Thursday, December 18, 2014

Joy To The World

With the advent of the internet, it's absolutely amazing how easy it is to do research on any topic.  I remember as a boy being blessed with some World Book Encyclopedias that my parents had purchased.  As a result, I had easy access to a wealth of information about practically any person, place or thing.

Yet now, finding information is right at my fingertips on any computer, thus allowing me to learn more about general topics in life within mere moments as I make the effort.

For example, with Christmas rapidly approaching, I did some research on perhaps the most popular Christmas carol, "Joy To The World".  This beloved song was penned by Isaac Watts, although the tune is supposed to have originated by George Friedrich Handel. However, I discovered that "Joy To The World" is really not a "Christmas" carol.  Consider how the lyrics do not mention anything associated with the nativity, e.g. the manger, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, wise men, etc. Of course, it does mention "the Lord is come" and "let earth receive her king".  Nevertheless, this song is written more to describe the millennial reign of Christ which will occur after the Great Tribulation.  The Bible describes this future time as a wonderful time of peace and prosperity.  I believe there will be no sin at that time.  This will be a phenomenal, joyful, peaceful time of unprecedented happiness.

Does this mean that "Joy To The World" should be abandoned as a Christmas carol?  Of course not. I think it is certain applicable at Christmastime.  Yet, it has a deeper meaning, a wonderful time of peace on earth with Jesus reigning for one thousand years.  That will be the ultimate Christmas celebration, far beyond the simple annual festivities around December 25th.

Cancer or sickness can also have a deeper meaning, not just a depressive time of debilitating treatments and suffering.  As Joseph said after being reunited with his brothers who had sold him into slavery, " meant it for evil, but God meant it for good..." (Genesis 50:20).  As I continue to discover, there are deeper and glorious meanings in life, even beyond beloved Christmas carols.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Resting In The Outcome

Well, college football season is coming to a close soon with end of the year bowl games, championship games, etc.   I enjoy watching games, especially seeing my favorite team on the field. 

Thankfully, with the advent of cable TV and satellite dishes, there are multiple sports channels that I can view at all times of the day.  Some of these channels show replays of my team, giving me a chance to watch games again, to refresh my memory of key plays and to hear the roar of the crowd.

Basically, I only watch replays of games that my team won.   This is advantageous in one simple way.  For example, if my team fumbles, throws an interception, gives up a big play, or even falls behind at times, I don't have to worry.  I know the final outcome.  Even when victory seems almost impossible, I know which team will ultimately prevail.

Sometimes in life I feel like I'm losing.  My health is not as chipper as I want it to be.  My finances are struggling.  My house is falling apart.  And, of course, there is always the mental and emotional concerns regarding cancer.  Although I've been cancer free for years, there is a perpetual cloud hanging over me.  Will it come back?  Will my next CT scan be okay?

Yet, I am not to worry.  Psalms 139:16 says, " Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them."  In other words, I am not going to die one second before I am supposed to die.  God knows all of my days, every one of them.  Even though life may be rough at times, with God's sovereign will, I'll be around as long as I'm supposed to be.

It's similar to watching a replay of a football game.  Just as I know the outcome or final score, God knows the outcome of my life.  In the meantime, I should just enjoy the game.  Rah! Rah!


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Following The Experts

Amongst the many things I have learned in life (and continue to learn) is that it helps to follow the examples of successful people.  You know, those people who seem to be extraordinarily gifted in dealing with the rigors of living and overcoming in a remarkable way.

For example, I recently purchased a book about George Muller, a wonderful man of faith who operated orphanages in England in the 1800's.  I have heard in a sermon how Mr. Muller had some incredible prayers answered in times of challenging circumstances.  Now I'm compelled to read for myself.  How did he do it?  What was his secret?  Seeing that life continues to pummel me with challenges, perhaps it is an opportune time to learn from one of the masters. 

Hebrews 12:1-2 says,  "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." 

Obviously, I need to focus on Jesus in dealing with trials and tribulations.  But, in like manner, there is a vast army of witnesses who have gone before, cheering on believers and showing them how to survive adversity based on their experiences.  The "cloud of witnesses" mentioned in Hebrews is an Olympic term, a stadium full of overcomers propelling me forward in the race of life.

