Monday, June 30- Welcome Back!

welcome-back-kotter

Did you watch “Welcome Back, Kotter!”…“back in the day”? I will be honest…I loved that show! Looking back, it appealed to the lowest common denominator…which may be EXACTLY why I like it so much! You had all the stereotypes present- the nerdy Jewish kid who didn’t quite fit in and supplied much of the “comic relief”, the “hip” African American kid who really had a heart of gold, the scheming Hispanic kid who was always on the fringe of trouble and the cocky, braggadocio-filled Italian kid who was the chick magnet. Then there was Mr. Kotter. Gabe. A “local boy made good” story. He graduated from James Buchanan High School in Brooklyn, New York…BARELY…and then went away to college. BUT…he returned to make a difference in his alma mater!

That was during a time when one of the main goals of a new TV show was to have a theme song that could also serve as a top-40 radio hit. And “Welcome Back, Kotter!” was no exception. Written and recorded by former Lovin’ Spoonful frontman John Sebastian, “Welcome Back” not only topped the Easy Listening chart but also reached #1on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for one week in May of 1976…after only five weeks on the charts. Interestingly, the song also reached #93 on the Country chart that same year.

Like most theme songs of that day, it told the story of…the story. The lyrics are:

“Welcome back! Your dreams were your ticket out. Welcome back to that same old place that you laughed about. Well the names have all changed since you hung around, but those dreams have remained and they’re turned around. Who’d have thought they’d lead ya’ back here where we need ya? Yeah we tease him a lot ‘cause we’ve got him on the spot. Welcome back.”

Although I haven’t seen that show in…oh my…decades, I found myself singing that theme song yesterday. You see, the church I currently serve had a “Welcome Back” party for me after worship yesterday! And it…was…awesome! They called it a “picnic”, but due to lack of outdoor space and sheer numbers, we had it inside. The dining room was decorated with red and white checked table cloths, picnic baskets and lots of plastic ants! (One parishioner joked, “Why do you have plastic cockroaches!?”) The food was picnic fare- hamburgers, brats and hot dogs grilled outside by the United Methodist men, potato salad, baked beans, deviled eggs, fresh fruit and ice cream and cookies! (It was scary good!)

By now, you are probably sick of hearing about how glad I am to be back with my church family. But you’re simply going to have to listen to at least a little more! I just feel blessed to be doing so well physically and to be back doing what I love to do. But apparently, that’s not enough for THESE people! No! They insist on telling me how happy they are to have me back, how good I look and how much they’ve missed me! It’s humbling and overwhelming!

As we were cleaning up afterward, one gentleman said to me, “This was great! We’re going to do this again next year…aren’t we?!” I replied, “SURE! Let’s just see if we can do it without having to celebrate my return after 6 weeks of surgical recovery!

