Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mud, Spit, and Sight

This week I will be preaching on the story in John's gospel about the man who was born blind and healed by Jesus. It is a story of healing, of new sight (and new life), and the power of the God who walks among us, cares for us, and loves as we are.

It is also a story that is dirty.

Earlier this week, the girls and I went into the backyard to play. it was a warmish day and the playset had been calling to them, esp. to Scarlett, so off we went. At first, Scarlett just climbed up the ladder and slid down the slide, but as time went on, she changed activity.

It was then that she found the sandbox.

Ahh, yes, the sandbox. A wonderful place to dig and bury and get as dirty as possible. And that is what she did. She was in that sandbox for nearly an hour, and you could by looking at her. And when I took her out to clean up before dinner, she cried like crazy.

Every day since then she has begged to go into the backyard and play in that sandbox.

Dirt is so much fun to play in (I still like to:), and it is an essential part of creation. In the lesson I am preaching on this weekend, I see how God uses this dirt, this part of creation, to make someone clean - and it always amazes me.

God using the unclean to make clean.

God using the broken to make whole.

God using death to make life.

What an amazing God we have - and what a blessing that he keeps coming to us, loving us, and caring for us.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

One year later - the Surgeon

One year ago I met the surgeon who eventually took this cancer out of me. That was a very long, very strange day. A year ago, it was on a Wednesday, in Lent, so we knew that we had services that evening. Jen and I decided we should have a friend go with with us, a retired doctor, to help process some of the stuff that would be said. This was a good plan, because the surgeon was running late, three and a half hours late, and Jen had to go back to worship before we got in to see her.

In fact, Jen only met her once, for about 1 minute right before the surgery. The rest of the time the doctor would come after Jen had left.

But for me, the most important part of this day, and what I truly celebrate, is that this doctor was the first one to use the word "treatable" with me. Before this there was no talk about being treatable, only what we would do for treatment. She told me I was in the top 20% of the people she saw, and it was treatable. I remember leaving that meeting and just floating because there was such a sense of hope.

A year later I am so grateful for this doctor, and as much as I love her, I hope to never go to her office again. She is gifted and gives hope, and a true blessing I will always treasure.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

One year later - first meeting with the oncologist

As I think back to this day one year ago, it was probably one of the more frightening days of my journey. As a pastor, I had met with a number of people who had seen oncologists. It was one of the few doctors that I feared, and that was because of the disease he focused on - cancer. So when I was first told that I needed to meet with Dr. Vogel, my blood pressure went up, this meant it was real, I had cancer.

Dr. Vogel is a brilliant man who serves people who are facing life-threatening diseases daily. I truly admire him and the work he does, but to this day, I still get nervous when I have an appointment with him. Again, it is not him, it is the disease and, now, the fear of recurrence.

But at that first meeting, we were not sure what to expect. Jen and I already knew I would be having surgery, but the rest of the treatments were up in the air. So as we sat down and he went over the scans and biopsy, we started to see that there would be more than just surgery.

One thing that impressed me at the beginning was that he already had an idea what caused the cancer. His assumption, which turned out to be right, was that I had a genetic mutation that affected a very small percentage of white males under 40.

So I was/am special:)

But he picked up on that right away. He then went through the surgery and finally said, after surgery we will have radiation and chemo too.

This was the first bombshell, esp for Jen. At this point we were hopeful that it would only be surgery, but to add radiation, and esp. chemo, that sent up more warning flags.

How would I react to the chemo?
How would the girls react?
How much extra work would Jen need to do, at home and the office?
And the list of questions went on.

Looking back, again I was very blessed. I handled the treatments very well and the congregation was an amazing blessing to us every step of the way. It could not have gone smoother.

It is so nice to be able to look back and see those blessings, and see the hand of God every step of the way on this journey.