I still have got a lot to learn.  But I'm extremely grateful for those who have successfully gone on before. One day, because of their knowledge, I'll also assume my seat in the stands as I cheer on others in the race.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Prepare Ye The Way

I enjoy running on Deerfoot Parkway, a somewhat busy road which is close to my house. Although the basic physics of running involves perpetual pounding on the pavement (amazing how much stress the ankles can endure), the run is not too difficult as long as I run on the road and am mindful of the approaching traffic. 

However, when a car approaches, I must veer to the shoulder of the road, causing the run to be not quite as pleasant.  The shoulder is the typical gravel noticed along most roads.  I can run on it when necessary but frequently I land on a sharp piece of rock, causing brief discomfort.  I also have to dodge some of the debris which has been thrown along the road.

Yet, if possible, I try to run on the road, the smoothest and least obstructed path.

Year ago, I understand how this applied to kings and other royalty.  If a king was going to visit a region, every effort was attempted to clear the road, to remove all debris, to allow the king to enter the area unimpeded.

In like manner, Isaiah 40:3 proclaims that we are to "...clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God."  These words were later echoed by John the Baptist is announcing the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry.

Sometimes in life we have to deal with the rocks and debris in life in order for God to work.  Once the rocks are removed, the journey, although tiring like a long run, can be a little bit easier.  As John the Baptist proclaimed, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord."

Friday, October 24, 2014

Let Your Light Shine

I'm excited about a coming change to my work commute.  Although I'll still be driving the same route to the workplace, the journey will be a little different because of the addition of streetlights along the highway close to Deerfoot Parkway where I merge onto interstate traffic.

Why the excitement?  For years, the Deerfoot Exit has been a trouble spot with numerous accidents.  Several years ago some traffic lights were installed to lessen the danger of mishaps.  However, the exit still was tortuous due to its darkness.  Hence, one can understand my giddiness with something as simple as streetlights.

Yet, even though the lights were installed several months ago, there is still one major problem...they haven't been turned on.  Although the lights add an attractiveness to the interstate and the Deerfoot Exit, they simply aren't doing their job.  They aren't shining, a basic function of a light I guess you would say.  In addition, I read where some additional lights will be installed further down on the interstate on my way into work.  Yet, according to the newspaper source, the contractor has up to six months to complete this installment.  So, if I understand correctly, even though streetlights are being installed, the official lighting may not occur until many months away.

Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16).  Just as the anemic streetlight along the interstate, if the light is not turned on, it doesn't do anyone a bit of good.  By providing some light to others in good times and bad, their life journeys may be a little easier along the way.

Both of my books, "A Place I Didn't Want To Go: My Victory Over Cancer" and "Glorified Sickness: Honoring God Through Illness" provide ample light for anyone going through cancer or major illness.  I feel confident you'll be illumined by them if you check them out on Amazon and Kindle.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Raising The Bar

I've seen a few scattered bumper stickers around town on several vehicles.  One is a round sticker with the number "13.1" in the center.  Another is a similar sticker with "26.2" in the middle.  Although some people may not have the foggiest idea what these numbers mean, since I am a runner, I know exactly what these stickers are saying.

First of all, "26.2" is the length of a typical running marathon or 26.2 miles.  On the other hand, "13.1" is the length of a half marathon (which I ran twice in my pre-cancer days).   Those who put these stickers on their cars are obviously runners such as I and are proud to have completed a marathon or a half-marathon.

However, I saw another sticker the other day which looked very similar on a car in the parking lot at work.  Yet, in the center of this sticker was "0.0".  I looked a little closer to the sticker and noticed in small letters below the numbers "0.0" were the words "I do not run".

I guess this person, while making fun of runners, is proud to be an underachiever.  Although I don't really know this person, it could be just an example of how they have lowered the bar of success in their life.  You know, don't really strive for anything, don't really shoot for anything extraordinary in life, being content to just be mediocre.  As I heard someone say, "If you aim for nothing, you'll hit it every time."

Hence, I believe in raising the bar, not lowering it.  I may aim for the moon and not get there.  Yet, it may be amazing actually how far I might can get off the ground if I set my goals high.


