Friday, December 30, 2011

One more step forward

Today was another large step forward in my cancer battle. I had another one of my appointments with my oncologist, getting the results of my latest CT scan. Quick summary - everything went very well. My CT came back clean and the doctor left with a smile on his face (which is not always the case with oncologists).

I always get nervous around CT time. I had the scan on Monday morning and then I have to wait for five days to get the results. Now for the previous three and half months leading up to the scan I am sure that nothing is wrong and the scan will come back great. But for the five days between the scan and the results, the nerves kick into high gear.

So today my appointment was at 9:15. Jen and I got up there around 9:00, after stopping for a mocha of course, and thought we would be in the waiting room for awhile. but the nurse came and got me within minutes of sitting down. I had to do the whole weigh in thing again (down four pounds from last time) and then the typical blood pressure, temperature, etc. Then she left and we wait, again.

But this time we must have been the first ones in because the doctor was their very quickly. The first thing he did was pull out the results and say - no changes, all is good.

That is the moment that I start breathing again.

He then went through all of the scans and said everything looked very good. Then set me up for another appointment in four months.

And that appointment is a big one. You see, that is the 2 year mark of my surgery. With this type of cancer when a person makes it to the 2 year mark the chance of recurrence is miniscule. So after 2 years we then go to annual CT scans without contrast.

So a quick heads up - in 4 months if you are anywhere near me we will be having a party as I certainly expect the CT will be clean then too!

It is amazing to see how fast the past two years have gone and all the amazing things that have happened. Through all of this I still see the blessings and celebrate the joys of all of you and the support and prayers you have shared with me.

May you all have a blessed day!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

52 Weeks of Joy

This time of year I start to hear all of the New Year's Resolutions coming out. Now I am not big on resolutions - when I see the need to make some changes or grow (or shrink) in certain areas, I try to do so right away.

But this year I am trying something different. I am setting a goal for myself, and inviting you to be a part of it.

So starting in January I will have a regular Tuesday Blog focusing on Joy. One of the things I have continually noticed is how negative people have been getting and how hard life is becoming. So I want to spend some time seeing the good things, the blessings, the joys we already have in our lives.

So every Tuesday I will have a guiding passage and some thoughts about joys that I see in my life. I will also invite you to share your joys with me on the comments section here.

So for a year we will spend time looking at the good things, the joys, the blessings we have. I am looking forward to this and hope you are too.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is a busy time around our household. We have two services and between them we go home, have dinner, watch a little Christmas Story, and then bring the girls back to sleep in the office while we get ready for the second service.

Sometimes we rush too much.

So tonight, after we got the girls settled into their sleeping bags and Jen was filling out some Christmas cards, we went and sat in the sanctuary for a few minutes. It was a time for me to just slow down and reflect, once again, on the beauty and the power of this amazing day.

Tonight we celebrate the fact that God come to us - as one of us.

Isn't it amazing.

God, the creator of all. The all-powerful one.

God came to us, became one of us, and did all of this because of the love that he has for us.

The message is simple, and yet, it is so powerful.

So this Christmas, may the story awe you once again, and may you experience the all-embracing love of God in your life.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Pajamas

Okay, I did it.

I entered into the next level of Daddy Dorkdom.

I think this may be what happens when I am left alone with my 7 year old with too much time on my hands in a store.

But I did it.

Yes, I went aisle by aisle and I purchased Christmas pajamas for everyone in my family, including my wonderful wife.

Now they don't all match (I tried to make that happen but I couldn't find a set of four that would fit all of us). The ones above are the ones that Scarlett got. But I did manage to find a Christmas theme for all four pairs.

You can imagine just how excited my wife was when she came home and Sierra and I got to show her what we purchased.

Now I could stretch this and try to make some profound theological point or talk about how this is a wonderful bonding experience for our family, but it's not and I don't think you would let me get away with stretching it that far.

Nope, I just got in the Christmas Spirit in a rather odd way and decided to be Daddy Dork for the day.

I know we will take pictures, but I really doubt that they will be allowed on-line, so you can use your imagination.

