Compassion

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#Beirut#PrayerRequested

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

It is easy to get so myopic that we can’t “see the forest for the trees.”  There is no question our country is in an upheaval (and I certainly have my thoughts about it and when it will end), much of it total garbage. The wanton destruction and taking of lives, especially Law Enforcement, is not the way to get things done.  There is absolutely no call for what is going on in Portland, Seattle, Chicago, New York and others. It is utterly ridiculous. And please don’t tell me it is advancing the cause of BLM (which I won’t get into).

Then there is Beirut. Half way around the globe and barely a peep from those who want us to think they really care about others.  I have watched several clips of the explosion and am just dumbfounded at the power of it. Jo showed me a video of a bride in her wedding dress blown off her feet while having pictures taken.  And to see the pictures of destruction is just mind-blowing.

To be honest, I had no plans to post anything about the explosion.  Sadly, and admittedly, it was not on my radar. I stand guilty of caring but not caring. Until…UNTIL…I read this article. I have linked it so you can read it in its entirety. It is from a pastor in Lebanon who went there to plant a church. It should rock your world and stir your heart to do one thing he has asked:

P.R.A.Y.

Here is the link to the article.

How about doing two things for me…for this pastor and his people in Lebanon? First, pray for them. Second, pass this article along to your readers.

#NoPlaceToHide#Book Review

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

After reading I’ve Seen the End of You by surgeon Lee Warren, it was a no-brainer that I would read his first book, No Place to Hide.  I have to admit that I had absolutely no idea what to expect. All I knew about it was he was a surgeon in Iraq and had to deal with some PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome).  PTSD is very common in combat soldiers and it manifests itself in multiple ways. It is also found in accident victims-accidents of many different kinds. I was particularly interested because there are several men in the church I pastor who were in either Desert Storm or Iraq and suffer from PTSD, from mild to severe. A friend of mine has it due to watching his best friend die almost literally in his arms after a horrible accident involving a 90+ year old man ramming his car into several cyclists while on an MS ride.  (And he got off almost scot-free due to $$$$).

Here is my review of No Place to Hide:

I have never been in armed conflict. I turned 18 during the Vietnam War but was in Bible college so I was exempt. BTW: that was not why I went to Bible college. I was virtually illiterate about the news and Vietnam. I think my parents knew I would have been toast if I had signed up for the military because I could not find a job after my Freshman year in college and my uncle (un-brave soul that he was) took me to a recruiting station. My mom was contacted by the recruiter and she discouraged it.  Anyway, I have only read or listened to the horrors of that conflict as well as Desert Storm and the Iraqi invasion. To say my eyes were opened would be an understatement.  Lee was a brain surgeon with a successful practice but he received his papers to go to Balad Air Base for four months.  I will spare you the gory details but to say his time at Balad was a vacation would do him a great injustice. It would do all those who served in any capacity a great injustice.

While at Balad he was required to treat our military personnel, but also innocent Iraqi citizens, and our enemies, terrorist bombers included. The descriptions of what some of our personnel went through were enough to give me nightmares if I had allowed it. Innocent citizens punished for making a living by becoming translators or voting was enough to make my blood boil.  And to make it worse was for all medical personnel giving their best to save the suicide bombers and others responsible for much of the bloodshed on their own people was almost more than I could stand.  I just can’t understand that kind of hate, especially that which was done in the name of a “peaceful religion and God (Allah).”

I had to wait until close to the final 40 or so pages before Lee was discharged to read about the PTSD. While in Iraq his marriage fell apart (it was already heading there before deployment), and he came home broken and bruised, but missed greatly by his children.  It was after all of that and his marriage to Lisa that his PTSD hit him hard. I’m not going to go into detail about it. There is no need to. I’d just say, “Read the book.”