Monday, October 6, 2014

To God Alone The Glory

I know it is only October, but our church choir has already begun practicing music for our Christmas performance in December.  This is not too unusual, seeing that some of our songs require weeks (perhaps months) of preparation.

One song in particular has really captured my attention.  It is a compilation of "Joy To The World" and the "Hallelujah Chorus".  I can already sense what a wonderful worshipful song this will be at the conclusion of the program.  Joyful singing accompanied by an orchestra will be a tremendous finale.

This led me to do some research on George Friedrich Handel, the composer of "The Messiah" and perhaps its most popular song, "The Hallelujah Chorus".  Born in Germany, Handel had written several operas before receiving the text for "The Messiah" from a man named Charles Jennens.  Handel subsequently wrote "The Messiah" in twenty four days, hard to believe that a work of such beauty could be developed in such a short period of time.  When he was writing "The Hallelujah Chorus", it was reported that Handel saw all of heaven before him.  I can certainly understand this, seeing that "The Hallelujah Chorus" propels its listeners into the very presence of God.

Finally, after completing "The Messiah", Handel signed his marvelous work with the letters, "SDG" or Soli Deo Gloria  (To God Alone The Glory).  Handel's signature alone would not have sufficed for this divinely inspired work.

By the time he died at age 74, Handel had composed 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 cantatas, trios and duets, numerous arias, chamber music, a large number of ecumenical pieces, odes and serenatas, and 16 organ works.

I hope I reach the finish line in life like Handel, one whose music continues to inspire.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Next Thing I Need To Do

I can tell the days are getting shorter.  Last week I went running around 6:30PM.  Usually I run for about an hour and get back to my car around sunset.  However, on this occasion, as I was still a good distance from my vehicle, nightfall was rapidly approaching.  So, I had to complete the latter part of the run in the dark, probably not such a good idea since I run on a busy thoroughfare.  In addition, I run on the shoulder of the road which is covered with small rocks and debris, e.g. beer cans, miscellaneous litter that has been thrown from people's cars, etc..  Hence, it is helpful to see exactly what lies ahead when I'm running in the dark.

As cars passed me from behind, I noticed their headlights shone about twenty five yards in front of me and this gave me a quick glance of what the road conditions were like ahead.  As a result, I went from point to point, allowing the headlights to help me continue on my run without incident.

It dawned on me that I didn't need the whole street lit to finish the run.  I just needed enough light to carry me a little farther down the road.  Eventually I made it to my car without any problems.

How true this is in life.  Sometimes we don't need to know the big picture so to speak.  We just need to see what the immediate next step is.  I remember in the movie, "Coal Miners' Daughter", there was a great line from Loretta Lynn's husband as he was trying to get her first record played at different radio stations.  He said something like, "The next thing we need to do is figure out the next thing to do".  He was learning as he went along, trying to get Loretta in the recording business.  Eventually, a trip to the Grand Ole Opry ensued and Loretta Lynn's career really took off.

So, what is the next thing I need to do?  I'm not talking about ten years down the road.  What do I need to do this month, this week or maybe even tomorrow? What are the headlights showing me for now?  If I take the immediate steps, then eventually I'll make it farther down the road.

"Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path". Psalms 119:105


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Clinging To What Is Good

Years ago I went on a mission trip to Lamar, Missouri to help build a church.  Lamar is a nice town with wonderful people.  It is located in the southwest corner of Missouri and is known primarily for being the birthplace of President Harry Truman (I saw his house, by the way).

After constructing the church, the members of our "Builders for Christ" team were invited to a restaurant called "The Apple Blossom" for a farewell dinner.  It wasn't a real fancy restaurant.  Basically a meat and vegetable type venue, but probably one of the most extravagant restaurants for Lamar, Missouri.  Yet, it was a wonderful meal, especially as we heard testimonies from those in the community who had been blessed by our work.

One man in particular wanted to give each member of the building team a gift.  He opened up a box and gave each of us a golf or working cap from the Isenhower Lumbar Company of Lamar, Missouri.  We all got to choose our own color.  I chose a reddish looking hat.  Even though I was extraordinarily blessed by the mission trip, e.g. the people, the fellowship, the work we accomplished, etc., little did I realize what a blessing that hat would be.

