Friday, April 29, 2011

5 1/2 Kids, That's What You Are!

On Wednesday I was reading The Church of No People. It's in my top 5 or 6 along with Nicodemus at Night, Charlie's Church of Christ, Sounds of Hope, Tony C Today and Abundant Living.

Back to the blog I was reading. Matt wrote about parenting. Though he is an awesome school teacher and pastor, it's something he's never done.

Instead of becoming a serial commenter on his post (3 or more comments on one post - you know like a serial killer: one that has killed 3 or more people), I decided to finish my thoughts in a blog.

Everyone has had some experience with kids. We were once kids, most of us had childhood friends, maybe we are aunts or uncles, and a number of my readers have kids; some grand-kids!

There is nothing like being a parent!

I like what Dr. Phil says. "we are not raising kids, we are raising adults." That is the part that Matt got right, and articulated in his typical, but gently sarcastic style. What are the barriers to getting kids (and Christians) to grow up?

-1 Poop: That's right, in the hands of an infant, it is tool to control us. You think your done, and then you find out grandpa gave the kids like two pounds of green grapes. You have to carry a bag to care of the child's poop needs which is bigger than most handbags.

-2 Toys: The more stuff kids have, the less interested they are in others. As long as there is entrainment, relationship can take a back seat. If the toys are really engaging, it is unlikely that they will even notice another person in the room. Toys stifle creativity, slow the process of learning (even educational toys can).

-3 Whining and Crying: This is not exclusive to kids and church meetings, but that is where it starts. And if it produces results, it is unlikely to ever stop!

-4 Permissiveness: Maybe you are just too tired to tell them to stop sassing you, or too busy to monitor the Internet. As a parent you cannot be their friend or you lose the ability to discipline. Maybe they are at a friend's house where you haven't even met the parents yet. Possibly you just let them watch whatever they want because "everyone else is doing it." Parenting is for adults.

-5 Overprotection: Until I was 7- or 8-years-old, cars didn't have seat belts! I am still here. I am not saying it was the safest, I am saying that there were risks to life, and there still are. I only knew one kid that was not allowed to play sports, he was hemophiliac, it is really was for his own safety. The rest of us messed around in the woods, rode bikes, played rough sports with a minimum of equipment. We walked a mile to town and back and rode the school bus for years! At 6 I was getting off the bus with my brothers and hanging out until mom got home from work. Kids need to earn trust in different situations.

-5 1/2 The Notion that Christian Kids have a Junior Holy Spirit!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Number of the Beast

Here is another remix from a few years ago.

The number of the beast (Rev. 13:18) seemed to be a popular theme in 70s and early 80s rock-n-roll. Idealized by bands like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, we got used to Satan Rock and backwards masking (the use of recording messages backwards during a recording). Possibly the adolescent passion of a misguided rockstar or a grand marketing ploy by corporate America, it was successful in bringing the number 666 into the minds of the masses. The evangelical church railed against the blatant and subliminal satanic messages from the pulpit and in books. Entire ministries were formed to combat the frenzied flow of evil. 

Groupies of the these bands wore the number of the beast proudly on t-shirts and forever etched it on to their bodies with tattoos. You can easily find reproductions of those album covers on the 'Net today.

I didn't really want to ascribe much credence to the whole thing. I honestly expected that the number of the beast was something that we would hear about in the end times; if we lived until that time. I read the books that said it was the three empty bar-code separators on everything we purchased. But that was about all the attention that I gave the number until about 12 years ago.

At the time I taught computers a few days a week at a Christian high school about an hour from my home. On the way to work I would pray and listen to worship music with my then 4th-grade daughter. We talked about the Bible, Jesus, church, Heaven and a host of much more important things like American Girl dolls, her pet rabbit and bicycles. We set aside one day to pray out-loud, one to listen to a Christian radio show and another to talk about anything she wanted to talk about. Friday was donut day and we'd stop and get a Boston Cream donut for each of us.

