Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Enjoy The Ride

Years ago, my high school choir had the privilege of attending a choir festival in Atlanta, Georgia.  I believe we sang in the newly constructed World Congress Center at that time. 

However, the greatest joy came from our trip to Six Flags the night before.  It was one of those rare opportunities where the amusement park had closed to the public that evening but was open to all who were participating in the choir festivities.  As a result, without having to wait in line, my fellow students and I could bounce from ride to ride in very little time. For a teenager, it was great fun.

Later the evening took a most ominous turn.  Although I had ridden some roller coasters previously, my peers ventured toward the newest and scariest looking roller coaster at that time, the Mindbender.  I observed very quickly that it had an aspect I had never encountered before in a roller coaster, for example, a complete loop off the initial hill where guests were completely upside down for a few moments.  Nevertheless, not wanting to be a party pooper, I climbed aboard the coaster with my classmates, not sure of what lie ahead. 

As with most roller coasters, we ascended up a steep hill at the beginning and then catapulted downhill towards the loop.  But I really didn't have anything to fear.  We glided through the loop so quickly that I hardly even realized I was upside down.  The speed was exhilarating.  From this point, we continued into more twists and turns, even hitting a smaller loop towards the end.  This loop, by the way, was so small it made me feel like my head was caving in. But afterwards we came to a stop in the station and the ride was over.

Yet, when the ride finished, I couldn't help but remember how much fun I had experienced on this coaster, that is, the velocity, the smoothness of the tracks, the thrill of it all. 

Years later, I started riding even more roller coasters and really loved it.   As a matter of fact, one time my wife and I visited Six Flags and rode every roller coaster except one.  What made me come to enjoy roller coasters over the years was one simple concept....trust the ride. Even though some coasters ascend tremendous heights and achieve unbelievable speeds, there has to be that faith that you will return back to the station.  Everything will okay.  Just strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

Life is also similar to a roller coaster.  Many ups and downs, unexpected turns.  However, if we trust the operator of the ride, i.e. our Heavenly Father, we know that eventually we will arrive safely to our chosen destination.  As Job said, "...He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).

So, climb into your seat.  Enjoy the speed, the loops, the hills.  You may want  to even raise your hands along the way.



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Don't Get Distracted

Recently I was driving to work around 7AM.  I took the familiar route I've used for several years on the commute.  The route is so familiar to me I could possibly drive it blindfolded, more or less.  Yet, this particular morning I took an unexpected detour.  As I was getting close to the hospital, I received a message on my pager, never a good sign.  I was told a patient was about to undergo a routine operation and was missing some paperwork on his medical record.  It wasn't my fault, just somewhere during his preoperative evaluation a form had been omitted.  Hence, the operating room wanted me to submit this paperwork as soon as possible so they could begin the operation.  I told the operating room I was still about 5-10 minutes away from the hospital but would work on the paperwork as soon as I arrived in my office.  Slightly flustered, I hung up the phone and continued to venture towards the parking deck at work.

Then, I was hit with a strange sensation.  Something about the street seemed odd.  As I approached an intersection, I noticed the traffic light was missing or had been altered.  There was a sense I was in the wrong place, maybe in "the twilight zone".  Soon, it dawned on me what was going on....I had turned the wrong way down a one-way street.  Thankfully there was sparse traffic.  Therefore, I quickly turned off the errant road and finished my commute to work, still astonished about my driving miscue.

In this day and age, there are some stories about the dangers of distracted drivers, whether talking on the phone or texting.  In a brief moment, much to my dismay, I succumbed to distraction, thankfully without any harm to myself  or others.

Surely there is a life lesson here.  When going through life, always stay focused and try to keep your eyes on the road.  There is basically not enough time to take side journeys, especially when they may cause potential harm to yourself or those around you.  Don't get caught up in "the twilight zone".  Try to stay in the real world and fulfill all the dreams that God has placed in your heart.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Joy In Small Town USA

I was invited recently to do a radio interview at a country station in Ashland, Alabama to talk about my cancer survival and my books. Since it was a pretty good drive from my house (plus the interview was at 7:30AM), I decided to drive down the night before and stay in a bed and breakfast facility (one of the few lodging facilities in Ashland, Alabama).  Little did I realize what a joyful trip this would become.

