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Monthly Archives: August 2009

Of random thoughts and musings

On several occasions, a random thought has popped into my mind, and I responded, “Where did that come from?” Sometimes it is simply an odd, purely random thought. On other occasions, it is just the answer, Scripture verse, reminder, etc., I needed at the right moment. I think that is part of the Holy Spirit’s ministry to us as Christ-followers, to remind us of the things we have learned previously (John 14:26). I experienced that ministry twice in the past four days.

Since my dizziness persists, my ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) doc has started running tests to either discover what’s wrong or at least, rule out what is not wrong. This past week, I found myself lying on my back for an hour while the technicians did an MRI of my head. This afternoon, I spent an hour and a half having my balance assessed.

In the midst of a medical test like an MRI, there’s not much to do besides think. I found my thoughts drifting to Psalm 90:12, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” That’s a very helpful prayer request, especially in light of my health issues. Contemplating that verse morphed into a time of prayer for our staff and elders while I lay in the tube. My MRI tube became a convenient prayer closet.

During my balance assessment this afternoon, the doctor gave me a breather while she stepped out of the room. While I was waiting, I was reminded of the lyrics to Andre Crouch’s version of “To God Be The Glory.”

How can I say thanks
for the things you have done for me
Things so undeserved
Yet you give to prove your love for me
The voices of a million angels
Cannot express my gratitude
All that I am or ever hope to be
I owe it all to Thee

(Chorus)
To God be the glory
To God be the glory
To God be the glory
For the things He has done
With His blood, He has saved me
By His power, He has raised me.
To God be the glory
For the things he has done

(Bridge)
Just let me live my life
And let it be pleasing, Lord to Thee
And should I gain any praise,
Let it go to Calvary.

With His blood, He has saved me
By His power, He has raised me.
To God be the glory
For the things he has done.

While I may have concerns and questions about my health at the moment, I am grateful for God’s promises and his ministry to me. Thank God for the Holy Spirit, who ministers to us in the right way at the right time.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2009 in Personal growth, Prayer, Scripture, Theology

 

I admire people with great skill

Bob & Alan  Butcher showed up this afternoon to continue working on my deck. Until my my dizziness departs and my balance returns, I have to keep my feet firmly on the ground. Thus, I am grateful for their tireless efforts and generous spirits.

Watching them work reminded me of Proverbs 22:9; “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.”

 
 

Have we left Christ out of Christianity?

That seems to be the central question addressed by Michael Horton in his book, Christless Christianity: The alternative gospel of the American church. The first chapter alone contained a number of convicting, if not downright damning quotes. Here are the ones that captured my attention:

It is easy to become distracted from Christ as the only hope for sinners. Where everything is measured by our happiness rather than by God’s holiness, the sense of our being sinners becomes secondary, if not offensive. If we are good people who have lost our way but with the proper instructions and motivation can become a better person, we need only a life coach, not a redeemer. We can still give our assent to a high view of Christ and the centrality of his person and work, but in actual practice we are being distracted from “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). (p. 15-16)

I think that the church in America today is so obsessed with being practical, relevant, helpful, successful, and perhaps even well-liked that it nearly mirrors the world itself. Aside from the packaging, there is nothing that cannot be found in most churches today that could not be satisfied by any number of secular programs and self-help groups. (p. 16-17)

My concern is that we are getting dangerously close to the place in everyday American church life where the Bible is mined for “relevant” quotes but is largely irrelevant on its own terms; God is used as a personal resource rather than known, worshiped, and trusted; Jesus Christ is a coach with a good game plan for our victory rather than a Savior who has already achieved it for us; salvation is more a matter of having our best life now than being saved from God’s judgment by God himself; and the Holy Spirit is an electrical outlet we can plug into for the power we need to be all that we can be. (p. 19)

My argument in this book is not that evangelicalism is becoming theologically liberal but that it is becoming theologically vacuous. (p. 23)

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! But way too true.

