Inspiration from Michael Card

I watched a video interview with Michael Card yesterday.  The “broccoli of Christian music” – HA!

This interview keyed some thoughts in me.  I had not heard the story of Michael’s son Nate before.  Amazing grace, indeed.  I’ve also greatly benefited from watching episodes of Michael Card’s video series on Day of Discovery (www.dod.org) on Mark and Luke.  I look forward to watching Matthew and John also.

An article I read recently on The Gospel Coalition about the “Cook” who influenced Spurgeon’s theology also reminded me of Michael Card and both the way he lives and loves the Lord, as well as the way he describes his mentor, Bill Lane, lived and loved the Lord.  This cook just lived it.  Sadly, so many who study theology so intently never meet and experience God in the way Michael, Bill, and Mary King have.

Pressure and Stress

A comment placed to an old post reminded me again of this poor blog sitting here neglected. Perhaps it is time for an update. Much has been happening. Too many trips to funeral homes lately.

One close friend’s older brother died tragically in a motorcycle crash. His life-long dream had been to own a Harley. He finally bought one late last year, after Thanksgiving. He and his girlfriend / fiancee’ picked it out, signed the papers for it, and trailered it home from Georgia. He was not yet ready to ride it. Some friends suggested he take a riding course from a local police department, and he had plans to do that early in January. Then another buddy of his said he could teach him to ride. They made plans, got together early one morning, had breakfast together at their favorite diner, and made their way out on the road.

Just a few miles away, the road curved left, and my friend’s brother didn’t follow the curve. He wasn’t speeding, but from what the sheriff’s deputy told us, he got off the pavement into some soft dirt and gravel on the edge of the road, overcorrected, and was thrown over the handlebars as the bike tumbled off to the right. He would have probably lived through it with bumps and bruises, maybe a broken bone or two, but for the fencepost that interrupted his tumbling path. He hit it squarely on the back of his neck. He was dead instantly in all likelihood.

What followed was nearly a month of working with my friend as we had time or days off to clean out his brother’s tiny travel trailer that he rented to live in, along with a much larger storage unit in which he kept his bike and most of the equipment, tools, and parts for his fledgling dental repair business. It was painful to go through all the papers and pieces of a life fairly poorly lived. He had a renewed interest in things of God and had been attending church regularly with his fiancee’, yet the detritus of his life portrayed a man clinging to solvency, prone to giving in to baser desires, and entertained by the worldly, the popular, and the vulgar.

Then as that calamity drew to a close, a sudden urgent email came in last Thursday afternoon from another close friend: “Please pray for me. I have a difficult task ahead. More later.” Prayers were offered, then as details emerged it became clear his father, a Godly man who usually sat in the pew behind us every Sunday, with whom I shook hands regularly, who always asked how my mother was doing, had left the business he owned in a beat-up van, driven somewhere north of town, pulled off the road, and shot himself with a shotgun.

He left no note, no farewell. He gave no indication of any form of depression, of terrible medical news recently received, of financial struggles too great to continue to face, of personal conflict or some secret sin about to be uncovered. He simply chose, at 69, to end his life in a violent manner sure to inflict great grief, pain, and unanswerable questions on his family and friends.

The last week has been full of organizing a group of guys our age to go over and visit with my friend, his bereaved mother, and his family; of communicating funeral plans to our group of friends; of calling him and talking to him, trying to lift his load, praying with him, still unable to really see or hear his inner condition. His condition is definitely pressurized and stressed: the care of his 78-year-old mother, the disposition of her house, too big and empty for just her now, finishing construction of his family’s new home, taking on full responsibility for his father’s business even though his father “just handled it” when it came to the accounting and many of the leadership decisions of the company.

Then there’s stress personally from the ongoing, probably 2-3 year process of dovetailing two companies and all their data together at work. We’ve crossed the first hurdle but there are probably 30 more to go, and they each get higher and wider.

And yet, something another friend mentioned at the most recent funeral stopped me in my tracks. His wife had “the more somber duty” that day–they have two sons, one of whom is autistic, and through a support group for parents of autistic children they knew a couple whose son was having to have a feeding tube put in that day. He is uncommunicative, trapped in a body that cannot express what his mind can perceive, with cancer attacking his still-growing body. Another child recently described to me, just a six month old baby, has cancerous tumors attacking his eyes. He is certain to be blind in one eye, and doctors are struggling to save the other.

So much pain and sadness pervades this world. So many questions without answers. While God has mercifully spared me the pains and sufferings I speak about above, am I faithless to wonder what calamity he is preparing me to face? Certainly we have faced calamity in the past, but God’s hand has spared us, for lack of better terms, permanent damage. I have watched many in my family die, I have seen my wife very nearly taken from me by Guillain-Barre’ syndrome 13 years ago, one month after our wedding, but God returned her to me some six months later with no trace of that horrible syndrome lingering in her body. I have held a 7 week premature son with breathing problems who spent 12 days in the NICU, and watched him grow into a fine, strong 10 year old athlete who wins medal after medal in track events and is developing a lighthouse Christian character undimmed by societal pressures.

