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.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Punctuation of Death

!  It started with an exclamation point. The phone rang at 10:41 PM on January 25, 2018. It was my son's wife, Jamie. And in a short seven minutes and forty-one seconds, the events that had taken place around 6:30 that evening were described after an opening remark of "I am sorry to have to be the one to tell you this...James had an accident on his four wheeler tonight and he is gone!" 

It was enough to take away your breath and wrap my mind around what I just heard. Immediately, the question mark formed and lingered for days. How and why this happened seem to dominate the process as the story emerged. As we traveled to the site of the accident, the beauty of the mountain was hard to appreciate. As we talked with the neighbor who had preformed CPR and whispered "stay with us, James", "don't leave us, James" for twenty minutes and watched emergency personnel shock him only to announce that there was no pulse, He described how James had worked through the day with Google Cloud co-workers and had ridden the four wheeler over in the fresh air to his house and discussed ideas for his "personal work thoughts" for the future. Jamie left for home and in about ten minutes called back to see if James had left. She retraced her path home down the drive to the paved road that connects them to their neighbors. It was there that she found him in the road. As others tried
to save him, what seemed to be fifty people, she had to face the reality of the punctuation of the period of death. 
. , : ; # I'm not sure how long it takes to accept the finality of death. I know for me and his mother, Vicki, that we have tried to be present for important events: some were commas that introduced new chapters, some were semi-colons that make you pause for a turn or a major change. These other punctuation events included pitching rotation in early baseball games, the effect of art awards in high school, his first girlfriend, first car, first job "Brothers Lawncare" including first riding mower and a flood of other events. Saying "goodbye" in some of the semi-colons; to Baptist Bible College in Springfield; waving "goodbye" in the Oklahoma City airport as he headed to Air Force basic training, hugging him at his wedding as we said "goodbye" to the young man who was now a family man.  Then there was the "phone interview" with Microsoft and the later "transition" to Google...
‒  Within a day of hearing the news of James death, Vicki started putting together a photo album, ironically in Google+ photos, that she labeled with the date of his birth and the date of his death. When I first saw it, what stood out first was the dash between the dates.
For now, I am relishing "the dash". James 4:14 "For what is your life? It is even as a vapor that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away" Life is so brief. 38 years is also the time we had. The first 18 were in close proximity with the last 20 full of "long distance" relationship and as James often said "crazy busy" times of work and travel, ups and downs and laughter and tears. But the pictures only convey moments and seem to fall short of the flood of memories that we are trying to hold on to. I am so glad he was part of "our dash".
Love you and miss you, son. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"You Are Too Old To Be a Missionary?!"


"You Are Too Old To Be a Missionary!" is what Gene Willcut was told when first arrived at Baptist Bible College in his 30's. After he pleaded to get the missionary instruction he needed to go win folks in Mexico was then given, he and Dorthy spent 31 years on the mission field where he started 30 churches. Many souls came to Christ because he determined that they were not "too old" to serve God! He invested in developing leadership, building buildings, and discipling believers. His focus was: winning people to Christ and establishing churches. 

He and Dorthy were approved by the Baptist Bible Fellowship to go to Mexico in 1961 and retired in
1990.

As Gene and Dorthy's pastor when I was in Altus (1994-2003) I would have to say they were one of the most godly couples I have ever known. Their prayer life and godly advice certainly will always be remembered. It was such a joy to go by his house where Dorthy would greet me in her own special way, invite me in and then excuse herself because she would say "the men need to talk". I am sure there was a great reunion this week in heaven with each other and many who are there because of their lives and testimony for Christ. 

Gene Willcut passed away February 14, 2008 and Dorthy Willcut passed away Tuesday, July 2, 2013 in Iowa where she was living with her daughter. The following is a video of their work in Mexico. Thank you for giving to the Lord... I am a life that was changed!