Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Posts tagged ‘Cancer’

Teachers, by Mary Eady

Earlier today I revisited a fantastic blog site – “Merlot Mudpies.” (, hosted by Mary Eady.  She’s quite the writer.  What drew me to her site initially was her blog about the cancer-death of her mom.  It’s a great article, one I highly recommend if you want “an eternal perspective.”

Today I’ve posted the article quoted here, along with one of her pictures (with her permission, by the way).  I’m copying her to this site to expose her insights to a larger audience … well, at least one that’s growing.Picture by Mary Eady

Read, and think about it.

Barry, one of my fellow gardeners, reminds me a lot of one of my old teachers, Mr. O’Hagan.  Mr. O’Hagan wouldn’t give you answers.  But he asked you questions that led you to them.  He would not tell you how to do things, but he’d guide you through your own thought process until you got there.  He didn’t gush at his students, but with a well placed word he made you feel 10 feet tall.

This whole experience of getting my plots at Ivey Ranch has been intimidating from the get-go in its way.  As I’ve said before, I’m a renown black thumb in my family.  My mother-in-law and I used to giggle about my “dried herb garden” — my attempt at growing an herb garden in a strawberry pot that I’d seen on TV.  It was dead within the month.  Not just one of the plants I planted.  All of them. I don’t buy houseplants for this very reason.  No matter how sweet they look in the store, they turn into a brown, depressing mess the second they enter my domain.

But this seems to have changed somehow in the past few months.  Maybe it’s just that I finally get the wonder of it all.  I finally understand those people who stop and smell the roses, pet the alyssum, and admire the inside of an iris for minutes on end.  It really is, in a word, glorious.  Creation is happening all around us still — no longer perfect but still stupendous, brave, and amazing when you stop to consider it all.

My husband, Ryan, is a tolerant man.  He helps me cart my 20 tomato seedlings back and forth from the apartment courtyard every day and doesn’t complain about them all sitting on our laundry hamper in the evenings where it’s warm next to a little lamp.  He smiles about my avocado seed which I couldn’t bring myself to throw away and is now sprouting in a glass of water in the kitchen on the sill next to a six-pack of okra seedlings and a six-pack of cranberry bush bean seedlings I’m hoping will start soon.  He doesn’t say a word about the strawberries I have sprouting on one side of the kitchen sink.  Maybe he understands how the newness and awe is so important to me now.  I think he does.  He’s that sweet kind of man.

However, all of this does not mean I know what I’m doing at all.  When I find bugs I rack my brain trying to decide if they are good or the kind I should consider killing.  When I see things sprouting in my garden I didn’t plant I let them go for a few days until I’m positive they are weed-like and not veggie-like.  This sometimes takes a few weeks for me to figure out. I even grabbed a handful of nettle one day and stung myself with it to a ridiculous degree because I thought it was mint.  You get my drift?

But Barry just stands there and smiles at me while he pounds in rebar and trims his beautiful beet greens.  He asks me things when I come to him with questions instead of answering me.  He says things like, “Well now — where did you think you’d go with it?” or “So tell me then…what did you have in mind?”  Then he listens and encourages and leaves me to my own devices.

Today we talked as I walked Eamonn (Mary’s young son) through the plots looking at plants, lizards and flowers.  “Look at what your neighbors did, Barry!” I cried, staring at a freshly tilled and composted plot that had been overgrown with weeds last week.  “Yeah…people are gettin’ the bug to work hard around here.  Maybe they feel like trying to garden like you, figured a little hard work wasn’t going to hurt anybody.  You’re inspiring people girl.”  I sputtered and blushed and didn’t know what to say.

Later on he told me, “I’ve been coming and checking on this plot of yours and I’d say you figured out you know what you’re doing!”  I beamed from my tomatoes and peppers and squash.

How do people learn this trait of building up instead of tearing down?  Of guiding instead of directing?  I’m sure I don’t know but I love it when I see it in action and feel blessed when I’m the recipient of it.  I hope to model the way I interact with Eamonn, Ella and others who come across my path with that gentleness and insight.

Today I left Ivey Ranch feeling 10 feet tall.


April 2008 Update – Dancing With The Healer

Vicki QuallsFor all those who have been following the progress of my writing “The Vicki Book,” I have some news.  I’m really close to finishing the “creative stage” of the process.  Soon I’ll be entering the dreaded “editing stage,” where everything I’ve written is on the block.

I’d like to ask my blog readers for some input.  Please comment on the process I’m going to outline below – one that I believe I’ll follow in order to bring the book-writing to its proper conclusion.

Before I share that process I want to thank Caroline Eitzen-Cocciardi AGAIN for her encouragement to “stay in your creative mind, Lowell,” and not give in to the temptation to constantly go back to what I had already written and edit it (which I had done, time and again until she gave me her wise counsel).

I shared last month that my goal was to have the manuscript done before I went on vacation to Maui.  I didn’t make it.  Plain and simple.  But the goal helped push me like never before.  Now, I’ve set another goal – one that I think I will make.  I’m working on the last 75 pages of Vicki’s journal.  I’ve been able to do about 10 a day (on a good day).  Given that, I’m inside two weeks of coming to the end of the creative stage.  Then, I’ll read the manuscript from start to finish, trying to find any grammar/spelling mistakes, typos, and breakdowns in the flow of the story.  That’s probably another week or two.  Then, the gutsy part.

