Chapter Seven: As Good as it Gets!

Do you ever wonder why your life has turned out the way it has? I mean is this (really) as good as it gets? Do you look around and see others who seemed to have achieved their dreams. Perhaps success is within your field of vision. You don’t have to look too far to find success, maybe in a brother or sister. In truth, you feel that it should have been you and yet “making it” does not describe you. The spot you have found yourself in seems to wrap you up in a cycle of endless doubt. And you remember your dreams of long ago and how positive you were that you would accomplish them all. But one by one you tick them off and wonder once again, “how did I find myself here?” As you look in the mirror Doubt, Discouragement and Fear seemed to have become your closest companions. Doubt whispers, “It’s too late to make a change now.” Discouragement, not known to be shy, simply and clearly states, “You’re beyond a time where you could make a change that would be of any value or worth.” So as a result of Fear you wonder, “Doesn’t it get any better than this?”

And as you look to your past Doubt, Discouragement, and Fear, your new stalkers scoff at your memories and kick to the curb any thoughts of the future, making it very hard to go on. “After all,” Doubt says, “None of your dreams came true.” And Discouragement looks at your youth and declares, “What a waste, You should have done better.” And as you trod through your days, your new companions continue to remind you of all the times you failed in the past. So you wonder, “How did I get here?” and “What could I have done to make it any better?” And like shadows, you find your stalkers closely behind you filling your mind with questions about where you are and where you could be.

But your cohort, Doubt, has caused you to continue to wonder why, and your colleague, Discouragement, seeks to paint your future with doom in conjunction with Fear, causing you to ask questions like, “Why did my spouse walk away from our children and me, after so many years, and the many words of love spoken?” Or, “Why did I get pregnant with no one to stand by my side and no way to take care of my child?” And your tormentor Discouragement causes you to ask, “Why I was not able to conceive after years of trying only to have my doctor tell my husband and I that It would never be?” While your persecutor Doubt is prompting you to ask, “Why after knocking on so many doors looking for that perfect position did the final door shut so hard and so harsh?” And though you are resisting Fear overwhelms you until you ask, “Why was I passed over for that longed after promotion when I worked so faithfully to get that degree?” These questions are real and often devastating causing anxiety, depression and may lead to alcohol and or drug abuse. And again the shadows of Doubt, Discouragement, and Fear hover in the background reminding you once again that you have failed.

Perhaps your questions run much deeper. Maybe life has taken you down a road connected to Chronic Pain? And you find yourself wandering down a dark path with vines that cross from side-to-side tripping you up with a life-altering disease like Cancer, Chrohns, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or you were left without the use of your legs as the result of an emergency spinal surgery? Perhaps due to a failed spinal surgery, your back is permanently altered, and pain is a shadow that you cannot get away from or live without. And then of course there are the chronic conditions that take over the course of your life like diabetes, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s Disease, Scleroderma, Cystic Fibrosis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Or any of the countless other conditions that never seem to find a cure or relief? And in the midst of the pain and difficulties caused by these often uncurable conditions, the questions roll through your mind and Doubt, Discouragement and Fear bring you to the edge and overwhelm you.

After all, you did your due diligence going from doctor to specialist to surgeon then back to another doctor just to see that you are no farther ahead. Days, weeks, and months have passed you by, and you have tried one more medication or another surgical procedure to find that the map that you have followed leads you back around again. And as the gloomy days move step-by-step your spirit feels the rain and your thoughts begin to sag under its weight until that covering you designed can no longer handle the burden and tears. And you start to wonder why did my life turn out this way?

Job was a man in history who could have honestly said, “Well I’ve lived a good life, how on earth could my life have turned out this way?” As far as resumes go his would have found its way to the top of the pile on Gods desk. If you take a peek at the first verse in the Old Testament account of Job, it reads like this,

Job 1 1

I cannot imagine having a better resume to set before God. When I look at my past certainly words like “Blameless” or “Upright” could not be used when describing my life. So how about you would you be able to use these words to describe your past? But, scripture says that Job was blameless.

Our dictionary defines the word blameless this way, “Free from or not deserving blame; guiltless.” And when checking the word upright, the definition is: “Adhering to rectitude; righteous, honest, or just: an upright person.” Perhaps you could come up with another example in scripture with that kind of a resume, but the only one that I can think of who meets this criterion and more is the savior Jesus Christ. So it is obvious that he did not have what we would call “issues.” Job was a family man who had found success, land and wealth. Now if you’re looking at the stack of resumes on God’s desk, certainly His would be at the top of the pile. What is (clearly) surprising when reviewing all of this is that Job had to have wondered how his life could have turned out the way that it did. And he had companions who came by his side and with clarity spoke doubt and discouragement into his life.

Now, do you remember that resume that I was referring too? What is true for all of us was true for Job. God had an assignment for Job to complete and he had all of the credentials. Job 1:6-12 records that Satan approached the throne and provoked God concerning Job. God in his wisdom knew that he had prepared Job for the challenge. From Job 1:13-20 scripture records these devastating details. The Sabeans (a foreign Nation) attacked and took Job’s oxen who were plowing and donkeys while they grazed killing all but one of Job’s servants. Fire from God rained down from the heavens and burned his sheep alive killing all but one servant. The Chaldeans (another foreign nation) raided and made off with all of Job’s camels killing all of his servants except one. Job’s children (all of them) were at a brother’s home partying, and a wind storm blew all four walls in killing all of his children and servants except one. I don’t know if you noticed a pattern here, but in each situation, only one of the servants survived. The one who remained became the messenger to bring Job this awful news. But unlike many of us, including me, Job was up for the challenge.

Job’s resume was rock solid. What I love was that not only was his resume top of the line but his heart was in the right place as well. In Job 1:20-21 it reveals the heart of this man.

Job 1 20-21

If you were wondering where the phrase “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away” well you can blame Job. Can you imagine being up for the challenge that God had prepared Job for, or would you be willing to have your life turn out this way? And to put the cherry at the top of the sundae, in Job 1:22 it says that,

Job 1 22

Now things hit close to home for me. In Job 2:3 after Satan had the gall to approach God again, God challenges Satan regarding Jobs righteous response in Job 2:4-5.  Defiant as he always has been,

Job 2 4-5

 Simply put, Satan asked God to take Job’s good health away and to bring suffering to him. Job records in Job 2:7

Job 2 7

There are many of us who suffer from ill health and chronic pain. I confess that I question my chronic pain and wonder what God is doing in and through my life. Am I on the road to demonstrating God’s grace, strength and the courage that brings true worship? Are we, as a part of the suffering community, given the privilege to reveal to the world who God truly is and what He plans to do through our lives? Do we as a suffering community have the right to question why our life has turned out this way?

Life for Job did not get easier. Of course, his well-meaning friends stepped in to give their take on it all. And they could not imagine why all of these horrible things could happen to Job. They decided to sit with Job and offer their wisdom. Job 2:11

Job 2 11

Eliphaz the Temanite I refer to as Discouragement, because this was his message to Job in Job 4:5.

Job 4 5

Bildad the Shuhite I will call Doubt because all that he said was to cause Job to doubt who he was and what God would do for him.

Job 8 20

 Job 8:20. The first verse of Job states that he was blameless so his message that implied the opposite was incorrect per the Holy Scriptures.

Zophar the Naamathite I will call fear. It seems as if Zophar is preaching to Job with this dogmatic statement. Job 11:15.

Job 11 15

Truly, Job had nothing to fear from God because he was a man who, “…feared God and shunned evil.” Job 1:1b.

In Job 4, his colleagues in Discouragement, Doubt, and fear surround him under the guise of compassion seeking to comfort Job. And though these associates challenged him at every step and threatened to cause him to fear God, and doubt his love, and they ultimately found the dish that they served Job set before them when the Lord speaks to Jobs friends in Job 42:7b,

Job 43 7

So Discouragement, Doubt, and Fear were put in their place by God though they like us need grace. Job lovingly prayed for these three men the way I would long to respond when attacked. Job 42:10

Job 42 10

Scripture records in Job 42:12-15 that,  

Job 42 12-15
Scripture goes on to record that Job lived to be 140 years and saw his children all the way through to the fourth generation. We cannot comprehend today what a life set aside for Christ looks like. Job is a clear picture of what God can do with someone who is sold out for Him.

Did Job ever wonder why his life turned out the way that it did? Perhaps you could make a case from what he said to his friends that he certainly could have had that on his mind. It would seem at least from a surface glance that that is what he thought. Scripture records that by all intended purposes his life ended pretty well. After all, it says in Job 42:12 that God blessed Job in the later part of his life more than in than before. And yet it says that everyone who knew him came to console him for his loses even giving him gifts of gold and silver revealing in Job 42:11 that,

Job 42 11

This response to Job was after God restored to Job twice of what he owned. I would ask you what there is to console if everything is restored except for what he lost? It has been said that you can lose everything but if you have your health you have everything. Job bore horrendous pain and anguish through this time. He suffered chronic pain with no modern pain relievers. Also, when you lose someone that you love there is a gap that cannot be filled by anything, and time does not heal that wound. Finally, the loss of so much can cause even the most trusting soul to wonder, “Could this happen again.”  So it can be safely assumed that even in this time of blessing Job felt grief for the loss of his children. Even though God blessed Job with more children that he loved dearly he may still have wondered, “Why his life turned out the way that it did.” And in the end, could he have thought to himself, “Is this as good as it gets?” I would like to believe that God healed him from the pain in his past but scripture does not tell us that.