When I started running in 1997 as a hobby, I immediately starting running with a hat to try to keep the perspiration out of my eyes.  At some point, my red cap from Lamar, Missouri became my running hat.  As a matter of fact, I now run with this hat with every jog.  It's been washed over the years so that it now appears to look pink.  However, I absolutely, positively love that hat.  I can't imagine running without it.  I guess you could even say it is my signature hat.  When I die one day, people may say, "You know, you remember this guy.  He's the fellow who ran on the parkway with the pinkish red cap."

I guess you could say I cling to that cap.  I always search for it before a run.  Consequently, as long as the cap is in relatively good shape, I'll continue to run with it. 

Even though the cap is just temporary, I'm reminded in life of the numerous things we should cling to.  Romans 12:9 says to "cling to what is good".  Faith.  Family.  Fruits of the Spirit.  All of these entities should be grasped with extreme importance.  They are not just "old hat" like my worn out running cap.  Clinging to these things in both good times and bad will lead to joy, happiness and peace. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

My wife and I have welcomed some annual visitors this summer, although not quite as many as usual.  Nevertheless, my wife especially loves visits from hummingbirds.  She has placed numerous feeders on our property to try to entice visits from these terrific birds.  My mother-in-law has had much better luck, having tons of hummingbirds at her feeders lately.  So many hummingbirds (we call them "hummers") can be seen under her carport that they look like bees swarming around her feeders.  It is fun just to sit under the carport and hear their hum as they approach for food.  They are incredible birds.

As a matter of fact, I read where their wings flap around 50 times per minute (even up to 200 times per minute).  In addition, their diet is unusual in that they eat about 50% of their weight in sugar each day (kind of like me).

God has a special interest in birds.  In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us to look at birds in order to not be anxious.  Verse 26 reads, "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?"  Also, Matthew 10:29 proclaims how "not one (sparrow) will fall to the ground" without the Father being aware.

I heard someone say years ago, "Where do the birds go when it rains?"  I really don't know the answer to this.  Yet, God takes care of them in miraculous ways.

It's comforting to know that God has loving watchful eye on His children at all times.  In good times and bad, He's looking at us.  Meeting needs.  Comforting.  Encouraging.  Perhaps the old song says it all, "His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me."

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Overcoming Attitude

This past week I had some labwork drawn at the hospital.  I'm part of a study which tests the effects of taking Vitamin D in patients with chronic kidney disease (which I developed after chemotherapy).  I have to have blood drawn several times during the next six weeks.

As I was getting labwork the other day, I sat beside a pleasant gray headed woman who also was getting blood drawn.  She may have even been part of the same study.  Nevertheless, the nurse was having difficulty obtaining her lab.  She described how the dear lady's veins were "rolling", making the venipuncture challenging.  The nurse eventually gave up and said she would have to get another nurse to try to get the blood, calling the other nurse one of the "big guns".  Yet, what impressed me was the patient's attitude.  After she was stuck a couple of times, she seemed to endure the lab attempts with a smile.  When told another nurse would be coming to try to get the blood, she said, "That gives me a chance to meet more people."  I thought, "Wow!! What a great attitude!".  Instead of complaining about the multiple lab sticks, she saw this as an opportunity to meet more folks.

Come to think of it, a hidden benefit of having cancer or major illness is getting to meet more people.  As a result of cancer, I've met several urologists, oncologists, nephrologists and numerous other health care professionals.  I have met Brenda Ladun, a local news anchor who is a breast cancer survivor, at a special dinner where we both spoke of our experiences. There is also those whom I have met through my books.  One lady even called me one night from Palm Springs, California after reading one of my books.  I remember another woman calling me from Idaho or South Dakota (long way from where I live). 

It is said that "no man is an island."  Even though I would not wish my cancer experience upon anyone, I am certainly grateful for the many people I continue to meet because of it. 

By the way, have we met before?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dealing With Mistakes In Life

Kentucky Derby Pie.  It's been a recipe which was handed down to me to my mother.  It's not too difficult to prepare, even for someone like me with limited cooking skills.  Yet, over the years, I've carried Kentucky Derby Pie to numerous social functions. 

