Monday, March 31- More Questions Than Answers

     Today is a…BIG…day. To be honest, it’s
BEEN a big day for a while. But now, it is even…BIGGER! You see, I am in St.
Louis, MO as you read this, in the midst of “medical stuff”. Originally, I had:
2 different doctor visits, 1 round of lab work, a CPAP evaluation (checking to
see if I am ready for general anesthetic) and a CT scan. But last Friday…that
changed.

     A week ago yesterday, after our “early”
worship service, my wife said, “Are you OK?” After questioning why she asked,
she said that my mouth 
didn’t seem to be working right. One of the concerns
with this tumor in my head is that it will impact the 7
th Cranial
Nerve- the one that controls the right side of the face AND the sense of taste.
Well, after she asked me that, I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror-
I was indeed experiencing partial paralysis on the right side of my face. In
addition, my sense of taste is nearly shot.

     After church, I called and talked to the
neurosurgeon on call at Barnes Hospital/Washington University School of
Medicine. (MY neurosurgeon is part of that group.) He said that he was
reluctant to prescribe anything for me but encouraged me to go and get checked
out for a possible stroke. My local doctor confirmed- no stroke.

     After talking to all 3 of my doctors’
offices (ENT, oncologist and neurosurgeon), it was decided that the CT scan scheduled
for today needed to be moved up. Done. It then needed to be overnighted to STL.
Done. After reading the scan, it was determined that the tumor 
hadn’t changed,
but was “more cystic”. OK- but what does “cystic” mean? It means there is a
fluid build-up going on. That would explain both the localized facial swelling and
the paralysis symptoms. The question is- what’s causing the fluid?

     So, here is the NEW schedule for today.
9:30AM- Ear, Nose and Throat doctor. He will evaluate me and decide if the
antibiotics he put me on last week are helping or not. If he feels I am making
progress, then I will head to Barnes Hospital and have an MRI, blood work and a
visit with the oncologist. Then…I will go home and plan for surgery in a few
weeks. If, however, he decides that I am NOT making progress but instead
getting worse, he will admit me to that very same Barnes Hospital and…the
surgery will happen!

     You might imagine that this uncertainty has
caused a lot of stress in our family. My son has a LOT of big school-related events
coming up. Easter is almost here. And I am responsible for a vibrant, growing
church that takes a great deal of time and energy. And SOMETIME in the next 6
weeks, I will have a surgery that will put me out of commission for 2 months.
AND, that “sometime” could be this week!

     Do I want to have surgery this week? No.
Do I want to have surgery in 6 weeks? No. Do I want to have surgery at ALL? No.
But…it IS going to happen. No other medical treatment has worked. So what am I
left with? I am left with the promise of God. I am left with His sure presence
in difficult times. I am left with the fact that He will continue to walk this
journey with me. And I cling steadfast to the knowledge that He is good, all
the time!

    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 411

Sunday, March 30- Wayward Son

     We used to have a VERY large black German Shepherd named Bud. Bud was known to run off if he got loose, so we tried to keep that from happening. We had a walk-out basement and that was the door we would use to put him out. There was a silicon-covered braided-steel cable in the back yard screwed into the ground. (He was a STRONG dog!) We would snap that to his collar and let him out in the back yard to…well…do his business! 
     One nice summer night, I put him out on the lead and went back in the house to do something. A few minutes turned into several minutes and, before I knew it, he had been outside for over a half an hour. I went downstairs and out the back door…to find him gone! GONE! The cable was gone. The screw-in anchor was gone. The dog was gone! And…panic set in. In the blink of an eye, I envisioned several different scenarios- NONE of them good! I ran out of the yard and into the dark, warm summer night, calling the dog. “Bud! Bud! Come here, Bud!” 
     I ran through the yard behind us and onto the next street over. We lived in the middle of a rather large neighborhood and the truth of the matter was…he could have gone just about anywhere. Finding a BLACK dog in the dark didn’t sound very hopefully. As I ran through the neighborhood, SCREAMING, “Bud!” the panic got deeper and thicker. I could barely breathe. 
     This went on for about 15 minutes- me, running up and down the streets around our house, yelling the dog’s name. Just when I was about to give up, go back home, tell my older son I lost his 5th birthday present, get the car and start driving around and looking…there he was! He was up on someone’s porch, about 5 blocks down and 3 blocks over from our house. Tears of joy and relief began to flow. And Bud? He looked up, saw me out in the street, wagged his tail and said, “Hey! Good to see you? Were you looking for me? I’m ready to go home now!” He had, over a few days, managed to unscrew that anchor from the ground. He then traveled all those blocks, dragging that cable and anchor behind him! Once he got on that porch, he got the cable caught and was therefore stuck. In got him untangled and we went home- another crisis averted, another panic defused.
     Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent- the season leading up to Easter- as we continue our current sermon series- Full Promises. This series will lead us right up to the empty tomb and risen Savior of Easter Sunday. Along the way, we are picking out JUST a few of the high points in the life of Jesus Christ to see what impact these stories, and the promises they offer, have on our lives. Notice that the title of the series- Full Promises. As opposed to the empty promises the world offers, Jesus offers us FULL promises…all built on the biggest empty promise ever- the empty tomb of Easter. Through these promises, Jesus offers to empty us of the things that hold us back, that hold us down. The 1st week’s full promise was that your loneliness will be gone. The 2nd week’s full promise was that your wandering will be gone. Last week’s promise is that your paralysis will be gone. And today’s promise is that your panic will be gone.
     Psalm 91:1-4 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. They say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
     Your panic will be gone. What IS panic? It is a sudden, overwhelming fear, with or without reasonable cause, that produces hysterical, irrational behavior. Panic both dominates and replaces rational thinking. If it is not treated, panic can and will impact your relationships with friends and family. It will eventually lead to withdrawal and feelings of helplessness. 
    Panic is such an inherent, predictable response that architects actually try to accommodate the symptoms of panic, the herd behavior, during the design and planning of a building. They try to figure out the best ways to lead people to a safe exit and prevent excessive congestion. For example, a tall, 1’ wide column, placed at a precisely calculated distance from the exit doors, actually speeds up the evacuation process of a large group by up to 30%. The pillar naturally divides the congestion crowd well ahead of the choke point. 
     I heard someone say recently, “We experience occasional moments that are absolutely free from worry. These brief respites are called panic!” Panic is a real part of life. But what do we do with it? How do we deal with it? What does Jesus say about the topic? To answer those questions, we turn to a rather unusual and controversial story found in the Gospel of Mark. 
     Mark 5:1-20 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.  When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me.” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
     Pride is what you feel when your kids make $143 at their garage sale. Panic is what you feel when you realize your car is missing! This story is often called “The Gerasene Demoniac” or, as I like to call it, “The Creepy One Where the Pigs Drown”! So who was this man? We don’t really know much. In fact, all we know is that he is a naked, crazy man who lives in and among the to
mbs. If he were alive today, he would be institutionalized. But we can’t forget that, at one time, he was somebody’s son, or husband, or dad or friend. But now…he is bound by demons! Notice the strong and evil impact these demons had on him- he is “living” among the “dead”. Do you hear the oxymoron inherent in that statement? The truth is that the devil likes you to be in the tombs, with the dead- maybe not those who are physically dead, but certainly those who are spiritually dead. He wants them to influence you, to drag you down into the pit of panic and despair.
     Notice the condition of this man. He couldn’t be tamed- he was wild. He was crying out, cutting himself with stones. He wants to destroy himself- he doesn’t feel worthy to live. 
Day and night, this is his existence. Nothing ever changes. A constant state of panic. And then, one day, everything changed. As he careens between the headstones, he looks up…and sees Jesus far off, headed his way. He runs to Jesus and falls on his knees before Him. “What do You want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” It’s as if he is saying, “Please don’t torture me. No more panic!” When we are in a diminished, panicked state, things like healing and normalcy can seem like torture. 
     Jesus, in true Jesus form, seems to not notice, or ignore, the comment. SEEMS to! He asks the man, “What’s your name?” It sounds like a rather harmless, if not unnecessary question. That is, until we hear who actually answered the question. The answer that comes is, “My name is Legion/, for we are many.” Did you catch that? MY name is Legion for WE are many- from the singular “my” to the plural “we”. It’s not really the MAN who answers…but the demons INSIDE the man. Legion. The actually quantity of a Roman Legion changed throughout history, but the average understanding is that a Legion of Roman soldiers was 5,400. This is NOT just a slightly troubled man- his problems are Legion.
     Oddly, the man begs Jesus NOT to send the demons away- NOT to! The devil you know versus the devil you don’t know. Meanwhile, there is a herd of pigs nearby. Pigs- considered unclean. (Although I wonder how anything that takes table scraps and turns them into BACON can be unclean!) The demons, sensing that their time with this man is about to end, literally beg Jesus to NOT just send them away but instead send them into the pigs. That way they can stay around, waiting for the next hapless victim to come along. And Jesus is MORE than happy to oblige! But to quote that great theologian Pablo Cruise- things didn’t turn out way they planned. Once they are sent into the pigs, the pigs…rush into the water and are drowned taking the Legion of demons with them! Those tending to the pigs run and tell others what happened. When they return, the find a truly amazing thing- this crazed man is now sitting quietly at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and in his right mind. His panic is gone and he is healed. Nothing could help this man…until Jesus showed up. Then, his life was never the same. 
     In 2002, a movie called “Panic Room” came out. Jodie Foster played a woman who lived with her daughter in a New York City brownstone. Their home was complete with a panic room- a fortified hi-tech room that is intended to keep the occupants safe in case of intruders. But it turns out that the panic room is both a haven…and a trap.  That which keeps her safe is also that which keeps her trapped. So I wonder- where’s your “panic room”? Jesus intrudes our space, invades our secure hiding place, breaks into our panic room. He butts into our most secluded places and intervenes in our well-fortressed lives. But He does so with a promise- He will not leave us abandoned or forsaken. And He will bring us peace in place of the panic.
     Some of the people in this story were appalled. Some of them were afraid. Some were amazed. But the man who was saved was grateful. When we read this story, we often fail to realize that Jesus came across the Sea of Galilee…JUST for this man! Seriously! He stepped off the boat, healed this man and then went right back. He came for solely for this unclean, unkempt, uncontrollable, panicked demon possessed man. He came for this man who had been rejected by everyone- his family, his community, his life. Jesus came to end his panic and leave him in his right mind. The old controls on his life were released and he was now controlled by the spirit of God. 
     Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
     One of the greatest baseball managers of all-time, Dodger legend Walter Alston, said, “Look at misfortune the same way you look at success – Don’t Panic! Do your best and forget the consequences.” Who controls your life? Panic controls many- that sudden abandonment of “us”…the going over to the enemy of our imagination. Is panic in control of your life? Or is Jesus in charge?  Are you allowing panic to cause you to miss out on life?
     Did you see the metaphor in the death of the pigs…and the demons? It happened…in the water. There is a powerful cleansing nature of water- but why is that? It is because Jesus is the water…the Living Water. Without Jesus, life is dry, barren and full of panic.
     But I am here this morning to tell you that Jesus is still in the business of turning around hopeless situations. Are you anxious, panicked? Jesus can bring you the peace you so desperately seek. He brought you here today to be changed, to have your life flipped upside down- or, more accurately, right side up. And He makes this offer- to take away your oppression, your loneliness, your insecurity and your panic. And He offers to replace it with companionship, courage and a confidence in the living Christ. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. Are YOU free…from panic? 
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
     Tomorrow- More Questions Than Answers