During the fall I bought a new car because my old one gave out stranding us on the Interstate. I remember one particular "prayer day" my daughter was praying for God to heal her little sister's allergies and protect us all. Suddenly a sense of darkness fell over the car. She hadn't finished saying, "Amen," when a pickup truck two cars ahead of us lost its 8' aluminum camper cap. It seemed to come from out of the sky, smashing to the pavement just in front of us. Traveling in the left lane about 65 mph, I yanked the wheel to the right, cutting across the right-hand lane and into the breakdown-lane.

The car behind us hit the aluminum cap head on. With shards of glass flying everywhere, they were rear-ended by the two cars behind them. As we came to a stop and caught our breath, my daughter looked down at the odometer and read aloud the mileage, "666," she said. Our hearts still racing we just sat for a minute or two stunned at the events that had just taken place. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Full Tank - Your God Knows Your Need

I am still struggling to concentrate on writing, so here is another one remixed from the long ago archives.

One of my favorite books is Like a Mighty Wind which takes place during the Indonesian Revival of the 1960s. I found it exciting as I read about the miracles that took place during that time. Those testimonies really increased my faith. When I looked closer at the actual events I saw that God was not just doing magic tricks via the Holy Spirit; no, He was meeting the needs of His creation through the church and his creative and supernatural power. When the Indonesian believers had a need they prayed and God met that need.

Matthew 6:7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 

8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

For a long time I wanted to see Jesus work in my life - not just in coincidental ways, but in His supernatural power; the kind that is undeniable. Here is what happened to me one day. Around the time of the 9/11 attacks, my mother was dying of cancer 900 miles away.

Towards the end of her life I drove there 3 times in 2 weeks. The cost of fuel and food on the road was a real hardship for me. On my second trip I stopped for gas in Pennsylvania on Saturday afternoon. My debit card was declined; I hadn't been really keeping track as my mind was on other things. I took my last $20 bill and put $15 in the tank and bought a couple of $1 hamburgers for the girls and myself at McDonald s.

The low fuel light came on a few miles before I pulled in the driveway.

The next morning, Sunday, I awoke I heard the Holy Spirit say, " I am going to fill your tank." Wow, that was a relief! Immediately I tried to determine just how that would happen. I assumed that someone would slip me some cash because the Lord had put me on their heart - it had happened before - in fact enough to get a car fixed one time. Maybe the Lord would just fill the tank and the fuel gauge would be on "F" when I got in. Possibly the car would just not run out until payday at the end of the week. I was wrong on all counts.

I arrived at church a little early, chatted with some of my friends and introduce myself to a few new faces. I enjoyed the worship and the word. At the end of the service I began to think about the empty tank again, but I felt reassured that I heard God correctly.

I felt impressed to speak to a woman that I knew -  maybe she would give me some cash for gas. However; this day the Lord asked me to pray for her. We stepped to the altar area where I started to intercede. She fell under the power and I stood nearby as I waited for her to come back to the natural. My girls played in the hallway outside and waited for me. The woman wasn't moving very fast... as a matter of fact, she wasn't moving at all. She lay there 20 minutes! By this time my girls were rolling their eyes at me and asking to leave. And, everyone else had left the church.

The last ones to leave, the woman's son took her to her car and I headed for mine.

As I turned the key I remembered that I didn't have enough gas to get home. The amber warning light loomed large on the dashboard of my Honda. I began second guessing my ability to hear God. Why hadn't I just asked someone for $10? Maybe the pride of neediness took over, and I so clearly heard God I thought.

I had a real situation on my hands: an empty tank. I began thinking over my options, searching the console and the ashtray for change, I came up with almost $3. I decided that would at least keep me from being stranded on the side of the road. I slowly made my way to the main road heading for the closest gas station.

Trying to conserve what fumes were left, I decided to go the station where the gas was the cheapest. I was weighing the odds of going the extra 3 or so miles to get there. As I neared the first and most expensive gas station, I felt like I should get gas there. Sitting in front of the pump, I was trying to convince my daughter to go in and start counting pennies for the purchase. She was reluctant and said that I should do it. I decided to pump first and pay after. As I pulled the nozzle from the holder, I heard that Lord says, "Use you debit card and press credit." So I did. I figured it would be declined just as it was the day before. The pump flashed, "BEGIN FUELING." As I pulled the trigger on the nozzle I was thinking something was wrong. I decided to put in $5 just in case the attendant came out. Then I heard the Lord say, "I promised that I would fill your tank." And so He did; nearly $25 worth! I hung up the pump and shared the good news with my girls.

