Thursday, March 24, 2016

Praise Him in the Process

Praise Him in the Process

To start, I just want to give a massive thank you to this congregation for the support and love poured out on Lauren and I. Your thoughts, cards and prayers are cherished. It’s amazing to me what good can come out of dark moments. For those of you who are unaware of what has occurred, in late October of 2015, a CT scan revealed a mass in my third ventricle which would later be diagnosed as an ependymoma (a lower grade cancer). Two brain surgeries later, I’m still here and nearly 100% recovered. God has allowed me return to full time ministry and for that I’m thankful.

Prior to and after both surgeries, I was regularly asked if I was afraid. A nurse at Harborview even asked me this, to which I responded, “there’s a verse in the bible that essentially says, to live, is to live like Jesus- to die, is to be with Jesus. Either way, I’m winning.” For me, resurrection hope changes everything. Death isn’t something to be feared for the Christian. Is it heartbreaking? Absolutely! Should we fear it? No. In the weeks leading up to my first emergent surgery, I know God had been preparing my heart for the days ahead.

Maybe we have heard someone say, “thank you Lord… it wasn’t cancer,” and we rejoice with that person. The flipside of this is also saying, “thank you Lord, it is cancer.” Cancer in and of itself is a wretched killer, with zero beneficial qualities. Cancer is just one of the natural results of humanities separation from a life giving God. This is not to say that cancer is a punishment for something we did to offend God (I’d deserve far more than cancer if that was the case!). Christ absorbed all the punishment I deserved on the Cross when he died for the sins of the world. Because of resurrection hope, we know that God can bring good out of the most hopeless situations for those who love him and are called to His redemptive purposes. Before whatever trouble comes our way, we should resolve in our hearts to say, “thank you Lord,” knowing that He will bring good from whatever he has allowed to occur. He’s completely in charge. Nothing catches him by surprise.

One of my favorite quotes is from Lesslie Newbigin. Newbigin states: “I’m neither an optimist or pessimist, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.” To me, it summarizes the heart of what we as a Resurrection Community live out. Our Lord and Savior said to his disciples in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” These statements aren’t meant to minimize our sufferings but give us resurrection perspective. Never say, “because I don’t have… [fill in the blank situation] like that person over there, I should just cheer up.” Never compare your suffering with another’s. When you do suffer though, look to Christ and say, “help me to praise you through this process.” Know that he will bring glory unto Himself through it even when the darkness surrounds us. This is a resurrection perspective that will shine resurrection hope on a dying world.

Easter Changes Everything

Easter changed everything. Prior to Easter, no one actually believed in Jesus. Ponder that for a second. He had followers who fled, but not believers. We know this from the scriptures that none of his disciples were outside the tomb with a stopwatch counting down the days to observe him rise in person. When the women showed up with spices, they came prepared to lovingly doctor a corpse the best way they knew how. No one expected Easter. Easter changed everything. Even if you think this whole Easter thing is a figment of Christians misguided imaginations, you must recognize that in the first century, the proclamation of a mans resurrection from the dead exploded across the Middle Eastern landscape. Also keep in mind that no one believed in him while his body lay in the tomb.

Easter is the highlight of the Christian calendar. I feel it gets overlooked with all the commercial pomp ascribed to Christmas and I believe we as the Church need to reclaim and celebrate it in a bigger way. Some years ago in New Zealand, I was riding my bike home from my congregations Easter celebration. Passing by a local park I discovered a group of Hindu’s celebrating color. They did this with food, festive music and dancing. It dawned on me that their celebratory joy about color, externally dwarfed what I mustered that day for the defeat of death and ultimate hope for the world. However you celebrate Easter, may it resonate in our beings that this day in time changed the world.

A man who hated and persecuted the first century resurrection community had a radical encounter with the resurrected Christ and later wrote these words:

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

The context this verse comes from is 2nd Corinthians 4. I urge you to read it after finishing this article and praise God for it. Remind yourself of its truth daily as you pray. When trials come for yourself or those you love, approach them with a resurrection perspective. As devastating as they feel now, how might you feel in 10 years about this same situation? Perhaps in 10 years it will still be heartbreaking… but what about in 10,000 years? How will we feel about our earthly trials and sorrow 10,000 years from now when we are standing next to our resurrected savior in all His glory? If you’re reading this right now, it means you’re in the same spot I am at the moment of writing. Alive. We are people in process, experiencing all the joys and sorrows this life brings. To know Jesus is to know life, life eternal. May we daily live out our resurrection hope through the strength of Christ.



Friday, February 5, 2016

Where's His Head At? Brain Update #3 with Facebook Updates and Pictures.

