Here I Am (Send Me Out)

(Song of the Week Sundays)

One of my favorite places to go to search for new worship music and one of my favorite places for creativity was

Unfortunately, the blogger had a child and new job and found himself too busy to continue the blog.  Yet, even a year later, I think his rendition of “Here I Am: Send Me Out” (by Michael Bleecker) is worthy of our ‘Song of the Week.’

It is an amazing and inspirational song and Jason does a tremendous job on this acoustic version.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Went And Got Myself Sick!

We far too often think that we are master’s of our own destinies.  We think that we set the direction of ‘things to come’ and that we can navigate the future.  We say to people, “Stay well” as though we can will a bacteria or virus out of our system or we say, “safe travels” as though we can magically make the roads safe.

The truth is that we have little control over ‘the things to come.’  I’m not trying to be a pessimist, but we need to keep in mind our place in this universe.  We aren’t gods, you see, we are human beings.  We can’t see around corners, we can’t peer into the future, and, no matter what greatness we attribute to ourselves, we cannot help that bad things will sometimes happen.

As a person of faith I have to know that I cannot control the world I live in, my own future, or other people (that last one is an important lesson, btw).  What I can control is how I react to others and how I react to what happens to me.

Okay, so my title reminds us that I can do things to keep myself healthy and I probably engaged in some risky behaviors that exposed me to sickness during these past couple of weeks since my surgery, but I didn’t ‘get myself sick.’  Sickness happened and now my body is reacting.

Christians need to keep this in mind as they go through life.  There are Christians who act with hate and malice as they go through life trying to control the actions of others and trying to make everyone act the way they think ought to be.  What do I mean?  You need look no further than a Christian woman holding a picture of a fetus, or as members of Westboro Baptist Church (Fred Phelps and his gang) picket a funeral.


Christians far too often think that they can will the world into being what they want it to be.  They believe that they can force others to act the way they want them to act, but ladies and gentlemen:  We are not gods.  We do not control fate.  We are not masters of our own destinies.  We are flawed and fragile human beings but we do have control over how we react to this world and the people in it.

Christ always acted out of love, when we look at scripture.  He didn’t buy into the legalism of his day, but he witnessed to people by showing them that he cared.  There would sure be a lot less abortions in our country if these holier-than-thou folks holding picket signs would take the hand of a young girl and walk along with her.  There would sure be a lot less murder and crime if church people didn’t just pass the rough parts of town, but got involved with troubled teens.  We can’t improve education by passing a new piece of legislation, but we can get our hands ‘dirty’ and go out into our communities and start working with children.

We live in an imperfect, messed up, out-of-balance world.  We live in a world we cannot control, yet when we are reminded of our place in the world, we acknowledge that there is hope through our God and our relationship with God.  We can take our faith and make a difference in the lives around us.  My body is reacting to the flu -or whatever got into my system.  Let us act like my immune system.  Let’s take a look at the world around us and let’s begin the process of healing and restoration.  It won’t happen without us getting our hands dirty.  It can’t happen from a distance or by writing a check or authoring a congressional bill…but it can happen.

A speech & song that changed an election. How are we doing as a nation, now, though? Do we just complain that our president hasn’t done enough on his own, or are we all actively working to change this world. As a people, do we believe, “Yes, We Can?”

As we approach an election year, let’s stop trying to find 1 person to fix things for us…I mean, that’s never going to happen!  Instead, let’s allow our current president (both now and a year from now) to lead us toward a more vital and beautiful world. Let’s stand together to make our world a better place where people have healthcare, where people can work, where people have a roof over their heads, where children don’t go hungry, and where the right to speech is protected. Let us stop relying upon fear of war (and terrorism) and let’s begin shifting our resources from acts of violence (war & ‘defense’) toward preserving and enhancing life.

I believe the best in people and I believe the best is possible for our country.  I believe ‘we can’, do you?

Men Who Love Sausage.

