Good is good, all the time.

“I am the Good Shepherd… I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8

When adversity strikes and the wolves are circling in for the kill, it is really easy to feel sorry for yourself, get angry at some innocent person, and blame God for these troubles. Why doesn’t He protect his children? We do not see the many times that He does cover us from harm. Amy Grant sings about “angels watching over me.” Jesus promised that adversity would come. “In the world you have tribulation. Take courage, I have overcome the world.” For me, this is the key to overcoming the temptation to doubt God’s goodness. Take my eyes off myself and onto Jesus. Easy to do. Hard to do.

If you were sold a bill of goods that God will bless you for following Him, and make the path straight and easy, then you need to read more of the Bible. Did Moses have problems? Did David have an easy time of it? How did it work out for John the Baptist? Then there was Jesus and Good Friday. It is easy to doubt that God is good when things go south. This is one of the favorite tricks of the enemy- to tempt you to believe that God is not good or not strong enough to help you in your trials. The heart of all heresies starts with a wrong view of God. (Tozer)

Prescription #2 (Number 1 was taking my eyes off me and onto Jesus): Find the Good. Give thanks to the Father for everything in your life that blesses you. Roses. Children. Food. A heart that keeps pumping. Wounds that heal. Shakespeare: “What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” Ann Voskamp writes about 1000 gifts, when she was feeling some of the weight that we all feel to doubt God, and she started writing down all the gifts that she saw from God’s hands. She didn’t stop when she reached 1000! It changed her for eternity.

Finally, Bill Johnson has said, “If your situation is not good, then God is not finished yet.” He didn’t leave Jesus in the grave. He will keep using the materials of your circumstance to build the new you, and your new world. This too will end.

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Freedom to love life.

I John 2:15 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

“God made me to run fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.” Eric Liddell, The Chariots of Fire.

2 Timothy 3 is well known for the last 2 verses that start: “All Scripture is God breathed…”
However, it is chock full of other strong assertions by Paul, writing to his mentor Timothy. He talks about the terrible times that are coming when people will tear others down, not obey their parents, will love themselves and money, and they will love what pleases them. As I meditated on these verses, I started to look for somewhere to hide. People who love what pleases them. I love what pleases me. I made a list: Hawaii, Robin’s love, playing games, following those (first place with the best record) Cardinals, watching relaxing TV. Then, I John 2 came to mind: “Do not love the world or anything in the world.”

Something is wrong here. God made this world and made us in His own image. We are His creation. Can I love God and also love watching sunsets? Of course, I can. But it is not that simple. We can get into dangerous territory when the things we love take God’s place. But if God is our treasure, and we have put Him first, then we are to enjoy His world, even TV! Loving God and loving things in His world are NOT mutually exclusive. Eric Liddell got it right. (sorry if you are under 50 and have no idea who he is. That is what Google is for.) We are free to enjoy Christ and His creation. We can feel his pleasure when we are enjoying the freedom that He gave us on the cross. About Lazarus, Jesus said, “Loose him, and let him go free.”

Are you free to enjoy this world and all that God has made? As a father, nothing gives me more pleasure than watching my kids and grandkids enjoy life freely. Nothing gives the Father more joy than watching His kids enjoy His creation. He is not pleased when we are so bound by rules that we are not free to laugh, and do the things that give us pleasure. Just always say thank you to your Father.

Free people, free people.
Hurt people, hurt people.

God’s Protection

“A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” Psalm 91:7
“God does protect us, except when He chooses not to.” Barry Reifel

There is a subtle under-teaching in the Church that if we follow Jesus, then our lives will be better than they were before. If we follow Jesus in this covenant relationship, then He will shield us from bad things happening to us and our family. This is not taught in Scripture, and is just not true.
It is true that our lives are better with Christ, but in the sense that He lives within us and helps us deal with the troubles that are bound to come. God protects every day of your life. Angels get bent wings because of us. But there are times that He does not protect and allows trouble to come. How are we different that others? I love the bumper sticker that says: “Christians are not better, they are just better off.” This allows us to be full of joy in spite of circumstances.

Paul teaches us to be “content in all weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.” A follower of Christ’s circumstances are no better than anyone else. Paul suffered under trouble, hardship, famine and sword. Jesus went to the cross. When a hurricane hits Florida, it takes out the brothel as well as the church.
There is a book entitled “Things Fall Apart.” Because of sin, our bodies fall apart, and things go downhill. The word entropy defines this: a gradual decline into disorder. Look at your son or daughter’s bedroom and you will notice entropy. Things move down like an escalator from order to disorder. Things fall apart. Tim Keller says that Christians have been taught the idea that “if things don’t go right, I’m going to sue!” If you are a believer, please get rid of this idea.