Saturday, March 29- Here We Go!

      Opening Day is ALMOST here! Soon, the
first pitch will be thrown out of the 2014 Major League Baseball season…and I
will be in HOG HEAVEN! I won’t mention which team I root for because I don’t
want to create enemies (OK…it’s the St. Louis Cardinals!), but the beginning
of the baseball season is a special time for me. 

     I
didn’t even like baseball when I was a kid. My family wasn’t really a bunch of
sports fans, and I followed right along. The Cardinals made it to the World
Series 3 times in the 60’s- the first decade I was alive. I was AWARE of it, I
sort of paid attention to it, but I really didn’t care that much. Then…a kid
moved in down the road (growing up in the country, we didn’t have streets…we
had ROADS!) who was to become my constant “boon” companion for years.
As little of a sports fan as I was, that’s how BIG of a sports fan he was. He
taught me about hockey, football, basketball…and baseball! I enjoyed learning
about the other sports, and have remained a fan of each of them to varying
degrees, but when baseball and I met, it began a lifelong love affair!

    
There is something magical about baseball. It is the only sport where the defense
controls the ball (think about it). It is the only major sport that has NO time
restrictions- the half-inning ends when three outs happen…however long that
takes! Likewise, the game ends when nine innings are completed…however long
THAT takes…UNLESS of course the teams are tied. Then…extra innings!! And
although it is a team sport, there are moments when it comes down to one person
up against another. The pitcher stands on the mound, gripping the ball and
communicating, long-distant and silently, with the catcher. The hitter stands
in the batter’s box, bat in hand, digging his feet in, getting his stance just
the way he wants it, and waiting for HIS pitch. THAT is the drama of baseball.
Pitcher and catcher…and nothing else matters at that moment. Both players
shut out everything around them….it is tunnel vision between pitcher’s mound
and batter’s box. And the first time that the bat makes contact with them
ball…ah…music to my ears! The ball on the bat, the ball in the glove, the
sound of feet thundering around the bases, the chatter…it is the music of
baseball…and I love every minute of it!

    
What are YOU passionate about? It may not be the same things I’m passionate
about, but what are the things that really get your juices flowing? Whatever
they are, I have two thoughts for you:

1. do everything you
can to actually participate in the things about which you passionate. Life is
too short to not spend some time doing the things you love. Believe me, it is
good for the soul!

2. is your commitment
to God as complete as your commitment to the things from Question #1? Life is
ALSO too short to NOT have a relationship with God. And, like the things in Question
#1, believe me, it is GOOD for the soul! 

     As
much as I love baseball (and I LOVE baseball), as much as I love my job (and I
LOVE my job), as much as I love my family (and I REALLY LOVE my family), I try,
every day, to put my relationship with God above all those things. I have found
that, if you are able to truly put God first in your life, then the rest of the
things in your life seem to just…fall into place. It doesn’t mean that
everything will be all kittens and moonbeams- life will still have its ups and
downs. But it DOES mean that, as you walk through the difficulties…you won’t
walk through them alone. And I, for one, find that VERY comforting! Now, if
you’ll excuse me, I need to go rub some glove oil into my baseball glove…opening
day is ALMOST here!

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

     Tomorrow- Wayward Son

Friday, March 28- Random Thoughts About the Passion of Jesus

     The Bible Study my wife and I are
currently leading on Tuesdays at 9AM and 1:30PM and Wednesdays at 6PM is called
The Easter Experience. It features a weekly 20-minute video that offers a very
well done “mini movie” focusing on the events that lead to the cross and the
empty tomb.

     This week’s lesson centered on the arrest
and beating that Jesus experienced prior to the Crucifixion. The scene of Jesus
being chained to a post and whipped was brutal…to say the least. As it was
depicted in this version, He was beaten by 3 Roman soldiers, each brandishing a
cat-o-nine tails, complete with bits of rock and bone 
embedded in the “tails”
to ensure maximum damage. They didn’t whip Him 39 times. They whipped Him…until
they got tired. Then they jammed a crown of thorns down on His head, ripped the
flesh as it went. Once that was in place, they knocked Him to the ground and
set on Him like a pack of wild dogs, kicking and punching.

     When the carnage was over and the “players”
in the story had all gone, what was left…was the blood. And it was everywhere.
Dripping. Pooling. Running. And as graphic as that scene was, it looked like a
Disney flick compared to the gut-wrenching horror of the Mel Gibson movie The
Passion of the Christ.  And those…horrific
scenes beg the question, “Why?”

     Why is it necessary to show such graphic
violence in a “Christian” movie? If thee violence was in a movie about “cops
and robbers”, most Christians probably 
wouldn’t go and see it. And rightfully
so. So why is either of these movies any different?

     They are different because of the subject
matter. They are different because they 
AREN’T about fictitious good guys and
bad guys. They are different because they are not real stories. They are
different because they aren’t for any purpose but entertainment.

     The story of the Passion of Jesus, on
quite the other hand, is a REAL story, and the depiction of those events are
NOT intended for mere entertainment. The purpose of the graphic violence is to
help us better understand and appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made…for us. Is He
fully God? Absolutely! But is He ALSO fully man? You bet! And it is important
that we better understand what He actually sacrificed for us. This was not some
idle time in the flogging pit by a God Who didn’t really experience any pain
anyway. This was the most horrific beating a man could receive…and still
survive. He COULD have stopped it. He COULD have avoided it altogether. But He 
DIDN’T! And why? Because He…loves…us…that…much.

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

     Tomorrow- Here We Go!

Thursday, March 27- On the Road Again

      Remember the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope “on the
road” movies? They made a total of? SEVEN! They started with The Road to
Singapore in 1940. Next was The Road to Zanzibar in 1941, followed by The Road
to Morocco in 1942. After 3 in three years, they took a few years off before
making The Road to Utopia in 1946 and The Road to Rio in 1947. Then, after a
5-year layoff, they came back with The Road to Bali in 1952. 10 MORE years
passed before their last effort- The Road to Hong Kong in 1962. (Here is some
perspective- I was only alive when ONE of those movies was released…and I was
only 1 year old! From your perspective, that either makes me very young…OR very
old!) I was thinking of Crosby and Hope yesterday…as my wife made the 3-hour round
trip to Peoria for a 5-minute test!!

     The day started when we drove out of the
driveway at 7:15AM. Unlike EVERY other CT scan with contrast or MRI with
contrast I have had (And, although I don’t mean to brag or nothin’, I have had
a LOT!), I had to fast for 4 hours prior to the test. SO…NO coffee! (Softly
weeping as I write!) We arrived at the hospital at 8:40AM- 5 minutes prior to
the requested 8:45AM check-in time. My actually appointment was for 9AM.  

    I got in to the testing room at about
9:20AM. As the tech was prepping me and getting the IV in, I took the
opportunity to say, “Is there anything I can do to expedite the report from
this test so that it can be faxed to my doctor in St. Louis yet this morning?”
(The whole POINT of this test is to replace the one I was to have next week in
St. Louis because they wanted to see one as soon as possible to see what’s
going on my fetid little brain! Otherwise, the 3-hour round trip yesterday
would have been…irrelevant and unnecessary!)