Recently, my church was having a covered dish supper before a special evening service.  Not wanting to come empty handed, I brought the old staple, Kentucky Derby Pie.  As a matter of fact, I made two pies the night before.  One for the church and one for me to enjoy at home.  Of course, I had to make a double recipe to accomplish this feat.  I doubled all of the ingredients, placed them in my pre-heated oven at 375 degrees, and removed them per custom after about 50 minutes. 

However, after removing the pies, something just wasn't right.  The top crust of the pies was extremely flaky and not quite as brown as usual.  I stuck a fork in both pies and knew they were done, but there was an inner sense that something peculiar was going on with what I had cooked.  I wrestled in my mind with questions like, "Did I really double all of the ingredients?" or "Did using real butter make the pies come out differently?"  Mind you, the pies still tasted okay...I still took one to church and the majority of it was eaten with no casualties.  Yet, although I couldn't put my finger on it, these pies just didn't look or taste as scrumptious as before.

A couple of days later, I had to heat something up in the microwave.  When I opened the microwave door, I saw a coffee cup with some yellowish liquid which had seeped over the sides.  Then it dawned on me.  This was the butter I had melted in the microwave two days previously to put in the Kentucky Derby Pies.  In other words, the aberrant pie mystery was solved.  Much to my dismay, I had forgotten to add the butter to the rest of the ingredients.  No wonder the pies weren't as moist as usual.  I had ultimately cooked low fat pies (without the butter).

So, I had made a mistake in cooking, gratefully not a fatal one.  I can kind of chuckle about it now.  I made a mental note to always check to make sure all ingredients have been added before baking.  Check the counter tops and especially the microwave.  Perhaps this will prevent baking mishaps in the future.

Hence, what should we do when we make mistakes in life?  Simple things (like cooking errors) should be shrugged off.  I think my aunt even told me at one time that the French Chef Julia Child dropped an egg on the floor during one of her cooking shows.  Her response was "Well, that's why we have a whole bowl (of eggs)". 

How about major mistakes that get us into major trouble?  That may be harder to address in one blog.  Yet, the simple answer is to learn and grow from them.  For example, part of my health issues occurred because I naively didn't recognize one of the seven warning signs of cancer (see my previous blog on April 4, 2013, "Seven Warning Signs of Cancer").  By the time cancer was diagnosed in my body, it was at an advanced stage, requiring major surgery and chemotherapy. 

Yet, I've tried to learn and grow from this.  I've written two books.  I publish a blog.  I try to make people aware of these warning signs and encourage others in sickness.  My errors or losses can be someone else's gain.

Therefore, by learning from mistakes, hopefully, my life will be as delightful as a perfectly cooked Kentucky Derby Pie.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Fighting Back The Tears

I recently read the book, "The Circle Maker" by Mark Batterson.  In one chapter, he describes the many inspirations for crying.  Listen to his description of tears on page 210:

"There are the tears shed by the mother of a little boy in ICU who is far too young to fight leukemia, but he fights anyway.  There are the tears shed by the father of the bride as he walks his daughter down the aisle on  her wedding day.  There are tears that stain divorce papers, and tears mixed with sweat that stream down the faces of grown men who have just won a national championship.  Then there are the tears shed in prayer."  

I haven't cried in a long time.  Yet, I remember specific incidences where I literally buckled over  in grief.  In 1997, after my mother had fought pancreatic cancer for eight months, I knew she was close to death.  I remember walking to my car to retrieve a few items and being overwhelmed with sorrow.  I knew her condition had deteriorated.  I even slept by her bedside that night and woke up frequently to check on her.  She died the next morning a little after 7AM. 

Fast forward to the summer of 2004.  My oldest daughter Bethany was about to start college in Auburn and was attending a student orientation camp.  I had a biopsy done of my bladder around that time.  As I drove to visit her and stay a couple of days, my doctor called me to inform me of the seriousness of my cancer and the major surgery I would need.  As I saw Bethany enjoy the excitement of the sights and sounds of college life, I again buckled over in grief, not sure if I would even live to see her graduate from college.  Those were difficult days.  Afterwards when the cancer appeared in my lymph nodes in 2006, the agony of chemotherapy ensued with multiple hospitalizations.  I remember trying to cry as I was being admitted to the hospital for yet another time, but yet the tears wouldn't come.  Only a few people had glimpses of the horror I was going through at that time.