A few days later I went to deposit my paycheck and there seemed to be a problem with the balance. I asked the teller why all the funds from my check we not available. As she looked at my account she said, "The computers were down for about 20 minutes on Sunday morning and you had a gas purchase which approved during that time. Because it was our fault, there will be no overdraft fee." I blessed her and left in awe of God.

How about you, does God meet your needs in supernatural ways?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Boston Marathon - A Reason to Run

For the first time I went to watch some of the 27,000 runners in the Boston Marathon. I have lived within a mile of the route for the last 5 years. It is held on an obscure Massachusetts holiday and I usually have to work. In the days leading up to this massive event, I have seen them setting up port-a-potties and placing skids of bottled water out along Route 135.

On race morning there are police cars at every crossroad ready to close the intersections to traffic. As I make my way into the city, there are dozens of buses filled with runners heading out to the official starting line in Hopkinton - 26 miles from downtown Boston.

My daughter dropped me off a couple of bocks from the barricades where a local bank was handing out cowbells and balloons - I thank God there were no vuvuzelas! I waited in line for a complimentary cowbell, and then walked down to the T station for a view of a site I had never seen or imagined. A State Police cruiser led the elite runners, one who averaged just under 13 miles per hour, setting a record of 2 hours and 3 minutes and 2 seconds!

Amongst the front runners was American, and Christian Ryan Hall. He finished 4th, just about a minute behind the leader. HERE are the results. Instead of focusing on Hall's faith and excellence, which you may read about HERE, I want to talk about what I saw that moved me.

I wish I had better pictures, but let me try to describe the scene. Think of a stadium emptying out onto a 2-lane state highway in which everyone is running at about 10 miles per hour. There are cowbells clanging and endless applause as droves of athletes made their way past the 10K marker.

I was tracking two Christian friends, both in their 50s, as they trekked towards Copley Square. I was hard to find them in the seemingly endless river of tank tops. They both finished with personal best times, though hours after the elites.

There was something emotional about it all. Being up close, standing on the sidewalk, you could read tattoos and sportswear brand names. You could see the intensity of personal strength and emotion., as well as see the seat drip from their foreheads.

It seemed to me, that most everyone was running for a reason that was not about winning, or best times; something greater.

Suddenly there was a loud applause and our focus was on those in wheelchairs. And then one being pushed by a runner! It was moving to see this father and son team.

Then a runner in a white robe and sandals - God only knows. Soon after there was a man a tall man in pink tights and a tutu. I can only imagine that he was running for breast cancer awareness.

There were survivors of cancer, heart disease, and those running in remembrance of loved ones passed on.

A man ran with a large American flag which could only slow him down. Another was a firefighter running in full gear, Scott air-pack, coat, boots and a helmet. There was a marine unit that ran in full combat gear and packs in memory of a comrade lost in Iraq.

For the sake of love, many felt that the pain of a marathon run was one way to touch the pain of those that have suffered in this world.

I am not a big fan of Christian apparel, however; I saw a t-shirt that said "I Run Because He Gave His Life for Me" and on the back "26 Miles of Prayer, Stop Me And Ask".

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is the Bible True - The Tale of Two Witnesses

There are those that think the Bible is a book filled with a bunch of religious sounding stories, some historical accounts and others tall tales or myths, and that it is at best the "wishful thinking" of the authors. I am not talking about skeptics or nonbelievers, these are committed Christians who are uncertain of both the historical accounts and I suppose the afterlife. I disagree with them.

What if the Bible is true from Genesis to Maps? It is not my place to defend God or the Bible. That type of conjecture only causes people to be upset. The logical thinking process that substantiates this apparent theory, maintains it is all subject to faith, and therefore; can't be proven. Again, I disagree.