Fat Tuesday is not a tradition with which I was very familiar growing up.  In fact, as far as I can remember, the whole Lent thing was really played down when I was growing up.  Since hitting adulthood, though, it seems I have always landed myself in a church where Fat Tuesday is a big occasion.  Here in Pontiac the Pancakes and Sausages start flying onto the plates around 11am and will continue until 7pm or later.  The tickets raise money for the ministries of the church and will fund everything from children’s ministry to worship; but money-making isn’t really what’s at the heart of Pancakes and Sausages on Shrove Tuesday.  At the heart of Pontiac First United Methodist Church’s obsession with that “day of shame” is community.  The men of the church, no matter whether they carefully grumble a bit or not, really enjoy getting together and making those hot, sweet pancakes and frying up sausages.

When we look around the church today we must be thankful for the women of the church because they are ever-present and, in many ways, they are the cement that holds the place together.  Us men could not do all that the women do each week to make ministry happen.  Maybe I’m being sexist, but I’m pretty well convinced that we’re just not up to the task.  I think about the missions of the United Methodist Women, the worship leaders who are nearly all women, not to mention all the women who are involved in our afterschool tutoring and confirmation program.

In a way us men have let ourselves down.  By backing out of the church more than we ever should have, we have lost our community.  We need an outlet that speaks to our hearts, and, in this case, fills our bellies.  That’s why I think we, United Methodist Men, like sausage and pancake day.  Yup, for a full day we get to hang out with each other.  For a full day our wives and children will not pester us about too much grease or too much red meat…or too much salt.  Why?  Because for at least one day of the year we are all together raising money for the church and enjoying ourselves at church.  No woman is crazy enough to mess with that system.

For me, the question is whether pancakes and sausage are enough.  I mean, it’s great that we have this day and this solidarity, but it doesn’t seem as though Christ is calling us together as men of the church just so that we can feed people unhealthy food and cause a mass-genocide of swine 🙂  There must be a greatness that we are being called toward.  This community of men who have been doing this project for 25+ years (some of them) are surely being called to something more than pancakes.

Jesus fed people whenever he could and enjoyed doing it.  I always say that’s a great place to start!  But Jesus didn’t just feed people physically (and never poorly).  Jesus fed people spiritually, physically, emotionally, and, even, educationally.

I think that the men of this church have started something good.  I think we could keep doing it the same way for another 25 years and it will be good.  But I would like to believe that we are called to greatnesss.  Men of the church:  Let’s look around at Pancake Day.  What feeds us and how to we shape our excitement and interests into a ministry that does more than physical feeding.  How do we create new ministries that are life-changing here at Pontiac First United Methodist Church.

Today is our first-ever Video Bible Study at Evenglow Lodge.  Even though I can’t be with the Evenglow residents today, I am still able to share through the miracle of technology.  Not only can I engage in Bible Study with residents of Evenglow, but anyone at First United Methodist Church in Pontiac, or, really, anyone in the world can take part in this ministry with us.  How cool is that?

First, Carrie and I wanted to share a couple of updates.  First, you are invited to click here to read a blog with the latest update on my tumor; written by my wife, Carrie.  Secondly, we would like to share a video from last Sunday with an update about my recovery, a testimony from my mother, and an update from my wife:

The scripture for Bible Study, today, comes from 2 Kings 5 and is the story of Naaman being healed by Elisha.  As you read along with me be on the look-out for expectations.  As we read about each character ask yourself, “how does this character look at the world?” and “What outcome does this character expect?”

