all much easier.  But for today, they were able to run a big old PIC line into my upper arm and keep me on my treatment schedule.  Unfortunately, today was a rough one as I didn't handle all of that well and had my fair share of vomiting.  I'm just trying to be thankful for the good days and asking for grace for the tough ones.


Furm's TakeI few weeks back, Cory Furman and I sat down for a chat.  Here's what came out of it... http://www.messiah.edu/athletics/articles/furm/61011-alleyesonhoj.html.  


Team Hoj Shirts and Bracelets:  TEAM HOJ t-shirts are in. We have all sizes in the regular t-shirts ($20) and adult sizes to XL in the dri fit performance t-shirts in dark gray cotton feel or sport gray performance feel ($30). Please email Coach Brunk at bbrunk@messiah.edu to arrange individual or mass orders. Bracelets are still available for $2.  The proceeds will be split between the Team Hoj members who are racing in the Nation's Triathalon in Washington, D.C. and my fund raising efforts for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  If you would like to become more extensively involved with Team Hoj, please contact my Uncle Jeff and Aunt Karen at TEAMHOJ@gmail.com or find us on Facebook!







Team Hoj Fundraiser:  Keep an eye out for a Team Hoj Dessert Fund Raiser and Auction in August.  There is also a potential golf outing in the works.  More details coming ASAP!  



I'd just like to re-iterate a special thank you to all of you who have been covering me and my family in prayer, as well as supporting us financially through Team Hoj.  June has been a trying month (more to come on that soon), but the load has been made a bit lighter through the support of all my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Can't say it enough, but thank you.

Humbled,

MH 

 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Real Deal

At some point in my high school experience, I developed a strange fascination with awkward infomercials such as The Magic Bullet and P90X.  I now own The Magic Bullet and will personally vouch that it is one of the coolest and greatest kitchen appliances ever, but it is the fitness program P90X that really fascinates me.  Regardless of what you think about infomercials or all the lame gimmicks out there trying to pass as fitness programs, you can't argue with the results, the facts.  Before and after pictures pour across the TV screen displaying drastic body transformations.  Testimony after testimony recounts the change that took place in just 90 days.  No doubt about it, this thing is the real deal!  But these results were not without cost (the combined price of the DVD's and shipping were the least of them).  Time, energy, ridiculous amounts of sweat, fatigue, strict dieting, and a host of other things that are enough to throw most brave souls off course.  But whoever can stick it out til the end is left with results that do not disappoint.

I read a passage recently that follows the same line of thinking, although on a much larger and more important scale than mere body image.  In Romans 5:1-5, Paul says:

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."       

Before I draw a personal parallel, I want to remind you who is talking.  This is the Apostle Paul.  This man has been imprisoned, flogged, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, starved, left for dead, taxed emotionally, physically, and spiritually, among a host of other things.  And what does he tell us to do?  He says to rejoice in our sufferings.  I feel that my present circumstance is a bit much at times, but when I look at what Paul endured, my complaining stops real quick.  Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, says something to this effect of Paul:

"I have never met a man that is as free as Paul is.  You can't touch him!  If you want to kill him, he says 'Alright! It's time to go home!' If you let him live, Paul says 'Alright, to live is Christ.'  If you beat him, he responds 'Great! That's sharing in the suffering of Christ.  I welcome that!' If you put him in prison, he says 'Well okay, I'll convert all of your guards and most of your prisoners.'  I mean this is just an untouchable man!  How do you get untouchable like that?"

How do you get untouchable like that?  Sometimes, it is difficult for me to believe that a man like this actually walked the earth.  Honestly, all of that "rejoicing in suffering" stuff is nice in theory, but I feel that such a perspective is unattainable and unrealistic for those of us normal folk.  But as I read Romans 5, it hit me that we can have that same attitude, not because it is something inherent about us, but because the same spirit that filled Paul is the same one that fills us this very day!  The hope of heaven and the glory of God put suffering into perspective.  It pulls us back from our pinhole sized view of life and helps us step back to get a look at the big picture.  This gives us the attitude to rejoice in any given circumstance with the knowledge that our character is being forged in the fires of hardship.  And this character yields a hope that is unlike anything this world has ever seen before.  It is a hope that transcends anything this life could possibly throw at us and points us toward a perfect eternity in heaven.  It is the hope that gave Jesus the strength to say "Yet not what I will..." in the Garden of Gethsemane just hours before He was led away to the cross.  It is the hope that gave Paul the authority to declare "To live is Christ and to die is gain."  And it is the same hope that gives Mike Hojnacki the grace to say "I have cancer, but people are drawing nearer to Jesus.  I would have it no other way."

