What You Learn to Say When You Can’t Speak (Or My Dance with Viral Meningitus)

Meningitis is inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges.  The inflammation may be caused by infection with viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms and less commonly by certain drugs.  Meningitis can be life-threatening because of the inflammation’s proximity to the brain and spinal cord; therefore the condition is classified as a medical emergency.”

All I know is that I went to bed Monday around noon and slept until Tuesday morning.  I also know that when I awoke on Tuesday my wife discovered that not only could I not come up with answers to her simple questions, when I did try to speak it was a random mix of consonants and vowels (although our daughter, who is 16 months, seemed to be tracking with me).

Between the time I woke up on Tuesday until I got to the hospital that afternoon, I have a few memories scattered here and there. I don’t remember getting to the hospital, but I remember being in the waiting room. I remember going back to get checked in at the ER, but I don’t remember talking to anyone or sitting in a room while they looked me over.

Over the next several hours I went through a bunch of tests and blood draws. I was asked questions my 5-year-old would’ve aced – “Honey, what is your name?” “Sweetie what is your birthdate?” “Can you tell me the date today?” Most of which I could not answer. Penny, was certain I had a stroke.  I could not read, or explain myself, the best I could do many times was to look at Penny (with tears in her eyes) and shrug my shoulders.

It’s not that I didn’t know I couldn’t speak. When I tried to answer questions, I could hear myself saying things that were wrong, I just couldn’t make them right. Question after question, each time a nurse or doctor came into a room.

Long story short, they said I was the healthiest-sick patient they had seen in a while. The tests all came back negative, and they told me I had a virus. No, not the really bad one, just a sort of bad one. With some fluids, rest, and a medley of antibiotics and antiviral medications, I began to come around. Soon after that I was able to speak again. And eventually, a couple of days later, I was able to answer the age-old question: “honey, can you tell me the date today?

So that’s it. My dance with viral meningitis. It’s amazing how you wake up one day and find yourself scrambling to make sense of the next turn in your life. It comes out of nowhere and leaves just as quick. As I think about all that has happened, I can tell you that there has been no “near-death” experience that has completely altered the course of my life.  For me, this experience was another clear reminder that life changes quickly, and it’s only when you cannot speak that you find what you really want to say.  For me, I had a chance to talk more with my Dad while he was here. We talked about all kinds of things – life, kids, wives, politics, childhood, and the church. I had a chance to seek forgiveness and speak words of gratitude.

I recently met with a man who is entering the last stages of his life. He said if he had to do it all again, he would try to finish something everyday….one thing….everyday. He said he kept putting off doing jobs around the house, making phone calls, repairing relationships, or taking family trips.  Only now, facing his last days, he realizes he doesn’t have the time to put them off or complete them.

Yes, you do have time.  But it is only the time you’ve been given today. What do you need to do with it? What do you need to try, or step out and fail miserably at? Who do you need to forgive, or seek forgiveness from, or encourage, or offer words and acts of love?  It might be a conversation you need to have, or maybe a decision that you cannot do what you’ve been doing anymore. Or maybe….maybe you need to offer your life to the God who is waiting for you to come back home — for that you don’t need to do anything at all, you just need to say “yes”.

Please don’t forget.

Today.

Today.

Today.

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I’m Getting Better

One of the benefits of spending
Time in the hospital….

image

You get socks with tred on the top….or is that the bottom….and why don’t they sell these in stores….

Anyway, thank you all so much for your prayers and support for my family. I’m getting better every day!

We’ll talk soon.

Peace

In a Relationship? Watch this Clip!

My  Wife and I were at a marriage conference recently where they showed a humorous clip from the movie, “Shenandoah”, Starring the great, Jimmy Stewart.

You can watch the clip below and then tell me what you think. I would love to hear your comments on his observations about women and the “answers” he arrives at.

Enjoy!

I Don’t Need My Wife….

I’m not sure when I first realized this. I know it wasn’t in High school.  I met my future wife our senior year of High school in a biology class (seems appropriate). I’m sure she had a great personality and a wonderful outlook on life. But at the time, all I could see was that she was wearing a jean skirt.