My intention is to share the manuscript with several close friends who have a writer’s background.  Some are published authors.  Others are journalism majors and masters.  One or two of my pastor-buddies will be asked to look over the theological content, and a few readers will be people who lived through much of what Vicki wrote about – family and friends.  I’ll be asking all these folks if they would evaluate my style, the flow of the story/book, and its content.


Like I said at the start, anyone out there in the internet world is welcome to comment on the process I’ve outlined above.

And for those who have been praying for me and the book … please continue to do so.  I’ve seen that when I’VE been in prayer and close communion with the Lord, the process of writing the book becomes mystical and supernatural, and in turn, I’m able to produce much more than normally possible.

I could use some encouragement right now.  I’m tired.  I feel emotionally spent at the end of every day.  Thank God for Becky!  She’s been such a supporter and helper.  I can’t think of a day when she hasn’t been there for me.  But most of the time she’s been a single (lone) voice.  Is there anyone out there who could join her?

Well, back to writing the book.

By the way, the blogging has rarely (I can’t say never) interrupted my writing the book.  Actually, blogging has served to break tension, relieve emotions, and strangely – rest my mind.  Blogging has been like having a conversation with a friend who’s only purpose has been to listen as I vent or wade through issues that distract me.

Love to all.

Dancing with Patrick Swayze

I’m praying for Patrick Swayze, and not because it might be the hip thing to do, or the right thing to say.  I’m really praying for him. 

Swayze has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  It’s fast and its deadly, and having gone through a cancer battle with my late wife, I know just a little about how that diagnosis can rock your world.

swayze-ghostx-large.jpgI feel like I know him.  Some of the movies Swayze starred in are among my favorites:  Red Dawn, Dirty Dancing, Road House, Ghost, and Point Break.

Patrick, this is my prayer for you … or something like it:

“Lord Jesus, if You speak the word, Patrick will be healed.  I’m asking You to do just that … speak the word that Patrick is free and clear of cancer, and that You are giving him a life extension.  And in the process of healing him, let Patrick know – if he doesn’t already – that he not only needs You to heal his disease but that he also needs a ‘Savior.’  The biggest ‘cancer’ we, the human race have, is sin, and You died on the Cross to pay our sin debt.  Let Patrick come to believe that You are who You say You are, and that He can trust You.  And I’m also praying, Lord, for his wife – Lisa.  Lord Jesus, draw her into Your arms like a loving father would lift up a child after she has fallen down.  And please do all this because we’re asking, and You said we could … in Your name.  Amen.”

“Pain Can Be My Friend” (an excerpt from Dancing With The Healer)


Pain takes a mighty toll on our spirit.  Pain is more than a physical phenomenon, but is somehow tied to every part of our being.  Having done carpentry (not well) many times, I believe I’m an expert of sorts.  Instead of driving a 16 penny nail into the wood, I’ve pounded my thumb nail with the hammer.  My thumb nail was physically damaged, but the pain went from my head to my toes, disabling my mind.  Time stood still.

The great English philosopher C. S. Lewis wrote a book entitled The Problem Of Pain.  Lewis poses the following argument from the beginning of the book:  “‘If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished.  But the creatures are not happy.  Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.’  This is the problem of pain, in its simplest form.”

Pain will make you question whether or not God is good.  Pain will cause you to question His love for mankind.

Lewis tackles the problem of pain by pointing out that because God is good and powerful, He gave mankind the gift of choice – and man’s choices open the door to pain.  Only a Being that is almighty can GIVE such a gift, and only a loving Being would think to give the gift of choice – that is, freedom to act on one’s perceived best interests in one’s own way.

Lewis spends much of the book addresses choice, goodness, love, power and ultimately pain.  In speaking about God’s goodness he states, “Any consideration of the goodness of God at once threatens us with the following dilemma.  On the one hand, if God is wiser than we His judgment must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil.  What seems to us good many therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to be evil may not be evil.”

That is an arresting idea.  The Bible puts it this way:  “His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.”  He and we are “other.”  Contrary to the ancient Eastern mystics, Joseph Smith, and more modern New Age thinkers, what He is we are not, nor can we become what He is … if God is the God that is revealed in the Bible.  If you have come to believe that the Bible’s God is not God, then you may wish to read another book besides this one, because Vicki and I firmly believe that THE God is the God of the Old and New Testaments.

And so we believe that this biblical God is wiser than we are, more loving than we are, and “other” than we are.  He is transcendent – beyond us.

C. S. Lewis arrives at this conclusion after examining the nature of THE God, and taking the reader logically through the arguments that He is good and almighty:  Pain rouses us to understand that “all is not well,” but there is One who invades our painful existence will “healing in His wings,” and rescues us from the consequences of our unwise choices, and the fact that because of choice, the planet on which we live is fallen.  The conclusion of Lewis, and the concluding statements of the Bible lead us to this truth:  Pain will not be done away with on Earth, but in Heaven.  So Paul writes, “ … the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us” when we cross the threshold of Heaven, and come, literally into the presence of the Almighty.

