Friday, September 30, 2011

The Dash

In the past week I've spent a fair bit of time in cemeteries. More than I usually do for sure.  In one cemetery we were looking for a particular headstone, so we spent a lot of time looking at headstones trying to find the right one.  It was a very large cemetery and I may have gotten a little bit lost, and we didn't find the stone we were looking for that day (we went back the next day when the office was open and found it), but I read a lot of headstones. The headstones were all different shapes, sizes, and colors.  They had lots of different things written on them, but there was one thing that they all had.  They all had a dash.
The dash spanned from between when the deceased was born and when they had died.Sometimes their birth and death were listed just as years, other times with months and days in addition to the year.  Sometimes there was an epitaph, other times it was simply a name and date.  Sometimes there were pictures.  But on every headstone there was a dash.  That dash summed up more than anything else.  That dash summed up anywhere from mere hours to decades.

We all will end up with a dash.  It's just the way life is.  The mighty dash, the space between when we take our first breath and when we take our last.   The dashes all looked the same, but they all meant something different.  For my uncle, who we buried this week, his dash summed up a very full, very broad life.  2 military tours, involvement in the space project (he helped put man on the moon!), lots of work with Midwest Old Treshers (50000 volunteer hours after he retired!), Lots of volunteer work with boy scouts, many awards including awards from the president, close friendships with many politicians (including the governor of Iowa), and so much more.  To sum his life up in a dash seemed inadequate, but that's how we all end.  Our life summed up in dash.
It made me wonder and think.  What will my dash sum up? When people who know me look at my dash, what will they remember?   None of us know how long or short our dash is going to be.  We can hope for a long dash, but there are no guarantees.  Each and every day that we are alive is a chance to influence our dash.
How am I going to influence my dash today?  How are you going to influence your dash?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

So I've been rather silent lately.  My apologies to all of you who keep coming here hoping to find something new to read and then not finding anything at all.  The biggest reason was that I pretty much slept from Thursday through Sunday.  I've gotten some sort of bug that just has me down and out.  Even if I wasn't sleeping, I was just laying there, existing.   Somehow, by the grace of G-d, I was up and able to preach on Sunday evening.  I'm quite sure that if it hadn't been for his good grace, that would not have happened.  It was a very very small group Sunday, the smallest I've every preached to.  Including the elder, the pianist, and myself there were 7 people.  I was sad at first, but then remembered the promise of our Lord "wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them" (Mark 18:20).  I was blessed knowing that the Lord was there with us, even though we were few in number.  And I was blessed when people told me afterwards that they were blessed by the Word.

Tomorrow morning I head to Iowa for my Uncle Paul's funeral.  In all technicality, he is my mom's uncle, but on that side of the family, everyone is Aunt or Uncle (gender dependent) whether they are mom's cousins or uncles or aunts or whatever.  I got to see him in Summer 2010 at a family reunion.  We took a picture of the 3 (!) generations of twins in the family.  I'm so glad that we got those precious photos.
From Top to Bottom, Left to Right:  Aunt Polly and Uncle Paul, Moria and Taryn (almost 19), Arianna and Kalvin (4)

Monday, September 19, 2011


So I should be working on translating Greek (we are working through Mark 3 for tomorrow) or prepping for my sermon next Sunday, or doing readings for class or something else productive.  But I don't want to. I mean, I do want to, those are all great things to do, and sometimes like doing all of them, but right now, I don't want to.
I preached yesterday.  It was an interesting experience.  It was at a long term care/rehabilitation facility, so mostly really old people.  The last time I preached to really old people it was at an independent living facility - completely different atmosphere! It was also one of the most laid back preaching experiences I had.  We started the service and then realized that the set-up we thought was going to work wasn't going to work.  So we moved the podium, moved the sound system, moved everyone's wheelchair...and started over.  I got compliments afterwards, so I guess that's a good thing.
I'm not going to post my manuscript like I often do, because my manuscript is becoming more of a tool and less of a crutch for me. It no longer accurately reflects what I say during a service.  Sure it gives a general idea, but that's about it.   If you really want to see my manuscript, let me know and I'll send you a copy.  Otherwise, not.
My sermon theme was from Exodus 16 and about how G-d's plan is always greater than ours and how we have to trust him when we have no idea where to turn or what the deuce is going on.
As I prepared and delivered this message I realized that it spoke to me just as much as it spoke to any of my congregants if not more.  That's a cool thing about being pastor.  Frustrating at times, but also cool.  You get to preach to yourself, but it's not really you, but the Holy Spirit through's a beautiful thing indeed.  Right now I'm really focusing on the phrase ">Mine".  For those of you who struggled in math, that means "Greater than mine." Think of the ">" as a hungry alligator mouth.  It doesn't want to eat mine, it wants to eat what is greater than mine, because it is a very hungry alligator.  If you're the praying sort, I could really use prayers for clarity and guidance.  I'm feeling a call to refine my call and maybe possibly change courses a little.  Of course, that's scary.  I need to make sure it's not my plan.  Because then the alligator will still be hungry.  No one likes hungry alligators.
In other news, I feel like I'm turning into a fish.
I'm super distractable today.  I think it's because I skimped on Sabbath this weekend.  Don't skimp on Sabbath.  It's a bad plan!  Bad Joy!
Now, time for supper and back to work

