Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Finding Temporary Joys

Been a while since I posted on my blog.  Had an ill family member so I've had to readjust my schedule during the past week.  Also, I've had to work some overtime to fill in at work while we are waiting to fill an empty position in my department.  Bottom line:  I've been extremely busy, so busy that I have not been able to go running for several weeks (one of my greatest joys).

Yet, in my busy-ness, I've come to discover temporary pleasures.

Remember the story of Jonah?  Most people remember him being swallowed by the big fish and surviving.  As his story progresses, after he preached to the people of Nineveh, the people repented and turned to God.  Was Jonah happy about this?  Not at all.  He fussed and fumed, saying that he knew this is what would happen all along, that God is one who "relents concerning calamity" (Jonah 4:2).  Furthermore,  Jonah became depressed, wishing that his life would end.  To cheer him up, God made a plant grow behind him to shade him from the heat. 

Jonah 4:6 says, " So the Lord God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant."

It was just a plant, but Jonah was thrilled about it, especially in the days before air conditioning or electric fans to squelch the heat.   Just a simple plant but Jonah was ecstatic about its presence.

I know sometimes when I work, the job is so busy I don't have time to sit down for a leisurely lunch.  The other day, I was so busy I didn't have time to go get lunch from the cafeteria so I ate two rice cakes (which I had brought from home) and a PayDay candy bar.  Later in the day I had a Pepsi.  Not exactly a balanced meal.

Yet, in my business, I was extremely grateful for what I could eat to keep me going during the day.  It was like Jonah's plant, providing temporary relief from my discomfort. Nevertheless, a simple Candy Bar, a Pepsi, and some rice cakes meant the world to me in my distress. 


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Take A Deep Breath

I recently read some information regarding free diving.  This is a sport where divers hold their breaths and descend several hundred feet without the use of oxygen tanks.  They can wear traditional scuba gear if needed but no oxygen devices.  One man even descended a record of over 550 feet.  Unfortunately, several of these thrill seekers have died in this most unusual activity.

Yet, it's amazing how these divers descend to the depths after taking a few deep breaths before submersion.  In other words, they physically prepare their bodies for the challenge ahead.

It's always important to prepare in life for difficult tasks which are on the horizon.  Before descending, these divers take some deep breaths as if their lives depend on it....and it does.  So, a few good deep breaths prepare them for their aquatic journey ahead.

This reminds me about the prophet Elijah in the Bible. After a great victory at Mount Carmel against the prophets of Baal in I Kings 18, he went out into the wilderness and was completely exhausted.  Yet, his ministry was not over.  As a result, God miraculously provided some food for him.   I Kings 19:8 says, "So he arose and ate and drank and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God."   Hence, the food prepared him for the coming days of difficulty.

So, in preparing for cancer treatment, it's important to be ready.  Eat well since you may lose some weight during the treatment (I lost twenty five pounds during chemotherapy).  Maybe clean your house because some tasks may be difficult when chemotherapy induced fatigue sets in.  Maybe take a vacation or spend precious time with family.  

You  never know how hard cancer treatment may hit.  However, being well prepared, both physically and mentally, can prepare you for the depths below.     


Monday, October 5, 2015

Badge Of Honor

My Sunday School Class just finished a couple of lessons on Noah.  I had the privilege of teaching one of the lessons.  As I prepared the lesson last week, I became acutely aware of several things I had not seen before.

First of all, when you hear the name "Noah", what is the first thing that comes to mind?  Probably "ark" or "flood".  In other words, even though Noah was a great guy, he is forever associated with the great flood which engulfed the earth.  He probably never could escape this association.  As a matter of fact, it was perhaps a badge of honor.  Obviously those who weren't in the ark drowned in the massive waters.  Hence, it was a special blessing for Noah and his family to have survived.   As he and his family ventured out into the new world, he must have solemnly worshipped God in response to the divine grace extended to him and his descendants.   As he surveyed the water swept landscape, surely he reflected how he could have easily drowned except for divine intervention.  In response, the Bible states his first action upon exiting the ark was to offer a sacrifice.  Perhaps a simple "thank you" was not enough to express his gratitude for overcoming the cataclysm.

In like manner, as a cancer survivor, I am also acutely aware of God's grace which was extended to me.  As of today, I have survived and thrived, even though I could have easily become another cancer death statistic.  May I worship God with humble reverence in regards to what He has done for me.   Yet, the cancer label continues to stay with me.  As a matter of fact, I cannot imagine life without cancer.  It is an indelible part of my life.  Just as Noah's life went from routine before the flood to extraordinary afterwards, my life without cancer was rather boring and uneventful.  Now a new world has been opened up to me.  In many ways I detest what cancer has done to me, but yet, in a strange way, it has become a badge of honor.

In addition, I noticed something interesting regarding the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds.  With  this symbol, God promised to never again destroy the earth by flooding.  In relation to this, for special emphasis, God states this on four separate occasions (see Genesis 8:21, 9:11 and 9:15).  Yet, it is fascinating to me where the rainbow appeared, that is, in the clouds.  Whereas during the flood, the clouds or the atmosphere may have looked threatening or ominous (think of the worst storm you have ever witnessed), the sky now was peaceful with the appearance of the rainbow, a wonderful reminder of  how the fury of  the flood had been transformed to a symbol of the faithfulness of God.  It is a badge of honor for the world to see.