However, the Bible proclaims how our tears do not escape the notice of the Heavenly Father.  Psalms 56:8 says, "You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle.."  He keeps track of them in a unique way.  Why does He keep our tears?   I'm not really sure.  Maybe He looks at our tears a divine measuring rod to show how much we suffer.  As a result, perhaps He pours out enough goodness to compensate for the amount of despair we endure, ultimately turning our mourning into dancing and our pain into praise.  Sorrowful crying has its purpose, but I would much rather be crying tears of joy.  


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Opening Doors

I was blessed to have had a book signing today at my home church, NorthPark Baptist Church in Trussville, Alabama.  I was promoting my latest book, "Glorified Sickness: Honoring God Through Illness."  I'm always excited when a door opens to share my story. I had ultimately looked forward to this opportunity for quite some time.  After being in contact with a member of our church staff for the past couple of months, I was delighted to see this book signing come to fruition.

It reminds me of a book which I've been reading recently, "The Circle Maker" by Mark Batterson.  In one chapter, he talks about how God sometimes opens doors for us in rapid fire fashion, similar to the opening segment from the old TV show, "Get Smart".  If you recall, as Max gets out of his car, multiple doors from all different angles open as he approaches them.  Some of these doors are made of steel and they clang shut after he passes through.  Yet, as part of his mission, the doors allow this secret agent to pass without difficulty.

In ministry, sometimes doors open up like this.  I recall how, in September 2013, doors for interviews on multiple TV and radio stations practically fell into my lap.  I had sent out a few benign e-mails to some TV and radio personalities.  Well, one contact led to another and then, voila, I was interviewing right and left with very little effort on my part.  It was a fun ride.

However, some doors take much more effort.  Multiple e-mails or contacts may be necessary to get an interview (or get the door to open).  Of course, praying fervently for the door to open is also a must.  Ultimately, it is God's call.  The Bible states that Jesus puts before us "an open door which no one can shut"... (Revelations 3:7).  So, if He wants the door to open, it will open in His timing. On the other hand, if Jesus closes a door, it is closed tight.  No need to try to force it is just wasted effort on my part.

Consequently, I just have to be ready when the door opens.  It's the smart thing to do.  Or, as Maxwell Smart would say, "Would you believe extremely smart?"

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Finding Your Power Source

Yesterday, my car abruptly wouldn't start.  As a matter of fact, it had a major electrical malfunction.  Although I had driven to work this past week without incident, when I tried to start it after running yesterday, nothing happened.  It was an eery sound of silence.  Everything was out on the car.  No lights would work, the emergency flashers were inoperable, the horn wouldn't sound, even the door locks on my key chain were kaput.  After I finished my run, I walked home (about 1/2 mile from where I parked my car) and informed my wife of this automobile crisis.  Why didn't I call her?  Well, I also had left my cellphone at home, adding insult to injury.  After I took a shower, I contacted my father in law (who thankfully knows how to fix everything).  He picked me up at my house and drove me to my car. 

He opened up the hood and discovered the problem almost immediately.  Even though I had checked the battery cable connections (or at least I thought I had), he recognized that the connections were definitely loose on one side.  He tightened up the loose connection and I was on my way within minutes, rejoicing that I was not facing a major car repair.

This minor incident reiterated to me how power is so important in life.  This is easily illustrated when a major storm hits an area.  As a result, what's the first thing we do when the power goes off?  We call the power company, not imagining a world without power.  We want the power back on and the sooner the better.  Living in darkness is not what we desire.  Although we might can conjure up some power by a home generator or even a little light by candles and flashlights, our strength is definitely limited.  We need power from an outside source, that is, the local power company who helps us meet the needs of our lives.