Here, and now, we have pain.  Then, and there, we will not be in pain – not in His presence.  That is a Christian belief, and is so because it is Christ-centered.  Jesus said, “‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.’

“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?’  [And] Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”[1]

The “Father’s House” and “the place” that is being prepared for us is Heaven, and there is no sickness, disease, pain, sin, or evil there.

Pain will make you forget about the promise of Heaven.  Pain reveals weakness, and shows us gaps in our faith.  As I’ve said before, anyone can have “faith” when everything is going great.  It’s when the going gets tough that our faith, weak or strong, is revealed to US.  We come to know where we are on the faith scale.  God already knows, and He’ll allow pain to inform us of what He already knows.

Pain is also a tool, or weapon, that God’s enemy – Satan – uses to serve his purpose, and that is, to separate us from God.  He hopes that we will turn our pain into anger, and our anger into distance from God.  Satan’s greatest tactic for building a wall of separation between us and God is the lie that God withholds good things from us.  Satan used that ploy in the garden, when it came to “the knowledge of good and evil” that could be acquired by eating God-forbidden fruit, and he uses pain to convince us that God is still holding out on us – this time, comfort and healing.

It’s important, then, to note that Vicki did something brilliant, and different than most, when she turned her pain-filled anger toward the cancer and Satan.  In Vicki’s case, Satan’s ploy backfired.  Vicki didn’t turn away from God, but toward Him.  As she said on different occasions, “Pain can be my friend.”


[1] John 14:1-6

Under No Delusions


When I’m involved in a writing project, or preparing for a speaking engagement, I’ll try to find time to do a very worthwhile psychological and spiritual exercise.  I’ll do “a personal gut check.”  Because I want my motives for doing what I do to be as pure as they can be, I want to determine what’s going on in my heart.

This idea of the personal gut check comes to us from Ancient Greece.  According to Pausanias, the following aphorism (short, pithy truthful saying) was inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and this aphorism is attributed to at least six ancient Greek sages (but the one I lean toward is Socrates).  It says:  “Know yourself” (Greek: γνωθι σεαυτόν).   In Latin, the aphorism is generally given as nosce te ipsum.

In a discussion of moderation and self-awareness, the Roman poet Juvenal quotes the phrase in Greek, and states that the precept descended de caelo (from heaven) (Satire 11.27).  I think it’s a heavenly idea, too.  I think God wants us to engage in self-examination from time to time.  In fact, in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul wrote that we should “examine” ourselves before we take Communion.

The saying “Know thyself” may refer by extension to the ideal of understanding human behavior, morals, and thought, because ultimately to understand oneself is to understand other humans as well.  However, the ancient Greek philosophers thought that no man can ever comprehend the human spirit and thought thoroughly, so it would have been almost inconceivable to know oneself fully.  Therefore, the saying may refer to a less ambitious ideal, such as knowing one’s own habits, morals, temperament, ability to control anger, and other aspects of human behavior that we struggle with on a daily basis.

One year ago I was sitting on Alii Kahekili Nui Ahumonu Beach, near Kaanapali.  You can see why most of the non-Hawaiian locals call it Airport Beach.  Alii is a beautiful stretch of sand on the island paradise of Maui, and while I was sunning I was reading The Problem of Pain, by C. S. Lewis.  

I was doing some research for the book I’m writing (“Dancing With the Healer;” see DWTH references in this blogsite), and that day I was comparing my writing with that of Lewis’.  I did some self-examination – a personal gut check that I referred to earlier.  Was I setting out to write a best seller, or produce a work that would elevate me in the eyes of people?  Was I writing for money?

That why I wrote the following in the flyleaf of Lewis’ book:

I’m under no illusions.  What I have written so far is not profound.  You want profound?  Read C. S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed or Kurtz and Ketcham’s The Spirituality of Imperfection.

What I have written is a story, told by an average storyteller.  My preferred style of storytelling is verbal, but because I’m producing a book I’ve tried my best to write like I talk.  

Because I try to keep my audience with me when I’m speaking, I pause from time to time so those listening can catch up.  How do you do that – pause for effect – when you’re writing.  Ah!  I’ll adopt a style, well-spoken of or not, that will cause the reader to hesitate for just a moment so I can catch my breath.  I’ll use ellipses … those magical three dots that allow the reader to take a break, mid-thought.

What I like about writing stories as opposed to telling/talking a story is the opportunity to rewrite.  A rewrite is an author’s “do over.”  It allows the writer to edit, to clarify, and to amplify his thoughts.

The goal of the storyteller, I am told, is to engage the listener, or reader in the case of a book, and hold their attention until they “get it,” that is, they GET what you’re trying to say.  I want my readers to understand, to grasp my meaning.

But here’s the rub:  no reader can fully understand the writer’s meaning.  Not fully.  That’s true in the case of Dancing With the Healer.  I’m endeavoring to tell two stories, actually – my story and Vicki’s story.  Our stories interwoven.  And both stories are complex.

Vicki died.  She’s gone “to be with the Lord.”  She can’t tell her story verbally, except in bits and pieces via a few MP3s, CDs, and DVDs.  And yet she left behind some remarkable “things” that help her tell her story.  These things are proof that she truly (and fully) LIVED.  