     She looked at me and said, “Oh! This
report can’t be faxed today!” “Why?” “Because we have to get the results of
your previous CT scans and compare them to this one before the radiologist can
write the report.” (“Getting angry! Skin starting to turn green! Clothes
ripping! MUST resist! HULK SMASH!”) She then added, “But I can make a CD of the
scan that you can carry with you to St. Louis!”

     I resisted the overwhelming urge to be a monumental
jerk (It wasn’t her fault- she was simply followed the protocol set down by
someone farther up the food chain.) and told her the CD would be great. I. Had.
A. Plan!

     My wife and I drove to Bob Evans and got
some breakfast…AND some coffee! While we were there, I called my neurosurgeon’s
office and talked to his assistant. Her response to the current circumstance
was two-fold- “What?” and “We don’t need…or WANT…their opinion!” BINGO! So we
agreed that I would A. get the CD from the hospital, B. find a post office in
Peoria and C. overnight that puppy! 30 minutes and $17 later, the CD was
guaranteed to be in my doctor’s office before noon today!

     The lesson I learned when this whole “tumor”
thing started that I put to good use yesterday is this- you HAVE to be your own
health care advocate. Period. Nobody in this current climate is going to do it
for you. Frankly, they can’t. Therefore, you have to do it. You HAVE to ask the
questions. You HAVE to follow up. You HAVE to be a bulldog. You HAVE to make
sure things are going to be done the way they need to be done and when they
need to be done. Anything you don’t understand? Ask. Ask. Ask. Don’t assume
that something that is important to your health got done. Check on it. They
have a LOT of patients. You have ONE!

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

     Tomorrow- Random Thoughts on the Passion
of Jesus

Wednesday, March 26- Mary and Martha

     Society tends to divide people into 2 categories-
doers and dreamers. The doers are seen as those driven folks who are always on
the go. They are the over-achievers who grab the brass ring, get the
promotions, live life to the fullest. On the other hand, the dreamers are those
folks who love to THINK about things…but don’t really DO much. They are chronic
under-achievers who consistently miss the brass ring, miss the promotions and squander
much of life. At least that’s what the WORLD likes to say!

     This week’s Bible Study Scripture is a
familiar one that looks this “doer and dreamer” phenomenon squarely in the
eyes. Jesus and the disciples are travelling when they come to a friend’s
house.

     Luke 10:38-42 As Jesus and his disciples
were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home
to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to
what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be
made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left
me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord
answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are
needed–or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be
taken away from her.’

     The first thing I notice is the
hospitality offered by Martha and her sister. They opened up their home to 13…count
them- THIRTEEN…sweaty travelers. Could YOU do that? I’d have to think long and
hard before I’d start getting out the sleeping bags and blowing up the mattresses!
But that type of hospitality was more the norm than the exception in the Ancient
Near Eastern world. It’s what people did.

     So Jesus and the boys are invited in. Food
needed to be prepared for the guests, so Martha…the DOER…heads out into the
kitchen to fire up the oven and put the leftovers in the microwave. Meanwhile,
Jesus is in the living room, doing what He

Does
best- teaching. And where is Mary- the DREAMER? Is she in the kitchen, elbow to
elbow with Martha, cranking out dinner? NO! She is in the living room, sitting
at Jesus’ feet and hanging on His every word.

     Martha has had it and comes to Jesus, “You
need to DO something about this! I have worked my fingers to the bone fixing
this meal and what do I have to show for it? Bony fingers! Meanwhile my SISTER
sits here, doing NOTHING!” She is mad because Mary shirked her duties and
instead visited with the company.

     But Jesus helps Martha reimagine the whole
scenario. He tells her that Mary has made the right choice and He is NOT going
to take that away from her. I’m sure it was a hard, but important, lesson for
Martha to learn.

     The truth is that my imagined distinction
between doers and dreamers paints with WAY too broad of a brush. We are ALL
doers and ALL dreamers- it’s just that the percentage of each changes from
person to person. Doing is very important. Having a plan and working that plan
is a good thing. BUT- having the openness to dream of other ways to do things
is also a good thing. If we are SO rigid that we cannot see anything beyond our
purview, then we are SURE to miss Jesus when He stops by for dinner. But if we
are willing to be flexible, teachable, open- then Christ can do GREAT things
through us!

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

     Tomorrow- On the Road Again

Tuesday, March 25- Health Update #…Whatever!

     Have you ever seen
the movie The Sting? It is my favorite movie of ALL time! Robert Redford, Paul
Newman, Robert Shaw…and a cast of seemingly thousands of well-known faces. The
whole point of the movie is that the “good guys” (I guess!) spend the movie
setting up the “bad guy” for a monumental sting. And as the movie unfolds, you
begin to realize that the bad guy isn’t the only one being stung! Just every
time you think you have things figured out, they put the ol’ switcheroo and
leave you with a slack jaw and an amazed look.

     That’s how I have
felt the past few days…especially the slack jaw. I mentioned about two weeks
ago that the neurosurgeon didn’t want to wait as long for the surgery as we
did. His concern was that the tumor might, over that extra time, encroach on a particular
nerve, cranial nerve 7. There is one on each side of your face and they each control
the facial muscles on their side. His words were, “If the tumor encroaches too
much on that nerve, you would look like you had a stroke on the right side.”
OK- want to avoid that!

     But over the past
few days, the “sting” has begun to be revealed. On Thursday or Friday, I began
to have those little “muscle twitches” that we all get around our eyes. No big
deal. Saturday, I thought my lips felt a bit…different…but didn’t think much
about it. After the early worship service on Sunday, my wife said, “Are you all
right?” She said that my mouth wasn’t working right. I went to the restroom and
sure enough- the right side of my face has begun to experience some paralysis.

     The most obvious
spot is the mouth. When I smile, the left side goes up like normal. But the
right side doesn’t move very much. My right eyelid still functions properly,
but it is more eager to open when it is shut that is the left eye. It has also
affected my taste buds, causing a somewhat unpleasant taste that is constant. In
addition, I have some swelling in front of my right ear and decent amount of
pain. Sunday afternoon, my doctors in St. Louis had some concern that I had a
stroke. But that is not the case.

     So what’s the
deal? I don’t know, to be honest. But I DO know that the tumor has been
slow-growing thus far. And so, for it to suddenly move fast enough to cause
these problems seems unlikely…to me.  Logic
tells me that the swelling is putting pressure on that nerve, causing it to be
impaired. The $54 question is this- is that true AND what’s causing the swelling?
I still have a wick (tube of cotton-like material that is in my inner ear) in
my ear, and it has been in longer than I have ever had one. But…I don’t know.

     If all goes well,
we will drive to Peoria (90 minutes away) today to get the CT scan that I was
scheduled to get in St. Louis next week. That will be transmitted to my doctors
in St. Louis and then a determination will be made from there. I will say this-
life these days is NEVER boring!

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

     Tomorrow- Mary and Martha

Monday, March 24- Hurry Up and Wait!

hate  [heyt]  verb (used with object), hat·ed, hat·ing.

1. to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme
aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest: to hate the enemy; to hate
bigotry.

2. to be unwilling; dislike: I hate to do it.

verb (used without object), hat·ed, hat·ing.

3. to feel intense dislike, or extreme aversion or hostility.

noun

4. intense dislike; extreme aversion or hostility.    

 

     Things that I
hate: (And yes, I KNOW we are not supposed to hate things, but…things I hate!)

1.  Arriving
at your destination only to realize you forgot the ONE thing you needed to
bring

2. Burnt popcorn
3. Buying batteries
(they are SO expensive!)

4. Hang nails and paper cuts

5. Speed bumps

6. Waking up and finding my blankets on the
floor

7. Wobbly tables

8. Bathroom blow dryers for your hands

9. Talking during a movie

10. When people say they found “it” in the last
place they looked. Why would they keep looking AFTER they found “it”?!

11. Telemarketing

12. Getting stuck at a red light when nobody is
going the other direction

     If we are honest,
there are a lot of things that we hate. But one of the things NOT on this list
that I hate the most is…waiting! Let’s be honest- we wait for LOTS of things.
We wait in line at the grocery store. We wait at the doctor’s office. We wait
to fill our gas tanks. We wait at red lights. We wait for people. We wait for a
table at the restaurant. We wait for vacations and days off. We wait…we wait…we
wait.

     I have NEVER been
a good “wait-er”. I am NOT the most patient person in the world. And perhaps
because of that, I have experienced a GREAT DEAL of waiting over the past 10
months.

     It all started in
May of last year when my wife and I waited for what seemed like hours (but was
only about 45 minutes) to get to a doctor’s office and be told of the tumor in
my head. And the waiting has just magnified since. I would shudder to think how
many hours my wife, younger son and I have spent in doctor’s offices and
hospitals. And while that waiting has been, at some level, maddening, the real
waiting has been far harder.

     I like having
answers. We ALL like that. But in my current situation, there have been infinitely
more questions than answers. Why? Because what I have is so rare that I am the
19th recorded case…ever! (My mom always said I was a special
snowflake!) And since it is so rare, it was hard to even find a doctor. And
once I DID find a doctor…and then a 2nd doctor…and now a 3rd
doctor…the answers are still few and far between. They simply don’t know how to
treat this…THING…in my head. They are doing their best, and I have great trust
in them, but it’s hard to treat what you don’t even fully understand.