So Lord, please make me your instrument to minister grace, peace, compassion, kindness, and love to all these surrounding me. Help me to draw their gaze toward heaven. May they see some tiny flicker in me of the Holy Flame, the Refiner’s Fire, that warms, soothes, and makes them long to draw close to its Source.

Nokia HD Horizons project

Just read about this on the Photography Blog and had to hunt up the original shots as soon as I could.  These aerial shots of Britain from a Nokia phone are compelling.  I’m more a fan of photography than the particular camera or phone or other device used to capture the photos.

http://conversations.nokia.com/2011/03/30/hd-horizons-britain-in-high-def/

http://conversations.nokia.com/2011/04/14/hd-horizons-a-second-swoop-round-britain-from-above/

Finished a book!

I finished That Printer of Udell’s by Harold Bell Wright. Excellent book, recommended to me (indirectly) by Mark Hamby of Lamplighter Publishing. I heard an interview some time ago with Mr. Hamby on Prime Time America on Moody Radio where he mentioned his “summer reading list” and one of the books was this one. What intrigued me most about it is that Ronald Reagan said it was the most influential book he’d ever read.

Alas for lack of updates!

Life has been filled with the kind of “tyranny of the urgent” again lately, however, progress is being made on a new front.  I am most pleased to report that with God’s help through Bariatrics of Alabama, I have dropped a total so far of 42 pounds, my cholesterol numbers have gone from 209 to 91(!!), blood pressure is 110/60, and my HgB A1C has dropped from 146/6.7% to 134/6.3%, all numbers which my doctor hailed as “Unbelievable!” on his note on my lab results.

How does this intersect with the meaning, purpose, and vision of this blog?  Actually it dovetails quite nicely.  You see, my reasons for wanting to lose all this weight have always been about *me*.  I’m not going to tell you I didn’t think about others, the impact my declining health and escalating weight had on them, or the potential that I might not even be present to watch my seven year old track star son grow into a knightly young man.  But the reasons were earthly, unspiritual, carnal (in the truest sense–pertaining to meat, flesh).

Listening to the January Embers to a Flame conference and a later Spiritual Foundations Seminar conducted by our Pastor of Church Revitalization, I was struck by the force of this realization:  I may grow spiritually in many ways, but my 390-pound body is a revolting temple of gluttony, not a temple of prayer, praise, and outward example of inward change.

“Glorify God in your body

“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?”

“Is not life more than food?”

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work”

“For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

I could no longer ignore this.  How can I stand before anyone presuming to teach God’s word when I so blatantly despise it in this one point?  I would be no more the Godly example or Godly teacher if I taught people giving and stewardship yet spent every dime and stayed in debt constantly and gave nothing to the church.

Food is fuel for the body.  I made it my one ambition, my goal, my end zone, my passion–that perfect flavor, that sublimest texture…I wore a path in and out of Penzey’s and took huge pride in winning the chili cook-off at work.  “Fist sized portions” the experts say… and now that I’ve seen that in action I realize most meals, most snacks, most everything I ate was in multiples of 4-8 portions’ worth.  My wife and son might have one, at the most two slices of a “large” meaty pizza.  There was none left most nights, sometimes there was one slice.  Now that I’m dining on meal replacement shakes 6 times a day, they’ve ordered pizza a couple times from the same place.  A “small” (4 slices) is too much for them.  They leave 1 or 2 slices for leftovers.  My son eats his bodyweight (52 pounds) in bananas and apples each month–I’m not exaggerating!  I’ve had three bananas and a couple wedges of apple in the last 7 years of his life, and those only came early this spring as I tried to eat more like he does.  I couldn’t keep it up, only dropped about 6-8 pounds by “not eating so much.”

Exercise was almost impossible at that weight.  My feet hurt every day, ankles were always swollen and tight, I was turning into my diabetic great aunt who hobbled around with more excuses and pains than any human had a right to.  So, the logical thought to me was, lose a good deal of weight, make exercise first possible without extreme pain, then by exercising and continuing to diet, lose more weight and get to a point where exercise could become a source of blessing and joy.  I’m just about at that point now.

Next steps are to get a bicycle that can hold my 342 pounds and that I can ride on down to 300 and below.  I hope to get to 100 pounds lost, 283.5 by the bathroom scales (390 I mentioned was on doctor’s scales with shoes and clothes), by my birthday the week of Thanksgiving.

After that, I hope to continue on down to 220 or so…not sure what is realistically my ideal weight given my build and height, but somewhere south of 240 would be best in my mind.