Regardless of the way that it is in your life right now, and even if you wonder in your heart, “Is this as good as it gets?” No matter what we may be facing in our life today and even if it does not seem like it is going to get any better, the important question that we should be asking is not if it is going to get better but if we know Jesus Christ as our (own personal) savior. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 3:23

Romans 3 23a

 

We all fall short, and cannot make it on our own. No one can make it based upon merit. John, the disciple of Jesus who was by Jesus side with his mother Mary on Golgotha’s Hill, recorded in the gospel John 3:16 the powerful words that lead to salvation,

John 3 16

So simply put none of us are good enough for heaven, but Jesus in the ultimate sacrifice made a way for us to be made right before God. If you have never asked the Lord Jesus to forgive your sins and to come into your heart as your Savior what is stopping you from doing that right now?

If we know Jesus Christ as our Savior, then we are seen by God the Father through his Son as blameless. So in truth, this is as good as it gets. Remember how I exclaimed over Job’s resume because he was “Blameless,” and “Upright”? Well, in truth because of what our Savior has done for us we are blameless as well in the eyes of God. The apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:4 says,

Ephesians 1 4

Hallelujah, I am as Job “Blameless” in the sight of my Father. Do I wonder why my life has turned out this way? Certainly, My stalkers Doubt, Discouragement and Fear hover close behind, but I do not have to fear because I am blameless in the sight of God. And I know of my Saviors love because of His word in II Corinthians 12:9

II Corinthian 12 9

And because I can boast in my weaknesses, I know the power of Christ. So I can say with confidence that it cannot get any better than it is today.

As Good As It Gets Song

Francessca Battistelli, “As Good As It Get’s”

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Chapter Six: Are You Slipping?

Have you ever found yourself in a slump? Like as you walk along your way that your feet are slipping? I mean, a time when things are going wrong, and they continue to go that way. Perhaps what you face is emotional; a hurt that you don’t feel like you can carry anymore. Maybe you are just a lonely soul. Loneliness is a place that has been visited by all of us from time to time. Loneliness can be an ache that has set in deep inside without a way to come out, a place where the bravest of hearts have fought battles to find their way to the surface and freedom. Maybe your pain is one that is physical. Pain that goes so deep that doctors and surgeons don’t seem to have a way to repair it. Pain that is chronic and has leached on to your body in a way that makes you long for the days when your body was free of it, free to be able to move without thought or a wince that catches your breath ever so slightly with each move.

Let’s just say that it started out little; like your “best friend” made it clear that you are not, well, “best” to him. Maybe you never were, but you thought that you were and boy that hurts. Then in the evening your spouse is short with you and says something that just sort of digs-in. Nothing real big just some words that make you feel a little less about yourself than what you wanted to at that moment. But it really begins to sting. Truthfully, we all say things that make others think less about themselves. Words said quickly without thought and words that we would never mean to say.

Still, things continue to get worse, because in the background is that “thing” that is always there. A struggle that there is no answer for and just keeps going even though everyone else around you seems to be free of problems. Their life does not seem to be really difficult. You plod along dealing with it from day-to-day and feeling like there will never be a resolution. And some days the pain is so extreme that you want to curl up into a ball, wrapped up under a blanket dissolved in your own tears. If truth is spoken, many days you find yourself under that blanket with all of the rest of the world shut out, and you, well, you are shut down.

To make matters even worse though, you have been a strong soldier defending your faith and trusting in the Lord. Well, there are those, even some close to you, who say “If you just had enough faith.” Or those who decide that there must be something spiritually wrong with you because, after all, that problem is still there, (John 9: 1-3). And then that greatest of all liars steps in and whispers in your ear, “Perhaps, they are right?” Or even worse, “You know God can heal you, but he has not. Why?” Doubts continue to drip in, and sometimes the drip becomes a stream. And what if those doubts cascade into your heart like a river that overwhelms your thoughts. Yes, you find yourself in a slump, and it all seems to continue to fall down upon you.

You start to think, “OK, Lord, how long is this gonna continue?” And in your heart you wonder, “OK, Lord, have you heard anything I said? Lord, have you heard even one word?” In times like this, it seems like silence shouts loudly. And in your heart, all you want to do is give up and let it all come crashing in around you. And no matter the light, the darkness wraps you up in its blanket. Suffocating you until you find yourself in a slump and everything seems to hurt.

There was a famous individual who understood the same kind of pain and struggled deep within. His name was David, and he was the King over all of Israel. So, are you having a hard time grasping the fact that this great man felt the way you do? All you need to do is read his words and that doubt will fall away. He wrote most of the book of Psalms including the one that brings many so much comfort. It goes like this, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”, Psalm 23:4a. Now that you know who he is, and that he understood the valley, let me describe what his life was like.

King David, the Psalmist, was someone many would have called privileged. He was wealthy beyond what most of us understand, He lived in a palace, and had many who were at his beck and call. I am sure that he never lacked a whopper value meal much less the finest and choicest foods of the land. After all, why should he, he was chosen by the hand of God (I Samuel 16:11-13) to lead all of the Israelites as their King. If you look up that passage in I Samuel it is clear that God literally put his finger on David and chose him to be the King of the Jews.

But from God’s word, we see that even one who seemingly had “it all” suffered and felt that God had turned His face from him. Like those of us who suffer in pain, he struggled with his thoughts day-after-day and felt sorrow in his heart. So much for money or position solving all of our problems, huh? After all, he had both of them. And all of this, in spite of having the security of the finger of God on his life and the respect and support of his people.

Just think of it…literally having “it all” and yet King David cried out to the lord in Psalm 13:1-2, exclaiming,

Psalm 13 1-2

Do his questions sound familiar to you? They sure sound familiar to me. In fact, I feel like I am looking into a spiritual mirror that is reflecting my heart back at me. I cannot speak for you, but I have a very nice safe home with choice food and a comfortable bed. By the standards of many in this world, I am wealthy. And yet I have questioned the Lord in the very same manner. Asking questions in a way that is interrogating the very benevolence of my savior.

I, like the examples above, have spent days struggling because of the pain that I bear. I have questioned God’s care (I Peter 5:7) for me in the same way that King David did. But, when I allow the light to break through that blanket of darkness I, like King David in Psalm 13:5, I have also found my heart saying,

Psalm 13 5

And as I pull those tightly wrapped covers of darkness off from my heart, I begin to understand what David did when he wrote Psalm 94:18-19,

Psalm 98 18& 19

So if you’re in a slump and you feel like your feet are about to slip, take heart another has felt that way. You don’t think much of yourself? You have allowed your pain to shatter what once was bright in your life? You believe that there are so many others who have it better than you? After all, they aren’t feeling the pain that you do. They cannot possibly begin to understand the depth of your pain and how you feel, or how you hurt even right now. Perhaps you’re right about those around you.

But there is one who has and does feel the same level of pain, (Hebrews 4:15) and even more. One who would never walk away from you. Of course, the one that I speak of is Jesus Christ the Lord. The one who knows the depth of your pain more thoroughly than even you do. If you know Him, I pray that you will allow Him to embrace you and give you His gift that may include healing today. If you don’t know Him, I have a listening ear and a heart that knows that His love is the only way to find the strength that you need and life that in Him will never end. Contact me, let’s talk.

Even with the times of great sorrow and pain that seems too difficult to bear. Today and all my tomorrows I will reach out to receive and accept the gift of freedom from pain and all that I know that, that means. Does that mean that all of my pain will go away? We may discuss that at another time.

Please enjoy the beautiful song written by Alicia Turner based upon Psalm 13.

Alicia Turner Psalm 13

Click on the link below,

Alicia Turner Psalm 13

 

Chapter Five: Bait & Switch

The first time it happened I ignored it, more like just an irritation, but now it was done, and I was not going to worry about it. When I think about it, my response was not that different from most guys. After all, it was not debilitating. I simply got up and went on my way. I had much too much on my mind and way too many things to do to worry about something that at the time was just a mild irritation. And as it turned out, I really had no need to be concerned. It had been over a month, and it had not occurred again.

Well, then “boom” just like an explosion in my abdomen it came on so suddenly that I thought that I was going to pass out. Tears were running down my cheeks, and the person next to me said, “Are you OK?” I gathered my wits and though I was a bit embarrassed by the attention that I got I said, “Oh, no I’m fine.” And then I went on my way as if nothing had occurred and once more I blew it off as something that I did not need to be concerned about. But, really I guess I should have given it more thought, as the time it took to recover from this episode had increased.

I was starting to get concerned and trying to connect the dots I thought I wonder if I could have a tear. When you have had Bariatric Surgery the chance of a tear (or rupture) in your digestive tract is pretty high, but by now it was late spring of 2006. My Bariatric Surgery was on June 5, 2005, and I was almost a year out. A tear in my digestive track seemed very unlikely to me. So I did not give that much more thought and went on my way. Still, all the while in the background was the thought that there must be something wrong.