So have you ever done anything that brought you to the next level of dorkdom?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Morning Reflections - Mary

Today is the last Sunday in the season of Advent, the season of waiting and preparing for the Lord. So this week we travel with Mary and I am including an excerpt from last years sermon on this passage - Luke 1:26-38.

Today we hear of a heavenly visit and a divine announcement. A young girl who was out and about, doing daily chores and an angel appears to her. In this greeting he says that she is a favored one, one beloved by God. But, to really grasp this message, to see the groundwork being laid – must go back a little, back to the beginning of this chapter, back to the story of Zechariah.

Zechariah was a priest, he was one who was chosen by lot to serve in the temple and called to burn incense during the time of prayer, and it was during one of these times that he was burning incense that a life-changing event happened to him – an angel appeared him as well. This angel, Gabriel, told Zechariah, your prayers will be answered, you and your wife, Elizabeth, will have a child. What good news this was for after many years of not being able to have a child, will now be able to do so.

But, in hearing this news, Zechariah is in shock. How can this happen? He asks, both my wife and I are old, this does not seen likely at all! Gabriel then scolds him for his doubt. He says, you will be silent and not be able to speak until the day this happens because you did not believe my words.

In this short exchange, Zechariah demonstrates his disbelief. He has heard the word of the angel and he has not believed it.  He wants proof. He wants to know for sure that this is true. But, the angel of God is not about knowing.  But rather, the angel calls for faith, calls for belief, and punishes Zechariah for his lack of faith. Because you did not believe my words, you will become mute. And so it was. Zechariah stands before us, on this amazing and miraculous day, as a person of doubt.

Why is it important to hear this story, this story of doubt, as we look at and hear the story of Mary as well? Because with Mary we see and hear the exact opposite. Mary, too, is approached by an angel, the same one in fact. She too is told that she will have a child. But she is very different than both Zechariah and her cousin Elizabeth – she is young, she is unmarried, she is a common peasant woman. And, she is the model of faith

As the priest of the highest order in Israel doubted what the angel told him, Mary, the peasant, one of the lowest in society, believes. When the angel tells her of the impending birth, she responds as only faith can, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”

These two stories, as different as they are, belong together for they are both stories of faith, and faith has everything to do with hearing the promised word of God and trusting in that word.  And this wonderful childlike faith that we see in Mary lays the groundwork for what is going to happen.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Elf on the Shelf

We have an elf in our house.

He is a cute little guy with a red suit who only comes during the month of December. Every day he keeps watch over the house, and those who live in it, and at night he scurries back to St. Nick and reports in about the days activities. The next morning he has moved to another part of the house to keep an eye on everyone.

Now the girls love our elf. Every morning they jump out of bed and run around the house trying to find him. Yesterday he was sitting on top of a light fixture in the kitchen, and when discovered shouts were made to us parents that we could not turn the light on because we did want to "burn the elf's butt."

As parents we are always nervous that the elf will forget to move the overnight.

As a little game of hide and seek, the elf on the shelf is fun. As a tool to teach kids to be good, well, I don't think the elf really works, nor should he (in my opinion).

But what I like most about the elf on the shelf is the fact that this is the second year he has appeared at our house and he is becoming a family tradition. At the end of November Sierra was already asking us where the elf was and when he would be back.

And I like family traditions. They are things we do that are special to us, to our families, to those we love. Traditions like this help to strengthen the bonds of family and grow in unique ways.

So what are some of your family traditions and how did they get started?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Valley

Recently I was reminded about a time when I was sitting with a lady in the hospital as she was struggling with the diagnosis that she was going to die soon, her disease was terminal.  As we talked she said, “There is one thing I know as I enter this last leg of my journey, I am not traveling alone.”  We hear that promise throughout scripture, especially in Psalm 23, and we are reminded that as we journey into what may seem as the darkest parts of our lives, even as we journey to death, we are not alone.  God has promised to light the way for us, and he sent his Son to show how death and darkness have no power over us.  This is the light of God, that his light is never extinguished, and our journeys will only bring us to a greater light, an eternal light, blessed with all the love that God can shower upon us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Seeing Thankfulness in Odd Places

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
2I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
                                                            Psalm 9:1-2

I remember my high school days when I was playing football. We had three-a-days in the August heat, and after the sessions we would just collapse out of exhaustion and pain.

