It’s Not the Messenger that Counts – devotion

This entry is part 4 in the series Devotions

“In my distress, O LORD, I called to you, and you answered me. From deep in the world of the dead I cried for help, and you heard me” Jonah 2:2 GNB.

Meet the messenger

Imagine the scene. Here comes Jonah, squishing along the beach. He’s covered in the stomach contents of a fish and smells of vomit. His skin and hair are bleached white from stomach acids. Seaweed drapes around his shoulders. This man has a message from God? You have to be joking! Yet amazingly, the people of Nineveh listen to this unlikely messenger. They repent and turn to God.

At the beginning of my cancer treatment, I prayed that I would continue to be a witness to others of God’s love. But toward the end of the year my thinning hair looked and felt like straw. My complexion was so pale and spotted that my sons said I was “transparent.” My eyes were sunken because I had lost so much weight. I don’t think I looked quite as bad as Jonah must have looked, but I didn’t see how God could use me. Yet surprisingly, He did.

Many people listened to what I had to say. They saw God at work in my life and asked questions about my faith. The Lord opened doors for me to write about my experiences so that others would be encouraged. 

People don't need to know me personally. I'm only the messenger. Click To Tweet

Not the Messenger

Years later I wrote about my cancer experiences in a book of meditations, Strength Renewed. Many people have contacted me to share how the Lord has spoken to them through one or more of the messages. Yet they don’t even know me. I am only the messenger.

As I’ve thought many times about the story of Jonah and his terrifying fish ride, I have seen over and over again that it is not the messenger that makes the difference—it’s the message. Often when we are at our weakest, God can use us to spread His message of love and forgiveness. 

As writers, how often do we face a writing project that seems beyond our abilities? We believe God wants us to tell a story, but we don’t have the experience. Perhaps we lack the knowledge. We feel we’re too young. Or too old. Inexperienced. Not well enough known. Whenever you feel that way, remember the story of Jonah. And remember, it’s not the messenger that makes the difference. It’s the message.


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Shirley Corder
Dunant Park,
Port Elizabeth 6001
South Africa


Everyone Knows How to Fight Cancer

This entry is part 22 in the series Victory in the Valley

Start at the beginning of the story


Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

Now read on . . .

A surprise visit

One day there was a ring at the doorbell.

“We have come to pray for Rob,” announced one of our church elders. How good that some folk had started to realize that it may be worse for the partner or care-giver. The center of attention is usually the patient.

“You know,” Rob spoke thoughtfully, after the elders left. “This probably sounds bad, but if I had to choose, I would rather be the husband. I don’t know how I would handle your diagnosis if it was mine.”

Image Anita Pepers from

I stared at him in surprise. “Funny. My reaction is the same. I am glad that if one of us had to have cancer, it is me. I don’t know how I would handle it being you.” Again, the Lord had made us a team. A team well equipped to fight cancer.

What about the Children?

What about the children? No-one ever thought to minister to my two sons, or to my daughter overseas. Sadly, nor did we.

I am sure there were many times during those dark days when they needed to be able to talk and share their deepest fears. They were young adults, but we were a close family, and their mother had cancer.

The two boys were there for us both, but who was there for them? Debbie, so far away, really grappled with the whole situation, unable to be a part of our support system, and with no real friends in a new, foreign country.

Children and teenagers who have mothers with cancer need support too. Click To Tweet

I have since spoken to mothers of young children, and heard the same sentiments expressed. “My children needed support too. Oh people were very good in taking care of them physically when it was needed, but they needed counselling. They needed to know what was happening to me.

Cancer Starts with C

There is a fabulous book written by Leticia Croft-Holguin that portrays the cancer journey in a way little ones will understand.

Here’s what I wrote my review of this book in 2013:

“Cancer Starts with Cancer Starts with C” is a beautiful book in every sense. It is written for the younger child, although I admit I enjoyed it myself!C” is a beautiful book in every sense. It is written for the younger child, although I admit I enjoyed it myself!

“The beautiful illustrations turn what could be a scary story into bedtime reading. It is a book that every child will love.

“Author Leticia Croft-Holguin received her diagnosis of aggressive cancer in her ninth month of pregnancy. She wrote this book to give parents a much-needed tool to articulate and explain the unsettling concept of cancer to their children.”

This is not a cheap book, mainly due to the glossy format and abundance of colored illustrations, but if seen as part of the cancer arsenal I believe it can be of tremendous support to young children. (You can order it here.)

Talk of Cancer and Death

“I knew people got cancer,  I just didn’t think it would ever happen to me.” This was another comment I often heard. I understood what they were saying. Shirleys don’t die!

“People don’t know how to speak to me,” was another common complaint. I have to say that this was rarely my experience. Our friends were very supportive, and, as long as I looked well, they treated me like normal. The days when I looked really bad however, they often didn’t know what to say.