Sometime around the end of May, we were at a party for my wife’s niece. Many in her family had not seen me since before my Bariatric Surgery, and they were amazed at how good I looked and how much weight I had lost. My weight loss was pretty close to 200 pounds at that time. A good way to grasp the difference in my body size is to consider that an average man may weigh around 200 pounds. So, by that time I had lost approximately another whole man.

Trying to keep control of my wardrobe was a losing battle but for a different reason. If you imagine losing almost 4 pounds a week or over 16 pounds a month baggy does not really describe my new look. If I had not been able to pick up a new pair of hand-me-down jeans from the Goodwill Thrift Store and an assortment of pullover shirts I don’t know what I would have done. I remember using my drill to make new holes in my belt so that I would not embarrass myself. Dropping my drawers and exposing my boxer shorts was not a part of my fashion style. But even with my wardrobe concerns, I was enjoying the positive comments that I was receiving from my in-laws at the party.

Then out of the blue, it happened again, causing me to take quick short breaths as I sucked in as much air as I could. The best way to describe the feeling is to say that a firecracker had just been set off in my abdomen forcing my torso to buckle and bend with the intensity of the pain. I set my tray of food down and gave in to the feeling bending over at the waist. I felt as if I had been sucker punched in my gut. The pain, so deep and so powerful that it could’ve taken my feet out from under me. And as I sat down trying with everything to hide what I was feeling but failing miserably. I could no longer ignore it, Sandy was right there wondering what on earth was going on. The rest of the family was gawking at me not knowing what to think. I was having difficulty catching my breath, and Sandy began asking me if she needed to call an ambulance. Honestly, I was not sure, wondering if I really did need one. And now the pain was not letting up as it had before. The pain had always subsided within minutes, but this pain was hanging on Eventually the intense pain subsided and left me with the uncomfortable side effect of nausea. I wiped the sweat off my brow, and the tears from around my eye’s with Sandy at my side telling me that I should call Dr. Baker first thing Monday Morning.

This time I listened to my wife and placed the call. Dr. Baker did not seem overly concerned, but he did order a CT Scan. I went in and had my date with the giant glazed donut. You know, “Breath in,” “Hold your breath,” and “Breath.” and then as the giant glazed contraption sucked me back in he repeated, “Breath in,” “Hold your breath,” and “breath.” It was that simple, and I was out the door. Well, so good so far, right?    No!

For those of you out there wondering if that doctor is ever gonna call, I have comforting words for you. “You are just fine.” He is working on calling the ones who are not “just fine.” It may have been a day or two, but I got the call, and I thought, “Boy, was that ever quick.” Dr. Baker was not his happy self, he was very sober and grim. This was not like him, and it made me feel more than a little uncomfortable. He apologized and told me that it was not good news. I thought why was he apologizing? He gave me the name of another Doctor, a specialist, and he gave me the date and time for the appointment. This was not a standard referral. Then Dr. Baker sealed the deal by telling me that I should have Sandy there with me. Just so you know it is never good news when they ask you to bring your spouse along with you. Without a doubt, this was an appointment that we were not going to miss.

So, first thing, Friday, June 9, 2006, Sandy and I met with Dr. John Ludlow, a Urologist. A Urological oncologist. I’ll let that set in and give you a moment to think about what I just said.
Dr. Ludlow was a nice enough man, but I just wanted to know why I was there to see him. He showed us a report and the results. And then the Doctor told me that I had a large mass in my right kidney that was larger than one half the size of the kidney. He used some technical language to describe the mass in my right kidney but by that time I was just like a deer in headlights. I don’t remember much about that part of the conversation except hearing my voice asking, “Cancer?” and his voice saying, “Yes!”

He then went on to offer me my options. None of them were good options as far as I was concerned. Slowly, the glazed over look and the fog in my brain cleared as he went over what was available to me. He told me that the surgeon could do a Partial Nephrectomy (nuh-FREK-tuh-me) to remove the mass leaving the remainder of my right kidney. I thought, “is this really an option?” because what would remain of my right kidney and would it still work? I can remember asking him, “how high is the risk that cancer could return?” Dr. Ludlow said that there was a high risk of the return of cancer. And if cancer did return he would have to to go back in and remove the rest of my right kidney. I thought to myself, “so what was the benefit in leaving any of the right kidney?” And this is what sealed the deal for me. He then explained that, If the surgeon had to go back in to remove the remainder of my right kidney it would leave a huge scar. He told me that the incision would begin at about my belly button head north towards my nipple then take a quick right heading for the middle of my back to finally drop down heading for my waist. At this point, the surgeon would pull back the entire package revealing my core and everything that goes with it. All of what I just described was so that the surgeon could remove the rest of my right kidney. So I thought to myself, “why on earth would I want to do this?” And “what is my motivation for this option?”

And behind door number two is…a Radical (complete) Nephrectomy (nuh-FREK-tuh-me) or option number two. This option was to remove my entire right kidney, and if the cancer was encapsulated, I would need no further treatment. The thought of losing my right kidney was scary as I did not know that you could live with only one kidney. I pressed the doctor, and with some fear in my voice, I said, “Can you live with only one kidney?” After all, God gave us two kidney’s for a reason, didn’t he?

Dr. Ludlow very calmly assured me that I could live a healthy life with only one kidney. I confess that I had a hard time believing this and thought to myself “well, what if I lose the other kidney?” Honestly, at the time my biggest concern was not whether I would lose my kidney, but it was if they did not take it all I may have to face the same surgery twice because they did not get all of my cancer. He told my wife and me to go home and think about it over the weekend and then decide what we wanted to do. I knew immediately that the only option for me was to remove my entire right Kidney.

Then Dr. Ludlow proceeded to tell me that he would be referring me to another surgeon in his office who specializes in Radical (complete) Nephrectomy (nuh-FREK-tuh-me) surgical procedure. And because of scheduling problems, I would not meet him until the day of surgery.

Life is never as simple as a diagnosis of cancer. I had been nursing a bum shoulder, and my orthopedic surgeon had scheduled me to have shoulder surgery on Monday, June 26, 2006. As crazy as this may sound the pain in my right shoulder had been so problematic that I was looking forward to having the repair on my shoulder done. When they told me that they were canceling my shoulder surgery, I was disappointed. Of course, because I was already booked for shoulder surgery they merely canceled the one operation and rebooked the Operating Room (OR) for the Urologic Surgeon to perform a Radical (complete) Nephrectomy (nuh-FREK-tuh-me).

To this day I have trouble pronouncing the surgical procedure that the surgeon did on me but to be honest with you I don’t care. On Monday, June 26, I met the surgeon, and he seemed to be a nice enough man. And by that time I was just glad that he was going to get that cancer-filled kidney out of me. Early on the morning of June 26 I found myself in the OR fascinated by all the bells and whistles, and as the mask came over my face, the nurse started counting back from ten. I closed my eyes, and the surgeon delved deep inside to remove a part of what my Lord had lovingly knit together in my Mothers womb. And now that his deed was complete it was time for me to awaken from my little nap. The surgery took a little over three hours, and I came out in the recovery room minus my right kidney and cancer free.

My room was, of course, the best and I had ladies taking care of my every need. I had been told to expect these luxury accommodations for at least 3 days. What man wouldn’t love this setup? Room & board and the ladies at my beck and call. Unfortunately, it was not that nice. As I came out of the haze and the anesthesia wore off the pain set in. Then, of course, there was nausea. As of now, they had me on the orange jello, sherbert and apple juice routine. The first night things were going as expected. I was in a semi-private room, but there was no one in the other bed, so I thought great this should provide a nice quiet recovery. I fell asleep at around 11:30 PM. Shortly after midnight, the lights popped on, and I heard staff members cleaning the room. At about 1:30 AM they brought my first roommate in and took him through the check-in process. Finally, the lights went off, and I fell asleep. Then throughout the rest of the night, the lights clicked on and off either for him or for me. Things like blood work, bathroom assistance, blood pressure checks, and so goes the list times two.

At around 5:30 – 6:00 AM one of the 11 different urologists in the practice stopped in, shook my foot and said, “Good morning Mr. Gardner How are you doing?” As the first day following surgery progressed, I started noticing that the left side of my body started to fill up and expand. Because of my significant weight loss the previous year I had a lot of excess skin. I was in a lot of pain, and I had to ask for more pain medication than they expected. I was now being told that I could order what I wanted from the menu. The problem was that I did not want anything and the thought of eating was not even last on my list. Nausea was my new best friend. Sometime during the day my roommate was released and went home. As the evening rolled around my abdomen on the left side seemed very tender in spite of the pain medication that they were giving me. That night was a repeat of the night before, and by morning I had a new roommate and very little sleep.

With morning came a new doctor from the Urologists office. I was groggy, but aware enough to ask him about my pain level and my growing girth. He examined my incision and said that I was probably just having an adverse reaction to surgery. He basically blew it off and went on his way. I was now into my second day after the Radical Nephrectomy. As the day progressed, I gained some more girth and lost a roommate, so I guess you could say that things leveled out. The pain in and around my abdomen continued to increase as I headed into my third night. As the evening progressed, I noticed that I was beginning to look a little like I was pregnant. There are two problems with that. The first is that I am a man. And the second is that the girth was to the left-hand side of my body. As the nurses came in to give me medication, check my blood pressure and so forth I started asking them, “does this look right to you?” and the common answer was, “No.” or “I don’t think so.” but the worst reply was, “I don’t know let me get your nurse for you.” Unfortunately, that night was a repeat of the previous two, and I found myself with a new roommate and almost no sleep.