Brandon and Chris, our sons, are proof that she lived and loved.  And then there are photos, and friendships.  And there’s me – a man changed and enriched by her life and love.  

And there are five little booklets.  Journals.  Beginning in 1982, Vicki faithfully recorded her experiences, thoughts, and prayers.  Her journals are very intimate, and they are proof that she truly lived.

Vicki eventually decided that she wanted her journals shared.  In 1982 she didn’t write for anyone but herself, but as her life was coming to a close she and I talked about not only sharing her thoughts and experiences with our family, but with friends … and then with anyone who would care to hear what she had to say.  

My role, as storyteller, is to stay true to the promise that I made to Vicki in the Winter of 2002.  She asked me to help make sharing her journals possible.  She asked me to “fill in the blanks,” comment on the context of her journal entries, and put it all into a readable format.

Humbly, I’m trying to keep that promise.  I’m doing my best.  I’m trying to tell the story … our stories … as honestly and transparently as I can.  If anyone chooses to read Dancing With the Healer, my hope is they come away from the reading sometimes challenged, sometimes refreshed, and always a little closer to God.

Why I’m Writing DWTH

 DancingWithTheHealer Websitevic-jazz-lawn.jpg

I have been a pastor, or engaged in some form of specialized ministry since 1971, so when I let everyone know I was going to resign from Trinity Assembly of God in 2005, it caught my family and friends off guard.

“What will you do, and where will you do it?” were the questions I heard most often, and my answer was, “I’m going to sell my home, move to Hawaii, write a very special book, and find time to write some articles for pastoral trade journals.”

Not many had a problem with the idea of me moving to Hawaii, and several put in the common request when someone announces their intention to move to paradise: “Need any help?” When I said to one guy, “Yeah, you can help me get my house in shape so I can put it on the market,” he smiled and walked away laughing. “Qualls, you’re such a tease.” But I wasn’t kiddin’.

My plan after leaving TAG was to use my savings and the proceeds from the sale of my house to cover what minimal expenses I would encounter. I didn’t know how long my cache would last, but I figured that when my funds decreased to a certain level I’d seek employment, somewhere. By that time I hoped to have the bulk of the book finished.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Minimal expenses! On Maui? Is he nuts? He’s moving to Maui for crying out loud!” Then I’d explain that my sister Claudette, and her husband Gene, had graciously invited me to come live – rent free – with them for a while. They had a lovely home on the island, overlooking Kahana and Napili bays. When you looked north from their lanai you could see the fairways and greens of Kapalua. Looking south you could make out the high rise condos of the Kaanapali resort village. Their home was also a stone’s throw from where my oldest son, Brandon, lived … and seven thousand miles closer to my other son, Chris, who was living in China. I could walk to the beach, or drive a short distance to play some of the best golf courses on the planet. Not bad, eh?

Now I ask you, who couldn’t write in a setting like that?

After nodding in approval (and trying to veil their jealousy), next I was asked, “Why are you writing this book?” Knowing that I had never been published, and being polite, my kith and kin were concerned about it’s “emotional nature,” and that I’d have no regular salary.

I’d explain my strategy for dealing with the financial issues, and then tackle the trickiness of the book question. I was as honest as I could be, in hindsight. I gave several reasons for writing it in the order that I was feeling at the time.

My first response early on was, “I made a promise to Vic, and I’m going to keep it.” That is still my first reason for writing. It is a book born out of the deepest kind of love between a man and a woman. It is truly a labor of love, and mirrors the commitments to Vicki I kept throughout our marriage.

Next I’d say that I want to provide our sons and progeny a record of a wonderful life. I want my sons to know their mother in a more intimate way, to better under-stand her earthly priorities, and to read about her dreams for and about them. I want my sons’ wives to “know” their mother-in-law. I also want her grandchildren to have something to hold that was “hers.”

These first two reasons for writing have not changed.

The first two objectives are personal and familial. The last intention can be distilled to this: I hope to inspire.

I know there will be people picking up a copy of this book who are looking for answers to serious questions about the immaterial part of battling a terminal illness. I’ll share what I’ve learned while observing an extraordinary woman dance her way through tumultuous times. I have some strong opinions. I’ll be candid. And I hope Vicki’s sincerity and frankness will inspire you to dance with The Healer, too, understanding there are treatments even the most skilled surgeons can’t provide unless they understand the spiritual dynamics of dealing with disease.

I hope to inspire couples with dysfunctional marriages to find healing in their home. After reading our story, I believe couples headed toward marital breakup will be encouraged to seek out a solution. Marital discord is so much like cancer. Such discord eats away at the core of a relationship until something dies in the soul of one or both partners. Depression soon robs the relationship of its vitality. But there’s hope!

I hope to inspire the spiritually curious to investigate the life and teachings of Jesus, maybe for


 a second time. If you haven’t taken a good look at Him lately, I think you’ll see Him activity at work in our life-story. Then I hope you’ll become fascinated.