In high school you live or die by your ability to size up the people around you, determine what “group” they belong to, and more importantly, where you fit in. It is complicated, kind of like the Glee version of the caste system.  When I first met my wife, I determined very quickly that she was further up the “scale” than me and that to pursue her would be a risky undertaking.

So you can imagine my surprise when she asked me to be her lab partner. Because nothing says potential date and romance like looking at single-celled organisms together. But I got to sit next to her and occasionally bump my leg into hers, so I was willing to watch paint dry if necessary. From that microscope our love began to grow, first as a friendship and then in to a dating relationship. After 4 years of college, we got married, proof that with enough persistence and positive mental attitude, you can move up the scale and marry the woman of your dreams.

Now in high school you tend to swim in drama. It is like a food group to most people. You say dramatic things and dress in dramatic ways (trying to be unique of course, only to realize that you’re trying to be unique is just like everyone else’s trying to be unique).  When you take the drama that naturally exists in high school and you add a relationship to it, you end up with some amazing statements and acts of “love”. You skip meals and go without sleep. You break in to your girlfriends house (long story) and you spend all that you have.  I even wrote a love song; it had 2 verses and three chords and everything.

You also say things like, “I will just die without him” or “I cannot imagine being a part from you for even one second.” They are over the top statements about your love and devotion. While it is heartfelt, the truth is that as you get older you realize those statements are not really true.

I recognize now that I do not need my wife and that she does not need me.  I realize that I could live life without her and if we had not met, we would both probably go on to live productive (and even happy) lives. If I were not around, her world would not fall apart for good, and she would move forward. We are not co-dependents, without individual identities.

But I also know this, that from the first day she walked in to Mr. Porter’s biology class, I was lost in her smile (yes the skirt was nice too). Her eyes were captivating, and I could listen to her speak for hours.  Her heart was full of compassion, and she had this amazing ability to see past my awkward attempts to impress her and eventually find what the real me was trying to say….that I loved her with all that I knew, and that I wanted to make her my wife.

So on this Valentine’s Day, I recognize that I do not need my wife….and yet….believing that God has brought us together, I am committed for the rest of my life, to NEVER be without her.  In the space this type of commitment creates there is so much respect and joy and admiration, and beauty, and grace. I think in a way much bigger than I understand, this is the commitment of Jesus on the cross. This is a God that had no need in Himself, but out of His love and for His glory, created humanity in a self-sacrificing commitment that says while I do not NEED you, I have CHOSEN to never be without you….and to go to the ends of the earth to bring you back….to die for you if necessary.  Maybe, in the commitment we make to our spouse, we begin to reflect in a very limited way, the kind of self-giving love that exists between God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

I may not need my wife, but having committed to each other, I could not imagine a world in which we would ever be apart. I would go to the ends of the earth to bring her back, and to die for her if necessary. Paul tells us to “love your wife as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself up for her.” Having met my wife, I have been inspired to spend the rest of my life learning to walk in obedience to this command.

God is so….Predictable?

 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land,…And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.  So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”  Exodus 3: 7-10

If we are not careful, we read this story with such familiarity that we miss a life-changing conversation that takes place between God and Moses. Notice the movement of God’s description of the situation in Egypt:

“I have indeed seen the misery….” The God who governs every moment of the entire universe, comes to a sheep farmer (hiding out in the desert because of murder charges in Egypt) and says there is a group of people….my people….and I see the misery caused by the practices of their masters.

“I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers.” Through hundreds of years and thousands of tearful prayers, God has been gathering and holding each cry, attentive to every word of His children as He prepares for this day of judgement.

“I am concerned about their suffering.” The suffering of humanity draws the concern of a loving God wherever and whenever that suffering takes place.

“So I have come down to rescue them….”  For God, it is not enough to see the misery, to hear the cries, and to be concerned. God is one who, in the fullness of time, sees, hears, is concerned, and comes down to rescue.