Just before sunrise, yup, before the chickens are up, a new Urologist walked in, shook my toes and said, “Good morning Mr. Gardner.” As if they did not know that I was sleeping. Now, I’m woozy, remember the new doctor just woke me up. And I am in pain because my belly was a lot bigger than it was when I was admitted three days earlier. The skin is being stretched by this new expansion, and it is pulling on my incision. I attempted to ask the doctor that I just met about my growing circumstance, and he does a quick check and then says, “Your left kidney may not be functioning the way it should.” Now, he has my attention. I am wide awake and concerned, but of course, he has other patients to see, so he moves on. Breakfast arrives, sits, grows cold, and walks right out of my room. Well, that’s my story, and I am sticking to it. I start asking every nurse that comes through the door about what the doctor said, and I pull every chain and press every button that I can, to get attention. Finally, a nurse comes back into my room and says that “they are looking into the situation.” As the day progresses, I begin to look like I am in my seventh month. I would have been in a lot more trouble if not for the excess skin. I am very sure that I would have burst my surgical staples by then. Needless to say, I am not doing so well physically or emotionally. I need to focus on something else. And at this point in time, I began to see a pattern to my days. Yes, my new roommate went home so I knew what was ahead of me during the hours when I should be sleeping. And I was right, this night was no different from the ones before.

When I heard the chipper voice of yes another new Urologist, this time I was ready for him. I pulled back my covers and asked him, “Does this look normal to you?” And at first he pulled back but he recovered well and examined my expanding circumference, and then he said that he would look into it. Why is it they all have to look into it? Why can’t they just resolve it? At least that is how I look at it. “It” being my ever enormous and expanding girth but then, of course, he went to his next patient. At this point in time, I was really frustrated, and I could not seem to get a good answer from anyone. Well, there was one question they had no trouble answering. I was supposed to be in the hospital for no more than three days. When I asked them if I was going home, they said, “No, not today.” 

I’m no doctor, but I can tell when there is something wrong with my body. I started to wonder why they were not doing another CT Scan. I asked a couple of the nurses, and they thought that that would be a good idea. My pain level continued to increase, and as I went into another night, the process began all over again. I don’t know if you have ever seen the movie, Ground Hog Day but it is about a man who wakes up each day and it is Ground Hog Day again and everything that happened the day before occurs once again that day. Well, I guess I don’t have to explain any further. You get the idea.

The Urologic surgeon that awoke me this morning just before 6:00 AM was the surgeon that removed my right Kidney. After he completed the “Mr. Gardner” formalities, he sat down and said, “What are you doing here, don’t you know that you’re going to ruin my reputation?” I was groggy, but I was stunned. I think that he was kidding, but I did not care I responded rather harshly, “well, why don’t you fix it then?” I proceeded to ask him what the deal with my other kidney was and why weren’t they doing a CT Scan to find out what is going on with my new found expansion? He told me that sometimes the other kidney will go to sleep after they remove one and that they were not too worried about that. I told him that I was. And then he said that he thought that when the left kidney kicked in, I would lose the excess weight. Then he got up, left and I never saw him again. My day was about the same. I lost a roommate and struggled with pain. The day proceeded into the evening, and once again the process began. Or at least I thought that it would, but when I awoke in the morning, I realized that I was without a roommate.

Standing at the end of my bed was another new Urologist. I finally figured out their pattern. The office had 11 full-time Urologist and 1 semi-retired Urologist. Every day that I was in the hospital, I would see a new Urologist. Once again I asked him about the CT Scan, and once again this Urologist told me that he would look into it. I began to feel like I was getting nowhere, but at least the nurses would tell me that they did not think that it seemed right. Towards the middle of the day. A day that was quiet without a roommate I was napping when they brought this elderly man in and admitted him. One of the nurses came over to my side of the room with a spray bottle, and she was spraying it around the room. She very quietly explained that this dear old gentleman had not had a movement in a really long time. She warned me that things were going to get, well, smelly. I heard lots of different voices from his side of the room, and so I figured that he had family with him. All of a sudden things got real quiet, and then it was if a bomb went off. The nurse came over to my side again spraying like crazy, but there was nothing she could do. After I got over the initial shock and unpleasant odor, I was happy for him because I had heard his family discussing surgery if things did not come to a conclusive resolution.

Well, he was resolved, and in an unpleasant manner the problem was concluded, so there was now no need for surgery. Because this dear old gentleman no longer had the issue of a backed up nature they sent him home. The nurse came by my side of the room again with several bottles offering apologies and instructions for the scented bottles use. That was more than enough excitement for that day. I began the start of another evening without much of an appetite for apparent reasons. That night Ground Hog Day started again.

Morning came with a new roommate, but because it was the weekend, a Staff Doctor stopped in to see me. He did not even follow through with the “Good Morning” pattern of the Urologist. He came by later in the day, and he really did not have anything to offer. That was OK with me because I got to sleep in and the team of Urologists did not really offer me that much anyway. I don’t think they released this guy that day because it was the weekend. It was quiet around the hospital and the Fourth of July Holiday was the middle of the next week.

Bright and early Monday morning I heard the Urologists voice. As the sleepiness wore off, I recognized him. It was Dr. John Ludlow. Right away I showed him what had occurred on my left side and I complained that I was supposed to be out of the hospital in three days. I asked him why they had not done a CT Scan to see what was going on and he was very compassionate, and he said that he would order the CT Scan to find out why I was having so much trouble. By the time Dr. Ludlow left the room, I was so thankful to the Lord because I had prayed for healing. And I asked the Lord to bring someone who would pay attention to my concerns. I looked at this as the answer to both requests. When you are in the hospital and have had surgery, and you are weak and afraid you are very vulnerable. I thankful that God was working for my benefit to resolve these issues. Later that morning they came with a gurney, loaded me on, and took me down for the CT Scan. Once again I practiced my exercises with the giant glazed donut. You know, “Breath in,” “Hold your breath,” and “Breath.” and then as the giant contraption with the open belly sucked me back in he repeated, “Breath in,” “Hold your breath,” and “breath.”

That afternoon I met a new doctor. He was not a Urologist. He was a general surgeon, and his name was Dr. Anthony J. Foster MD., F.H.C.S., and he told me that the results of the CT Scan showed that I had one of the largest Hernia’s he had ever seen. I asked him, “Did that happen as a result of my Radical Nephrectomy surgery?” He said, no, the Hernia was on the wrong side of my abdomen to have been caused by the Nephrectomy surgery. Then I asked him, “Why didn’t they see the hernia on the previous CT Scan then?” And he was honest and said, “I don’t know, but I’ll check.” And I was honest and thought, boy, am I getting tired of this I’ll look into, check on it routine. But fortunately only a few hours later Dr. Foster came back and told me that he did not have an explanation for why they did not see a hernia on the last scan because it was there for them to see. He then told me that he was going to be taking me back into surgery to repair the hernia at about 11:00 PM that night. I guess when they finally decide to move they move. Honestly, getting to know Dr. Foster made it clear to me that he did not let anything including grace grow under his feet. He wasted no time in taking care of a problem when he found one. Also, Dr. Foster had an excellent bedside manner. He loved to laugh and enjoyed making you laugh too. Dr. Foster must know that “a cheerful heart is a good medicine…” Proverbs 17:22

As I recovered from the hernia surgery and my girth diminished, I started thinking about what I had gone through over the last several months. And you know this could have been viewed as a bait and switch. But the Lord began to impress on me not what was seen but what had not been seen. In fact, it became clear to me that the Lord kept the doctors from seeing the hernia so that the most dangerous of the two would become evident to them. I believe that the Lord wanted the kidney cancer to jump out at the doctors so that they would not miss it. After all, if they can miss a hernia that Dr. Foster said was one of the largest he had ever seen then certainly, they could have missed my cancer altogether while focusing on the hernia.

There is a record in the book of 2 Kings chapter 6 that describes a situation that holds some similarity to mine. A moment when something significant is not visible because of the focus of Elisha’s servant’s eye’s. verse 15 records it this way, “When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the City.” and Elisha’s servant was a little more than distracted by what he saw when he said to Elisha the prophet, “Oh no my Lord! What shall we do?” Forgive me, but that sounds like the modern vernacular, “OMG” and I’m sure his servant was scared from the tips of his toes to the top of his head because of what he saw. If I can be so bold as to say that Elisha the prophet would have now said, “wait a minute, let’s take another look at the CT Scan” for clarification. Elisha said in vs. 16, “Don’t be afraid” As I can see you shaking in you leather skins boots all the way over here. “those who are with us are more than those who are with them” Then the prophet Elisha turned to the Lord and said in verse 17 “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.”

