Category Archives: Life’s Blessings

Able To

I find it is often the case that God’s timing simply amazes me. I can go through life ignoring this fact and counting everything to chance, or I can acknowledge that God has his hand on every minute detail of my life.  Many times, I simply miss the connection between God’s providence and my current situation.  I don’t see His hand in it and therefor I conclude that my life is just rolling along like a ball in a slot machine, bouncing with wild abandon.  I can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that God would bring me to the ups and downs that fill my life in order to show me my weakness and draw me to His will.  I think to myself that this sequence of events is just a coincidence – surely God could not have brought them about, or been in control through it all.  But then I look back and see how carefully He brought them together to help me understand that I need Him more than I know.

This truth became so evident for me over the past two months. On June 22 I received a phone call from a lady named Anna.  She explained to me that she was a counselor working with a company called Able To.  This company had contracted with my Medicare Advantage provider to bring their program, free of charge, to a select group of its members.  I had been randomly selected out of the thousands who are on this plan.  The program consisted of eight weeks working with both a counselor and a coach to help me look into myself and understand more about why I do the things I do and make the decisions I make.  These sessions would each be 45 minutes long, and the counseling session would always precede the coaching session.  I took very little time to determine I wanted to embark on this journey with them and we set up a schedule.  I would talk with Anna every Tuesday morning for the counseling session and Iesha every Thursday for the coaching session.  Anna did an assessment of my current situation and the results were positive, which I figured, but showed a level of anxiety that I was surprised at.  We would start the following week, June 29.

The first week was goal setting.  What goals did I have for this program, and for my life in general? Well, I am all for goal setting, so I set a bunch of them.  Lose 10 pounds during the eight-week program, walk 12,500 steps a day, read an hour a day, turn off all electronics an hour before bed, eat healthier meals, get 7 hours sleep a night, adjust my schedule to be more like my wife’s.  All good goals.  We also discussed things that trigger different moods in my life.  What caused me to get upset when I did?  Why did I get discouraged over certain things?  Was I feeling depressed or anxious over situations in my life?  I am a very positive person and could not get a sense of these particular emotions, but the discussion was interesting.  The coaching session reinforced these things but also led me through some breathing exercises that would help relax me if any anxious moments arose.  I cam out of those first two sessions knowing I was going to enjoy this program and headed out to reach my goals.

All went well for the first two weeks.  I was losing the weight (5 pounds in two weeks), I was walking over 15,000 steps a day, sleeping better, turning things off and generally rolling along.  But then July 12th came along.  I woke up that Tuesday with no drive, no vigor, which is so unlike me. I just didn’t want to do anything – I was tired.  I could not identify anything wrong as far as physical symptoms except just a slight fever, I talked to Anna about it, and my wife was very sympathetic.  Speaking of my wife, she learned that her workplace was moving 39 miles away in Mid-July, and she was not going to commute.  At this time, we were also in discussions at out church about closing the doors due to lack of attendance and finances.  There was a lot going on in our lives.  But this tiredness persisted Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, when I finally went to the doctor.  She found nothing wrong and I went home to face a weekend when I continued to feel the same.  The coaching session with Iesha contained more breathing and calming therapies.

Early Monday morning I woke up with pain in my chest that I just knew was pneumonia.  I told my wife I needed to go to the emergency room where they confirmed my suspicions and put me in the hospital.  I’ve had pneumonia 4 times before this so knew what it was when it came.  When I talked with Anna Tuesday morning, the realization came to me that I had been way to aggressive in my goals.  I told her I was the type that liked to impress others, and that pride was a big problem in my life.  I had stretched myself too thin in order to reach my goals and impress her with my enthusiasm.  Now I was feeling a little down and blue.  We discussed the moods and triggers that brought them on and I felt good about the discussion.  She thanked me for my candor.  I was out of the hospital the next day and told to take it easy.  There went my goals – out the window.

The program continued as I slowed myself down and did what the doctor said.  A few sessions on meditation were very helpful.  One particular one was a joy to me.  It was called guided meditation. The aim was to take my mind to a place where I had learned to relax and enjoy life.  This was simple for me.  I knew immediately where that place was.  It’ the Old Stone Church in West Boylston, Mass. (Look it up online).  To me, this is about the most beautiful place in the world, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I see it.  This was my calm place – a place I could take myself to anytime and be at peace.

