A Time of Transition

Three years ago we bought a home in Peoria and began new ministries: Carrie in Peoria and Scott in Hudson.  We were welcomed into those congregations and we have loved them, both.  It is with deeply conflicted emotions, therefore, that we share some news with our congregations, communities, family, and friends.

Bishop Frank Beard has prayerfully discerned that we will both be reappointed to new churches beginning July 1, 2017.  We will move to Collinsville, Illinois where Scott will serve as the pastor at First United Methodist Church and Carrie will be leading The Journey, a new church start of Belleville Union United Methodist Church.  She will be the associate pastor of Union United Methodist Church in Belleville primarily to be the pastor of the Journey in Freeburg.

We will be pleased to be so near to Carrie’s family in Saint Louis and we are fortunate to be a bit closer to Scott’s family in Pittsfield, but we have never been far from family and the drive has always been worth it…to do great ministry with amazing people.  Other the past seven years we have been in loving congregations doing vital ministry wherever the bishop has sent us.

Our hearts will break to say goodbye to our congregations in June.  We must pack our home and move to a new community and, certainly, we leave things behind: our hearts, prayers, and the fruits of labor (born of us and our current churches).  Though, we will also take some things with us: We take the love of our congregations, the lessons learned, and the experiences gained.  Most importantly, though, we take cherished memories and Christ-filled hearts

We mourn our losses and treasure our past experiences, but we also look forward to the ministry that lies ahead.  We know that wonderful people and experiences await us in Collinsville and Freeburg/Belleville.

Why do United Methodist pastors move?

We realize that lots of questions arise when news of pastoral moves come up.  First of all, whether you are in one of our churches or any other United Methodist Church, feel free to sit down with your pastor to learn more about why we do this and the benefits of our system.  In the meantime, click here to learn more about where this strange practice comes from and how it works.

New Seasons of Life
Yes, I’m a church nerd, but I always look forward to the season of Easter.  I look forward to a great Easter Sunday morning at church, yes,  but, then, I enjoy reveling in the ‘afterglow’ of the next few weeks.  I spend those weeks looking for signs of new life, reflecting on the experience of the cross, and expecting resurrection, not just because of old stories found in the Bible, but I expect signs of resurrection in the world around me.  I suppose signs of new life are always present, but I get excited about the season of Easter because it helps me to pay attention to the amazing things God is doing in this world.  This year, though, Easter wasn’t the season I expected it to be.
This year, I found myself tired as I came to Easter because I was doing a mandated (by the United Methodist Church) internship at BroMenn Regional Medical Center along with my full-time job.  Because of my exhaustion, I didn’t really take in Easter the way I ought to have, perhaps.  More devastating, however, was the abrupt end to our pregnancy after Carrie and I suffered a miscarriage.  A season that was supposed to draw my attention to new life became a season of loss and exhaustion.
Today, as I look toward Pentecost (this Sunday) and a new church season, I realize something, suddenly:  Even though I had a difficult season…there is hope.  I have an opportunity to let go of the troubled weeks of Eastertide and celebrate the hope of a new season in my own life.
You see, professionally, as I plan worship, I will set aside the themes and scriptures of Easter and I will prepare for a new season of different scriptures, songs, and worship themes.  I guess, in my personal life, I would do well to set aside the difficulties of these past weeks and months, in a similar way, and allow myself to focus on a new season and find hope for better weeks ahead!
For me, the hope that comes in a new season is:
  • the possibility of getting pregnant, again;
  • welcoming a new pastor to my church and fostering a new friendship;
  • renewing my own body and spirit this summer with exercise, right eating, and spiritual disciplines;
  • working on my relationship with my wife that the experience of this season would help us to deepen our relationship for the next.
As we leave the Easter season, we don’t leave behind the message of Christ or hope for the future.  Likewise, as we move from one season of life to the next we should never lose sight the experiences we have had, yet we have an opportunity to look for new life and experience resurrection.  Over these next weeks, I pray that we will continue to experience Christ’s resurrection and I pray that it will draw our attention to the resurrection all around us and help us to find renewal in our own lives!
blessings,
Moments of Panic

