A Pilgrim Arrives Home

Posted: February 11, 2013 in Christian
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This post was written by Pastor Matthew whom Nick affectionately called PM. Matthew spent six years as Nick’s youth pastor and since his graduation has been proud to call Nick a friend. It has been written upon the request of Nick’s family.

 

 

Life is a journey. That has clearly been what Nick intended to write about here on The Pilgrim Man. The journey he was on as he fought cancer. The journey he was on as He pursued God’s plan for his life. The journey he was on to make a difference in this world. Yet, every journey ultimately has a destination. Nick defined his destination as one day being with his Lord Jesus Christ forever.

While the pain resides with those of us that remain, Nick reached the end of his journey on January 31, 2013. Though we cry and intensely feel the loss, in that moment Nick laid aside all his suffering and experienced the healing he has desired to receive. He has reached the goal. He is now residing pain free with the Lord for eternity.

On behalf of the family, I would like to thank everyone that has prayed for Nick and supported him through this time. Even though his blog here was short in duration, we have been blessed to discover that it was touching lives around the world. Sometimes, as we found out, it was even touching lives of people in the same hospital that had no idea he was just down the hall. As the family is going through Nick’s writings, they are finding things that they will be posting here from time to time that will hopefully challenge and encourage you.

May you be blessed as you continue your journey through life and prayerfully you will make the decision, as Nick did, to make Christ your ultimate destination.

http://www.vindy.com/news/tributes/2013/feb/02/nick-ree/

Not Today

Posted: January 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

Since starting this blog almost two months ago, I have tried to make it a point to post at least every week. Of course, since then, I have been unable to live up to this commitment because my body is freaky. 

Unfortunately, I will not be able to post this week (minus this one), possibly the next, because, well, I’m sick. I’m not writing this just for sympathy, but only because I want to let you all know why there will not be a post. Cystitis, possible flu, cancer. Yeah, not sitting very pretty currently. 

Keep your eyes peeled for the next post. God bless.

 

-Nick

Ever since I began this journey I can recall so many poignant moments, either wonderful or dreadful. Like the afternoon I was told for the very first time I had cancer, or when I was able to share my testimony on a Youngstown news broadcast, or when I had marrow sucked from my bones, or, this being the most vivid, my first healing and the Promise that followed. But one memory I sometimes entertain, either in pain or reflection, is the memory of me lying in my bed, the smoldering hot summer after I had been diagnosed for the first time. Night or day, it did not matter to me, I laid sprawled on top of my covers, hoping for the weak breeze of my ceiling fan to cool me,  spewing my guts from the chemotherapy and burning with agony over my swollen knee where the tumor was. I whispered to Him, “God, please, kill me now.” I was going to turn fifteen that July.

That memory still sticks to me as if it had happened yesterday. During that bout, my whisper changed to a more darker version as my treatment drudged on, “God, let this cancer kill me.” And with that constant thought I began to actually believe what I was thinking was the truth. I would never finish high school, never go to college, never get married, and on the sad musings went. I even wrote the itinerary for my own funeral. I made sure to make it a memorable one so I could drain out every tear from the mourners.

I was quite lost, confused, and hurt during that year. Praise God He rescued me before I did anything drastic. I didn’t realize it then, but I was searching, asking the question, “What’s the point of living? Why do I have to do this? Why? Why? Why?” And I question, what normal, rational person has not thought this at least once in their lifetime? I shared my specific example of how this question can wiggle it’s way into the mind. But for thousands of years, humans have thought, rationalized, and debated this point. What is the point of our existence?