2 Kings 5:1-14 

 1 Naaman, a general for the king of Aram, was a great man and highly regarded by his master, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. This man was a mighty warrior, but he had a skin disease. 2Now Aramean raiding parties had gone out and captured a young girl from the land of Israel. She served Naaman’s wife.  3 She said to her mistress, “I wish that my master could come before the prophet who lives in Samaria. He would cure him of his skin disease.” 4 So Naaman went and told his master what the young girl from the land of Israel had said.
 5 Then Aram’s king said, “Go ahead. I will send a letter to Israel’s king.”
   So Naaman left. He took along ten kikkars of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. 6 He brought the letter to Israel’s king. It read, “Along with this letter I’m sending you my servant Naaman so you can cure him of his skin disease.”
 7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he ripped his clothes. He said, “What? Am I God to hand out death and life? But this king writes me, asking me to cure someone of his skin disease! You must realize that he wants to start a fight with me.”
 8 When Elisha the man of God heard that Israel’s king had ripped his clothes, he sent word to the king: “Why did you rip your clothes? Let the man come to me. Then he’ll know that there’s a prophet in Israel.”
 9 Naaman arrived with his horses and chariots. He stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent out a messenger who said, “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored and become clean.”
 11 But Naaman went away in anger. He said, “I thought for sure that he’d come out, stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the bad spot, and cure the skin disease. 12 Aren’t the rivers in Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all Israel’s waters? Couldn’t I wash in them and get clean?” So he turned away and proceeded to leave in anger.
 13 Naaman’s servants came up to him and spoke to him: “Our father, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? All he said to you was, ‘Wash and become clean.’” 14 So Naaman went down and bathed in the Jordan seven times, just as the man of God had said. His skin was restored like that of a young boy, and he became clean. 

Scott’s Thoughts
And, now, if you haven’t fallen asleep yet, click on this video to hear some reflections on this intriguing scripture:

Before my new Video Bible Study goes live tomorrow afternoon, I thought I’d give you all a little bit of a head-start on 2 Kings.  Sorry I drone on a bit.  Next time I’ll try to be better.  Remember, this is my first try at on-line Bible Teaching.  In the meantime, I hope you learn a little something about this fascinating book of the Bible.

I guess this what happens when you don’t have a plan, but pick up a video camera and start recording.  This is the video that is going to be used at the Evenglow Bible Study on Tuesday to give residents an update on my recovery and to show them the fruits of their labors as they prayed over my mother last Spring!

It is really great to be back in Pontiac and relaxing at home, but I sure did enjoy my time in Pittsfield with family!

Also, I think we’ll add another video here.  I asked Edwina Wilber, after church, to comment about what makes Pittsfield so great.  I thought you might enjoy her response:

I wanted to offer you a taste of what we will be discussing in Bible Study on Tuesday with another scripture from 2 Kings.  Our theme on Tuesday will be:  What it means when we can’t do things for ourselves.  So between now and then, you are invited to read the scripture below and a few words from me.
2 Kings 4:8-17

One day Elisha went to Shunem. A rich woman lived there. She urged him to eat something, so whenever he passed by, he would stop in to eat some food.  She said to her husband, “Look, I know that he is a holy man of God and he passes by regularly. Let’s make a small room on the roof. We’ll set up a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp for him there. Then when he comes to us, he can stay there.”

So one day Elisha came there, headed to the room on the roof, and lay down.  He said to his servant Gehazi, “Call this Shunammite woman.” Gehazi called her, and she stood before him. Elisha then said to Gehazi, “Say to her, ‘Look, you’ve gone to all this trouble for us. What can I do for you? Is there anything I can say on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’”

She said, “I’m content to live at home with my own people.”

Elisha asked, “So what can be done for her?”

Gehazi said, “Well, she doesn’t have a son, and her husband is old.”

Elisha said, “Call her.” So Gehazi called her, and she stood at the door. Elisha said, “About this time next year, you will be holding a son in your arms.”

But she said, “No, man of God, sir; don’t lie to your servant.”

But the woman conceived and gave birth to a son at about the same time the next year. This was what Elisha had promised her.

Scott’s Thoughts
Elisha comes by and, just on his own accord, wants to help her.  He seems to want to “pay her back” for her hospitality, but the woman won’t hear of it.  She tells Elisha (who is also often referred to as ‘the man of God’) that she needs no more wealth or power.  Apparently she has all that she needs.  Elisha keeps ‘sniffing around,’ though, doesn’t he?  He wants to do something nice and realizes that he could use his powers to give them the gift of a child.

