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#Relax#PermissionTo#Refresh

Sunday, August 9th, 2020

If there has been one thing this whole virus fiasco should have done is given us permission to take it easy. I know…that is hard when someone is uptight and scared. But then again, maybe that is exactly what was needed to relieve anxiety.

I have a book in my office I read years ago by the late Tim Hansel. It is called When I Relax I Feel Guilty.  I thought that was a rather unique title. Sadly, it is also true. We have this crazy mentality that the busier I am the better it looks. But I think the old saying is true: “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” One of the statements Tim makes in his book is the word leisure comes the Latin word which means “to be permitted.”  He then says, “More today than ever, we need to learn how to give ourselves permission to relax, to play, to enjoy life, and to enjoy God for who He is.” (p.30)

And because we can’t relax, we find ourselves wound up tighter than a drum.  We have to somehow give ourselves permission to enjoy moments/hours/days of leisure.  I read enough blogs and listen to several podcasts to know that pastors/youth pastors, etc across the spectrum have found themselves burning out due to the failure to take some leisure time and not feel guilty doing so. Especially during this pandemic.  I’m going to be honest. I tend to be high energy.  I get up at 3:30 and most often my feet don’t go horizontal until 9:30 at night (unless I am happen to be sitting in my recliner).  🙂  But during this pandemic I made sure I found time to do leisure. Now…my leisure was not doing cross-stitch or redoing antique furniture or making a boat in my basement. (NCIS anyone?) My leisure was physical in nature because my relaxation is riding my bike.  Going to the Y was out for obvious reasons so I made sure whenever possible I took a 15-25 mile spin on my bike. Some will say, “But that is not relaxing!” For me it is. I breathe fresh air. I can feel the wind at my face. I can sweat. And I can clear my mind.

We have just got to stop letting work become our identity. That is what gets us into the mess to start with.  Work= identity. More work = recognition added to my identity.  Been there done that.  I find it interesting that Jesus often withdrew to be by Himself to be with His Father. Luke 5 tells us it was to pray.  Hey, the way I look at it, if it was good enough for Jesus to withdraw and relax then who am I to argue?

Take some time away. Relax.  Enjoy yourself.  Someone has said, “If you don’t come apart, you will soon come apart.”  There you go. Think about that the next time you want to cover yourself with a load of “To Do” stuff.

#Faith#TruthfulSayings

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

I wrote a blog post here about reading Dr. Lee Warren’s book I’ve Seen the End of You.  Here are some thoughts from that book for you to think about this week:

With the prism of faith, we see only blurred lines of pain, disease, and disappointment.

Faith aligns what you think you’re seeing with reality. It shifts your focus from the problem to the promise.

Faith allows you to see it’s okay to have doubt but we doubt the doubt more than the promise of the One who never breaks His word.

Faith doesn’t keep us from having problems. (My note: Hear that all you health/wealth/prosperity (un)gospel teachers?) It just gives a clearer view of how God is responding to them.

Doubt is not fatal if we recognize it for what it is: a smudge on the lens. When we realize that, wipe it clear, and put the glasses back on, we’ll be okay.

The things we think we know are more like cataracts. They can obscure and blind us to the truth of God’s work around us that is plain to see when our eyes are healthy.

(All taken from page 254 of Dr. Warren’s book)

I’d like to highly recommend you read his book. I am now reading his previous book, No Place to Hide which covers his time in Iraq as a medical surgeon in Balad. It is gut-wrenching so far. More praise to our armed forces!!

 

#OutoftheBlue#VictoryStory

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

“What is it with me?” I have to ask. This is the third book review in a row? This is the second that has to deal with cancer. You might be wondering the same thing. Is Bill trying to tell us something? Truthfully, not that I know of. Who knows what is going on inside my body…or yours for that matter.

While I was reading Dream Big by Bob Goff (my review is here) Bob told how he was asked to do a Preface for a book by Greg Murtha. So I pursued it a bit further since Bob told a little of Greg’s story and it sounded interesting. Greg wrote a book called Out of the Blue and finished it on June 19, 2017. He went “to the head of the line” on June 22, 2017.  This book is Greg’s story and life lessons learned during 5 years of chemotherapy and fighting through 75 chemo treatments.  This was literally one of those books I had trouble putting down.  I started reading it Saturday evening since I didn’t have to preach and had to pry it out of my hands to go to bed. Then as I tossed and turned I wondered if I should have just stayed up and read some more. I finished it Sunday night after attending church with friends, having lunch with them, and coming home to cut grass. The rest of my evening was spent putting the finishing touches on reading this book. IT WAS THAT GOOD!