As I continue to converse with people about the nature of God and why He might allow such an evil, I still feel inadequate to thoroughly hash it all out (despite a degree in Christian ministry).  But just like the results of a masterfully designed fitness program are not up for debate, so it is with the hope derived from suffering.  These are the facts...

I have cancer.  I should be devastated.  But I have hope.  And hope is the real deal.  Take hold of it my friends!

Not disappointed,

MH

 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Holding My World

Like I said in the "Carry Me" post, music has a way with me.  Various songs have been such a great encouragement to me in this rather difficult time and I have stumbled across another that I'd like to share with you.  Fortunately, this one speaks for itself so I'll let you decide.  The lyrics are so simple, yet so true and in rough days like today when I'm still recovering from the chemo, I find myself shutting the lights off, closing my eyes, and letting the truth in this song cover me like a blanket.  Whatever you are going through, I hope you find the same peace. 

To listen, go to... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwZeCbnlCXQ


Holding My World (by Kristian Stanfill)

And this is Your world, You made it
And all of creation is breathing because You sustain it
Jesus, by Your powerful word, You spoke out the earth and the heavens

So I will not worry or fret
My God is the God who will never forget
All of His goodness and all of His promises
He's holding my world in His hands

And these are your days, You give them
All for your fame and all for Your glorious kingdom
Jesus, You have ordained all things to dwell in Your purpose

So I will not worry or fret
My God is the God who will never forget
All of His goodness and all of His promises
He's holding my world in His hands

And I am Your child, beloved
And all of my days my future is laid in Your promise
Jesus, to the end of the age, I am not alone or forgotten

So I will not worry or fret
My God is the God who will never forget
All of His goodness and all of His promises
He's holding my world


In His Hands,

MH

Sunday, May 29, 2011

TEAM HOJ

My God is faithful.  I've been repeating it many, many times to myself lately as He has continued to fill me with rock solid hope and abundant peace.  He has delivered yet again in overwhelming fashion.  Several people very dear to me have banded together in an effort to provide support as the body of Christ to me and my family.  Consequently, Team Hoj was born.  There are a lot of elements to what is going on.  Some will be partnering financially and prayerfully.  Others are entering a triathlon to raise support and awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  And some will choose to attend a summer fundraiser or purchase Team Hoj shirts and bracelets.

If you would like to be involved in any capacity or just learn a little bit more about what is going on, look up "Team Hoj" on Facebook (or email teamhoj@gmail.com).  There you will find all of the information you might need.  I am not heading this little project up, but it is so humbling to think that people want to participate in this way.  It is not my personality to advertise something like this that directly benefits me, but I have had many people asking me how they might help.  If that is you, then here is your chance!


Shirt: dark grey/ Wrestling mat: light blue/ Font: Yellow



































Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

MH

Friday, May 20, 2011

Carry Me

The Christian Contemporary Music scene is one that I am slowly starting to develop a slight distaste for.  In my humblest opinion, things are beginning to get a tad generic and stale (I literally heard the phrase "up from the ashes" in three recently released songs).  The music and the lyrics are starting to drift towards the shallow end, and although this is not a sweeping generalization for every artist and every song, I think there is room for refreshed creativity.

But I'm not here to rant and rave about my personal opinions of music.  Despite my aforementioned comments, I have been personally encouraged by the lyrics of one such artist who does not fit the mold of what I have just described in CCM.  When I first heard Audrey Assad's music (a song inspired from St. Augustine's famous words entitled Restless), I encountered something I hadn't heard in a while.  It was depth, creativity, perspective, and truth all in the same song.  I would later learn that this would hold true for the majority of her music.  As an interest in her lyrical ability grew, I stumbled across the song Carry Me.  The words captured my heart and I began to share them with others who were hurting, never thinking that I would be clinging to them like a life raft in a few short months.  Here are the lyrics:


Pain is a forest we all get lost in
Between the branches hope can be so hard to see
And in the darkness we've all got questions
We're all just trying to make sense out of suffering but

