Wednesday, April 30- On the Road Again

     As I mentioned yesterday, we spent the day in St. Louis, MO with follow-up doctor’s appointments. First- some “catching up”. 

     As of this past Monday, I am off both my pain meds and the steroids. (Probably a good thing- those steroids had me walking around the gym challenging everybody, “Bro- do you even LIFT?!”) So as we arrived in St. Louis Monday evening, I was med-free. 

      Also, the pain management has been going great. I tend to HATE to take medicine, which means I historically don’t take it until I REALLY need it. That can make for some poor overall pain management. So this time, I was much more intentional about keeping up with the regimen. And that seems to have paid off in spades.

     Yesterday’s schedule was rather simple- out of my brother’s house at 9:30AM, the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor at 10:45AM followed by the neurosurgeon at 1PM…with a nice birthday lunch on the beautiful top floor restaurant of Queeny Towers at Barnes Hospital in between

     The ENT visit went great. He was quite happy with my progress. (He DID change his tune from “we got 99.9% of the tumor” to “we got 95% or more of the tumor” but, knowing that there is still some in there, let’s not quibble over a couple of percentage points!) He is A. planning on seeing me in 2 months, B. referring me to an ophthalmological plastic surgeon to see if there is anything that can or needs to be done with my right eye, which still isn’t blinking properly and C. doing research on an electrical impulse physical therapy for my lack of right side mouth movement.

     After that nice birthday lunch (What a VIEW from up there! Even though I was born and raised in the area, I forget how beautiful St. Louis can be!), we went to see the neurologist. He was also very pleased with how I was progressing. As he took the stitches out, he commented that he thought the surgical scar looked great AND was “as good a job as a plastic surgeon would do”! (I should have asked for the extra “nip/tuck” special while I was already under the knife! NOW they tell me!) He was excited that I was feeling so good OFF medication AND…said I could start driving again! Huzzah! He also felt that he saw some positive increase in the facial nerve function and is somewhat hopeful that will do nothing but continue. 

     We then left downtown St. Louis, crossed into Illinois, stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts in beautiful downtown (not really) Troy, IL for fresh coffee and then…headed home! By 6:40PM, we were pulling in the driveway and unpacking the car. The 27-hour trip (9 of those hours IN the car!) was…DONE! 

     So I have at least 3 appointments and lab work at the end of June and at least one appointment and another MRI at the end of July. One might say- “Wow! After all THAT…you STILL have to keep going back for more appointments?” But WE say, “Awesome! TWO WHOLE MONTHS before we have to be back!” We always have been, are and will continue to be a “glass half full” kind of family! 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- Can YOU Spell S-A-B-B-A-T-I-C-A-L?

Tuesday, April 29- A VERY Special Birthday

     Today is the
anniversary of one of THE greatest things that has EVER happened in the history
of humankind. Seriously. No foolin’! And what, you may ask, was that monumental
event? On this date…the woman who said, “Yes” to my rather lame, nervous, poorly-thought
proposal of marriage was born!

     My wife and I met
when we were but 15 years old…yep- High School Sweethearts! We met in the fall
on a hayride and, over the next few months, struck up a friendship. It started
slowly, almost imperceptibly…but it grew. She tells me that the “tipping point”
for her, the moment she was sure I was interested in more than friendship, was
the “standing in the rain” day.

     Our high school
was 3 large buildings built around a central, sunken parking lot- The Pit. It
was not at all unusual that, during the short passing period between classes,
you would need to get all the way from the 3rd floor of The Main Building,
across The Pit and to the 2nd floor of The Annex Building. That
meant you had LITTLE time to dawdle and still get to your destination on time.
Partway through the 2nd semester of that Sophomore year, I was
walking away from The Main, toward The Pit and The Annex, trying to get to class,
when I heard, “That’s OK- don’t wait for me!” I turned…and there she was! It turned
out that she, too, had the same route to take and was behind me. I laughed and
waited for her. We walked together across the campus.

     The next day, it
was pouring down rain at that same moment in the schedule. But I was NOT going
that make that same mistake again! So…I stood out in the pouring rain, waiting
for her. When she came out and saw me standing there, knowing full well WHY I
was standing there…a significant moment happened! Our first official date was
not terribly long after that- April 29, 1977- her birthday. She came to see me perform
in the school musical Oliver! We then went to a local restaurant where we had sautéed
mushrooms and partially-frozen birthday cake while listening to the synthesized
stylings of one Mr. Mike Zicovich.

