Sunday, February 25, 2018

A Deep Hole...

In my life, during the season of lent (the 45 days leading up to Easter), I try to install a practice that will intensify my experience and help me identify more fully with the sacrifice Jesus made for all humanity.  In hindsight God almost always honors my intent...which in the darkest moments can feel like sheer lunacy that I would intentionally choose to walk this path.

A colleague of mine recently commented that the life of ministry and the life of a pastor is not one of glamor and excitement, but rather it is marked by a broken heart and a wounded spirit.  It is not that pastors have the market on faithfulness cornered or that they are impervious to failure, as we have all seen plenty of examples to the contrary.  But after having done this job for decades it can feel like the primary function is to be a rare example of fidelity in a sea of apathy and faithlessness.

Then life crashes in.  Sickness and death come close for all of us at times, but when it is everywhere, and on all sides - that is too much!  Inside my mind these are not isolated thoughts.  In a moment like this one, as I sit here typing this post, they are things that stack and build until they threaten to crush your soul.  The weight of these moments bring insight to how a straw could literally break a camel's back.

For this moment in time it feels like I am in a deep, dark, inescapable hole.  Strangely I have put myself here.  In many ways I have chosen this exact path.  Sure circumstance can make it worse or better.  In some ways it is a mindset but mostly it is grounded in the broken reality that surrounds us all.

Thankfully I am not overcome by the darkness that is around me, and in fact expect to encounter Jesus here.  I believe it will accomplish some good, shaping, purpose in my life.  But it is hard for me to have that long view in the day to day.  Mostly I am just grateful that I do not anticipate remaining here for long!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Mental Hurdles...

I did some unfortunate research today.  Does anyone else besides me know the answer to, "If you lose consciousness while peeing, is there an internal shut off valve?"  For that answer and some other helpful ideas about mental hurdles, read on...

"A total hip replacement one month after turning 41?  You're too young for that!  What was wrong?"  As near as we can tell, my hips are shaped somewhat less than ideally, and decades of normal use just caused them, (the right one in particular), to wear out.  These past years as I have lived in pain, there were many thoughts that went through my mind.  Maybe God will heal this.  Maybe this will just go away.  Maybe there is another solution.  Maybe I can just manage the pain forever.  The mental hurdle was not fear of surgery or dreading recovery... but just the idea that there was part of me that was insufficient.  That wore out.  That makes me slightly less than almost everyone else.  Think about the mental hurdles that keep you from seeing yourself as God's masterpiece just the way you are.

The first ten days of recovery went very well with good mobility and virtually no pain.  Saturday I had my last Percocet.  And then Sunday!!!  While I am going to spare you from the gory details, blood and lightheadedness were two things that marked this day.  Monday morning my doctor took me off some of my meds, my nurse came for a visit, things looked good and we had a plan.

This morning's rest ended as I woke up needing to pee.  I was not trying to be a hero, I was just trying to make it the ten steps from my recliner to my toilet.  As I began to relieve myself, I remember feeling light headed and the next thing I knew Bethany was over me as I was laying on the bathroom floor, in a puddle of sweat and other such fluids (there is your answer to the starter question).

I called my entire medical care team, have the appropriate appointments and tests scheduled, and am following all instructions, but today has been littered with a ton of mental hurdles.

My hip is still totally pain free, (I literally believe God sent angels to protect it during the fall) but my back that crashed through my shower doors has been spasming and in extreme pain all day.  So my hip is great, but now I have a brand new issue to deal with before getting back to the initial one and yesterday's two additions. Can you say, "Mental hurdles?!"

Am I still lightheaded you wonder?  I have no way to tell!  I am not sure I can stand in order to test that out right now, which is going to make my appointments in the coming days interesting to say the least.  Hurdles.

After this happened and I spoke to my medical team to agree on a plan, I sent a text to the staff and elders asking for prayer.  I was almost immediately overcome emotionally, literally feeling those praying and the presence of God surrounding me.  That was a powerful moment, but when you are typically the one there for others and you need people to be there for you, that can be a huge hurdle.