Greg was a hard-driving and successful man, but by his own admission not a great husband or father. Provider? Yes. Engaged? No.  But here is how his journey began: “On a cold December morning in 2011, I ran eleven miles on the picturesque Crocket Hills Trail in Middle Tennessee…As a 46 year old man in what I thought was peak physical condition, eleven miles was nothing. Afterward, sweating but pumped, I headed for the bathroom at the YMCA. That’s when my runner’s high deflated. It appeared as if someone had poured a container of bright-red blood into the toilet. It was a lot of blood, and I realized instantly, this is not good.”

So begins his story of 5 years/75 treatments. And so begins one of the most captivating books you will ever read.  One month after that 11 mile run, Greg and Tracey (his wife) found out he had Aggressive Stage 3 colon cancer (I’ll leave out the details)  which soon became Stage 4.  Out of the blue his life was changed forever.  Out of the blue his well-planned life had been radically changed. Hence, now you know the reason for the title of the book.

And out of the blue I was slammed by the lessons Greg learned.  How often, even though I want to be a pastor who is tender and open to that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, have I walked past people who are obviously hurting?  How many times have I been so preoccupied with my own issues or concerns that I have failed to see the signs of others who are needing someone to care?  How many times have I sensed that nudge from the Spirit to reach out and failed to do so? I can honestly say…way too many.  I shed tears during this book.  Not for Greg but for how his heart was made tender for others. How his heart was molded into a heart like Jesus.  And I shed tears because I am so lacking in that department. Like Joni, Greg says cancer was a blessing and he wouldn’t change a thing.  His biggest regret was leaving behind his wife of 23+ years and his 15 year old son.

Out of the blue God taught me how I needed to be much more open to others; how I needed to be much more sensitive to His voice and available to His lead.  I say “out of the blue” because I was not expecting this book to be what it was-a lesson in listening to God’s voice and acting upon it.  Greg’s journey on this earth is over, but then again, maybe it has just begun…in me. I pray my heart will be open to the Father’s leading as his was.

Get this book. But just be forewarned: you will be hit out of the blue with powerful lessons.

Out of the Blue: The Unexpected Adventure of Life Interrupted

#PromisesPromises#Wisdom

Friday, June 5th, 2020

Most people are familiar with one of the most amazing stories of wisdom in all of literature. It involves two mothers fighting over a dead child and a live child. Discarding the dead child, they began to argue over whose the live one was. The arbitrator declares to split the baby in half and give each one a part. One says, “Yes” while the other says, “No.” The judge decides the one who said no is the real mother simply because the real mother would never want her child to die. You probably recognize that as a story in the life of King Solomon, who shortly before that event had taken over as king of Israel.

I started working on this first sermon in the new series, Promises, Promises, on May 11th.  I think it was week #1952 of what had become known as the lockdown. Okay, so maybe it was only week #9, but you have to admit to some it sure felt like an eternity! 🙂  When the Covid-19 mess took over, I decided to change my whole summer series of sermons and focus on Biblical promises/answers to challenges which have risen as a result of life (not just the virus). Then the George Floyd event happened.

The question we all face is this: “What now?” How do I respond not only to the whole Covid thing, but also to the senseless killing and violence as a result. How do I filter my own thoughts? We need to start by seeking wisdom-divine wisdom-not man’s wisdom. As we have seen, man’s wisdom falls short.

My sermon Sunday is Wisdom to Find the Right Page and will be from Proverbs 1: 1-7, 20-32.  What better place to start than there? I would deeply appreciate your prayers as I start this important, and possibly life-changing series.  And just as an aside: you can watch it on our FB page or on YouTube as it is live-streamed. The link to those is on the church’s website. Thanks for visiting here and for your prayers. 

#Manipulation#Critique#Toxic

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

I just finished reading When to Walk Away by Gary Thomas, a book I mentioned in my last post about Finding Freedom from Toxic People.  It has been a really good book, one that will take some time digesting and reading over the highlighted thoughts and sections. I want to use one of the thoughts as a springboard for this post.

If you are like me you tire-and I mean really tire-of people accusing us of basically being mean and narrow and bigoted.  You say something they don’t agree with and you can hear it coming from a million miles away: “Aren’t you Christians supposed to forgive? How come you aren’t acting like a Christian?” Or they will say, “You are nothing more than a narrow, bigoted hypocrite.”  To quote Gary:

They don’t really care if we’re acting like a Christian though. They just want us to do what they want us to do, and they’re using our faith as a weapon to manipulate and control. (p.146)

I always find it interesting when someone who does not claim any allegiance to Christ or to Christianity or to Biblical principles tries to lecture us on those very same issues. Do you sense a disconnect here?  People like this are masters at lecturing or deciding for us how we are supposed to act AND YET they make no claim-they even scoff at the idea-of following Christ.  The problem as I see it is that the atheist or the non-conformist or the immoral person wants to spout off their junk, but when someone questions them or stands against them they rear their ugly head in shock and toxicity and shame-throwing. They are masters at lecturing us how we ought to behave and yet are unwilling to listen to the truth because it will go against their carefully crafted lifestyle and belief system.  They aren’t so much interested in me acting like a Christ-follower should as much as they want me and you to do what they want us to do.  Long story short: approve of their lifestyle and belief system and not counter them or make them feel guilty.