One of the things that I find intriguing about the Bible is that there is a thread which runs through it connecting the laws and events of the Old Testament to the historical and spiritual events of the New Testament. As an example of this principal, let's look at this verse from the Old Testament:

Genesis 11:9 That is why it was called Babel--because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

If there really wasn't a Tower of Babel, then this might appear appears to be one of those "myths" used to describe the beginning of all languages. Most intellectuals would say languages and dialects evolve over a long period of time; for example the five romance languages. I disagree, but that is the common argument. However; as God was able to confuse the language of man because of his pride, He was also able to restore them for His purposes a few thousand years later.

Here is the New Testament connection:

Acts 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues (languages) as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

At a time when the message of man was ungodly, God confused the language. The opposite occurred when the message of the Gospel was first preached - and from time to time, it still happens today.

Now that you understand the concept of finding God's connections in the Scriptures, here is one that shows that the events surrounding the life of Jesus were also predictably true. Deuteronomy 19:15 - "One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.

This principal is reiterated in the New Testament.

Matthew 18:16 - But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

The principal here is that all the events that the Bible claims are true, would be established by two or three witnesses. Now we can look at the important events of Jesus' life, those central to His divinity and purpose here on earth and in Heaven, to see who was in fact, witnessing them?

Birth of Jesus: Luke 2:1-7 Joseph was there with Mary. Luke 2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

Start of Jesus' Ministry: Mt 4:18 - And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.

First Miracle: John 2:1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. Jesus turned the water into wine.

The Transfiguration: Luke 9:27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.”

28 Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. 30 And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

Death of Jesus: Matthew 27:26-50 Jesus had two criminals beside him, and in verse 55 and 56, Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. 56 Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Again there were two or three.

The Tomb of the Dead Jesus: Matthew 28:1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards [there were two] were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The Empty Tomb: Matthew 28:5 The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."

Resurrection of Jesus: John 21:1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together.

Appearance of Jesus on the Road to Emmaus - Luke 24:13-35 13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.

And a few things that have not yet been witnessed, but if the biblical track record is correct, it is going to be very exciting.

The Two Witnesses: Revelations 11:3 - And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth."

Return of Jesus: Matthew 24:29-31 RSV "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken [see Signs In The Heavens]; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other"

How about you, is the Bible true? In what ways?

From the Fire & Grace archives.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dead Religion vs. Life

A lot of people spend a lot of time talking about religious themes- and a host of others avoid them like the plague. Like politics, whether or not we participate in religion, it will eventually affect our lives. The truth is this: there are politicians that are elected and vote for laws which affect us, whether or not we ever give them a thought. In the same way, the principals of the Kingdom of God are at work as are the laws of physics.

Kingdom principals will continue to operate for eternity.

So why is it that folks get all wound up about religion? Here's my take. Because they try to understand God with their mind, while their emotions maybe saying something else. Even the most mature Christians step off into intellectual endeavors trying to make a case for a biblical world-view. The living God, however; is not going to be understood by the human mind. Memorizing Bible passages, attending a Sunday service, and spouting scripture does not, in itself, make us a Christian.

There is an amazing story in John chapter 4, and it is worth reading even if you are not a believer. Even if you hate Jesus, you should read it. Jesus gets a bad rap when things go wrong with stupid, religious church people, and when humans have pain they do not understand - they blame it on a God they don't really know or understand. We hear it every a day. "a loving God would (or wouldn't) do fill in your favorite (or least favorite) Christian thingy.

The scene unfolds between Jesus and a Samaritan woman.

John 4:9 The Samaritan woman said to Him, How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan [and a] woman, for a drink?--For the Jews have nothing to do with the Samaritans--

10 Jesus answered her, If you had only known and had recognized God's gift and Who this is that is saying to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him [instead] and He would have given you living water.

Why is this amazing? Because Jesus (assuming that He was God) was talking to her about the prejudice the Jews had against the Samaritans. Notice He didn't' say, "let's be tolerant of each other and all get along." He simply pointed out her error. "If you had only known and recognized God's gift" (Him!!), then you would have known life. He didn't say, "Hey, let's go to church and get on a kneeler and have communion." Or, "Are you saved?" Or maybe "dude-ette, let's read the Word together and pray." He simply said, "If you knew me, you'd have life." Do you see? There is no debate. You either know the living God, or you don't. You can't debate God. Again, you know Him, or you don't; pick one. One might debate how you know that you know Him, but not that you know Him-- umm, if you do.