Scripture: Luke 2:41-52 (CEB)

“…but the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t know it. Supposing that he was among their band of travelers, they journeyed on for a full day while looking for him among their family and friends. When they didn’t find Jesus, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple.”  – Luke 2:43b-46

About a year ago I had a ‘moment of panic.’  I had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor, I was working with two families experiencing loss, and the Senior Pastor at my church was about to leave on vacation for a month.  When I got to Christmas Eve at my church in Pontiac and as I shook hands and greeted people I began to feel overwhelmed.  What was truly overwhelming was the way in which person-after-person cocked their heads to say, “are you okay?”

Each thing on its own would have been fine, but this perfect storm hit that night.  During that service as I sat up front, when my responsibilities were concluded and my mind drifted a bit, it all washed over me.  I knew I was going to fall apart right in front of the entire church.  I didn’t.  I made it to the back steps of the church instead of greeting people and I fell completely apart crying. I sobbed, alone, in the dark for the longest time.  I collapsed in a ‘moment of panic.’

Have you ever had a moment of panic?  It is different for everyone, but I suspect most of us have felt a moment like that.  It could be a missing child, a confrontation, a call from a creditor when you have no money to pay, legal trouble, abuse, job loss, divorce…  I don’t know what you have experienced (or maybe you are experiencing), but I suspect this is a pretty universal feeling.

In the scripture above,  Mary must have found herself in a moment of panic.  I can almost see it and hear it:  She is in the midst of a loud parade heading home.  There she stands with voices, laughter, and rejoicing as her community heads home from the festival. Can you imagine how the world must have become muted and far-off when she had her moment of panic? Can you imagine how her stomach must have twisted and fallen when she realized her son was not in this large parade of safety and happiness?

In a moment of panic: Mary & Joseph must have been frantic and must have hurried back to Jerusalem.  They found the boy, feeling at home, in the temple challenging others and being challenged, himself.  Yet, the story doesn’t end when the young Jesus is found. The story is about more than a young boy being physically found by his parents.

This story is about a messiah who took Mary and Joseph’s moment of panic and turned it into something else. They worried for their little boy’s well-being, but the Christ child saw it differently:  He asks, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” They had a moment of panic, but young Jesus turned it into a moment of clarity.

I wonder, though, it you’ll allow me to go off-point for a moment.  I want to talk about where this all happened.  It’s the end of a festival.  When Mary & Joseph return the temple must have been nearly empty compared to a day earlier.  For us, on the week after Christmas it isn’t much different: Christmas eve and Christmas Day have come and gone; Warm feelings were felt as we sang ‘silent night’ on xmas eve; and then everyone returns home.  The temple…the church…is empty.

The good news is that our God can take a quiet temple and turn it into a place of growth and faith.  For us, today, this text reminds us that when we face a moment of panic, pain, grief, trouble, strife…when the world becomes muted and joy seems distant…we are to face that panic and return to the temple.

We are to return to our community of faith and when we come to the otherside of our trouble, Christ may just help us see the world differently.  Our panic and trouble can become a growing faith: through scripture, challenging questions, the people around us, and, of course, God’s Holy Spirit.

Christ takes our human worries and pain and asks us to look at the world from another perspective.  We are shaken by our pain & worry, but God helps us to see more clearly.

For me on that Christmas Eve that filled me with so much anxiety? I don’t know if I made it about Christ the way I should have.  I don’t know what I did right or what I did wrong.  And am sure that my life is no more valuable than others who didn’t survive when confronted by illness.

But I know with certainty that I grew and, as I look back, I see that others grew out of my ‘moment of panic’.  I also know that my community of faith and my God: loved me, challenged me, prayed with me, and, ultimately, changed me.

