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2003 Conversations

Joy Williams: Rooted in Grace (December 29, 2002)

Judy Rachels: Christmas gifts (December 22, 2002)

Ralph Carmichael: New music for a timeless message (December 15, 2002)

Roger and Greg Flessing: Media, ministry and society's ungodly messages (December 8, 2002)

Rick Salvato: Meeting medical and spiritual needs around the world (November 24, 2002)

Asa Hutchinson: Drug Enforcement's top officer (November 17, 2002)

Bill Bright: 'Not I, but Christ' (November 10, 2002)

Ray Berryhill: Living by faith (October 20, 2002)

Owen C. Carr: Reading through the Bible 92 times (October 13, 2002)

Curtis Harlow: Combating campus drinking (September 29, 2002)

Wes Bartel: Making Sunday count (September 22, 2002)

M. Wayne Benson: The Holy Spirit knocks (September 15, 2002)

Dr. Richard Dobbins: Understanding Suffering (September 8, 2002)

K.R. Mele: Halloween evangelism (August 25, 2002)

Roland Blount: God makes a way for blind missionary (August 18, 2002)

Cal Thomas: Finding a mission field (August 11, 2002)

Lisa Ryan: For such a time as this (July 28, 2002)

Dallas Holm: Faith and prayer in life’s toughest times (July 21, 2002)

Paul Drost: Intentional church planting (July 14, 2002)

James M. Inhofe: Serving Christ in the Senate (June 30, 2002)

Karen Kingsbury: The Write stuff (June 23, 2002)

Michael W. Smith: Worship is how you live each day (June 16, 2002)

Wayne Stayskal: On the drawing board (June 9, 2002)

Fory VandenEinde: Anyone can minister (May 26, 2002)

Thomas E. Trask: Pentecost Sunday (May 19, 2002)

Stormie Omartian: Recovering from an abusive childhood (May 12, 2002)

Luis Carrera: Beyond the Shame (April 28, 2002)

Tom Greene: The church of today (April 21, 2002)

Philip Bongiorno: Wisdom for a younger generation (April 14, 2002)

Deborah M. Gill: Christian education and discipleship (March 24, 2002)

Norma Champion: Becoming involved in politics (February 24, 2002)

Steve Pike: A candid discussion about Mormonism (February 10, 2002)

Raymond Berry: More to life than football (January 27, 2002)

Sanctity of Human Life roundtable: Doctors speak out (January 20, 2002)

Chaplain Charles Marvin: Ministering in the military (January 13, 2002)

2001 Conversations

Faith and prayer in life’s toughest times

(July 21, 2002)

Dallas Holm is in his 37th year of ministry as a Christian musician. He has recorded 31 successful projects and given more than 3,000 concerts. Throughout his ministry, he has never lost sight of his family’s central role in his life. Dallas and Linda Holm have been married 33 years and have two grown children, Jennifer and Jeffrey. Dallas recently spoke with Associate Editor Scott Harrup about one of the greatest challenges he and his wife have faced.

PE: You and Linda began a very difficult journey of faith together in 1987.

HOLM: We discovered Linda had cancer the first time in 1987. It was already a time of transition. Our band, Dallas Holm and Praise, which we had had for 11 years, played its last concert on the Fourth of July 1987 at a festival. The next weekend, we had planned to see the doctor because Linda had felt a lump she had never noticed before. They discovered that it was cancer. Of course that was a devastating moment. You can be a strong Christian with strong faith and know God can do miracles and have a good repertoire of promises to glean from, but when the doctor sits down in the chair across from you and looks you in the eye and says your wife has cancer, it still hits you real hard.

Human nature being what it is, we tend to project immediately into worst-case scenarios. I remember sitting there thinking, Is this it? Is Linda going to live? How much cancer is there? Is it all through her body? It’s hard now to remember a time when really I knew so little about cancer, which I think is true for a lot of people. You hear about cancer. I can remember seeing people in different places who were bald and pale and I would wonder if the cancer did that. I would hear about chemotherapy and didn’t really know what it was or what radiation treatments were. They are words you hear and see reported on TV, and all of a sudden it’s in your house.

PE: How severe was the cancer?

HOLM: It had spread somewhat. We went down to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Hospital in Houston. Upon their testings and the biopsy they felt that a six-month course of chemotherapy and a mastectomy was the best treatment. During surgery they discovered the cancer was not contained. Which is why they did the chemotherapy.

