Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day 60

Hebrews 12:1-2
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Philippians 3:13-14
"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Sports fans are into numbers. The number 60 is one of those special numbers that instantly bring specific thoughts to your mind.

For years, 60 was a special number to baseball fans, as Babe Ruth held the all-time home run record in a single season with 60 (in 1927). When Roger Maris was threatening the record in 1961, many fans sent him hate mail, because they felt the record belonged to Ruth and no one else should consider taking it away from him. When Maris hit 61 that season, Major League Baseball actually put an asterisk in the official record book because he did it in a 162-game season, while Ruth's record was in a 154-game season.

There are 60 minutes in an NFL game and an NHL game. The 60-win plateau in the NBA means you've had a tremendous regular season. Even with cars, the test of acceleration is how fast the car can go from zero to 60 miles per hour.

Why are we going down this path? Not just because I am a huge sports fan. Today is Day 60, and we're celebrating that fact more than hitting 60 home runs. Just as we expected, this ride has been a roller coaster. We've had a lot of ups and the occasional down that caused our stomachs to move up into our throats. We're now well past the half-way point. We still have the quick dip that makes us queasy, but those are fewer are farther between.

We feel like we went from zero to 60 rather quickly. In some ways it's been slow, but many of you have told us that it's hard to believe we're as far along as we are. We're now starting to look at Day 100 as something to plan for, rather than something far in the future.

We are running the race with perseverance, pressing on toward the goal. We do that with our eyes fixed on Jesus. As tempting as it is, our ultimate goal is not just getting Tammy healthy. Certainly, that is a goal. But our goal is to run "the race marked before us," and that is to do everything we can to glorify Him.

We hope you are enjoying the run with us.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Quick Update

James 5:16
"...pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

The prayers are working. Tammy went back to the clinic today and her blood levels are already showing signs of improvement. The numbers are not where they need to be, but they are better than yesterday.

She'll go back to the clinic tomorrow and maybe Friday. She'll go every day until the levels return to a manageable level. Please keep up the prayers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Precautionary Step

Matthew 10:29-31
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

The doctors have told us on numerous occasions that having a bone-marrow transplant is, in many ways, more complicated than having a heart or lung transplant. There are so many variables, many of which fight against each other. It's a constant puzzle.

Today, she found out that her numbers are high as they relate to her liver and kidneys, meaning they have to work much harder than they should have to work. We're a long way from a problem, such as a shut-down that would require dialysis, but we want to get them under control.

Therefore, the doctors have cut back on many of her medicines. One of the side effects of the medicines she's on (to control rejection and fight infection) is possible damage to her organs. She didn't have any symptoms, other than a little more fatigue, so it's a good thing she had the blood work done. That's why she goes to the clinic so often.

God is in the details. He not only has the big picture in His control, He has the most minute detail in His control as well. He knows how this is going to be solved, and He has given the doctors the wisdom to cut the medicines by the right amount. For the next few days, Tammy will be going to the clinic every day to have the levels monitored.

We ask for your prayers that this will be a simple bump in the road. We also continue to ask for peace during this whole process. Mostly, we ask that God can be glorified.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

2 Corinthians 5:21 "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Memorial Day is a big deal to our family. Both Tammy and I have fathers who served in the Army, mine during World War II, Tammy's just after Korea. There are other family members who have or are serving in a branch of the military today. We appreciate the willingness to serve our country, and the freedoms that we have because of them.

Tammy is doing well. She had kind of a rough week last week, a minor set-back in her progress. There's nothing wrong, just some additional fatigue. After getting noticeably better almost every day for a while, it was frustrating to see her more tired. He blood counts still are improving, so we're confident that it was the "one step back" after several steps forward.

Yesterday and today are better. She has more energy (relatively speaking) and is working on copying recipes for Julie. We know this is a long road, so the occasional slow-down is understandable.

Getting back to Memorial Day, it is an awesome tribute to our troops. We are watching the NASCAR race, and we just saw a moving tribute. They just threw the caution in the middle of the race, brought all the cars to a stop near the start/finish line for a moment of silence. Even the drivers were moved.

The sacrifice our troops have made to provide us freedom is something everyone can relate to. It reminds us of what Christ did for us. (This is too easy.) The scripture above points to the fact that Christ gave up His own freedom as part of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and came and dwelt among us. He experienced the same temptations we do, suffered rejection and humiliation, and willingly sacrificed Himself so that we might experience freedom from sin.