Basically, to get to Ashland, I had to drive to Talladega (home of the Talladega 500, for you race fans) and go south about forty five minutes.  I made a few turns in Talladega with the help of a GPS system which I had borrowed from my in laws and eventually landed on the Ashland Highway, a two-laned road (occasionally three lanes) which took me through the country to Ashland.  Going through a wooded area, I kept waiting for a deer to dart out in front of my car but thankfully the woods were quiet.

I arrived at Brown Gables, a bed and breakfast inn which is over a hundred years old.  The owners, Ellen and Michael, had restored this facility in magnificent fashion, even after a massive fire had gutted it several years before. I was impressed by the massive ceilings, the abundance of antiques strewn about the place, and most importantly, my bedroom.  I don't know much about antiques but I slept in a bed that was raised high off the ground with high bedposts.  As a matter of fact, I had to use a stool just to climb on the bed.  I also had a fireplace in my bedroom which I didn't use.  Of course, there were all sorts of trinkets on the dressers and walls, so many special articles that I was afraid I would break something.  I was also afraid I would fall off the bed during the night, quite a distance before I would hit the floor.

I awoke the next morning and drove through downtown Ashland, past the splendid Ashland Courthouse and followed a road through some hills and valleys until I finally arrived at WCKF 100.7 FM, a country station nestled on top of the mountains.  A black dog named Isabel lovingly embraced me as I got out of my car, continuing to add to the splendor of my trip.  A few minutes later I sat down with David and Teresa, who both made me feel welcome as I began the radio interview.  At the close of the interview a couple of people called the station and received autographed copies of my books.  A local pastor's wife also called, stating she wanted a copy of both of my books for their church library.  Afterwards, I dropped by Brown Gables to pick up my luggage and headed home.

Yet, I couldn't forget the sense of wonder I felt in the radio station. After having cancer, major surgery and chemotherapy years ago, little did I realize where it would take me.  In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined ending up in a radio station on a mountain in the country.  Visiting the bed and breakfast inn also would have been improbable had it not been for cancer.

I wrote my first book, "A Place I Didn't Want To Go: My Victory Over Cancer", to describe the many difficult places I had to go due to cancer, e.g. major surgery, multiple hospitalizations, lingering effects from chemotherapy, etc.  Little did I realize the happy places I would go because of cancer, e.g radio interviews, TV interviews, visiting places I had not seen before and meeting people I had not known before.  As C. S. Lewis titled one of his books, cancer has given me "joy by surprise".


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Not Wasting Your Disease

As I have mentioned in previous blogs and my books, my kidneys were permanently damaged by chemotherapy.  As a result, I have to take a specific drug daily to help prevent further damage.  Also, I have to avoid certain medications which are toxic to the kidneys.

When I visited my kidney doctor about a month ago, I noticed an advertisement in her office about being part of a research study for patients with mildly damaged kidneys.  This study would involve being given an experimental medication and seeing its effects on kidney function.  Ultimately, the study would involve a total of six doctors' visits within a month along with numerous lab tests.  After I left the doctor's office, I contacted the study director and opted to be a part of the study.  I thought "Why not???"  After all I had been through with chemotherapy, I speculated that by participating I could help others in the future.  In other words, I did not want to squander what I had learned through my illness.  Being in the study reminded me of what I had read by John Piper.

John Piper is a pastor and prolific Christian writer.  He also was diagnosed with prostate cancer several years ago.  He subsequently wrote a pamphlet entitled "Don't Waste Your Cancer" which is very informative.  He mentions many ways that we don't take advantage of our cancer diagnosis.  He states:

1.  We waste our cancer if we don't hear in our own groanings the hope-filled labor pains of a fallen world.
2.  We waste our cancer if we do not believe it is designed for us by God.
3.  We waste our cancer if we believe it is a curse and not a gift.
4.  We waste our cancer if we seek our comfort from our odds rather than from God.
5.  We waste our cancer if we refuse to think about death.
6.  We waste our cancer if we think that "beating" cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
7.  We waste our cancer if we spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
8.  We waste our cancer if we let it drive us into solitude instead of deepen our relationships with manifest affection.
9.  We waste our cancer if we grieve as those who have no hope.
10.  We waste our cancer if we treat sin as casually as before.
11.  We waste our cancer if we fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

I would even add an additional thought:
12.  We waste our cancer if we focus primarily on our own recovery instead of ways we can help others.