The modern atheist pronounces the common theme that “We are born. We live. We die. That’s it.” That is the their answer to this inborn question, that life is meaningless. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into a speech debating this point, but I find that three-fourths of this saying is true. Now let me explain; I agree with them that when we live, we acquire earthly things. Wealth, power, cars, even family. But when we die all of those things will have been for naught. In the Bible, King Solomon wrote a whole book on this very thought. The second verse of Ecclesiastes sums it up:

“‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’, says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’”    -Ecclesiastes 1:2

To read over this verse, and even the whole book, one could think that this seems quite dismal and depressing. Does the Bible really say this? Yes, it does. However, we have only been looking at life skin deep. Understand, there is so much more that goes on in our hearts and souls that many never even realize it. The seeds we sow in this life will be the crops we reap after we die. See, our bodies may die and all the things we worked so hard to get will be equal to nothing.

But our souls will live on. This brings us to a point. What have you been living for? Have you been wasting up your life only looking for the things that will make you happy? Or have you been living the True life God intended for you; to serve and honor Him. To love Him and to love all those around you, even if it means giving up everything you have here on earth. Jesus said these are two of the most important commands we are to live by. Every single choice we make has an impact on how we live and where we will go after we die; to be with the Lord or into eternal punishment.

The urban missionary who lives in Detroit devotes all that they have in order that others may know what it means to live. Even if it means giving up money, energy, time, and even their own personal safety on a daily basis. Many may see them as fools. But God sees them, and so many others like them past and present, as heroes. They are the ones that will reap the greatest after death.

A very deep question, I know. I haven’t even scratched the entirety of the true answer. But I can say that I no longer ask for death because I know that whatever happens, death or life, I hold a Truth that nothing can take away from me. And this is where I find solace and peace. Do I make mistakes? Heaven help me should I deny it. I am a terrible sinner. But God is merciful and loves me so much. And He loves you just as much no matter what choices you have made in the past. You see, Satan will be the one to remind you of all the terrible junk you have done. But God is the one who reminds you of all you could be. And it is never too late to listen to God and follow.

Life is not pointless. So live like it has a point. God bless.

-Nick

This Christmas

Posted: December 20, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Note: this will be the last post before Christmas. One may be published before the new year, however, that is not definite. But keep your eyes peeled.

Christmas

When I began to have serious complications with my right leg, which was the epicenter of my first diagnosis, I would catch myself staring at people. A strange, and somewhat disturbing notion, I agree, but nonetheless quit frequent. This was particularly true in my freshman year of college, just a year ago, where I was surrounded by hundreds of healthy, active young people. But the only thing I had in common was the young part. In fact, most of my spring semester was spent in a wheelchair. I finally came to the conclusion that, yes, I was a bit envious of everyone else. My friends would go on spontaneous walks in downtown Minneapolis but I would be left to forfeit. Or we would all go to an ice-skating rink, but I would have to remain seated on the cold, hard stone steps while watching my friends have a good time, fall down, and get back up and laugh. Falling down! What I would give just to be able to fall down without injuring myself, let alone being able to use my legs properly, or technically leg, due to the amputation.

And yes, while I watched all these activities from the sidelines, I could not help having the faint, innocent thought of, “Why can’t I do that? Do they even know how grateful I would be just to do that?” But I knew that if I let this thought fester in my mind, as it still makes an appearance even today, that it would consume me to the point of bitterness. And I do not want to be bitter. To allow that thought control would mean to become a single-minded fool, thinking nothing but myself and never looking at the many multitudes of blessings around me.

Which brings me to the point I want to make; this Christmas, be thankful. Sure, Thanksgiving the holiday has passed, but the season of thanksgiving should never be banished from our hearts. God doesn’t want you going through life writing down all the cons. Because if you do, the list will never have an end and you will not have any pros to notice because a selfish, self-centered heart will drive them all away. The Psalmist wrote about how we should be thankful, first and foremost:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.           -Psalm 100:4-5

These two verses are quite simple but ever true in explanation. God commands us to be thankful and to worship him. And the reasons given are simply because the Lord is a merciful and loving God, and his promises will never be dismissed. Even if we have absolutely nothing, we must still be thankful. Understand, we look at thanksgiving as counting the blessings we can touch, feel, or see. What do most people say they are thankful for? Their families, their home, their jobs, their friends. All things well and good, but simply because God is who he is we must be thankful.

