God bless you.
On this New Year's Day of 2009, I want to invite you to join me in singing an old
Christian hymn that is familiar to my Baptist background:
"Jesus, keep me near the cross, there a precious fountain
Free to all a healing stream, flows from calv'ry's mountain
In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever
'Till my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river"
In conventional terms, my 2008 was far from great.
In fact, most people will say that Lacy J. Banks had a bad year. Indeed, sisters and
brothers, it was the worst year of my life in terms of my physical health.
Nine months ago, when I fell so low sick that I could not walk 10 steps without
stopping to catch my breath, I checked into the University of Chicago Hospital, where its
finest cardiologist and cardiac surgeons diagnosed me with end-stage congestive heart
failure and told that I needed a heart transplant to save my life.
But on my way to getting that heart transplant, I was disqualified from getting one
when I was also diagnosed with brain cancer and prostate cancer. They don't waste
precious heart transplants on diseased patients. My oldest sisters, Mrs. Maude Lee
Burrell, died eight years ago when a infection kept her from getting one after she had
spent six months on the waiting list.
Yes, it was a bad year that saw me take a four-month medical leave, be hospitalized
five times, receive radiation treatment that resulted in continued painful side effects, make
almost 50 trips to various doctors, takes thousands of pills, incur hundreds of thousands
of dollars in medical bills and suffer tons of pain
But from the time I was shocked with the news of my three life-threatening medical
issues, I privately took the matter to the Lord in prayer by petitioning Him for a healing in
Jesus' name. Then I went public with this blog, inviting the world to stand by and watch
God heal me while I chronicle those miracles one by one.
First, my brain cancer was ruled benign and remains so as I treat it by taking a
special pill once a week.
Second, my prostate cancer was ruled early-stage and localized and deemed
treatable from the implantation of radioactive seeds.
Third, new medication was added to my already crowded daily menu of almost 20
pills and that relieved my serious heart symptoms though my heart remains very, very
This past Christmas, for the first time in my 32 years of living in Hazel Crest, I did not
put up one Christmas light or decoration outside because I lacked the energy, I caught
pneumonia, it was too cold and my wife didn't want me taking any added health risks.
For years, I took pride in decorating the outside of our house with thousands of lights
and it was the prettiest house on the block. But this Christmas, the only
decorations we had were inside the house.
Also, for the first time i almost 40 years, my wife and I spent New Year's eve at
home, where we prayed the old year out and the new year in. Traditionally, we did so in
the church, where I would be one of the featured preachers.
There were also other setbacks in my life as I saw the dearest of my friends die and
also had to become caregiver to an aging and combative mother-in-law.
Yes, 2008 was not great for me. But despite these and other setbacks, God
remained my refuge and strength and a very present help in the time of trouble.
Despite these setbacks, the Lord anchored and sustained me, has brought me a
long way in His healing process and he never has left me alone.
So although 2008 was not great, my faith tells me that, by the grace of God, fine will
be fine in 2009 as long as I drink more of God's NEW WINE from heaven's TRUE VINE.
And that NEW WINE, sisters and brothers, is none other than Jesus, His redeeming blood
and all that He stands for.
And so it was that while millions of revelers assembled in public places to prance and
dance, party hearty, drink round after dizzying rounds of alcoholic toasts, my wife, Joyce,
and I knelt by our bedside and prayed fervently to God, thanking Him for bringing us
through a relatively bad old year and asking Him to take us through a much better new
And while it is the custom to celebrate the New Year by making new resolutions, I am
celebrating it by asking God's Son Jesus to do me an old favor. And I am repeating that
request right now for your reading pleasure and for your prayerful support.
Jesus, please Jesus, keep near the cross. I want to be more like you, Jesus. I want
to glorify your holy name. But I can't do it by myself, sweet Jesus. I need help from
heaven, starting with the Lord. And this is my petition to Him:
Guide me Oh thou great Jehovah, pilgrimed through this barren land
I was weak, but thou art mighty, hold me with thy powerful hand.
And while You are guiding me, Lord, I have another request:
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me 'til I want no more.
And once you guide and feed me, Lord, then I want Jesus to take over and keep me
near the cross. For it was at the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light and the
burden of my heart rolled away. I was there by faith I received me sight. And now I am
happy all the day.
And I feel like shouting right now, sisters and brothers. I feel like holy-dancing and
shouting because when Jesus keeps me near His cross, then that means I will be able to
enjoy another super bonus articulated in another familiar hymn:
Just a closer walk with thee, Grant it Jesus if You please
Daily walking close to Thee, let it be dear Lord, let it be.
I am weak but Thou art strong. Jesus keep me from all wrong
I'll be satisfied as long as I walk let me walk close to Thee.
And I say to all you sisters and brothers hoping and praying for a better 2009 than
the 2008 we just finished. If you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
then life will be fine in 2009. Moreover, not only will life be fine in 2009, but victory is mine,
victory is mine, victory this year shall be mine. So I'm telling you right now, satan, get thee
behind me because victory shall be mine and life will be fine in 2009.
Yes, God forbid that I should glory,in or brag about ,anything but the cross. After all,
no cross, no crown. For Jesus Himself commands us: "If any man will come after me, let
him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." On another occasion, Jesus said,
"He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me is not worthy of me."
That all seems fair to me. After all, Jesus bore the cross for us. He was wounded for
our transgressions and bruised for our iniquity. But must Jesus bear the cross alone and
all the world go free? No, there's a cross for everyone and there's a cross for me.
The Sun-Times had borne its crosses of affliction and divers adversity and has been
given up for dead many, many times down through my 37 years of employment here. But
I believe it continues to survive and thrive because God has His hands on this paper and
on the state of Illinois. We should have been driven out of business years ago by the multi-
million-dollar theft and mismanagement of our previous owners and his cronies. They
tried their best to rob us into financial ruin the way so many other crooked corporate
CEOs robbed their companies into financial ruin. But I believe God is blessing this paper.
It is not by accident that Illinois, the land of Lincoln, has produced America's first
black President. And it is not by accident that the Chicago Sun-Times is the flagship news
source for this prestigious milestone for mankind. Because this paper has endured its
crosses with integrity, hard work and faith, it is reaping its crowns.
God bless you and, once again, happy New Year one and all.