Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Thinking Outside The Box

As I have mentioned in several blogs, I am a runner and try to run at least twice a week as my schedule permits.  I do this for a couple of reasons.  First of all, it's a great time to clear my mind and pray over matters.  In addition, running keeps me from gaining a lot of weight.  Not that I lose weight, mind you.  I just feel like I don't gain a lot of weight when I consistently run.  Furthermore, by running, I don't feel quite as guilty when I frequent fast food restaurants as is my habit.

One place I visit on occasion is the local hot dog eatery.  I like my hot dogs "all the way" with sauerkraut, onions and special sauce.  On the other hand, my wife is much more picky about her selection in that she wants the hot dogs without onions.  So, when I order, I usually mention I want at least one of the dogs without onions.  But, when I get home, this is where the fun begins.  Sometimes the eatery marks the wrapper a special way to show that the hot dog is without onions.  On other occasions, there is no mention on the wrapper.  So, I have to sort through the dogs to find the ones without onions.  This takes time and is sometimes difficult to find the onions (or lack of them) on the hot dogs.  

Then, one day, it dawned on me, there was a simple way to rectify this problem. So what did I do?  I began ordering all the hot dogs without onions.  That way, I didn't have to search through the hot dogs plus I didn't run the risk of being fussed at by my wife if there were onions involved.  Easy solution.

Sometimes in life it is advantageous to think outside the box, that is, to look for easy solutions for problems.  For example, I read about a lady who had extreme nausea with her chemotherapy treatments in the afternoons.  So, what did she do?  She set her alarm clock to wake her up around 3AM and ate a huge breakfast so nausea wouldn't be a problem later in the day.  Great idea!  There is absolutely no law that you have to wait until 7 or 8 a.m. to eat breakfast.  Hence, she was able to eat well and not worry about nausea during the day.  She was thinking outside the box.

I also heard about a man whose doctor told him he needed to drink 8 glasses of water a day, sometimes a difficult request.  What did he do?  When he got up in the morning, he drank 8 glasses of water back to back.  Kind of unusual, but yet, there is no rule that you can't drink the beverages all at one time.  He was thinking outside the box.

So, when facing difficulties or unusual problems, don't give up.  There may be a way you can accomplish a task by thinking outside the box.  Be creative.  It may not be as hard as you think.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Lessons From a Preemie

My oldest daughter recently gave birth to her second son, William.  However, due to pregnancy complications, the child was delivered emergently at 31 weeks.  He remains in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and is receiving extraordinary care.  As a grandparent, I pray earnestly that my newest grandson will grow, thrive and ultimately come home to be with his older sibling.  I also pray that the health care team will have uttermost wisdom in dealing with his fragile life.  Of course, I also lift up his parents and extended family in the midst of this situation. 

Yet, dealing with my premature grandson's situation has opened my eyes to something which countless parents experience.  Perhaps the best way for me to deal with my anxiety (as I have in time's past) is by writing.  So, please bear with me as I try to gather some thoughts that might be helpful to myself and others.

In general terms, William had to be prematurely removed from his mother's womb.  That is the problem.  Pure and simple.  If he could have stayed there until his delivery date in March, life would be much, much easier. 

Hence, what are the advantages of a child being in the womb?  What specifically does the womb provide?  These thoughts may be even applicable to any situation, whether cancer or whatever difficulty in life. 

 First of all, there is protection. No matter what external extremes of heat or cold are present, the temperature in the womb remains consistent. 

In addition, there is provision.  Nourishment is provided to the fetus via the placenta.  All nutrients are provided to help the fetus grow and flourish.

Another advantage of the womb is is personal touch.  How many parents rub or talk to the kicking baby to give them sweet assurance of their presence!

In like manner, I can see how these same concepts are necessary when going through cancer or cancer treatment.  For example, when I was going through chemotherapy, I was given Neulasta injections periodically to increase my white blood cell count and "protect" me from infection.

Also, "provision" was definitely a necessity during chemotherapy.  It was a challenge to keep food down due to extreme nausea.  On the days I felt relatively well, I tried to "eat like a horse" in order to boost my strength.  Nevertheless, I still lost twenty five pounds while undergoing 3 1/2 months of my chemotherapy regimen.

Finally, "personal touch" was such a comfort.  I don't know of anyone who received more prayers while I was fighting cancer.  There were those who brought food, patted me on the back, etc.  My father even painted my porch!