I do know that on the other side of my own “moment of panic” I see the world differently and, I hope that,  I love more fully.  Oh, I’m not perfect – not even close.  I’m not even sure if I’m better than I was.  God doesn’t promise that, but in my moment of panic and struggle: God & my community helped me through that terrible time.  They helped me to look back with clarity and insight.

When you find yourself struggling, I want you to know that church should be a place to struggle.  When you feel lost or broken, I want you to know that you can be found.  When the world has taken something from you, or you feel loss: know that you can gain something from a community of people who live out their faith and, of course, from your God.

In your moments of panic and trouble.  Go with haste to your true home.  Find a church that cares and allows you room to struggle and grow.  I know you would enjoy mine

Making Facebook Work This Year.

I’ve been contemplating the efficacy of facebook for a church (or other organization).  I’d like to take some time this new year to reflect on what seems to work and what doesn’t.

What you see above doesn’t work.  It gives information, you’re right.  It shows what we were doing, at the time, certainly.  There is nothing wrong with sharing information and announcements on facebook, but that can’t be the totality of it…in fact i’m not convinced that facebook is even particularly good at working like a calendar or bulletin, but I think there are ways to do that…I’ll get to that in another post.   What I want to say today: facebook is meant to connect with people on a relational level.  There should seldom be a post that doesn’t share a photo, video or link to an interesting story.

But, just because you have a link or a photo doesn’t mean its good.  Some churches augment their ‘announcement feed’ with links to denominational news stories or, worse yet, stock photos**.  If that is the extent of what we do, then we are doomed.

I want to suggest that developing a successful church facebook page comes with continually developing original content.  There is no other way to do it effectively…

Photos:  Pick up a digital camera or the nearest smart phone and take photos.  Not blurry snapshots and not all of them can be from the back of the room.  Get in close to people and show happy expressions.  OH, and please, get a variety of people.

Get Permission:  It should go without saying, but please take the time to ask permission from adults to use their photos and make a permission slip for photo an video a part of your sunday school registration so that you can easily know which parents are cool with you using their children’s photos and which ones don’t.  Don’t post photos where children’s faces are clearly visible without permission (the exception, for me, is public performances where the photo or video is of a large group from a distance)!

Video:  It can be as simple as an iphone or as complicated as a professional camcorder, but there are middle-of-the-road options for most churches.  Get a digital camcorder with an external mic plug (there are some inexpensive ones).  With an adapter or two from radio shack you can plug the church microphones into your camera and have decent sound if you do an interview.  But, again, don’t just put up anything.  Just because it is video, doesn’t mean it is good.  Just panning across a crowd will cause yawns to form and people will not click your next video.  Sure, pan the crowd and get videos from behind children and adults so that you have some b-roll that you can use without faces…but get some close up videos and pull people out of the room and ask them to tell what is happening; why they chose to come; and what they like about the event / the church.  Remember, we are not reporting just WHAT happened, but who and how it makes us feel.  and then… most computers have a basic video editing program.  open it up and put together a short video.  For the most part (for shots around the church or short interviews): don’t go over 2-3 minutes, in fact, 30 seconds – 1 minute will give you the best results in my experience.

Recommendations:  There is a very under-used section on facebook pages called recommendations.  For a company it is used for customers to ‘recommend’ the company or the product they sell: “I love [restaurant]’s food because it makes me think of home,” “Everytime I walk into this [business] it makes me think of the day I got engaged.”  Companies use this section to connect.  Churches need to start asking people to think about what they love about the church and post it there.  It is called evangelism and this is a very simple yet powerful way to share our feelings about our church in a visible way.  Oh, and don’t be afraid to remove unhelpful recommendations or comments that get put there… and seek out a variety of voices for this section: get your youth and college students involved here.