     The journey from
that night to our wedding…to today…was not always smooth. There were LOTS of
bumps in the road- some pretty substantial. I was NOT always the partner I
wanted to be…should have been. But that deep, abiding love just kept bringing
us together…holding us together.

     She certainly did
NOT sign on to marry a preacher. If you would have given her a potential list
of a THOUSAND jobs I might end up doing…”ministry” would have STILL not been on
the list! And yet- God continues to use the least, the lost, the reprobate. And
so, WAY down the road- I finally had no choice but to relent to God’s call on
my life. And as she has always done, this amazing woman who manages to somehow
tolerate me year after year stepped up to the plate. She is both the least “typical”
and best “pastor’s wife” I have ever seen!

     This birthday is
just another example of the kind of person she is. As you read this, are we on
a romantic birthday getaway? Nope? Are we at least going out for nice dinner
and/or a movie? Nope. We are, instead, in St. Louis, MO for the Nth time in the
past 11 months, getting stiches out and checking on progress. Does she complain?
Does she whine? Does she throw a fit? Nope. She just continues to be the
absolute best partner I could have ever imagined. Thank you, God, for the
unfathomable gift of this beautiful woman in my life. I am truly blessed!

     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

Monday, April 28- More Stories of the Magic Table

     In the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the story hinges on the magical properties of a beautiful…but on the surface rather ordinary…wardrobe. Call it a chifferobe. Call it a hutch. Call it a free-standing closet. But this…wardrobe…is found, dusty and cloth-covered, in a “spare ‘oom” by the British siblings who come to live in an expansive English mansion during the war. When one of them unwittingly hides in it, she discovers that it is actually a magic portal into a strange and wonderful world.

     In the book The Indian in the Cupboard, a 9-year boy named Omri is given…a cupboard…for his birthday, along with a plastic Native American figure. He is disappointed with the cupboard, but decides to keep it. Along the way, he figures out that, if he puts a plastic figure in the cupboard, locks the door, unlocks it and then reopens it…that figure has come alive! The story then unfolds around those “created” characters.

     In Alladin, it’s a piece of carpet (AND a lamp) that comes to life. In Frosty the Snowman, it’s that “old black hat they found”. In The Prince of Persia, it’s the Dagger of Time. In the Hobbit, it’s “the ONE ring”. Literature is FULL of inanimate objects that “come to life” and serve as the catalyst for whatever remarkable story is unfolding. And today, we look again at the inanimate object in MY home that has “come to life”! I am, of course, talking about….The Magic Table!

     As I have shared before, we have a Magic Table on our front porch. Oh sure- it SEEMS like a simple, regular rolling computer table that could be found in ANY office across the country. And that’s what I THOUGHT it was when I wheeled it over to the parsonage. But then…the magic began!

     Every day, at both noon (-ish) and 5PM (-ish), we hear a “thump” on the front porch- kind of like Santa coming down the chimney! And when we got out and look…there is amazing, delicious, warm fresh food on the table! We bring it in, marvel at whatever awesomeness we find and then…we eat! (Our older son, who lives in Chicago, asked if A. we might be willing to “loan” him the table when we are through with it and B. did I think it would still work…in Cook County?!) We can’t HELP but pray for the hands that so lovingly prepared and provided the food. And the individual(s) who brought it, as well as the process in general, are always a topic of conversation.

     The truth of this story is that we have been SO blessed by this process that I almost feel guilty. But I’m not gonna’ lie- it has been SO amazingly helpful and appreciated. We have provided countless meals to OTHERS over our years in “the church”, but I never fully realized the powerful ministry that exists in providing such comfort and sustenance. I JOKE about the “magic table”, but the true magic is obviously NOT found in the inanimate object but instead in the people. When God’s people come together to effect change with the intention of strengthening God’s kingdom…no matter how small or large…GREAT things can happen! And I am in a front-row seat to see that happening in time and space!

     In the movie Forrest Gump, the following interchange happens:

Forrest: Lieutenant Dan? Lieutenant Dan!

Lt. Dan: Hello, Forrest.

Forrest: You got new legs. New legs!