I mean if Muslims don't pray facing Mecca, are they hypocrites? If a Satanist stops for someone in a crosswalk without running their butt over, are they a hypocrite? If a Christian Scientist takes an aspirin, are they going to hell? Religion is killer. Religion is a list of rules, laws and practices that people cannot endure, and can never adhere to perfectly. That is why we get the principal of "good." It's like a doctrine for religious folks and atheists trying to minimize their sin. Look, quite simply no one is perfectly good no matter what religion you look at. If you look closely at the common denominators in religion, everyone is trying to find purpose in life, as well as make sense of an afterlife. Biblically speaking, if your faith does not produce good works with a selfless motive, you need to examine your faith.

Back to the story. Our little girlfriend at the well doesn't get it. She goes on the religious bent one more time.

John 4:12 Are You greater than and superior to our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well and who used to drink from it himself, and his sons and his cattle also?

Jesus stops her and again speaks life.

John 4:13 Jesus answered her, All who drink of this water will be thirsty again.

Even after Jesus tells her exactly what the living water is, and who He is, she is like "What church do you go to?" You see, that is the problem with religion! She should have known that Jesus was the Church, and by choosing life, she too could be the church!

In the end Jesus convinces her not with words, but with supernatural power. By the way, there is not another religion on earth that contains the love of God as it expresses itself in the supernatural! Not one. The living God still listens and and talks to those that know Him. Jesus still performs miracles, provides revelation and heals sick bodies just to name a few of his supernatural capabilities.

Amazingly, the woman goes back to some more religiousness; she just can't help herself. This sinner begins to talk about the Messiah to come. Jesus is so cool. Verse 26 Jesus said to her, I Who now speak with you am He.

I don't know about you, but after He told me nearly every major event of my life, I'd be wanting to know more too. How about you? Do you want to know more? Are you tired of religious people being judgmental and hypocritical? The living God, Jesus, He is out there waiting for you to call on His name. How do you know you've met Him? You can feel it - you can tell, and the Holy Spirit will assure you of it! I can't imagine having a relationship with someone that is just another character from the story book Bible? Honestly, isn't that a little religious?

How about you, do you suffer from religion?

Friday, April 15, 2011

5 1/2 Interesting Facts About the Hospital...

After nearly a week in the hospital, I have a few observations.

-1 The care was excellent. I was amazed at the compassion of both nurses and doctors, something I never saw before. Kudos to the staff! And during my ER visit over the weekend, my little one got a nose bleed while I was having an EKG - one of the nurses stepped right in. It was sort of like a 2-For-1 deal.

-2 The lack of showers was a shock. I am not too good without a shower! It was a glorious first stop the day I got home! I am trying to imagine why?

-3 Drugs, drugs and more drugs. They have drugs to fix this and that, and drugs to counteract the side-effects of the other drugs. I had 13 different ones during my visit, and I still have 7 I am taking on a daily basis. I am grateful for medicine, but my head is still spinning over the amount that one person needs to get well. But if I had to pick a favorite...

-4 Tape!  I had 3 IVs and nearly a dozen heart monitoring pads as well as a dressing on the incision in near my hip. All I can say is this: there is money, big money in tape that does not rip off your body hair.

-5 Dignity - there was pretty much none. Covering my privates with a 3-inch neon orange cloth was not comforting - well unless it was meant to save me from some other disaster.

- 5 1/2 Sleep - it was no where to be found.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cellphone, Glasses and Underwear

That was my list of belongings the day I was discharged from the hospital: cellphone, glasses and underwear. It does go to show you what's important in my life. I haven't stayed in a hospital since I was 5-years-old. I had my tonsils out on the children's ward at St Raphael's in New Haven in 1963. I still can remember the smell of the anesthesia.

I liked the hospital back then. There was a kid's room where I punched out paper animals from a book my mom had given me. As I worked, I stood them up on the table. I was hoping to get started on my airplane book when it was my turn for surgery. My mother was there, and I remember being hungry. They wheeled my down the hallway. I have no idea how long it was, but I woke up sick and in pain. My parents were there feeding me sips of of a cool drink.