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2009 in Books, Church, Culture, Quotes

 

Of the reading of books

Due to my ongoing battle with dizziness, reading is about the only thing I’ve been able to do lately. Fortunately, it is a pastime I enjoy and my wife picked up a stack of interesting books for me to wade through. Over the past 10 days, I’ve worked my way through:

  • Intervention, by Robin Cook. I did not enjoy it as much as his previous best-selling books. I think he veered away from the medical-who-done-it genre and crossed the line into a Dan-Brown-Da-Vinci-Code-attack-on-the-Catholic-Church.
  • Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within, by Robert E. Quinn. I liked his description of the need for deep change or you face slow death. I appreciated his explanation of why some corporations or organizations don’t get it and/or make the change. But I had a harder time getting into the rest of the book. I should probably reread it when I fully recover from the effects of vertigo.
  • Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc., by Kevin DeYoung. Short, practical, and very helpful. I would definitely recommend this to anyone asking the question, “What does God want me to do with my life?”
  • The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever, by Mark Frost. Fascinating story about a golf match that occurred simply to settle a bet between two businessmen. The match featured two amateur golfers–Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward, and two professional golfers–Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan. The author goes back and forth between the match itself and profiles of the golfers and businessmen who arranged it. Great read.
  • Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie.  This is the first time I read this classic “Who done it?” and enjoyed it thoroughly.
  • The eleventh man, by Ivan Doig. The story follows the 11-starting players of a close-knit championship Montana college football team through WWII. Interesting book.
  • Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World, by David Maraniss. The author paints the story of the 1960 Summer Olympics against the backdrop of Cold War politics between the USA and the USSR, and racism in the USA and other countries of the world. Very good book that combines athletic achievements, sociology, political science, and human drama.
 
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Posted by on August 28, 2009 in Books

 

Snow globe theology

My brother-in-law, Dan Bolinger, who serves as a church planting missionary in Japan, wrote an insightful post on snow globe theology. Sometimes, God disrupts our idyllic lives through trials and tests (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4) in order to develop and grow our character. When the snow settles, we have a different perspective on life. I’m glad I could provide a visual illustration for his use. ;-}

 

Hope for those who wait

I have a follow-up visit to my ENT later this morning as I continue to recover from vertigo. As I reflected on that appointment, I asked myself the question, “Self,” I said, “What are you expecting? What do you want to hear?”

Answers, for one thing. Why is this taking so long? Is everything OK? When will I get my balance back? When can I resume my life?

Beyond answers, what I want most is hope. Stuck in a loop, I want hope the end is near. Unable to fix myself, I want hope that healing is occurring and will be complete. Even more so, I want hope that God is in control and this event fits in his plan and purpose for both my life and his kingdom glory.

With that latter thought in mind, it is significant that my Bible reading this morning took me to Lamentations. I am very familiar with 3:22-23, the “great is thy faithfulness” verses. But what struck me this time were the verses before and after that section.

Lamentations 3:21-26 (ESV)
21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” 25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. 26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

God’s mercy is ever new. His faithfulness never ends. But it is available to those who wait, those who place their hope in a God who works on behalf of his people.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2009 in Personal growth, Scripture

 

Impatiently Patient

If you don’t count the fact I . . .

  • still have a roaring headache
  • can’t walk in a straight line
  • cannot make any sudden movements without wobbling

. . . then I am completely recovered from vertigo! (or not).

The doctor told me it would take 7-10 days for the effects of vertigo to settle down. I told myself it would be 10-14 days. Now that I am past the 10-day mark, I find myself increasingly impatient. I am ready to move on. In the early days of my illness, I told my daughter Amanda, “I’m tired of this game. Can I play a new one?” Her response was, “It’s like Jumanji. You have to play until the end.” Rats!

On the one hand, I have made great strides. The room no longer spins. I can actually read and watch TV now. I can stand in one place without rocking. I actually walked to the mailbox by myself yesterday, though it would not have passsed a DUI-white-line-test. I rode in the car with Carol last night as we took Jonathan to the airport to head back to school, and was no worse for wear afterwards.