PE: So the surgery was your first big hurdle together?

HOLM: I knew it would be a devastating experience. Linda would have a large scar. No muscle. Not much tissue. It’s pretty disfiguring. But I remember when the wrap came off the first time after about 10 days in the hospital and we both looked at the scar. I just told her, I said, "You bear on your body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Now, some might say, "That’s really out of context." But our belief is that all the events of our lives, if we are in Christ, are either caused by or allowed by the Lord. And there is a purpose in all of it and there’s a reason for all of it. And there is some identity at least in the sufferings of Christ when we go through the times of pain. My wife is such a wonderfully godly woman. We didn’t understand it in the natural. But I was telling her there is a reason why you bear this scar, there’s a reason why you’re going through this. And Christ may not give the explanation in a sudden answer, but throughout the course of your life you will come to an understanding that this is how it translates into ministry, into compassion for others, into understanding in other people’s lives who are enduring a similar trial.

PE: After the surgery, Linda still faced chemotherapy. How did you deal with that?

HOLM: The doctors’ announcement about the chemo was tough to accept at first. Chemo was a total unknown. Everything we had ever heard about it was disastrous. Sick all the time, sores in your mouth, lose your hair. It hits your body and organs pretty hard. So when the doctor said, "chemo," that was a two-by-four across the face. But you hit those moments of shock and then you kind of regroup and say, "OK, here’s where we’re headed now."

Linda basically would take a treatment for three days and then be off for three weeks. Chemotherapy is, in effect, killing all the cells in your body. In theory, at least, the good cells recreate themselves and the bad cells are killed off. Cancer that has spread can be anywhere in your body. So they hit your whole body with chemo to kill any undetected cancer.

Linda actually tolerated the chemo very well. The first couple of treatments she got kind of sick. I think it was a couple of weeks to the day after we started that she got up in the morning and she said, "Dallas, look." And there were clumps of hair lying on her pillow.

PE: How did she cope with that?

HOLM: You know, the Lord gave these wonderful, little refreshing moments along the way. I remember when her hair started coming out, she just looked at me one morning and she said, "They pulled Christ’s beard out of His face. This doesn’t hurt. It’s just falling out. But they pulled His beard out."

PE: What would you say is the central lesson Linda’s cancer has taken you both through?

HOLM: We say casually that God is the most important Person in the world to us or that we want to be like Jesus but we don’t really think those statements through too deeply sometimes. If we really want to please the Lord, there is a real clear-cut definition in Scripture of how that occurs. You’ve got to have faith, and faith by its very nature must be tested. Think of Job. Here’s a righteous man, a man of whom God himself says, "Have you considered My servant, Job?" God never contests that Job is a righteous man. But Job has everything stripped from him — his possessions, his family and his reputation. He finally is afflicted physically and in pain. His friends and his wife show up and he gets the wonderful counsel, "Why don’t you just curse God and die?" And in the midst of this overwhelming tragedy, it surely can’t make any logical sense to him at all. But he says, "I know that my Redeemer lives and though He slay me I will trust Him." That’s faith. That’s the point God wants to get us to.

PE: Earlier you said you and Linda discovered "for the first time" in 1987 that she had cancer. That wasn’t the end of it, was it?

HOLM: No. In 1989 she discovered a very small lump on the other side. It was not a related cancer. It had contained cancerous cells. But because of her history the doctors said they needed to be very aggressive. She did not have to go through chemo that time, but she did endure another mastectomy.

PE: How did you deal with that, especially after having sought God to heal her from the first cancer?

HOLM: I can remember praying sometimes and just thinking, How many times do I pray the same prayer? You almost get to a point where you don’t want to pray because you feel phony about it. You’ve asked God the same thing over and over and it gets discouraging. You think you really can’t make that much difference. And then something happens. You read something in His Word, or someone comes along and says, "Let me pray with you." There were times when Linda and I would sit down and, for whatever reason, God in His great mercy would allow us one of those breakthrough moments. And I can’t explain that, but all of us have had those times. It’s kind of like fishing. You go to your favorite hole one day and you load the boat up with fish. You go the next day and you can’t get a bite. And sometimes in prayer it seems like you can’t get a bite and then all of a sudden you go to the same place and you do it the same way and you load the boat up with God’s goodness. Who can explain that?

PE: So, if prayers seem to be answered one day and ignored the next, what do you do?

