Tuesday, December 31- Blood Tests and MRI’s

     What a day! My wife and my younger son spent the day with me at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. And it was…a DAY! We arrived at the Barnes/Washington University campus at about 10:45AM. We know that campus like the back of our collective hands, so we parked and headed to the 7th floor of the Washington University side- The Siteman Cancer Center.

     The first stop was the lab. I get a blood draw every time I go, so they can check levels. The young woman who took my blood  was…perhaps…having an off day. She started on the left arm, where she A. stuck me twice and B. rooted around like she was trying to snag a lobster trap! She then switched to the right arm, which was MUCH more successful.

     Then it was down to the 3rd floor for the MRI with contrast. They took me back pretty quickly, but then I had to wait. Then they had me change into the charming gown/plastic pants combo…stunning! Then…I waited. Then they wanted to put the IV line in. Apparently the gentleman who put that line in was related to the woman from the lab, because we tried two different places on my right arm- the 2nd attempt felt like a broadsword going through my skin! He then switched to the left arm, and as he was about to stick the needle in he said, “If this doesn’t work, I’ll have to go get someone else to try!” Fortunately…it worked! Then I had to wait to actually get the MRI done. (Side  bar- I must be getting used to MRI’s. The 1st one I had, I almost freaked out and made them stop because I was so claustrophobic! Yesterday…I fell asleep!)

     But the time I got out of the MRI and made my way back to the Cancer Center, I was almost 30 minutes for my doctor’s appointment. So they had to work us in between other patients! My blood work came back good. I don’t yet have the results for the MRI. One of the things I shared with the doctor was that my ear had suddenly become very tender and I was experiencing a fair amount of pain in that ear. He looked in my ear and shared that…it was a mess! Lots of gunk in there and the ear was very swollen. He suggested that I needed to see my ENT doctor…who wasn’t available that late yesterday! So they called the ENT department there at Barnes/Washington University and found that there was ONE ENT in the office…who happened to be an associate of MY ENT! He agreed to see us.

     Since he was fitting us in, we had to wait quite a bit for him. When we could finally see us, he agreed with the “Lots of gunk/swollen ear canal” diagnosis. He wanted to clean the stuff out of my ear, but it was so swollen that he couldn’t even see very far into the ear. So he had to try and use instruments to hold the ear canal open while also digging crud out of my ear. With my ear being very tender…that was a barrel of laughs!

     Then he announces, “I need to put a wick in your ear.” Come again? He shows us this…thing…that is about as big around as a cocktail straw and almost an inch long. He was going to shove that thing down in my ear and then add drops to it that would make it swell, thereby opening the ear canal and getting medicine where it needed to be. That was even more fun than all the picking and scraping! We then waited another 45 minutes for the pharmacy to fill a prescription for the ear drops.

     In the end, we spent 7 hours at the hospital yesterday! We all agree that the new medicine is taking a toll on me but we also all agree that we are in it for the long haul. I have to go back to St. Louis NEXT week because, as the ENT said, this wick in my ear will stop being a helpful tool to improve my ear and will quickly become a foreign body…in my body! Then I have to go back at the end of January for a follow-up with the oncology doctor. And so it goes…and so it goes!

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- New Year’s Day

Monday, December 30- What the Duck?

     First off, let me apologize for yesterday. NO…there was NO post yesterday. Your computer was fine. Your Facebook was fine. It was ME that was…not so fine! We drove 3 ½ hours on Saturday, and I was pretty spent by Saturday evening. I didn’t feel good and was just worn out. As I lay in bed Saturday night, it suddenly hit me- “I didn’t write anything for tomorrow!” Oops! But it was too late and I felt too crummy to do anything about it, so…!

     A few days ago, I wrote about the Duck Dynasty controversy. (And I use the word “controversy” with my tongue JAMMED into my cheek!) My bottom line was simply- who cares? An individual voiced his opinion. He’s entitled to that. We are ALL entitled to that. BUT…we have to also be willing to live with the consequences of our opinions. So he was well within his right to voice his opinion and his employer was well within their rights to choose to offer consequences for what they SAID was inappropriate comments. So…done! He said what he said. They did what they did. Welcome to the world, how do you like it so far?

     But then came the most recent wrinkle. And although I didn’t claim this upfront so it’s easy for me to say, I KNEW this would be the next chapter in the story. A & E lifted the ban they had placed on this “rogue redneck” and all is well with the world. How magnanimous of them!

     For my money, A & E can say anything they want. They can talk about forgiveness and 2nd chances and whatever else they may want to throw in there. But the truth of the matter is they saw the backlash of angry viewers who were threatening to boycott their network and SUDDENLY became “forgivin’ and forgettin’ Christians”. How…convenient.

