Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Here We Go One More Time


Since last November I have been having alot of pressure under my belt on the right side. The surgery in October was to alleviate that. It has gotten worse to the point that when I feel the pressure if I push down the area, I can make it go away for awhile only for it to return. Yesterday, I had an appointment with my surgeon who did the previous surgeries and she said (in her words) “your appendix is being a little b#@&!#d. I removed the scar tissue from it last time because it was folded in half. It appears it folded again so I am going to remove it.” She doesn’t want to because it can mess with your system but…here we go again. April 14th is the date.

Why do I mention all of that? Because since January of 2020 this will be my 7th time visiting the surgeon. After enduring many trips to the O.R. one begins to let their mind wonder what is going on. In fact I go one step further and wonder what God is trying to tell me. At this point in the game each trip to the O.R. is another step towards not dealing with feelings and emotions very well. Just when you think you are on top of things you get knocked down a few rungs.

This is the life of being human. What I can say is that I would rather do this with Jesus leading than doing it on my own. Many people throughout the Bible did not want to do what the Father has asked of them. In fact, Jesus himself said in Luke 19:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will….”. Am I comparing myself to Jesus? Not by a long shot. What I am saying is that we all have to go through the valley to reach the next mountain top. David…the one God used mightily many times had his own issues. He is up again and down all throughout the Psalms. Some of the prophets throughout the Old Testament had mountain top experiences with God only wanting something else bad to happen to them after those moments. This is normal…this is being fully human. 

As I go into this next surgery, I am reminded that many others have gone through this as well. I dare not compare myself to anyone else less I be corrected by the ones who try and “one up” me regarding what they are going through. Trust me…there are plenty out there that would tell me what I am going through is nothing compared to what they are going through. As if they are proud of it or something. Regardless, we are all on different journeys and what I am going through…to me…is a big deal. Onward I go however and pray this is it now. 

So why blog about this? Well first and foremost is in hopes that you would pray for me. Second, to let others know going through a difficult time that you need to hang in there. Your friends, family and others need you. You will get through this and once again will be back on top of the mountain. 

When a person has so many things going wrong with them it is easy to be viewed as a basket case by others. People do really well in dealing with a one off illness. If it is ongoing however, we can have a hard time dealing with it. I know this because I am not the best at caring for people with ongoing or chronic issues. Lord knows I have said things I wish I could take back. Try being a pastor dealing with your own health while trying to counsel others. Some things do not come out well. What some need to understand though is that no one (unless they are sick upstairs) would want this path in life. Trust people who are going through one thing after another when they say "I can't wait for this to be over". The emotional toll this past year and more has taken on me has been a struggle. Through it all though I know God is in control. I will get this "check engine" light looked at once again and will be biking around the city in no time. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Day 65 of 365: Doubt God?

 “Is it wrong that I doubt God?” This was the question of asked of me this evening. It was a question from someone newer to the faith but legitimately was wondering if it is okay to doubt God. What brought this person to ask this question was the fact that they do not work, has no home and is somewhat depressed. 

Whenever a person asks me these kinds of questions, I usually respond out of a heart of compassion and this case was no different. One could look at this situation and tell the person all kinds of things but really what needs to happen is to help them understand that we place a lot of troubles onto ourselves. As the old church would say “we give the devil to much credit for things we do to ourself.”

The fact is that we blame God (or the Devil) for a lot of things that do or do not happen in our life. For someone that has no money, housing, etc. I suppose the illogical step to take would be to blame God. The logical thing to do though (if physically capable) is to get a job. I am quite confident anyone needing employment these days could get hired the very same day. I have come to notice (and lived it) that if the job/money isn’t there then many MANY other things fall into place that will stress a person out BIG TIME.

God has given us all the ability to take care of ourselves. Sure there will be the times circumstances are simply out of our control but that is where he will step in. The next time we blame God for neglecting us…let’s take a step back and simply ask “am I helping myself by using the God given abilities he has given me?” 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Day 64 of 365: Family Vacation


The vacation. Something that as a pastor can be difficult to take for a few reasons. Coming from a smaller church it is always on the back of a pastors mind if they should be back in time for church that following Sunday. Who are they going to call if something happens with the building? What will people think if they go on vacation?

I remember back to 2005 when Tracy and I decided to go on vacation (out of the state). A lady from the church who is no longer with us told me “must be nice. Only rich people can go on vacation.” For some reason or another that ignorant comment has stuck with me all of these years. To be honest, I wanted to reply that “not necessarily rich but fiscally smart”.

Let me first say that vacations come in all different types of forms. From the staycation to simply driving somewhere in the state you live in for a day or two…a vacation is really a state of mind. Where you go is relative. 

The way I have been able to take my family on vacation the past two times via an airplane has been due in part to our Chase Southwest Airlines credit card. Tracy and I put pretty much all of our purchases on the credit card. At the end of the month we pay it off so there is no interest charges. By doing this we rack up frequent flier miles all year long. This past trip to Florida only cost us $50.00 in processing fees for all five of us to fly. 

Regarding hotel, once again Priceline came through. When traveling with a family of 5 it can become costly to eat out for every meal. There were two things I was looking for in a hotel and they were a continental breakfast and kitchenette. That way we could cook most meals in our hotel room after a simple visit to the nearest grocery store. If I were to book this room through the hotel’s website it would have cost me $340.00 per night. Thanks to Priceline, I found the same room for $120.00 per night. This was a win win situation. 

