Monday, March 5, 2012

Watering And Fertilizing Grassroots In The Melanoma Community

I tend to think a lot. Not to say that I "over think" things, but I do like to look at things as theologically as I can. I like to see where I see God moving because that's the direction I want to go in. I see God moving in the melanoma community in mighty ways. But He doesn't seem to be adhering to our battle plan. He doesn't seem to be doing battle the way other cancers battle. He seems to be doing it His tried and true way, the way He has always done things. That is through the ministry of the small.

God has a grassroots effort going on in the melanoma community. And, like grass, all you need is a little seed or a small patch that is already seeded, plant it, water it, and fertilize it if you want really green grass, and then let the grass do what grass does. Spread. Grow. Take on a life of its own being grass. What starts small and barely noticeable becomes something that, eventually, must be dealt with. The area of grass gets bigger, the blades get taller, they have to be tended, mowed, admired. Who doesn't view a beautiful field of bright green grass and feel relaxed? Peaceful? In awe of such simple beauty? Think "Wow! God really did a great job?" Yes, I know we can also look at a yard of grass, particularly if it's ours, and feel anything but relaxed if it needs cutting. But truth be told, we still love its simplistic beauty.

And it started small. Without celebrity fanfare. Without huge budgets. Without mass media. Without cheerleaders rooting for it to grow. Somehow, God had instilled in each grass seed what it needed to do to be grass. He knew how to make it spread and get noticed. His way.

And so it seems to be happening in the melanoma community. Many of us want a celebrity spokesperson. Someone recognizable who has been affected by melanoma to step up to the plate and tell the world how awful it is and what to do to avoid getting it. I did too. Until God tapped me on the shoulder last night and caused me to take a close look at what's happening in our community.

We want a "celebrity?" God raises US up! Who can tell the story better than us? We aren't in it for notoriety. We don't want adoring fans. We aren't paid professionals who will rake in big bucks when making public appearances and PSAs regarding melanoma. God is raising up people with the purest motives and strongest nerves for this battle. Celebrities rise and fall with public opinion and polls matter to them. What people think about them counts. NOT with us! We are usable because we are real! God raises up the likes of Jay Allen in Australia, and the likes of the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund in Canada, and the likes of Aim At Melanoma in the USA. These are real people and real organizations with roots in melanoma. There are others. And they step up to the plate to challenge the tanning bed industry. And, they are winning. They step up to the plate and make awesome PSAs. Can we say "Dear 16 Year Old Me"? They step up to the plate and offer information, resources, raise money for research, and do the research.

And God waters and fertilizes them by watering and fertilizing the grassroots. And that is the rest of us. People, affected in various ways, by melanoma who come together from around the world, stand together in community, pray together around the clock, and do what needs to be done. We write the songs we sing. We share the stories that demand to be shared. We work with the organizations and go before legislatures and testify. And it's actually that which prompted God to tap me on the shoulder and take a good hard look at what He's up to.

True story and it blew my mind and it still does. And I offer it here as an example of how God is bringing us together, in support of each other and in support of the work that needs doing. I do not offer this as a pat on my own back any more than Paul wants a pat on his back. We both did what we were led to do and God brought it all together. But it's pretty awesome!

This is Paul's account of him working with Aim At Melanoma in Missouri and going before his state's Health Care and Policy Committee about tanning beds. He really had other plans he preferred keeping instead of traveling and testifying. And God used something I wrote to speak to his heart and strengthen him to be the grass he was intended to be.

When I wrote the "Come Over To The Dark Side Of Melanoma" post I was angry and I was venting. The furthest thing from my mind was that anyone would care about that post or that God had plans for it. And yet, in less than a month, it is now the third most popular, all-time, of all my 84 posts. It boggles my mind that God used it to spur someone I don't even know, who lives states away from me, to go testify before a state committee and be an agent of change.

That's an example of the awesome power of an awesome God working on behalf of His people and on behalf of people who are, or will be, affected by a vicious, deadly cancer much of the world knows little to nothing about, some think is a joke, and far too many rank with "just" skin cancer. As if there is such a thing as "just" any kind of cancer. Can we please get real?!

And God says, "Let's get real. And I'm going to use real people to speak to real people about a real cancer that is real deadly and really highly preventable and that you really don't want but just might get if you really don't listen." And God turns to us, the grassroots of the melanoma community, and uses us as we are to be the grass we are intended to be. And like the grass in a field, we must be dealt with because we aren't going away. We are growing. Like grass. Beautiful green grass full of life and hope. Full of ideals and full of support from other grass. Sometimes the wind blows across our field and some of us may bend over a little, or a lot, and others of us prop that blade up and support it.

We know how to support each other because God is using the Internet, in general, and Facebook, in particular, to build and strengthen the melanoma community. As we are drawn together, we learn each other. We learn our strengths and weaknesses. We learn how to let each other be, when to give space, when to give a cyberhug. We learn what groups we fit best in, but we always know we are part of a larger, thriving community that walks with us and prays over us.

We are the grassroots. We are being watered and fertilized by God. And we get to water and fertilize each other. We work together enabling each other to be the blades of grass we are each intended to be and we come together to make a beautiful field. That is growing and reaching out and reaching up.

We are a field that is getting big enough to be seen, make a difference, and be reckoned with.

And we're doing it the hard way, the good old-fashioned way. God's way. The way of starting small, coming together with a common purpose, growing in love and support of each other, and doing the work that needs doing and that is set before us.

Maybe we really don't need a celebrity spokesperson after all. God doesn't seem to think so.

Maybe we really don't need the big budgets for research after all. Look at what is being done with so little! The people in melanoma research are doing great things with very little money. Sure, we need more funding. We need more treatment options and we need a cure. Absolutely! But we also need to stand back and look at the great strides that have been made in the last two years! God has truly blessed the little that is there to work with because He had people in place who were willing to place what little they had to work with in God's hands and watch Him take, break, bless, and use. Nothing is going to waste. That luxury doesn't exist in the melanoma community.

It takes all of us. Where we are and as we are to support the work and walk the walks. To support each other. And as celebrities join our community, we are already in place to support them also and not look to them to do what we can do for ourselves. Truth be told, we really don't want people, even celebrities, joining our community. But they will. Our field will get bigger. But not bigger than God.

God has His eye on His grassroots. He is at work on our behalf and He is using us. Each of us.

And I am mighty grateful!