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

Tomorrow- Relay For Life

Sunday, June 29- Gears of Wars

Gears of War     The platoon was on maneuvers out in the field when the Commanding Commander and the 1st Sgt. hit the hay for the night. The Commanding Officer, “Sergeant, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.” The Sergeant looked up and said, “I see millions of stars.” The Commanding Officer asked, “And what does that tell you, Sgt?” “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you, Sir?” The Commanding Officer looked at the Sergeant and said, “Well, it tells me that somebody stole our tent!”
Today, we continue our current sermon series- The Psizzlin’ Psummer Psalm Psermon Pseries. We are taking a good, hard look at the Old Testament Book of Psalms. The Book of Psalms is a collection of religious poems or songs, designed to be set to music. Some are hymns to be sung by a congregation. Some are private prayers. Some are lyrical devices for remembering major events in Israel’s history. The Book contains 150 psalms, making it the longest book in the Bible, based on number of chapters. Every human emotion, every circumstance of daily life are captured in these 150 chapters. This 11-week series will carry us through the rest of the summer…AND through the trials and tribulations, the highs and lows of life. Today we look at the fact that, in life, we are faced with the gears of war. And that fact SHOULD be painfully obvious. I mean, recently I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out! Let’s look at a Scripture that points to the fact that even the one and only Son of God was in the midst of warfare-
Matthew 20:18-19 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”
The Psalms talk about a LOT of things. Every human emotion…literally…can be found within these 150 chapters. But one of the more common themes in the Psalms is that of war. The period during which they were written was one of great strife and turmoil. And, as we will focus on today, life is simply an ongoing war between good and evil.
Today, we are focusing on Psalm 20. But the truth of the matter is that Psalms 20 and 21 go hand in hand- they are bookends…twin battle songs. Psalm 20 is the prayer BEFORE the battle, anticipating victory while Psalm 21 is the praise AFTER the battle, reflecting on the victory. This Psalm, written by King David, reflects the many wars he fought that are recorded in 2Samuel, chapters 8-10. David was, in many respects, a “warring king”. His sword may have been worn…but it wasn’t rusty! Let’s look at today’s Psalm-
     Psalm 20 May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests. Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. LORD, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!
A young soldier was making his first parachute jump. The Jump Master explained the procedure, “You count to ten and pull the first ripcord. If the chute doesn’t open, pull the second. That should do it. Then, after you land, there’ll be a truck waiting to pick you up.” The soldier checked his gear, called out the customary “Geronimo!” and jumped out of the plane. He counted to ten and pulled the ripcord. The chute failed to open. He pulled the second ripcord…and the chute still didn’t open. As he plummeted Earthward, he said, “I’ll bet the truck won’t be there, either!”
This psalm is a prayer for the king- David. And it is written by…David! David draws up a prayer, to be used in the congregation…for himself! Is that a bad thing? It may SOUND like it, but I would argue that even strong Christians who know well how to pray for themselves should STILL desire the prayers of others FOR them.
So Psalm 20 is a prayer…an intercessory prayer. An intercessory prayer is a prayer on behalf of someone…or something…else. This prayer was an intercessory prayer for the king as he prepared to face the enemy in battle. And if there is one truth to be found at the foundation of this Psalm, it is that battles will happen. It’s NOT a question of “if”…but “when”. And since they ARE coming, we need to be ready. We need to have “the goods” in place that will help us survive the hard times.
Verse 1- May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
Verse 1 talks about God answering us in our time of distress. And if you answer someone…it’s because you first HEARD them! It’s very encouraging to know that God not only HEARS our prayers, but is also ready to RESPOND to them…to help.
John 15:7 says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” And 1John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
The key word here is “if”- “IF you remain in Me, IF My Words remain in you…” and “IF we ask…according to His will…” There are conditions to God answering our prayers. The 1st condition is “remain”…if we remain in Him and allow His Word to remain in us. The 2nd condition is “according to His will”…God is NEVER going to give us something that goes against His will simply because we ask for it. The key to answered prayer is staying connected to God and His Word and always seeking discernment regarding His will.
There is ALWAYS hope…no matter what the situation…because we have prayer as our connection to God. No matter what the battle is, no matter who the enemy is, we can still pray and God will still hear us.
Verse 2- May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.
Verse 2 talks about help and support…strengthening us. God’s strength of the Lord is THE strength that we both want and need if we are to go into battle. His strength is sufficient in any situation. When we are at our weakest, God’s power is at its strongest.
Too often in the battles of life we try to fight under our own power. And the truth is that when we do that, we WILL fail…every time. The ONLY way to successfully navigate the battles of life is to rely on the ever-present strengthening power of God.
Verse 3- May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.
Verse 3 asks that God would recognize our sacrifices and offerings.
 Verse 4- May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.
Verse 4 touches on a fascinating side of our relationship with God. It asks that God would give you…the desire of your heart. Does God DO that? Because I REALLY desire that new Mercedes, and yet…I don’t see it in my driveway! Know what I’m sayin’? The answer is, “Yes!” God DOES give you the desire of your heart, but we have to go back to 1John 5:14- if it is compatible with His will. And I seriously doubt that my Mercedes is in HIS plans!
Verse 5- May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests.
Verse 5 comes around again to joy- NOT happiness…but joy! It also points to a confidence in God- not IF we are victorious but WHEN!
 Verse 6- Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.
Verse 6 offers an assurance that is inspiring- I KNOW that God will bring me the victory! I KNOW it