I hope to inspire pastors, who most often live lives of quiet desperation, to develop meaningful collegial relationships. My father used to say, “The banana that gets separated from the bunch gets skinned!” That was his way to saying, “There is no way we, especially in the ministry, can go it alone.” I feel very strongly that “going it alone” in ministry is a sure-fire way of setting yourself up for trouble. And because I’m one of you, I think I get most (at least many) of concerns pastors and ministers have. I think I understand the fear of betrayal that develops in our hearts in proportion to the closeness of the relationship, whether it be peer or professional. I think I understand the root of many pastoral stressors that causes our occasional depressions to look Goliath-like. For the most part I get the nature of ministry, with its blindsides, hostilities, and threats. Been there. So, I’m writing for pastors.

I also hope to help and then inspire, coincidentally, those who have been spiritually abused by a few popular pastors and Christian “teachers.” Religious abuse happens. It can be sexual or psychological. Every kind of abuse certainly is spiritual.

Not everything that comes our way through Christian media outlets or from Christian bookstores is from the throne room of God. Some of the stuff desperate people are exposed to in times of unbelievable difficulty is whimsical, faddish, or heretical. There’s a lot of confused and anxious people in the Church of Jesus Christ buying in to some really goofy teachings that further muddle innocent minds.

I’m sharing our story so that vulnerable believers will have another point of view because many Christ-followers are told they are sick, diseased, going through trials, or financially wanting because they lack faith, that there’s sin in their life, they let some stray thought become a confession, or God is hacked off at them for only-He-knows why. So I’m writing for those who need to hear something biblical that doesn’t need to be dug out of the Scriptures by a prophet who has a special revelation, but can be discovered by any truth seeker.

I’m writing to inspire hope.

May God help me.

A Time To Dance, by Joan Rhoden

hp_scands_672419202815.jpgThis article appeared in the Pentecostal Evangel magazine on Mother’s Day, May of 2001 (  Joan Rhoden lives in Richmond, Virginia, and is the wife of former District Superintendent, Dr. H. Robert (“Bob”) Rhoden.   Joan and Bob have been my friends from 25 years, and Joan wrote this article shortly after Vicki, my wife, was dramatically healed of ovarian cancer.

Come on, Vicki, dance with Me.

These were strange words for a Pentecostal pastor’s wife to hear. Born and reared in a traditional Assemblies of God family, Vicki Qualls was not exactly savvy to ballroom etiquette. She laughed out loud as she sensed in her spirit that God was speaking and wanted to take the lead.

But I’m getting a little ahead of my story.

In October 1998, after what was supposed to be a routine surgical procedure, it was discovered that Vicki had cancer. The type of cancer was determined to be uterine and ovarian and very aggressive. A complete hysterectomy was performed, followed by six months of precautionary chemotherapy. By all appearances it was successful. Vicki was pronounced cancer-free.

But a peculiar pain surfaced in April 2000, gnawing away at her side and back. This time a CT scan revealed a mass attached to a muscle in her back and wrapped around her aorta. It was deemed inoperable because of its location and hemorrhaging potential. The news wasn’t as shocking as the first time, but it was certainly more devastating. So much so that it literally bowled Vicki over — she fainted. “I didn’t know that happened in real life,” says Vicki. “I thought that only happened in Southern novels.”

The joking quickly vanished as Vicki and her husband, Lowell, went home to wrestle with God over what action to pursue. What does faith require? Doing nothing and expecting God to take over? Or exhausting all human options and then watching God step in? After much prayer and research, the Quallses opted for an extreme nutritional plan as well as a new, mild form of chemo with fewer side effects.

At this point, Vicki became enveloped in an unexplainable blanket of joy and peace. She talked to her church family at Trinity Assembly of God in Richmond, Va., explaining what was happening to her. Then, again, at the Potomac District Ministers Institute, she addressed her colleagues with a message of hope that whether she was healed or not, God would be glorified and people drawn to Him. She thanked her peers for passionately praying for her healing. “But whether I live or die,” she assured them, “I win. My future is secure in heaven.” She urged them to pray with equal passion for unsaved friends whose eternal destinies weren’t secure.

As she suffered during lonely days and nights, a new friendship with Jesus emerged. It was while Vicki walked and talked with her Friend that the “dance with Me” invitation came. It also dawned on her that God had prepared her for this trial.

Seven years earlier, in 1991, she had penned a curious journal entry. She was attending a Women’s Ministries Getaway and heard Marigold Cheshier’s vibrant testimony of her healing from cancer. The atmosphere was charged with faith. When she returned to her room, Vicki wrote: “I’m tired of being ordinary … I long for God’s power to work in me and through me to touch others.” Then she wrote about a strange foreboding that swept over her. She felt that God was going to allow her to deal with a personal tragedy — maybe even cancer. Whatever happened, it would be all right. “Pain could be my friend,” she wrote.

The seven years between the journal entry and her illness were laden with other challenges. Her sons, Brandon and Chris, went through some teen-age prodigal years. But they both returned to the Lord, are filled with the Spirit and alive with faith today. Her husband battled a debilitating siege of depression for 18 months.

So God had been at work, time and again proving himself trustworthy. Vicki let God take the lead.

Then more bad news. The nutritional plan and chemotherapy were not working. The tumor continued to grow. Ultimately, it grew to the size of a football, pressing on her back and protruding from her right side. She decided to stop all treatment, placing her future in God’s hands.