At my next meeting with Dr. Vogel I am sure I will be nervous again - waiting for results from my April 15th CT Scan. But I am also reassured, because I see God at work in this process and in my life, and I have an oncologist who is a true blessing to me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 22, 2010 - One year later

As I think back to March 22, 2010, I realize that it is a day that things became more real to me. It was this day that I had a breathing test. Now the test itself wasn't that big a deal, my lung capacity was good, quite good actually, but it was also one of those times that reality set in. as I sat in that little glass tube and blew out a tube in my mouth, I started to think, "How will my breathing be affected after the surgery? Will I be able to run around with the girls? What does this mean for walks around the riverfront with Jennifer?"

But it was also a moment of hope. As I sat with the tech who as doing the test, she told me about the surgery I would probably have. It turns out it wasn't that kind of surgery, but the fact that she sat there and took time to ease my mind, that was a blessing in itself. She also told me that my lung capacity would not be affected that much. Initially she was right, it was the radiation that has affected my lungs more than the surgery.

Looking back the test helped me get a better grasp of what was going on, and it helped move me forward to get ready for the next step of the process.

Tomorrow - One year after my first meeting with Dr. Vogel, the Oncologist.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Diagnosis - 1 Year Later

So it was a year ago today that I was sitting in Dr. Patel's office with Jennifer getting the news that I had cancer. That moment still seems quite surreal to me - looking back and reflecting on all the emotions, thoughts, prayers that were running through my mind at the time.

And what a difference a year can make.

Today I went in for a blood draw, since I have a regular doctor's appointment on Monday and all my levels need to be checked. As I was sitting there, have a needle gently pressed into my skin, I started thinking back to all of the needles I have had inserted into me over the past year. There must have been hundreds of them (thank God I have good veins, or this would have been awful!)

But with all the needles, with the surgery, the treatments, the prayers (I seem to mention that one a lot:), this past year has gone as smooth as it possibly could. I have had two clean CT's and feel wonderful. Yes, the diagnosis from one year ago truly has been a blessing, because the cancer was caught and treated and I can go on living this gift of life to the fullest.

The past year has also slowed me down in many ways as well. I make more time to celebrate the little things - a daughter's laugh, my wife's smile, the squeal of joy coming from an infant - all these things mean so much, and are such a treasure that I will never take for granted again.

So one year down, and many, many more to go - always celebrating the blessings of life!

Friday, March 4, 2011


As we entered March, my mind started wandering back to a year ago. It was on March 1, 2010 that I started the medical journey to discover I had cancer and then have the surgery and start the treatments. Over the next few weeks I will be posting some reflections about what I am feeling on some of those milestone days.

It is hard to believe that it has been a year, the time has gone very fast. I am reminded each and every day of how blessed I am that I had a doc who went the extra mile to find out what was going on with me. When I started this process back last year, I had a hard time looking past the next test or next doctor's appointment, let alone looking forward a year or more. But after two clean CT's, lots of prayers, and being blessed with docs that are the best at what they do, now I look forward to the future in amazing ways. It is about living with hope - hope in the God that loves us, hope in the healing hand of the Spirit, hope in the future.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Holding onto promises

This week has hit me hard. I started with two funerals, have a WELCA service on Saturday, a dear friend lost his mother, number of people on hospice, and lent is only a week away. So the busy-ness of the season is well upon me.

But as I was preparing for one of the funerals, I was reminded of the promises that Christ makes to us - promises of love, grace, forgiveness, and new life. In the hardest of times, it is these promises that hold onto us, helping us make it through the dark valleys so that we can celebrate the still waters and the restoration of our souls.

This week I also received an e-mail saying that the production of my book is about to start. It is a moment of great joy, as I am excited to see this happening, and a moment of, "Oh man, lent and this all together." Again I was reminded, rejoice in the gifts you have been given - and I will rejoice in this gift as well.

Throughout Lent I hope to be on here more often, providing some thoughts and reflections for all of you, as well as for me. Also I have a new Lent Devotional I will have available by Ash Wednesday. Anyone interested please let me know.