     I find it appalling in this country how hypocritical so many people are. We can say what we want, but results are what drive America…and little else. There used to be a pitcher named Jim Bouton who pitched for, among other teams, the New York Yankees. He was a VERY outspoken, somewhat controversial pitcher who was also VERY good for a few years. And here’s the amazing thing- when he was winning 20 games a year for the Yankees (a VERY good number of wins in a season), everybody wanted to hear what he had to say and he was allowed to speak his mind. But the SECOND that his skills diminished, so did people’s desire to listen to him. Think that through- his OPINIONS didn’t change, just his skills. And when his skills were sharp, his opinions were great…challenging. But once he was just an “average guy”, his opinions and a dollar would buy you a Coke out of most machines in America.

     Ultimately, it comes down to integrity. If the Duck Dynasty guy’s opinions are bad enough for A & E to fire him, then fine…fire him. But you lose ALL credibility when you reverse your earlier decision simply because your cash cow is in danger of drying up! The Bible says let your “yes” mean “yes” and let your “no” mean “no”. Say what you mean…and mean what you say!

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Blood Tests and MRI’s

Saturday, December 28- The Power is in the Hat

     Isn’t it interesting what it is that can start a conversation? When we first moved to the town we lived in LAST, I went into a local store and when I walked up to the counter, the owner said, “You must be the new preacher.” I said, rather surprised, “Well, yes…I am.  How did you know?”  He looked at me, pointed and said, “The earring- I heard about the earring…figured it has to be you!”  

     “The earring” has started MANY a conversation. That’s not why I have it, but it IS a nice conversation starter. What usually happens is that people who don’t know me will be talking to me. But instead of talking to me…they talk to the earring! Sometimes, I will let it go and let them continue to talk to my earring. But sometimes, I will move my head to make eye contact with them and say, “I see you’re looking at the earring. Have you ever heard the story as to why I have an earring?” And then I tell them.

     I have found another item that is often with me that is also a conversation starter- my hat! I have a black baseball hat that my wife got me a few years ago. It is a fitted hat that says “stickwithjesus.com” on the front. I wear the hat much of the time. And it seems to strike up conversations!

     When we went out to cut down our Christmas tree, the gentleman who owns the place saw the hat and asked about it. We ended up have a good conversation about the purpose of this website and he wrote down the web address so he could look it up after we left.

     Then, right before Christmas, we were at the Christian bookstore, killing time while we had new tires put on the car. One of the sales associates walked up and asked us if we needed any help. We thanked him and assured him that we were just looking. He noticed my hat and asked about it. He then came and found us a few minutes later…just so he could write down the web address! He had the site up on the computer before we were out of the store.

     Then, I was at the pharmacy in town recently when the pharmacy tech said, “I like to read your…your…your…shoot, what’s it called?” I pointed to my hat. She looked up, there was a moment, then her face brightened and she said, “Yes! That’s it! I read it every day!”

     I used to worry that it was a little self-serving to promote my website. But then it struck me- we are called to connect people to Jesus Christ. And that is the SOLE purpose of this site, Therefore, I will continue to use it as a tool to do just that AND I will continue to promote it. Because if reaching thousands a day for Jesus Christ is good, then reaching twice that per day is twice as good!

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- What the Duck?

Friday, December 27- The Best Christmas Presents Ever!

     On Christmas Eve, I shared with the children in attendance at out worship service about my worst Christmas gift ever! I was about 4 years old and we had a babysitter who, because my folks both worked, was nearly a part of the family. She had been telling me for probably a month that she was going to give me a bundle of switches for Christmas. (At the Christmas Eve services, I described it at as bundle of sticks, because I didn’t think the kids would know what switches were!) She and I laughed at that notion SEVERAL times over the weeks leading up to Christmas.

     Then, the big day came! I could hardly WAIT to see what she ACTUALLY got me! The package from her was about 3 feet long and irregularly round. It was wrapped in bright Christmas paper and I was excited. I RIPPED the paper off to reveal…a bundle of switches! I immediately…burst into tears! She felt SO bad and immediately got out my REAL gift- a wagon with stacking blocks in it. Somewhere, there is a picture of me in my jammies, eyes swollen and red, holding up a bundle of switches!

     So if that was the worst gift I ever got, this year saw the BEST gifts ever! At my request, I had a grand, whopping total of…NO presents to open! Seriously! “Not even a bundle of switches, Pastor?” Nope! “Why?” Glad you asked!

      The events of this year – the health issues I have been dealing with – have had a relatively profound impact on nearly every facet of my life. And one of the changes I have seen in myself is that I simply don’t pine for things. When the topic of what I wanted for Christmas came up, I genuinely couldn’t think of one thing I wanted or needed- NOT ONE THING! So what did I tell my family? I told them that my goal was to have NO presents under the tree. I suggested that, if they wanted to do something, they could donate money in my name to one of two places. And that’s EXACTLY what they did!

     Now, I don’t say all of that because I want to appear like an awesome guy or something. I’m not! I’m just a painfully average guy who feels incredibly blessed by God. And the joy I felt this Christmas, knowing that, instead of another necktie and a package of socks, people who actually needed that money would benefit from it…well, that was GREAT!

      So, I got NOTHING for Christmas AND…had arguably the best Christmas EVER! It was SO good, in fact, that I’m already planning on what I DON’T want for my birthday!

      Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Power is in the Hat

Thursday, December 26- Well, What Do We Do Now?

     It’s done. Over. Gone. Put to bed for another year. Yep- Christmas…is…over! After weeks of preparation, shopping, decorating, parties, programs and everything else we can cram into a season, Christmas showed up yesterday and then- WHAM!- we’re bagging up spent wrapping paper and wondering if 7PM is too early to go to bed.

     I don’t know about you, but this was one of the best…yet most unusual Christmases ever. I LOVED the whole season at church. We did lots of great things and I felt fully connected to both the church I currently serve and to God. I got to spend good, quality time with my family- we even got to see our older son more than usual, which was awesome.

     On quite the other hand, I spent the whole Christmas season on a roller coaster of “injection, 24 hours of feeling like crud, 24 hours of feeling pretty good…repeat”! People have wanted so badly for me to adjust to the medicine and not have the side effects. And believe me, I wanted that, too! But so far…that hasn’t happened. And you know what? That’s OK. The medicine is the only treatment I am currently receiving. So I am HIGHLY motivated to make sure I take the injections 3 times/week, regardless of the side effects.

     But regardless of all that…Christmas is over. So, what do we do now? Do we experience the traditional post-Christmas let-down? Do we just sort of limp back into “regular life”, pining for the festive feelings that accompany December? I say, “No!” There is a hymn that talks about us being Easter people. The song makes it clear that we should be Easter people all year long, not just at Easter. I couldn’t agree more.

     Likewise, there should be a hymn that talks about us being Christmas people all year long. Seriously. Why COULDN’T we be Christmas people from January 1 to December 31? Imagine if we greeted everyone all year long, and not just during the Christmas season. Imagine if we did nice things for others in, say, June. Imagine if we had that warm, fuzzy “I love my fellow humans” feeling 24/7/365. What a WONDERFUL world it would be!

     Here’s my challenge to you- be a Christmas person…period. Tomorrow. Next week. Next month. 6 months from now. Be a Christmas person. Think about the way you acted the past few weeks, then replicate the BEST parts for the entirety of 2014. I dare you. I DOUBLE dare you! I double DOG dare you!  

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Best Christmas Presents EVER!

Wednesday, December 25- Merry Christmas!

      You have a full day today. I have a full day today. And yet…I can’t NOT write! (Yes, I KNOW that’s a double-negative! Cut me slack…it’s Christmas!) So I just want to take a moment to say, “Merry Christmas!” I want to thank you for reading every day. You will never know how much I appreciate the daily connection with so many of you!

    I know God not only walks this current journey with me, but I feel your presence as well…and I am thankful! May God’s blessing be yours- today, tomorrow, forever!

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Well, What Do We Do Now?

Tuesday, December 24- Christmas Star

     I have shared before that I did NOT grow up in the Church. We were what you might call Godless heathens! We were bad people per se- we didn’t rob banks or kick puppies. But we didn’t “do” church to speak of and didn’t have much of a gear for those who did.

     With that as a backdrop, I find it fascinating that one of the most…spiritual…events I remember as a kid was a direct result of my dad. It would have been somewhere around 1966. It was Christmas Eve and my dad asked us if we wanted to see the Christmas Star. Even though we weren’t church folks, we knew the whole “star in the east on Christmas morn” story, so we said, “Yes!”

     He got us up sometime in the night. It seemed like 2AM, but I was pretty little and could be confused about that part. He brought us into the kitchen and pointed out the kitchen window. And there, in the EAST, was the brightest star I had ever seen. My dad said it was the Christmas Star. And I was amazed! I remember standing there, watching that star and realizing that this was a very singular event. I wasn’t sure what that even meant at the time, but I knew there was some significance to the event.

     Since then, I have tried, more than once, to Google the date and circumstances, to see if I could find out anything about this celestial event. Perhaps it was planets aligning. Perhaps it was a comet. Perhaps it was…whatever. But even though I have slid a few years each way from that center of 1966, I have never found ANY mention of any special event in the sky that night. I simply have NO idea what I saw. I just know…THAT I saw it. And it had a profound impact on me.

     Of course, if that WAS 1966, then I was 5 years old. And I was 36 years old when I entered the ministry. So it’s NOT like this event had an immediate impact on my life. But I have found that God works much that way in my life. It’s not so much about one event that stands out as a watershed event. Instead, it’s about a series of often seemingly disconnected events that, when put altogether, make a larger whole that impacts me in a greater way. (I think it’s because I’m a bit stubborn AND a bit…dense…and God has to work HARD on me sometimes to get me to see things!)

     Not a Christmas goes by that I don’t remember standing in our kitchen as a boy, in my pajamas, watching that star out the window and knowing…KNOWING…that something big was happening! And therefore, not a Christmas goes by that I don’t think of my dad getting us out of bed and wondering- did he remember that event, too? My dad died almost 3 years ago, and I never thought to ask him about it. But I will NEVER forget it!

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Merry Christmas