But I will tell you this: if you did not respect our men and women of the military before, you will after reading this book. It does not matter if they were in combat or a doctor in a field hospital, they went through horrendous conditions that I cannot fathom. Plan to be challenged. Plan to have your eyes opened. Plan to find respect for our military personnel. Plan to have tissues  handy. But also plan to see Dr. Warren give praise to God for bringing him out alive and able to minister as a top brain surgeon.

#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

#NeurosurgeonWisdom#BookReview

Friday, July 10th, 2020

I’m not preaching this Sunday. It is the first Sunday since September that I have had off. We will be heading to Ohio for our grandson’s baseball game, coming back home Saturday and attending church elsewhere with some friends. So I thought I would take this spot, when I normally talk about my sermon, to do a book review. I welcome you to join me as I do that.

If you are like me, there have been times when doubts arise. Truthfully, I have never doubted who Jesus is. I have never doubted the divinity of Jesus or the truth that he was fully God and fully man. I have major issues with so-called Bible teachers like Bill Johnson, Todd White and others of that ilk who presume to know the deeper things and can’t even get it right that Jesus did not need to be born again. (And yes, BJ said he did. It’s on YouTube).  So, it isn’t the questions like the resurrection or the life of Jesus or even the miracles found in the Bible (Noah and the flood, for example, or Jonah and the big fish).

The doubt I’m talking about is the struggle between faith and doubt, the things we think we know that often cause the most trouble. The doubts which arise when prayers are not answered as we think they should be. The doubts that arise when we look around and see the injustice and war and slaughter of babies or the lives of young people or even young adults being taken away by cancer.

Those are the kinds of doubts W. Lee Warren, MD writes about in his new book I’ve Seen the End of You. What a phenomenal read!! Dr. Warren is a neurosurgeon (primarily brain) who is also an inventor (related to his brain surgery), an Iraq War veteran, and now a writer. He is also a blogger and a podcaster.  His first book, No Place to Hide -which I have not read but will- is about his Iraq experience, the PTSD which followed, as well as other fallout from that experience.  This book is about faith, doubt and the things we think we know.

I was captivated by it. When I first looked at it my thought was “What did I get myself into? He is going to be way above my head.” Not so. Dr. Warren’s style is what I will call conversational, filled with stories from his practice (primarily his work with Gioblastoma) and how his life was affected by his interaction with his patients. And just as he is dealing with the death of his patients (GBM has a 100% death rate), he loses his son. His faith is sorely tested. He asks a lot of questions; finds no easy answers; works his way through his emotions and feelings about God and life; and admits to his struggles-even to this day.  Dr Warren is real and transparent. I would love to meet him someday (but not for his specialty).

I can’t say enough about this book. You won’t find one negative comment from me. But you will find a rousing endorsement. I have already offered it to a nurse to read while on her vacation.  I had neck surgery back in 2010 (yeah it was from a bike wreck caused by a dog), and the neurosurgeon was a Christ-follower. I would give a copy of this book to him if I ever needed to see him again. (I just might anyway).  Please go out and buy this book. Read it first. Then give it to someone else to read.

 

By the way, there are some powerful quotes I might use at another time.  If  you read them you will find them too. 🙂

#MemorialDay#Tribute#Jesus

Monday, May 25th, 2020

Over at my other blog I wrote the following devotion. I decided to do double duty today and also post it here.  My plans today involve working on a sermon, having an early morning ride, then spending the rest of the day with my wife and daughter.  Here is my devotion:

Today has been set aside as Memorial Day. It’s a day of remembrance for those who served in the military. In my 67 years, I have met many who have served. WWII. Korean. VietNam. Desert Storm. Gulf War. Afghanistan. Marines. Navy. Army. Air Force. Reserves. National Guard. Coast Guard. I know some who have come back wounded-physically, mentally, emotionally, socially. I know of spouses back home-families-who anxiously waited for their return.  I simply cannot fathom the agony of ones back home receiving word their loved one-husband, wife, son, daughter, etc.-are coming home, but in a casket. I shudder as I think of that even now.