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Seizure 101

This morning I did a brief seizure 101 session for one my classes, because whether I like it or not, I did have a seizure on Tuesday and people in my life like to know what to do if it happens again. (We are praying it was an isolated event!)  After class I wrote up a brief summary and e-mailed to my class, because I couldn't remember if I'd said everything I needed to say (I ought to use notes when I do seizure 101). I thought I'd post it here in case anyone needs a refresher or is just curious. Here it is:

 I find that by equipping people with information they are less likely to be anxious.
1.       I have seizures. They are part of my life, but do not define me. I am so much more than my seizures. For real. I can do anything that anyone else can do except stay up really late at night and drive a car.

2.       If I have a seizure, don’t panic. I will live. For real.
-          Stay Calm
-          Protect my head if you feel comfortable
o   Sweatshirts, coats, feet, laps, pillows are all options
-          Time the seizure. The first time you see a seizure it will seem like it lasts forever. In reality, it’s likely less than a minute
-          Try and remove my glasses and hearing aids if you feel comfortable (and put them in a safe place please!)
-          Roll me on my side after my seizure, especially if I am vomiting or sounding like I’m going to vomit. This will keep me from choking on any vomit.
-          Stay calm
-          Panic
-          Put anything in my mouth
-          Try and hold me still. This will hurt both me and you.
-          Do anything that makes you uncomfortable
-          Panic
3.        I will likely be confused and disoriented after a seizure. Please reorient me as to where I am, what happened and who you are.
4.       A seizure is not a 911 emergency unless:
a.       I seize continuously (continuous convulsions) for 5 minutes or more
b.      I have more than 5 seizures one after the other (waking up only briefly in between each)
c.       I hit my head hard enough that there is blood (not just blood from biting my tongue)
d.      I stop breathing and don’t start again (I often stop breathing for short periods during a seizure as my airways spasm)
e.      I choke on my own vomit and therefore am not breathing
If you have any questions at all, please ask me. And please, don’t define me by my seizures. They are part of me, not all of me. And hopefully you never ever have to see me or anyone else have one. But if you do, you know what to do.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Prayer Requests

This post is a list of prayer requests because there is so much on my heart today.

Number 1:
Tamara (a friend of my brother) and her son Terrence are in the hospital as 3 year old Terrence receives chemotherapy for leukemia.  The hospital is very far away from where Terrence's daddy and siblings live.  Please pray for healing for little Terrence and that G-d would somehow use this situation to bring the family to him.

Number 2:
A dear friend of mine was admitted to hospital yesterday with what currently appears to be a killer case of mono.  It had caused her tonsils to swell to a point that swallowing and breathing were difficult.  She is currently planning a wedding and looking for a job.  Please pray for strength and quick healing.

Number 3:
Many churches are getting ready to kick off their fall programming.  Please pray for the leaders of the churches as they prepare and launch. Pray also for those who will be drawn in by the fall programming.  Prepare their hearts and their minds and their souls.

Number 4:
My dad was able to stop taking some of his fever-reducing medication over the weekend and his fever didn't come back!  Praise the Lord of this step in the right direction.  Please continue to pray for a complete recovery.

Number 5:
After 138 days with any seizure activity, I had at least 2 seizures today.  There may have been a smaller one in the morning, but I don't remember.  A few classmates who know me well said that there was some definite odd behavior and motions from me and made them think seizure.  I'm quite upset and am really searching as to what my next steps should be and where G-d is calling me.  Please pray for peace and clarity and that this was a one time event.