The point was that when the prophet Elisha’s servant got up and saw the army of horses and Chariots surrounding the city, he was looking at the wrong thing. The prophets servant was missing what was most important. In my case, if the doctor’s, while viewing the first CT Scan, had only spotted my vast Hernia and addressed that surgically then my abdomen would have filled with cancer, and I may have died. I worked with a woman who, unfortunately, suffered and died because the doctor’s missed the kidney cancer on her CT Scan. The pain that I had experienced had nothing to do with my cancer because there is no pain associated with the kidney. The pain that I so carefully described earlier in this chapter had everything to do with the vast (or massive) hernia in my abdomen. I believe to this day that God kept the doctors from seeing the hernia so that they would address my cancer.

In response to this, I pray that I like the prophet Elisha prayed have my eyes wide open. Able to see what the Lord has for me. But how often am I like Elisha’s servant who jumps in fear by what I see although I know the Lord and of his power? My desire is always to have my eyes open to what the Lord would have me see or not see. Because sometimes what may shout the loudest, like the pain that I experienced, may not be what’s most important. I want to have the prophet Elisha’s eyes to see what is of most value in the eye’s of the Lord. I pray that when times are the most difficult, that I may see what’s most important in the midst of those times. After all isn’t that what Elisha was praying for his servant when he asked the Lord to “open his eyes?” Open my eye’s Lord, please, open my eyes.

Chapter Four: Forgiveness, Suffering’s Healer

It was a decision that I really did not want to make. I struggled with enough questions to write a book. Have I done everything that I could have done? Did I really really make an honest effort? Is there one more plan that I have not yet tried? I asked myself these questions after I had spent most of my life accepting every new fad and attempting to follow through with each new plan. I was dreading doctor visits, after all as nice as he was, he was always going to bring “it” up. I mean think about it honestly if you had spent the bulk of your life attempting to accomplish what so many had failed at, what would you do? Would you keep on, keeping on until heaven knows when you would just fail again? I certainly would not blame you for giving up.

Unfortunately, so many in my life did not seem to feel the same way. There were the relatives that I would see only once a year. I could see it in their eye’s and soon these words would follow, “If you would simply…” Heaven forgive me but I wanted to set my salvation on a shelf, at times and take them outside for a little fist fellowship with a side of have you got a clue? Truthfully, I am much to tender ever to hurt anyone so I could never indulge in fist fellowship. I remember as a child when I was being teased, kicked, slapped and made the but of every joke, I was advised to raise my right followed by a quick left and put that fool down. I could never even think about putting that fool down. I remember turning every check until I had blisters. You know Jesus said, “but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:39. I was such a sweet child that when I was taught that scripture in Sunday School and from the pulpit, I took it to heart.

And then there were the gentle-hearted souls from the church who would say, Now you know that your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit…”. I always wanted them to describe the outside of the Temple. Especially the one that traveled with the Israelite’s for that long trek to the promised land. In case you don’t know the bible gives intricate detail about the inside of the traveling temple but the outside is nothing but a big white wall. They meant well, but that one fell flat with me and still does to this day. After all, why did it matter so much to God about the inside of the most important holy place for the apple of His eye, the Israelite’s? I believe that we get a big clue from the 16th chapter of Samuel. In this chapter, Samuel was directed by the Lord to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to select the new King. Upon arrival, Samuel is taking in Jesse’s son’s one by one. In verse six it says, “When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, surely the Lord’s anointed is before me” Apparently Samuel was very taken with this young man Eliab and had already made up the Lord’s mind for him. But God stepped in and shut him down because in verse 7 it says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Well, isn’t that a stunner, “man looks at the outward appearance.” Why do we get ourselves into so much trouble so very easily? God made a life-changing and Life challenging point here. Just like the temple that traveled with the Israelite’s and even the Grand temple in Jerusalem. So little was made of the outside that the traveling temple was nothing but a big white wall. But the inner workings of the temple are laid out in complete detail down to the finest point. So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ you can finally put to rest what is of most importance to the Lord. May I be clear, “the Lord looks at the heart.” We have taken so many years to learn this very basic lesson regarding what is essential to the Lord. Be prepared if you approach someone with that line of reasoning in mind, you know that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Well, how is your heart? Do you carry any bitterness? Do you hold a grudge against anyone? Is there lust in your heart? Do you have a dishonest heart? Is your heart right with the Lord? Have you given your Heart to the Lord Jesus Christ? These are the matter’s that are of worth and value when it comes to the body and the temple of the Lord. I can safely say that God’s word has made clear what is most important to him.

Now that that point has been thoroughly discussed I will attempt to reveal what brought all of this about and why I made the decision that I made twelve years ago. In reading my previous chapters, you would be hard pressed to have missed what has caused me a tremendous amount of pain. To put it bluntly, I was fat. In fact, I was considered Morbidly Obese. As I aged, the problem grew with my waistline as I had more and more difficulty finding clothing that would fit me.

One of the issues that I still face today is that (heaven knows why) tailors assign a man’s waist size by his neck size. If you are a tailor and you are reading this, you know that this is a true statement and that it boggles my mind. Why on earth would you wrap a tape measure around a man’s neck to figure out what his waist size is going to be? Now, for some men, this works fine as they have large necks. But for me, I do not, and I have never had a large neck no matter how obese I became. This means that the collar on my shirt has to be oversized for my waist size to fit me. This is an example of how this affected me. I interviewed all the way up to the office of the store manager and lost the job opportunity. If you have not guessed it, it was because of my over-sized neckline. I bought brand new shirts with a credit card because I had these essential interviews. All of the interviews went exceptionally well until the Store Manager. At the end of the conversation, he told me that I was qualified for the position and that he really liked me, but appearance was of utmost importance. He went on to say that my collar was way too large and that was unacceptable. He could not imagine that I would be able to purchase the clothes that were necessary for the position. He was correct because of how men’s shirts are measured. Ultimately, I was given another ridiculous reason, but I knew that it really had to do with my shirt and how I looked. I was very hurt and frustrated because I really wanted the job and I knew that I could do it.

So, now you add my history of teasing, the increasing waistline with almost no way to cover it adequately. The hurt from friends, those within my church and family with words like “if you would just eat a little less and exercise a little more.” and you know the body is the “Temple of the Holy Spirit”, and “What are you doing with your Temple?” which is really a good question but for the different reasons. The loss of a job that I was qualified for and eagerly pursued. And of course, every time I sat on someone’s chair or couch I worried that it would fall out from under me.

I remember going to Promise Keepers with both of my Fathers in the early “90’s. Promise Keepers for those who don’t know was a men’s conference where men were given the opportunity to make a commitment to the Lord to set their lives apart for Him. I don’t mean (necessarily) for the ministry or the mission field although that certainly was an important commitment that many men made. It was more that men would stand up for the Lord and lead their families as Christ-like men to honor Him and raise up Godly children. These events were held in a large arena’s. The one I went to was held in the Pontiac Michigan Arena where the Lions play football. They filled the arena, and many men made commitments to become men of God and to honor him with their families and careers. Friday night we sat up in the balcony. I will call them the cheap seats. Trust me a little thin five-foot woman would feel very uncomfortable in these seats. Sandy’s Dad and my Father were average size. My father was 5’10 and 160 pounds. Sandy’s Dad is taller, and at that time carried a little more weight than he does now, so the chair was not comfortable for him either. I was 6’3 (who knows where I came from) and I weighed somewhere between 450 and 500 pounds. I was tall, so I carried my weight very well, but I was still extremely overweight. Really morbidly obese. After my Dad’s attempted to get comfortable (an impossible task) I sat down with one cheek slide slightly down in the seat. There was literally no room between rows and I ended up with my knee’s completely up in my mouth. I took this torture for about 15 minutes and then told my fathers that I was going to stand up above.

The event began at 6:30 PM (I think) and ended at 10:30 ish PM. Where I stood for the evening was a row above the balcony seats, and as far as I could see, concession stands sold Hot Dogs, Pizza and a variety of high-calorie snacks and of course the staple of the sports diet for those who were health conscious, Beer. As I stood there, I thought what idiot designed an arena that an obese beer guzzling Hot Dog eating sports addicted man could not fit in? You have to know these were the thoughts of a morbidly obese man, so I was not being critical of the fat man with a beer in one hand a slice of pizza in the other. My criticism was for the dummy who thought men like me would ever be able to attend an event where we could not fit in the seats.

As I looked up and down the row, I saw a whole lot of men who were up there for the same reason as I. On the main floor there were chairs. So that evening I knew if I asked my father-in-law, who was a time management expert (LOLouder!) to get us there early enough to find a seat on the main floor, he would. Of course, as much as I tease him, he accomplished his task very efficiently.

As we went from row to row on the main floor trying to get as close to the front as possible, I noticed that the chairs were…well, they were flimsy to say the best about them. The legs crossed over each other and were extremely thin. When we found our row, my Dad’s sat down, and I noticed that their chairs lowered to give with their weight. To say I was scared is an understatement. As I began to lower my body into the chair, it began to lower with my weight. The problem was that it did not stop lowering until it was mere inches off the floor. And if I shifted my weight, it made noises like it was going to meet the floor and in an untimely manner. I spent the day afraid to breathe and in fear worried that the chair would finally collapse and the rest of my weight would come crashing down. If this had not been true, I would have found the conference to be a marvelous blessing. They had the very best in preachers, teachers, singers and even a comedian. Everything about Promise Keepers was truly wonderful, but I could not let even an extra breath out for fear of what I would face while trying to pick myself up. Pick the pieces of the chair up and pick up what little of my self-esteem that existed before the fall.

