The Book I Didn’t Want To Read

jasonI’ve known Jason Micheli for about 8 years . We met accidentally when Dennis Perry blew Allison and I off for premarital counseling. We were shopping for a church and minister to marry us. We weren’t a church going couple. We had nothing against the church, in fact we wanted to have a Christian wedding ceremony.  Allison and I both grew up in mainline churches, Lutheran and Methodist respectively. But like most of our millennial peers we never returned back to the church after our time in college.

I found out Jason had cancer, lymphoma specifically, on February 6, 2015.

I received a text message early in the evening asking me if I would preach on the coming Sunday at the church we had just planted. As a seminary student, when you are asked to preach you don’t ask questions. Instead you prepare a sermon and hope that pastor doesn’t realize the mistake they’ve made.  Jason had not mentioned why he needed someone to fill in that Sunday morning. It was not until I dove into the sermon prep that I found out.

Me: Got it.  I’ll read Sunday and try to come up with a game plan.  Am I doing the w hole service of just the preaching? Either way  I am good to go, you got nothing to worry about homie.

Jason: Besides intestinal surgery and lymphoma 🙁

Me: Oh shit. Sorry man. Anything i can do?

That’s it. That is how I found out the closest person (aside from Allison, love you babe) I have to a best friend has cancer.

cancer-is-funnyThis is a book I didn’t want to read.

I pre-ordered the book when it was first available on Amazon. The plan, because I didn’t want to read the book, was to receive the book, put it on the shelf, and never read it.

Fast forward to October 2016 and Jason asked me to curate the conversation on today’s episode of Crackers & Grape Juice. I had to read the book.

I read Cancer is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage-Serious Chemo on flights to and from Indianapolis. Jason taught me early on that if you want people to leave you alone on a plane all one need to do is place a Bible on your seat tray.

It was hard for my row-mates to ignore that Bible displaying, hipster hair cut, 30-something passenger who was laughing out loud while crying. They would ask, “are you alright?” “Do you need a drink?”

I responded, “I’m OK, but I will take you up on that drink.”

This is a book I didn’t want to read.

Jason Micheli is a person who turned my world upside down. From premarital counseling, where instead of a Christian marriage book as homework he assigned Passionate Marriage (a sex book) to then entertaining my questions about ministry and ultimately helping me realize my call to ordained ministry. Jason is someone who not only turned my world upside down but also my family’s life.

The honesty with which Jason spoke to Allison and I about our marriage and the way he included both Allison and I in Camden’s baptism made Cancer is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage-Serious Chemo a book I needed to read all the while not wanting to. I knew it would be gut-wrenching and honest account on what Jason was going through. As a friend who avoided conversations with Jason about his cancer I didn’t want to read about something I had been avoiding.

Cancer is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage-Serious Chemo, just like Jason, will make you laugh and cry. At the same time, just like Jason, it will make you think deeper about the ways in which we talk about Christ, suffering, and God’s interaction with us as we are experiencing times of trouble or despair.

I didn’t know how to respond to Jason’s cancer. As I sat in bed weeping after reading Jason’s ‘coming out’ blog post I had no idea what to do. I thought running a marathon and raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society would help and it did. I raised over $2,500.00 to support research efforts. I tried praying, reading, and studying even harder in school so I could be the pastor who would know how to respond. Jason’s book is just what I needed. I needed to understand how the divine meets us in our time of need, all the while not quite in the ways we all want it to happen.

Here’s my response to Jason:

  1. You’re going to kick the shit out of whatever form of blood cancer this is.

  2. You have family and friends that will shield you from the gawkers, and allow you to keep this as private or as public as you want. Don’t let the fishbowl overwhelm you. Focus on your health and let people like me, Dennis, and Bryan deal with the gawkers.

  3. God is love, and the love you have shown to others over the years will be coming back to you ten-fold.  I am sure there will be times when you feel abandoned and alone, but it is that ever present love of God that will be shown through family, friends, and strangers.

  4. One last piece of motivation – when you beat this (and you will beat this) the mouth kisses from Andreas will end

I don’t know if the mouth kisses from Andreas have ended (I kind of hope they haven’t) but I do know responding to stage serious cancer isn’t something I will ever be comfortable doing. And I think that’s good.

Hear more about my thoughts on Jason’s new book, Cancer is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage-Serious Chemo, along with the voices of Todd Littleton, JC Herz, Tony Jones, Jeff Pugh, and Kendall Soulen on today’s episode of Crackers & Grape Juice. 


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