You say I am blessed because of this
So, I choose to believe
As I carry this cross, You'll carry me
Help me believe it

Fear is a current we all get caught in
And in its motion faith can be so hard to find
And we all falter 'cause we're all broken
We're all just trying to turn the shadows into light but

You get glory in the midst of this
And You're walking with me
And you say I am blessed because of this
So, I choose to believe
As I carry this cross, You'll carry me


And I know Your promises are faithful
And God, I've seen Your goodness in my life
And oh, I've found Your mercy is a river
Your love is an ocean wide


You say I am blessed because of this
You get glory in the midst of this
And You're walking with me

And You say I am blessed because of this
So, I choose to believe
As I carry this cross, as I carry this cross
'Cause as I carry this cross, You'll carry me

You'll carry me, God
You'll carry me
And Your love is an ocean wide
 



We don't hear too many more songs like that anymore.  We don't think about Him getting glory in the midst of suffering and we certainly don't consider ourselves blessed because of trials.  The farther along that I travel this road, the more God is impressing upon my heart that this is not about me.  That is an often cliche statement that we casually throw around, but seriously, this is about His glory being made known.  He is refining hearts in the fires of suffering so that in the end, we will be brilliant displays of the hope of heaven!  But there can be no taking away the fact that refining is a painful process.  It stings.  This week, I've begun to taste what this is going to be like.  I began chemotherapy on Tuesday and the fatigue and the nausea began to set in.  I'd be lying if I said I hadn't wished He had picked another way to make Himself known.  In solitary darkness, the questions begin to flow and I can't help but try to make sense of everything as I release my fears.  Nonetheless, this is my portion and I will partake in it while struggling to claim what I know to be true: "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (II Corinthians 4:17).  With the hope that Christ has established in us, fatigue is light and nausea is momentary.  They will be a vapor of a memory one day...

I do know that His promises are faithful and I have seen His goodness in my life.  Therefore, I will choose to believe that as I carry this cancer, He will be the one carrying me.  There can be no greater peace.  Thank you for that reminder, Audrey Assad.

Carried,

MH 

       

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

We Did It!

Graduating from elementary school, high school, or college was never not an option in my thinking.  Not because I was so utterly determined to make it happen, but that is just the way it was.  You went to school.  You got good grades (or did enough to pass).  You stayed the course and finished the race.  That was it.  I wasn't trying to get into the habit of starting things I wouldn't finish and never accounted for any bumps along the way.  But as you may already know, this spring brought quite the twist to my journey and the prospect of not graduating actually became a possibility.  I don't need to go into all of the details, but if you've read the last few posts, hopefully you have seen God's unending faithfulness to me and my family through a host of craziness.  Being at the last week of school and getting to walk at graduation this past weekend was one of the most unbelievable experiences on my life.  I was able to collect a few more memories for the vault and if nothing else, it has reminded me that my journey is one littered with so much opportunity, support, love, and grace from family, friends, teachers, professors, peers, acquaintances and most importantly, my Heavenly Father.  I would be nowhere near where I am without all of this and I am forever thankful!

My Inner Circle

Now let's worry about getting better.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"I Will Never Leave Thee"

I believe it was about my senior year of high school when I began to close letters, notes, and emails with "Humbled."  It was around this time that my eyes began to creep open to the RIDICULOUS amount of blessings in my life.  Everything from a warm place to sleep at night to the unbelievable people that have poured into and invested in me.  It's a pretty overwhelming and humble thing to try to process in one sitting.  All too often, I find myself quick to complain about all kinds of little nonsense, but in the big picture, I would willingly contend that I am the most blessed person I know.  Thus, the new tag was born.

Opening up this new chapter of my life, I found myself at the crossroads of how to pray.  I have read and heard so many accounts of healing in the Bible and in my own life; I even had many people lay hands on me with the full expectancy that our prayers would be answered.  But as time progressed and the doctor's laid out the official diagnosis, it appeared that God didn't hear, didn't care, or He had something so much greater in store by allowing this to happen.  I'm running with the third option.  Through lots of repetition, searching, and re-working, my prayer finally became a simple one:  

"Abba, I trust that You've got this.  I believe with all my heart that You are 100% capable of healing me, but appears that You have chosen not to for now.  Nowhere in Your word did You ever promise good health for following You.  But You did say that You will never leave me, so I am calling You on that one.  Take hold of my hand and don't ever let go.  My frail hands will drain very quickly of their strength and my knuckles will turn white from squeezing so hard. But I beg you, please don't relinquish Your grip.  Not once.  Not ever."   