Hopefully, my participation in the study demonstrated that  I was not "wasting my cancer".  Perhaps I will have many opportunities in the future to minister to others as God opens doors.  I would encourage you to read John Piper's "Don't Waste your Cancer".  It is available at:

http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Waste-Your-Cancer-Piper/dp/1433523221/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393514646&sr=1-1&keywords=don%27t+waste+your+cancer 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Worth A Try

Several weeks ago I was driving to work on a cold day.  There was a threat of snow that evening so it was somewhat chilly outside during my commute with temperature in the mid thirties.  I believe there may have been a mild rain falling also.  On my way to work I passed by the golf course where I on occasion have the opportunity to try out my golfing skills (or should I say my "non golfing" skills).  Nevertheless, I can usually see the green on hole number 5 at Roebuck Golf Course from the interstate along with other views of the course. 

What caught my attention is that the golf course still appeared like it was open for business, even though the weather was cold with a mild drizzle with more wintry conditions predicted.  The flag was in place on the green just as if the weather was optimal for golfing.  Not surprisingly, as I scanned the golf course from the interstate, I didn't see a single golfer on the links due to the miserable weather conditions.  This was about 6:30AM as I drove by.

Yet, later, and I have no verification of this, maybe someone did actually get out on the golf course that day.   He bundled up, teed up, and commenced to playing.  Since there was no other traffic on the course, he probably could have completed the round in a few short hours.  He may have shot the best round of his life.  With no one else on the course hindering his play, it may have been an amazing round.  Hence, the golf game may have been worth a try.

Sometimes in life, although it may not make much sense at the time, it may be worth a try.  I know in my own life in promoting my cancer story, I've sought national venues to share what God has done for me.  I've sent letters to Dr. Oz, "The Doctors" TV show,  "The Rick and Bubba" Radio Show (which is very popular here in the Southeast), and even CNN.  I still haven't received any replies.  Yet, who knows, one day a door may open to a magnificent publicity opportunity with these media outlets. I keep trying, keep pressing to see if something will develop as I persist.

I've heard that when you're rubbing on a magic lamp, it doesn't hurt to make a fourth wish.  Why not?  Why not aim for something which is beyond all "we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20) ?  Aiming high in life may ultimately reap greater rewards.  Hence, as my goals are attained,  perhaps I'll be able to look back one day and note how it was worth all of the effort.




  

Friday, February 21, 2014

Glorified Sickness

Can sickness be a blessing and not a curse?  I'm happy to announce the release of my latest book, "Glorified Sickness: Honoring God Through Illness."  In "Glorified Sickness", I describe the many ways God uses sickness for His glory.  Amazingly, sickness can:

S-start new ministries
I-illustrate God's power
C-compel people to come to Christ
K-knock down man's pride
N-note God's judgment
E-enhance our character or encourage others through our example
S-strengthen families
S-shuttle believers into eternity

If you or a family member are suffering from an illness, be encouraged: there is a divine reason for the infirmity.  Recognizing the benefits of the sickness may ultimately turn our pain into praise, our mourning into dancing.  Read about it in my latest book, "Glorified Sickness: Honoring God Through Illness".  Available at Amazon.com.  It can be accessed at:

http://www.amazon.com/Glorified-Sickness-Honoring-Through-Illness/dp/B00IEDJP6A/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392229942&sr=1-1&keywords=glorified+sickness

Friday, February 7, 2014

My "Heart of Health" Interview

I interviewed on February 6th, 2014 on "The Heart of Health", a Christian medical program produced by Heartwise Ministries in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  In the interview, I talk about my cancer survival and books, "A Place I Didn't Want To Go: My Victory Over Cancer", and my newest book, "Glorified Sickness: Honoring God Through Illness" (which hopefully will be available on Amazon around February 12th).  You can access the interview at: 

http://vimeo.com/86073654