Later in the afternoon, Christopher came into the room to help me with a couple things and asked, "Hey Dad, what was that noise earlier?"  I didn't know that Bethany had not shared with the boys the details of my fall.  I was literally overcome in that moment, thinking of how it would have been had something worse happened and one of my boys found me.  Convalescence is not for the faint of heart, even under the easiest of circumstances.

Here is the truth, though:  For all of us, "something worse" eventually happens.  And even when it is just the regular hurdles of life, do we allow them to take us out and sideline us mentally and physically, or do we look to Jesus and push forward believing for better moments until the ultimate moment finally appears.

When you come to in a puddle of you own pee, life feels far less than ideal!  For me, these past two days have been littered with mental hurdles.  But as I lay here in pain with far more hurdles that I wish to navigate, I am also full of faith, believing that the best is yet to come!

Let's keep walking!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

I got a new hip!

Yesterday morning was a full week from my right hip arthroplasty (aka total hip replacement).  For those of you curious about me or who may face this procedure in the future, I wanted to share a few reflections about the first week.

Harder than I thought…
  1. I have a stack of books that I am going to read and things that I am going to study during this extended recovery time.  The first week I have gotten zero percent of that accomplished.
  2. The overall and persistent grogginess that is related to anesthesia, pain meds, and these initial days of my body demanding huge chunks of rest in the process of healing itself.
  3. The ongoing tension of the swelling in the quad of my surgical leg.  For the first week I have learned how to manage the swelling, and while it can be made worse, it is more just managed than improved this first week. 

Easier than I thought…
  1. My hip pain quite literally is all gone.  There is the swelling, the incision (see below), the soft tissue damage, and the time necessary for this new hip to fully become my hip.  Each of those things continue to progress though and I know that at some point in time over these next number of months I am going to have a pain free mobility that I haven’t had for years, maybe ever.
  2. Pain management has been easy.  I have already cut back to half of my initial dosage with no issues…and since my pain is more the discomfort that comes from swelling, rebuilding muscle function after trauma, and getting used to new components…I am not sure that I even needed pain meds.  I like feeling and having a clear head way more than the groggy numbness meds create.
  3. With each PT session there are exercises I learn that are easy to do an indefinite number of immediately.  There are usually one or two others that are difficult and even painful.  I am amazed at how those challenging exercises become easy within a day or two and how much they then contribute to my overall progress.

My main learning in week one…

I was excited to have a season of rest and recuperation…but that first day or two, unless a nurse or PT was here, everyone who came to visit came back and spent time hanging out, and when they were ready to leave I would walk them all out, showing off my mobility skills with a walker - and I did this regardless of how I felt, how tired I was, or what my body needed.  A couple days into my recovery I picked a movie for Christopher and I to watch together.  He suggested that we do so in the living room so that others could join in as well.  Just sitting in a less than ideal way for the course of one movie, caused my to lose the progress of the first number of days and have to start over.  Even taking a couple hours to prioritize my family over my healing at this stage was the wrong call.

Bethany and I instantly got on the same page.  Now, if I need a rest I rest.  If I am resting and people show up.  They don’t get to see me.  As an extrovert who appreciates and wants to say “HI” to every guest, this kills me.  But as a patient who wants the best possible recovery and long term mobility, I have learned that prioritizing my immediate health needs is the best and most important thing I can do.

I appreciate every card, every visit, every gift of food…these things have been a huge blessing to me and my family this past week.  I am doing everything I can to rest, recuperate, heal, and rebuild my leg function so that, at the end of this season, I can continue doing all that Jesus has for me at the highest possible level!

Friday, April 03, 2015

Sometimes I am not so sure this Friday is good.

I have had some dark moments on this appropriately dark day.

While I feel like I do a decent job of trying to relax, my “Type A-ness”, the stress of life, along with other poor choices have caused my blood pressure to become concerningly high…to the point where my doctor wants to take all kinds of action.