Therefore, protection, provision, and personal touch are necessities.  Whether in the womb or out, no matter where we are on our life journey, it's nice to have such things to lighten our load.


Friday, November 24, 2017

The Father's Compassion

My Bible Study group recently studied two of the most familiar parables in the Bible.  The first is the story of the Good Samaritan as described in Luke 10:30-37.  As you may recall, this parable mentions a man who was walking from Jerusalem to Jericho and was attacked by robbers.  They "stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead" (Luke 10:30).  A Levite and later a priest walked by him in his helpless condition but opted to do nothing.  Thankfully, a Samaritan "..saw him...felt compassion, and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.'" (verses 33-35).

Isn't that what sometimes happens in life?  The gentleman walking down the road to Jericho didn't do anything wrong.  He was simply viciously attacked out of the blue.  A routine journey became a fight for his life.  Gratefully, the Samaritan came to his aid in a big way.  He took care of his wounds, found him a place to stay, even provided further financial assistance to make sure he would fully recover.

We all need "Good Samaritans" in our lives at times.  These may be those seasons when we may be caught in situations due to no fault of our own and end up broken and bleeding.

Skip over to Luke 15:11-32 for the account of the prodigal son.  In this situation, the son purposefully got himself in trouble.  He asked for his father to give him his inheritance prematurely (before the father had passed away) and promptly spent all of the money.  Luke 15:13 records how he "..went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living."  Starving and penniless, he decided to return to his father, even being willing to be a servant to survive.  Yet, the father welcomed him with open arms.  Luke 15:20 states, "But while he was a still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him."  The father subsequently had a big party rejoicing in the return of his wayward son.

In like manner, there are times in our lives that we may purposefully go against the Heavenly Father's wishes and end up in tons of trouble.  We ultimately "come to our senses" (Luke 15:17) and come running back to God.  Gratefully, we are met with open arms as we repent.

Hence, the common denominator in both parables appears to be compassion.  The Good Samaritan felt compassion for the traveler who had been attacked whereas the father felt compassion for the son who had made extremely poor decisions.

So, whatever situation in life, whether it involves choices which have led to our demise or even times when we are guiltless, the compassionate Heavenly Father is there to bandage our wounds and welcome us back into His family.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Surviving An Eclipse

This year there was much excitement across the United States due to a total eclipse which occurred on August 21st. Many people travelled great distances just to see this once in a lifetime event. Residents of Franklin, Tennessee, about three hours north of me, experienced a full eclipse.  However, the area where I live (just north of Birmingham, Alabama) only had 92% coverage by the moon.  Still not too shabby.  Although there was no appreciable darkness in my area, I was happy to witness this event.   I even took a picture of the eclipse over my shoulder when it reached its maximum impact in my area.  As you can see, due to the eclipse, the sun assumed a unique oval type shape (see picture below).

In further reflections upon the eclipse, I became aware of several occurrences.  For example, even though the sun was blocked out (at least, temporarily), the grass was still growing, flowers were still blooming, rivers were unabated in their flow and birds were still flying.  In other words, in spite of the transient darkness, life in the eclipse regions continued as it was before whether the sun could be seen or not.

What a glorious picture of life.  Sometimes the sun (or should I say God's watchful presence) is blocked from our view.  These are the situations where the diagnosis from the doctor is dreadful, the balance in the checkbook is pitiful, or the chances of getting a job are limited.  As a matter of fact, we are prone to call these times "dark" days.  We are not to worry, though, because God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.  Everything in our lives will work out according to His plan and His timing.  He is looking after us whether we are able to see Him or not.

Thus, celestial eclipses are a rare event.  Unfortunately, personal eclipses occur more regularly.  But, as Jesus reminds us in John 20:29, "blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

Saturday, August 5, 2017

When Life Doesn't Make Sense

It happened the other day, although I really shouldn't be surprised.  I was cutting my grass without incident.  I cut my front yard, was making my way towards the back lawn when, lo and behold, one of the wheels came off my lawnmower.  No warning or anything.  Just abruptly fell off, bringing the lawn care to an abrupt halt.  I grabbed  a few tools and proceeded to attempt to fix the problem.  Much to my dismay, I discovered it would be a tricky repair (as most things I try to repair are difficult).  My lawn mower is a self-propelled variety and the wheel had to be placed back on in tedious fashion.  I struggled with it for a while, trying to get it screwed back on.  After several minutes without success, I called my father-in-law to see if he could help but he was tied up at work.  So, I basically gave up for the moment.  The wheel repair would have to wait in addition to trimming the rest of the lawn.     Later that night, after I got home from Bible study, I again tried to secure the loose wheel.  After struggling with it for at least thirty minutes and resisting the temptation to throw my tools, I finally got the blasted thing back on.  A simple task had turned into a monumental effort with much physical and mental strain.