In January 2001, a new scan got her doctor’s immediate attention. With guarded excitement he told her, “I don’t understand what has happened, but your tumor is now positioned differently. It no longer appears to be attached to your aorta, and it seems to have a clear margin almost all the way around it.” It had encased itself in what he described as a thick, leathery shell and looked like it was operable.

4540_quallsdoctor.jpgSurgery was scheduled for January 26. A vascular transplant surgeon was called in to help Charles Jones, her gynecologic oncologist. Two units of blood were on standby in preparation for a potential transfusion. The operating room at Henrico Doctors Hospital in Richmond, Va., was reserved for a four-hour surgery. Dr. Jones was confident for he knew the divine Surgeon.

(Lowell, Dr. Charles Jones III, Vicki) 

After just two hours he appeared in the waiting lounge, grinning from ear to ear. “Pastor Lowell,” he said to Vicki’s husband, “I’ve never seen anything like this. It came out!” He hardly had to cut — removing it mostly with his hands. No transfusion was needed.

Two days later the pathology report revealed the healthy tissue around the perimeter of the tumor was cancer-free, but the most amazing thing of all was the tumor itself. Its blood supply had been cut off. The cancer cells inside were either dead or in the process of dying — an “abortive state,” the doctors called it. God had destroyed all the cells, and because of that no follow-up treatment was recommended. “I’ve never seen this before in all my years of practice,” says Dr. Jones. “As physicians God has provided us with tools and gifts to treat our patients, but these gifts have limitations that only God can overcome with miracles. God has blessed all of us with His miraculous intervention in this healing.”

How does she feel about what has happened? “I’m awestruck,” Vicki says. “It’s been a very serious, awesome, holy thing. It is just God’s grace — no merit of mine.”

Questions still face the players in this medical drama: What does God want us to do with this experience? What do we say to people who are still praying for healing? “We’re all going to die,” Vicki has told some of her friends who struggle with cancer. “Some of us just die sooner than others. The most important thing is our relationship with God and how we live out whatever days He gives us.”

Vicki Qualls will never be the same again. She is healed — and is dancing with her Healer.

One Little Bite


I can tell you how it felt to look my dad, my retired pastor-father, in the eyes and tell him that I’d had a moral failure. It felt like telling a lousy joke and not being able to get to the punch line.

My misadventure, for lack of a better term, began almost two years after my first wife died from ovarian cancer. Vicki and I had married in 1973, in between my sophomore and junior years at Bible college. Our marriage was better than good, and that’s not just my opinion. Vicki said so too, as did everyone who knew us, including our folks, our sons, and the people who received our ministry over the years. Most would say our marriage was bullet-proof, and we were certain we’d live to see golden anniversaries. But cancer changed all that.

About six weeks before Vicki died she asked me, “Lowell, after I die do you think you’ll remarry?” I told her that I had thought about it, and that I hoped to follow Paul’s recommendation from 1 Corinthians 7 and remain single, serving the Church with a 100% focus.

Vicki laughed. Then, seeing the hurt well up in my eyes, she explained that she didn’t think I was a sex maniac who, without a wife, would “burn up” with lust. She was confident I could take care of myself when it came to the laundry, keeping a clean house, and doing all the tasks of the single life. But she felt strongly that I needed a helper.

“You’re wired for marriage, Lowell. You’re good at it. And I think you should marry again so that someone will be there to guard your heart.” She told me that God must have had me in mind when He said, “It’s not good for man to live alone.” She just couldn’t imagine me alone. That’s why she had laughed.

Just four months after our thirtieth wedding anniversary Vicki died. She was a young thing, leaving just four days past her fiftieth birthday.

Cancer is an insidious killer – a cruel reminder we live on a fallen planet. Vic battled the disease for five years, and along the way she experienced an honest-to-goodness, medically verified miracle right in the middle of her fight. (Her healing story appeared in the Pentecostal Evangel, Mother’s Day edition of 2001. Check it out.)

After Vicki’s passing I was often told that I “grieved well.” I know what they meant, but putting it on paper still looks weird. All I know is that I navigated the pain of great personal loss, and found deeper things on the other side of it. I didn’t blame God, and I survived.

There are several things I feel really good about looking back. I successfully steered clear of Internet pornography, and I didn’t go bar-hopping. I focused on pastoring the church I loved, and filled my days—filled them—with ministry. And when I wasn’t working myself silly I went out with friends, or watched sports and news into the wee hours. Usually I’d get about five hours of sleep, and that seemed to be enough.

On the down side, I ate too much – usually in front of the TV late at night. And I didn’t exercise enough, so I ended up weighing more than ever. But, hey, it didn’t matter to me. I wasn’t “available.” I was just a modern St. Paul with a taste for junk food.

That lifestyle lasted eighteen months until, just as Vicki had predicted, I was blindsided by loneliness. I remember the day: I was going through a bathroom drawer and I came across the Nike sweatband Vic had used to hold her hair out of her face while she prepared for bed. Bang! I missed her…again. But not just her. I missed living with a woman, and all the intimate stuff that goes with sharing one’s life with a female.

There aren’t words in my vocabulary to describe what it’s like being a widowed pastor. Friendships and routines change drastically. You’re only planning your day when you’re a widower. Things like fixing one dinner at home only accentuates the loneliness. So for me it was junk food and the tube for company.

