Friday, April 23, 2010

You Get What You Deserve!


Once again I find myself trying to explain why I have not entered a post in the recent past! There are so many reasons I could give you that I think I will start with the one that will attract the most sympathy for myself!

Awhile back my daughter, Stephanie, started running a fever and became congested. Christine and I, being the great parents that we are (that was a sympathy statement), decided to take her to the Dr. She got an antibiotic and was feeling better in a matter of days. Later on, my son, Jacob, started exhibiting the same symptoms. So we took him to the Dr. and repeated the same process that we had with Steph. He got to feeling better in a matter of days as well. So, now this evil fever/cough finds it's way to me. Here is where I begin to troll for the most sympathy as I can!

Before I tell you my experience with this fever/cough I need to ask you a question. Do you agree with the statement, "You get what you deserve"? I think it's a tricky question. But, let me get back to that question in a moment as I share with you the story of "a man", "his Dr.", and "the wife who told you so"!

I love the fact that my family shares things. We share bathrooms, vehicles, TV's, and, oh yes, bacteria and viruses. It was with this last item that I found myself on the business end of some creepy virus that was making it's way through the respiratory system of our family. Just as with Stephanie and Jacob I began running a fever and finding my chest tightening. Before I go on I have to say that, in my own defense, I have had quite a bit of luck recovering from colds. Well, now that I think about it, I have more luck recovering from brain surgeries. Nonetheless, after catching the bug that my son had thrown to me I was supremely confident that I would be able to whip this "thing" without the cost of medicine and a Dr.'s visit co-pay. Obviously, since I have been sympathy-grubbing and decision justifying I was wrong! Here is where the "you get what you deserve" question rears it's ugly head and my wife rears her pretty one!

In the beginning of my "cold" I had beaten the fever back into submission and was feeling very manly in my destruction of the "bug" that had sent my less able children running to the Dr. Yet, after the fever had been beaten the cough set up shop in my left lung. I admit, now that I have no other choice than to do so, I might have waited a tad bit too long to go and see my physician. It was so long that I now found out that I had pneumonia in my left lung. How it had gotten there was a mystery to me. I mean my defenses were fortified. I had seen the weakness of my children and I had made adjustments to account for any type of left flank maneuver this enemy could have thrown to me. What I didn't take into account was the awesome strength of this "bug" and the absolute weakness of my decision make process! In three days my enemy had conquered me, taken over permanent residence, changed the curtains and the wallpapers, and even made an address change to 1600 Derek's Left Lung Ave. I was whipped before I Knew that I was in a fight. So, instead of taking five pills like my children and being done with it I found myself making deals with my Dr. to keep me out of the hospital. I think I spent $16.00 dollars for both of my children's medicine. After all was said and done I was swallowing 2 antibiotic pills, 4 steroids pills, and breathing in Albuterol every four hours! Oh ye, and I also got a Toredol shot in the Doc's office just for good measure. In reality, I got what I deserved!

On my journey home I have received many things. Some of them I deserved and some I didn't. Pneumonia is no laughing matter and I jeopardized my health by letting myself think that I was somehow "bigger than the bug". However, I can look back and truly believe that I don't think I deserved 3 brain surgeries. Yet, when I look at my life as a whole I realize that it is not really about getting what you deserve it is about living with what you get. Bad things happen to good people and, sometimes, pneumonia happens to dumb people! All in all it comes down to how we react to things we get. I don't, fully, know the reason why God has allowed me to endure such pain and trials and the reason I don't know that is because I am not God. I do, however, know why I got pneumonia! God works in our lives, through our lives, and, sometimes, in spite of our lives. He gets to do that because He is God, a sovereign God! I am OK with that.

In the end, my wife was right when she told me to go to the Dr. before my cold turns into pneumonia. I have come to realize that my wife is, almost, always right when it comes to my health. The thing I can't figure out is why I don't listen to her. Maybe it's a guy thing or a macho thing. I do know it's a dumb thing! I think God knew how dumb I was going to be in my life and He blessed me with Christine to offset the damage. At any rate, that is my story and I am sticking to it.

So, as I leave you this day with thoughts of "physical vigilance" and "bodily fortification" I give you this last piece of good and sound advice...if you ever find yourself wondering whether your wife is right or not, take my advice, SHE IS!