Lt. Dan: Yeah, I got new legs. Custom-made titanium alloy. It’s what they use on the space shuttle.

Forrest: Magic legs.

      Well, Forrest, Lt. Dan may have magic legs…but I have a Magic Table! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

     Tomorrow- VERY Special Birthday Wishes

Sunday, April 27- Breathing Sight: I Can SEE!

     I remember it like it was yesterday- my first pair of glasses. I was about 40 years old and a woman who was a member of the congregation I was serving then worked as a tech in a Lenscrafter’s kind of place. I was starting to struggle to read things, so she encouraged me to come in and be tested. The eye test went fine and they took the new prescription to her so that she could actually make the glasses. She looked at the numbers on the screen, looked at me, looked BACK at the screen, then BACK at me. “Pretty bad, huh?” I asked. “Bad? I can’t imagine how you saw to even GET here today!” Then end result was a quantum leap to bifocals- a jump that I certainly have never looked back from!
     Seeing is one of those things we take for granted. As long as our eyes work right…and for most of us, that is at least relatively the case…then we simply assume that it’s always there- we don’t have to think about it. But when that is NOT the case, we are suddenly thrust into a different light. Due to my current health circumstances, I am struggling with an eye issue. The nerves around my right eye are simply not working as they should. This means that my eye doesn’t blink like it should, thereby not adequately hydrating the eye as it is needed. So I have to work the eye drops and eye gel on a very regular basis to make sure that no damage comes to the eye…hopefully until the nerve sensation and action kick back in. But “seeing” is MUCH more than simply a physical task. Yes, we see with our eyes. But we also “see” with our minds…our hearts…our souls. 
     Today we begin a new Sunday sermon series that will lead us through the weeks that I am “banned” from the real pulpit! Seriously, during my recovery and absence from the church I currently serve, there are incredibly capable and committed folks who will be “guesting” in the pulpit…and doing a marvelous job! I am eternally grateful to them for their willingness. So I offer this series NOT for their benefit…or frankly even yours! I offer it as a challenge to…ME…to get back in the saddle and push forward…Breathing Life. Each week, we will focus on some aspect of our faith that we can intentionally “breathe” into our day-to-day life, with the ultimate goal of breathing new life into our souls.
     Mark 8:14-21 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”  They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
     On the surface, eyes are just these simple things that we take horribly for granted. But the fact is that they are VERY complex. Did you know that the average eye blink lasts for about 1/10th of a second and you blink about 12 times every minute? Eyes also heal quickly. With proper care, it only takes 48 hours to repair a corneal scratch. The act of seeing requires that fully half your brain be involved. Out of all the muscles in your body, the muscles that control your eyes are the most active. And around the world, about 39 million people are blind, with roughly 6 times that many with some kind of vision impairment. A full 80% of the world’s vision problems are avoidable or even curable. Vision is what we see…both with our eyes and our heart. And today’s Scripture cuts right to the meat of that fact.
     John 9:1-12 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. His followers asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused this man to be born blind—his own sin or his parents’ sin?” Jesus answered, “It is not this man’s sin or his parents’ sin that made him be blind. This man was born blind so that God’s power could be shown in him. While it is daytime, we must continue doing the work of the One who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
     A man goes to a bar with his dog. He goes up to the bar and asks for a drink. The bartender says “You can’t bring that dog in here!” The guy, without missing a beat, says “This is my seeing-eye dog.” “Oh man, ” the bartender says, “I’m sorry, here, the first one’s on me.” The man takes his drink and goes to a table near the door. Another guy walks in the bar with a Chihuahua. The first guys sees him, stops him and says “You can’t bring that dog in here unless you tell him it’s a seeing-eye dog.” The second man graciously thanks the first man and continues to the bar. He asks for a drink. The bartender says “Hey, you can’t bring that dog in here!” The second man replies “This is my seeing-eye dog.” The bartender says, “No, I don’t think so. They do not have Chihuahuas as seeing-eye dogs.” The man pauses for a half-second and replies “What?!?! They gave me a Chihuahua?!?”
     This man suffered from congenital blindness- he had been blind from birth. He had never seen and, as far as he knew…he WOULD never see. He surely couldn’t cure himself and, after years of proof, it seemed obvious that no one else could cure him either. And so…he made a living near the temple, just like so many others in his position. Why there? Because so many people passed by that spot and MANY of them were highly encouraged to be charitable. But as those people passed by the blind man, they were faced with a very real theological question, “If, as we have been raised to believe, sin is the cause of our suffering, then how could someone be born with such a handicap? Apparently, either his parents sinned and he is paying the price OR he somehow sinned in utero. So…whose sin caused this eternal blindness- , his or his parents? It HAD to be one or the other…right? And LOOK at him- what a sin THAT must have been! I am SO glad I’m not like him!”
     The people, even Jesus’ disciples, simply couldn’t see this blind man as an object of mercy. Instead, for them, he was nothing more than a topic for theological discussion. And let’s be honest- that the “go to” response often, isn’t? I mean, it’s a LOT easier to discuss an abstract subject like “sin” it is to put it in context and actually minister to a concrete need. 
     But Jesus, in true “Jesus fashion” sees things differently. He says, “Well, if My choices are either A. his parents or B. him, then I choose…C. None of the above!” Jesus says that the problem doesn’t exist as a result of sin. Instead, it exists so that mighty God’s power can be shown in and through….manifest in…him.