Some friends noticed when I started talking about meeting someone. A few told me some of their work associates had used E-Harmony or some other web dating service, and now they were married. The Internet sounded safe enough, so I put out my profile without prayer ever crossing my mind.

Three months into my internet dating experience, I “met” a Christian lady that lived three hundred miles away. She loved God, was highly educated, and held a top position in a good company. She was easy to talk to, and she seemed to be “the one.”

I drove to see her a few times. She came to see me. One time we met halfway. That was a huge mistake. I’m relieved to say we never had intercourse, but we crossed every other line. I sinned. Period.

Conviction came immediately, but I rationalized. I told myself that I hadn’t broken marital vows. And then I promised God and the lady that I would not cross those lines again.

Somehow the sanitized term “moral failure” just doesn’t do justice to the depth of my sin. I can remember one particular day when the Holy Spirit was saying—yelling in my conscience—“Don’t do this! Turn around and walk away.” But I said, out loud, “I want this.” Out loud. Talk about brazen.

You don’t have to take a big bite from the apple when one little bite will do. Just one little bite and suddenly you find yourself frantically searching the garden for fig leaves, hoping God doesn’t show up and start asking questions. Like Adam, I knew nakedness. Besides violating my relationship with God, I knew I had broken my ministerial vow to live a pure life, to steer clear of anything that would cast my fellow ministers in a negative light, or stigmatize the Body of Christ.

Eventually I broke off the relationship. I also broke a heart. I wish I hadn’t. I wanted the proverbial clock to move back to the days of innocent curiosity, before she had introduced me to her friends.

Later a dear friend helped me understand some of the lies I had believed. I’d always thought that each of us has only one significant love in life, and that I had my quota in Vicki. It’s that stupid “soul-mate” thing. I thought, “I’ll have to settle for companionship.” What bunk. I was so deceived.

Some months later that hurt lady contacted my district’s headquarters. She sent copies of our emails, and pictures of us together. She said, “You ought to know what kind of man Lowell Qualls really is.” I don’t blame her. I blame me.

I know there are fellow ministers reading this right now saying, “Wait a minute! Don’t be so hard on yourself. You were lonely after being married for a long, long time. You made a mistake. It’s okay. Everybody makes them.” Blah, blah, blah.

I wish I hadn’t hurt this lady. I wish I could have gone mano-a-mano with my ego in some wilderness. But … hear me now … I needed this. This reality check. This humiliation. This breaking. This ugly exposure of my heart. I needed my day of reckoning.

Why? First, because I thought I was immune – that I would never do what others have done. Second, because my heart was hard. Third, because I was a train wreck in the making, one of those men who thought he could stop himself – one of the biggest lies of all. I know now that more than “my calling” or “my ministry” being at stake, my life was in danger.

My superintendent called. He sounded glum. We were (and still are) friends of many years, but he had a terrible job to do. He had to ask me “the questions,” starting with: “Did you do what she said you did?”


Two weeks earlier I had confessed to Becky. I had met her two months after my failure. Her reaction surprised me. Instead of rejecting me she was actually the first conduit for God’s grace to begin its healing work in me. She and I talked about perfectionism, self-esteem, sin, love, and forgiveness. She prayed for me.

Months went by. During that time my district leaders interviewed my accuser, corroborated her testimony, sent me for an evaluation to a fantastic Christian counseling center in Akron, Ohio, and delved into my version of the events in question.

I wrote out my confession and surrendered my credentials. I cried myself to sleep several nights, and wrestled with my blankets, tossing and turning and reliving the nightmare.

Finally, the district graciously offered me a two-year program. The goal? Restoration. I gratefully accepted, and told Becky what I was facing. She said, “I’m on your team.” (We married six months later, with the blessing of the district leaders. In so doing I left that wrong-headed notion of “just-one-love-in-life” where it belonged: at the foot of the Cross.)

It was right at the beginning of that awful period that I talked to my parents face to face, with my older sister listening in on the telephone from Florida. My saintly dad concentrated on every word as I detailed my failure, all the while his eyes locked on my mom. After I finished he spoke sweetly, while still looking at mom: “Son, your mother and I have been married for 64 years … and if she died … and I found myself in the place you have been …” He looked me straight in the eyes now. “… I would have done the very same thing.”

I was taken off guard, and deeply touched. Yet what followed was even more poignant. “I don’t condemn you,” he said.


And my sister in Florida? It was really tough telling her what I had done. Many years ago her first husband, an A/G pastor, had an affair, refused rehabilitation, and they divorced. Now she is married to a great guy – the pastor of a non-denominational church in Orlando. My confession brought back some painful memories, but her response was lovely, and loving, too. Graceful.

Next I called my older brother, an Assemblies of God pastor in Virginia Beach, and told him everything. He was wonderful. He prayed for me, and told me he was proud of me. How odd: I was ashamed, but he was proud? Unlike the prodigal’s older brother, mine put out the spiritual welcome mat as I stumbled home.

Again, grace.

Then I called each of my three younger sisters. I dreaded talking to one. She had also been married to an Assemblies of God pastor who had fallen into sexual sin a few years ago. And like the other aforementioned brother-in-law, he had walked away from the denomination and the offering of rehabilitation. I knew telling his ex-wife, my sister, would be hell.