Until next time,


Monday, April 12, 2010

What Can You Do?


On my journey home I have encountered a phenomenon that begs for attention and recognition. I have experienced it as a child and watched as my parents deal with it. I have also done battle with it as an adult and thanked God that I recalled the way in which they did so. I am sure that all of you have experienced the inevitability of that which I write about. It can chew you up and spit you out and, because of the experience you will never be the same. It is subtle in it's attack and merciless in it's ability to suck the joy from your life. It can change the course history for both individual or a family. It shows no favoritism in it's attack. Both rich and poor feels it's sting and, today, it chose to rear it's ugly head smack dab in the middle of my family!

The evil that I speak of, the event in which I refer to, is ....the expense in a family's budget entitled miscellaneous!

I know what your thinking. Not only do I know what you are thinking I can also hear you screaming at your computer screen. Your response to my first paragraph is a normal and understandable response. "What in the world is this guy talking about?" "I think I just wasted 5 minutes of my life reading this stupid blog!" "I am so confused right now I am not sure I will ever recover from what just happened!" Go on, say it, you have know idea what I'm talking about. That's OK! I'll explain it!

Do you ever watch those commercials on TV about planning for your retirement? They make it seem so easy. There's a baby boomer or a young couple sitting across the table from a man or woman which looks just like a character that you have seen on another commercial or TV show. Numbers are flying around their heads and the bottom line that they are shown is some number that you can hardly even read because it has so many 0's in it. The couple smiles and gives a sigh of relief because they have a financial plan! Don't get me wrong financial plans are great. I just don't think that the commercial represents reality and that's where my story comes in!

We all have family budgets, don't we. It's a tool that all of us use in one way or another. You might have it written down and hanging on the refrigerator. It may just be a mental budget where you keep all of the 1's and 0's safely tucked in your powerful grey matter! Me, I use a file folder. Each section holds a certain amount of money that can only be used for a specific purpose. So much for groceries, so much for medical, you get the idea. Budgets exist so that we can be assured that we are spending our hard earned money in a fiscally responsible way. The problem, however, comes from the line item entitled miscellaneous! You know, it's the section of the budget that is a catch all for all the things that don't fit, nicely, under another section of the budget. For instance, let's say, I don't know, perhaps a new jock strap for your 13 year old, football playing, son. Where does that fit into the budget? I know it's not a grocery item. Perhaps I could pull the money from the medical section of the budget. I mean, after all, the purchase does go towards preventing a situation whereby, without this item, he could find himself in some emergency room due to a low hit from some defensive back whose helmet found that one area of my son's body that was not fully protected. If not medical then how about transportation? I could justify the expense by taking in to account the mileage that would accrue as I drove the aforementioned son to the hospital emergency room. No, I think this expense needs to come from miscellaneous!

Unforeseen expenses pop up in every family's budget and, when they do, they usually come from the miscellaneous line item. It's OK! It's impossible to create a line item for every expense that might come up during any given month. Junior breaks a window while trying to hit the wiffle ball across the yard and onto the roof? Miscellaneous! ( That one, by the way, was me when I was just a youngster. Sorry about that dad!) The family pet decides that he needs to leave his mark on the new carpet? Home repair? Maybe ,but probably miscellaneous! Your 15 year old son makes you aware the he owes $25.00 in book fines because he was late in returning the copy of Gone With the Wind to the library? Unless you have a line item in your budget entitled Bonehead Things That Our Son Does you will probably find yourself pulling from the miscellaneous section of your budget! From prom dresses to support bras and tennis shoes to parking tickets most of our lives fall under miscellaneous!

I tell you this because I was, recently, attacked by that dastardly miscellaneous monster! There are certain things in which families save their money. From vacations and summer camps, new cars and new roofs, college tuition and new air conditioners, the American family finds itself stuffing dimes and dollars into Ball jars and shoe boxes. My family is no different. We have been saving for our daughter's college for many years now. Our financial planning was fool proof! From savings account to stocks and bonds we had this college thing whooped, or so we thought! Last year we found ourselves watching the stock market as our "college nest egg" fell from the tree of life and was run over by a passing lawn mower! The hit we took was big but we had a backup. Thankfully, we still had our savings. It didn't matter that the money we had placed in savings was only drawing a whopping %1.5 interest. We didn't care that money was safe and wasn't going anywhere, or so we thought.