     And so…we wait.
And through this waiting, God has helped me see just how much I need to rely on
Him. He has strengthened my trust in Him…as well as my resolve. I don’t know
what tomorrow will bring. And I don’t know when the waiting will end…if ever.
But I DO know that I do NOT wait alone!

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

     Tomorrow- Health Update #…Whatever!

Sunday, March 23- Walking on Sunshine

     A guy suffering from a miserable cold begged his doctor for relief. The doctor prescribed some pills. But after a week, the guy was still sick. So the doctor gave him a shot. But that didn’t help his condition either. The doctor said, “Okay, this is what I want you to do- go home and take a hot bath. Then, before you get dressed, throw open all the windows and stand in the draft.” The patient protested, “I’ll get pneumonia!” The doctor calmly replied, “I know. THAT I can cure!”
     Today is the 3rd Sunday of Lent- the season leading up to Easter- as we continue our current sermon series- Full Promises. This series is leading us right up to the empty tomb and risen Savior of Easter Sunday. Along the way, we are picking out JUST a few of the high points in the life of Jesus Christ to see what impact these stories, and the promises they offer, have on our lives. Notice that the title of the series- Full Promises. The world tends to offer “empty promises”. But Jesus offers us FULL promises…all built on one enormous empty promise- the empty tomb of Easter. Through these promises, Jesus offers to empty us of the things that hold us back, that hold us down. The 1st week’s full promise was that your loneliness will be gone. Last week’s full promise was that your wandering will be gone. Today’s promise is that your paralysis will be gone.
     1Corinthians 15:50-52 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
         In 1985, a band called Katrina and the Waves released the American radio version a song called Walking on Sunshine.  It made it all the way to #9 on the American charts that year. The lyrics include these words: “I used to think MAYBE you loved me- now I’m sure. And I just can’t wait till the day when you knock on my door. I feel alive! I feel the love! I feel the love that’s really real! I’m on sunshine!” 
The key to the last Bible passage is the last word- changed. The key to those song lyrics is walking on sunshine. And together, those act as a perfect set-up for today’s main Scripture.
     John 5:1-9 Later Jesus went to Jerusalem for a special feast. In Jerusalem there is a pool with five covered porches called Bethesda. This pool is near the Sheep Gate. Many sick people were lying on the porches beside the pool. Some were blind, some were crippled, and some were paralyzed, and they waited for the water to move. Sometimes an angel of the Lord came down to the pool and stirred up the water. After the angel did this, the first person to go into the pool was healed from any sickness he had. A man was lying there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw the man and knew that he had been sick for such a long time, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered, “Sir, there is no one to help me get into the pool when the water starts moving. While I am coming to the water, someone else always gets in before me.” Then Jesus said, “Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 And immediately the man was well; he picked up his mat and began to walk. 
     A kindergarten teacher was observing her class of children while they were drawing. She would occasionally walk around to see each child’s artwork. As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was. The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.” The teacher paused and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.” Without missing a beat or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, “They will when I get done!”
     Every day there were many who were sick or disabled who gathered at the pool of Bethesda. That begs the question- why there specifically? The story was that an angel came periodically and stirred the waters of the pool. The lucky soul who could out-maneuver everyone else and get in the water first would be healed. 
     This particular man had been disabled for 38 years…probably his whole life. He couldn’t walk TO the pool and he couldn’t get IN the pool when the water stirred. This was his live, day in and day out- someone would carry him to the pool of Bethesda first thing in the morning, he would lay there ALL day…just hoping to get in the water…and then he would be carried back, unsuccessful, at the end of the day. Every day was the same. It was just his body; everything about the man was paralyzed.
     But then one day, all of that changes. Jesus comes by. He is walking along by the pool when He sees this man, this particular man. And somehow Jesus just…KNOWS…that the man had been unsuccessful for 38 years. He KNOWS that this man was doing nothing more than existing. And in response, He asks the man what seems to be a painfully obvious, almost mean question, “Do you want to be made well?” When you first read this, you want to say, “Well DUH, Jesus! Of COURSE he wants to be made well!” But it’s really not that simple, is it? How many people do YOU know who desperately NEED to be made well, but they don’t seem to genuinely WANT to. The illness or affliction has so defined them that they don’t know how to live any other way. The pain and dysfunction has become the norm. The devil you know versus the devil you DON’T know. And so they choose…CHOOSE…to stay right where they are, sitting idly by the pool of Bethesda, hoping someone else will do something for them.
     Did you notice how the man answered Jesus’ question? He immediately started making excuses, “It’s not my fault! No one will help me. Someone always beats me to pool!” No taking responsibility. No taking ownership. Just one long string of passing the buck so he doesn’t have to face the reality. But the reality stares him in the face every day- he just doesn’t want to claim it…because then he would actually have to do something about it. 
     Based on the answer the man gives Jesus, I am convinced that he didn’t want Jesus to heal him, didn’t realize or recognize Who Jesus really was. Instead, he wants Jesus- young, strong and able-bodied, to hustle him down to the water’s edge and help him into the pool…and beat everybody else in the process.
     But Jesus doesn’t do that- no big surprise. Instead, He does something WAY more amazing and miraculous. He tells the man, “Stand up, pick up your mat and walk.” “Well, that sounds all well and good there, Jesus, but if’n it was THAT simple, don’t you think I’d a’tried that a LONG time ago?!” But notice the word that describes how the healing happened- “immediately”. Not in the great by and by on some far shore…but HERE…and NOW! And that is exactly what happens. This man, who had been unable to walk for 38 years…his entire life…begins to stand. He gets to his knees, then one foot, then both feet. He “tests the waters” if you will, seeing if his legs will actually support him…a
nd they do. He looks at his legs, he looks at Jesus…and then a smile bigger than all outdoors breaks across his once-pained face. He bends down, picks up the mat…and immediately goes scampering through the temple courts like an overactive 4 year old! He is healed! He is whole! He is walking on sunshine. The former runs through the temple courts, praising God. 
     Immediately after the part of this story we read, the Pharisees, the church leaders, are distressed. And it’s NOT only because Jesus broke the law by healing on the Sabbath. It’s also NOT only because the man also broke the law by carrying his mat on the Sabbath. They were distressed by how this Jesus character was describing His relationship with God. He wasn’t JUST claiming that God was His Father; it was MUCH worse than that! He was actually claiming to BE God. And for the Pharisees, that was scandalous at least and blasphemous at most. 
     And it’s a struggle people have had ever since. But the issue isn’t really whether or not Jesus claims to be God. There’s really not much argument there. No, the real issue is whether or not He actually IS who He claims to be. And everything Jesus says and everything Jesus does hangs on that one single issue. Who He is…REALLY is…literally makes all the difference in the world. 
     There’s NO question about what He says. The question is- is it true? And it seems to me that there are only 3 possible answers to that question. Three simple answers that will immediately define how you see Jesus Christ. In response to that question, Jesus is either A. a liar, or He is B. a lunatic or He is C. the Lord. If He is just a liar, then He is doing nothing more than many people do- twisting the truth to manipulate others into doing what He wants them to do. If He is instead a lunatic, then He really THINKS He’s God…but He’s wrong. But if He is the Lord…well…that’s a game-changer! If He really is who He claims to be, then we should expect Him to have authority over sickness, demons and death. 
     If He IS the Son of God, then He should have the power to act on God’s behalf…act AS God. If He is the One and only begotten Son of God, then we should expect that He can…and will…cleanse the temple, heal on the Sabbath and forgive our sins. 
     The Pharisees were so legalistic, so pious…so sure they were right. But wanting to be right and thinking you’re right are NOT necessarily the same as actually being right. In fact, I find that those who are the most wrong are often those who are most sure they are right. 
     So- who IS Jesus! Is He a liar, a lunatic or the Lord? The Gospel of John gives us a clear answer to that question- Jesus IS the Son of God. He speaks and acts on God’s behalf. He is God wrapped in human flesh. He is Emmanuel- God with us. And what’s His mission? To offer a much deeper and more permanent healing than the mere physical. He offers us healing from our sin. To offer us wholeness. Jesus didn’t need the angel-stirred waters of the pool of Bethesda to heal. He has the power of the universe at His fingertips.
     Regarding your faith and your involvement in church, there is ONE question that is THE most important one you will EVER ask. And frankly it is NOT about the color of the carpet or the menu for Wednesday night dinner or the Sunday morning song selection. It is, instead the question we have raised this morning- Who is Jesus?
     There is a Korean legend that is meant to explain the conditions of Hell. According to that legend, Hell is endless rows made up of long tables that are full of food. People are seated around those tables…with 3’ long forks and spoons attached to their forearms. The people can’t feed themselves and they are unwilling to feed each other. So they sit- starving and paralyzed. 
     Have you been there? Have you ever felt like you simply couldn’t function? Have you felt that you couldn’t do anything- even get out of bed? Have you ever felt paralyzed, starved for connection? Maybe you haven’t felt paralyzed physically, but what about emotionally and spiritually? Are you starving…paralyzed? 
     Psalm 37:3-6 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.
     I mentioned the song Walking on Sunshine earlier. The chorus to that song is simple and to the point- “I’m walking on sunshine! I’m walking on sunshine! I’m walking on sunshine…and don’t it feel good!” 
     How do we do that? How do we walk on sunshine? How do we empty ourselves of our spiritual paralysis? 1. Live responsibly, 2. Live expectantly and, 3. Live victoriously. Jesus promises us that, if we live responsibly, expectantly and victoriously, He will heal us- our paralysis will be gone.
     How do you fight that kind of paralysis? You ignore the enemy and resist the temptation to do nothing bur panic, hunker down, get the wagons in a circle and hibernate. You both realize and acknowledge that God is up to something, and He wants to do that “something” with…and through…you. You realize that, at the end of the day, legalism doesn’t get it and tradition doesn’t get it- you need Jesus.
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
     Tomorrow- Hurry Up and Wait!