 Verse 7- Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
Verse 7 says, “We will remember the name of the Lord our God”. If you know what God has done in the past, then you have a good indication of what he will do in the future. The saying is “past is not a guarantee of future results”. And for you and me…that’s true. But looking at God’s track record gives us a PERFECT predictor of His future performance!
Verse 8 and 9- They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!
The Psalm ends with a wrap-up- the enemies will be brought to their knees but the rightwous will stand tall and firm.
If you were asked to name a great battle, what would come to mind? Pearl Harbor? Gettysburg? The Alamo? D-Day? Those are just a few of the most famous battles from history. But notice this- they all took place somewhere else. We all know that some battles happen a great deal closer to home. And sometimes those “close to home” battles aren’t fought with fists or guns…but with words. We all know the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That is am marvelously pithy saying, but I would like to quote that great theologian Col. Sherman T. Potter from MASH, “Horse hockey!” A broken bone or a split lip will heal. But words can cut so deep that the wound takes decades to heal…if it heals at all.
Perhaps some of the greatest battles are the ones that are fought internally. I’m talking about those painfully private battles with pain, illness, depression, financial difficulty, grief, worry, stress, frustration, loneliness, temptation, relational breakdowns…the list goes on and on. And these battles, although internal, can feel SO big, so overwhelming that we feel like we are drowning- we simply can’t hold our ground. Maybe we don’t have to do fight tooth and nail with a giant like David did. But we do face giant-sized problems of our own from time to time, don’t we?
What’s your giant-sized problem? Maybe there is some practice or habit that you KNOW to be wrong…but you continue to struggle to overcome it. Maybe you are overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy or inferiority. Maybe you have some physical, emotional, or circumstantial struggle that you wrestle with regularly. Maybe your finances have you on the ropes, ready to toss in the towel and say, “No mas!” Maybe worry makes it hard for you to breathe on a regular basis. Whatever your giant-sized problem is, I would like to insist that you CAN overcome it. How? You need to have an attitude. A big ol’, major-league ‘tude! But not THAT kind of attitude- no one wants to see that! No, you need a different kind of attitude- one that a lot of Christians these days are missing. You need an attitude of victory! You need to NOT live a life of discouragement. Discouragement comes in all shapes and sizes. And frankly some of the most damaging forms can come from the people closest to us.
When you’re faced with a giant problem, respond to it with faith in God. But let me assure you that there will be people who will try and discourage you. They do it with the BEST of intentions…but they’ll STILL do it! “Give up. You can’t do that. It’s too hard. You’ll never make it. If I couldn’t do it, you can’t either. You’re too young. You’re too old. You’re too stupid. You don’t have enough talent.” People say things like that ALL the time, and it threatens to pull the plug and let all the will drain right out of you.
So what should you do? Don’t listen to them! They may MEAN well…but they’re WRONG! If the people around you want to be Eeyore…then let them! But you don’t have to join them! The person who says it can’t be done shouldn’t disturb the person who’s actually DOING it.
When you choose to serve God, you will have to deal with many giant-sized problems. And when that happens, be prepared for the naysayers who just LOVE to tell you that you won’t succeed and should just give up. Don’t listen to them! Instead, focus on what God has done in your life. Focus on the good things. To quote that great theologian Bing Crosby, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative but don’t mess with Mister In-between.”
Now let’s be honest- when you’re neck-deep in a difficult situation, it can be HARD to see God at work in your life. But I find that, when I am faithful and push forward, once I come out the other side and have the marvelous gift of hindsight, I can see the markers He placed all along the way.
     Deuteronomy 33:27-29 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’ So Israel will live in safety; Jacob will dwell secure in a land of grain and new wine, where the heavens drop dew. Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.”
Life is warfare or, as that great theologian Pat Benatar said, “Love is a battlefield.” But God is with you. And those who make it their business to glorify God can expect that God will, in one way or other, fulfill them. And those who walk in His counsel can promise themselves that he will bless them. Those that have their eye still upon the salvation of the Lord shall have their hearts filled with the joy of that salvation.
A lot of Christians fall because they fail…to remember Who their God is. We live in uncertain times and therefore we need to remember the Who our God is and what He has promised. Many of God’s people lack a strong, consistent faith because they don’t know and therefore can’t depend on God’s promises. But when we recognize that we simply don’t have the goods to adequate defend ourselves from our enemies, we realize that we have to fully rely on God for our protection…our victories. If God be for us, who can be against us?
Many in this world think that Satan still has the upper hand on Earth. But I’ve read the last chapter and that is simply NOT the case. Jesus defeated the devil at the rugged cross and the empty tomb. And because of that victory, we can confidently live victorious lives in the here and now.
I am here this morning to tell you that the world, the devil and things of the flesh do NOT have to have a strangle hold on your life. The enemy wants you to “come south” and join him, but God offers you a front-row seat in Heaven. The way to make it through the daily battle is to constantly remind yourself that Jesus has already won the battle…for you. Pray about it. Prayer turns despair into hope and hope into certainty. It will sustain us when our own power fails us. It can snatch victory from the gaping jaws of defeat. Got any rivers you can’t ford? Got any mountains you can’t climb? Got any valleys you can’t navigate? Turn to God- He specializes in the impossible.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. To get what you’ve never had, you have to be willing to do what you’ve never done. If you never try more than you think you can possibly do, you’ll never accomplish all that you possibly can. In other words…with God, all things are possible.