Yet she was so tender in her response, soft and careful, like a child gently touching the wound of a fallen playmate. She sweetly reassured me that I was loved.

When you take one little bite of forbidden fruit innocent people suffer. Elderly parents experience unnecessary pain. Siblings get hurt. And then your colleagues find out. They always

We all get caught, you know. God pretty much guarantees it. Sooner or later, “What is done in secret …” You know the rest.

It isn’t that God enjoys exposing our nakedness, or because He wants to use our pain to fire a warning shot across the bow of the Church. We get caught because He values our souls more than our comfort. Ultimately we get caught because He loves us. He’s a Fighter, unwilling to let us go down the drain without a brawl. He fights with us, for us. You’ve probably preached that a hundred times.

You’ve probably also preached that when you throw in the towel and surrender, acknowledging that He’s the Winner, He pours out His grace and heals broken lives!

Here’s the rub. It’s time for us preachers to believe what we’ve preached.

Maybe you haven’t yet risked the confession that would set you free to begin the process of restoration because you know God doesn’t guarantee you’ll stay in the ministry. Maybe you haven’t come clean because “doing ministry” has become more important than living in sweet relationship with God. Maybe you’re unwilling to gamble your paycheck, your housing allowance, or your retirement account. Maybe you fear your marriage won’t survive the embarrassment, or your kids won’t recover from the shame.

I understand, believe me. It’s tough to come clean when all God guarantees us is that His “grace is sufficient,” or that His strength is perfect when we admit our weaknesses.

Here’s why I’m writing: Learn from me. If you haven’t crossed the line from temptation to sin, don’t! But if you have crossed it, come clean. Now. Prove God, and come clean. Face the challenges that will come when you decide to ‘fess up. Face them with Him.

Most likely confession will require you to fully expose the lie you’ve lived, embrace certain humiliation, and surrender your reputation, your economic future, and all your relationships to God. It was Jim Elliott who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Said another way, confession may require you to lose something you think you can’t live without in order to gain something else you really can’t live without. Can you really live without a clean conscience? Without your integrity? Without the kiss of God, and His embrace? Can you really live without His presence in your life?

I keep thinking about Psalm 24:3-6, where David sang, “Who may climb the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the LORD’S blessing and have right standing with God their Savior. They alone may enter God’s presence and worship the God of Israel.”

Did David write that song pre- or post-Bathsheba? Did that event haunt David as he penned those words, or were they written beforehand?

No matter. We know David’s pride led to sexual sin and the subsequent murder of an innocent man. We know David got caught, and that he was outed. Humiliated. His sins were broadcast by the media of his day, and then recorded for all time in the pages of the most widely read book in history. Sermons about the consequences of pride would be preached using him as an example for three thousand years (and counting).

David’s soul was much more important to God than his position as Israel’s King. And there’s more than a hint in Scripture that David learned this truth: It is better to be caught and re-stored than to get away with adultery and murder.

I suspect some might think, like I did, “Why open Pandora’s box? Why not just wait until the truth catches up with me? Who knows? Maybe I won’t get caught, and I can clean up my act with nary a disruption in ‘my ministry.’” After all, once the story’s out, there’s no turning back. It’s public domain.

My new wife asked me, “Why do this? And why use your real name? It’s not a part of your prescribed therapy.”

I told her that I thought I must do it this for as part of my personal restoration. It has nothing to do with my denomination. It has everything to do with that immaterial part of me that must change. You see, once my story is out Satan can’t use it to batter and abuse me. He can’t use it to hold me captive to that what-if-someone-finds-out thing that always handcuffs a prideful soul. So the telling is part of my humiliation. Self-imposed, yes, but necessary.

There’s a half-truth Satan keeps using, generation after generation, that says public confession is like penance, where we engage in self-flagellation. He lies that it’s the confessor’s best way to satisfy the “need” to pay for his own sins. He tell us that by climbing up on a self-constructed cross and crying, “Mea culpa,” we experience absolution.

The truth is, Christ’s Cross was enough for salvation. Period. Yet, throughout the New Testament we are consistently encouraged to take responsibility for sin committed after entering into a saving relationship with Jesus, and we do so through confession. Take a long look at, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That was written to believers, right?

Then there’s, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Again, written to believers. According to 1 John 1:5-7, confession allows us to come out of the shadows and “walk in the light” with Jesus (“… as He is in the light”). Part of walking with Him is living a confessing life.

So … what are you going to do now?

Why not make an appointment with a trusted friend. Start the process of coming clean. Risk humbling yourself. Risk trusting God for the outcome.

Today I’m doing better than okay. Sure, I’m not pastoring, and right now I’m not free to teach or preach. But I can confess, and it feels great!

A pastor-friend of mine in Florida says, “I wouldn’t trade being able to look in the mirror, first thing in the morning, at a man with clear eyes and a clean conscience for anything.” I know what he means. I wouldn’t trade my newfound sense of God’s unconditional love and grace for any pulpit, anywhere. I wouldn’t trade the solid relationships that I have now. And I wouldn’t trade having clean hands and a pure heart before God.

Think about it: A downfall starts with one little bite … but restoration can begin with one simple appeal: “God, help me. I’m coming clean.”