Saturday, March 22- One Step at a Time

     I am an odd, uneven mix of things. I have
both ADHD and OCD- so I am very organized…but just for a little bit! Seriously,
in many ways I am a planner, working ahead to be better prepared. But in many
OTHER ways, I am a ‘seat of your pants” kind of guy! I don’t stress over impromptu
events and I am often very comfortable with not knowing all of the facts. When
you are a live performer, you learn pretty quickly that anything that MIGHT
happen…WILL. Therefore, you learn to go with the flow. (And if you DON’T learn
that, you probably won’t last long!)

     This whole concept has been hammered home
to me lately. The guy who plans sermon series and Bible Studies months in
advance has suddenly found himself with more questions than answers. I have
found myself trying to plan for things…and simply being unable. And that’s the
way this entire journey has been.

     First, there was the uncertainty drive to
the hospital on May 28th of last year. We drove there having NO idea
what we would find out…but knowing it probably wasn’t good. Then there was the uncertainty
of trying to find a doctor who would even take me as a patient. What I have is
VERY rare and most doctors simply didn’t want to tackle it. Then there was the
uncertainty of first one and then another experimental drug therapy. Would they
work? The answer, sadly, was, “No!”

     And now, there is the uncertainty of the
pending surgery. When is it? Don’t know. How long will it take? Don’t know.
Will they be able to get all of the tumor? Don’t know? Will there be any
complications? Don’t know. Will I get out the hospital as soon as they think I
will? Don’t know. Will I really need 8 weeks to recover enough to get back to
work? Don’t know. The questions, like the hits, just keep on coming!

     But what I have grown to better understand
is that…that’s OK. God never promises us that we will see very much of the path
ahead. And frankly, there are times when we wouldn’t be able to handle seeing
very far ahead. Also, showing us less of the journey at any one time is
designed to increase our trust in Him.    

     Sure, it’s scary to have only a step or
two of the path ahead of you illuminated at any given time. It makes you want
to slow down and proceed with extreme caution. But remember this- it is GOD…and
NOT Eveready…Who lights our path. And when He shows us the way, we can trust
that it is the RIGHT way, because He IS the way, and the truth and the life.

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

     Tomorrow- Walking on Sunshine

Friday, March 21- “The Secret Ingredient is…SUDAFED!”

     Have you ever watched the TV show “Iron
Chef”? It features one of the “Iron Chefs” competing against a challenger. The
host…or chairman…or WHATEVER he is….comes out and they immediately cut to a
rather obvious stunt double who goes all Bruce Lee- flipped, spinning, swinging
and grunting! Then, he sets the stage for the day’s challenge, leading up to
him stepping over to a table that is obviously piled with…something…and covered
with a sheet. The music swells, the lights flicker, the smoke machine…smokes…and
then he grabs the sheet, ready to pull. “Today’s secret ingredient is…(whips off
sheet to reveal…) CHOCOLATE! Or BRUSSEL SPROUTS! Or SQUID BRAINS. Or CHERRY
PEZ! Or anything else that is equally odd and unusual! The camera then comes in
for his close-up. He snaps his head toward the camera, gives his patented “James
Bond villain” look and proclaims, “Le the battle begin!”

     I have my own secret ingredient of late.
You see, my right ear, the one which has been damaged by the tumor, has been
giving me problems. I go to the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor. He digs, suctions
and excavates all kinds of…crud…from that ear. He then sticks a wick, which is
about as big around as 2 swizzle sticks…it only FEELS like it’s as big as a 36 oz.
Louisville Slugger…into that ear. It’s not pleasant…at all…but it DOES help
deliver medicine to the problem area and open the ear canal up.

     I got a wick put in almost 2 weeks ago.
The previous ones were only in for a week, but he says this one can stay in
until I see him again- at the end of the month. Because the time frame is
longer, the dosage of the ear drops, which include steroids, is less. And
because it’s less, the pain in my ear has not been managed as well. BUT…my wife
recently introduced a new secret ingredient to the mix!

     She pointed out that the ear being messed
up affects, among other things, the Eustachian tube. So she suggested that,
along with the antihistamine I take every day, I add a decongestant- what could
it hurt? So I took one and, within 2 hours, had less pain in the ear than I had
in a week! At times, the pain was even…dare I say?…gone! Now, it DOES come
back. And I STILL have to stay on a regular regimen of ibuprofen. But it HELPS!
After the expensive, debilitating experimental drug therapies I have been on, a
simple, over-the-counter pill eases some of the symptoms! Who knew?! Therefore,
I say, “The secret ingredient is…SUDAFED! Let the battle begin!”

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

     Tomorrow- One Step at a Time

Thursday, March 20- What Do You Mean I Have NO Control?!

     Control is an interesting thing. Do you
remember when President Reagan was shot? On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley Jr.
fired 6 shots in 1.7 seconds, hitting Reagan (with the 5th and 6th
bullets and only on ricochet), Press Secretary William Brady, police officer
Thomas Delahanty and Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy. Pandemonium ensued
as the President was shoved in the presidential limo and taken to George
Washington University Hospital.

    Meanwhile, Vice President George Bush was
in Air Force 2, flying to Austin, TX. After a briefing in the White House, then
Secretary of State Alexander Haig stepped in front of the camera s and uttered
those now-famous words: “Constitutionally,
gentlemen, you have the president, the vice president and the secretary of
state, in that order, and should the president decide he wants to transfer the
helm to the vice president, he will do so. As of now, I am in control here, in
the White House, pending the return of the vice president and in close touch
with him. If something came up, I would check with him, of course
.”

     SOUNDS great…but totally wrong! The
Secretary of State is NOT 2nd in line after the Vice President. The
Speaker of the House of Representatives is #2, followed by the President pro
tempore of the Senate. THEN comes the Secretary of State. So, although Haig
CLAIMED to have control (his word, not mine), in reality…he had none.

     And the reality is this- no matter what we
think and no matter what others tell us, NONE of us have any REAL control. We
THINK we have control. We WANT to have control. We convince ourselves that we
HAVE control. But then…something happens and we are reminded just how little
control we actually have.

     This fact has been the ever-growing
reality in my life over the past 10 months. I am a self-sufficient kind of guy.
I was taught to “pull yourself by your own bootstraps, spit on it, rub dirt on
it and walk it off”. And frankly, for the majority of my life, that’s actually
worked. I have a fairly high amount of determination and “stick-to-itivness”.
That, coupled with a hard head and high pain tolerance, has allowed me to
weather many storms. And because of that, I lulled myself into thinking that I actually
had some control.

     But if the on-going struggle with this
tumor in my head has taught me anything, it is that I have no control. And that
has been proved from the very get-go. I am only the 19th recorded
case…in history…of this particular affliction. No one really knows how to treat
it- I struggled to even FIND a doctor in the beginning because of that fact. I
have been through 2 rounds of experimental drug therapy. I literally felt like
I aged 20 years over those six months. And yet, my charm, my wit, my “laugh in
the face of danger” attitude…none of them helped! Whazzup wit dat?

     I have had to remind myself that A. I have
NO control and B. God is IN control. Period. Does that mean that everything is
going to work out the way I want it? Not necessarily. Does that mean that everything
(in THIS life) will work out “well”? No guarantee. But it does mean that, if we
trust that God has our back, then who could possibly stand against us? God is
good, all the time!

     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 Secret Ingredient Is…SUDAFED!”

Wednesday, March 19- You Left Him WHERE?!

     Several years ago, I took 45 people on a
mission trip to Biloxi, Mississippi. We were involved in a WIDE variety a
ministries that week. Then, on Friday, we drove over to Pensacola, Florida for
the day. We had a small section of the beach “rented” for the day. We had
kayaks and a couple of jet skis to play with. And we all got to go parasailing.
6 people at a time would go out in the boat. After getting well out into the
bay, we each got to take our turn. They strapped us in and reeled us out…almost
like a fishing rod. When our turn was over, they would simply…reel us in!

     My older son was on the trip with me and
he went out in a different boatload than I did. I watched his boat head out
into the bay. I watched from the shore as they got him out onto the back of the
boat. I watched as they strapped him in and hooked him up. I then watched as
the boat sped up, the parachute caught the wind and he was lifted in the air.

     They reeled the line out- all 1,400 feet
of it. (The crew estimated that, when the line was fully extended, we were
1,000 feet in the air!) He was a dot in the sky. THEN…I called my wife. “Hey
Sweetheart! How are you? We are on the beach in Pensacola. 
We’ve had a great
day. Oh, guess where your son is? He’s 1,000 feet in the air, strapped to a
thin cable and hanging from nothing more than 2 carabiners!” (Google it!) Her
response? “He’s WHERE? Don’t tell me than NOW!”