I remember my rugby playing days in college. There were some mornings after a match that nit would be hard to move.

Yes, I remember soreness, and I think one of the reasons I remember it so well is that today, I hurt.

Yes, I am sore, really sore. Yesterday my wonderful trainer worked us out hard, and I am paying for it.

But I wasn’t going to let that soreness beat me. So I slowly creaked my way out of bed this morning and went to class again.

But as I was showering after the workout, I was reminded that the soreness really is a blessing. It is a blessing because I am able to get up, go work out, and physically get healthier. As my trainer says – It’s a good pain.

So today, as strange as it sounds, I am thankful for the soreness and the ability to get up and go work out.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Morning Reflections - Light

Today we travel with John the Baptist once again, but the time we hear the story from John's gospel. When I read through this lesson I kept hearing the word light over and over again. How the light of the world is coming to us. Here is an excerpt from today's sermon.

Just imagine if you were standing on the banks of the Jordan with John that day. Here is this guy, this prophet, speaking to you and the great crowd you are with, and then some religious leaders come up to him and start questioning him.

Who are you? They ask. We know you have gotten a lot of people to follow you, we know you are teaching and baptizing, but we don’t know who you are, so tell us, they say.

And then John responds to their questions in the strangest way, for instead of telling them who he is, he tells them who he isn’t. I am not the Messiah. I am not Elijah. I am not the prophet. The religious leaders must have been very frustrated at this point. Yeah, so you’re not these people, but who are you?

John continues on and says, I am the one who is preparing the way for the Light of the world. I am the one who is making sure that people are getting ready. And you know what, that light, that one you seek, he is here. Right here, right now, right in this place. Yes, he is here, and his light is so bright that the darkness of the world is going to be shattered.

Yes, imagine if you were standing there listening to all this, and you hear this prophet telling the religious leaders, and even you, that the one you are seeking is here. The one who will bring peace is here. The one who will bring wholeness is here. The one who will bring forgiveness is here. The one who will bring new life is right here.

What good news that is. He is here. The light is here. The Messiah is here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Day of Thankfulness

12Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!
                                                Psalm 97:12

I remember riding in the back of the car as a child, peppering my mom and dad with questions as we drove around town or went out on our family vacations. Back then, no questions was too silly to ask and every answer was longed for. Part of the fun was trying to stump my parents and see how they would respond if I happened to ask them that tricky question.

Now the tables have been turned.

Earlier this week, Sierra was riding in the back of the car and started asking me all sorts of questions – the kind of questions I used to ask my parents, the kind of questions that as adults we tend to pass right over and silly. But as I answered all of her questions the best that I could, I was taken back to those innocent and care-free days of life. To have the freedom to ask any question, and not think it was silly. To have the trust that asking a question would not elicit a laugh, but rather a thoughtful answer, and to have the ability to see the world as an overall good place. With just a few questions, my mind flashed back to what it was like to live in that innocent 7-year-old world once again.

So I am thankful to see the world through my daughter’s eyes. I am thankful to have my eyes opened to her world and the beauty that resides there.  I am thankful that silly questions can be asked and answered, and that the innocence of a 7-year-old can inspire others.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesday Morning Coffee - Be Still

I am not always good at sitting and being still. I like to be active, to get up and move, to take care of what needs to be taken care of. Quite often, even on my days off, I have a hard time just sitting and taking things in, instead I am running around the house, doing laundry, shopping for groceries, cleaning the girls room, and the list goes on and on.

But I need to be still.

I know this, I know that I need to sit, to rest, to take my sabbath time and embrace the joy of being still, and being still in God.

I think part of it goes back to my cancer battle. When I was recovering from surgery and undergoing chemo treatments I didn't have the strength or energy to get up and do what I wanted to do. I had to sit, I had to be still, I had to take that time for my body to recovery. And it was good for me as well.