     So THAT’S why bad things happen in the world? Just to make God look better? I don’t know about you, but that seems a bit…egotistical, doesn’t it? It wouldn’t fl
y if I did it! The truth is that stuff simply…happens in a fallen world. People have afflictions, illnesses, pain and loss because life is hard and our bodies are fragile. But the healing that happens…and healing DOES happen, if you are willing to broaden your understanding of “healing” than that healing glorifies God. 
      Did you notice that? Jesus’ disciples, as well as the others gathered around, are safely ensconced in a harmless theological discussion that keeps them, and their hands, clean. But with one seemingly simply observation, Jesus calls them instantly from idle speculation straight into the middle of to action. That is ALWAYS His goal! And then…He goes to work!
     After Jesus said this, he spit on the ground and made some mud with it and put the mud on the man’s eyes. Then he told the man, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” So the man went, washed, and came back seeing. The neighbors and some people who had earlier seen this man begging said, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “He is the one,” but others said, “No, he only looks like him.” The man himself said, “I am the man.” They asked, “How did you get your sight?” He answered, “The man named Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. Then he told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” They asked him, “Where is this man?” “I don’t know,” he answered.
     When I was a kid and hurt myself, my dad would say, “Spit on it. Rub dirt on it. Walk it off.” Real “guy stuff”. Jesus does real guy stuff here- He spits in the dirt, makes mud and then smears it on the man’s eyes. None of this holistic, waving your hands, spectral aura stuff for Jesus- He gets right down to it. 
     Notice what He uses to carry out the miracle. It is NOT coincidentally that Jesus heals life using dirt- the very same substance that He, in the form of God, used to create it in the first place. Interestingly, spit was sometimes used in forms of pagan healing. But it was MUCH more often considered, as you might imagine, coarse, vulgar and gross. And that MIGHT have made this man most uncomfortable…if he had even known…or cared…what it was that Jesus used. But let’s be honest- the spit, the dirt and the mud were not medicine. Instead, they were, all combined, a too, used to develop the man’s faith. When you are experiencing irritation, what you often need is irrigation.
     Jesus then tells the man to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. A structure called Hezekiah’s tunnel was used to channel water from the nearby Gihon Springs inside the city walls to that pool. It was used as a water supply, as well as for baptizing converts to Judaism. And, as they were around the last day of the Feast of the Tabernacles, the water was being used for the feast. So the man was supposed to go and wash off this…MUD…in THAT Pool of Siloam? Would he even be willing to obey under those circumstances? Well…he DOES! He foes to the Pool of Siloam, washes in its waters and then goes home…seeing! The Name Siloam originated as a means of sending waters from a spring to a pool. But now, the name suddenly spoke to a MUCH higher calling- the calling of a man sent by Jesus…Who had been sent by God. 
     Did you notice? When the man was healed, he looked so different that he created an ID problem. So much so that the people begin to argue, “Is this the same man who used to sit around and beg?” Maybe it was a case of mistaken identity. But the previously blind man insists, “I’m the guy!” But the people are unconvinced, “How?” It would have been easy to hide his confession and avoid the controversy. Or he simply could have chosen to embellish the story. But he DOESN’T. Instead, he fearlessly stands his ground, “It was Jesus that made the difference. I can’t deny it…and I wouldn’t want to even if I could!” His eyes were opened and the light of Jesus Christ poured in. And yet the light that lets one see can be the SAME light that blinds another. The people bring the man to the Pharisees. And they IMMEDIATELY point out that healing, unless someone’s life is in danger, violates the Law of the Sabbath. Even making mud violates that Law. 
     Here we are- Sabbath healing. It seems to be Jesus’ almost intentional approach. And He again upsets, even deliberately challenges, the religious leaders of the day. The Pharisees can’t face the fact that Jesus healed a man- they can’t even acknowledge the possibility. But the facts don’t lie- healing happened! They SEE the miracle…but they openly reject the evidence; they simply won’t receive Jesus. 
     Joel 2:28-29 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
     In this story, people keep asking, “How?” They continue to either miss the obvious or they are afraid to speak…and face…the truth! And to boot, they ALL asked the wrong question! The question to ask in this story is NOT “How?” but “Who?” They want to understand the mechanics of the miracle- how it was possible- instead of simply trusting THAT it was possible.
But understanding the process, even if they COULD, would be NO guarantee that they have actually experienced the miracle. The power of Jesus Christ brings different reactions from different people: the blind man receives the truth and sees while the self-righteous reject the truth and become even more spiritually blind. 
     Jesus’ choice of the blind man in this story is significant- his life seemed hopeless. And that fact tends to resonate with our own spiritual blindness. We have much in common with this man- we are spiritually 1. Blind, 2. Begging and 3. Helpless. But look what Jesus did in this story. He:
1. Came to the man in grace, when no one else would
2. Stirred things up and pushed the man FAR out of his comfort zone
3. Healed him, which glorified God
And, on top of that…other people noticed.
     To the disciples and the others gathered there, the blind man was simply a chance for theological speculation. To the Pharisees, he was nothing more than a violation of the Sabbath Law. But to Jesus, he was a human being…a child of God…in need of real help, real transformation. Jesus came to him in his time of need and breathed sight into him. And, through that act, He breathed new life into the man. He can do the same…for 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- More Stories of the Magic Table