Greetings All,

 I’ve been quietly recovering since arriving back home one week ago today. My 5 days in the ICU were trying, but not half as bad as my first brain surgery. Lowlights included intense nausea from anesthesia and then trying to remain motionless in a MRI tube at 3 am without music, trying not to vomit all over myself. As you will see in a FB update from Lauren later on in this post, it was in fact a level 2 tumor they removed from my skull and not a parasite related cyst. The level 2 means there’s a good chance it will never come back (like the deadly level 4’s) as surgeons removed all the negative cells they could see.

 The night of my return from Harborview, January 30th, I ended up in the Port Angeles ER for head pain/pressure at about 4am. I was positive this would land me an ambulance ride to Harborview, but a timely CT scan read by my surgeon Dr. Chowdhary at Harborview showed that my ventricles were stable, I just needed to take more pain medication- something I didn’t have to do during my previous surgery. I was released just in time for lunch.

At my one week Harborview check up today (Feb 5th), Dr. Chowdhary was pleased with my progress and prescribed to me (the AMAZING) steroids used to reduce brain inflammation that I was on during my week long recovery at Harborview. Pain has been significantly reduced and I’m grateful. Prior to this I was just getting by on powerful opiates every 4 hours, not much fun. Again, Lauren and I are so thankful for all the love and prayers poured out on our behalf. I’m still shunt free and my next exam at Harborview on Feb 18th will most likely determine if a third brain surgery is necessary to put it back in. For now, my family and medical team remain optimistic that it won’t. Lauren and I will continue to praise God no matter what as he brings good from no matter what.


The Pipers

Below: Updates/Pics from FB November-January.

Nov 27, 2015

Brain Update: My sutures were removed Tuesday afternoon and my 'J' is healing nicely. Dr. Zunt thought it was probable my cyst was parasite related, but there isn't a way to know conclusively without a biopsy. He referred me to another UW specialist who specializes in removing stuff from the ventricles. Another surgery could be in the works (shortly?) if the cysts location is deemed operable. My balance and thinking is clearer and I drove for the first time on Thanksgiving in three weeks. Lauren was only marginally freaked out. Thank you all, with love from the Pipers.

December 9th, 2015

Brain Update: I was just scheduled for an MRI this Saturday at Harborview to determine if the cyst can be removed by the surgeon. With all the happenings, Lauren and I (with heavy hearts) have decided against our trip to New Zealand this Christmas break. For my beloved Kiwi’s, we will miss you and I can’t wait for you to meet my wife next Christmas if God allows it.

December 12th, 2015

Brain Update: The MRI in Seattle was postponed to Monday after spending the morning/afternoon in the ER for stabbing pain near the left kidney. What was initially thought to be stones was shown by CT scans to my catheter poking around in the area.

This fun photo is the X-Ray taken at Olympic Memorial right after I passed out in the kitchen last Saturday morning from pain. This is a 2d view, the 4 white circles on each side are ribs. The small white tube going across the middle of the picture is the catheter from my brain having its way with my organs on the right. Lauren and I await the results of last nights MRI in Seattle as to whether a specialist can remove the cyst in my third ventricle.

Dec. 22nd, 2015

Brain Update: Specialist Dr. Ellenbogen reviewed my MRI with my shunt surgeon and they decided against another surgery for now. We will know more on January 8th when we follow up at Harborview with my shunt surgeon, Dr. Chowdhary.

January 8th

Brain Update: Quite the unexpected day at Harborview for Lauren and I with my shunt surgeon. The MRI from Dec. 14th revealed that my shunt was successful in draining spinal fluid causing excessive pressure. A fantastic byproduct of this drainage was that the cyst relocated to a less dangerous patch of real estate in my brain. Because of this development, a second brain surgery has been scheduled for Monday, January 25th with pre-op stuff on Friday and Saturday in Seattle. If successful, the cyst and my ventricle plumbing will be removed. What a ride. Continually praising a good and sovereign God no matter what the outcome.

Jan 23rd
The sunset last night. Heading back to Harborview this morning for an MRI in prep for surgery Monday

Jan 25th

Update on David: Brain surgery #2 was successful! They were able to remove both the cyst and the shunt. He had a bit of bleeding towards the end of surgery so he might have a little longer recovery than anticipated. They sent the cyst off to pathology and we should know what it is in about 5 days. Thank you all so much for your love and prayers! So thankful for how the Lord has held us through all of this. The journey is not over, please keep praying. No matter what circumstances we face or what the outcome may be, God is good all the time.

Jan 27th

Brain Update: Please pray my natural plumbing begins to work on its own tomorrow when testing begins. 25% of cases like mine fail and the shunt has to be surgically reinstalled after being taken out because normal brain flow never returns. I'm not sleeping all that well here in the ICU and if all goes well tomorrow, I could be in my own bed at home as early as Friday night (that would be a huge win!). Thank you for the love+prayer coverage over Lauren and I.

