26 prayers for a friend named Rhonda

Helpless is a monster that spreads like wildfire through body and mind, inviting fear and doubt along for the ride. The trio has been lodged in my heart lately, and I’ve had enough. I’m calling in the big guns — a dose of power so large it’ll send helpless, fear, and doubt packing once and for all. I could use some assistance if you’re interested. Please let me explain.

I’ve written quite a lot about my obsession with running. I won’t bore you with the details other than to tell you I’ll be attempting the Monument Marathon — my first full marathon — on Oct. 13 in Scottsbluff. I’ve been training for months. Some days are bliss. Others are killer hard. It’s the nature of the beast.

But this isn’t about me, or a marathon. It isn’t about me running a marathon, other than using it as a tool for a cause vastly larger than a medal to hang on the wall.

It’s about a friend called Rhonda.

Rhonda and I were Iowa farm kids who rode the same school bus. The dirt swirled as we rattled down gravel roads, and Rhonda became a stand-up comedian to pass the time. Acting out Easter candy commercials was one of her favorite shticks.

She adored a particular M&Ms commercial that featured a kid wearing a chicken suit. Rhonda would belt out a jingle about the world loving M&Ms, tuck her hands into her armpits, flap her wings like she was taking flight, and yell, “Thanks, Easter Bunny! Bwawk! Bwawk!”

She was a big fan of Cadbury ads, too, especially the giant rabbit who clucked like a chicken before it laid a foil-wrapped chocolate egg. “BWAK! BWAK!” she yelled. “And just like that, out comes an egg!”

I hee-hawed like it was the finest comedy on Broadway. Entertainment was simpler before cable.

We graduated from Audubon High School in 1979, and as classmates often do, we settled in different places, got married, raised families, and built lives. I lost track of Rhonda until one of us found the other on Facebook a couple years ago. It was like being welcomed back to a safe, familiar place; like Easter dinner complete with M&Ms and foil-wrapped chocolate eggs.

And now Rhonda has cancer. And it stinks — a lot.

Cancer wasn’t even a thought when I started training all those months ago. But helpless, fear, and doubt set up camp in Schlueterville as soon as I heard the news. I was helpless to heal, feared the future, and doubted our place in the world. In other words, I displayed a horrendous lack of faith.

I thought about Rhonda a lot during my training runs, and had an epiphany that replaced my misgivings with power, courage, and a resolve so strong it makes my upcoming marathon look like a stroll in the park. That’s where you come in.

It’s the Pray per Day for Rhonda Marathon Project, and I’m asking warriors across the land to pray for Rhonda and her family. Now prayer cannot be contained, so approach it as you see fit, but the project kicks off Sept. 18, which marks 26 days to the marathon. That’s one prayer per day, for every mile I’ll run in Scottsbluff — 26 daily prayers for Rhonda from Sept. 18 to Oct. 13, 2012.

Now we all have plenty of people on our prayer lists, and if you’ll email me their names, I’ll add them to mine, too. But I’d love to see a wave of prayer strong enough to bounce off heaven and ricochet right in Rhonda’s backyard. It’ll be good for Rhonda. It’ll be good for everyone we’re praying for. It’ll be good for us, too.

And it’ll chase helpless, fear, and doubt right back to the abyss, where they belong.

Tamera Schlueter

Tam Schlueter adopts a "strike-fast-and-keep-them-laughing" approach to writing. Her column appears every Thursday in the Hastings Tribune, and showcases the wonder of family, dogs, muscle cars, and folks with blue collars and no-nonsense attitudes.

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