This was one more time that I found myself in pain and anguish. Not physical pain, although I am sure if the chair had fallen there, would have been some of that as well. But the greatest pain was a result of how I looked at myself, how others looked at me and what it meant to be a morbidly obese man.

This began my long road to making the choice to surgically altering my body. At the time I had had Rotator Cuff Surgery, and it did not go well. It was supposed to be outpatient, and I ended up in the hospital several nights, so I was not that interested in another surgery. Also, everyone that I talked to said, “remember, it is not reversible.” That took me down a pathway that I really never should have been sent down. That thought milled around in my mind for a really long time until a light turned on and I thought, “What surgery do we want to reverse?” and if I were going to have it reversed why would I do it in the first place. Then another bulb lite up and I thought, “Perhaps I should pray about this?”

So I began to pray about it, and I met this beautiful lady (oh, not beautiful by this worlds standards, but beautiful) who had gone through Bariatric Surgery and had lost over 100 pounds. That in and of itself was not that impressive to me because I had gone through a Nationwide diet plan and lost in the first year 100 pounds. The kicker was that over the next five years while following their plan I proceeded to gain back about 45 pounds. At that point in time, I felt like a complete failure. My friend gave me the information and the doctor’s name, and after praying about it, I contacted the office and made an appointment. You have to jump through a whole lot of hoops when going through this office because they want to make sure that you are medically, emotionally and psychologically ready. As I moved through the appointments, I was impressed with how thorough, efficient and kind they were. I got to my 4th or 5th appointment, and it was with the psychologist. I was given a series of tests and told to go out and sit at the tables to complete them. I hate this type of test. Actually, I hate all tests. This type of test would ask you a question, and then you were to circle the number that most matched what you thought would answer the question. I have a terrible time doing this, and I will actually draw an arrow and write in 6 ½ or 8 ¾ because I cannot say that it is 6 or 7 or 8 or 9. Crazy I know but that is just how I am made. When the results came back, it told them that I probably would not follow their guidelines and I would be difficult to work with. Anyone who knows me knows that I would follow everything down to the slightest detail.

I was told that I would have to make an appointment with a psychologist to be evaluated to see if I was a good candidate for the surgery. I was devastated as one more time I had failed, and they would not do the surgery that I had prayed about and was convinced was best for me. On the same day, the next appointment was with the Bariatric surgeon. When he came into the room, I was a wreck and very discouraged, to say the least. The doctor was tall and very thin, almost too thin. He smiled and was friendly, but I was convinced that he was going to judge me. The opposite was the truth. He spoke out of the kindness of a heart that loved and belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ. He told me that this was just a little blip and that I would soon return. He was right.

Without hesitation, I beat a path over to a large local hospital that specialized in mental and emotional issues. I made an appointment with a doctor. On the first appointment, he asked me loads of questions. I did not know it but he was actually evaluating me to see if what they were saying was true. He was friendly and kind, I liked him. At our second appointment, he explained that there were hundreds of tests like the ones I took. And every one of them would provide a different answer or solution based upon how I answered them. Now you know why I hate these tests. He said that organizations like the Bariatric Surgeon’s office did their best to select tests that would give them the greatest result for their concerns. He told me that upon his evaluation that I was of average intelligence and that he was recommending me because in his evaluation he saw no evidence that I would do anything other than what they were requiring. He said that he saw in me a pleasant manner and a personality that would fit well with the prospect of the surgery.

Now all of those positive things that he said and my mind stopped with the sentence, “That I was of average intelligence.” I read and reread that sentence and found myself somewhat offended by the fact that he thought that I was only average. After some consternation and submission in prayer, the Lord said to me, “And you thought that I created you brilliant?” And then I started to laugh and said out loud boy am I ever full of it. I put that aside and now my mantra is, “Average at best!’ so I focus more on who He is and less on who I am.

With that set-aside, the ball started rolling really fast. After a few short months and my submission to their requirements, I was scheduled for surgery. The last hoop was the insurance hoop. The doctor’s office submitted the paperwork, and I was after several weeks expected to receive a letter that would either say that I was approved or denied. At the time I was in Sales, and I had won an award that included a cruise to the Bahama’s for two. I was thrilled, and as we were loading the car to leave for the airport, I went out to the mailbox. Of course, the letter was there, and we were to leave shortly. I thought should I look at it now and possibly ruin our cruise or should I leave it on the kitchen table. I vacillated some and decided to open the envelope before I even told my wife what was in my hands. Well, the cruise was fantastic, and we had a wonderful time. And the surgery was approved by the insurance company.

So at this point, all of my focus has been just like the focus of those who teased me, those who said: “if only I” and those who missed the point when they stated that “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. If only they understood what God intended when He said, (as all of us should) “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” The focus of all man is the outward appearance. It is nearly impossible to get away from this focus.

All of our fashion, movies, sports and even the diet industry especially the diet industry focuses on the outward appearance. The challenge of the believer is to be different from this focus in everything. The only focus the believer is to have is one of abandoning all and everything to the savior who by the Holy Spirit is transforming your life. So, yes, when the individuals who approached me saying, “If you would only eat a little less.” they were focusing on the wrong thing. The individual who approached me saying, “You know that your Body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.” missed the point because they did not understand what was important to God and what God focuses on. And even me when I pursued Bariatric Surgery I was focusing on the wrong thing.

You see God cares about our physical condition and yet allows the sin that causes illness to invade the body of the man who is in the greatest of shape. God cares little about your curves or how many miles you can run each day. But God cares passionately about your character and how you treat others from day to day. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-38 to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.” and in loving your neighbors as your self, you take excellent care of yourself. You do everything that you can to build your body up. Jesus tells us to do the same for our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Everyone we see.

The apostle Paul speaking to the believers of his day in Ephesians 4:29-32 as well as to us today said, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

I pray that this is what I learn from day to day and yet I fall continually and speak words that I wish I could take back. I walk all over another’s feelings because what I think is more important. Paul said that we should speak, “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” Wow! Do I practice this on a day to day basis? Do I even practice this word on a weekly basis?

The world we live in, the dieting world cares little about any of what is genuinely “helpful for building others up.” As lights in the midst of darkness, we must step out from under the world’s standards. Our calling is “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2.


It is hurtful when we feel that we are being attacked. There is hurt and pain in the approach of an individual who dwells on what our outside or outer appearance holds. Can and should we hold on to the hurts of the past and if we do will we suffer pain? I can answer an affirmative on that one because I still struggle with hurt as a sixty-year-old man. Hurts from my childhood. Voices and words that have long ago faded. Long ago they forgot what they said to me. Long ago they forgot how the hurt me. Long ago is where long ago should be. In the past and forgiven. “Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32c

This is my challenge from day to day, hour by hour, moment by moment. I believe that this is the only way that we will find forgiveness and become forgiven by those we have offended. Our Savior was our guide, and he gave us the first commandment to love the Lord your God and to love your neighbor as yourself. Yes, my hurting friend this means forgiving what seems unforgivable. This means loving enough to say “It OK” and mean it. This means not carrying the hurt from long long ago but letting it go by the power of the Holy Spirit. My prayer is that I live this and that you may live it too.

Chapter Three: Future Stealers

“Sticks And Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” How odd, I can remember wondering about this little diddy while playing on the school playground. My memory of this is wishing that they had thrown stones because boy did those words ever hurt. After all, it was important to me that I fit in and apparently, I did not. And undoubtedly where is a fat kid with a tender heart going to fit in? What I didn’t know then, was this was just the beginning. I have always thought that this was a ridiculous saying but as I grew I learned how far from the truth it actually was.
In those days when I was moving through the school system words like zero tolerance did not exist. It was a time when literally anything goes including what was said by your teacher. So once I stepped into Junior High, I became fair game for teachers who wanted to become liked by the incoming students. I quickly learned who these staff members were and how to keep as much distance from them as possible. Unfortunately, the classrooms were not a safe place for me. I dreaded the moments when the teacher had to step out of the room. It was then that the bullies would go on the attack. Almost always the teacher would step back in just when I was responding to one bully or another. Then they would discipline me and treat me as if I were the one who created the disturbance in their classroom. In reality, I had been hit in the back of the head with a spitball, or I had just been belittled because my belly was bursting out of my pants. It really did not matter what the other kids did or said it was only necessary that I responded as the teacher walked back into the room. I believe that the bullies became very skilled at timing and getting me to respond, who knows how, when the teacher walked back into the classroom. As I moved into my teen years, I noticed that if I did not sit towards the front of the room, I could not see well. Now not only was I the fat kid but my vision was weak. All of the bullies took advantage of whatever they could use to belittle and berate me. So even when the teacher was in the classroom, I was somewhat distracted by what was going on behind me. The constant bullying in class made it almost impossible for me to focus on what was being taught, and my grades showed it. As a result of this, the guidance counselor decided that I would fit in better with the children who had learning disabilities. My IQ was not low, but they did not know how to deal with me and the problems that they felt I was causing in the classroom. Back then they called people with learning disabilities retarded or ‘Tards as the other kids called them. So now I was not just a fat kid with vision problems, but I was also a ‘tard.
In my school, there was an annual event that all the kids all got excited about called TWIRP Week. For me, this was just one more reason to feel rejected and hurt. TWIRP Week was a week when a girl would ask a guy to be her TWIRP (or date) for the week. Then there were activities throughout the week that the girl and guy would be involved with together. This TWIRP event was meant to be fun for all the kids. Many of the students looked forward to TWIRP week. Well, the popular jocks and pretty girls did I suppose. I dreaded it and wished that I could be anywhere else during that week. My eighth-grade year some of the popular kids (bullies) decided that it would be fun to set me up with a girl. I don’t mean set me up in a kind way either. One of the girls in the school, a ‘tard, was also overweight and a potential TWIRP mate for me. At first, they just asked me if I wanted her to be my TWIRP. When I ignored them, they decided to tell her that I wanted her to ask me to be her TWIRP date. As a result of the constant pressure, I felt cornered, and I did not know what to do, so I asked her. You guessed it, she accepted, and I actually got excited because, on the following Monday, TWIRP week was to begin and I had a date. I went home and told my parents and started to make plans to celebrate TWIRP week with this girl. My heart was in the right place, and I came in on Monday thinking that this would be fun. You know I had a date for TWIRP week, and maybe the other kids would leave us alone. I was so very naive regarding my classmates. When I came into school on Monday morning, she came up and told me that her Mom said to tell me that she could not be my Twirp date. Looking back I believe that her mother was just trying to protect her from hurt, but I felt like a failure again. I hurt because not even a ‘tard would TWIRP with me. Clearly, this was insecurity, and I was just an eighth grader, so I did not always process everything correctly. But this only added to the big wall of hurt that was building brick by brick.