The world we live in is a constant battle. We battle the temptations of life. We battle each other, thus the need for military. We win one battle and another one comes right after it. The beauty of Christ's sacrifice is that it's a once-and-for-all sacrifice. He paid the price for our sins and it's over.

As we celebrate Memorial Day, remember the ultimate sacrifice paid by the Ultimate Savior.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Joy in the Little Things

Psalm 28:7
"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song."

Tammy and I were relaxing on the front porch swing tonight, when I asked her what she was looking forward to the most when she was released from the tight constraints of the first 100 days. We know she won't immediately go back to the way it was before she was diagnosed, but she will be allowed to slowly get back into the normal swing of things.

She brought up a few things, including driving through Shawnee Mission Park, a large park about 15 minutes from our house. It has a lake in it, lots of different kinds of trees and flowers, and some beautiful views. It's hard to imagine that such wide-open space could be that close to the city, but it is. We then decided that if she could sit on the front porch (with a mask on her face to protect her from the pollinating plants), she probably could survive a drive around a park with the windows up. Shawnee Mission Park was too far away to be able to see anything because of the impending darkness, but Antioch Park, a smaller park that's 3 minutes away, would fit the bill.

So we took a short drive around the park and watched families enjoying each other's fellowship in some of the park shelters and dreamed of the day when we could do the same with our families.

We talked about the fact that when so much of normal life gets taken away, it's the return of the simple things that brings the most joy.

What brings you joy? Is it closing that big deal, or seeing that big smile on the face of one you love? Is it attending that big event, or making an event out of a short drive? Is it buying that new car or boat, or buying some time with a loved one when they need you the most?

Our prayer for you is that you can find joy in the little things, because they all come from God.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Halfway There

Philippians 1:6
"...he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

We've been talking about the 100-day journey for some time. The recovery process is longer than 100 days, but at the 100-day mark, Tammy likely will be released to do more in public. That's also when the way she feels will catch up with the blood levels. Her blood counts are significantly higher than when she was diagnosed, but she still is more fatigued. By 100 days, she should feel pretty good. She won't be in the clear at 100 days, but it's the most critical time.

Today is Day 50. Her transplant was April 1, so we have now gone 50 days toward recovery. We're halfway home.

Halfway is significant in a lot of things. The halfway point of the Super Bowl is marked by the Halftime Show that gets its own promotion. The halfway point of the Major League Baseball season is the All-Star break and when the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders. The halfway point of a school year is the Christmas break and when the days start counting down instead of up.

Halfway is important. But it's not enough.

Aren't you glad that God doesn't do things halfway? He created the Heavens and the Earth, but if He didn't create man in His image we wouldn't exist.

He sent His Son into the world to save us from our sins. But if Jesus didn't complete the process by going to the cross and then rising from the dead three days later, it would have been for naught.

We can acknowledge that God exists. We can recognize that Jesus walked the Earth, died on the cross and rose again, but if we don't accept Him as our personal Savior, we won't spend eternity in Heaven with Him.

It's something to think about, and not just halfway.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Love Comes Through

Matthew 19:14 "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'"

We don't often post twice in a day unless there is big news to report. But this time we'll make an exception. Of course, this might not be an exception because this is big news.

Most of you who know how much Tammy loves little children. She was a preschool teacher for 10 years and has taught the little ones in Sunday School since she was in high school. They are very precious to her, and that comes through to everyone, especially the kids themselves.

Today, the little children from our church, from age 2 through grade school, made get-well cards for her. The children's ministry coordinators gave them David Lee at the end of the second service and he brought them home for Tammy to read. She opened each one of them and read them, making comments about each child who made one.

Tammy doesn't cry much, but her eyes were filled with tears of joy as she looked at stacks of cards and felt the love behind them. She loves those little ones and misses them. It warmed her heart to know that they miss her too.

Walk Humbly

Psalm 139:14
"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

One of the hardest parts of this journey for Tammy is not being able to attend church. She is immune-suppressed (even though her blood counts are improving). That makes her more susceptible to picking up germs. Church is full of people with lots of kids. Kids are germ factories. And Tammy is loved so much by our church family that she would be mobbed if she came through the door. All those hugs, though very welcomed, could be carrying unknown germs. It's just too risky right now. We're anxiously awaiting the day when she can return. She definitely misses the interaction with friends, plus worshiping God with fellow believers.