HOLM: Well, I can assure you prayers are never ignored. But how God responds to prayer is often beyond our understanding. I constantly tell people that God is up to things in our lives we know nothing about. Oswald Chambers says that sometimes it looks like God is missing the mark, but really we’re too short-sighted to see where He’s aiming. I just love that. It’s so true. Sometimes in our valley and in our sorrow we believe if we just knew what God was doing that would settle it. I’m not sure that would make any difference. Faith is when you don’t know. When it doesn’t make sense. When you can’t understand. But you trust in God.

PE: What does faith mean to you?

HOLM: It’s really a mystery. I think it’s easier to tell you what faith is not. Some people have what I call a "hyper-faith persuasion." They don’t process experiences like Linda’s and mine very well. They tell you, "God just ought to heal that, and if He doesn’t there’s just something wrong with your faith." I believe some of these people are brothers and sisters in Christ, but they’re misguided. If God says, "The thing I want out of you is your faith and the only way I’m going to get the faith I want is to test it," then to say, on the other hand, "Oh no, faith is a tool to get what you want," well that’s totally opposed. No, God says, "Faith is to get what I want out of you whatever the cost."

PE: When it comes to physical illness, there are some who say there should always be a healing at some point.

HOLM: Dedicated believers die of sickness. I lost one of my best friends to cancer. I lost my father almost two years ago to a long and difficult ordeal with cancer. As the old song says, "This world is not my home, I’m just passing through." We’re not made for this world. This is a proving ground, a dress rehearsal. Where we’re going will be perfect, but this idea that we’re to live in perfection here is quite contrary to what Scripture teaches.

Is God a miracle-working God? Absolutely. Do we have the right to ask Him for a miracle? Absolutely. He says to come boldly, to run right into His presence and tell Him what we want and what we need and that He will pay attention to every word of it. But the Bible says, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous." That shoots the idea that if we’re righteous we shouldn’t have any problems. Jesus said, "In this world you will have tribulation." That’s a done deal. Now, He does go on to say that He will deliver us out of them all. But we want to tack on one little extra word to that promise. We want Jesus to say, "I will deliver you out of them all … now." We think God needs to do what He needs to do the way we think He needs to do it. And then we think He needs to do it on our time schedule.

PE: What did you and Linda discover as you continued to pray?

HOLM: When you graduate from a self-focused understanding of prayer — "Oh, God, I need this" or "Heal me" or "Deliver me" — you discover, like Oswald Chambers said, that prayer isn’t about getting things from God, though it does involve that. Rather, prayer is primarily about getting God himself. That is why we need to persist and continue to pray. It’s not that God didn’t hear us the first time. He knew what we were going to deal with before we ever prayed our first prayer. But as we continue to come into His presence, the most intimate dimension of our relationship occurs in prayer. When we’re blessed and everything’s fine, we can take it for granted and our prayer life can slide a little bit. But bring on adversity. Let the doctor sit down, look you in the eye and say, "Your wife’s got cancer." The first place you find yourself is on your knees.

PE: This is a continuing process for you, isn’t it?

HOLM: We’re not out of the valley yet. Even in the past year, a couple of tours ago, we were riding home in the back of the bus and it was pretty bouncy. And Linda cracked a rib. We thought we should check it out. The doctors did a bone scan and then they did a CAT scan. None of those tests can tell you exactly what is there, but they saw a spot in her ribs on both sides. They said they needed to be aggressive with them. Her cancer is fed by estrogen, so she’s takes a shot and a pill to shut down her hormones and starve any potential cancer. So, once again, we’re in this on-going journey.

PE: Some people would wonder how you can trust God after all of this?

HOLM: We trust Him more today than we did 15 years ago. You know, in the past, each time the doctor told us about Linda’s cancer I would sit there in a clammy sweat, feeling a shock to my faith. But when the doctor gave us the news this last time, it was like, OK, God has been faithful and I understand now that these things happen for a reason. God is going to get us through it. God is going to be faithful. There is a dimension of faith now that I have that I didn’t have even six months ago. I haven’t arrived, and there’s more to discover, but I’m moving on. I don’t think we ever get to the point where we are no longer concerned about anything. But I don’t sit around fretting over that worst-case scenario. In fact, Linda and I are in a whole new chapter of ministry. We minister together in all our concerts and in church services and we just released an album of hymns we did together called Foundations. She sings a solo on the album as well, and it’s a real expression of everything we’ve gone through. We chose hymns that have supported us during some tough times over the past 15 years. God is so faithful.

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