Ken Mansfield is what one might
call an icon in the music industry.
His illustrious career brought him
in contact with living legends,
most notably, the Beatles. A born-again
Christian, Ken has shared
many of his stories in books. His
latest, Stumbling on Open Ground
captures his painful journey with
cancer with riveting detail and
frank realism that makes the icon
accessible and brings the God he
loves and trusts within reach of
the rest of us.
“If racing against mere men makes you
tired, how will you race against horses? If
you stumble and fall on open ground, what
will you do in the thickets near the Jordan?”
Jeremiah 12:5 (NLT)
The circumstances of Ken Mansfield’s
early life did not overtly point towards a
life of fame, glamour and celebrity. Son
of a lumberjack, he grew up on an Indian
Reservation in Northern Idaho. When his
time came to join the service, he did so
with dreams of a salary and a fast car. As
luck would have it, he was placed in the
Navy’s medical corps.
“I was around very educated people,”
shares Ken. “I went to college and got a
bachelor of science degree. Folk music was
popular then. A few guys in my fraternity
started a band with me. We were playing
for beer and pizza and then got discovered.
In that process, I met some people in the
business who asked if I would ever think
about working for a record company.”
The answer turned out to be yes. Soon,
Ken was working for Capital Records and
one of the first bands under him just so
happened to be the Beatles.
“When I worked with the Beatles, because
they were so famous, most everyone they
worked with was some 60 year old suit. I
was the young guy they knew over here.
We were kind of intrigued by each other.
They talked funny and dressed really cool.
America was the whole ball of wax. Soon, I
got a second job as their personal liaison. If
Paul wanted to do something in America or
John saw a pair of sunglasses in a magazine
he wanted, they called me.
“God basically never came up,” Ken
continues. “We didn’t really need God at that time. To shorten a long story, one
day it all fell apart. I went broke, lost
everything…God loved me so much He
took me to my knees and put somebody in
my life who witnessed to me.”
That somebody has now been Ken’s bride
for 26 years. Hand in hand, Ken discovered
a whole new life with the woman he loved
and the God he was getting to know more
and more each day.
And then, the first cancer came. The year
“I had been sick for about two years and
we couldn’t figure out what was wrong,”
Ken shares. “I kept being misdiagnosed
and was just getting sicker and sicker.
One doctor who had nothing to do with
cancer found the clue that showed I had
bone marrow cancer, a very rare, incurable
cancer. A lot of oncologists weren’t that
familiar with it. I was told that I had one to
three years. I went home that night and we
cried and went to bed. I woke up the next
morning and felt incredible. It was like God
had said, ‘Ok, you’ve gotten some news.
You do believe in me and you don’t ever
have to question.’ That’s the peace that
passes all understanding.”
Despite feeling like “a ticking time
bomb,” Ken was able to somehow trust
and rest in the knowledge that God would
either walk him through this or bring him
home. Either way, Ken knew God would be
glorified. There was comfort in that. And
then round two hit.
“In the midst of this, because of my
immune system I came down with the
second cancer. I saw Farrah Fawcett die
with this,” Ken shares. “It was just brutal.
Seven months of 200 hours or so of chemo
and heavy radiation.”
It was throughout the arduous
treatment process that Ken truly began
dealing with, talking about and coming to
terms with his own mortality.
“The point of this book is not cancer.
There’s really a lot of flailing around,” he
says. “Something like this invades your
whole life. It affects your family, your
friends, your marriage, finances…the
smoke goes to the whole house. But it’s
ok. You just trust God and His promises.
That’s why I use Jeremiah as my opening.
You have a father that never lies. You can’t
stumble. He’ll see you through.”
As Ken wrestled internally with the
effects of the cancer and treatment ravaging him externally, Ken began to
see that the trial, brutal as it was, was not
intended to be painful—it was really a
“The trial was so extreme,” Ken shares.
“I had been in so much pain at one time. I
thought that at least God would just back
off the pain. And it got worse. It was so
extreme because He trusted me with it.
“I have trouble with the mechanics of
God,” Ken continues. “Looking at Job, it
ended up well. He’s given us a pattern.
When you go through a trial like this, you
give up a lot of bad habits. You don’t have
time! You’re fighting a single battle and
having a dialogue with God. He narrows
your frame of reference. The other thing
I learned was that God doesn’t have to
explain his every move. You can go through
a trial and have a dialogue with God. That’s
called prayer. That’s what He wants. But over time, the one thing that kept coming
back in the midst of doubt was that either
I believe or I don’t. That’s what faith is. We
don’t have to understand. It doesn’t matter
if we have trouble believing. You just have
to believe and you can’t get mad at the
only one who can help you. When I think
about abandoning my faith, I think back
to the disciples who said, ‘And where else
would I go?’”
When it comes down to it, those who
have dealt with cancer will find a cohort in
Ken. Those who have ever doubted will find
an understanding ear. Those who have ever
been keenly aware of their own mortality
and fragility will find a companion. Ken
sums it best with, “Comprehension is not a
requirement of my salvation. Faith is.”