Have you ever had someone just ball up their fist and sock you as hard as they could right in the stomach? I have! Our bodies have unique physical response to being socked in the gut. First there is this recognition that that area in which your large and small intestines are supposed to be is now occupied by a foreign body, namely someone else’s fist! When this recognition occurs the first thing the body does is to try and evacuate that foreign body. Unfortunately, it also wants to evacuate what ever is in your small and large intestines. Sadly, our bodies do not care which end it comes out of! Our mouths begin to water and our muscles begin to contract. We know something is coming we just aren't which way it's coming out!

I ask you this question simply because I want you to have a comparison in your mind to how I felt over the past week. As I told you before I had a plan! But just a few days ago the miscellaneous monster showed up and socked me in the gut! I have, recently, just regained enough energy to submit this blog entry. I mentioned before that, as a family, we use a file folder for our budgeted money. I also mentioned that we do have a miscellaneous section which we place an allotted amount into. It works for us. We have never had any trouble satisfying the demand of that line item. Sure we feed the beast and the beast has never turned on us! Two days ago it did!

The time had come for all of my family to get new glasses or contacts. Usually, there is no problem in affording this expense. The reason that is true is that we have never had to get new glasses and contacts all at the same time! I don't know the last time you had to get new eyewear. They say you are suppose to get your eyes checked every year. I have always thought of that as more of a suggestion than an actual fact. I usually try and make my glasses last the good part of a decade. I mean, who cares if I have to glue certain pieces of my glass back together? It doesn't bother me that I have to lift up my frames to read small print or squint behind those frames to see the sign along the side of the road. But, alas, my current set of eyewear had run it's course. They gave me the best they had and it was time to enlist a new pair. Remember, I had a plan !

Glasses fall under miscellaneous in our family budget because we don't buy new glasses every month. So, when it happened that we all needed new eyewear I called and made appointment for all of us. At first I had thought that I misunderstood her. I mean, after my brain surgeries I have had trouble correctly hearing what was actually said. The sad thing about it was that I had heard her correctly. "That will be $85.00 for each examination not including the type of frames or contacts". I was sure she was joking. $85.00 a piece? That's $340.00 before we even start looking at new frames. Holy CRAP! Add on the price of frames, lenses, and contacts and my bill is, quickly, approaching $800.00! This wasn't a miscellaneous item this was a monthly paycheck! So, my only choice was to take the money from Stepahnie's college savings! I had a plan!

I have written all of this to share a wonderful thought with you. It is a state of mind which has gotten me through many trials and tribulations throughout my life. It has brought me peace when I found myself in chaos and it has provided comfort in a world of pain. I learned it from my father and I have tried to pass it on to my son. My wife finds incredible yet I say it is as basic as it can be. What is the idea in which I speak of? What are the words that have past from my father to me? It's is simple. These are four words which, if truly believed, can calm any storm in your life. What are the four words? "What Can You Do?"

Before you leave this site due to the fact that were expecting something greater I encourage to stay with me for one more minute. Think about what those words mean. When trials fill our lives with uncertainty and circumstances lead us to fear there is a mindset in which we can look at our situations and see them for what they really are. To say it another isn't easy or hard, it's just life. I have to take money from my daughters college fund because I don't have the money in my budget. What can I do? I mean, really, what else can I do? My family needs to see. It's not like I'm trying to decided whether I can afford a new suit. This is the health of my family's vision we are talking about. What can I do?

It is when I, truly, grasp the idea that my family needs new glasses and I have the money to pay for them is the moment in which the fear of the miscellaneous expense disappears. My dad was right! What can I do? This realization gives me peace. I am not worried that my daughter won't be able to go to college because I need a new pair of glasses. She will go and when she goes she will be able to see better. Releasing the fear and guilt of this situation has been made easier from the four little words that my daddy taught me. My family has to see so WHAT CAN I DO?

I pray that you might be able to come to a sense of piece when life's bitter waves crash upon your boat of life. Some things you just have to do. When it comes to expenses that affect my family's health the actual cost disappears. As I said before my family has to see. Yes, it's a lot of money. Yes, it dips into our savings. Yet, in the end the real blessing isn't knowing my family can see better. The real blessing was that I had the money to make sure they could. I mean, really, WHAT COULD I DO?