But now, now when I sit and be still I am doing it by choice. And when I actually do it, it is something that I enjoy and has a calming influence on my life. I know that I need this time, that my body and soul needs this time, but all too often it gets pushed to the bottom of the list because of everything else that "needs" to get done.

So during this Advent season, I have been making myself take more time to be still. I have been rest in the presence of Christ and it has been making a difference. During this time I have had more experiences of the Spirit than I have had in long time. And it has helped in my other relationships as well. I have learned that when I take this time, when I am still, it benefits me in body, mind, and spirit; and in turn it benefits my relationships with others as well.

So do you sit and be still? Do make time in your schedule to rest in the presence of God?

Monday, December 5, 2011


Okay, I will admit it - there are times I get depressed. There are times I feel down and the happiness and joy of life seems to be missing. There are also times that I am passive about trying to feel better, just waiting for someone or something to come by and pick me up.

I read a quote from Joyce Meyer today - Stop giving others the job of making you happy.

Too often, I think, we are passive when it comes to joy and happiness. Too often we expect others to come to our rescue and make things better. When, instead, we need to take the step forward ourselves. We need to do something a little different, look at life froma  different perspective, and realize that they joy, the happiness, the blessings of life are there and ahve been there the entire time.

So now, when I get in a funk and feel a little down, I take a look at my girls (like in the picture above) and my wife and my friends and my life and see all of the blessings that I have been blessed with. I also physically move myself to another place to get a new perspective and I don't rely on others to make me happy.

So today, what are you going to do to see the joy in life?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Morning - Water

We got rain yesterday. The start of December in Wisconsin and we got rain, not snow, but rain.

Okay, I am tired of rain. I would rather have snow this time of year. I like to ski, to make snowmen with the girls and make forts to have snowball fights in. Yes, I am still a kid at heart.

But we got rain, and the rain got me thinking about water as a whole.

Water is life-giving in so many ways. Water gives life to crops, quenches our thirst, and helps all of creation to grow.

And, in baptism, water and the Word is where new life is born in each of us.

This week we hear from John the Baptist for the first of two weeks. This week he is out in the River Jordan teaching, preaching, and baptizing. He is preparing the way for the Christ. He is messenger that new life is coming, and caming to each and every one of us.

So on this Sunday I would invite you to reflect on what it means to have new life in your life. If you have been baptized, what does that mean to you? If you have not, then what questions do you have about it?

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Little More Upbeat

After yesterdays post on funerals I decided to go a little bit more upbeat today. Below is a video of one of the songs I enjoy listening to when I need a little pick me up. It is a little more "pop" than I normally do, but hey, lets have some fun.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Earlier this week the brother of one of our staff members passed away. He was diagnosed with lung cancer 8 months ago and despite all the treatments the cancer was too aggressive. I was asked to do the funeral in a neighboring town because of my relationship with the family and because of my own battle with lung cancer. I am sure that the service will be very personal and meaningful to all involved because of all the people that will be taking part and the large family who will be coming to celebrate his life.

As I was preparing his service this morning I got another call from the funeral home. A 101 year old woman had passed away. She had no real ties to the church, no family or real friends around, and they asked if I could do a graveside service for her tomorrow. They said, "All we need are a few prayers, the only person who will be there is a lady from LSS (Lutheran Social Services)."

Such polar opposites - a man who was too young and has an amazing amount of family and friends coming and a woman who outlived her friends and has no one to come and say their goodbyes.

And then, holding these two together, is the cross. The cross that is bare, the tomb that is empty, the promise of new life that holds on to all of us, even when we are struggling to comprehend why or how. Yes, it is the cross, the life-giving cross, that reminds us that there is always at least one, the one who created all, gives life, forgives, and empowers, who will be with us every step of the way, even when we take that step into the grave ourselves.

So today I celebrate the lives of two people, two children of God, to forgiven sinners. For God has blessed them with amazing gifts and promises, and they will be fulfilled.