It was a week of Jell-O, ice cream and ginger ale.

I was thinking about the disruption to my normal routine. That's my self winding watch up there - it just stopped ticking at a quarter to two, Sunday the 3rd. I was in the throws of the stomach flu, and soon to be heart trauma.

My email box started filling up, no one had quite yet missed me on Facebook, even I was expecting to be at work in a day or two. It turned out I didn't need work clothes, in fact, all I needed was underwear.

This whole thing started around lunch on Saturday, that sightly nauseous feeling. I had just finished working out - my light day at the gym. I planned on visiting my daughter at 3 pm. We hadn't seen each other since January.; in spite of how I felt I got in the car anyway.  I listened to some of my favorite music during the two hour drive. I tried to focus on my time with Erin, and not the rumbling of my stomach.

I arrived in Hyannis, and met her at work. We took a ride to the mall, and went out to her favorite restaurant. I decided to have some iced tea, and try to enjoy her company. We sat for an hour or so, and then I dropped her at home. I dove the 2 hours back to my house, and dropped in the bed as soon as I walked in the door. I slept for four or five hours and rolled around until Sunday morning feeling really ill, with a splitting headache and seasick stomach.

The next 24 hours is pretty much a blur. I didn't really sleep, made a number of trips to the bathroom, and tried to get down a cup of chicken soup on Sunday afternoon. I could not remember having been this sick for years, many years.

Monday morning I was even worse. I felt like I had been run over by a truck. Up most of the night, I called in sick to work at 6am. I called my primary care doctor at 9, and they returned my call at 10. I could either see the doc late in the afternoon, or go the hospital where he was on duty in the ER. I chose the Emergency Room; I just couldn't go another minute with the pain and nausea. I had been on the verge of parking the Buick for nearly 3 days and was simply looking for some relief.

Then it all changed after an EKG. The wheels of emergency health care went spinning into action.

I am still pondering the moment of peace I had just before the ambulance ride. I wasn't really thinking about anything in particular at the time. The paramedic chatted with me about my family over the wails of the siren. Then on to the table with a cardiologist working frantically to tell me what was happening - all a bit of a blur - which may have been due to the Fentanyl and Kytril.

I have thought a lot about what is important in life, and this week I am praying it through. It's a lot more than teasing my wife about counting the hundreds of thousands of dollars from my life insurance policy. In fact this is not the first time medicine has given me a second chance at life. It's been a good time to reflect on things like lifestyle and purpose.

How about you, what's important in life to you?

Monday, April 11, 2011

5 1/2 Reasons Why You Need Friends

As you already know from my two anemic posts last week, I spent just about all of it in the hospital. Later this week I will post a more formal account now that I have had a little rest, and a chance to think. While I was laying there with IVs and monitors, I received a few visitors, had a few phone calls, and received lots of Facebook posts and a few emails. It is certainly at times like these were you need to count on a few friends, and your church family.

Here are 5 1/2 reasons that you need friends!

-1 Facebook: If you don't have friends, you can't have any pudding. (Obscure Pink Floyd ref) Without friends,  even cyber-friends, you can't tell anyone that things aren't going too good. Sometimes life is a little scary, and it helps to have some support and encouragement.

If you are as lucky as I am to know Dave T. and Tony C, online relationships are more amazing than I would have thought. Tony is a listener and an encourager. And that boy can pray! Dave is just one of the bothers, but he can pray, and every time we talk, he does. In fact I have never had a friend that prays for me like Dave does.

-2 Encouragement: Unless you have the friends of Job, they'll usually try to make you feel better about whatever is going on; if not, they are not friends. Friends make you feel invincible when you know your not even close.

-3 Support: Friends try help you get thought whatever it is that you need to get through. They do what you can't, or find someone who can. I used to have a friend. Whenever I needed help on the house (we moved during our friendship), he was always available to put hands and feet to the project.

-4 Be There: Friends are just there. Each situation in life requires different types of energy to solve. In some situations there is absolutely nothing that can be done. Friends can just walk though it together.

-5 Prayer: We needs friends that can pray for us. As Christians, without prayer, we can easily lose our lifeline to Heaven; especially in the tough times.