Well He certainly has been true to His promise and hasn't let go yet.  The ways that He has given me such tangible affirmations of His presence is nothing less than the most astounding and humbling experience that I have ever had.  This is His nearness...

The Inner Circle:  Every time I go to the Cleveland Clinic, I see patients every step of the way.  Sometimes it's an elderly man inching his way down the hallway, supporting his frail and stricken life's partner of no less than 50 years.  Sometimes, it's a soccer mom escorting her aging father, breathing apparatus and all, down to the lobby via wheelchair.  And other times it is an exhausted father hold his softly sleeping, but very sick 4 month old baby girl.  Nobody goes to this place for a leisurely afternoon visit.  It is not vacation.  As many would agree with me, I don't know how we would be able to get through life's most difficult circumstances without family, without the inner circle.  People that will chauffeur you back and forth for appointment after appointment and sit there patiently the whole time.  People that do everything within their power to make your burden lighter both physically and emotionally.  People that you can wake up in the middle of the night to cry with or spill your guts to.

In my life right now, there are three such people.  My parents, Jim and Nancy, have been the unwavering lighthouses in the night.  My dad has been that quiet pillar of strength, never ceasing to give encouragement and support.  My mom has been the epitome of selfless love.  She put her life on hold for 3 weeks while I was home and has continued to show the care that I have experienced all my life.  And then there is Lindsay.  The longer we date, the more I become overwhelmed at the blessing that she is.  All she has to do is speak with her calm voice or slip her hand into mine and things seem to slow down for a second.  I can't fathom walking this road without this triangle of people.  He is near.

The Body of Christ:  The body of believers is an amazing, amazing thing.  Its true colors shine through when one of its parts faces adversity.  This is an extreme statement, but I feel quite comfortable making it:  I have NEVER, EVER felt more cared about or loved on in my entire life than I have felt the past 3 weeks.  It was overwhelming.  Cards, letters, notes, messages, voice mails, texts, packages, comments, coffee, chocolate, devotionals, pictures, meals, prayer...  they came far and near from friends, family, teammates, peers, professors, colleagues, and people that I had never even met!  Being on campus once again for my last week, I have been met with a barrage of hugs, pats on the back, smiles, and good-to-see-you's.  One can only hope that they are cared about that much, and now I know.  Wow.  So if you took part in that or even if you are just reading this for the first time, thank you.  Thank you for caring about what is going on in my life and for looking like Jesus to me and my family.  He is near.         

The One That Left Me Speechless:  The timing of this last month was quite unique.  I am a senior at Messiah College who is planning to walk across a stage in less than a week, shake President Phipps' hand, and receive concrete recognition for years of hard work.  But there was a point when I thought that wouldn't be happening.  Let's back it up.

After the blur of decisions that led me to leave school, I had been in contact with my professors about my work for the remainder of the semester.  They insisted on me not worrying about it and taking it one day at a time; the plan was to deal with it when I got back to school.  Well one week led to the next and I realized that my stay at home was not going to be a short one, so my professors showed some amazing grace and canceled all of my work for the remainder of the semester, thus removing another layer of stress from my life.  This was so helpful, yet I still had one last thing hanging over my head.  In order to receive my final three credits for my language requirement, my plan was to spend time in May and June in Philadelphia taking a class.  When it became apparent that I would be starting treatment right after school was over, that class was no longer a possibility.  It was most awful feeling to think that I was two inches from the finish line, but might not finish the race.  But He was near.  I got a voice mail from my academic advisor about the course.  Although his tone didn't sound too promising, I called back and was informed that the school had decided to completely waive that requirement due to my circumstance.  Through electives I have completed enough course work to be able to graduate on Saturday with nothing hanging over my head afterward.  I will have nothing to think about except getting better.  Literally, I was speechless.  He is near.

I will repeat it until I am blue in the face:  my God is faithful.  He is faithful and He is going to be holding my hand through this whole thing (and I imagine He will even have to carry me at times).  Of this I am confident: He is near.

Oh.  And treatment hasn't even started yet.       

Humbled,

MH