On July 24th, out church closed its doors.  We had been going to this church for 25 years and had many friends there who lived up to an hour and a half away.  This not only hurt us emotionally, but financially, as I had been preaching every Sunday since the first of the year.  We did not know where we would go after this, but decided we would take some time to decide and enjoy the campground, where we are the hosts.  This also hurt us emotionally as. we were not asked to become the pastors of the church, but instead they chose to give up trying.  Having the counselor and coach in place right now was very helpful as I had someone to talk to about all these things.

On August 9th I woke up with a nasty cough, fever and runny nose.  On top of that my breathing was very shallow and it was hard to catch my breath.  I made an appointment with my doctor and when I got to her office, she immediately sent me to the ER.  My blood pressure and heart rate were both high.  I had never experienced symptoms like this before.  It was pretty clear I would be admitted to the hospital. and I was. I had what is called a COPD flare-up.  Several years ago, I was told I had marginal COPD, but I had never had any kind of issue with it.  This was nasty and took 4 days in the hopital to get regulated.  At the same time, my mom went into the hospital with a twisted bowel. At 96, she decided to have the surgery to fix that problem, but she now had a much lower quality of life and would have to go to a nursing home.  Talking to Iesha that Thursday morning from my hospital bed was soothing as I talked out what I was feeling.

Friday brought release from the hospital and my entire family to my house.  All three daughters, 6 grandchildren and a boyfriend came to spend the weekend.  It was a joyous time although I had to wear a mask most of the weekend and could not do a lot of activity.  We only get together about once a year, and I was so glad I got out of the hospital in time to enjoy it.  They left on Sunday, except for my oldest daughter, who stayed until Tuesday morning.  We always liked to walk and talk, but I was limited to ½ and ½ mile stretches.  But we sure enjoyed having them all and got a great family picture.

Tuesday morning when I talked to Anna, I finally realized how amazing it was that their counseling came along at this time.  Our spiritual life had been attacked with the closing of our church.   Our finances had been attacked as we lost $800 a week in income between my wife and I.  My physical life had been attacked with two stints in the hospital and new restrictions on activity.  Emotional tolls had been taken as well.  These emotional tolls were exacerbated by my mom passing away on August 22nd.  Although her passing was expected in a way, it still put a hole in my heart.  I would soon learn that she had left some inheritance that would help us greatly in our financial position.

God has a way of bringing things into our lives when we most need them.  This Able To program was one of those things.  All the events that happened during that time I had the program available is just incredible.  Tow hospital stays, loss of a substantial amount of income, church closing, mom passing all in an eight week stretch.  These were two of the most difficult months of my life, ranking right up there with my cancer treatments.  In fact, they were in many ways harder than going through cancer.  But God, in all His wisdom, brought Anna and Iesha into my life when I needed them the most. He knew what was coming – He always does!  In the final assessment of the program, it turned out my anxiety level was down from where it had been in the beginning.  Imagine that!  With all that had happened, I was less anxious about life.  God surely had His hand on me!

I love the writings of Fenelon. If you have never read His work, I highly recommend it.  In one of His books, “The Seeking Heart”, He makes a statement that we all should take heed to.  He says “See only God”.  In these simple words, He shows us what is the best way to have victory and joy at every turn in life.  When we see God working in everything that comes into our lives, we will always feel victorious.  It reminds me of my favorite passage of scripture.  Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and he shall direct your path.”  In all your ways, in everything that comes along, know that God is there and He is bringing you closer to Himself.  Acknowledge this at all times and you will find yourself in His arms even in the hardest of times.

If you’d like to learn more about Able To, visit their web site at www.ableto.com.  If you’d like to know more about God, well, you know where to look.

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Flip or Touch?

I grew up with a big brother and many friends around. We did a lot of things together such as kickball games and whiffle ball in my backyard, sledding in the winter, hiking through the woods and fishing in the summer and playing baseball on a little league teams. We always seemed to have plenty of fun doing the things we loved.

One thing that kept us busy quite often is baseball cards. Back in those days you could buy a pack of 5 baseball cards with a big slab of gum for 5 cents. Of course, we never knew which cards we were going to get in the pack and so we would usually buy several packs, hoping to get that special card like Carl Yastrzemski or Mickey Mantle. And we didn’t have just a few baseball cards – we had a lot of baseball cards.

The games we played with these baseball cards went on and on and on. One game was called flip. It’s pretty simple. We would take a card in our fingers and flip it towards the ground. The card flutters down and come up either heads or tails. Then the next person has to match that. If they match it they take your card. If they don’t you get the cards. Flip was one of my favorite games and I was very good at it. My collection would grow on a regular basis.

