Have a Blessed Christmas
Deacon Chuck & Janet Lanham

A sinner tossed and lost
on a rough and angry sea
on a boat with tattered sail,
you are there to guide me.

In the shadow of your love,
the light shining off your face
forgives the soul in darkness,
and fills the soul with grace.

For long was my course,
my compass no longer true,
I lay long on pleasant shores
Where enticing winds blew.

Lord, I am yours. Forever
I will sing you are my Lord.
My soul sings, my spirit soars,
sail unfurled, heavenward.

Floating on an ocean of prayer
saved from the depths of despair
knowing you are always there
You are my God, my Savior.

In A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens begins with this marvelous refrain:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

I cannot imagine a more perfect metaphor—albeit one-hundred and sixty-four years after those words were written—for this past year. On a very personal note, this year has been indeed the best of times and the worst of times.

No one wants to be reminded of their mortality, temporal creatures made in the image and likeness of God. We are wont to forget, though, that we are embodied souls, immortal spirits destined for eternal life with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Oh, we remember the season but too often, too conveniently forget the reason for the season.

For myself: not this year. On June 19th I woke up with a wakeup call, a painful reminder so intense I could not stand up straight. I was subsequently diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer—the cancer had spread into my pelvis, sacral and thoracic spine, and rib cage. It was, in the briefest of moments, the worst of times.

God is good all the time. In my pain he gave me a host of angels to watch over and pray for me. He gave me the presence of His only Son, Jesus Christ, crucified. It is impossible to pity yourself when kneeling face-to-face with our crucified Lord and Savior. No matter how great your pain, his pain was orders of magnitude greater, his suffering unimaginably severe, his agape’, the Fatherly Love of God for us, beyond all understanding. Thus, it quickly became the best of times.

Through it all, my guardian angel, Janet, my wife of 55 years, has been my rock. Without her I might well have lost my way through all the doctors’ visits, orders, referrals, insurance issues, and lab tests save her good counsel. Then there is that host of angels, all who offered prayers and well-wishes—with cards, phone calls, hugs, and comforting conversation. Mere words cannot describe the curative power of your prayers. I have felt restored, renewed by your generosity and gifts of prayer; I truly feel as though I am “floating on an ocean of prayer.”

I can only imagine what God has felt. Perhaps, it is like the scene in the movie Bruce Almighty when Bruce is sitting before a computer screen scrolling endless pleas for help. So many prayers, he finally throws up his hands and says, “Enough already! Granted!” I am embarrassed to say, with all humility, that God has heard, and answered, all your prayers. And I thank each, and everyone, of you from the bottom of my heart. You have made this the best of times and I pray God will give you blessings seven times seventy.

I have received the most precious gift of all this Christmas, the gift of life. My latest test results, according to my oncologist, say I am in remission and can expect to experience many more Christmases to come. Some have described this as a miracle, and that may be true for God works in mysterious ways, but, if indeed a miracle, the miracle is you. And I thank God for all his precious miracles.

In September, I celebrated twelve years as a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Reno serving the parishioners of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Parish. I have been so blessed, blessed beyond words, for my precious Catholic family. I have received far more than I can ever hope to repay. You are each truly a gift of God. It has been my greatest honor to serve you at Mass, officiate at weddings and funerals, and baptize so many little ones as children of God.

I must thank Father Honesto Agustin, my pastor and dear friend. We have been through the worst of times and the best of times; with his wisdom and my foolishness we have weathered together the season of Darkness and the season of Light, the winter of despair and the spring of hope. May we share many more seasons of Light and spring’s of hope yet to come.

I thank God for the gifts of my beloved children: Cherie, Charlene, Nina, and all their children. Each, like the Magi, has come bearing gifts of love and through their unique graces renewed my spirit and showed me God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Speaking of miracles, I thank God for the miracle of new birth, new life that brings hope and joy to all. We are anticipating our first great-grandchild in February. God willing, I will be able to hold him in my arms. Four generations! God is good.

One thing I hope and trust I have come to understand over the past year is that suffering and pain, heartaches and loss, trials and tribulations are but gifts that can and will make you stronger if you look into the eyes of Christ, the Son of God, crucified. Trust in God, he will always see you through the worst of it. And on the other side, well there is always heaven.

From the very core of my being, I love you and pray you have the most blessed Christmas. With all my love and heartfelt gratitude, I am your servant in Christ,

Deacon Chuck

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