     I am reminded of this event when I read
today’s Scripture. Even though this story does NOT elicit a “He’s WHERE?”, it
DOES elicit a “You Left Him Where?”

     Luke 2:41-50 Every year Jesus ‘parents
went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years
old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival
was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in
Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they
traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives
and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look
for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among
the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard
him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him,
they were astonished. His mother said to him,’ Son, why have you treated us
like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you. ‘Why were
you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s
house?’ But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

     So the family goes to Jerusalem for the
annual celebration of Passover. Mary, Joseph and Jesus would have been part of
a LARGE contingent of folks traveling. After the event was over, this same
large group started for home. A day…a DAY…into the return trip, Mary and Joseph
suddenly realize Jesus is NOT with them. They hustle back and, after a THREE
day search, find Him in the temple courts.

     This seems, on the surface, like a story
of parental neglect. But consider the era and consider the circumstances. It was
a time when it actually TOOK a village to raise a kid. I’m sure they thought He
was with others of the group. Also, 12 years old then was a LOT closer to
manhood than 12 years old is today. But they DO notice He’s gone and start
retracing their steps.

     Imagine the fear and panic that grew as
they took a second day to get back to Jerusalem and a 3
rd, 4th
and 5
th day to find Him. I would have been beside myself. But when
they find Him, Jesus is 
nonplussed, “Hey guys! Why were you worried? Where did
you THINK I would be but in My Father’s house?!”

     Where would YOU look for Jesus? He can be
found in books. He can be found in relationships. He can be found in prayer. In
fact, He can be found everywhere…if you look. But His Father’s house…the temple
courts…CHURCH is a place where He can be found in powerful and unique ways.
This week…seek Him!

     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 Do You Mean I Have NO
Control?

Tuesday, March 18- How Do You STOP Doing the Only Thing You Know HOW To Do?

     One of the best pieces of advice I ever received when I was wrestling with the notion of going into the ministry was this, “Only do it if you can’t do anything else!” I thought about that for a moment and then I said, “Well THAT works out perfectly! I’ve tried SEVERAL things that haven’t worked out too well. So…perhaps this IS the only thing I can do!!” 
     It took me a while to really understand what that advice meant. It had much less to do with ability and much more to do with where your heart is. I tend to be a “jack of all trades” (and master of NONE!), so I COULD do lots of things. But the reason those other things I tried really didn’t pan out was because none of them were the thing that God had in mind for me. I fought going into the ministry tooth and nail. And when I finally gave in, that’s exactly what I did. I did NOT really “answer as call”- I relented just to get God to stop hammering on me!
     But once I DID relent, God opened doors…and my eyes…in ways I could have never imagined. This journey began as the half-time “youth guy” at the first church I served…while going to seminary full-time AND trying to help my wife maintain a family. It led me to the 2nd church I served in a town I had never heard of but quickly grew to love. I was ordained a full elder while serving that church. Then I was led to the church I currently serve. After losing a pastor that they dearly loved, this congregation did what many struggle with- they embraced me while still loving him! And now, this journey has led me to a golf ball-sized tumor that sits atop my right jaw, pushing against the right side ear canal. It has led me to an approximately 60% hearing loss. It has led me to 6 months of experimental drug therapy that, sadly, did little else but make me feel worse. (I honestly felt like I aged about 20 years over the past 3+ months. Fortunately, I have gained at least 10 of those years back as I am no longer on that medicine.) And it has led me to the reality of a major surgery, with some risks involved, that may or may not actually get all of the tumor. 
     As I prepare for this next step, one of the realities I am faced with is 6-8 weeks off work after surgery. That would be hard enough at previous churches I served, with the church-provided house being some distance from the church. It’s going to be even harder now, with the house RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the church!
     As I think about those 6-8 weeks, a thought comes into my head, “How do you STOP doing the only thing you know HOW to do?” (Before you feel TOO bad for me, refer to the 2nd paragraph as to what that means!) I am going to have to be EVEN MORE intentional about staying away than the congregation is about coming to me! If you are doing that ONE thing that God has called you to do, it feels SO right when you do it…and SO wrong when you can’t! But I KNOW that God, my family and the congregation I currently serve will help me through this! And when you have God AND that many people on your side, who can stand against 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- You Left Him WHERE?

Monday, March 17- Change Is Coming

     A couple of days ago I wrote about rolling
with the changes. And yesterday’s blog said, “Tomorrow- Change Is Coming”. Well…here’s
the change…or at least ONE of them!

     We found out about this tumor in my head
on May 28, 2013. (Which also happened to be my older son’s birthday! Happy
birthday, son!) Soon after, my wife suggested that I start a Caringbridge page
to keep people posted on my situation. I shared with her that I felt I already
HAD a Caringbridge page- one with a built-in group of readers- called Stick
With Jesus!

     So I have tried, over the past 10 months,
to keep you posted on what’s going on. Sometimes I have felt that I said too
MUCH…while other times I fear I have said too LITTLE! But all in all, the “information
dissemination” has been pretty decent.

     But now, things are happening. Things are
changing. The countdown clock has begun. I don’t know EXACTLY how much time is
on the clock, because I don’t know exactly when the surgery will be. But I KNOW
that the surgery WILL be and know ABOUT when it will be.

     With
all that in mind, here’s what the changes to this website will be…at least for
the near future. Sundays will still be a sermon (it may be one “from the
archives” during my recovery!) and Wednesdays will still be Bible Study Day.
Beyond that, most entries will be about preparation for the surgery. We are
wrestling with LOTS of things, so my guess is more of them will be about mental
and spiritual preparation for the surgery and less of them will be about
physical preparation. I will try to share as much as possible without simply denigrating
into whining and complaining!

     Here is my prayer- through this exercise,
two things will happen: 1. I will be able to better work out what I need to
work out prior to being asked to “count backwards from 100” and 2. Perhaps OUR
journey will help someone else get through THEIR journey. If you know someone
who is going through a difficult time, especially physical difficulties, I
would encourage you to refer this site to them. I would love to connect with
them and offer prayer and encourage to them.

     Thanks for reading and thanks for your
prayers and support. My family can’t thank you enough!    

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

     Tomorrow- How Do You STOP Doing the Only
Thing You Know HOW To Do?

Sunday, March 16- Calling All Cars!

     Two fishermen were talking when one asked
the other, “What is your most amazing catch?” The other replied, “I once caught
a 30’ catfish!” The first one responded, “That’s nothing. I once hooked the lantern
of a sunken Civil War ship…and it was still burning!” The 2nd
fisherman thought about it for a moment, then said, “Tell you what- I’ll take
25’ off the length of my catfish if you’re willing to take the fire out of your
lantern!”
     Today is the 2nd Sunday
of Lent- the season leading up to Easter- as we continue our current sermon
series- Full Promises. This series will lead us right up to the empty tomb and
risen Savior of Easter Sunday. Along the way, we will pick out JUST a few of
the high points in the life of Jesus Christ and see what impact these stories,
and the promises they include, have on our lives. Notice that the title of the
series is Full Promises. That is NOT a common expression. We are used to
hearing instead the expression “empty promises”. We are used to hearing them
because empty promises are offered to us SO often in this world. Interestingly,
the FULL promises that Jesus makes us share, as their foundation, an EMPTY
promise- the empty tomb of Easter. And through that empty promise, and all the
full promises that are built upon it, God offers to empty us of the things that
hold us back, that hold us down. Last week’s full promise is that your
loneliness will be gone. Today’s full promise is that your wandering will be
gone.

     Psalm 40:1-3a I waited patiently for the
LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out
of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to
stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.

     Do you remember the old police movies and
TV shows? Whenever something big and bad happened, they would show a close-up
of the face of some grizzled police officer with a microphone in his hand. “Calling
all cars, calling all cars!” And then there would be the black & white
stock footage of old-timey police cars roaring out of the police garage to
respond to the emergency. The moral of those stories was they were called…and they
went. Today we are looking at being called by God and what impact that call can
have on both us and others.

     Mark 1:14-20 After
John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of
God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near.
Repent and believe the good news!” As Jesus walked beside the Sea of
Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for
they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will
make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed
him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and
his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them,
and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed
him.

     Mark Twain
loved fishing…but he hated to catch fish! He went out there to relax and catching
fish simply ruined that! He felt that, if you did nothing…you were considered
lazy. But if you went fishing…then you had a perfect excuse to relax. People
would say, “He’s fishing- don’t bother him!” So he came up with the perfect
solution. He would take his fishing pole, attach a bobber to the line…with no
hook. He would cast the bobber into the water and then…just lay back!

     And that
makes the late, great Mr. Twain like a lot of Christians. They put their pole
in the water with no hook. They’re not fishing for people, they are simply relaxing.
That is NOT what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Come, follow me and I will make
you fishers of men.”

     So Jesus is
right at the very beginning of His public ministry. He comes to the Sea of
Galilee and calls Simon, Andrew, James and John to join Him. These are 4 common
men who have a powerful encounter with Jesus. But the whole scenario begs the
question- why did Jesus pick THESE guys- four sweaty, smelly fishermen? Why in
the WORLD didn’t He pick 4 theologians…experts in the Law? Maybe He could have
picked 4 scholars. Or perhaps He could have chosen 4 political leaders. Those
would have been guys who had trained their whole lives for just such a time as
this.