You know how some people have the "Midas touch", that is, everything they touch turns to gold?  Many times I feel I have an "un-Midas" touch, everything I touch turns to disaster.  The simple home repair becomes the horrific project.  The easy day at work becomes unbearable.   The casual sickness fails to respond to the usual treatment. Basically, nothing seems to go right.  Prayers are reduced to simple utterances of "Please help me, God!".

The prophet Habakkuk was also familiar with distresses.  He ministered in the land of Judah several decades before the Babylonians captured Jerusalem in 586 B.C.  He was keenly aware of a time when life as he knew it would not make sense.  Consider the richness of his words from Habakkuk 3:17-19:

"Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet.
And makes me walk on my high places."

Notice his response to his distress, "Yet I will exult in the Lord."  Even though life was turning rotten, nothing was working out like it should have, he placed His confidence in the Lord.  Perhaps, one day, it would all make sense.  Reminds me of the verse from the old hymn, "Farther Along" which states:

"Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
Cheer up my brother live in the sunshine
We'll understand it all by and by."

So, hold on, don't give up.  God has everything under control.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Touching Others Beyond The Grave

I continue to be amazed at the miracles of Elisha as recorded in the Old Testament.  I hope I'm "handling accurately the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15) in believing the miracles actually have a couple of meanings. 

Consider the last miracle of Elisha as recorded in 2 Kings 13:21 which states:
 "As they were burying a man, behold, they saw a marauding band; and they cast the man into the grave of Elisha. And when the man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up on his feet."

Wow! Elisha even performed a miracle long after he had died.  So, at face value, a man died and his body was cast into the grave of Elisha.  The dead man miraculously revived.  Tremendous story.

Yet, I think there is more meaning here, especially in relation to a person's legacy.  Specifically, as a writer, I'm impressed how influence can extend beyond the grave.  Consider the wonderful saints of old, whether it be Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody or Corrie ten Boom to name a few.  Isn't it amazing how you can read something that they said, preached or wrote years ago  and it touches your heart?  Also, just the memory of a wonderful saint can have a healing effect, even just for a moment as you consider their depth of commitment to Christ.  It's almost like you touch their bones and are revived.

So, a person's life, specifically how he or she loved the Lord or even overcame cancer or severe illness, can extend well beyond the grave.  Perhaps my books and blogs will be a healing balm to many people long after I've gone home to glory. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Praying In Moments Of Desparation

I've recently been reading through the Old Testament and have been thoroughly moved.  One story which really captivates me is the story of the man losing the head of an axe in the Jordan River while cutting down a tree. It is recorded in II Kings 6:1-7 as follows:

"Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “Behold now, the place before you where we are living is too limited for us. Please let us go to the Jordan and each of us take from there a beam, and let us make a place there for ourselves where we may live.” So he said, “Go.” Then one said, “Please be willing to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I shall go.” So he went with them; and when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, my master! For it was borrowed.” Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And when he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there, and made the iron float.  He said, “Take it up for yourself.” So he put out his hand and took it."

It's such a simple story, yet so typical of life.  Things happen.  Perhaps they are minimal at best in the broad scheme of life's occurrences, yet, when they happen, it feels like the world is caving in.  In this case, a man using a borrowed tool has the unthinkable happen as the axe head comes off and is irretrievable in the water.  Maybe this unfortunate fellow didn't have the financial means to replace it as he says in distress to Elisha in verse 6, "Alas, my master, for it was borrowed."  He was in an unexpected bind, a tight fix which was not his fault. 

Similar occurrences happen today.  You can't find your car keys.  The refrigerator goes out.  The lawn mower won't start.  The cat disappears. You wake up with a headache or a stomach virus.  Your prescription runs out and your pharmacy is closed.  The list goes on and on.

What to do?  Pray. Pray. Pray.  Even if it's just the loss of an axe head or something more trivial, pray.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, " Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

What happens next?  Sometimes the axe head miraculously floats in the water, the situation is resolved, and you can rest in peace (the peace of God, that is).