The next game we played was touch. Just as it says, we would flip the cards just like before except the object now was to touch the other cars that were already on the ground. This took careful planning because if there was just a little bit of wind it affected the card. Whatever card you touched became yours. If you touched several cards, you got all of those cards. These games could go on for quite a while before anybody touched anything because of the inaccuracy of flipping the cards. Touch was quite frustrating at times but I always seem to come out on top. And the rewards could be huge. 10, 20 or even 30 cards could be won at once on a breezy day.

The third game was one that I can’t remember the name of. We would lean a card up against the wall and we would toss a card, kind of like a frisbee, against that wall, trying to knock the card down. Whoever knocked the card down first took all the cards that had been thrown up to that point. This was a game that usually lasted a while and could get you a lot of cards at once.

Then there was the trade. We would trade cards quite often. Somebody might want one particular player and so you would trade him for something you had – usually one you had more than one of. Maybe you were trying to get the full team at one time or maybe you just like that player because he was good and you have to give up something really good to get him. We didn’t do this as much because we enjoyed the games more than just trading.

At the end of the year, it wasn’t unusual for me and my brother to get up on the top of our garage and take the cards that we had with us. We always seemed to have a shoebox full – a thousand or more. In that collection, there were a lot of rookie cards and famous player cards. We would gather the rest of the neighborhood kids around p 5 or 10 of them – and we would throw our cards to them. We didn’t see any need to keep them until the next year – we would just get more!

Little did we know that decades later these cards could be worth a fortune. Having over a thousand cards without duplicates was quite a collection. But we never thought about the fact that they could have been worth something. I envy those people who did think they would gain value and kept them. I had several very elite cards, like a Mickey Mantle rookie card and a Roger Maris the year he broke the homerun record. I had Carl Yastrzemski rookie card. For those of you who don’t know him, he was the last person to win baseballs triple crown in 1967. These cards would be worth quite a bit today but I never thought about their future value when I was a kid.

Isn’t that how we are sometimes with the most precious things in life? We don’t see their value until we don’t have them anymore. I look at it the peace that God gives me on a day-to-day basis. I would be frantic without that peace, yet so often I put it behind me to take pleasure in something that I shouldn’t. And that peace can be destroyed because I’m now at enmity with God. In order to restore that peace, I need to repent and come to God asking Him to take away that thing which I’ve done against Him and restore peace to my soul.

God gives us a peace that passes all understanding. But that only comes when we take things to the Lord in prayer and don’t get anxious or worried about His provision, His guidance and His love. It only comes when I strive for the perfection He would like me to have, patiently enduring trials while my faith is growing. Peace only comes when I am not walking in sin.

He’s always there for us and yet we often forget that. In those times when we forget what He supplies by His grace, His peace will leave because we take it for granted. We get comfortable in that peace, and before we know it, our peace is gone. We have come to a place where we think that peace is ours no matter how we are walking. But His peace only comes from the Holy Spirit. When we walk in sin, the Holy Spirit is there to convict us of that sin so He can bring us back into His peace.

Peace is just one example. Joy, Hope and other fruits of the spirit are the same. We can exchange them – trade them – for being more comfortable in this world. We flip our priorities from Godly principles to worldly principles. We want to touch the pleasures this world affords, and forget that it is at the expense of the heavenly things we have grown accustomed to when walking with God. Before we know it, the fruit of the spirit have dried up and we long for them again.

As you go your way today think about the things that are really precious in your life. Make sure that your guard those with all that you can and don’t just flip them away. It can be much harder to get them back once they are gone.

Be blessed

What are You Giving for Christmas?

I thought I’d take a moment to share an idea that I had for Christmas this year.  I have three daughters, all grown up, in their thirties and with kids. I was trying to think of something unique I could give to all of them – something that would be meaningful and fun.  A few years ago I had given them a framed picture of our family that was taken at Thanksgiving, and they liked that.  Last year, we really didn’t do anything for them.  But this year I wanted to so I came up with the idea of a picture book.

My mom lost her long time companion last year and decided she would move back north to be closer to my brother.  In the process of packing things up, they cam across hundreds of old pictures, loose and unmarked, but in very good shape.   So my brother went through and picked out many that I was in, or some that were duplicates and we both were in there.  Also, some of my mom and dad.  In all, he sent me about 100 pictures.