Cancer, like the great flood, caused great pain and suffering. Yet, after the flood waters receded, there is great joy and happiness.  Like my friend Noah,  I am overwhelming grateful to God for bringing me through to the other side.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Always Learning

There is an expression which says, "If you think you're green, you'll grow.  If you think you're ripe, you'll rot."  Essentially this means that if you think you've reached the point in life where you know it all, you'll disintegrate.  This is not a rebuttal of self confidence.  However there is a difference between self confidence and arrogance or haughtiness.  Perpetual humility is always a noble trait.

There is description of a haughty church in the Bible.  In Revelation 3:17, the people of the church at Laodicea were listed as saying, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing."  On the other hand, Jesus sees this congregation in a different light, stating, " do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked" (same verse).   Hence they thought they  were ripe.  Jesus felt they were rotten.

Although I am getting older and am looking forward to retirement one day, it has dawned on me that I will never really retire.  There is always going to be more for me to learn in the future, more ministry, and, hopefully, more inspirational writing.  I should always remain green.

So, still lots of learning to do, whether it comes from life experiences such as cancer survival or general knowledge obtained from the daily struggles of life.  Kermit the Frog sang a song entitled, "It's Not Easy Being Green."  Yet, I would much rather be green than rot on the vine.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Don't Worry

Working as a nurse practitioner, it's a question I hear from patients on occasion. Basically the question comes in many forms but the gist is always the same.  After having heart surgery and being transferred to the step-down floor where I work, a patient will say, "Is everything okay?" or "Am I doing alright?" or "Is this normal?"  Patients may feel like they are not progressing as they should.  Maybe they are a little short of breath, still hurting a good bit, perhaps having an irregular heart rhythm, whatever, thus leading to the inquiring questions. So how do I respond?

First of all,  I explain that most of their complaints are pretty common following heart surgery.  A patient may feel a little short of breath (we don't expect them to be able to run a marathon right after heart surgery...their breathing should progressively get better in the days and weeks to come).   In addition, the pain from the heart surgery operation should dissipate in time.  Furthermore, an irregular heart rhythm is fairly common.  As a matter of fact, we have multiple medications to use to treat this irregular pulse.  The majority of the time, the heart is back to its regular rhythm before a patient is discharged. 

Second, if patients continue to express extreme concern, I tell them "We'll let you know when to worry."  In other words, as healthcare professionals, we know when to be concerned about a postoperative problem.  The patients don't need to worry.  As the old Greyhound commercial said, "Leave the driving to us."  We'll handle it.

Great advice when you're in the hospital.  Also great advice in life.  I heard someone say that worry is  "assuming responsibility God never intended for me to have.".  Absolutely true.  Why worry about something that God is taking care of?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, " not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34).  In other words, God will handle it.  You may rest in peace.  Everything will work out today as God directs.

So, relax, take it easy.  No need to worry when God is in control.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Eat Something!!!

I played golf today with some friends of mine.  Since the temperature was expected to reach 97 degrees today, we decided to start around 7AM before it got horrendously hot.  Knowing I would have to be at the golf course early, I bought some doughnuts last night as a quick breakfast to eat in the car.

On the way to the links, I ate 3 1/2 doughnuts (which may be a lot for some but pretty average portion for me).  I even hesitated before eating the last 1/2 doughnut because I wasn't really hungry.  Yet, recognizing the golf game and the humidity which awaited me,  I figured I needed to eat the last 1/2 doughnut whether I needed it or not.  I needed as much strength as I could muster to attack the course.  In other words, I forced myself.

You can't live without food.  After eating, your body feels stronger and  your mind sharper.  Many years ago I was serving on jury duty.  After deliberating for several hours, it appeared our jury was "hung".  We even sent word back to the judge that we could not come to a unanimous conclusion.  Soon afterward the judge replied with perhaps the wisest words ever to a jury.  He told us to "go to lunch." Some simple words but ultimately had a profound impact.

After we reassembled after lunch, our minds were sharper and we came to a unanimous verdict.  Remember, before lunch, we felt like we were hopelessly stuck.  After lunch, we came together and rose up in one accord.  Feeding our bodies and our brains were just what the doctor ordered (or should I say what the judge ordered). 

So, going through a difficult time?  Eat something.  Have a big struggle ahead of you?  Then eat something.  Having trouble concentrating at work or school?  Stop and eat something.  Going through chemotherapy or radiation?  Then eat something. Speaking of which, I read about someone whose chemotherapy made them extremely nauseous.  So what did they do?  They set their alarm clock and ate a huge meal in the middle of the night, hours before the chemo treatment. As a result, they were able to eat properly and still endure their treatments.  Wise thinking.

Don't try to make it in life without food.  Every meal, every snack, every Peanut M & M or Dr.Pepper can make a world of difference in your mind and body.

Would love to write more but I'm getting a little hungry.  Will write again after I've been properly fed.  I'm sure you get the point.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Finding Shelter From The Storm

I met a sweet older couple several weeks ago who were camping with my in-laws.  In my conversation with them, I discovered how that they had survived the April 27th, 2011 tornadoes which struck central and northern Alabama.  Living in Pleasant Grove (just west of Birmingham), they huddled in a storm shelter while these horrendous storms killed 243 Alabamians, including three of their acquaintances.  To their credit, they had the storm shelter installed several years before because they knew their area historically was prone to dangerous storms or tornadoes.  This decision subsequently saved their lives.

It is always wise to have a shelter when the storms come, a good physical structure in which to hide.  Of course, this is applicable to all areas of life.  A financial shelter is nice to provide when the income is low, some good friends to support you when you are down, and, even most importantly, a spiritual shelter to deal with matters of the heart. 

Matthew 7:24-27 says, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

Clinging to the words of our Savior is the best shelter of all.  No matter how vicious the storm, how frightening the destruction, "the steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You" (Isaiah 26:3).