Saturday, April 26- 3 HOURS of Frasier?

     I am a child of
the late 60’s and 70’s. If you look at my iTunes account, Ronny Milsap may be “Lost
in the 50’s Tonight”, but I am unabashedly “Stuck in the 70’s and 80’s EVERY
Night”! Oh sure, I have a lot of Contemporary Christian music. I have some even
more “old school 60’s rock. I have some classical and easy listening. I have
some CeeLo Green and some Maroon 5. But the BULK of my 2,492 songs on iTunes
(and, depending on YOUR collection, you are ETHER thinking right now, “ONLY
2,492 songs?” OR you’re thinking, I didn’t know there even WERE 2,492 songs!”)
are from a fairly small window that spans 1975 through about 1985. 10 years of
REALLY good music- and then…nothing!

     Another sign that
I am a child of that era is my connection to television. Growing up in the
country with parents who had a VERY strong work ethic, it’s not like I had
hours and hours of every day to sit around and watch Wally and the Beave. BUT,
when I DID have time…I was parked in front of the tube! Because of that, much
of my body of “ministry reference” is of the “pop culture” variety. (I even had
a former parishioner who was a VERY strong supporter of mine pull me aside one
day and say, “You KNOW I love having you as the Pastor here…” “But?” “BUT…I
wish you didn’t make so many pop culture references that I don’t get!!”) Good
or bad…probably both…but TV has helped shape who I am as a human being.

     I have, however, noticed
a change over the past several years. There was a time when I was perfectly satisfied
to spend “extra time” doing NOTHING but watching TV. But maturity, along with
gaining a better handle on how to manage my ADHD, has led me to a new paradigm.
I still sit with my family when we watch TV. I still pay attention to much of
what’s on. The difference is that I am OFTEN not terribly invested in it. In
other words, I encourage everybody else to watch what they want, because I’m
only paying half attention anyway! Instead, I read and/or write, work on sermon
development, Bible Study, church planning…whatever!