Until next time!



Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me!


Today is my 42 birthday. I mention that because today is a mile marker on the path for my journey home. You see, I have gone through three brain surgeries and each time you get on that operating table there is a chance you won't get back up. I realize that is true for a number of different surgeries. It's just that there is a greater chance for a brain sugary. Having three of them my odds of getting through kept decreasing. Praise be to God I beat the odds. Beating those odds give me a greater appreciation for special times in my life. Today Christine and I give thanks that God has seen fit to give me one more birthday. What a privilege it is to be blessed by God! Today, I would like to share with you some of the great lessons I have learned during my brief 42 years here on this ball we call Earth.

You might say my list would be entitled "Everything I Need to Learn in Life I Learned on the Operating Table".  After living 42 years, surviving three brain surgeries, a back surgery, surgeries on both knees, a tonsillectomy, and a vasectomy, I find myself a little wiser. Through these surgeries I have learned that:

1) Life is never what we expect it to be. Going into my vasectomy I figured that this particular operation was going to be a snap, or a snip, which ever you want to look at it. What I would come to realize was that this operation like a vasectomy, even though it is relatively short, can cause more pain than you think. Actually, I don't know what I was thinking. I just figured that a procedure that was a same day surgery would find me up and around the next day. I was not! I overestimated my tolerance for pain, my ability to heal, and a general lack of positive self talk! Holy Cow did it hurt. I realize that the operation site was located in a rather somewhat sensitive area but, OH MY GOSH!

Life is like that isn't it? Sometimes the greatest pain comes from a source that we would have never expected. A family member does you wrong, a close friend loses you trust, a boy/girl friend breaks your heart. Each one of these scenarios might be handled better if it weren't for the fact that you didn't expect those hurts from those people. Is it true that those events are inevitable? Sure, it's just we don't expect big hurts from people so close to us. I learned a very valuable lesson from that snip, snip, snip, don't ever assume, that just because something seems to be easy, doesn't make it easy! The little thing in life can trip us up just like the big things.

2) The second thing I learned from my surgeries is that we play the hand we are dealt. Being a golfer I like the saying that we "play the ball where it lies". Simply put, I learned that we live our lives with whatever life gives us. On my journey home I have has to come to the realization that I wasn't going to be, or do, some of the things I wanted to do. Growing up I wanted to be a major league baseball player. However, due to choices I made, distractions I let occupy my mind, and circumstances, both real and imagined, I found my self letting that dream fall by the wayside. Am I a major league ball player? No I am not. Could I have been a major league ball player? I suppose, if the stars aligned just right. The truth is this, the dream for myself did not come true. Am I better off that it didn't? How w would I know? All I know is that I am where I am at today because God made it so. I believe that. I am not talking about a God that moves us around like chess pieces on the board of life. I am talking about a God who uses my choices for the good of His kingdom. I can't live my life regretting what I didn't become. I have to live the life that I have today. Because of my surgeries there are things I can't do anymore. I can't play ball with my son as much as I would like. Pain keeps me from doing things I would normally do. Did I get dealt a bad hand in life. I don’t know. I play poker with my friends and there is something I have learned. In poker, as well as life, I have learned that bad hands can sometimes win the pot if you just stick with them. We must try to look at our lives not with the regret of what they could of been but, rather, with the realization of what they are. Would I have wished to be dealt a better hand? Sure, but, to stick with the poker metaphor, I play with the cars that were dealt to me. Living your life with the disappointment of what you didn't become makes us incapable of rejoicing in the person we did become!

3) Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I learned to be thankful for what I have been given. I think this one sounds like the easiest one to do yet, it is the one that we most likely take for granted. As I said before today is my birthday. I give hanks that God has given me these 42 years. I am thankful that I got up off the operating table. He didn’t have to give one more day but He did. And if He has seen fit to bless me with this new day then I am obligated to live it to fullest. I am thankful to have a loving wife. He didn't have to give me Christine but He did. He didn't have to bless me with my children but He did. He didn't have to put my friends and family in my life but He did. He didn't have to send His son to the cross to redeem me but H did. He didn't have to give me a wonderful mother and father but He did. You see, I am not worthy to receive the blessings of God and neither are you. That is why they are called blessings. God doesn't owe us the blessings we receive. God blesses us because He chooses to not out of some sense of obligation to us. We may not know the reason for the blessings. For example I have no idea why I was supposed to endure the pain of surgery and struggle through the rehabilitation that comes with a pharmaceutical addiction from pain killers. What I do know is this, I am here today because of the choices I have made. Is it the life I imagined for myself? No, it's much better. There is a great phrase that I love and it goes, " the devil you have beats the devil you don't. And I like the devil I have." Could life be better for you or me? Sure it could! But it could also be worse. Be thankful for what you do have and not so upset for what you don't. Life is never the way we would always like it to be. But if we give thanks for what we have we will find out that it is greater than our wildest dreams.

I am thankful for another birthday. Turning 42 is a blessing because God does not owe me this day. But since it has been given to me I want to make good use of it. I have shared this story in an earlier blog but I think it fits my situation quite well.

In the movie Saving Private Ryan Tom Hanks and a few of his soldiers are called on to find a young soldier named Private Ryan. He is a paratrooper who has two other brothers in the war. Both of them have been killed and it is decided that Ryan should be found and returned to his home. The army decides that this mother will not lose all of her sons that are fighting in this war.

As Tom Hanks and his small band of soldiers set out to find Ryan they are encounter many Germans and are placed in the middle of some violent skirmishes. After finding Ryan and losing all of his soldiers from enemy fire Tome Hanks is shot as well. Before dying Hanks takes Ryan by the coat and with his last breath said these words to Ryan, :Earn This!"

I have said this before but it is worth repeating. God has given me one more day. He has blessed me with another birthday. I could have very easily not made it through my brain surgeries, but I did. Because I have been given one more day and, because statistics say I should be dead and, yet I am not, I will earn this day. I will seek to do good. I will trust in God's timing. I will choose to make a difference in all that I do and say. I have been given another day I will earn it! Today, I celebrate God's amazing grace! Amen!



Sunday, April 4, 2010

He Is Risen!

Happy Easter!

Today is a day of great celebration. Easter Sunday is a day when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Today is a day of hope and joy in the world of Christendom. However, I often wonder what we are really celebration. There can be no doubt that Easter conjures feelings of spirituality. That is evident in the number of people that we see in our churches on Easter Sunday. These are the people that you probably see twice a year...Christmas Eve and Easter morning.

There is nothing wrong with that, well yes there is but we can deal with that topic in another blog entry! The point, or rather the question, that I have is...Why do those people feel drawn to the church on Easter morning? Could it be that simple tradition draws them in? Is it the fact that society mandates us to be Easter worshippers? Or could it be that, for one day in the year, God's creation seeks the Creator?

As a pastor I have often wondered what it is that draws men and women to church each Sunday. I like to think that it is the uncontrollable urge to hear my sermons! However, logic dictates that I scrap that idea. I don't have any real answers to the questions that I pose this morning. Yet, I truly do believe that Easter is a day when people begin to think spiritually. It may last only as long as the worship service but I believe it is there. I believe that people do have a hole inside of them that was created by God so that His creation would yearn to fill that hole with the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

I think God uses Easter Sunday to deliver His message. Obviously, He uses other days and other people for the other 364 days of the year. Easter, however, is a special day for Him. This is the day that His creation begins to take a brief glimpse of the passion story. Easter Sunday is that rare day when God's people begin to open their minds and begin to embrace the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Does it happen to everyone? Sadly, the answer is no. Yet, it does happen to some people and some is better than none. Easter is one of those rare moments when the gospel story is welcomed. Today is a day when it is okay to share your faith with others. It is almost expected! Easter Sunday is our free pass to evangelism and we must take it and make the most of it.

I want to encourage you this day to challenge yourself to sharing or showing the power of the resurrected Lord in your life. Seek out those who are hurting and in need of a savior. Recall friends and family whom you believe to be crying out for help in their lives. Use Easter Sunday for the very purpose God willed it to be. Share the story of a savior who died for our sins and then was resurrected so those sins would not have power over our lives. Jesus Christ is risen and because he is we have hope, we have life, we have victory over death, and we have a savior!

May this Easter be a time of renewal and hope for you!