Friday, June 21, 2019

Blest With The Best!


One great thing forty years in ministering to people has exposed me to is the many, MANY health care professionals that help people deal with sickness and disease on a daily basis. I have been blessed beyond measure to walk with many through those storm tossed waters. 

A good attitude and a good sense of humor goes a long way on both sides of the equation.



One evening in September nearly eight years ago, I got a call to come to the ER at Genesys where a dear, sweet Lady in our congregation was at death’s door. They whisk us out of the room as their amazing team literally saved her life that night. Over the next week, I met people who worked in many disciplines, including palliative care (which I had to google), cancer doctors, surgeons, and many that I do not even know what they were doing other than obviously helping her.

Over the next three years, she was up and down in her strength as she went through chemo, rehab centers, possible food poison and one of her doctors was even arrested for Medicare fraud. Finally, stage 5 cancer took over meaning no more chemo and hospice was set up.

As she was in the hospital for the last time on that cold February day, she said something to Vicki and I that she had said over and over throughout her ordeal –

“They always send the BEST people to help me”.

Just 14 days later, she went home to be with the Lord, but her words, laughter and attitude have made such a lasting impression on my life.


As I have begun my journey facing many health uncertainties, I have already been blessed with the BEST that God has brought into my life because of this disease. I had my three month checkup and evaluation this week at University of Michigan ALS clinic and I took a few pictures to share and  I want to thank God for them! I was even able to share my faith with the nurse that drained seventeen vials of my blood that it would really be great if they found the key to the mystery of this illness from my Texas blood!

As they seemed encouraged by my continued physical strength, I too feel a renewed sense of vigor, not only for today, but for new opportunities to celebrate my life and faith in Christ in the months and years to come… as each day we are given grace and “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began…” (Titus 1:2)

It is overwhelming to me that so many people send notes to tell me they are praying for me continually. We must constantly be aware of the love and care of people around us.I have truly seen God work in my life this year in ways that I can only say “God is good to me”, and when you put your trust in Him, He can do things in and through your life in a purposeful way that when this life is through, He even has something better in store for us that will trust Him!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Measuring Our Life

Each day brings it's own set of challenges.Some have "bigger" decisions that have to be made than others, but all have decisions that must be made. 

Some of the basic ones include:
What kind of attitude will I have today?
What am I trusting in?
What deserves my focus today?

  • ATTITUDE

It's not a once for all decision, but it can only become the background of our entire life if we determine that EACH DAY we will submit to the will of God for us and let Him work through us.

  • TRUST

We cannot put our trust in past experience nor accumulated assets, as good or as much as that may be. It is daily trust in God that must override our understanding and make us keenly aware of the importance of the steps that comprise a walk of faith.

  • FOCUS

We have today. God loves me and wants a relationship with me. Quietness and prayer are building blocks in today's value. 

"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14)

Friday, January 25, 2019

Overflow

1.25.19

One year ago today I had lunch at El Potrero in Owasso with a pastor friend, Walt Yomen. I got a call in the parking lot from Vicki. Water in the basement from the bottom of the water heater. That is not where it normally comes from. Of course it sets off a chain of events. Lowes, Home Depot and Menards. Replacement cost and plumbing work. Not my favorite. 

Thankful for a good support system. One of our deacons, Jim Crews, offers to help (a true God-send), worked out the fittings that would have to be purchased tomorrow and he would return. 
The next phone call would change our lives forever. My 38 year old son's ATV accidental death is still hard to fully understand. The overflow of emotion and pain that came from my heart that began that night has not been fixed as easily as the water heater. 
Before the year passed, more losses stung my soul. Grief cycles in our family stayed fresh as I stood by my daughter at the painful loss of her 43 year old husband. 
Like the twelve year old water heater, our bodies have a breaking point. How long they last is truly up to God. It is to be useful until the moment it breaks. But to truly learn what it means to have God whisper in your ear "fear not, I'm here!" ...as the river comes... is more marvelous than words can express.
We are more than a mechanical apparatus, we have a finite body and an immortal soul. It is the soul we must be most concerned with. It is soul care that we must entrust to God, for it is eternal. And what is a few years of difficulty compared to that?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

An "Open Book" Life

The Burton library had a sign once that said "Don't judge a book by it's movie". When I read it seems as though I can hear the author talk without the distraction of video and sound effects. 

I am thankful for good books and, as strange as it might sound, have even considered my library "my friends".


One of our men at church told me of Ed Dobson's book that he wrote in his eleventh year of ALS entitled "Seeing through the Fog: Hope When Your World Falls Apart". So I read it last night. All of it. Couldn't put it down.