     This dynamic has
been exaggerated in recent days as I continue to recover. I have less constant energy
to focus TOO long on my “usual” stuff- I have to stop thinking so hard at times
and simply relax. That brings me back to…the TV. And I have been reminded just
how much my TV habits have changed. For instance, did you know they show 3 straight
HOURS of the TV show Frasier on TLC each weekday morning? 3 HOURS! That is 6
straight episodes. Now, I always enjoyed Kelsey Grammer on Cheers. And the
episodes of Frasier that I saw were pretty good. But I just never really
watched it much. But that 8AM-11AM wheelhouse is a pretty good “time to relax”
stretch these days. I go with my wife when she takes our younger son to school
(I can’t drive yet). We come back, have breakfast, take the dogs out…and I need
to kick back. Thus started the Frasier awareness. The first day or two, it was
a treat. 3 HOURS of doing nothing but chuckling at fairly witty writing. Not
too shabby. But as 2 days morphed into 3 and 4…that restlessness started back
up. Frasier is STILL a very funny show- I would argue, in retrospect, one of
the “smartest” comedies of its day. But ultimately…it’s a sitcom. And we were
made for SO…MUCH…MORE.

     1920’s British Olympian
runner Eric Liddle (think Chariots of Fire) was a strongly devoted Christian
who sacrificed much for his faith. He was once quoted as saying, “God made me
for a purpose. But He also made me fast. And when I run…I feel His pleasure.” How
awesome is that?! For what purpose did God make…YOU? And no fair saying, “I don’t
know!” I think you DO know; it’s just scary to admit it…because then you have
to act upon it. But WHEN you act upon it- when you do the thing that makes God
happy- life is suddenly worth the living. EVERYTHING is different…better!

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

     Tomorrow- Breathing Sight: I Can SEE!

Friday, April 25- Food is a WHOLE New Experience!

     Food- can’t live without it…pass the Beer
Nuts! Food has become n…interesting and magical thing around our house
recently. First off- there is the EATING of the food. Because of the extensive
work they did on my right “jaw hinge”, both getting the tumor out AND “rebuilding”
the cap with titanium mesh, my jaw has been more than a bit…sore. (I was
honestly having problems with it BEFORE surgery…the surgery just added to the fun!)

     It means that biting something OFF and
then chewing it is not a real good option right now. For instance, opening my
mouth wide enough to put in a sandwich, bite off a piece, chew it and swallow
it is just not happening right now. BUT…where there’s a sandwich…there’s a way!
I CAN put a chicken salad sandwich (as an example) on the plate, cut off a bite
with a fork and knife, carefully insert it in my partially-opened mouth and
THEN chew and swallow. With a little practice, I have that down like a champ!

     I have found some things that just don’t
work right now- raw veggies (which we usually eat a lot of) are not on my list.
Something really chewy like a steak would probably not work right now. But with
a little modification, I have been managing quite well in the food department!

     And speaking of food, the OTHER phenomenon
that has occurred has been nothing less that truly magical. I was instructed by
my doctor to lay low for 6-8 weeks. And the truth of the matter is that I know
myself- if I don’t basically sever all ties, there IS no such thing as “laying
low”. I tend to be either a “know when to hold ‘em” kind of a guy or a “know
when to fold ‘em” kind of guy when I play 5-card draw. I RARELY am part-way in.
And knowing that, I know that if I step ONE foot back into life right now…I
will be back in up to my neck within minutes! (Which, frankly, is exactly where
I want to be!!)

     That reality created a conundrum. I simply
can’t be “hostess with the mostest” at our front door. And yet, these awesome
people I serve with want to help us…bless their hearts! That meant, among other
things, they wanted to bring food for us. But how do we make that happen and
still maintain the “demilitarized zone”? Then I came us with a pretty good
plan, if I do say so myself! (And…I do!) We have a large, glassed-in porch on
the front of the house. I put a table out there and signs on all the outside
doors. The signs ask that people not ring the doorbell or knock- we have a very
vigilant dog and you never know when I will be trying to sleep. Instead, if
they are dropping something off, they are encouraged to simply leave it on the
table on the porch.