Saturday, June 28- A 5-Year “Overnight Sensation”

Jeremy Lin

I have always loved the phrase “overnight sensation”. We all know what that means- someone, usually an actor or singer, who seems to come out of nowhere and become a star…an overnight sensation. And the reality is that there ARE people who do that. There ARE people who are discovered and rocket to “the top” in the blink of an eye because of a movie or TV show they are in or a song they record.

But the truth is that for every one of those “overnight sensations”, there are HUNDREDS of folks who toiled in obscurity, cranking it out day after day after day for years before FINALLY “making it big”. We don’t really see them struggle all those years, so to us…they came out of nowhere.

I have been thinking about that fact recently. I started this blog on September 14th, 2009. I have posted a new blog ALMOST every day since. That means that A. I am less than two months away from the 5-year anniversary of Stick With Jesus and B. I have posted somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,700 blogs. And when you figure that I average about 5,500 words a week, I have written about 1.4 million words! And my “hit” count is in the “millions” range now.

Let me say up front- I didn’t start this project to gain notoriety. I started it…to see if I could do it! I started it to give me an outlet for writing. I started it to try and spread just a bit of faith and humor. I don’t make a dime off of this site. In fact, it costs me money.

I remember early on, I did a LOT of reading about “how to make your blog grow”. (I was looking for the “magic bullet”!) But the overarching advice was…just keep plugging. Just keep writing. Just keep doing what you are doing. Do that, and you WILL find an audience. But it will take time.

This seems like good advice for us Christians, too. Many folks begin their Christian walk on fire for God. They are burning so brightly that they are sure they have reached to pinnacle- they are BFF’s (Best Friends Forever) with God and all is right with the world. And then the first speed bump comes along. They are rocked on their faith foundation. And they begin to have some doubts. And before they know it, the 2nd punch comes rocketing in…and they are knocked off their feet, gasping for breath. And they find themselves pulling away from the church…away from God.

There are very few “overnight sensations” when it comes to Christianity. Instead, it’s a marathon…NOT a sprint. We take baby steps…and just keep on taking them. Where are YOU on that journey? Frankly, WHERE you are is MUCH less important than which direction you are going. You are NOT competing against anybody else, so who CARES if they are farther along than you? Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, day after day after day. And before you know it, you’ll be…an overnight sensation!