-5 1/2 Love - you need friends to love, it's good for your heart!

What kind of friend are you?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Posting from the Cardiovascular Unit

You would think that I have a lot of time on my hands here are the hospital. I guess I do; it is just filled lots of noise, bed-side alarms, creaking wheelchairs, clicking keyboards, talking nurses, the hum of medical equipment, and the sound of Velcro. It is not a place where I can easily sleep or write. Even with a sleeping pill I only got 6 hours and I know I could use many more.

I long to be home in my own bed with my own noises, and my family.

For a guy who's heart capacity dropped by 20% in a day, I'm tired. I am not feeling all that spiritual tonight, and in fact have no real message - it's just 5 hours from my next sleeping pill, and I am bored..

I have been thinking about my life spared - in fact probably due to my recent foray back into exercise that my heart was able to withstand the intensity of the viral infection.. In spite of the fact that I badly need a shower, I feel imprisoned, and that hey I just don't like it here, God saved me for a reason. I know my family is certainly glad about it! I am not really all weird about living through this, I'm grateful.What was strangest was that I had perfect peace at a time when I thought hey, it could all be over right now.

That's what I find mysteriously wonderful tonight, that it didn't matter if I stayed or went, but that I would be in Jesus' hands either way.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Heart Monitor

Not long after I finished Monday's post I contracted hellacious flu virus which kept me on the verge of throwing up, in bodily pain, and sleepless for four days. On the third day, Monday I had so much chest pain I thought I was going to die. My wife took me right to the ER - the  EKG went crazy!

They gave me all the heat attack related drugs, nitro, aspirin and Plavix. The nurse worked quickly and efficiently, all the time assuring me and my wife that my vitals were good and that was a good sign. As the paramedics whisked me out the door she kissed me on the check and said "don't worry, God bless you."

Sirens wailing, the paramedics raced me across town in the ambulance for an emergency catheterization at the cardiovascular unit in another hospital. They put me on the operating table, and within minutes were looking through my arteries for blockages - there were none - and I have a CD to prove it.

In spite of the lack of atrial blockage, there was still the problem of reduced heart function. Only the next few weeks will tell how much recovery I will have as the grip of the virus lifts, and the the heart tissue mends.

That all for now. I am due for another test in a few minutes, and I am looking forward to going home tomorrow.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Food, Feet and Attila the Hun

A few months ago the doctor gave me a rather stern warning about my weight and my current health issues that are related to it. Although my blood pressure has always been about 140 over something - hey I am mostly a Type A - he thought it should be lower. So at 276, 111 pounds more than I weighed when I graduated high school, I made a few changes in the way I ate. Then my wife asked me to join a sadomasochistic trainer to do circuit cardio twice a week.

The shrink-wrapped 6-pack has to go!

In the first In It to Lose It class, I nearly blew my cookies; God's way of letting me know that eating cookies was a large part of the my weight problem. (Actually in 2004, I had an injury to my foot from improper use of the treadmill along with cheap sneakers and I stopped exercising.) The class, however; it was pretty bad! I should have left my water bottle closer to the floor and brought an oxygen tank. The one-to-ten pain scale used in hospitals, now needs to be extended to 15! Webster, the writer of the definition for agony was certainly well under 50 when he penned it. The editors need to add a fourth description: "just freakin' shoot me!"

I got home that evening and didn't feel like eating - sort of like a New Years morning hangover.

I am now done with seven weeks of torture and there is just one left to go. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, I can! In fact, I have even gone for two additional workouts each week without the scrutiny of Attila the Hun. God knows his eternal destiny - hey I am no Rob Bell.

Now that I can actually talk during a workout without swallowing my tongue, I intend to contact Sir Hugh Beaver to request a record review for the use of the phrase "this sucks", which has eclipsed the Guinness Book of World Records for the utterance of aforementioned phrase in a single hour.

I am making progress. I am down about 25 US pounds, my running speed is up to 7 mph from .007 mph, I have gone from less than a mile per workout to around 3, and everything that hurt before, hurts more than before.