My purpose as a follower of Christ is to please God. To bring fame to His Name. To honor Him in all things.  I have to keep in mind my approval by others is not on the table. Don’t allow someone to manipulate you into playing his games by his rules.

#Lent#26

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

I’m in Ohio the first part of this week helping our daughter, Janna, move into her apartment. So I’m “cheating” by using the same devotion here that I am using at my other blog, Living in the Shadow.

If there is one emotion which captures the mood of many, if not most, people these days, it is fear. It has no favorites. Young. Old. Rich. Poor. Mansion-dweller. Homeless. Actor. Homemaker. CEO. Grunt worker. Christ-follower. Non-believer. F.E.A.R. It paralyzes. It haunts. It creeps.

I was reading a devotion recently on Psalms. I’m going to reprint it in its totality for you. I hope it blesses you and show why we have nothing to fear.

Etty Hillesum was a young Jewish woman living in Amsterdam in 1942. During that time, the Nazis were arresting Jews and herding them off to concentration camps. As she awaited the inevitable arrest, and with the fear of the unknown (my note: sound familiar?), she began to read the Bible-and met Jesus. She simply put her hand in God’s hand and found rare courage and confidence.

Etty wrote in her diary: ‘From all sides our destruction creeps up on us and soon the ring will be closed and no one at all will be able to come to our aid. but I don’t feel that I am in anybody’s clutches. I feel safe in God’s arms. And whether I am sitting at my beloved old desk in the Jewish district or in a labor camp under SS guards, I shall feel safe in God’s arms. Once you have begun to walk with God, you need only keep on walking with Him, and all of life becomes one long stroll.’

Etty was a living, courageous picture of the psalmist’s declaration: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you…What can mere mortals do to me?” (Ps.56:3-4). What a challenge for anyone plagued by fear!

As we sense the strength of God’s everlasting arms beneath us (Deut.33:27), we can stroll through life with confidence, holding the hand of our unseen Companion.    Devotion by Vernon Grounds

I wish every person on earth, whether a follower of Jesus or not, could grab a hold of that truth. It is especially viable for the follower of Jesus to have faith not fear. Praise not panic.  My prayer is that including this devotion might soothe your troubled soul (if you are anxious or troubled).  And by all means, pass this along!

Devotion (in blue) from Together With God: Psalms @2016 Our Daily Bread Ministries. 

#GoingHome!#AwesomeGod

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

Less than a week after open heart surgery (tomorrow…Wednesday would be one week), Alexander headed home yesterday (Monday).  He had an echo done and was then cleared to go home.  He will be drastically limited to visitors since his immune system is so low and he will be sensitive to any germs that anyone might expose him to.

BUT CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS!

 

Sorry for the texts included. I had to take a screen shot since I couldn’t get it sent to my email. The top you can see though is Christine saying, “Going home…God is so amazing!”

Yes, Christine He most certainly is.  And this will be one time I will use the word “Awesome!”  Because God truly is. But please keep praying for Alexander. They were able to open his left artery 3mm. Normal is 10-12mm. They will check him down the road and if possible will put a shunt in. But who knows what God will do???

#AlexanderUpdate#PrayerAnswered!!

Monday, January 27th, 2020

Okay, so I had been posting about 20 month old Alexander this past week.  You can read my past posts about him here and here and here.   I didn’t post over the weekend due to my schedule so I thought I would keep you updated as of yesterday (Sunday). The following was posted on FB (which I am not on) but forwarded to me by Jo.

Everyone is amazed at how well Alexander is doing and they plan to send us home this week! Praise God for His hand in all of this…there is no other explanation than Him. Alexander came into this surgery having not had the best odds in his favor due to recent illnesses, sinus gunk/cough as well as the fact that the surgeons were not sure there was anything they could do to fix the issue with his heart. Now they might send him home less than a week after open heart surgery where he was on the bypass machine (harder on the recovery than if he wasn’t)! Nothing less than a miracle how well he is doing. Thanks for all the prayers.
He is still in some pain but manageable with Tylenol and we are still struggling to get him to drink anything (but we still have his feeding tube so he is getting some nutrition thru it as much as he will tolerate it). Overall we could not be happier! He faces more procedures in the future but if things go as planned they should be able to do them with a Heart Catheterization and no more open heart surgeries! For the next couple months he will have to stay away from people and germs and we have to be careful how he is picked up (never under the arms as usual) so we don’t mess up his incision site but these are small hurdles compared to how far this little superhero has come!