God is in control. John Newton has a famous line: “Everything is necessary that He sends. Nothing can be necessary that He withholds.” When you really believe that God is in control, then you believe that everything does work together for good. Not each individual circumstances. But as Keller preaches: “The promise is that taken in the totality, your life will turn out for the good. Each bad patch does not turn out for good. The whole turns out for the good.” In Phil. 4:13, Paul teaches: “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” The word “do” in the Greek means “I can take in stride”. A good translation would be: I can take in stride all things in Christ who strengthens me.” It does not teach that I can do superhero events like fly or leap tall buildings with a single bound. This teaches that because Christ lives in me, then when things fall apart around me, I can take it in stride. I can do this because I believe Christ is in control, and in the totality, these things will turn out for good.

Please share your ideas about His Protection in your life.

Recovery from back surgery

Day 1
I had back surgery on Wednesday, February 11, 2015.My doctor fused my Lumbar 3-4-5 vertebrae together. Those aren’t just ordinary screws, but $35,000 for the 6 Titanium screws. He also put in a “spacer” between each of the vertebrae which kept the sciatic nerve from being compressed. There was also some “cleaning up” of the spaces between the vertebrae. I am not sure of the official name for this.
I woke up at 5:00 pm. I had “refused” to take the Versed, which causes you not to remember any part of the surgery. My belief is that the less medicine, the better. The Versed was just one thing that I didn’t need. I woke up with my wife Robin in the room with me. I had a “button” that I could push that would dispense morphine, my drug of choice. The pain was under control, and I was comfortable laying in my hospital bed. I noticed right away that my “systems” were messed up. I was hiccupping for hours at a time. They gave me some lemons to suck on, but to no avail. My hiccups stayed with me for 48 hours. I could not pee the first night. I did try, and came away with two drops of red liquid. Blood or urine? There wasn’t enough to worry about.
I was determined to stay on top of the pain, so I set my smart phone alarm to go off every 10 minutes which would wake me up to push the button which gave me the dose of morphine. The bag of pain medication was empty at 3 or 4 am in the morning. There was no indication whether this was fast or slow. They thought it was best for me to leave the hospital on Thursday, so they changed my pain control medicine to a pill taken by mouth. They started by given me one pill of HYDROmorphone. As soon as I took this pill, my body rebelled, and I immediately vomited, but just a little. They tried another pill of Hydromorphone, and I filled the bag with vomit. Robin went down and bought a drug called Enoxaparin to control nausea.
I didn’t walk any that first night.
Day 2
This day was dominated by trying to move from the HIV drip for pain (which had run out at 3 am in the morning- By the way, I should have said to them, “get another bag of drip morphine”, rather than have them talk me into going to a pill by mouth.) As mentioned, every time that I took the new pain pill I threw up, and therefore didn’t have the needed pain medication. I would use the walker in the hospital to take short walks, just to prove that I could. I mostly slept through this day. Urination did not come easy. I drank lots of water to keep from getting dehydrated. At 4 pm, I was checked out of the hospital and driven home by my wife. This turned out easy. I was able to walk to the bathroom and urinate, but it was almost hourly. Lots of gas in my stomach which I belched up continually. My sleep was deep, but short, with the longest that I slept the first 2 days would be 2 hours and 30 minutes. My sleeping got longer during night 3 & 4. I would sleep as long as 5 hours.
Put a paper tablet by your bed or in the bathroom and record all the intakes and outputs. Mine looked like this:
7:30 am – vomit small amount into vomit bag, poor effort
7:45 am – vomit exceptionally well into vomit bag, must be some badge or prize for this output
8 am – vomit medicine
9 am – 1 pain pill
12:30 pm – 1.5 pain pill
1:00 pm – Miramax for BM
4:30 pm – 1 pain pill.
(You think that you will remember this, but you won’t!! Write it down- better still, have someone write it down who isn’t on drugs!)
My pain pill was changed to oxycodene because I seem to have that vomit thing with Hydromorphone. I tried to have no more than 2 pills of pain medication every 5 hours. By day 3, this was down to 1.5 pills every 4 hours. When you start sleeping 5 hours a night, then you have to decide whether you set an alarm to wake yourself up to take a pain pill. I found I was waking up anyway, so I would just wait for the natural wake up time, which was between 2 and 3 am.
It was a Hallelujah moment when the catheter came out! at the hospital. Look up stinging in the medical dictionary and they will show a catheter.
The Hard Part: The hardest part for me was getting out of bed from a prone position, which you had to do 12-20 times a day. There are only two ways where this is easy: (1) if you have a power lift recliner that you sleep in. The recliner then lifts your body to a standing position. (2) If you have a hospital bed in your home, then it can be rigged to have a “pull up bar” over the bed. This can be used to pull your body up to a sitting position.
If you do not have either of these options, then your only choice is to have someone help you move from a sleeping position to a sitting position or to do it by yourself. My bed was higher at about – 48 inches high-/ So once that I got into a sitting position, I could get to a standing position by leaning slightly forward with my hands on my thighs and sliding off the bed onto my feet. Then I would worked my hands up my leg till I was in a standing position. The first few days, I used a walker to help me get “up.”
Getting from a prone position to a sitting position: This is hard because (to state the obvious) you have a 6 inch incision on your spine which has screws and other hardware stuck in there. I tried to sleep on my left side because I had less pain on my right spine area. I got to a sitting position, by slowing getting my feet out from under the covers, taking the pillow out from between my knees (putting a pillow between your knees seems to align your back properly), and then lifting my head and upper body so that I could get up on my left elbow. All the while, I am pushing down with my right arm with fingers extended giving me that crucial two inches that got me on my elbow. From this position, I could drop my feet towards the floor and sit up.