January 29th

Thank you all for your prayers that were heard by our loving Father. I've been officially discharged from Harborview with follow up and recovery plans.

Jan 29th

David update from Lauren:
We are home

His natural brain plumbing passed the test! They took out his drain this morning... as you might have already seen 😮
We got the pathology report last night... it was not a parasite. It was actually a grade 2 ependymoma tumor... which is considered cancerous, BUT has been completely removed. Because of this type of tumor's nature, it has a 20% chance of recurrence, and another one could manifest in his brain or spinal cord at any time- BUT they tend to be slow growing and he will be having frequent scans. An MRI of his spinal cord was taken to check for other tumors, and none were seen at this time.

He's been scheduled with a neuro-oncology doctor to further discuss his prognosis, but it looks as if it's all gone and he will just have to have periodic scans for the rest of his life. Whatever the case, we are thanking God and asking Him to use this for tons of good. There's so much freedom in Christ, friends. His perfect love drives out fear. Thank you for how you've loved and prayed- we so appreciate it.
Finding it difficult to keep this update at a reasonable length...Here is a helpful link on frequently asked questions about ependymomas.
We love you all so much

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Where's His Head At? #2


I just wanted to say thank you all for the beautiful cards, prayers and well wishes. Lauren and I are so thankful for the incredible support the community has been. On Monday of this week we found out that the 6x6x8mm (pea sized) nodule is actually a benign cyst in my third ventricle according to a specialist in Sequim. This coming Tuesday, my sutures will be removed in Seattle and I will meet with Dr. Joseph Zunt, a leading expert in the world on parasites in the brain. There’s nothing conclusive for now as to how that cyst got up there in the first place, but considering my travels I could have picked something up in the food along the way. At the end of the day, health and wealth was never promised to me. To paraphrase Jesus, he said that in this world we would have troubles, but that the believer has hope in His overcoming the world and death itself. My confidence is ultimately placed in a good God that allowed this, seeing a good outcome for what has happened.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Where’s His Head At?

For the last few weeks I’ve had that 90’s commercial “this is your brain on drugs…”, on my mind. When the doc shows you a CT scan of your compressed brains expanded ventricles with 3x as much fluid in your skull as should be there, I couldn’t help thinking, “that’s my brain on a cyst.” 6 days in the neuro ICU, 3 CT scans, 2 MRI’s, 1 ECHO, EKG, and ultrasound later, I was released from Harborview into the hands of loving family. The days leading up to this week were curious.

The Spiritual/Physical Road to Friday, October 30th

This summer was a packed one. It flew by and a lot of great and hard things occurred. I didn’t even realize that the spiritual/emotional toll on my body had been tremendous. Even after an incredible stay in Kona with my cousins, I was still tired. Daily reading the bible and even praying proved difficult. When the student’s school year started in September, I hardly felt ready- still focusing on what I saw as personal shortcomings in ministry. Somehow, at some point, my eyes shifted from God’s Kingdom to David Piper’s. It would take some weeks (if not longer) to realize what had happened and why my passion had all but disappeared. Let’s just say I’m so thankful for a courageous wife and long time mentor that both love the Lord and myself. God had already done surgery on my heart by the time I preached on Psalm 2 at DCC on October 11th, and I was excited for the future. As my joy in the Lord was renewed, so did the passion for building His Kingdom.  

In the two+ months leading up to Harborview, I began getting dizzy spells nearly every time I stood up… that or temporarily losing vision. I mean, I would get up from my office chair and say hello to you because I knew you were there in the doorway, but I was seeing double or even nothing at all. It took a while to really notice it and even longer to stop dismissing it as something life or sleep related. When I went in to get a few warts frozen (gross, sorry) I began to share that with my doctor who gave me some advice to follow regarding what he thought it was. The following Monday (10/26) when I came back in after following his instructions and still having the same symptoms, I asked for a CT scan after sharing the Christian gospel. He agreed and my slot was booked in for Friday morning.

During the time leading up to the initial scan, I truly feel like I was being prepared for its results. On Tuesday I got to share about the then confidential CT scan with an elder at DCC who prayed for me. Wednesday saw me share with a medically trained colleague about my lighthearted “plans” to quit my job and go into full time evangelism if I had something truly insidious on my brain.  On my Thursday off that week, I ran into a beloved family friend and cancer patient who I had been meaning to spend time with for months at SARC. We ended up spending the day together where I had a glimpse of what life could look like. Before Friday had even arrived, I knew that whatever its outcome, I was going to thank the sovereign creator of the earth for His plans in my life. When I got out of the multi-million dollar CT machine on Friday for the first time in Sequim, the radiologist didn’t let anything on. I went home unsure of what to check next, half-kicking myself for being such an alarmist.