“So now go, I am sending you….” God says to, Moses, I am getting involved, entering the suffering of my people in order to bring them out of slavery, and my getting involved means that YOU must go!

God’s plan to rescue humanity means the sending of a human, it always has….and it always will.  For a God who is free to respond to humanity any way that He chooses, this seems to be the predicable response throughout history: That wherever there is injustice and the cries of enslaved people, there stands the God of all creation, seeing, hearing, concerned, listening, and stepping in to bring freedom through those who have become aware of this suffering, and willing to allow God to use them to bring freedom. This is the message of the tabernacle, the prophets, the cross, and the upper room.

In this God is….predictable.

That’s what Jonah was saying when God spared the city of Ninevah. God sends Jonah to speak judgement to Ninevah and, Jonah, while he was excited about the message he was not thrilled about being the one to deliver it. So you have the boat, the fish, the vomiting, and then Jonah heads to Ninevah. He preaches a great “hell-far”and damnation sermon and….well….the people listen and repent, hoping that God would not pull the trigger. God sees their repentance and has compassion on them….and Jonah is ticked. Why? Because he could’ve predicted God’s response.

But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Jonah 4: 1-2

Jonah, says to God, “God, I knew it!” “I knew what you were like and I knew what would happen if I warned these people.” ” I Could’ve predicted your response, you being just so gracious and so loving and so willing to forgive and set people free” (sarcasm implied by me).

What is predictable is that God is always engaged to set the oppressed free — spiritually and physically.  This is true in Egypt, and Syria, and Greece, and Nepal and in Indiana for the Super Bowl. This is true for the over 6,000 people groups that have not heard the name of Jesus and it is true for the 27 million people in the world who are held as slaves.

If this is true, then it is no longer acceptable to simply see the injustice and slavery around us. No longer can we walk around just being aware or even concerned. These are crucial steps in a process that is leading us toward our next step: We must find ways to be actively engaged. This is the way of the Kingdom of God, this is the way of following Jesus into the world. This is not for professional ministers or career missionaries. This is you….and this is me. We have been called to live this way. And we have been called today, not when you graduate or when you settle down, for the call of Jesus does not follow our plans our class credits, and following Him means anything but “settling down”.

 The truth is that you are the physical response of God to the injustice and darkness in our world.

So where is it that God is showing you injustice and slavery? Where in your neighborhood, your community, your workplace or the world have you become aware of people being held in physical and spiritual slavery?

How are you going to be the response of God in those places?

Pray.  Think specific.  Start somewhere and take the next step.

God is NOT your Grandpa.

My God is so great, so strong and so mighty,

there’s nothing my God cannot do.

The mountains are his, the rivers are his,

the stars are His handiwork, too.

My God is so great, so strong and so mighty,

there’s nothing my God cannot do, for you!

Our 3-year-old is going around the house singing this song. She has a little squeaky voice and a bit of a lisp, and it is quite possibly the cutest thing I’ve heard in a while. We teach this song to children, but it is much more than a child’s song.  Maybe the thing that strikes me most about this song, is that the God it speaks of is not always the God I pray to.

Consider Hebrews 11:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

The writer of Hebrews spends the rest of the chapter pointing out men and women in the bible who were just like you or I, ordinary people who had faith in a great God.  But before he talks about these men and women he reminds us of a God who is much bigger than we understand.  A God who simply speaks and matter forms in all of its complexity to become the world we see around us….simply by the words of God. This is a big God, a God who is worth having faith in.

Sometimes, if we are honest, our god is too small to be the God spoken of in the bible. Sometimes, if I were honest, the God that I pray to looks more like my grandpa; you know, he’s always there to listen, and he really does care. He’s gonna fret over me when I’m done talking about my problems, and I am always welcome to sit with him, share a Werther’s candy….but beyond that there is not much he can do about my situation. Sometimes, the difference between my view of “God” and my Grandpa is very small.