Insights:  There are a million tutorials for facebook and the most accurate are right in the facebook help section…  spend some time learning about insights.  They are powerful tools that help you understand how your page is being used.  Very basically, the more that people like, share and comment about a post or recommendation…the more others are going to see your church and know that your organization is an active force in the community (that is “Reach”)

Comment, Share, and LIKE:  Talk with your church staff or leaders to set an expectation that they would spend some time on the page and encourage them to regularly like, comment and share posts.  Now, here is the thing:  discourage people from liking everything.  Why?  My friends are likely to stop paying attention if something from my church comes up on their feed 5 times a day from me, but when staff and church leaders see something that actually connects with them – they should be sharing it.  When a person sees a variety of postings from your church that many of their facebook friends are connecting with, they may actually pay attention!

Oh, and if you are the page admin, don’t be afraid to share items to other people’s timelines.  For instance, when we had a Cantata I put up a video ‘as the church’ and then shared it to the choir director’s timeline.  If it is an item that especially needs attention, “Like” it yourself or comment on it (as yourself, not the page).

Voice: I can not stress this one enough…  Use the right voice on facebook pages!  There is a blue bar at the very top of the page, if you are the admin.  It will look something like this:

For most posts for major events, youtube videos, etc. I make sure that I am posting, commenting and like as “Normal First UMC,” but the staff and I have been trying to upload some photos short video clips and comments using our own voices…  (just go to the blue bar and click to change to your own “voice”).  In the new facebook timeline they appear in a seperate section that gets less notice on the page, but they don’t have to stay there!  Go to the “recent posts by others” click on “see more” and you’ll see all the personal posts that have gone up.  Click on the X.  It doesn’t delete it (although you could) but it gives you options and one of those options is “allow on page.”  That moves the post by someone else to the main part of the page.  It gives a more personal face to the page and to the church.

Hiding:  One last thing, this season we did advent devotional.  Each day I wanted to put up the most recent devotional as a note, but, I didn’t want 31 notes clogging up the page and making it look…well…boring.  So I put up the next day’s note each evening and “hid” yesterday’s note.  The note wasn’t deleted and people could still comment on them and they were still showing up in people’s feeds, but there weren’t 31 notes in a row on the timeline by now, either.  This is critical to understand: what you see on your page timeline is not the totality of your church’s presence.  Facebook is a complicated mix of timeline, notifications, newsfeeds and ads.  Posts exist even when they are hidden from your timeline and old items can be made new, simply by having people go back and like them (or re-sharing an old photo or video).

A successful page will have annoucements (although usually in the form of “events”), sure, but will have a focus on relationship building and content that is personal (not stock photos or, too often, denomination news links).  If you’d like to see some of things I’m talking about in action, feel free to stop by www.facebook.com/normalfirst.  Our page is far from perfect, but we are moving in the right direction.  I think that the staff are making great strides in how we take our church online and aim to ‘connect’ not just inform.

I hope your new year on facebook will be fruitful for you and your church!

**Hey, we occasionally use stock photos…but I suggest there is usually something better to use, it just takes more effort.

Moving In, Heading Out!

Today I finished setting up the basement / library / office / man cave.  Well, whatever you want to call it, it is the one space in the house that I get to make mine…

That makes three rooms that we’ve opened all the boxes and moved completely in.  Yes, we have a long way to go, but we finally feel like we’ve made progress!  Living Room, check.  Family Room, check.  Library, check.  Luckily June (my mother-in-law) has returned to help Carrie finish the move-in process because I’m heading out to a busy week.  
Before brain surgery I didn’t think much about busy weeks and weekends, but after surgery it is a whole different story!  Moving into the house wouldn’t have been a big deal before surgery, but post-op it felt monumental.  I am leading all three worship services for the first time since my brain surgery…for my last (Farewell) Sunday at the Pontiac church.  My last Sunday in a church would be an exhausting task anyway, but after brain surgery it feels daunting to lead worship, preaching, and greet and talk with people.  Oh, and lest I forget, I volunteered for church camp and leave Sunday afternoon for a full week of being a chaplain.  It will be a recharge and help me get back into the swing of being an active pastor…but holy cow it’s going to wear me out.
Don’t get me wrong.  I’m excited for each and every thing that I’m doing.  This is stuff I love to do!  Oh- and I have plans for resting and taking care of myself, but surgery has sure changed the way I look at my days and weeks.  Every room I unpack, sermon I preach, and kid I hang out with at camp feels like a huge accomplishment (and makes me happy).