Today we started a new series in church called "What If?" It's built on Micah 6:8 ("He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."). It's part of a city-wide cooperation of churches that have sought to put aside individual and collective egos to work together to make an impact in our community.

Last year, three churches worked together at four different inner-city ministries and grew closer together. We saw many more similarities than differences and gained a better realization that we are one church as long as we serve the living God. This year, 12 churches will be part of the effort.

As we lead up to Serve Day May 30, the 12 churches have broken into three-church clusters. Each of the clusters will share their pulpits with pastors of the other churches in their cluster. Today we had our first guest pastor, and he spoke on one of the three themes: "What if the church...walked humbly." (The other two are "...loved mercy" and "...acted justly.")

It's easy to confuse humility with self-deprecation or false humility. Humility is not saying, "I'm no good; I have no value" any more than it is saying, "I'm better than..." Ken defined humility as "having an accurate assessment of who we are." When we compare ourselves to God and His perfection, it's easy to take the first approach. We're not good compared to God. We may not be ax murderers or any other villainous personality, but one sin makes us incapable of having a relationship with God, on our own.

The good news is that God came up with a plan. He sent His son to pay the price for our sins. We see the truth of how God looks at us in the cross of Christ. If we accept Him, He looks at us as forgiven and as one of His children.

It's great comfort to know that, in spite of our faults, God views us as one of His own. He created us and He wants to be with us.

If you want to be a part of "What If?" go to Even if you are not part of one of the 12 churches you are welcomed to participate. There's a place for you to serve.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Sweet Kiss

Romans 16:16
"Greet one another with a holy kiss."

The journey to recovery is a long one. There are a lot of small hurdles. Many times we'll take three steps forward and then one step back. While that's still progress, because it's a net gain of two steps, it gets frustrating. But then comes a benchmark that lets us know that we're making progress, and it's a celebration.

Today we reached one of those.

We were at the clinic this morning for Tammy's visit and they gave us her latest blood counts. Her white blood count is up to 5.4. Normal is 4.5 to 12.0, so she's in the normal range, even though she's on the low end of normal. But now that her WBC is over 5, the nurse said that Tammy and I could kiss each other, right on the lips. We pushed her out the door and planted a firm one.

It's been almost two months since we've been allowed to kiss each other, because her low blood counts meant that her immune system couldn't handle any germs I might be carrying. Today's kiss felt so good, better than the first time we kissed almost 30 years ago. We love each other so much, and a kiss is a great--and fun--demonstration of that love. I have been trying to demonstrate my love for her by keeping the house clean, giving her the necessary medicines and generally nursing her back to health. But I am so glad to have this reflection of affection back.

You know, God has many ways of showing His affection for us. He blesses us with the beauty of nature and the change of seasons. He blesses us with the love of family and friends . He blesses us with health and strength to do His will here on Earth. Mostly, He has blessed us with the gift of His Son. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

It's even better than a special kiss.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Psalm 144:2 "He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me. "

Tammy and I are blessed to have wonderful mothers who have nurtured us and been great examples of God's love in our lives. We both were raised in Christian homes, and our mothers played a big role in us being who we are (credit or blame?).

Carleen Young, Tammy's mom, is a twin and tied for the youngest of five. She's the only girl of the group. She was born and raised in Tennessee, and even though she's been in Kansas for more than 50 years, she still has that Tennessee drawl. It's easy to see why Tammy is so sweet. She got a full helping from her mom.

Carol Smale, David's mom, is the oldest of six, and she too is the only girl in the bunch. She was born and raised in Kansas City. In fact, the same doctor who delivered her delivered David and his brother. Her care and compassion has helped David deal with some tough issues throughout his life.

Carleen and Carol have known each other for more than 40 years. They are good friends and they share more than just two grandchildren. They share a love for us and a love for the Lord. They also share the fact that they have pointed all their children to Him.

We refer to God as our Heavenly Father, and rightfully so. But godly mothers gain their inspiration from a nurturing and loving God. They learn to be a stronghold their children can hold onto. So many of the characteristics we attribute to mothers are exemplified by God.

We hope this Mother's Day that you have the opportunity to thank your mother for bringing you into the world and raising you. If you are a mother, we hope your children have an opportunity to thank you as well.

God's richest blessing this special day.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

It's Been a While

Psalm 7:17
"I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High."