Hebrews 11 begins by saying, “before I tell you about these men and women of faith, I want to remind you of the God who compels such faith. This God who takes nothing, and forms all that exists. This God not only hears your prayers, but can actually change situations and transform lives.  I want to have faith in this God. I want to live each day with a growing view of this God and a passion to expand this view to others I meet.

I’m learning that in order to continue with a big view of God in my life, I need to do 3 things.  1. I must stay centered in His Word. Much in the world around us tends to shrink a big view of God, feeding the lie that what we really need is a bigger view of ourselves and our own ability. But when I stand in the bible, my view of God expands, and helps create the faith that we read about in Hebrews 11.  2. I need a community, a smaller group of people who can remind me of God’s bigness when my vision becomes small. 3. I must be willing each day to take steps of faith, trusting in the greatness of God.  Because I put my faith in the God who speaks the universe into existence, Am I willing to pray big, expecting prayers,

am I willing to walk where I have never walked before,

am I willing to speak the truth in love,

and live as though I truly believe that God is so big, so strong and so mighty, and there is nothing my God cannot do.

That’s a Lot of Sex for One Chapter!

Ahhh It’s February, that time of year when Pastors feel a certain amount of freedom and even a certain expectation to discuss issues related to love and sex. So with Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, I thought I would do my part.

I’ve been working through the book of Genesis, rehearing so many stories I had read before. But then I read the story of Jacob, and how his family came to be, and I was shocked.

There is a lot happening in this chapter, so let me give you the rundown:

Jacob is married to 2 women — Leah and Rachel. You’re not suppose to have favorite wives, (and I always assumed you didn’t have a choice since you only had one) but it’s the bible…and Jacob loved Rachel more.

So Leah has four children and, Rachel, cannot conceive. Rachel, gets desperate and says to her husband, “give me children or I shall die.” No pressure eh?

Rachel, ends up offering her servant, Bilhah, to her husband in order to have children.

He ends up having 2 children with, Bilhah, and, Rachel, is happy.

Leah sees the situation, and that she is not bearing children, she offers her servant, Zilpah, to her husband, Jacob. Zilpah ends up having 2 children with Jacob, and, Leah, is happy.

Are you counting? We’re at 8 children.

Then one day one of Leah’s children brings home mandrakes and when Rachel sees them, she has to have them. She is desperate to have children and this root might be the answer. This is the exchange:

One day during the wheat harvest, Reuben found some mandrakes growing in a field and brought them to his mother, Leah. Rachel begged Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”

But Leah angrily replied, “Wasn’t it enough that you stole my husband? Now will you steal my son’s mandrakes, too?”

Rachel answered, “I will let Jacob sleep with you tonight if you give me     some of the mandrakes.” Genesis 30: 14-15

Yep, little does Jacob know that his wives are making deals while he is away….deals that involve sex for plant roots.

 So that evening, as Jacob was coming home from the fields, Leah went out to meet him. “You must come and sleep with me tonight!” she said. “I have paid for you with some mandrakes that my son found.” So that night he slept with Leah. Genesis 30:16

I have paid for you? Talk about your, “welcome home hubby.” But Jacob doesn’t seem to object, and Leah goes on to have 3 more children.

Oh….we’re at 11

Then we go to, Rachel. She conceives and has another son, Joseph.

That makes 12 sons (and one daughter though she doesn’t normally get included)

Can you believe that?? I mean you put this family on a stage with a studio audience and you have an episode of Jerry Springer.  One chapter in the bible, with all of the jealousy, and anger, and bed-post notching, and competition, and sex, and pain, and low self-worth that often is the human experience….and you thought there was drama in your family.

And yet, through all of the craziness found in one chapter in Genesis, you still find a God who enters the mess of their experience, redeems, it, and leads them toward His purpose. From this family God would establish the twelve tribes of Israel (sorry Dinah). This chapter tells a story greater than 2 women locked in a baby war. As in the other chapters and books in the bible, this story speaks to the God who “works all things for good” and who seeks to draw all Peoples, all nations, and even all of history to Himself and for His glory.

There is nothing like the bible….and nothing like a good love story

Happy Valentines Day everybody!