All of this was becoming overwhelming, and one would wonder why I was not one of those kids who chose to drink or had taken drugs or even worse chosen an overdose of drugs to end it all. You know my story, it goes on and believe it or not; it gets uglier and far more difficult to handle, but my story is not unique. One is forced to wonder how many others have suffered or endure the barrage of terrible emotional suffering. A position that was and is created by the cruelty of another group of individuals. They are commonly called bullies. Is it any wonder that kids who are in the midst of developing who they are, may also dwell on a way out of this peer pressure-filled suffering. According to the CDC Centers for Disease Control, more teens die from suicide than from Cancer, Heart Disease, AIDS, Birth Defects, Stroke, Pneumonia, Influenza and Cronic Lung Disease combined. Did you catch that? The number of deaths by suicide is higher than a combination of all of those horrible diseases. That number boggles my mind but does not surprise me. In America each day there is an average of over 5400 suicide attempts by students from the 7th to 12th grades. I don’t know about you, but I cannot imagine the horror of being the parent of one of those kids. Let alone grasp the sheer number of those who are suffering so much that they would take an action that was meant to end their life.

This brings me back around to my story and how difficult it is to carry that load. I can remember thinking that the world that I lived in was inescapable. At that time no one could have convinced me that I would grow up and that I may find success or even marry the woman of my dreams. That was too far outside of what I knew even to consider at that time. The popular mean kids taught me that I was the fat kid who probably would not make it and after all, I was one of the ‘Tards. The bullies, the ones I saw every day, reinforced the lessons that they taught with passion. The lessons: That I was worthless, that I was fat and that I was a ‘Tard who had little to no value in this life. In a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, it stated that kids who were bullied were more than twice as likely to consider suicide. Are you surprised by this statistic? Why?
Recently I heard a play on the quote that I started this chapter with. You know “Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I believe that Kris Valloton states it correctly with the following quote. “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will steal my future.” Kris captured the truth in his rewording of this little diddy. The key is in the second half of the phrase where he says, “names will steal my future.” The impact of a word certainly has the power to steal one’s future. But, this is not a new problem, and it has been a curse for thousands of years. The great King David who was called a man after God’s own heart wrote many of the Psalms. Scripture records that he suffered much during his lifetime and a lot of the pain that he suffered included the injury that is connected to the tongue. King David wrote in Psalms 64:3 “They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.” Honestly, those deadly arrows could have stolen the future of this great Kings, but they did not. I felt those arrows, sprung forth from those bullies bows, and they were meant to be fatal. They were cruel beyond what most can understand. They were meant to steal my future. Many people carry the hurt from these cruel words for their lifetime.
My favorite class in High School was music/choir. After that class, I was cornered in a back hallway on many days, by a group of bullies who would often beat me up. Many years later as an adult, I paid a chance visit to a service station to look at new tires for my car. The attendant who came out to greet me was a big burly and gruff looking man who was very excited to assist me. He proceeded to talk to me about school and his great memories. He talked about what good friends we had been. As we were looking at tires, it took me some time, but after a while, I recognized this man. In High School, he and his friends had bullied me and beat me up several times after choir class in that back hallway. I did not let him know what I was thinking and naturally did not end up buying any tires, but he insisted that I come back because we had so many great memories to talk about together. When I left there, I was so upset that I got into my car and teared up. I prayed and asked God to help me, but I was so upset that I only drove a short distance before I pulled over so I could stop shaking. I could not believe that this man considered me his friend. Why would I ever go back to this service station to see this man? I have since decided to forgive him, but you can see how long it took me and how many years went by with me carrying the hurt of this experience in my past. There are many who bear this kind of grief and suffer from this type of abuse for their lifetime.
King David wrote in Psalm 57:4 “I am in the midst of lions, I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts-men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.” Is it any wonder that we carry this pain into our adult years. Every day we experience a barrage of arrows whose tips have been dipped in a poison that is designed for the sole purpose just to damage our hearts.
Frequently, the damage comes from within the walls that were designed for our safety, the church. My mother struggled with obesity most of her life. Many within the halls of the church offered her words of abuse. Proverbs 15:4 states that “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” One day my folks were on the church bus to head out on an adult Sunday School function that was meant for fellowship and fun. The associate pastor was sitting in the back of the bus while my folks were towards the front. My Father had the inside of the seat with my Mom on the aisle. Teasing was typical in this congregation, and so critical words about hairstyle, clothing, makeup and body size were fair game. The associate pastor who was also the youth pastor was especially critical of weight issues. This particular day everyone was excited as this was supposed to be a fun gathering that had been on the calendar for a long time. My mother was delighted because she was going to spend the day with my Dad involved in a church activity. My parents had five children so I am sure that they had to make special arrangements so that they could be involved in this fun event. They had gathered on the bus, and they were waiting for a few of those in the group to climb up on the bus. Without notice from the back of the bus, the Associate Pastor spoke up loudly and said, “Look at the fat roll off that woman’s body.” Everyone broke out in laughter and because my Mother was the only one struggling with obesity on the bus it was obvious who he was talking about. My Mother was mortified and wanted to crawl under the bus. My Dad who was insecure and did not know what to do kind of chuckled along with the crowd. Dad loved Mom and would not have wanted her hurt, but he was not a part of the in-crowd and did not know what to do. He felt that he had no influence and that what he would say would be put down. Needless to say, my Mother suffered throughout that entire trip. Over time she stopped attending these functions that clearly were not fun for her. Now you may say, well, you are telling that story second hand, and you would be correct but remember I told you that he was the Youth Pastor as well. This type of bullying was typical for the Associate/Youth Pastor, and he said things to me that hurt profoundly and embarrassed me in front of the group. Often I did not want to attend the Youth Group events for fear that I would be singled out for an attack. Fortunately, this man was not long for the ministry. In fact, his first wife who had weight struggles of her own left him for another younger and attractive man.
So what is the benefit in talking about all of this uncomfortable stuff? Especially painful, if you are one who has suffered the abuse, or you’re the one who caused the hurt. There is a straightforward reason for discussing all of these uncomfortable events. The apparent reason is that suffering is not limited to illness or injury and the effects of it. Emotional injury is a real issue and needs to be addressed. And emotional anguish often comes through the lips of someone we know and respect. James, Jesus Christ apostle, taught in James 1:26 that “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” I am pretty literal in my study of the scripture, so you know where I believe this particular passage leaves that former Associate/Youth Pastor. The following treasure is found in Proverbs 16:24 “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. How much strength is found within the language that is used to build a person up rather than words used to point out the obvious? If I read this scripture correctly, I see within it a prescription for healing. If it is not already obvious gracious or compassionate and yes even kind words are sweet to the soul and bring healing to your bones. I cannot help but believe that the Apostle James gleaned the wisdom that he shared in his book from his time with our Savior Jesus. I believe that the lover of my soul spoke words of affirmation and support, not words to tear down and destroy. That is why James called the tongue “a small part of the body” and yet strong enough to cause a great forest fire saying, “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
James 3:5-6
I believe that many suffer from emotional anguish. These are people who say that their future has been stolen from them because of “cruel words like deadly arrows” (Psalm 64:3b) that were chosen by someone for them. James continues with passion trying to communicate the dangers of the tongue in chapter 3:9-10 “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brother and sister, this should not be.” Can he communicate his point in a way that is clearer? James states that we praise the creator and then out of the same lips we curse His creation. Mind you a creation that has been made in God’s image. Jesus cared about every word that came out of his mouth. He used precise language when he said in Matthew 12:36 (NRSV) “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter;…”
Is there a stronger case that can be made regarding the importance of how we use our tongue? I cannot imagine being able to make one. What will the bully say when they stand before the throne of God? Will they be able to say anything at all? Mark 3:28 says, “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter,” and Matthew 6:14 proclaims, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” I pray that I will not find myself before the throne answering for times when my tongue took the part of the bully. I confess that words, during times of emotional distress, have flown off my tongue and formed a hurt that I regret. Words that I later sought forgiveness for because they were a fire set in the hearts of those I love. We are all guilty of the careless use of words that slip off our tongues in moments that we regret.
The best thing that I can say today is that my future was not and could not be stolen by something someone said. I have suffered deeply as a result of careless words that were poison arrows directed at my heart and meant to destroy my life. If I had allowed them to, by dwelling on them. They could have stolen my future. Please, my friend, do not give anyone the power to steal your future. Give the pain you have experienced over to the only one who can handle it and trust him for a new day and a new future. How is that possible? It is possible because the one who you need to hand your suffering over too, suffered so that he could carry your pain. Isaiah 53:3-6 says “He was despised and rejected by all mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:7 “In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, In accordance with the riches of God grace.” Jesus proclaimed in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” so apparently the one who carried the burden of our sin is the only one who can handle the weight of our suffering and pain. It is in our favor to release the hurt that we have carried for so long and allow the God of the universe to give us the freedom that we long for with every part of our heart mind and soul. Because you are able to come to the Father God through Jesus. He is indeed the only one who can provide for you the strength that is required to forgive and produce healing for your broken heart. This is the only way to find a real future so that your future is not stolen.