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

Tomorrow- Gears of War

Friday, June 27- Cheerwine!

cheerwine

“Cheerwine is a unique, distinctly cherry-flavored soft drink that is as much a popular culture phenomenon as it is popular beverage. Known as the Nectar of North Carolina, this light and refreshing sparkling beverage features real cane sugar and a large bubble pattern that delivers its very clean, very complete, sweet-yet-mild flavor just ringing with strong cherry notes. Most folks say it’s impossible to explain the euphoric taste of Cheerwine – that it’s just one of those things you have to try for yourself – but one thing everyone agrees on is that Cheerwine should not be mistaken for cherry cola.

Created in 1917 in Salisbury, North Carolina by a general store owner named L.D. Peeler, this singular soft drink with a hint of wild cherry and a bubbly effervescence became an immediate hit. Folks from all around the county came to LD’s store to give it a try. Soon cold cases all over North Carolina were filled with the “Nectar of North Carolina.” It was known to put a smile on everyone’s lips who gave it a try, and the Legend was born.

The odd name of Cheerwine, which is not a wine and contains no alcohol, comes from its burgundy wine-like color, cherry flavor and – of course – the smile it puts on the face of its drinkers, which it’s been doing since 1917. Cheerwine is indeed a cherry different soda: born in the south, raised in a glass.”

Have you heard of Cheerwine? Taken from “the internet”, this description sums it up as good as anything else! I first “met” Cheerwine in the summer of 1998. I had been in the ministry a grand whopping total of 10 months when I led a mission trip to the mountains of southern North Carolina. 6 of us piled into a van and drove to the area south of Ashville, North Carolina to spend the week doing mission work.

The 6 of us were part of a larger group of about 50 people. They divided us up into teams and my team included no one from my group. So I spent my days “out in the field” with my NEW friends and my evenings back at camp with my OLD friends…AND the new ones!

On our second day out, the other adult in my group mentioned something about wanting a Cheerwine. Thinking that was an alcoholic beverage, I said, “Huh?!” She said, “Have ya’ll never heard of Cheerwine?” “Nope!” So she planned for us to stop at a convenience store on the way back to camp that day so we could pick up “a cold one”! We did…and I was smitten! Oh MY…it was good! We stopped every day after work for a Cheerwine!

Fast forward 16 years…to two days ago! My son said, “There’s a box on the porch for you that says ‘Liquid- fragile’ on it.” That seemed like a strange thing so I went out onto the porch as sure enough…there it was! I brought it in, not remembering having ordered anything that would fit this description. I cut open the box to reveal…2 12-packs of…CHEERWINE! Along with the “bountiful harvest” was a note from one of the “kids” who went with me on the trip…who, after 16 years, is NO LONGER a kid! He said he was thinking of us and wanted to say “hi”!

The truth is this- you just never know who you touch or how you touch them in ministry. I spent a lot of time with this “kid”, between mission trips, youth group and…sadly…sitting with his family in the first few hours after his dad suddenly and tragically died. His family will forever hold a special place in my heart. And there are LOTS of families and individuals who hold those special places in my life.

Every “job” I have had in my life was just that…a job! Oh, I always found things to like…but I also found things to…not like! But what I do know is NOT a job, it’s a vocation, a calling…a gift. I get to share in the lives of so many good people. You just can’t ask for better than that. And every once in a while, something like a case of Cheerwine will show up, just to remind me how blessed I am!

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

Tomorrow- 5-Year “Overnight Sensation”

Thursday, June 26- Just Call Me “Job”!

Job

The Old Testament Book of Job is a fascinating, if not confusing, read. The gist of the story is this- God and the Devil are having a chat about Job (pronounced “Jobe”) when the devil says that he thinks Job is only being true to God because God has blessed him. He says that, if God were to take away Job’s blessing, Job would drop Him like a hot rock!