II Corinthians 12:9 relates how God's power is perfected in weakness.  Our darkest hours may compel us to contact Him and ultimately receive the power that He provides.  A great song which illustrates this is "Break Every Chain".  Listen to the wonderful words of this song below.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My Second Interview on "East Alabama Today"

I was thrilled to interview again on the "East Alabama Today" program on WEAC TV24 in Gadsden, Alabama on April 30th, 2014.  In this interview, I talk more about my cancer survival and books, especially my second book, "Glorified Sickness: Honoring God Through Illness".  You can now  access the interview at:

Friday, May 16, 2014

Tightening My Grip On Ministry

I have never been known for making quick decisions.  I have to mull through an issue for quite some time before I come to a conclusion.  I know such hesitancy has been quite bothersome to my friends and acquaintances.  Yet, the old saying, "Look before you leap", certainly has its virtue.

I remember someone telling me at some point of the importance of involving others in decision making.  This is beneficial for a couple of reasons.  Having others involved lessens the pressure of me venturing out on my own and taking a risk.  On the other hand, if the decision leads down a perilous path, then it also lessens the blame.  Put in more succinct terms, involving others shares the joy when things work out splendidly but also shares the blame when matters fall apart.

I recently made an appeal to some in my church to actively pray for me and my writings.  Essentially I was looking for those who would pray for my writing ministry in all aspects.  You know, someone to pray that my books would minister in a powerful way, that doors would continue to open with radio and TV interviews, and that I would have wisdom in writing my third book.  Of course, I also desire that my blog would touch many hearts.  I'm excited to announce that some dear people answered my appeal for prayers.  I've got a team behind me to propel me forward.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, "...a cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart".  There is much strength in numbers.  Hence, I'm delighted that I have the beginnings of a team.  Perhaps, in the years to come, I will be able to look back and proclaim that this was the time when my ministry really accelerated, when some prayer warriors got involved.

Will you share in my joy and pray for my writing ministry?  You can contact me at or send me a message in this blog if you wish to get involved.  A few more strands in my rope will certainly be appreciated.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

After The Rain

Local meteorologists had predicted this turmoil for days.  Schools closed early as the severe weather was approaching.  Members of my community braced for what lie ahead.  Then the storms hit, including many tornadoes, with much destruction of property.  Unfortunately, there were also several fatalities.  Trees toppled, homes were damaged, even an old church destroyed.  Consequently, the governor of our state made a special trip to survey the damage to provide comfort to the victims.  Yet, this is only the beginning of our tornado season.  Sadly, there may be more vicious storms on the horizon.

However, once the storms subsided, I could not help but notice the renewed beauty in my neighborhood.  The grass was much greener, the trees seemed more endowed with leaves, the air seemed crisper.  All of these changes happened almost overnight.  Although I grieve for those who suffered loss of property or especially loss of life, there is a wonder of how life feels after the rain.

I imagine many people have written of the benefits of the storms of life.  Obviously, I feel well qualified after having cancer.  Mysteriously, life has added a new beauty, a wondrous happiness, an unexplained joy after living through this storm. 

When the storms were coming, especially reports of a tornado, I found myself taking shelter in the basement.  But, since the storms are over, I can bask in the sunlight and enjoy the rebirth of nature all around.  The storm has been, at least to me, a blessing.


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 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: 

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  It can be accessed at:

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:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Being Content

This past week the Birmingham area was hit by a couple of inches of snow.  Not too much of a snowfall according to northern USA standards, but to us it was a paralyzing snowstorm as traffic snarled within a few hours.  Many people were stranded in their vehicles and had to seek shelter in any available facility.  My pregnant niece (who is due any day now) had to be rescued by a law enforcement officer off an icy road.  He graciously transported her home.

Everywhere you go there are snow stories.  "Where were you when the snow started falling?" and "Did you make it home?" are fairly common questions.  My Sunday School teacher even gave a gift card today to the person who had the hardest luck story of the week.

Although I didn't win the gift card, I also was stranded by the weather.  Working in the hospital, it became inevitable after several hours of snowfall that I was bound to spend the night.  That evening I went to the hospital cafeteria and consumed whatever hot meal was available (which happened to be pork loin, rice and carrots), borrowed a scrub suit from the operating room (I didn't have any extra clothes with me) and prepared to spend the night.  I did have a toothbrush, toothpaste and razor in my office at work in addition to a comb in my car.  Otherwise I obtained deodorant, soap and shaving cream from our patient supply cart.  I slept on a folding recliner in a patient room (in addition to three other male employees who also slept on recliners, one in the bed) and prepared for work the following day.