Day 3
This day is remembered because I took my first shower. My son came over to help me because it was a bonding thing to do. I could manage the shower just fine but not the toweling off my back side. It is worth the effort to get clean.
Day 3 is remembered for urinating without pain for the first time, and often! At least every 90 minutes. I felt strong and would walk around the house 15 minutes of every hour that I wasn’t sleeping. I walked so much on day 3 & 4, that I had a “down” day on day 5, needing to sleep the whole morning before I felt better. But still I felt good enough day 4 & 5 to take a short walk around the block. I guess there is nothing better than walking for the healing of your back, so might as well get to it.
I got bored lots on this day. Hard to believe that people WANT to be on drugs. Ugh! Your mind is only half engaged, and it’s hard to keep track of things, or shows that are on TV. My wife Robin got lots of laughs at me as I inquired about what was going on in that last 15 minutes of that TV show.
I was motivated to read, but I just couldn’t get it done, except for my daily devotions. It was nice reading my emails and getting encouragements from others that they were thinking and praying for me. “You reap what you sow”, Jesus said. So if you inform folks with an email or Facebook or a tweet, then you will hear back from people.
Day 6 to 21
Patience is the key on these days. You will know if you overdid it the day before because the next day you will feel poorly, and need to stay in bed and rest and sleep. It’s good to find one thing that has improved from yesterday: a bowel movement!, a BM without straining!, sleeping through the night, taking less pain medication, walking farther, no longer have to wear the brace in bed, the pain is no where close to the pain I had before surgery, I went to a movie and sat for 2 hours!
I slowly weened myself off of the pain medication, taking one pill every 3 hours, then every 4 up to every 9 or 10 hours. Every patient is different, but for me I was trying to do without the pain med after 4 weeks. As I started walking outside, I noticed a pain in both hips. This was an ache as opposed to a sharp pain, but it got worse and worse. I finally called the doctor’s office and they said this is quite common after surgery, and the best thing for it was Salonpas Pain Relief Patches that you can buy at any Walgreens or Wal-Mart. The other things to try is heat and ice.
Walking seems to help the bone to grow in your back, something about the womp, womp, womp of the feet hitting the pavement builds bone. So walk as much as you can.
Day 40: I finally get off my pain pills.
Day 45: I slept through the night for the first time!
Please put down your experiences as they might help someone else, since each of us seem have unique times of it with a back operation. What was hardest for you? What device or habit helped you to get through this?

Hands Up. Don’t Shoot.

Genesis 32:24: “But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.”

This tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri reminds me of our own struggles with the Almighty God. We are clearly outgunned when it comes to the Eternal One, but through persistence we can win the day. Jacob was able to wrestle with the Lord all night long because of the loving kindness of the Lord. At any moment, the battle could have ended. Was this arm in arm wrestling something that Jesus enjoyed? From afar, it would look like an extended hug. It is only the tenderness in Jesus that we find answers to our wrestling with God. Why did you not heal my Dad? Why is that marriage not working? You told me to move here, why all this pain?
A hospice chaplain tells of a patient who needed to see him because he was in great emotional distress. He was in the last stages of cancer and was feeling very guilty because he had spent the previous night ranting, raving and swearing at God. The following morning he felt dreadful. He imagined that his chance of eternal life had now been lost forever, and that God would never forgive one who had so cursed and abused Him. The chaplain asked the patient, “What do you think is the opposite of love?” The man replied: “Hate.”
Very wisely, the chaplain replied, “No the opposite of love is indifference. You have not been indifferent to God, or you would never have spent the night talking to him, honestly telling him what was in your heart and mind. Do you know the Christian word that describes what you have been doing? The word is ‘prayer’. You have spent the night praying.” (As quoted by Phillip Yancey in Prayer: Does It Make a Difference? page 100)
There are no good answers to the mess in Ferguson. For our own unanswered prayers the answer is NOT to stop praying, or stop having faith in a God that would allow this. It is to imitate Jacob (who got a new name which translates to “God-wrestler”) and say to God, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” But we may go through the rest of our lives with a limp.

Gratitude

Gratitude Thank you, God, for little things That often come our way. The things we take for granted but don’t mention when we pray. The unexpected courtesy, the thoughtful, kindly deed. A hand reached out to help us in the time of sudden need. Oh make us more aware, dear God, of little daily graces. […]

Medicare B and D

Medicare- for those who are moving from full time to part time work.

1. You are being “forced” to get Medicare because your company is canceling your insurance because you are not full time. Obama Care moved the date from January 1, 2014 to January 1, 2015 for getting your employee to pay for insurance if you are working only 30 hours a week. If you work full time, then you are okay.

2. Apply for Medicare B, three month before you are going to need it either by going to the Social Security office, by calling, or by going on line. Then, set another appointment with an insurance guy who can sell you the supplements.

3. They will deduct about $104/mo (more next year) from your SS check for Medicare B, which covers medical. Medicare A covers hospital stays.

4. Make sure Medicare or the folks at the SS office know that you don’t need to start Med B until the first day of going part time.

Two Routes to Go: Supplements and Advantage

1. Supplements (he likes Regents/Blue Shield)

  • for medical bills, M pays 80% and Supplement pays 20%
  • Advantages: We can pick Drs that we want; The supplements works in all 50 states for Washington (this is different in different states); if a supplement goes down in price, then we can get the new price, You can always change from supplement to Advantage, but not the other way around, I don’t have to wait till the enrollment time, about August thru September;
  • The cost is about $170/mo
  • The disadvantage: it’s more expensive; and no prescription so you need to buy Med D or a supplement for prescriptions
  • You give the insurance company a list of prescriptions, and they will find the cheapest supplement
  • With just aspirin and Celebrex, it will be cheap, $20/ mo.
  • If I don’t have a prescription supplement, then Medicare penalizes me for some reason
  • After the drug plan goes over $2940 in a year, then I start paying at 100%. This is hard to do this much medicine.
  • 80% don’t spend this limit, called the doughnut hole. The hole is shrinking 7% a year and will soon be gone unless Congress changes the rules.

2. Advantage

  • Was formed in 2001-2 to see if private practice could do as well as government. Apparently, the answer is yes. Advantage Plan was to take pressure off the Medicare spending.
  • The people who chose these are generally healthy, it’s cheaper
  • They work like insurance with deductible and co-pay. Many plans include the Prescription piece
  • costs about $100/mo
  • Disadvantages: There’s a doctor’s list and you chose from it;
  • with Supplement, Medicare is paying my bill; my Advantage, the insurance company is paying my bills, and can get complicated.

3. General =

  • Medicare gives everyone a onetime do over. You can change from Advantage to supplement in the first 12 months.
  • You can change in the first 12 months
  • Again, you can always go from Supplement to Advantage
  • An operation like a knee replacement, will be cheaper with the supplement
  • Hard to find a good Dental Plan/ He suggests calling Washington Delta Dental directly (don’t go through him or another broker) and they will cut me a deal similar to YL’s insurance.

4. Costs, once again:

a. Medicare B                    $104/mo in 2013

b. Supplement                  $170/mo in 2013

or

Advantage                        $99/mo in 2013

c. Medicare D                    $20/mo in 2013 with minimal prescriptions (This is not needed with Advantage)