So the devil and God enter into a…wager, if you will…to see just what Job will do. God then let’s a LOT of bad stuff happen to Job. And yet, through it all, Job remains steadfast. Oh, he asks some questions along the way and voices some…displeasure…but he does not turn from God.

First off, let me say that, for my money, this book is more of a metaphor than a literal story. Did it actually happen? “Quien sabe?”, as the Spanish say! But whether it did or not, what it has to tell ME is more metaphoric than literal.

I have been thinking about Job for the past 24 hours or so. An old friend of mine (we share a birthday and we were in a band together…he’s a good bass player!) recently Facebooked (Don’t you LOVE how that has become a verb?!) me and said that reading my blog daily is like reading the Book of Job! Now I will say right up front- for him, that was intended as humor! And for me…it WAS humor! He and I have that kind of relationship. We don’t communicate all that often, but when we do, the sarcastic humor is right there, ready and waiting…and appreciated!

His comment, although provided as humor, has made me think about my life over the past year+. And frankly, a person could make the argument that I HAVE lived a “Job-like” life during that time. It has been one trial after another tribulation all along the way. The initial news was an absolute bombshell…and the hits just kept on coming. The tumor was large. It was not like anything anybody had seen before. (If you remember, I am only the 19th person ever to have this type of tumor!) It was really hard to find a medical professional who was willing to take a stab at treating me. The drug therapies that were tried A. didn’t work and B. had a pretty profound negative effect on me. I have completely lost the hearing in my right ear. I lost almost all of the movement in the right side of my face. I have already had 2 surgeries: one where they took my right ear off, dug some “stuff” out of my head and then sewed my ear back on and 2. One where they opened my head like a melon, took a LOT of “stuff” out, patched it all up with titanium and then sewed me back up. I was off work for 6 weeks. Blah, blah, blah! Could

Now, I could easily look at that list and think, “Woe is me!” I could go all Job-like and think that God has punished me for something I did. I could assume that God has abandoned me or that He simply doesn’t care. Those would ALL be responses that most of us would at least understand, if not agree with.

But I simply don’t have a gear to understand God as CAUSING my physical challenges. Doesn’t work for me. They happened because I live in a fallen world. They happened because I am a human with a marvelously frail and finite body. Could God have STOPPED it from happening? Sure- God can do anything? Then why DIDN’T He? Haven’t the foggiest! But I DO know that He has walked this journey with me. I DO know that He has taught me SO much…about myself, about life, about faith…through this. And I DO know that life on this planet, no matter how long or short it is, is but a precursor to a promised eternity with Him.

So Bill T. Bassplayer (NOT his real name, but what he call him at MY house!), you have hit the nail on the head, my friend! My life IS like Job’s…in the sense that, even in the midst of difficulty and uncertainty, I simply REFUSE to give up or turn my back on Him. Thanks for the reminder!

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

Tomorrow- Cheerwine!

Wednesday, June 25- The Book of Psalms

psalms

Have you ever ready the Old Testament Book of Psalms? It is, by number of chapters, the longest book in the Bible. (It has 150 chapters, by the way!) It is a collection that was intended to be put to music. Some of the Psalms were intended as “congregational” pieces- to be sung by groups. Others are “personal songs”, offering up everything from joyous outbursts to sorrowful laments.

The Psalms are, at their heart, a book of poems. And while I am NOT a huge fan of poetry, the Book of Psalms contains some of the most beautiful poetry ever written. Every imaginable human emotion can be found in the Psalms- if you CAN’T find it…you’re probably not looking too hard! If you want to find words that capture the thankful joy that you are feeling, you will find them in the Psalms. If you need to connect with someone who has felt the depth of despair in which you find yourself, the Psalms would be a great place to look.

I would guess that perhaps THE most recognizable Scripture from the whole of the Bible would be the 23rd Psalm. Let’s take a look at it. (And if you know me, you know that I do NOT tend to be a King James” sort of preacher! But for me, some Scripture just NEEDS to be heard in that marvelously poetic language. The 23rd Psalm is one such passage!)