I have traveled so many times to Florida and other places that I have become quite savvy in doing things in a less expensive way. It has really been a blessing. With that said…yes…I will continue to go on vacations. I will continue to not answer text messages, etc. from church folk while I am away so that I can be fully present with my family. It is necessary to stay sane and to give my family some much needed downtime. 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Day 63 of 365: Put The Book Down

I will admit right away this isn’t going to be a very long blog. It is about a funny thing my dad said when he was over earlier for my son’s birthday. While sitting on the couch he began to read a book I have regarding small churches and growth strategies. 

After he read a few pages of the book he simply asked “are you reading this book?” I said, well I have begun but am not sure I will continue. My dad continued to say “I take it you have to take what this book says with a grain of salt?” He went on to tell me, I thought each church was unique and that God is going to build his church. 

You know…my dad was never a pastor but he made a whole lot of sense with his comments. I think this book will go back on the self. 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Day 62 of 365: Which Way The Wind Blows

 Earlier this week I posted on Facebook that I have a song on repeat in my office. It is called "Which Way The Wind Blows" by 2nd Chapter of Act. I suppose I could go on and on about how awesome this group was from the Jesus movement era but the proof is in the pudding. Here are the lyrics...

Feel the feeling
Say the saying
But youll still be lonely
If you think life is only for this moment
Do a doing
Mourn a mourning
Still wont get you off your sorrows
So go ahead and cry your tears
But you cant cry and look at tomorrow
You dont know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You dont know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
Run a running
Hide a hiding
Whenever you hear the truth
And you ask for the proof
You wont listen (listen)
Praise a praising
Build a building
Trying to get peace into your life
And you dont know wrong from right
Oh, wheres your wisdom
You dont know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You dont know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
Die a dying
By believing

There is something about this song that has given me a great peace. The other day I received word that my MS is no longer on my record. Today I learned that my surgeon wants to see me because of a potential complication pertaining to a hernia surgery. It is like a wind that will take you anywhere and everywhere. Regardless...I cling to Jesus and know that he is in full control. It has been said that the life of being a Christian contains mountain tops and valleys. One must cling to Jesus through it all. 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Day 61 of 365: Multiple Sclerosis...The Final Chapter? No...The End


"Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven." ~ James 5:14-15

In March of 2015 my life was changed after having an extreme "aura headache" only to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). The old pentecostal in me instantly told the church and the world about my ailment. People began to pray and support me in my journey. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of prayer. I saw my friend come back from the dead, another healed of cancer and more. That is just here at Radiant Fellowship. Growing up in church, I have countless stories of seeing healings happen. I ought not be surprised at these stories but am still amazed when it happens. 

Towards the end of last year which was very trying my smell was officially gone and it wasn't COVID related. I thought perhaps I was having an MS flare-up. You know the story with my sinuses requiring ANOTHER surgery at the beginning of this year. All was fixed though I am still working on getting my smell back.

Awhile ago I messaged my neurologist to see what they determined regarding my MS. It ends up the brain lesions they found in 2015 were iron deposits due to an iron condition I have which is under control. Today I received word from neurology that they are taking MS off my record and that I do not have it. PRAISE THE LORD!! Living with that on your mind all the time (pun intended) was very taxing. But I wanted to share the great news that I DO NOT HAVE MS! 

Thank you to those that supported me in prayer and words of encouragement. It is a blessing to have such friends of faith.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Day 60 of 365: My Finest Sermon (In My Opinion)


If someone were to ask me what my best sermon was in my 25+ years of preaching, it would probably go back to the fall of 2000. I remember that day like it was yesterday. The week prior I was away at a silent prayer retreat. The entire time God was speaking to me saying “it’s okay not to be okay. The things you deal with are of no surprise to me so don’t be afraid to talk about it.” 

After reading a book that was really influential in my life I put together a sermon talking about dealing with depression. I realized this would be a risk and I knew it would be one I would share in the “adult service” when the opportunity arose. After all, I was “just” the youth pastor and so speaking gigs in the adult service were very few and far between. I knew it was a message that I had to deliver though because the pastor I served under would often times make the congregation repeat after him “I am to blessed to be depressed”. Each time we were told to repeat it, I felt it was a slap in the face to those in the congregation that were dealing with depression. 

So that Sunday came and I began to talk about being broken before God. I gave many scriptural examples and drove the point with an illustration. After a lot of research, I expounded on how awesome revivalist/theologian Charles Spurgeon was. I read his writings, I studied his life and despite all that he did for the cause of Christ, he not only dealt with chronic pain but severe depression. This started at the age of 22. While he was preaching someone yelled “FIRE” and though there was no fire, it caused mass panic and seven people died. In fact 28 others suffered severe injuries.

Spurgeon plunged into a deep depression. It could hit him so intensely that, he once said, “I could say with Job, ‘My soul chooseth strangling rather than life’ [Job 7:15]. I could readily enough have laid violent hands upon myself, to escape from my misery of spirit.”

Through it all and despite his chronic pain he continued to preach. He loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. I was so proud of that sermon. Afterwards people were talking with me about what they were dealing with. Sometimes a person just needs permission to know it is okay to be vulnerable. We should understand this because “God loves us as we are; not as we should be because none of us are as we should be”. 

Some Christians just aren’t ready to hear that type of sermon. The next morning I was asked to step into the sanctuary so that the pastor could have a one on one with me. I was belittled and told my theology was off due to my misunderstanding of scripture. That moment resonated with me and I will never forget it. It so defined my path regarding how I treat people. Not with a heavy theological hand but with a tender heart filled with grace. Lord knows that is how God sees me and I certainly do my best to extend the same amount of grace to others. I don’t always succeed but I pray that all of us would understand that we are ragamuffins doing our best to accept and embrace the love of God.