My wife and I were never good about making photo albums, and had pictures of the girls in a big box, just loose and unorganized.  Also, our wedding pictures and various pictures through the years – they were all just in a big box together.  I had gone through a while back and given a lot of the pictures of the girls and their families to them.

So I took pictures from when I was younger, and pictures of my wife when she was younger, before our marriage, and I made copies of them in pages grouped together. I put these in the front of the book.  Then I typed out the story of how we met (you can find that story HERE)  After that I put in some of our wedding pictures on several pages, and then pictures of the two of us, or of our family, through the years.  The last page was a recent picture of our house decorated with the two us standing in front, and the cover page was a recent picture of my wife and I.  I put this in a simple binding with a clear front.

So far, we just gave it to one daughter, and she raved about it on Facebook.,  said it was the best Christmas present she had ever received.  So the other two should know they are getting one by now.  I just thought it was nice to give this to them now, rather then them waiting until we were gone ( a long time from now!) to sort things out and try to decide who gets which pictures.  They weren’t doing anything in the box, so might as well make use of them.  Now they have a keepsake of our lives and our story.  Simple to do, lasting memories.

I am going to need ideas for the future, so I am wondering what any of you do for your grown children, or if you are younger, what your parents gave you?

A New Tradition

We are a world of traditions. I can remember years back to our family Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings, where tradition brought s similar pattern of events from year to year. We don’t personally have any traditions now except for eating corned beef and cabbage on New ear’s day – something we have done for 38 years of marriage. We have not really passed any traditions on to our kids wither, which I regret. This way they can build their own.

Many of our long held traditions date way back in time and we really don’t even know the origin. Bowing my head to pray or folding my hands is a type of tradition. Putting colored lights up at Christmas time is something we do every year (my wife’s favorite thing!). There are lot’s of traditions based around special days of the year that are decades, if not centuries old. They have endured through time.

So it’s exciting to be a tradition being born. A tradition that tugs at the heart strings of all who see it. Such a tradition took center stage Saturday afternoon during the broadcast of th Iowa Hawkeye game on ESPN2. Between the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second, ESPN did not go right to a commercial break. They stayed at the stadium with cameras pointed at the 75,000 fans turning to the Steadman Children’s center and waving to the kids who were watching the game from the Skyline Cafe atop the tower. It was a moment that brings tears to my eyes even as I type this.

These children and their families are going through a very rough time in their lives. University of Iowa Hospitals is a leader in Cancer and Leukemia treatment, and we all know how heart wrenching it is to see a child going through treatments necessary to keep them alive. The gut wrenching that goes on within a parent compares to nothing else on this earth. It is a difficult time in a families life. When U of I decided to build the Children;s Hospital, they plaed it in such a way that the hospital towers over the end zone of the stadium, giving a spectacular view of the field and all the fans. What foresight they had.

As I type this, my grand-daughter is actually on that top floor. She does not have cancer or anything – she had a car accident and is just in for observation. But when I think about her up there and how much it would mean to her to have thousands of fans thinking of her welfare, it touches my heart. I can only imagine what i does for those kids who have been there for months, or even years, combating cancer.

I applaud ESPN for taking the time out, and holding off on their revenue stream, to show this amazing new tradition. if you haven’t seen it, you can see the story HERE.  Have a tissue handy!

He is our Healer

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know I have been battling Multiple Myeloma cancer since March 10 of 2016.  I went through 2 stem cell transplants last year, and have been going through maintenance chemotherapy since November of 2016.  It has been a battle that I have always known God would bring me through successfully.  I have never lost faith, never gotten discouraged, and never doubted God was on my side.,  And the words of encouragement I have received from this community have been a true blessing.

Yesterday I had my nine month appointment with my new oncologist.  I have just started with a new oncologist, as the one I started this journey with has retired.  So I met him for the first time n that exam room, and he told me that there is no cancer in my body!  My blood stream is completely clear of all cancerous cells, and my bone marrow is clean.  I am healed, bu the power of God.  I give Him all the glory for the things He has done, and I thank you for your prayers through this journey.

I will still have about 15 more months of maintenance chemo, as that is the program I am in that boasts the highest success rate of this kind of cancer in the country.  I also still have the neuropathy that has plagued my for a year now, and I am believing God is going to heal that as well, although the doctors say that is unlikely.  My God will astonish the doctors!

I am grateful for all the prayers from friends and family that have touched the heart of God.  He has been merciful to me!