Chapter Two: All Things Are Connected

 

Seldom do we begin a journey without making plans and yet the path that we wander down in pain is one we could never be prepared for or long to take. My walk down this long and winding road began with a simple decision. I was at a work event that was meant to give the families of the employee a chance to relax and have fun. I began the evening enthusiastic because the party was at a place called “Bounce Party.” I was excited by what I saw when we arrived, and I did bounce, but it was not fun in the end. The impact of the bounce led me to broken bones, and my right rotator cuff was torn almost entirely in two. You would have been proud of me though as I was very courageous. I stood and walked across the room with tears of pain pooling behind my eyelids. The rest of the evening I sat next to my wife watching my friends and coworkers having fun. I thought oh, there is nothing wrong with you, just tough up Gary you can handle the pain. We left this evening filled with fun with my teeth grinding and a smile that was plastered on from ear to ear. After moaning through the night in the early morning hours, my wife said, “honey we need to go to the Emergency Room.” Well, several broken bones and an immobile shoulder later I found myself in the hospital for what I thought was going to be outpatient surgery. I am tall, and they brought me out of the operating room on a table that was too short. As I began to come out of the Anesthesia, I can remember asking the nurse why I was on such a short table. She said, “Oh, it’s ok you will recover soon, and we can send you home.” I drifted in and out, but each time I was somewhat “in” I would ask the nurse again about the too short table. Well, you guessed it I did not come out from under as they expected and what should have taken about an hour took several hours.
When they finally tried to get me up to go home, I had lost all feeling from my knee’s down. I literally fell and had to be held up, so they proceeded to send me up to a room and hospitalized me. After three days I left the hospital walking, thank God, but I now have profound Neuropathy. To put it simply I have nerve damage in each leg from the knee down. Our bodies are so detailed, and everything works together right down to the smallest detail each part is affected by the other, we cannot injure one part without affecting another part of our body.
The Psalmist was concise, and he puts it this way, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14.
I recognize this truth clearly from the way my body reacted to the incident on the recovery table and prolonged Anesthesia. Have you thought about the effects that sin has on our thoughts when we allow our eyes to wander and then dwell on what we should not? In fact, our minds may be impacted by what we see giving us phycological or spiritual neuropathy.
The apostle Paul in Romans 8:5-6 say’s “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the spirit have their minds set on what the spirit desires the mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the spirit is life and peace.”. Everything is connected and even what can seem to be an innocent glance can turn into hurt for a lifetime.
It would make sense to think about what the apostle says when the mind is governed by the flesh as a kind of a spiritual neuropathy on steroids. I know of a situation where this very truth played out over the years and caused the death of a 20-year marriage and a life abandoned to sin. I believe that this individuals sin may have started out with an innocent glance where the mind wanders down a path it should never have. This person found themselves in a spiritual neuropathy because of a pattern of bad choices that resulted in their breakdown and the destruction of their family.
I remember in Sunday School we sang a song that would be good to sing as adults. This is how the little tune’s lyrics went, “Oh, be careful little eye’s what you see, Oh, be careful little eye’s what you see for the Father up above is looking down in love so be careful little eyes what you see.” It is so important that we keep our heart and mind in the right place and so I sing to myself, “Oh, be careful little eye’s” as I move through this day.
What about you? Do you as the apostle Paul said have a “mind governed by the flesh” as in spiritual neuropathy or do you have a mind “set on what the Spirit desires.” Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” So I will continue to sing to myself “Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.” How do you guard your heart against spiritual neuropathy?

Chapter One: Origins (An Introduction)

Some would say that the best place to start is at the beginning, but where does it all honestly begin? I could start on the day I was born, but we know through biology that our origin has much more to do with a wink & a node then the slap of the doctor’s hand. Perhaps I am as Ancestry.com says all about my ancestors. History tells us that many have traveled far and wide to answer the questions concerning where it all began but to what avail. Some who have been received by loving hands and into loving homes via adoption cannot even trace their roots to their biological Mom & Dad. So for them, they don’t have a place to begin or know the one who gave the wink or the one who gave the nod. So this notion of starting where you originate can become perplexing at best.
So for me, I have to say that the very best place of beginning has much more to do with a relationship than a date or time. You see I trace my beginning, not to the back of a doctor’s hand or even the warmth of my Mothers arms. I find my origins in a first conversation, a getting to know you of sorts. At least on my end, it was an introduction because the one I was getting to know designed me in my mother’s womb Psalm 139:13. And He already knew my every detail down to the numbers of the hairs on my head Matthew 10:30.

My introduction was simple enough because God chose to use a servant with the title Sunday School Teacher. I don’t know what other titles this man held, but the plaque on his door when my Sunday School teacher introduced me to the maker of the stars was more crucial to me than that of a CEO or President. For he facilitated, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the opening of my eyes that day. The core of my being was changed in those moments transforming me from the child of human parentage into the child of the King of Kings.
Now, perhaps you’re asking what does any of this have to do with pain? My response to you will be one, and only one, powerful word. Everything! For, I believe, to understand and know how to deal with long-term chronic pain you must first come to terms with the one who fashioned your body. The one who designed those shocking receptors or nerves that signal and announce pain. The reason why I began this line of thought was to discuss the need to understand your beginning. No, I am not talking about the date that you use to identify yourself at every hospital and doctors office. I am referring to the moment when you were introduced to the great physician. The one who created every cell, the one who caused the egg to divide and to produce your conception.

So Are you scratching your head right now saying “What?’, “Who?’or “How? And where has this conversation just gone? Well, I can answer those queries with the following quotes. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” John 14:6. That is the “who” and as we read further the truth of the “How” is pretty simple and can be summed up in the following text. “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish (to die) but have eternal life.” John 3:16. So when you think of these two scriptures, the only one who can point you to the Father, was sent by the Father to sacrifice His life. The reason for this was because of our bad choices and sin we owed a debt that we could not pay. There was only one who could pay that debt. Because He made only good choices and was free of sin that He did not owe that debt. And when I met the one who paid my debt, He came bearing a gift. As I opened that gift, I found within the wrapping the power of the Holy Spirit and eternal life.

He promises that same gift to you. This promise is the best of the possible good news that this is not only available to a few but “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:8 and to solidify the point Jesus said in Revelations 3:2 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…”. So my friend what is keeping you from opening your heart’s door? I can’t think of a good reason. After all, what have you got to lose?
As I got to know my savior, I realized that He is the reason for this life. He brings all the fulfillment that anyone could need. But for some now comes the transition, the great leap that they cannot possibly understand. After all my blog is titled Pain my constant traveling companion and how could a loving God allow someone like me to live in constant pain? Many point to people around the world who are suffering from day to day and have no means for a resolution to that pain. We see children in poverty-stricken countries who struggle in torment because they don’t have good food to eat. And in this day to day life I may say, well, look at that guy he doesn’t have it so bad. In your defense, you may say “How could you conceivably appreciate the pain that I have faced?” I am going, to be honest with you and say that I have not walked down the paths that you have traversed. I probably cannot understand the level of discomfort or pain that you have faced. I would be grateful for that same level of honesty from you. The boulders that have knocked me on my wide end could not compare to the pebble in your shoe or visa versa. So, now that we have got that one out of the way can move on and look at each other differently? To be clear, we have only two choices when thinking about constant chronic pain and how to deal with it.

Option 1. Buck up and pull yourself up by your bootstraps. After all, you have only yourselves to depend upon so you better take care or yourself because no one else will.
Option 2. Fall at your Savior’s feet and depend upon Him to carry you through and develop you into the individual that you are called to be. He promises in Philippians 1:6 that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Someone who has a plan for you that includes hope and a future Jeremiah 29:11.

In the coming blogs, I plan on providing for you the details that have shaped my life and the God who carried me through them.

As for me, I have chosen option number two. Now, what about you?