The next morning I ate Pop Tarts from a vending machine and drank some orange juice for breakfast before starting my workday.  For lunch, the hospital graciously sent up boxed lunches to our floor so I enjoyed chicken wings, macaroni and cheese in addition to a mixed broccoli vegetable entre'.  Later in the day, the roads cleared sufficiently so I was almost able to drive home, having to abandon my car about 1/2 mile from my home and walking the rest of the way.  I was able to sleep in my own bed before walking to my car the next morning in 12 degree weather and riding cautiously back to work.

Why do I mention all of my travails?  I write these things because I learned something from the snow.  Essentially, a paralyzing snowstorm reduces life to basic essentials: food, clothing and shelter.  I really didn't care what I wore at work as long as I had something to wear.  In like manner, it didn't matter what I had to eat as long as it was something.  Furthermore, just having a place to sleep (albeit just a recliner) was invaluable. 

The whole experience reminded me of I Timothy 6:8, " If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content."  Sometimes that is really all we need, i.e. food, covering and shelter.  Just the basics were more than enough when the snow hit.  So, for little things such as the hot meal, the clothes to wear and a recliner in which to sleep, I had ample items in which to be truly content.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pet Therapy

One of the innovative aspects of the hospital where I work is the Pet Therapy.  On occasion, someone will bring a well-trained dog to our floor for patients to enjoy.  Of course, the animals are extremely clean and very friendly.  Subsequently, only certain dogs qualify for this special role.  Yet, when one of these canines visit our area, I usually put my workload on hold momentarily to rub on the dog.  It seems to add a special joy to my day.

It is no wonder that when I underwent surgery for cancer in 2004 I asked for the Pet Therapy people to visit.  Unfortunately, they were off that week.

Yet, studies show the beneficial aspects of owning pets.  I read an interesting article about the health benefits of owning a cat recently.  For example, having a cat in the household reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and even the chance of having a heart attack among other things.

Come to think of it, except for brief periods, there have always been cats in my household, providing their soothing balm.  Even when life has been tough with financial problems, family issues, broken down vehicles, work difficulties, or even health concerns, stopping for a few moments and petting my cat has been a welcome relief.  No matter what may be happening on my world outside my home, as long as I have a loving cat to console me, then life is okay.

Albert Schweitzer also recognized the value of cats by stating, "There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats".  So, when life is tough, chaotic and stressful, I'm glad that I have a comforting feline within my reach. 

Hence, my saving grace on many occasions continues to be, "Here, kitty, kitty.  I need you." 


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Running Into The Wind

Being off from work yesterday, I ventured out running in my neighborhood yet again.  It seems like many of my blogs deal with running.  Nevertheless, it was a different run temperature wise.  It was around twenty one degrees.  Pretty cold to exercise outdoors.  However, years ago, I remember running when it was eighteen degrees so I felt running in the cold would not be that significant.  Yet, I forgot about one factor about running in the cold yesterday...the wind.

I ran on a straight street for about one and a half miles without any problems.  I had on plenty of running apparel, i.e. long running pants, long sleeve shirt, gloves, toboggan and a hooded sweater.  Then, I reversed my path and continued running for about another one and a half miles to return to my car.  This is when the northerly wind attacked me with ferocity.  You see, in reversing my course, I was running straight into the wind.  I pulled the toboggan and hood around my face as much as possible to cover up any exposed skin, especially my nose.  I agonized over the elements, longing for when I could return to the heated confines of my car.  My only thoughts were of when the run would end.  Keep going.  You'll be out of the cold soon.  Don't slow down.

Life is similar to this run.   Sometimes life is easy.  The wind if behind you.  The run requires some effort but is still manageable. Yet, something may occur where you have to run against the wind.  Life becomes a whole new ballgame.  Every step is agonizing.  You struggle to make it to an area of comfort.

My simple suggestion when you feel like you're going against the wind....keep running.  Keep pressing.  Don't stop.  Who knows?  Just as there was a warm car at the end of my run, there may be warming stations in life not too far down the road.