So this Christmas, as we gather around a tree to unwrap gifts, or to travel to see family, or enjoy a Christmas Eve service, remember to be thankful. Because, guaranteed, there are  many others who are less fortunate than us. Many during this time will spend Christmas in a hospital, or find out some devastating news, maybe even gather with an empty seat at the table. So celebrate the coming of Christ and all that God has done for us! And bask in the numerous blessings he has given us. But also celebrate the simple things, too, like walking, for instance. God Bless and have a merry Christmas.

-Nick

In my room, hanging beside the window just above a desk, hangs a painting. Now, whether it is a real painting or not, I do not know, it could just be a simple, computer-made print out. As for the artist, if there is a real one, I do not know that either. But I do know that I enjoy this painting very much. It depicts a rocky coast, with waves crashing up against the boulders, ocean-spray being flung into the air. All the colors are very dark, deep blues. You can clearly see to the left the dismal openness of the ocean, with heavy, rain-filled clouds bearing down on it. There are even some scattered sea birds who probably got lost and are now stuck in this dreadful gale.

Sounds like a lovely picture, doesn’t it? No, not really. However, I didn’t describe what is in the middle of the painting. Up in the corner the clouds break and a strong shaft of light pierces through the storm and, it seems, where it hits the water, there is calm. Now, there is no sun, and you can just barely make out some sky, but it is there; the light.

I purchased this piece of art for cheap at a garage sale several years ago and ever since then I have never been able to take my eyes off of it. It is possible to draw up an appropriate metaphor because, to me at least, it screams to be explained in comparison to my own life; the hard waters, the troubles of life, the shaft of light, the hope in Jesus. I could go on.

Even though the eye is naturally drawn to the beam of light, I’ve come to a point in my relationship with the picture when sometimes, especially recently, I look first to the daunting sea and oppressive waves and to them, I just stare. I know I shouldn’t because to fixate on that instead of the light seems almost wrong.

The past few weeks have been rather difficult. And I can tell you that every fiber of my body wants to look to the sea, instead of looking to the sky. But I can say without a degree of difficulty that there will always be a beam of light waiting to shine down, a ray of hope to take you out of the despair if you trust and obey. Paul knew what it was like to be in despair, especially as he wrote in prison to the Christians in Rome. He said,

“We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has lured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given.”    -Romans 5:1-5

No matter how bleak the storm may seem, there is a hope. Hope in an everlasting peace, a peace that gives us what we need, even though our problems will not all but dissolve. But never forget this because it is easy to say when everything is peachy. Try saying it in the lowest valley. You may be surprised to find that you won’t spend that much time down there, after all. God bless.

-Nick

Many years ago, a young and aspiring artist named Johnny Cash wrote a catchy little diddy called “Walk The Line”. Although simple in lyrics, Cash expressed the difficulty he faced everyday but emphasised it was all for his love, his wife (funny thing, he was doing drugs and adulterous-type things when he first began singing this song). A line from the song goes, “Because your mine, I walk the line.” I suppose, in some ways this is a perfect idea of what I face. It is the idea of doing the noble thing but also being very close to oblivion. It is also this tension between what we ought to do and what we are tempted with or even what we want to do instead. But while Cash sung for his wife, I face the temptation of insanity.

Insanity? Really?

Yes, after years of my body being beat and faith being tested, I believe I have reached a point where the intensity of all that this has created gave way to a perfect opportunity to give in to the sweet callings of nothingness. Where I am the center of my own little world and where the putrid smell of death lingers in my nostrils. Of course, on my darkest of days this is where my demons come out to play, to play with my mind and my heart.

They call out, “what’s the point of living? You’re going to die anyway, your parents standing over your cold, hard body. Just give in, worm food, you are what matters most right now in your life, right? Just end it all and get out of this pain-ridden world. Trust us, it’s the best. No more cancer, no more doctors, no more chemotherapy, no anguish, no more nights of weeping.”