We know, it's been almost a week since we've posted anything on the blog. It's not that we didn't want to write, but circumstances kept us from writing. That's actually a good thing on a number of fronts. My business has picked up finally, after not doing much for a month. More important, Tammy has been getting a little bit better each day. There hasn't been any radical changes, but a week later we can see some improvement.

A lot of people have written to us in the past few weeks telling us that what we've written has been a blessing to them. We'll repeat what we wrote a couple of months ago: what's good is God; the rest is (us). We don't claim to have any special insight into the will of God. While we believe God allows things to happen to show His power and strength, which gives us a chance to show our obedience to Him, we don't consider ourselves worthy of any praise, let alone the grace He's shown us through this journey.

When things are going smoothly, it's easy to take grace for granted. Even in the midst of a big hurdle, when the recovery is progressing according to schedule, we can get complacent and forget to thank God for His provision. Our goal is not have to go through another calamity to remember to praise and thank Him.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Thanks for Listening

Psalm 47:8
"God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne."

We had an awesome worship service today. Our pastor talked about the fact that God is God. That may sound obvious, but it is so easy to compartmentalize Him and fit Him into our lives, instead of trying to make our lives fit His plan. He is not just the God of our finances, or the God of our health, or the God of our relationships. He is God. Plain and simple.

Brian talked about a situation in his family's life and how easy it would be to pray, "Lord, please take care of this situation the way we want it handled." Instead, he told us that he--and reminded us that we--must pray, "Lord, please handle this situation the way You know is best." It's easier said than done.

We have written several times that we are at peace with whatever God decides to do in our situation. We honestly believe that. But then, the night after Tammy received her transplant, she was rushed to ICU and the doctor told me on the phone, "This is what we afraid of. The next 24 to 48 hours are critical for her survival." It was very difficult for me to hold onto that promise I made to Him. I contacted the family and a few very close friends and asked them to pray for Tammy, and for me as I tried to remain calm. God honored those prayers, both for peace and for healing.

One of the songs we sang in church today is called "We Will Sing, Sing, Sing" by Chris Tomlin. (We also sang "You Never Let Go," and you know how I love that Matt Redman song.) Here are the first four lines of Tomlin's song: "We will sing, sing, sing, And make music with the heavens. We will sing, sing, sing, Grateful that You hear us." I have sung that song dozens of times, but today one line jumped out at me: "Grateful that You hear us." We are grateful that God hears us, in song, in prayer and in any form of worship.

It is so easy to feel like we deserve to have God hear our prayers. We think, "God loves me; I want something; therefore I have a right to have my prayer answered in the way I want." That's not the case. It is only through the sacrifice of Jesus that we even have the opportunity to approach the Throne of God. Remembering that He is the Creator of the entire universe, it's pretty arrogant to tell Him how He should answer our prayer.

It's a constant battle for me, thinking I know what's best. It was such a blessing today to be reminded that God is God, and I am not.

We hope you have a great afternoon and an awesome week as you seek to worship God through your daily walk.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Derby Day

Hebrews 13:15
"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name."

You don't have to be a horse racing fan to enjoy the Kentucky Derby. Maybe it's because our daughter Julie lives in the suburbs of Louisville, but somehow Derby Day was a bit more interesting today. Tammy turned on the television around noon to watch all the preliminary races and to see all the beautiful hats. Then it hit her; she needed to be prepared properly. Thus the attached picture.

Tammy is improving daily. Today she was able to help around the house (she folded the clean laundry) and hasn't taken a nap yet today. That may sound small, but each day she has more energy.

So far today, I have cooked and cleaned up two meals, done the laundry, cleaned the bathroom, paid some bills and mowed the lawn. I used to think Saturdays were for relaxing and resting up. But I have never felt more useful in my life. More important, I have never felt more purposeful in my life.

We firmly believe our purpose in life is to glorify God. But how do we do that? Sometimes it's in very obvious ways, giving credit to Him for things in our life, or by singing a song of worship. But sometimes it's by doing the everyday things to the best of our ability. The definition of a sacrifice is giving up something of value for something of greater value. A sacrifice of praise is offering praise to God instead of doing something to bring ourselves glory.

My purpose today, and for the past six months and the next several as well, is to serve God by serving Tammy. I can praise God by doing so with a cheerful heart. It's a great feeling, not just because I'm doing something for my hero here on Earth, but also because I feel God's calling to serve in this way.

What's your calling? How can you offer a sacrifice of praise? There are plenty of options.