It’s getting late and before too many sighs go up into cyberspace, I’ll sign off and go to bed.
Resurrection & New Life: God At Work


Meet Andrew Mortonson





My guest blogger, today, is Andrew Mortonson.  He is a member of First United Methodist Church in Green Bay, Wisconsin and is active at the Wesley Foundation at the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign (UIUC) where he will (in August) finish his Masters degree in Aerospace Engineering.  …And I am really proud of Andrew’s most recent announcement:  He has already gotten a job with Rolls-Royce as an Engineering Associate after graduation!






Beginning to See God at Work



Today’s Scripture:  Luke 24:45-49


There was always a plan – a reason, a goal for tomorrow. I had always known the next step in life and was always fully prepared to take it. I had a stable family, good education, and a loving church home. I knew where I would go to college since before I started high school, and there was never really any question I would get in. I was blessed in many ways as a child. 


I grew up in the church, and for a large part, my faith was always laid out before me. Unlike many of the other kids my age at church, I learned and grew in my faith and continued being an active participant after confirmation. Being an active Christian wasn’t necessarily the cool thing to do, but in a Christian community like Green Bay, you never are really challenged in your faith. I often found myself in more discussions with other denominations, especially Catholics. 

When I went to college, I moved into a fraternity, and most of my influences were anything but Godly. I continued to succeed in school, but I felt incomplete and often alone. The summer after my freshman year, people from my home church asked me if I had found a new church to serve at school. When I admitted I hadn’t, they often encouraged me too look, or gave suggestions. I agreed that I would look at the Wesley foundation on campus, partly just to keep people off my back. I fortunately found a new home and gained many new supportive friends.

For the next two years, I felt like I knew where I belonged. While I occasionally struggled with friends and classes, I knew that God was providing for me. However, in my senior year, that feeling began to fade. I thought I had lost God’s call; I wasn’t really sure what my future path should be. I graduated college with Honors, but like far too many people that year, I had no job, and returned to live at home. Once again, I felt very much alone. Even though I was living with my family and had many loving people around me, I was completely lost.

I can understand what the Disciples must have felt around the crucifixion. Only a week before, they entered with Jesus triumphantly into Jerusalem. Going to serve with Jesus was not easy, but I’m sure after a while, they all felt like they were where they belonged. Only a few days later, they were lost, and felt very much alone. 

My story did not turn around in just three days, yet I know that even in those times, God was working in my life. I began to get involved in the praise band at my home church, and the other members often helped remind me that I was not alone. But the real point where I began to see God working was when one of the women in the church came up to me and started asking me details about my life. She knew that I had been looking for a job, and she wanted to know what kind of job, and what I was interested in. Then she told me that she needed to know all of this so she could properly pray for me. She prayed with me, and hugged me and promised me that her prayer group would continue to keep me in her prayers. 

It was about this time that things started to turn around. I applied to grad school and began to attend that fall. Through the two years that I have been studying, I only recently was assured funding for the remainder of my program, but I trusted wholly in God. Within a few months of returning to school, I began dating the woman who became my fiancée, and now within the last week, I was offered a job after graduation. Almost exactly the position I had wanted three years earlier. 

After Jesus arose on Easter, the Disciples went on to spread the gospel throughout the world. But they needed fellowship and support from other believers, and to fully place their trust in Jesus. In the same way, I could not be where I am today without the prayers of family and friends and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Even more, I know that I can impact the lives of others simply through words of prayer and support. At our lowest points, the promise of God’s perfect grace, through the resurrection, allows us to put all of our faith in Him. In Luke 24, Jesus appeared before the disciples who had gathered after the crucifixion. 

“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’” Luke 24:45-49 (NIV)




**top image found at:  http://imlivinginadream.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/on-101-goals/
**image of Andrew Mortonson found on his Facebook.