Number 6:
I am preaching my first morning service on Sunday.  I currently have nothing on paper, nor do I have a pianist/music  leader.  Please pray for guidance and the moving of the spirit.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


“You’re late”
It wasn’t so much a question as it was a statement of fact. Not even an accusation.And not just from one mouth, but from many.
There was nothing false about the statement. I was late. It was 8:10. Normally, I’d have been home and well through my breakfast by 8:10, instead of just arriving, but for some reason hearing that statement in the locker room caused the anger to rise up in me.
Who were these people to call me out on being late? They were old enough to be my grandmothers, yet none of them were related to me. In fact, we mostly didn’t even know each other’s names. Yet here they were, calling me out on being late to the pool.
I had no formal obligation to be at the pool.  I didn't work there, didn't teach there, just showed up a few times a week to put some laps in, keep my knees happy and maybe work my heart out a little too.  Yet these women had begun to keep track of me.  They knew which days I cam and what time I came at.  And they knew that I was late.
I knew I was late too.  That morning sleep had seemed much more important than getting out of bed before the stars had gone to bed and getting to the pool.  I didn't have to be anywhere until 9:40 (technically not until 10:20 when my class started but chapel is at 9:40 and I like chapel), so I could do it...just a few minutes more...well those few minutes kept growing and by the time I'd finally guilted myself into getting up and heading to the pool, my roommate had left for her first hour class. I was late.
I spent the rest of Thursday trying to catch up.  I got home at 8:30, hardly enough time for breakfast before chapel...I grabbed a GF bagel and ate it on the way to chapel and finished it in class.  All day it was go, go, go until I finally fell into bed.
That day made me think.  Mostly about the importance of starting my day right.  I've always been told that starting the day with devotions is the best way, but I am not a morning person.  Daily devotions are important, don't get me wrong, but I doubt they will ever be the very first thing I do.  I've been reading through the Psalms with a friend, and while I usually do it pretty early in the morning, it's almost always after my swim (if it's a swimming day) or at least after I get the oatmeal on, start the water for my first hour tea and mix up my yoghurt for second hour.  then I can focus a little bit better.
The timing of my devotions isn't super important, but what I've found to be important is the routine of starting my day right.  If I start right, whether it's being on time for my swim or making time for my devos before class, it makes my whole day go better.
It amazing how something as little as that, as setting down for 15 minutes and reading scripture can put the entire day in a right frame of mind.  Or getting up and actually going to the pool "on time" can make my whole day run smoothly.
Next time I'm tempted to snag a few extra half hours of sleep before pool time, or a few extra minutes in lieu of getting up in time to do my devos, I'll remember that day and how I played catch-up all day. And I'll remember those ladies at the pool...and, I'll be on time.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Answered Prayer

A while back I wrote about how seemingly insignificant actions can have profound impacts on people, beyond what you can easily tell.  Today someone acted in a seemingly insignificant way and became an answer to prayer.
I was having a rough day.  I was having a go round with "sunburn syndrome", a condition in which it feels like my entire body is sunburnt, even though it is not.   I don't know why it happens to me, but it does and I hate it. ( It's very uncomfortable.  It's also sometimes called allodynia, for those of you who are curious).  I'd spend most the day on pain meds and benadryl (pain meds to take the edge off, benadryl to try and sleep it off), and was generally not feeling great.  The thought of going to the freezer to get something out for supper sound unimaginably painful.  I was wishing I could just order pizza or take out or something; anything that involved me not having to cook or open the freezer (cold is more painful that hot when I have sunburn syndrome). I was kinda down on myself and not even sure if I was even going to eat.
I left the house to deliver some mail to a neighbor that had erroneously been delivered to me.  As I was walking back I saw one of the neighborhood kiddos.  She waved at me and I waved back.  I followed her into the backyard and he mother invited me in for dinner. They were having the international students over to get to know them better.  She said right away that there was no pressure with the food (she wasn't expecting me and feeding me is just hard in general), but I was welcome to come visit.  I agreed and came in.  Sitting with other people is no more painful than sitting alone.  We went through the food and found some rice and fruit that I could eat, so I ate and I visited and played with the kiddos.  Afterwards, while I was helping clean up I told my friend she had been an answer to prayer.  She hadn't even known it.
G-d is good like that.
Now it's time to brave the shower and go to bed.
Good night all!