Usually, attacks like these come when the night is the darkest, when my mind is the weakest, and where evil smells blood. But even now, I think, ‘How do I ever survive such nights?’ A curious notion, to be sure. But I do. It’s not like I know the process, but it eventually ends in the LORD. I suppose the darkness begins it’s regression when I just cry out, ‘God, where are You? Why have you left me here to die?’ He replies, as He always does, with a loving and patient answer. He has already promised healing in my body, a life of ministry, and His own Word (You can read about this promise more in the previous post). And the funniest thing happens: after I get over my “dur” moment of “oh yeah, I should’ve known that”, a spiritual comfort envelopes me and I eventually drift off to a peaceful sleep. It is times like these that keep me from the edge, from crossing the line.

So, in a way, I, like Cash, walk the line constantly; a battle between a sane, life in Christ or a mindless, suicidal, insane existence of all my own, dipped in pure evil. Some of you, especially if you’ve walked down similar paths, may relate to such intense barrages of the enemy. Or, perhaps you’ve never experienced such things. But that’s okay. We all have our own battles, at different levels, at different times. But God has made a universal promise to everyone who believes in Him, regardless of our unique paths, that He is with us. His Word says:

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for the darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:7-12

So no matter what line you may be walking, He is there. It is only by the power of God that I can stand tall and full of life, not bent over my knees, drooling onto the ground. I pray that if you, the reader, have never experienced this awesome and life-giving power, that you will find it. Find me on Facebook and send me a message if you’d like to know more. If you feel like you are skirting that edge, that line, all you have to do is reach out your hand in faith and there He will be. God bless.

-Nick

Having cancer is not necessarily a bad thing. Having cancer and not knowing Jesus is a bad thing. And through this blog, I intend to prove why.

I was fourteen when the nasty thing struck. Just ending my eighth year of schooling and having thoughts of joining the track team the school year after, even though I’ve never played any sports. It first started as a tumor in my right knee (medically speaking, the distal end of the femur). I started having some pain there and brushed it off as growing pains or maybe something I did in gym class. But by the time the pain disabled me to where I could not walk, I finally went to the doctor’s for scans. The news came fast and hard, that I had a cancerous lump in me, and after being juggled about by a few doctors, I finally came to the oncologist who told me that I had stage four aevoular rhabdomyosarcoma. And the icing on the cake was that I only had 20-30% chance to outlive this thing.

I did. In June of 2008, just a few weeks shy of my sixteenth birthday and over a year since I was diagnosed, God reached His hand down and preformed what we call the miraculous during a youth group missions trip in Toledo, Ohio. A biopsy a week later confirmed that the original tumor, plus two other metastasises (spots where cancer has spread), were completely gone. That day that He healed me, He also gave me the promise that I would be healed and cancer free until the day when I go to meet Him. He also gave me this word as His promise:

“I will not die but live and proclaim what the LORD has done” Psalm 118:17

I returned to high school, graduated, and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to study ministry at North Central University.  I returned home after my freshman year there with a very familiar and devastating pain in my right knee. It seems, as they told me, that the massive amounts of radiation I received during my bout with the Big ‘C’ caused another Big ‘C’ to return to the area. This one they called osteosarcoma. That was last spring and since then I have had my share, again, of chemotherapy and also amputation and multiple sites of mets (metastasises). I have to look forward to is a major surgery on my lower abdomen after Thanksgiving, another surgery before Christmas, and 6-7 weeks of straight radiation after the New Year.

With this first step, I hope to document all that will happen, physically and spiritually, with hopes that you, someone you know, or anyone will find the hope that I see in this evil existence; where Satan means to kill, Jesus means to have life.

If interested, you can do a multiple of things. You can subscribe directly to this blog with your email and receive updates or follow me on Twitter with the username, @TheCzarNicholas, both of which you can find on the side of this page. Please tell your friends and family, it will be greatly appreciated. God bless.

-Nick