Nor did they want me to talk about cancer all the time. Who can blame them? Yet I needed to talk about it. I longed to share what I was feeling and hear how others were coping. I longed for someone to compare notes with, but that was one thing my oncologist was adamant about. He didn’t believe in support groups. 

“Please don’t talk negatively,” Rob often said to me if I mentioned dying. But I wanted to talk about what I was going through, and that included the possibility of dying. Was I ready to die? I knew I wasn’t. The thought of death scared me, and yet from a spiritual point of view I felt I should be. I was a committed Christian in full-time ministry. Rob, who was so supportive in every other way, became really distressed when I brought up the subject, and so I stopped talking about it—for a while.

Much advice on how to fight cancer

“I had no idea that there were so many quack ideas about how to fight cancer!” I exploded at Rob. “It is ridiculous. Everyone I speak to seems to have a cure for the disease. Why don’t they market some of them and make a fortune?”

It was difficult to sort out truth from fiction.

How do you sort out truth from fiction in the fight against cancer? Click To Tweet

“Eat a raw potato every day to fight cancer” “. . . a whole avocado pear daily. . . ” ” . . . at least three apples a day.”

“Only drink ionized water. That is very important if you want to fight cancer.” What is ionized water anyway?

“Stay out of the sun.”  I don’t have skin cancer! / “Get plenty fresh air.” How do I get fresh air without going into the sun? I live in Africa.

“You need a lot of rest. Stay in bed as long as you can in the morning and nap in the afternoon.” / “Don’t allow yourself to get lazy. Keep active even while you fight cancer.” 

“Don’t allow your mind to dwell on cancer.” / “Focus on the need to fight cancer.”

“Drink lots of milk to build your calcium stores.” / “Avoid animal  fat. Don’t drink milk.”

“Don’t eat red meat. Eat soya products instead.” / “Don’t eat soya. It contains estrogen.”

“Take massive doses of Vitamin C every day.” And they did mean massive!

“This company knows how to cure cancer.” Right – so why doesn’t the world know this?

“Use this powder twice a day” / “Drink this mixture first thing in the morning.” / “Take these tablets before every meal.”

Every person giving me advice no doubt believed in their suggestions. They meant well, but I began to dread those words, “If you want to fight cancer, what you need to do is . . .”

A Well-known book

Someone gave me a copy of a well-known health book which included a “formula” to fight cancer. It stressed the need for the following supplementation in addition to a healthy diet –

  • Beta-carotene capsules
  • Vitamin C (4,000 mg. per day)
  • Vitamin E capsules
  • Selenium capsules
  • Multivitamin capsules
  • Multimineral tablets
  • Antioxident complex
  • GLA tablets.

Who could afford all that? In any case, I didn’t want to live on a diet of pills.

Then there were the books I “had” to read and the tapes I “needed” to listen to. These only added stress to my life as I felt under pressure to oblige. (I usually didn’t, but I then experienced unwarranted guilt.)

Then my oncologist stepped into the discussion.

These events occurred between 19 and 20 years ago. I have tried to recreate events and locations as accurately as possible, but in order to maintain their anonymity, in some instances I have changed the names and identifying characteristics of individuals and places.

Why is My Friend So Sad?

This entry is part 5 in the series Friends

Roller coaster2

Does it seem strange to you that your friend is always sad? Surely, if she’s a Christian anyway, she should be coming to terms with her diagnosis by now. 

Sadness, or even grief, is a part of the cancer roller coaster, even when the patient is still alive and perhaps doing well. Losing someone or something you love is always painful and sometimes even the thought of loss causes a deep sadness. Even if your friend is set to make a full recovery, she has lost that part of herself that is confident she “won’t ever die.” And that causes a deep sadness.

Everyone deals with grief differently. We all have different coping styles and different personalities. Our life experiences differ, as does our understanding and relationship with God. There are two things that are important for both you and your friend to understand. read more

When Your Friend Has Cancer

This entry is part 1 in the series Friends

Good friendsCancer is everywhere. If you haven’t had it yourself, chances are a close relative or friend has. Starting today, I’m going to run a series on how to help and understand people close to you that have been stricken by this dreadful disease. 

Everyone is different. We obviously can’t lump everyone into the same category and say “THIS” is how they will behave / react / feel. But my prayer is that as we work through this series together, we will all receive insight into what many go through when they hear those dreadful words, “You have cancer.” We will look at the Cancer Roller Coaster as a spectator this time, and see what it looks like from the outside. We will hopefully see new ways of coming alongside the person we love and giving them the support they so badly need. 

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Starting today, 1st September 2015, Not Necessarily a Death Sentence! Ways to support and encourage, a new post will be here every Tuesday morning 7 a.m. S.A.Time . (GMT+2) 

I’m an Unbeliever. How can I Pray?

Praying_HandsLord God,

You know I’m not sure how to pray, so I’m reading this out loud to you. I’m in trouble. Deep trouble. I feel as if I’ve lost control, and no one can really help me or understand me.