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

How beautiful is THAT?! We immediately see that the Psalmist sees Christ as a shepherd- guiding and protecting His flock. And that shepherd offers me peaceful places to be. Not only that- He restores me. And even though times get tough…and they WILL…He walks with me. Therefore, I have nothing to fear. He protects me. He provides for my needs. And at the end of my earthly life, I have the promise of life eternal with Him. It simply doesn’t get much better than that!

The Psalms are a beautiful collection of the human experience and how it is impacted by our connection to God. My challenge to you is this- read a Psalm…one Psalm…every day for the next 150 days. That will take you into November. It will also take you into a deeper appreciation of both the Book of Psalms and what it means to be a child of God!

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

Tomorrow- Call Me Job!

Tuesday, June 24- Health Update

health update

If you have been following me for a while, you know that I have offered health updates along the way. At first, I numbered them- #1, #2, #3…etc. Then, I started making up numbers- #4,629…etc! Here is the newest Health Update and I decided…not to number it at all!

My wife and I left for St. Louis, MO about 2PM on Sunday. We stayed Sunday night with my brother and his wife, who live in the St. Louis area…on “the Illinois side”! (Considering how many nights we have stayed at their house over the past year and how much money that would translate to in hotel bills…I shudder to think! Thank God for family!)

Yesterday morning, we were up and out of the house by 8AM. After a brief stop for coffee (Come on! We HAVE to have our priorities!), we headed to downtown St. Louis- Barnes Hospital and the Siteman Cancer Center to be exact. My first appointment was in the neighborhood of 9AM. (When you have a “lab appointment” 45 minutes before your “regular” appointment, it means “show up somewhere around the time of your lab appointment, we’ll take 3 minutes to do a blood draw, and then you can walk across the hall and wait for the doctor”!)

After the blood draw (NOT kidding about the “three minute” thing!), we went across the hall (ALSO not kidding!) to the oncologist’s office. (If you remember, even thought my tumor is not cancerous, it is so rare that the medical professionals had a tough time knowing who was the best specialist to work with me. This oncologist was chosen because A. he is tops in his field and B. he was the one who said, “Yes!”)

He said that my blood work was good and that he thought I was doing quite well. We talked about the fact that I have an MRI scheduled for late July and that he would want to see the results and then see me again. We also talked about what we would do if the little bit of tumor that remains in my head starts growing again. He talked to me about a form of chemo that will be the next step…if we come to that. The tumor might start growing but grow VERY slowly and it might not grow at all. So we are in the “monitoring” stage.

We then drove out to southwest St. Louis County to see my Ear, Nose and Throat doctor- the one who participated in the surgery along with the neurosurgeon. He was very surprised at the progress I have made in regaining the use of my facial muscles. He agreed with my physical therapist that I have probably gone from only 20% usage to 60% usage. He also admitted that he was a bit of a realist when it came to such things and didn’t really think I would regain much if any of that usage! He also agreed that my right eye was doing SO well that I didn’t need to keep the appointment with the eye specialist that I had in late July!

He also said that my right ear canal has “bounced back”. It was crushed by the tumor and he had no reason to think it would do anything but seal itself off after surgery. Instead, it has expanded to its original shape and size! Now, that does NOT mean that I can suddenly hear! The bone in my inner ear is STILL gone…and will REMAIN gone. But it DOES mean that I should have MUCH less trouble with that ear than I have had over the past year! Huzzah!

The last thing he told us was a surprise to both of us and sounded like a good thing! In talking about the tumor that remains in my head and the likelihood (or not) of it being a problem again, he told us that they “burned it off” at the dura- the sac that surrounds the brain. Cauterizing it, according to him, would make it more likely that it would be unable to find a blood supply. And if it can’t do that…it won’t grow. So- fingers crossed for cauterized dura!

In all, our trip was barely over 24 hours- stem to stern. We were delighted to make it safely. We were delighted to get positive, upbeat news. We were delighted at a visit that did NOT involve a considerable amount of pain! And we were delighted to sleep in our own bed again last night!

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 Psalms