If you read my journal entry (online we call it a ‘blog’),  you will know that I’ve been struggling with what it means to have physical limitations. I think that many of us can relate to this woman of Shunem.  I think that, young or old, many of us find times in our lives when we become painfully aware that our bodies, minds or spirits just won’t let us do the things that we would really like most.

In fact, how does this woman respond to Elisha when he tells her of the gift he has planned?

She replies, “No, my Lord, O man of God; do not deceive your servant.”

This is a woman who is resigned to her fate of having no male heir.  She is a woman who is very aware of her bodily limitations and those of her husband.  If you are a resident of Evenglow reading this in preparation for Tuesday, then I have no doubt that you would respond the very same way to such a bizarre promise, wouldn’t you?

The funny thing about us humans is that we often don’t want to talk about our own limitations, even when we are convinced of them.  We want to ignore that there are things we can’t do for ourselves.  I don’t know if it is pride, hope, or simply stubbornness.  For my part:  the other night I tried to get up and go to the bathroom without my walker because I thought, “I can do this and I don’t need help from Carrie,” but instead found myself fallen on the floor, still waking her up, because I physically couldn’t do it on my own.

The woman of this story is well aware of her problems.  She probably didn’t appreciate having them thrown in her face, especially since she doesn’t really believe Elisha is going to be able to follow through.  She tells him that the last thing she needs is to get a false sense of hope!  She knows that she and her husband’s physical bodies are not capable of producing a son.  She is aware and resigned.

Yet, it is about one year later that she conceived and bore a son just as Elisha has declared.  Sometimes we are reluctant to talk about our problems.  Sometimes we are reluctant to accept offers of help.  Most often, we simply don’t believe that there is help available to us.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not a messiah and I’m certainly no Elisha, but I don’t think it takes the supernatural force of a great prophet or the physical presence of Jesus in sandals to do Holy works in this world.

When God formed communities of Hebrew peoples; when Christ commissioned and sent out the disciples; when the Holy Spirit came upon the new Christian-Jews at Pentecost something happened with humanity.  I believe that God does touch and heal in very real ways today.  This week as we prepare for Bible Study, let us be pondering a couple of questions:

  1. When have I needed something that I couldn’t do for myself? 
  2. How do I respond when people offer me help? 
  3. Do I have people around me who may be waiting for my help –or waiting for me to accept their help?

    Tuesday Bible Study
    (Evenglow Lodge Chapel)

    Join Us In-Person
    For Bible Study at the Evenglow Chapel
    Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012 at 1:30 p.m!

    We will look at 2 Kings chapter 5 as we discuss
    another person who needed help from Elisha!

    (Song of the Week Sundays)

    I hope you take a moment to enjoy this version of “O For A Thousand Tongues.”  Charles Wesley wrote these words in 1739.  He wrote this song as he reflected on the previous year.  This song was his reflection upon the one year anniversary of his conversion to Christ.  In 1828 the great American Composer Lowell Mason  wrote a new tune and, as you can hear in this recording, it is a song that has continued to be revisited by talented musicians.

    It is a song that speaks to both the human condition in a very real way and also speaks of the boundless response of God acting upon us.  Written by a man who was responding to very recent changes in his life and faith, one can feel the passion come through this song.  To me, maybe I’m weird, it seems that this song is more than just a sum of its parts.  There is a Spirit that is active behind the words, the tune, and the arrangement.  There is an X-factor in this hymn and, I think, that is the reason it has captured the imaginations of so many talented musicians over the centuries.

    I hope that you will enjoy this version by the David Crowder Band and I hope that this song will bring inspiration to your week!