When the phone rang around 4pm that day with an energized nurse telling me I needed to head either straight to the ER at Olympic Memorial Hospital or Harborview as there was a 6x6x8mm mass in my brain, it was almost a relief. The same nurse that broke the news to Lauren, told her that she didn’t understand how I was still functioning with all that pressure on my brain.

That first night was a long one. It came complete with an undesired (but required) ambulance ride from Olympic Memorial to Harborview, a ride that let me share Jesus to support crew. *Just a side note, but when you have a mass in your brain, you do no waiting in line of any kind. That was a nice bonus*. For the next few days I had visitors, watched Allblacks rugby and Seahawks football as nurses/doctors poked and prodded me. Later on Sunday the surgery was scheduled and it was then for the first time that night that I got a little emotional as I held Lauren in my hospital bed. On Monday afternoon I underwent the shunt surgery that would see a permanent pump installed into one of my ventricles with the tube leading into the ‘open space’ in my abdomen. The surgeons noted my tremendous brain pressure, but the relatively short surgery was a success. I was talking again that night and walking by morning.

Above: Fresh out of surgery, still under anesthesia.

Above: A little out of it.


Tuesday morning came around and I felt fantastic. I was mentally alert and almost ‘all there’. With a plate of bacon and sausage in front of me, I felt ready to tackle anything. I knew a nurse had just given me strong painkillers so I made a welcome video for my wonderful parents/brother in law who would be in shortly, just in case I got weird. And weird I got…

I was initially doing so well my discharge orders were all but completed. I started not feeling so hot around lunchtime and by the early afternoon I collapsed walking in the hallway at the ICU next to my wife who helped assist my limp body to the ground. Waking up on the ground completely disillusioned and surrounded by doctors (a second for me in this lifetime), they proceeded to do emergency checks on my body with an additional MRI and CT scan. I thought this might have been my last day on earth as the color left my body and it felt as if my heart/body was actually shutting down. Medicated yet awake, I remember being confused. How could some of the things spoken over my life come true if this was it? Maybe I had heard wrong? I told my family I loved them and then asked God to make it quick if this was the plan. It was a dark night.


Waking Wednesday morning, my nurse told me I looked like “death warmed over,” the previous night and I saw the emotional toll the evening had taken on those who were with me. Wednesday saw more tests that proved inconclusive, but my vitals were stable and I felt stable. Sleeping in the ICU with all of its bells and whistles going off is quite the task. When I did   finally get to sleep I had a drug induced nightmare that saw me jump out of my bed like a crazy person and made a start towards the door to “get help.” Lauren was able to calm me as I realized it was just a dream. I got back into bed but didn’t sleep. On Thursday night I was discharged after I was able to walk with my walker around the halls without passing out (like a big boy). My dad drove me home in his big comfy Lincoln that night with my mom and wife. That first shower in a week before climbing into my own bed was absolutely incredible.


 Today I’m able to walk around the house unaided and communicate nearly all that’s on my mind. Reading has been difficult, but listening to and discovering new music that honors Christ has been soothing. The ‘fog’ that I have been in has receded some (much like my hairline) but I’m still not out of the woods, so to speak. On Tuesday, we were close to heading back to the ER as I was having great pains near the surgical site in my abdomen after being pain free for the previous two days. Now (Friday) the pain is minor and I look forward to the day when I can get back to work. I still operate in slow motion and my balance isn’t the best, but overall I feel much better. I’ve also been the recipient of your tremendous love. The outpouring you gave was overwhelming. Thank you.

 Above: Thursday was a good day.


On November 24th, the surgeon in Seattle will remove the sutures and I will also meet with the world’s expert on parasites in the brain. Doctors looking at my CT/MRI scans said what’s in me could either be a cyst or a benign tumor... it’s inconclusive as of now. A possible theory is that at one point I had a parasite that left a slow growing cyst in my brain. These creatures aren’t normally found in the United States, but because of my travels, it's plausible I could have had one at some point (I've been very sick from food poisoning in Cambodia, Guatemala and Fiji). Whatever the outcome, there is still Kingdom work for me to do on earth and I look forward to returning to wider society to proclaim that God, revealed in Jesus, is LOVE- despite there being natural and moral evil(s) that occur on Earth. I firmly believe that God uses everything in the believer’s life for good, regardless if it is seen in their own lifetime. 


The night before surgery, Lauren and I repeatedly watched the video below. Music has really helped the healing process.