(Sorry but if you want to read this I am going to depart from my typical optimistic perspective and let you peek into a somewhat rare moment of struggle…if you don’t want to go there with me stop reading now!!!)

The number one thing that stresses me out in my life, by a significant margin, is seeing all the God sized dreams that are within reach of so many people who simply won’t reach.  Noticing ways that the world would be significantly better and yet being fully aware how many of us are too preoccupied with our own lives to participate in making it happen.  And knowing full well that this life threatening stress is always going to exist as long as I am a pastor.

And then I am sitting talking to my doctor, who is giving me all kinds of great advice…and the thought that is occurring to me is that I COULD do all the things you are asking me to do as well or better than any patient you have ever had…BUT I am really tired of being everyone else’s best disciple with far too few who are willing to bleed and die with me, for a much greater cause.  See I don’t mind being broken and spilled out…it is just the incredible loneliness.

And then, at the moment I think I can’t bare it anymore, I look up and see the only example I am to follow, and he is hanging there on a tree…for me.  
I am in.  I am with you.

It’s Friday.  But thank God that Sunday is coming!!!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

For One Reason...

The last time I can remember being fully engaged in what I want to spend a few paragraphs talking about, I was in high school.  I got involved in Amway - and had the books, the tapes, shared the plan, went to the meetings - I was all in!

As an adult I have been invited into a number of other similar endeavors. Opportunities to buy my 'necessities' at wholesale, get cheaper home phone service all while helping support missions with every call, or any number of other things.  There are things like this that I have done, products I do use, and even things that I am technically a distributor for...but for one reason most people would not know any of these things!

I have had people peg me as an extreme liberal and others swear that I am an ultra conservative.  When I refuse to engage in these conversations or participate in these categories I have been accused of sidestepping or even of being slippery in my conduct related to such things.  For one reason I will continue to behave this way and even endure the ridicule.

If I decide that my health is best suited by following your weight loss system, or taking the vitamins you sell, or using essential oils, or even trying that crazy wrap thing, for one reason alone you will not see me in a Facebook picture or post pimping these things.

Now I have no problem with others or Christians engaging in all these things...this is something personal that God asked me to do years ago.  Many use and promote products that optimize health or engage politically as a meaningful expression of their faith, and I applaud that!

For me however, I prayerfully decided to work at painting myself into one clear corner...the Jesus corner - and that one is hard and challenging enough all by itself.  When people see me coming I want them to know what they are getting, and for that to be obscured by as few sub-categories as possible.

Now I am imperfect and have things I get carried away with and things that color how people see me, more than I would like.  But Jesus is the one corner I want to be painted into, and He is the the one person and the one reason I am going to continue giving real effort toward having a singular focus in my life!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

My heart hurts and my head aches!

There was an interesting "debate" last night that I have been following with some interest in the weeks leading up to it.  My main reason for being interested was because I, for about the last fifteen years, have lived life with one foot on both sides of this debate.  I absolutely, 100%, believe that God created our world!  But I am not compelled by the simplistic arguments that a small but loud group of Christians give as the only possible answer of how God pulled it off.

There is a variety of deep and beautiful answers under the Christian umbrella to this question that add old earth creation, theistic evolution, and other explanations to the pool along with young earth creation.  To listen to Ham, you would think that only the final option is open to any serious Bible-believing Christian. The fact is many Christian scholars and some of the greatest minds throughout history chose differently. They chose what they believed to be better and more biblical ways to answer this question for themselves.

I was approached by "Answers In Genesis" a couple years ago about doing some things together.  I did a bit of exploring, and was interested to learn of a conservative seminary who'd been approached by AIG for the purpose of making a statement of endorsement. Virtually all the staff threatened to resign should the seminary align itself in this way.