    Up-close and Sort of Personal: the Pathologist’s Report
    View of a Pilocytic Astrocytoma

    The past few weeks, Scott has been doing a great deal of blogging but I have been sort of MIA. I’ve felt like I was so busy running from one task to the other that when I sat down; well, I just wanted to sit. This morning I realized that my blogging was not the only thing over due, we had also failed to share with many of you about Scott’s doctor’s appointment Tuesday at which we got the results from the pathologists examination of Scott’s tumor. Now, Scott is convinced that blogging should be relational and emotive in content rather than informational, so I’m giving all of you the warning that this blog is most likely going to be more informational in content as I want to explain to you how the visit went and what the doctor said, answering as many questions as I can along the way. Later, when I have some more time perhaps I’ll share something more relational with you all 😉

    Anyway, as I said, Tuesday Scott and I went to meet with Dr. Dacey to get his staples out and for a follow up. Dacey was very pleased with how well Scott was doing (of which I had no doubt); he did his whole battery of fancy neurological tests: walking in a straight line, running your foot from your knee to your ankle, touching your finger to your nose and then the doctors finger, standing with you eyes closed ect. Scott passed them all, and Dr. Dacey declared that he saw no neurological effects from the surgery, which means that his brain seems to be working just like it should be.

    Dacey then went over the reports from the pathologist. The short story is that he thinks that Scott had a benign Pilocytic astrocytoma and that he needs to get MRIs in the future but nothing else. We are very happy, that is good news.

     If however, you want to know more about what that all means, here is the long story:

    When we first met with Dr. Dacey a couple of months ago, he said that he thought that this was most likely a slow growing glioma. A glioma is any tumor that grows from the glial cells, which are one of the types of cells in the brain. Glial cells make up the non-neurological parts of the brain. That is, they do not transmit information but give structure and support to the brain so that it can do everything that the brain does. For more on gliomas. Now, where it gets kind of confusing is that there are  many different types of gliomas.  It’s like the soup aisle at the grocery store.  If I just asked Scott to go pick up some ‘soup,’ who knows what I’d get back from County Market! Just as we know what kind of soup we’re eating because of what we find in the soup, so too do doctors categorize tumors based on what makes up the tumor (ie. the types of cell, structure and how quickly it seems to be growing).

    After they removed Scott’s tumor, they sent it to the pathologist, a type of doctor who cuts up the tumor, and studies it under a microscope. The pathologist concluded that the tumor is what is called an Astrocytoma, a type of glioma. (Of course there are many different kinds of astrocytomas just as there are different kinds of chicken soup.) So we will continue to get more specific as we progress-o. These are the tumors that grow along a type of glial cell called astrocytes. Astrocytes got their name because they look like stars. They are most commonly found in the cerebellum (the area of the brain where Scott’s tumor was and in the spinal cord). Astrocytes support, or keep alive cells that line blood vessels in the brain). Though there are many different kinds of astocytomas, the good news is they do not typically spread out side of the brain, meaning they don’t usually metastasis causing tumors in other organs. For more on astrocytomas.

    An Astrocyte
    Dr. Dacey and the pathologist think that Scott’s tumor was what they call a Pilocytic astrocytoma. For more on pilocytic astrocytomas.  This is one of the slowest growing of the astrocytomas, which means that of all the different kinds of brain tumors Scott could have had, this is one of the better ones. (We lucked out). These are usually considered benign (non-cancerous). The biggest concern with these is that they can become large, causing damage and problems. We were lucky because we found this before it caused symptoms and real damage. It was small, remember we found this accidentally. Because of all of this, and because of Scott’s age, Dr. Dacey is of the mindset that there is nothing more we need to do; he does not think that Scott needs any radiation or anything of that sort.

    Now, when the pathologist was looking at Scott’s tumor, it looked a little different than most pilocytic astrocytomas. There is a kind of fiber they normally find in these tumors called Rosenthal fibers, and his tumor did not have many of them. Now of course when they classify tumors, this is not always as much an exact science as we like to think, just as sometimes its hard to tell the difference between chicken noodle soup and chicken and dumpling soup (one can morph into the other as its noodles become bigger). Dr. Dacey did not seem concerned about this, but he did say that he would present this to his tumor board. So, he will take all of these findings and discuss them with all the other doctors in his department to make sure that they are all in agreement. This means, that rather than getting a second opinion, we will get 10 opinions all working together. When we have our next appointment with Dr. Dacey he will tell us how this discussion went. Scott will also have another MRI in 6 months and then most likely every year after. This is all very good news for us.