Thursday, July 26, 2012

Seeking Input

This Sunday for our Adult Ed time, Jennifer and I are doing a session on "what (not) to say when people are grieving and suffering."

There are many times when people are trying to be helpful, trying to say something that is comforting in a time of sorrow, and it just comes out wrong. So we will be talking about some things we can say and do to help in situations like that.

And I would like your input as well. What are some of the worst things that were said to you when you were having a difficult time?

I'll start. When my dad had died we had two funeral services. One in Billings and one in Crete, NE where he was buried. The second service was mainly for extended family. Just before the second service started, and I mean 5 minutes before, one of dad's relatives pulled me aside and said, "I know this is a hard time for you, but you are a pastor so its not as hard for you as for us. I am concerned about your dad. He never told me that he was saved by Jesus and so I am concerned that he is in hell and not heaven. What do you think?"

The inappropriate way the question was asked, the timing, and the assumption that as a pastor I don't grieve for my dad as much as extended family grieve for him ... well, I never actually told her what I thought, because that would have meant using language I don't like to use.

So how about you, what are some of the worst things that have been said to you in tough times?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Roller Coaster

There are times when life really seems like a roller coaster. And I think that is especially true when you are battling illness in life.

Now to start - I am feeling great. Everything is going well, I am still very hopeful about the meds I am on and I am looking forward to Aug. 9 to get my next PET Scan and see how well the pill is working.

And yesterday was a great day. We had the day off as a family so we went out to Lake Geneva Beach and swam around all morning. Scarlett and I built a "wall" that I then sculpted into what I thought was a pretty good likeness of a human head but Sierra said was a penguin.

In the afternoon we went to a friends house to go swimming and had fresh corn for dinner (That is always a blessing!)

So it was a good day, a high on the roller coaster of life. Scarlett is even getting better at being potty trained, so life is good there too.

But then, as the evening came, I started to get some messages from people who had lost, or were in the process of losing, friends and family members to cancer.

Now this isn't news, we all know people who are dying or have died from cancer. But for some reason, yesterday it hit me. This disease sucks, and it is sucking the life out of people I know, and people who are dear to me.

Heck, it can suck the life out of me too.

So for awhile last night, things got a little dark. My mind went to that pit that it is hard to get out of. I thought of the things that I may not be around for in the lives of the girls. I thought of what I might miss with Jen. I thought about ... Well, you get the picture.

Then, early this morning, we had a storm. I mean a big, powerful, rip the tree limbs off storm.

And I was laying down, listening to the power of that storm shake the windows. And then it hit me.

It was one of those moments that just hit me.

John 3:8 - The wind blows wherever it pleases.

or, the Spirit blows wherever it pleases.

It was one of those moments where that blowing wind reminded me of the power of the Spirit, the power of God.

God was entering into my roller coaster with a wind that I could not ignore. God was coming to me, in the midst of my doubts and struggles, and reminding me that I was not alone.

Sure, I don't know what the future holds. I don't know what I will be here for and what I may miss.

But I do know that I am surrounded by the breath, the wind, the Spirit of God for every step that I do take, for every memory that I am blessed to be a part of, for every hole dug in the sand and penguin sculpted. (I really think I need to teach her more about penguins. It was a nice sculpture :)

It was in that low point that God, once again, revealed himself to me. And isn't that how it is, in those valleys, in those low points in the roller coaster, God opens our eyes to see how he is present and active. Loving us, carrying us, helping us out of the pits and embracing us with the grace we need.

So this evening the girls and I will go out and make some more memories. Not sure what we will do yet, maybe get a book on sand sculpting, but we will do something. For it is these memories that they will hold onto, and it is these memories that God will awaken in me during those dark times that will come again. Memories about the blessings we have in our lives, and how we need to treasure them every day.