On the other hand, it is the last incremental stages of restored health that I am still waiting for. I appreciate what my friend, Tim Jack, said yesterday in his timely blog about waiting with grace. “The first rule of waiting is cultivating hope in the one who is trustworthy even if he doesn’t do things on our timetable!”

When I complained to my wife last night that I wished there was something I could do to get over this, her response was, “Pray?” Though chafing with impatience, I need to wait calmly, hopefully, and yes, patiently, keeping my focus on the one who knows what is best for me, and who has never failed to care for his children.

 

This is not the vacation I had planned

I had not planned on spending my vacation medicated on the couch, but there you have it. Me, a pillow supporting my head, a book to read, and a bottle of anti-dizziness pills. Fun Times!

I had planned to take the last two weeks of August off from work so that I could rebuild my deck, which was showing far too much dry rot. My son, Jonathan, would be home, and able to help me do the heavy lifting. I had completed about 2/3 of the demolition work, removing the old decking and the bulk of the handrails. I had ordered the materials. But then vertigo took over and I found myself on the couch.

Thanks goodness for the generosity of gracious, gifted friends! Bob Butcher, a carpenter from our church, and his son, Alan, offered to come over and help with the deck. They showed up yesterday and together with Jonathan, tackled the project. In one day, the three men finished the demo work, replaced the support posts, beam, joists, and reinforced the stairway. Now all that remains is adding the decking, balustrades, and handrails. I am hopeful my balance will return soon so that I can pound a few nails of my own before the project is complete.

My son reminded me of King David’s experience in 1 Chronicles 22:6-10. David had wanted to build a temple for God. Instead, God said that his son, Solomon, would be the one to do the job. Sometimes, you have to allow others to help you accomplish your goals and dreams.

As I watched the men work, I was also reminded of Ephesians 4:16, where the body of Christ builds itself up as each member uses his/her gifts in service. Watching a gifted carpenter at work made me realize it would have taken me all week long to accomplish what they did in one day. I would have cautiously plodded along and made countless mistakes and false starts, while Bob knew exactly what to do and how to do it.

I am grateful for Bob, Alan, and Jonathan, and all their hard work. I am in their debt.

 
 

Promises made and kept

I have been thinking about marriage vows the past week.

I will be performing a wedding ceremony next weekend. In it, I will remind the couple of their roles and responsibilities in marriage. I will lead them through the process of making vows to each other. I will be encouraging them to reflect on the fact that the promises they make to one another are made in the presence of friends, family, and a God who remembers and will hold them accountable.

This past week, I have been on the receiving end of promises made some 28+ years ago. With the loss of my balance due to vertigo, I have been unable to do certain basic skills like walk, let alone drive. My ongoing dizziness has left me pretty weak and dependent. I am extremely grateful for my wife, Carol, who loves me “in sickness and in health.” She stayed with me for 7 hours in ER last Saturday. She has taken me to doctors appointments and supported me (literally) as I weaved from the car to the front door.

Outside of salvation, my wife is the best gift God has given me.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2009 in Family & Friends, Weddings

 

When your body betrays you

The Scriptures tell us that our bodies are “fearfully and wonderfully made”  (Psalm 139:14). Yet, as one person observed, when the body breaks down, sometimes it is more fearful than wonderful.

I have experienced the fearful part to a degree as I have been suffering from vertigo this week. After my stay in ER on Saturday, I went to an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) doc to find out what was going on. After testing my hearing, balance, etc., he explained that most likely I am suffering from “vestibular neuronitis,”  a condition caused by a virus that attacks the inner ear and results in vertigo, or loss of balance. There is no trigger for the condition; it just suddenly appears without warning. There is also no treatment; you just have to wait for it to run its course in about a week or so.

While I don’t necessarily feel any better, at least I have a name to put on my experience and a prognosis as to what to expect. And since I still feel like Bambi on ice after six days, I probably still have a few more days on the couch before I can resume my life.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2009 in Personal growth, Scripture

 
 
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