     That fact, combined with the truly
overwhelming generosity of this congregation, has at least two “pop-ins” a day.
Someone brings lunch by about noon and someone else brings dinner by about 5PM.
(That 
doesn’t even MENTION the cookies, sandwiches, fruit, cards, etc. that
have shown up out there!) Then we go and, instead of “carry out”…”carry IN”- we
bring our meal in and eat. It is truly remarkable! I am reminded of the movies
set in some Tibetan monastery where people come with a baby, slide it into a drawer
built into the massive stone wall that surrounds the monastery and then…slides
it through. Monks on the other side retrieve the baby and…I don’t know…raise
him or her in the ways of the Force…maybe! Food magically shows up twice each
day. It is ALWAYS delicious and ALWAYS greatly appreciated!

     I am napping every day- my body, while
doing a GREAT job of recovery, reminds me on a regular basis that I still have
a long road ahead! I am weaning off the steroids and pain meds- that will
happen early next week. And I march ever closer to the next big step- having
the stitches removed next Tuesday. And I continue to hold fast to the fact that
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- 2 HOURS of…Frasier?

Thursday, April 24- First Days Back

     When we last met, I had just been home and
was starting my first FULL day (Tuesday) back where I belong! As I write this,
it is early Wednesday evening, so I have had basically one partial day and 2
full days home from St. Louis. I would, under ANY “normal” circumstances, be
at church right now, having dinner with my church family. But…I am on the DL
(Disabled List for non-sports fans) and so…I am trying HARD to behave myself
and do what the doctor said!

     Someone asked me, “Why do you have to be
off for 6-8 weeks if you are doing so well?” And that, my fine-feathered friend,
is a GREAT question! The bottom line is this- I was under anesthetic for SO
long…under “the knife” for SO long…that it will simply take a long time to get
beyond that. I’m actually dealing with that reality pretty well right now…just
don’t ask my family! I do foresee, however, that I will have to be VERY
intentional in May and early June! BUT…I will “bridge that cross” when I come
to it!

     I am in the middle of slowly weaning off the
steroids that have been my very best friend for the past several days. I will
be completely “weaned” next Monday…just in time to go back to see the doctors
again! That’s right- I have follow-up appointments with the neurosurgeon and
ENT doctors next Tuesday…which also happens to be my beautiful wife’s birthday!
So we spent MY birthday recovering from surgery and we will spend HER birthday
seeing doctors in St. Louis and then driving back!

     Speaking of driving…I can’t! I am banned
from being behind the wheel until my neurosurgeon signs off. That is also a bit
of a challenge for me! I can’t lift anything over 10 pounds, which means I can’t
pick up MUCH. It also means I can’t take our dog out because, even though I don’t
have to pick her up to take her out, she is a big, strong hunting dog who can
pull PRETTY hard when she sees a squirrel or cat!

     I have to get up every few hours in the
middle of the night to take meds, but that is spreading out more and more as I
get farther and farther away from surgery. I have a total of 8 meds that I am
taking right now and, other than the daily over-the-counter Zyrtec I have taken
for years for allergies…ALL of them are new!

     I continue to SLOWLY regain control of my
right-side facial muscles. I can currently raise my right eyebrow, fully close
my right eye and do a little of the “Elvis sneer” on my right side. I could do
NONE of those things the day of the surgery. My right eye, while responding, still isn’t blinking correctly. That means special eye drops and a (somewhat) failed
attempt at sleeping with an eye patch. My mouth has been the slowest to
rebound- I am still talking much more out of the left side than the right side.
And my smile is still crooked. But what 
we’ve noticed was that the muscle
control that HAS recovered has done so in REVERSE order of how I lost it. In
other words, it has been “last out, first back in” thus far. And that means
that I probably am NOT done regaining facial control…a good thing!

     As I
said before, the right side hearing is gone…period. There are potential
surgeries down the road that MIGHT help that issue. There are also very
specialized hearing assist devices that could make a difference. But that is
pretty low on my priority list right now!

     The jaw continues to heal- I can open it a
BIT wider without much pain now. I just have to make sure and continue to work
the jaw as it heals so that the resulting scar tissue serves to hold the joint
together rather than simply impede more movement.

     I have said it many times already and I
will continue to say it…over and over again- I am overwhelmed by how many
people have willingly, lovingly walked this journey with me. Being such a
private person, this experience has taken me WAY out of my comfort zone…and, in
an odd way, it may just be one of the best things that ever happened to me!
Thank you for walking the journey with me! 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- Food is a WHOLE New Experience!