So how about you go and make a memory today.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Most of the Continuing Ed I go to is not of the ELCA variety. I am always looking for new and creative ways to use technology, build relationships, and worship creatively. Unfortunately, there is not much in those areas in Lutheran circles, so I search out other areas that I am not as theologically in tune with. And with most of it, I have no problems. Sure I have theological differences, and I have a hard time with their focus on eternity being so great that they really discount the kingdom of God coming to us here, but I can move past most of that and embrace what they are teaching. And when it comes to tech and video stuff, they are light years ahead of us. But when it comes to worship, well, that's a different story. Over the years, I have learned that what they call worship at these events I would call a concert. There is music, sometimes something that is singable by the audience, often times not, a preacher who prays for us, and more music. And that is fine. I like most of it just fine. But for me, it's not worship. Worship involves me, not praying for me, but praying with me. Not singing to me, but singing with me. It involves my participation. Otherwise I am just an observer. When it comes to worship I don't think any of us should be observers. Worship with God is relational, and to be in a relationship I need to be active, a participant. So ther first few worship sessions were exactly what I feared. Poor preaching, unsingable songs, and very little involvement by the congregation. But this morning was different. This morning Laura Story led worship. And it felt like worship. No,there wasn't any liturgy, but the songs were led well by her. Some we knew, some were new, but they were easy to pick up on a dn easy for someone like me to sing even. She preached, in her own way, and it was powerful. She sang her wonderful song, Blessings, to us, but then called us in to join with her in a call and response after it, and the you could just feel the Spirit moving at that time. It was wonderfully refreshing and what was needed to start the day. I love being surprised, especially in worship. And today was one of those days. So today I pray that you may be surprised, and filled, wherever you are.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Currently I am in Kansas City at the National Worship Leaders Conference. It is a nice time for Jennifer and I to get some continuing Ed in, worship together in a setting that is very different than what we are used to, and get some inspiration for the next few months. Right now I think my Ministry Coordinator is getting nervous because of some of the tech sessions I have gone to so far. Whenever I go to Continuing Ed sessions, I try to detach a little from the congregation so that I can attempt to look at my ministry with fresh eyes. I strive to return to the church with a renewed vision of where the church is going and how I can continue to be a part of the mission that God has set before us. But there are also times when that detachment cannot happen. Like today. Just before one of our workshops I got a call from a lady in the congregation. She was in tears and asking me to come and see her as soon as I could. I told her where I was and the soonest I could be back. She understood and we set a time for me to see her as soon as I get back. And why did she want to see me? She just found out that she has cancer. She wants to talk to me because of the cancer journey I am going through and she needs someone who undstands to walk the journey with her. And I wish I could transport back to Beloit to be with her. But I can't. So I am keeping her in prayer, I am making sure that I will meet up with her as soon as I can, and I am praying for renewal for myself so that when I do get back and see her I can be fully present with her. And that is part of the renewal time of Continuing Ed, being able to be refreshed so that we can return and serve in a stronger way than when we left. As the week goes on I will share some of the things I learn with you, and reflections I may have, and I will ask for your prayers. Prayers for me, for healing and renewal, and prayers for my friend who called, that God's healing hand would be on her as well.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Improved Vision

So I got some good news today from the eye doctor.

First I had to go through a series of tests, including the wonderful ultrasound of the eye. But after all of the tests the doc came in and said that my eyesight has improved a little bit. From appointment 1 to 2 it got worse and from appointment 2 to 3 it got better. Not much better, but a little.

He also said that the spot on my eye has not grown. This is another good sign.

What it means is that the drug is probably working. If the drug was not working he would have expected my eyesight to continue to get worse and the spot to grow, but neither of those things have happened. So even though the spot has not shrunk, this is seen as a victory. I will see him again in 7 weeks for another follow up. We are both hoping that the drug will continue to do its work and by then the spot will be shrinking and my vision continuing to improve.

Oh, and I am getting the pictures from all of the tests sent to me. So if I can figure it out I will put up some wonderful shots of my eyeball :)

Vision Fun

In about an hour I will be heading up to see my eye doctor in Madison. This is the guy who caught all of this and got the ball rolling on my treatments. But he is also the one who said the word "cancer" again, so there are mixed feelings going to his office.

Actually, there are mixed feelings going into any doctor's office at this point, but that is for another day.

As far as I can tell, there has been no change with the original vision issues that I noticed back on January 1. I knew, in my head, that there wouldn't be, but I was hopeful something would have changed by now. Of course, I have been on the pill for less than a month, so I should know that it takes time. That darn patience thing again.

The fun stuff that I will get to talk to him about has to do with the side effects of the pill. They haven't changed all that much either, but I am starting to have some fun with them.

Normally twice a day, when I get up and when i go to bed, my eyes have a ripple effect. It is like throwing a rock into a clear lake and the ripples go out to the edges of my eye. Then, if I move my hand or anything else in front of my line of sight, I can see waves following the movement. Originally this was quite freaky, now I am starting to make a game of it.

Hey, why not try to have some fun with the side effects :)

So I will share that with him, probably do a bunch of tests on the eye again, maybe the ultrasound too, and then be told that nothing has changed and to come back in three months. At least that is my guess.

And I guess if nothing has gotten worse I should take that as a win. And it is, but I long for something normal when it comes to my health issues. As one doctor said, with all of my issues (cluster headaches, eye distortion, strange lung cancer, etc.) I could be a case study to med students that would fill a week of their studies.

It is nice to be an original, but there has to be a limit, right?

One thing about all of this, I continue to meet some amazing people when it comes to the medical field. The doctors, nurses, and everyone else are great - and when I stop mumbling about not wanting to be an original I can see the hand of god working through them. Yes, there are blessings, every step of the way. I just have to take my own advice and have my eyes opened to them.

So off I go, and if I can get some cool pictures of my eyes to share with you I will.\

Have a blessed day.