I’m scared. As you know, I’ve got cancer, and I’m afraid they can’t get it all out / I’m afraid it will come back.

I know my faith is weak, maybe it’s not really there at all. Yet I believe enough to want to ask you for help. You created me. You gave your Son, Jesus Christ, to die for me. So please will you help me to believe, really believe, in you?
read more

What Do I Do Next? ~ Thoughts from a Karen Kingsbury story

Girl readingEvery night I curl up in bed with my Kindle or a paperback book and read until I can’t keep my eyes open.

Recently I was reading Take Three, from the Above the Line Series by Karen Kingsbury. Keith, one of the main characters of the book, had just received devastating news. His life, which an hour ago was brimming with excitement and promise, seemed headed for disaster. He and his wife were alone in their living room, and the story goes like this: read more

When Should I Visit?

Afternon Slump borderIt is often difficult to know what time of the day, or even which day, to visit. You don’t want to arrive when they’ve just returned from a chemo session for example, or when they’re getting ready to go for blood tests, and are feeling anxious. They may even be struggling with their appearance, or feeling robbed of their dignity, and not want visitors at all.

I mentioned in a previous blog that I recently lost two relatives within a few months of each other. They were in fact husband and wife.

The wife became very gaunt and fragile and hated being seen that way. She didn’t want visitors apart from immediate family. Some people took exception to this and made it really awkward as they demanded to be allowed to visit–or just popped in. This caused the patient and family unnecessary stress.

The husband, a few months later, was hospitalised with aggressive cancer and there was nothing that could be done. He had a severe cough and was on continuous oxygen. Whenever he tried to speak, he broke into painful coughing, battling to breathe. He couldn’t cope with visitors who asked questions. So we had to say, “No visitors!” Despite these appeals, a number of people did come, and we were in the embarrassing situation of having to ask them to leave.

It is far better to phone the patient, or if necessary (as in both the above cases) the person closest to the patient, and ask when it will be convenient and what you can bring, if anything.

If you are asked not to visit, please accept this request. It may be temporary–or it may be for a long period. It is especially difficult if the patient is terminal. But honour their feelings. Write them a note, telling them how you care. Send them a card, with your own words, giving them a message of appreciation or encouragement. Those will be far more helpful than an unwanted visit.


When God Puts You in the Sidecar by Marcia Lee Laycock

Marcia Lee Laycock2My husband is a motorcycle enthusiast. So far he hasn’t gone out and bought one, but whenever he likes one he sees on the road he’ll point it out and say, “Nice bike,” then look at me to gauge my reaction.

We were sitting at a stoplight not long ago and a shiny motorcycle pulled up beside us. It had a sidecar attached. “There you go,” Spence said. I laughed, imagining what it would be like to ride in such a little appendage. “I think I’d rather be on the bike with you,” I said, “or better yet, on one of my own.”

Sidecars are for kids, I thought.You don’t have any control in a sidecar; you just have to hang on and try to enjoy the ride.

But now it seems God has put me in a sidecar for a time. I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer and suddenly my life is not mine to control. Doctors are telling me what will happen, when and where I will go. I don’t really want to experience any of what they’re telling me I will go through. But I have no choice. All I can do is hang on and find ways to cope with the ride.

In the book of John, Jesus tells the apostle Peter about a time when the same thing would happen to him. “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:18-19)

I don’t know exactly what lies ahead for me. I’m hopeful that this cancer can be eradicated and I’ll go on with my life, publish my next book and continue to enjoy all the blessings God has showered on me for so long. I’m praying my time in the sidecar will be short. But perhaps God has another plan. In the meantime, I take encouragement from those few words, “by which Peter would glorify God.” What happened to him was not in vain. It had a purpose.

The events of our lives all have purpose and are meant to bring glory to God. We have agency in that, by his grace and mercy – we can choose to hunker down and cling to the sidecar in fear, or we can sit tall and trust the driver. Perhaps God will give me the privilege of bringing Him glory through words of encouragement to others going through this same journey. Perhaps He’ll even allow me to continue to write about it. Or perhaps it will just be Him and me. That will be enough. Jesus is always enough.

And I’m spurred on too, by the next words Jesus spoke. “Follow me!” That’s a path Peter tried hard to take, one that changed him into a man of God, a leader of men. It’s a path that leads to “a spacious place,” (Ps. 18:19), where God’s presence is evident, to the joy that comes in understanding God’s undying love and the peace that makes us lean into the wind and relish every moment on this earth – even moments in the sidecar. “but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:18-19).

Marcia Laycock’s inspirational writing has won awards in both Canada and the U.S. Her devotionals are distributed to thousands and her novel, One Smooth Stone, won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award in 2006. Marcia is also a sought-after speaker for women’s events.   She is blogging on her experiences in the valley of cancer at Spurts.Please pay her a visit and encourage her. And of course, pray for her. It’s not an easy ride, even in a sidecar, but praise the Lord, she knows the Driver!