Pain & Empathy

Recently I told someone that I’ve had a headache since February 7 and the person responded in a way that I felt they were minimizing me, “Oh, now, come on, Scott…” they said.  No.  I won’t come on.  Seriously, I’ve had a headache since February 7.  A two centimeter (in diameter) piece of my brain was taken out and my head has hurt consistently since.  Sometimes it feels like what I’d call a “normal” tension headache and other times I find myself completely debilitated.

Usually it feels like there is a rubber band connected between my temple and the back of my head and sometimes it feels tight and “pops” with pain and other times, especially after I’ve taken medicine, it feels looser and less-noticable.

I say all of this not for pity, but with a point in mind.  Even before I was a pastor, my life has always seems to intersect with people who were hurting.  That’s not a bad thing to me, btw, but there have been many people I have sat (or stood) with and heard words like:

“My back just always hurts”
“Every since my surgery I can’t sleep”
“My sciatica keeps me from _______.”

Before my own recent experience, I guess I tucked these people into my prayer list and must have thought “oh, that’s too bad for them.”  I could sympathize, I guess (I could feel bad for them), but I had never felt pain that wouldn’t go away so I couldn’t empathize.

Pain in my life has always been fleeting.  In a way, that is weird to say.  Before this surgery I might have told you that I had experienced pain, but I, now, don’t think I had.  Oh sure, I have had headaches from time to time and I’ve had spasms, cuts, bumps, bruises and sores…   but I had never before experienced pain that wouldn’t go away and pain that  doctors simply called, “expected.”  Think about it: that means that there is nothing to do about it.  Pain that just “is.”

What I realize is: many of the older members of my congregation, especially, know what it is to have pain that just ‘is.’  Pain that is expected and pain, for which, there is nothing to be done.  Before a few months ago, I would have prayed for these prayer concerns without knowing anything of what they have felt, but now I have empathy for what these people endure.  I feel a pain inside that doesn’t simply go away or subside.

I wonder if that is why Christ was so willing to die upon the cross for us?  Until God felt our human pain, until God has walked a short distance in our shoes, God could not entirely understand us:  could not entirely love us as God wished to.  Perhaps, by feeling our pain, God and humanity could dwell within one another and have wholeness in a way that we could not otherwise experience!

As we come into Holy Week and as we consider what it means for us that Jesus suffered, we need to consider what it means that we should love others as Christ loves us.  Does that mean that we must suffer as others suffer?  Does that mean that we must experience what others experience?  Does that mean, as people of faith, we must open up our hearts to feel ‘the other?’

I Can’t Do Anything!

Lately there have been some things I just can’t do on my own.  Has anyone else felt this way recently?  For me the frustrations began on Saturday, February fourth.  I wanted to do something special for Carrie before her terrible week of taking care of me would begin.  I suddenly realized that on February 14, while I recovered from surgery would be Valentine’s Day.  What was I to do?  I mean,  I couldn’t be sure of whether I would be alive or dead, able to make plans for my dear wife or be struggling for consciousness.  I don’t want to put too fine a point on it, but I was unsure of what my condition or quality-of-life would be.

I wanted to do something special for my wife, but I was faced with the reality that I could not actually wait any longer to make plans.  If I didn’t order some flowers and set some plans in motion, I could run out of time!

I was very fortunate to be with Carrie for her to see these on Valentines!!!

As a young man I seldom feel as though I will run out of time.  I seldom feel as though I might miss getting something finished.  Sometimes that means that I wait until the last minute to setup worship or plan a Bible Study.  Sometimes that means that I don’t often enough tell my wife or  family how I feel about them.  Oh, and more recently, it means that I get up at ungodly hours to eat sugar-sweetened cereal (every since getting to my in-laws) …because there will always be tomorrow to exercise.

Isn’t that a shame?  I especially recognize the shame in such behavior this week.  I finally found a week when my health concerns forced me to face my mortality and the precariousness of life.  I suspect that others of you have felt these feelings sometimes, am I wrong?  Don’t we all feel a little helpless (maybe hapless) from time-to-time?