As I began to interact more with AIG about doing an event where we heard from a panel of Christian experts on all Christian perspectives of creation, their representative refused as they wanted to be the sole voice, able to control all the information that was shared.  Most troubling of all is their rhetoric that if we don't give our kids their answers, they have a 97% chance of spontaneous combustion, sending them immediately to hell. (OK. That may be a stretch, but this is my blog and if you have interacted with one of them, you've no doubt noticed that they do see it as being that dire).

Except for the remarkably partisan, almost everyone I have spoken to or read today was disappointed with the debate from both sides.  Both sides could have done better.  Both sides could have been clearer.  Both sides could have been more logical and more loving.  But the one thing that struck me the most has been reading comments from my friends who have been on the fringes of or just outside the Christian camp.  Sure, they were not happy when Nye chose a more condescending posture. But the thing that bothered them the most, even more than the lack of logic in some of Ham's arguments, was his dogmatic position that his way of seeing this is the only right Christian way.  His insistence that there are answers where there may not be is, in fact, keeping people from faith, not opening doors to it.

Most students of the Bible will say that the first twelve chapters of Genesis raise way more questions than they answer.  And while we would prefer the answers to be there, a great hermeneutic that I follow is when the Bible doesn't give us the answer, God must not have believed it was important for us to know.  The Hebrew is too ambiguous.  The writing is too poetic.  And when we try to make any verse or term give us the same information as a science text, I fear that we are headed for a repeat of a dark time in our history, when people were killed for 'disagreeing with the Bible' by claiming the earth is round, something we now know is true and have allowed to change how we once interpreted the scriptures.

I am not trying to disparage anyone or any view.  My only point is that dogmatic answers and utter control is not ultimately helpful to anyone, nor does it promote faith.  Often in spite of us, Jesus has taken care of himself for quite some time, and I believe He can continue to do so without our protection.

So again, I believe that God created everything!  Of course He is behind it all!  I am a creationist, a pastor, a believer that the Bible is completely true, and a serious student of the scriptures.  What I am not is arrogant enough to pretend that my interpretation of the Bible is always perfectly God's interpretation as well.  There are various views held by people who love God equally and are just as serious about the scriptures, and in my opinion, the beauty of that variety is better than any single perspective.  The more we force people to take sides on the non-essentials, the more we constrict access to and interest in the essential gospel!  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Who Are You Going To Be?!?!

I make imperfect decisions all the time.  Yep, it's true!  Despite decades of education, training, experience, and a ton of spiritual disciplines along the way, of the dozens of decisions I make each week, looking back I would tweak or change many of them!

Sometimes I pull triggers too quickly and sometimes I wait way too long.  Sometime I make decisions without talking to enough key people and other times I blather on with way too many individuals for far too long.  Sometime I don't have enough information and other times I have excessive intel, and the decision is still no easier!

My point here is that decisions and action are never easy and for everyone, we can either let that difficulty paralyze us, or we can do our best with what we have and live with the outcome.  What makes this every more tricky to navigate is one other factor...

 There are people who hide behind their keyboards and computer screens pointing out every flaw they see!  A bad decision, imperfect action, suspect theology...they are watching!  Of course, though most of us don't have the time, it is hard to catch these folks doing anything wrong themselves, primarily because they don't do anything...other than backseat drive and nitpick those who are in the game!

Then there are those who are out there, exposed, and trying to leave their positive fingerprints all over this planet for Jesus!  They take tons of friendly fire as well as other shots, but they continue to give their lives for the cause God has called them too!

As I think about these two groups and types of people (of which I am sure I have been both at times), I find a growing distain for the first and a growing appreciation for the second.  It is easy to do nothing and poke holes in everyone else.  It is hard to risk something, knowing that there are going to be enough mistakes along the way that will provide ample fodder for those who are watching for any little crack to shine their light on!

For me, I want to be the kind of person who risks big for Jesus.  I also want to join hands and hearts with others who are willing to do the same.  When it is all said and done, we may have taken fire from the front and from behind, but I just can't see the other option as something that does much of any good for God.

Anyone with me?!?!