Is that not awesome? I only use that word when it refers to God or something God has done. And so I have to say this is A-W-E-S-O-M-E!!!!! And here is something that will steal your heart:

I told Christine when I found out Alexander would be born with a heart defect and that she and Jimmy never questioned whether keeping him was an option or not, I believed God has some special plan for His life. No one knows what that is except for God Himself. But even now, God’s miraculous work in his life is nothing short of incredible. What a testimony this little guy already has! Kudos to the doctors and staff at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. Kudos to Jimmy & Christine for the love and trust they have shown to love Alexander as every child should be loved- #real definition of heroes. Kudos to Eliza and Isabella (his sisters) for their understanding of mom and dad’s time and their love for their brother. But more praise goes to the Father for His loving care of His little lamb.

Thanks to you for your prayers. You don’t even know him but have been praying.

#AlexanderUpdate2#KatherineUpdate

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Ryan and I left the hospital at 8:50 because he had an appointment at 10:30.  I received a text at 10:40 that he had just gone into surgery and it could take 3-4 hours.  That’s right! Into surgery! That means that they found an alternate way to get blood to his lung from his heart.

A later text said he was out of surgery and the doctor was optimistic.

I am asking you to continue praying for Alexander and his little body to heal. Pray the surgery was successful. And please pray for his mom and dad (Jimmy & Christine).

*****************************

The prayer meeting for Katherine went really well! Family members showed up to pray with us. She goes today to the specialist to find out what her next steps are to be.  A pic line which will require her to stay out of school (I’m pretty sure I heard it that way), or something else. Of course, we are still praying for healing for her.

I would ask for you to please do the same. Thanks. I’ll keep you posted on both of these.

#Alexander#SeriousPrayerRequest

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

I’m going to ask you to read this all the way through…please.  And please know I received permission from Christine to write this and to post the pictures.

This is Alexander Chambers:

How can you not fall in love with this little guy?  Alexander is 20 months old. Let me tell you his story. His mom & dad, Jimmy and Christine (see family portrait at the end of this post), were told during her pregnancy that Alexander would be born with a birth defect (sorry don’t know the medical name) which would affect his heart. They are heroes to me. The thought of abortion NEVER crossed their mind. He wasn’t very old when he had his first heart surgery. After his birth he spent quite a bit of time in Riley Hospital in Indianapolis.  He finally got to come home to his two sisters but the past year and a half has been an adventure. Like all kids he has had his share of colds, sniffles, etc but they seem to be more frequent…and last longer. But that has not stopped him! He is as rambunctious as any 20 month old little boy.

Alexander’s heart is not a normal heart. His left artery that feeds the heart is totally closed. That means he is not getting any oxygen to his heart from his left side. If that cannot be corrected he will always have restrictions on what he can do physically. No sports. No normal activities which require physical exertion. He understands now that when he tires he must stop and rest. An exploratory procedure several months ago showed that. Since then he has undergone a heart scan for the doctors to see if they can and should consider doing something. They had told Jimmy and Christine that they could do nothing but then said, “No. Let’s do this scan to make sure.”  The scan showed for certain the state of his left artery.  Tomorrow (Wednesday) Alexander goes into surgery to see if something can be done.

I’m asking for prayer for Alexander. Please pray for his care during surgery. Please pray for the doctors and nurses as they work. Please pray for his mom and dad and two sisters. Please pray for God to intervene and make a way for surgery if that is His will. And pray for healing. The downside: if he does have surgery it may require up to a month or more of hospitalization which will take Christine away from her family. We prayed Sunday morning for him/for them. I asked the leaders to come up front to gather around and to pray for the family. While Christine told the folks what all was happening, Alexander came over to me and wrapped his arms around my legs and then let me hold him while I prayed (he eventually went to his mom). Little people are special to me. This guy is extra special.  I’ll keep you posted as to the result.

I, of course, do not know how tomorrow will turn out. But I truly believe (and have told Christine this) that God has a special plan for Alexander. I believe God is going to use Him and this situation to be glorified. I hope I’m around to see what He does.

Here is a picture of the whole family:

Jimmy, Christine, Alexander, Eliza, and Isabella. What a lovely family.

His surgery has been scheduled several days and times and has been changed that many times. As of right now, it is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 9:00. He will be taken for prep at 7:30. Ryan(our youth pastor) and I will be leaving Spencer at 5:15 to be with them and pray beforehand. You can pray for safe travels for us as well. And thanks from Jimmy, Christine, Eliza, Isabella, Alexander and from me.

I have also posted this on my “Shadow” blog.