Then there is the food, glorious food. God in his infinite wisdom had McDonalds razed! My favorite drive-thru restaurant, the one just a few miles from my home, it is gone! And the local Uno's Chicago Restaurant is closed for remodeling until summer. A couple of weeks ago I went into Big Fresh and had an allergic reaction to the all natural food. My wife and I have figured out how to order Kidz Meals at Olive Garden, we just have the 7-year-old call; three meals, under $11!

The byproduct of a high fruit and vegetable diet is obvious, but I can't find anyone to pull my finger. I don't miss the rice and potatoes too much, either. Honestly, I haven't made that many changes to my former diet - or I didn't think so an until now. Here is a self-test to see if you are actually a dieter, or a normal eater.

-1 Does the dog food look appetizing?
-2 Do you try to eat the crumbs from the bottom of every package and lick the bottom of the yogurt cup?
-3 Have you extended the 5 Second Rule to 40 minutes?
-4 Do you only weigh yourself after going #2?
-5 Have you purposely tripped a skinny person on the escalator at the Mall?
-6 Have you called the cable company to block pornographic restaurant commercials?
-7 Do you "suck it in" and look at yourself in the mirror?
-8 Have you dreamt of a vacation to the Food Court at Disney World?
-9 Have you thought of eating foods sacrificed to idols?
-10 Have you started to read the Bible to see what foods will be on the table at the great Banquet in the clouds?

If you answered YES to two or more of these questions, you might have a clue as to what is going on with me these past eight weeks.

I know, diets usually fail, and one needs to make a lifestyle changes. For a desk-jockey this is a big change, and if all goes well, I will be running a 5K in the August!

How about you, are you in shape?

Friday, April 1, 2011


For years we have pounded the question into the hearts and minds of both Christians and pagans: WWJD? What would Jesus do? I'll tell you what he'd do, he'd do What The Fathers is Doing. (John 5;19) For even longer we've been told Jesus is our model. The truth is he didn't have a model, he had a relationship.He was not acting like someone else that he didn't know, he was carrying out instructions from his Father in heaven: the Creator of the earth.

I don't know about you, but  am tired of hearing what Jesus would do. Jesus would feed the poor, he would be nice to gays, he would judge the US for being sinful and the list goes on. Whatever it is we feel motivated to accomplish in the name of Jesus, we want to ascribe a specific behavior to him that promotes our personal agenda. Some think he was a wimpy soft spoken nerd that only saves iPhone users. Others think that he is the thundering God who's voice shatters the cedars of Lebanon and whatever folks they disagree with. To others, he is just another god of another religion in which people kill each other over.

Jesus is not our model, and we don't copy the acts of Jesus. We don't get to decide this is how Jesus would act to make sure that our good behavior gets heavenly credit. That my friends in pure and unadulterated RELIGION. We are called to be Jesus to one another. How do men know how to treat their wives? Jesus wasn't married. (He will be!) how do we know how to confront an unbelieving coworker? Jesus didn't have one; not even Judas was an unbeliever.

To be like Jesus, we must do what the Father is doing - WTFD! We need to operate in discernment and wisdom which is God's, not the logic of mankind. We'd have to spend a lot of time in prayer and years studying the word of God. We have to be willing to die, and to be willing to be the last one believing the truth of the Gospel message... we'd have to hear the Father's instructions, whether they were the logos word becoming alive to us as rhema, or the still small voice of God in our spirit.

You know, we'd have to stop telling God what to do, and how to do it. We'd have to give up trying, and abandon all our own desires, and then, maybe we'd hear God instead of assuming which Jesus we'd like him to be, and do that.

Impersonating Jesus is not Christianity, hearing the voice of God and doing it is. Think about all the sermons that you've heard, all that teachings that you've sat listening to; it's probably a lot! Ask yourself, how many of them taught you to hear the voice of God for yourself? I am talking about the still small voice, not reading some words off the page and acting it out. I am not saying that God does not use the word of God, he does. But we must know when it is Him that is instructing us. Many cults base their actions on the word of God, but is not God. Because we have a personal relationship, we know His voice, and we can have a conversation with our Creator! We can hear what it is that he wants us to do, and then do it.

Do you know the voice of God? What are some ways that you have relationship with him?
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