     So Jesus
calls them- then what? They seem to feel a sense of urgency and immediacy. They
could have scratched their heads, discussed the pros and cons and then told Jesus,
“We’ll think about it…and then form a committee!” But they 
didn’t. They followed
Him. Jesus erupted into their lives with such power that they had no choice but
to go with Him. Fishermen DO have skills- talents that God can use:

1. They have patience

2. They have a love for the task, for the goal of “increase”

3. They love to talk about their work

4. They know that a few will get away…yet they still
rejoice over what they DO catch

     There was a
group who called themselves The Fishermen. It seemed logical- there were many
fish all around them. The whole area was surrounded by streams, rivers and lakes
that were literally filled with fish. Week after week, month after month, year
after year the fishermen held meetings where they talked about fishing, marveled
at the abundance of fish and shared tips on how to fish. They would carefully
define what fishing means, they would aggressively defend fishing as an
occupation and they declared fishing as the primary task of the fisherman. They
continually searched for new and better methods of fishing. They felt that everyone
should be a fisherman and that every fisherman should fish. But there was one
thing that they 
didn’t do- They didn’t actually…fish!

     After one
stirring meeting where the topic was “The Necessity of Fishing”, a
young man who attended the meeting left and went fishing. The next day, he
reported on the 2 outstanding fish he caught. The club honored him for his
excellent catch and asked him to visit their next meeting so that he could tell
everyone how he did it. The young man was forced to stop fishing so that he
could have the time to tell everybody about the experience of fishing. Based on
all of that, here’s a question- if you never catch a fish…are you still a fisherman?
A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder. And a fisherman with
no fish…
isn’t really much of a fisherman.

    The 1957 World
Series saw the legendary New York Yankees face the upstart Milwaukee Braves.
In the 5
th inning of game 3, Milwaukee outfielder and future Hall of
Famer Hammerin’ Hank Aaron stepped up to the plate. Another future Hall of
Famer, Yankee catcher Yogi Berra was crouched behind the plate. In an effort to
get under Aaron’s skin, Berra said, “You’re holding your bat wrong. You’re
supposed to be able to read the trademark.” Aaron 
didn’t say a word, but
he hammered the next pitch into the left field bleachers for a home run.

He proceeded to trot around the bases. When he got
back to home plate. Aaron looked at Berra and replied, “I 
didn’t come to
read!” Purpose gives life meaning.

     A lot of
people believe in God. They go to church when it’s convenient. And when it’s
socially acceptable…they need Him. But Jesus 
doesn’t want fair weather
followers. He wants conviction and commitment and He offers mission and purpose
in return. But you can’t catch fish if you don’t go to the fishing hole. The fish
are NOT at the bait and tackle shop. They’re NOT at the boat store. They are
NOT at the fishing outfitters. You HAVE to go to the fishing hole. So what you do?
What do you consider a worthy pursuit? The truth is that without God, we are
ALL just another brick in the wall.

     1John 1:7-9 But if we walk in the light,
as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of
Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we
deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is
faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all
unrighteousness.

     There are 4
distinct calls given to Christians:


1. We are called to follow Jesus. Let me be clear- following Jesus is NOT a
one-time, singular event. Instead, it is yielding your life to Christ…over and
over, every day. Jesus called Simon the fisherman…and then he changed his name
to Petros…the rock…Peter. He 
didn’t just change Simon’s name; He changed his identity.
When you yield to Jesus Christ, He will give you a new name…and new identity.
And when that happens, His purpose becomes ours.

2. We are called to be like Jesus. That sounds great,
but the question is…how? First, you have to make the decision to grow. And that
starts and ends with the will. The church can offer us all the means of
discipleship possible, but… until we decide that we need to grow, all those
efforts won’t make one lick of difference.

     Second, you
need to practice the means of grace. “The…WHAT, Pastor?” The means of grace- study
the Bible, worship, pray and witness. As you do those things, slowly and surely
Jesus’ character begins to form within you. Are you willing to practice the
holy habits that cause Jesus’ character to be formed within you?

3. We are all called to ministry in some form. God
calls each of us and then He gifts each of us for the ministry to which we have
been called. He 
doesn’t call qualified people- He calls willing people and THEN
He qualifies them. God gave you a gift…but it’s not for you- it’s for others.
And if you don’t use those gifts, then you are depriving others. 
What are you called to be and to do in Jesus’ name? How are you gifted to serve?

4. Some are called to full-time ministry.  Let’s be clear- it’s not for everyone. It’s a yearning
of the heart and a restlessness of the soul that simply can’t be satisfied any
other way. It is evidenced by the gifts of the Holy Spirit and confirmed
through the witness and affirmation of the church. And I am convinced that
there are people reading this who are sensing a call from God right now. My
best advice to you is this- make sure you stayed tuned into God’s voice,
because He’s nudging you right now.

     A little girl had a doll collection. One
day, her mom asked her, “Which doll do you love the most?” The little
said, “Promise you won’t laugh?” Her mom assured her that she would
NOT laugh. The girl then picked up a ragged doll with a broken nose. Her hair was
falling out and one arm was missing. “This one.” “Why that one?”
“If I 
didn’t love her…nobody would!”
     Jesus loves us, even when no one
else will. And He calls us to love each other the same way. The 2 greatest days
in your life should be the day you were born…and the day you discovered what you
were born for…for such a time as this. Fishermen know that sometimes they need
to go to different locations. Sometimes they need to stop and mend their nets.
And sometimes they even need to change their approach. If you want to attract
fish, you have to use the right bait. If you wanted to hook me, a really good
pizza would be a start. But if you put pizza on your fishing hook, you might
well end up with an empty stringer. You have to offer what’s interesting to
that which you are trying to catch.

     Time
magazine once published a survey about the #1 expressed need in America. Care to
guess what the #1 expressed need in this country is? The need for meaning and purpose–
figuring out what we were born for. What were you born for? Why did God choose
you? Why are you here? Henry David Thoreau said that many men go fishing their entire
life without knowing that it’s not fish they’re actually after. Jesus
interrupts our daily lives with a message of purpose and salvation. If you are willing
to listen for…and to…God’s call, you can expect to experience a surprising
amount of wonder, amazement and fulfillment. You can expect that your wandering
will be gone.

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

     Tomorrow- A Change is Coming

Saturday, March 15- Roll With the Changes

     This story begins with a loaf of bread! A
couple of days ago, I had a loaf of French bread that needed to be used…soon!
So, I decided to make a breakfast casserole for the next morning. I Googled
some recipes, looking for something that was not simply an egg casserole because
I had no meat to add to it. I found an awesome recipe for a pumpkin casserole.
We all like pumpkin and I had all the ingredients, so I started the assembly
process.

     First, I cubed the bread and put it in a
9X13. Then I put the eggs and milk in a bowl. And then I went to get the
pumpkin. And…I couldn’t find any! As Barry Manilow said, I looked high AND low
and came up empty-handed! (Ironically, I later found out that we DID have
pumpkin…I just didn’t find it!)

     So the bread is cut up and the eggs and
milk are in a bowl. In other words, this train has already left the station! So
I need something to take the place of the pumpkin. After digging around, I came
up with an unopened jar of peach applesauce. So I put that in with the eggs and
milk.

     The next ingredient on the list was brown
sugar. Knowing that I had switched from a savory casserole to a somewhat sweet
casserole, I increased the amount of brown sugar and added it to the bowl. It
was when I went back to the recipe to see what was next that I realized the
brown sugar was for the topping and NOT the casserole. Oh well- too late now!

     I mixed the ingredients together and
poured the conglomerate over the cubed bread. After looking at it, I felt it
needed something more- there wasn’t much fruit in it. So I dug around and found
half a can of chunk pineapple. I diced the pineapple and sprinkled it over the
top and then drizzled the juice over the whole thing. I sprinkled cinnamon of
the whole thing, covered the whole mess and then put it in the fridge for the
night.

     The next day, I made a “drizzle” with
milk, powdered sugar and cinnamon. It was ladled over the casserole, one piece
at a time, when it came out of the oven. My younger son, my father-in-law and I
ate it for breakfast and…not gonna lie…it was awesome!

     Those great theologians over at REO Speedwagon
perhaps said it best, “So if you’re tired
of the same old story, turn some pages. I’ll be here when you are ready 
to roll with the changes.” Life has a way of changing…while staying
the same. We grow tired of the same old story, but when the changes come…we
refuse to roll with them. We don’t WANT to keep doing the same old thing, but
we also don’t want to step out in faith and change. But life does NOT stand still.
Nothing in your life is exactly the same as it was 20 years ago. Ten years ago.
Five years ago. So the question is NOT, “Will change happen?” Instead, the
question is, “How will you respond WHEN change happens?” Will you give up and
dump the bread cubes down the garbage disposal? Or will you be willing to dump
the peach applesauce in, not knowing for sure how it will turn out?!

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

     Tomorrow- Calling All Cars!

Friday, March 14- Wading Through the Minutiae

     Are you a “big picture” person or are you
a “detail” person? I don’t mean to imply by that question that you must be
either one or the other…but NEVER both. No- I think that we are ALL both “big
picture” people AND “detail” people. But I also believe that we each lean much
more heavily one way than the other. So…which one are you?