But I am grateful for each and every one who served to keep something we value-freedom. I hate war. War is a necessary evil though. Sometimes we have to resort to that to preserve something so important. Freedom from the crown. Freedom from slavery. Freedom from oppression and evil. Freedom from terror and fear.

Each week we celebrate another kind of memorial-a memorial of a life given for others. We call it the Lord’s Supper. Someone went to battle for us. Only it wasn’t a battle with swords and guns; it was a battle against sin. Someone who didn’t deserve it went in our place. It was at the cross where the defining battle took place. Seeming defeat became the prelude to a death-defying victory.  This victory is far more important than any battle fought here on earth. This one had eternal implications.

“Thank you Father for the cross. Thank you for Jesus’ willingness to die in my place, to secure my freedom from death, hell, and the grave. I thank you also for each man and woman who served our country. May they know our gratitude today and always. And finally, and more importantly, I thank you for Jesus.”

#Generosity#Covetousness

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

Okay… so I have another blog that very few people read. It is a devotional blog where each day (except weekends) I post a devotional thought from my reading for the day. Or whatever comes across my mind that I feel led to share. I wrote about Generosity and Covetousness today. I’d love to have you visit that blog, read, and comment. You can find it here.

Seriously, I’d be honored if you would visit and comment there. Thanks.

#Lent#11

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

I’m going to take a break from my regularly scheduled Lent posts for a commercial.  Actually, the break is real; the commercial is not.  Lent’s focus is to prepare us for Good Friday and, ultimately, Resurrection Sunday.  Its design is to bring our minds to the importance of the crucifixion.  I’ll be honest: I’m not doing the normal Lenten thing of giving up something. I don’t observe Lent, as such, but I do want to portion a time of my morning Quiet Time to focus on what it is all about.  Hence, the Lent posts over the past 10 days or so.  I am calling this #11 even though it is not a typical Lent post. But I have something on my mind that won’t let go.

DEATH

The natural focus is the death of Jesus which will be observed in a few weeks. Sermons will be preached on “stand out” passages like Isaiah 53, the 7 last sayings of Jesus, and others. But my mind and heart are elsewhere this morning. Last Monday, the 2nd, our community suffered the loss of one of its members by suicide.  I was asked to do the funeral (on the 9th) even though he or the family did not come to OVCF.  I did not know the man; I know his wife; and I know his children from sports.  I refuse to judge the man or his destiny based on the act, but I was “charged” with saying something at the funeral.  I focused on his relationship with kids in sports and then spoke to the family about the faithfulness of God using Psalm 23. 

But the preceding Sunday (the 8th) I took some time out of our morning worship to speak to the church about how to respond; what to say; what not to say, if they should see the family or go to the visitation that afternoon.  I’m going to split what I said into two posts: this one and then one tomorrow.

I’m taking as my model Jesus’ concern for those He loved as He hung on the cross, particularly His mother and John. His love for His mother never stopped, nor did His love for John. He gave them each a charge: “Here is your son. Take care of my mother.” (paraphrased)

Part one of two posts is basically centered around what can friends of survivors do? Keep in mind this is for more than just suicide.  This can be applied to the survivor of any death.

  • Pray for them. Listen to them.  Send cards.  Provide company. Help with practical details, funeral arrangements, food, phone call, and so on.  Do what you can to help ease the immediate pain.
  • Survivors need presence, not platitudes. They don’t need pat answers to incomprehensible questions. They need the loving presence of friends to keep going. They need companions on the journey, not empty words and answers.  They don’t need their pain minimized; they want others to be willing to be with them in their pain and grief.

When Jesus was looking down at His mother and John, compassion and love rolled up within Him for both.  He wanted to make sure His mother was taken care of and He was giving His friend a high honor.

This post is long enough for today. Tomorrow I want to share with you what to say and what not to say. I hope you will join me. But more than that, I hope you can learn and use (unfortunately) what I am learning.