When I heard him at Thomas Road almost four decades ago, I never dreamed we would have anything in common, much less this. Don't misunderstand me, I have never achieved the level of influence that he had including  Bob Jones III, Phil Donahue,  Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson. His determination for continuing ministry (including the book) and practical insights about prayer, forgiveness, healing and important relationships kept me engaged all evening as it seemed that he was sitting in the room talking with me. It was a good reminder of what is really important in our lives: caring about others and enjoying the life God has given to us each day. He wrote concerning future plans: 

"I try to live every day to the fullest and enjoy it. But in the back of my mind, I am still worried about what’s to come. It is like my shadow; it always follows me around. Even in the brightest of days, it’s always there. So what about the future?
I have set three goals for myself for my future.
First, I want to speak for as long as I can.
Second, when I can no longer speak, I want to write as long as I can.
Third, when I can no longer speak or write, I want to live as long as I can. That’s it. Those are my goals."
Thanks Ed. Thanks Toby. God is good.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Rumors, Reactions and Refreshment

TRANSPARENCY. The word of the day. When I made the decision to let others in on my diagnosis, I know human nature well enough to expect a certain about of exaggeration and misunderstanding. It is a time such as this that I can identify with Mark Twain and his letter to the reporter who inquired about news of his demise when he said "the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated".
Although most reactions have been kind, encouraging and filled with offers of prayer, some have set  the whole process in fast forward past the tribulation and a hundred years into the millennium complete with mildewed gravestone and faded newspaper clipped obituary. 
My answer is simply this: God will keep me alive and well until He is finished with me. Although I feel somewhat an accelerated need to really live life to the fullest and lead our ministry through necessary changes, my prayer is still that God would lead one day at a time. 
I've had the privilege through phone calls and social media to be greatly encouraged by a host of friends and spiritual mentors. Along with the prayers being promised, some have provided thought provoking reminders of the fact that the journey is just as important as the destination. 
One such post that helped me keep this in perspective is from my friend Keith Bassham  (he can say more in a couple of paragraphs than I can in ten pages)

He wrote:

"When Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur Fellowship passed away, one of her coworkers said to the leaders that God had expressed confidence in her followers by taking her from them. In a similar way, God expressed confidence in Job when He called him to the attention of Satan. I have no death wish, and I’m not intentionally seeking a path of suffering, but if and when it does come, I hope to have faith to see it as something God purposes, if not for me, perhaps for others. And, I hope to have the faith to see it as something of a grace coming to me, an expression of God’s confidence in the work He has been doing in me these 50 years. Be convinced of my prayer and continued friendship. God speed on your journey. I will be following closely."
These special fountains of fresh spring waters and wonderful conversations are a life bonus and reflect the kindness of God in unexpected times on an uncertain path to a promised haven. God is good. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

This Journey Begins

JANUARY 3, 2019. The technology used for an  electromyography are not too ominous. They were very professional as Vicki and I came into Dr. London's clinic at University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. The gown had the typical "draftiness" and
the background questions reminded me of the preciseness of an eyeglass doctor narrowing the "prescription" to the clarity of + or - that brings the correction into a correct focus. 
The well lit room was exceptional clean and fresh smelling. The clock has an odd quirk, the second hand only moved every five seconds... something I have never seen. 
The doctors were from Chicago and Wisconsin. The intern was from Florida.
 The test performed involved electric shock (possibly what the cow feels when he brushes against an electric fence) on leg muscles, hand and arm that included strange glitching noises. The needle part of the testing felt like a shot that is left in and twisted around. The test confirmed weakness in right arm.

It was not totally expected what the doctors said when they came back into the room. I already had a heartfelt peace for whatever they said. This verse comes to mind whenever I have come to a day that I anticipate may be a harder day than most "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24) Trust in God and whatever He has for our lives includes every day, including today. 
As the doctor confirmed the ALS diagnosis, I am reminded that we are to only live one day at a time. What God has for my life the next few years is certainly in His hands.. as it has always been! My family and many friends have spoken to God on my behalf for this day. It is good to know that He is fully aware and there are many others who are involved in God's work in and through my life. I am so blessed and God is good to me.
They set me up to return for therapy and follow-up. We stopped for BBQ and then Hot Chocolate on the way home. This journey is under way... 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Numbering Your Days

"Everything's not funny". That's what Dad used to say to Steve (my brother) and me - usually around the kitchen table as we always found something to laugh about. 

November 20, 2018. The neurologist looked me square in the face to clarify that this is NOT pinched nerves that is causing the weakness in your hand, "it is a disease". The weeks ahead included a return visit to assess the nerve connections in my legs and a neck/spine MRI (of which could be compared to cutting out the bottom of two Home Depot five gallon buckets, taping them together and somehow sliding your head and torso into it! #FUNSTUFF #NOTFORSISSIES #PUTMETOSLEEPPLEASE).


I'd like to write a book while I still can. I looked up statistics on this disease. Most live about three years from diagnosis. "1000 DAYS" comes to mind as my thoughts go immediately to David's words in the Psalms "teach me to number my days". To that day, my days are 22,624. 61 years, 11 months and 9 days. A good and full life indeed. 

My life verse is still Isaiah 26:3 "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in Thee". I just got a bookmark from Jamie (James' widow) with his fingerprint etched on it along with this verse. This year has been such a different chapter of our lives. 

Final confirmation is needed by a physician at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. On my followup to the MRI visit, the doc told me "not to read too much about it" and let the specialist explain more when I see him January 3. It is a little hard to do when you have so many questions that come to mind.