One reality that really slapped me in the face, once I was out of the hospital this week, was the fact that I could not drive.   I’m young!  I never imagined for a moment what it would mean for me to have my driving privilege taken away from me.  Well, stop the presses, let’s be really clear:  I never really thought of of driving as a privilege!  Driving seemed to be a right for someone in my age and in my condition!  I have always just assumed that I could drive.

During my hospital stay it was a non-issue, of course.  Except in a wheelchair:  No one drives in the hospital!  That would be silly.  No problem!  But when I got my official discharge all my friends and family were away from the hospital at the moment.  Still, no big deal.  I had plenty to do and I began setting myself to work trying to gather up the many small items which had exploded into my room.  My father-in-law and wife were on the way and all would be fine.  I just had to be patient.  Patience, though, really isn’t my strongest suit.  I made it it home just fine, of course…except that wasn’t the end of the story.  From the moment of my surgery right up until the moment I am writing this very journal entry…I have been on very powerful narcotics to control pain.  That means no driving.  –It means, actually, that there is a lot of very unsteady walking, too.  My mobility has been severely limited and I find myself frustrated and continually impatient.

Not only did I find myself with strict orders to not do any driving, but I was under instructions to not shower, not get my head wet (that meant no shampoong my hair:  gross!), and, perhaps most stressful:  I was under orders to use a walker or wheelchair.  Have any of you found yourself losing your freedoms like this?  It was terribly disenheartening and this all left me feeling a bit silly and vulnerable.  Of course, once we start learning our limits we begin to get used to it, right?

By day number two of all this:  I was very comfortable with the fact that any strolls down the hallway would be with a walker.  In fact, it brought me some comfort, in a way.  I felt some security in knowing that I had something to hold onto.  But even in the midst of comfort and security, we can have setbacks, right?  The next day, without the Physical Therapist, but with my wife and parents nearby, I decided to take short walk with my walker  (having notified my nurse, of course).  The day before my walk had gone very well and I went at least two thirds of the way down the hall with supervision, but on this day:  with my parents arguing behind me, my wife not in my line of sight and with commotion all around me (patients, nurses, doctors and others walking quickly past), I suddenly felt as though I was going to pass out.  I’m not sure if I exclaimed it verbally or just thought it, but all that I knew was that I was about to go down -and embarrassingly, I had not even gone half the distance of the day before! I’m passing out! What a strange, terrible and helpless feeling.  I felt like a failure, but my wife shouted and my father ran for a chair.  I can’t be sure of how it all happened, but somehow my body was managed into a wheelchair and my wife gave me the safety of her arms as she helped me to feel safe and secure once again.  Oh- and just as importantly, she bouyed me up emotionally, reminding me of what I had accomplished and not letting me dwell on my failures.

Don’t we all have moments when we realize we have gotten in over our heads and we worry that we can’t succeed on our own?  Today, as I ponder all of the freedoms I have temporarily lost and the strangeness that has become an every-day part of my life, of late:  Today I cannot help but recognize all that I have gained, as well.  It maybe frustrating to ask my mother-in-law for a simple ride to the store.  It may seem lonely to sleep across the room from my wife…and it may drive my wife and mother-in-law mad that they are now scheduling their days around medicine pick-ups, Scott’s silly errands, physical therapy, and home nursing visits.

Yet, as God is my witness: I shall do my my best to not take the help of others’ for granted in the future; I shall try to be more ready to ask for help  (I strained myself moving a chair by myself, tonight, instead of asking for help); and I, most assuredly, will strive to be more compassionate and available to providing support and assistance to others where I see them struggle.

I won’t lie:  This has been a difficult few days, but it has also been days of patience and learning for both my wife and I!  Would you join me on this journey as we support on another, grow in community and call upon God to strengthen us, even on those difficult days?

Thank you for your continued love and support (and patience!)

Scott