     I tend to be a “big picture” person. I am
fully capable of paying attention to the details, but being in the ministry has
further honed an already-existent penchant for the big picture. Why? Because
when you pastor a church, you HAVE to be able to see the big picture…or the
church will never be anything more than “status quo”. (And I, for one, can’t
sit still long enough for status quo!)

     But an interesting transformation is in
the process of happening. Oh, don’t get me wrong- I am still a big picture kind
of guy. But of late, I have found that I, by circumstance, have to focus more
on the details than I normally tend to. And the details are many and varied!

     1. There is the reality of a pending
surgery looming over the whole process. That surgery has slowly become more and
more of an inevitability, but now it is…a reality. That which was once just a
theoretical possibility has now jumped over into the realm of reality. First,
spinal fluid will be drained from my head through my spine so that the brain
has some room to move away from the surgical site. Then, my head will be cut
open, bone will be drilled cut out, stuff that is currently IN my head will be
taken OUT of my head, some titanium mesh will be attached to my skull and then
the whole thing will be buttoned back up. The train has left the station and is
building up steam, heading for the next, inevitable stop.

     2. There is the reality that we are NOT
going to be able to schedule the surgery when WE wanted to. When the surgeon
says, “I’m not comfortable waiting that long”, the only REAL response is, “OK.”

     3. There is the massive impact this whole
scenario has on my family. It’s NOT just about me- they are as much involved in
the whole process as I am, even though they won’t be the one on the operating
table.

     4. There is the massive impact this whole
scenario has on the church I currently serve. I don’t mean to imply that I am
SO stinkin’ important that they can’t survive without me- quite the opposite.
They have done QUITE well over the MANY years before I got here and they will
continue to do great things long after I am gone. But on the other side of the
coin, if the pastor being absent for 2 solid months doesn’t have a pretty big
impact on the church…the pastor probably isn’t trying real hard!

     5. There is the internal argument over
whether this surgery will completely “take care of business” or not. If it
fully “TCB”, then the whole thing was worth it. If, however, the part they CAN’T
get becomes a problem down the line…

     Lots of details…minutiae…to consider, to
be sure. But in the end…I am a big picture guy. And the big picture is this- I accepted
Jesus Christ in my heart almost 30 years ago. I gave my life fully to him about
20 years ago. I entered the ministry 17 years ago. And while this is NOT where
I imagined I would be on the threshold of my 53rd birthday…here I
am. I can whine and moan, railing at God for “causing this” and begging Him to
take it away. OR…I can remain steadfast in the midst of uncertainty, knowing
that God, my family, my church and my friends walk this journey with me. One
way or another, God WILL be praised when this is all said and done. And because
of that fact, I say…again…God is good, all the time!

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

     Tomorrow- Roll With the Changes

Thursday, March 13- And the Walls Came A’Tumbling Down!

     One of the best known stories in the Bible
is that of Joshua and the Walls of Jericho. Or, as those amusing theologians
over at Veggie Tales call it- Josh and the Big Wall! (And, if you haven’t
watched that version…you should! It is QUITE fun!)

     Joshua 6:15-16, 20 On the seventh day,
they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same
manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16 The
seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua
commanded the army, ‘Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! When the
trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the
men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and
they took the city.

     If you remember the story, you know that
it centers on God’s promise of “the

land” that He made
to the Hebrew people. And once they officially enter the Promised Land, they
end up outside of the walled city of Jericho. They can’t imagine ANY way they
are going to actually take the city- it’s TOO big, TOO well-guarded and they
are simply TOO small, too rag-tag.

     God, however, has other plans. He tells
Joshua that the people are to march around the city every day for six days.  The Ark of the Covenant is to lead them and
priests carrying trumpets made of ram’s horns are to be a part of the mix.

     On the 7th (7 is a number of
perfection in the Bible) day, everything gets ramped up a bit. Ok- a lot! The “parade”
is supposed to march around the city of Jericho not once, not twice but 7 times
(again, a number of (perfection), with the priests blowing the trumpets. When
the group hears the priests blow one long, loud blast, the whole army is
supposed to shout as loud as they can.

     So the group marched around the city- 1,
2, 3, 4, 5, 6…and then the 7th time. The trumpets blasted, the army
shout…and the walls came a’tumbling down! The army stormed the city and the
place was theirs.

     I have heard many “experts” want to
explain this story through fancy terms like “harmonic convergence”. Their idea
is that the trumpets blowing, coupled with the army yelling, caused a specific
and unique harmonic event, creating sound waves that vibrated the stone walls
of the city, causing…the walls to come a’tumbling down!

     I have no problem buying into the notion that
sound waves brought down the walls of Jericho or that the wind blew the waters
of the Red Sea back allowing the Hebrews to cross safely. But if those concepts
were true, would they negate the involvement of God? That seems to be the “logical
conclusion” that many come to when they offer up these explanations.  

     From where did that wind come? What
created those sound waves? If you believe that God is the Creator, then He
created…you know…everything! And, it seems to me, “everything” would include
sound waves and wind! The bottom line is that a relationship with God isn’t
about science, and therefore ultimately can’t be proved…or disproved by
science. A relationship with God is about faith. Either you believe in His
power and love…or you don’t. If you don’t, then all the stories in the world from
believers won’t change your mind…until you have a personal encounter with the
Divine. Likewise, if you DO, then “scientific theories” that attempt to explain
Biblical stories simply shouldn’t stress you, because you know Who the Creator
is!

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

     Tomorrow- Wading Through the Minutiae

Wednesday, March 12- Yet Another Health Update

     When I our older son was really little, he
had a book about going to sleep. The first page of the book showed a picture of
a little boy with the caption, “The day has been busy!” Even though I haven’t seen
that book on decades…literally…, I was reminded of it yesterday!

     The day started when we pulled out of the
driveway at 6:55AM. We then drove 4 hours and 10 minutes…without any stops…and
arrived in St. Louis at 11:05AM.  We
drove straight to the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor’s office in southwest St.
Louis County.

     We got into the “inner office” about
11:40AM- only ten minutes after my appointment- but then waited until about
12:15PM for the doctor. He came in, looked at my ear and decided that I needed
what I ALWAYS need when I see him- to have multiple tools stuck in my ear while
he picks, digs, cleans and suctions all of the…crud…out. He then inserted what
is my third ear wick- a round solid tube of gauze-like material that is about
as big around as a swizzle stick…but FEELS like it is big around as a baseball
bat! In fact, as he got it out of the package he said, “This is the BIGGER wick!”
Oh joy!

     Then it was on to Barnes
Hospital/Washington University, after a stop at Stir Crazy for lunch. My next
appointment was with the neurosurgeon, to talk about what the next step might
be. That appointment was at 3PM, and we arrived at about 2:30PM. At 4PM…we were
still in the waiting room, with our younger son asleep on a couch! A few
minutes after 4PM, we were called back. We waited in the exam room for another
10-15 minutes, but THEN…we got to see the neurosurgeon!

     After about 40 minutes of conversation (I appreciate
the fact that, even though they were running SO late, he was still willing to
spend as much time with us as we wanted!), we left with quite a few more
answers than we had when we got there. We don’t have ALL the answers (Who
does?), but we have more of them! And here they are.

      I
WILL be having surgery to remove the tumor in my head. While not scheduled yet,
it will be sometime between Easter and the end of the school year- probably the
end of April or the beginning of June. We wanted to wait until mid to late
June, but the neurosurgeon wasn’t comfortable with that. His concern is that,
while the tumor is not actively impacting the cranio-facial nerve that runs
roughly across your temple, the longer it is in my head the more it will grow.
And the more it grows, the more potential there is that the tumor WILL impact
the nerve. And if the nerve is sufficiently damaged or compromised, the left
side of my face will look like I had a stroke, including not being able to
close that eye!

     I do NOT have to undergo chemotherapy- the
neurosurgeon doesn’t think it will help and instead might slow my recovery.
When the surgery begins, he will make either a straight vertical incision OR an
incision that roughly resembles a question mark. Then, the bone right where the
tumor is will be drilled out. A bit MORE bone will be cut out. They will then remove
as much of the tumor as possible. The bone that was cut out will be replaced
and he will either do nothing about the bone that was drilled out or a piece of
titanium mesh will be added for extra strength and protection.

     The surgery is described as “extensive”
and will take several hours. I will spend the first post-op day in ICU, with
the 2nd day in a step-down unit. The 3rd day will be in a
regular room. And then…I go home. The recovery will be 6-8 weeks, during which
I will have some pretty major restrictions.

     Is this what I HOPED would happen? No.
Since it IS happening, is this the timing I wanted? No. Am I disappointed that
the 6 months of drug therapy, complete with the GLORIOUS side effects, didn’t
work? Yes. Am I a bit…apprehensive over the prospect of a major surgery that
includes sticking something into my spinal column AND drilling holes in my
head? Yes.

     BUT…it NEEDS to happen. It is GOING to
happen. And therefore…bring it on. Let’s just get this show on the road. The
sooner we start…the sooner it’s done. I haven’t backed down yet and I am SURE
not going to back down now. So- bring it on. Why? Because God is with me every
step of the way. Because I have read the last chapter of the book and I know
that the good guys win. Because I have TOO much to do yet to NOT go through
with this. Because God is good, all the time!

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

     Tomorrow- And the Walls Came ‘a Tumbling
Down!