Friday, May 30, 2014

Cancer Free!

How do you write about the events of the past few days? Caution: This will be a long blog.

We were prayerfully ready for surgery--really prayerful!

The morning of May 28th began with last minute check of responsibilities, plans for the kids, paperwork and items to make an extended hospital stay comfortable.  The long ride was memorable and emotional.  We listened to Lisa's playlist (emotional in and of itself-check it out on Spotify-my wife's faith inspires me!), spoke "those" private, eternal words and while viewing the hospital that would be our home for a few days, shared prayer at a stop light.  With tears dry and hearts protected by the knowledge of prayer warriors surrounding us, we started through the pre-op routine.

Clothes switched to "the" gown.
Vitals checked.
IV Inserted.
Doctors and nurses asking questions and asking for any questions.
Friends Surrounding (awesome scene. The room was filled with a crowd of people ready to pray Lisa into surgery. A crowd the front desk referred to as the "party room.").
The time was 11:45 a.m.
They would take Lisa back in 15 minutes for a surgery that was predicted to take no less than 2.5 hours.
Then a phone call.

Let me pause the action to take us back through the events that brought Lisa to this pre-op room (very concise bullet points used).
  • Lisa has an appendectomy.
  • Pathology revealed the ruptured appendix was due to appendiceal cancer.
  • The doctor appointments began.
  • Incredible doors where opened to some of the finest doctors in the DFW area.  
  • The course of treatment was decided.
  • Surgery with Internal Chemo-the standard for Lisa's cancer.
  • Great doctor, great hospital, great staff, date of surgery set.
  • Caring Bridge activated and support plan in place.
  • Last post written on May 27th.   Here it is:
Hello Friends,
Tomorrow is the big day! Lisa’s surgery is scheduled to begin at 12 noon. As always, we know and are confident that the Lord goes before us in this surgery and that this journey through cancer did not catch him off guard. We ask that you remember the following things in prayer:

  • That the surgery be filled with great “surprises” of healing that only the Lord could receive credit. 
  • That the recovery will be quick and with as little discomfort as possible.
  • That Braeden and Shelbee be strengthened and comforted as their mom is in the hospital.
  • That I will serve my wife and children with great energy, passion and be a source of comfort for each of them.
  • That our journey will not be wasted as we press in close to the Father and develop greater character.
  • That the Lord be glorified in our family’s response to this journey
Again, thank you all for your love, patience and practical outpouring of love and support. We are indeed a blessed family.

We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! -Romans 5:3 (The MSG)

So, back to the pre-op room, May 28th, 11:45 a.m. and the phone call.

At 11:55 a.m. (minutes before Lisa is set to receive the anesthesia "cock-tail") the doctor comes into the room, dismisses the crowd (party) and asks to speak to Lisa and I privately.  He begins with "I just got a call from Pathology"(who had been feverishly trying to get a hold of him all morning-he was in surgery).   Now, considering Lisa's track record with health issues, we both expected the worst.  Then, with a smile (he said he was not use to giving good news) he informed us that there would be no surgery!  His pathologist (verifying the findings of another pathologists on his team) said that cancer did not destroy the appendix it was endometriosis and to stop the surgery! 

Lisa and I were both stunned and asked, "So, what do we do now?"  After the usual "technical stuff" he suggested she get dressed, go have lunch and celebrate!   So we did!


We are still trying to process the events of the last few days!  An event that will lead to a few what we have learned posts I am certain.  In short, we are thankful, amazed and give the Lord praise for answered prayer!

So, here it comes...
Was the original diagnosis wrong?
Did the Lord change the pathology?
Did the Lord lead you to the correct doctors to see the correct diagnosis?
I have no clue!

Let me use the words of the man, formerly known as the blind man, in John 9.  When people where questioning him about how he received back his sight, the man said, "One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”  

Here is what Lisa and I can say, "One thing we know, she was told she had cancer and was having surgery and the diagnosis changed." In dramatic, 11th hour, glory giving/attracting,  "surprise filled" (Check the above prayer requests again--amazing!) fashion.   
The Father not only answered the prayer. 
He answered the prayer and dropped the mic!


Let me be crystal clear (emphasis added by Lisa's request and my solid agreement)
God is good all the time!  His goodness would have remained if deliverance from surgery had not come or had resulted in death.  I am not wanting to sound dramatic but affirming the words of a friend who said, "God always gives his people a yes!"  This time, the Father 's "Yes" lined up with our "yes."

As we drove home (after getting Lisa lunch) here is the song from her playlist that caught our attention and created a thin-silence, tear filled, speechless moment.  Enjoy! (If the video does not appear, here is the link Whom Shall I Fear)

By the way, if you don't know the God of Angel Armies,  we would love to tell you about Him! He was and continues to be by our side!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Parent Goggles

"Dad, you are wearing Parent Goggles!"

I have heard a lot of strange and interesting words fly out of the mouths of teenagers, but this one left me a little confused. 

I was complimenting my son on, what I thought, was a job well done on an classroom assignment.  That is what parents do.  Right? 
Adults encourage students with positive words of affirmation.  Right?
Parents make sure their son or daughter know that you recognize their "special" achievements. Right?
But when I complimented my son, he accused me of wearing Parent Goggles.   What?
Here is what I learned from the obvious request for a definition and explanation.

Parent Goggles is a term used to describe a parent's or adult's over exaggerated compliment of a student's ability.  For instance, a parent who says, "My son is an outstanding basketball player" when their son is riding the pine on the B-Team is wearing parent goggles.   I am glad I could say to my son, that as far as I know (we all have blind spots I admitted), I have never provided a compliment via Parent Goggles  and that his level of achievement I praised was due to his own effort.  This led to an honest discussion of what I saw as his current state of ability regarding the various activities in which he is involved (don't judge-he wanted to know).  And you know what? He liked the honest dialogue. 

I believe the term Parent Goggles developed out of student reaction to the "everyone is special" culture (check out my last blog on that special word).  A culture, I argue, students' have always been able to see through and rebel against. the term parent goggles suggesting that adults not use positive words, compliment, or recognize a student's achievement?  No! 
The term is suggesting that parents and adults be more realistic in recognizing and highlighting their student's abilities and achievements.  They may not say it, but students (and adults for that matter) need honest feedback, direction and encouragement!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"You are not special!" and other truths our students need to hear!

Let me make an uncomfortable observation.

One of my favorite scenes in the Disney classic The Incredibles is the discussion Dash has with his mom about being special

Why is it one of my favorites?

Dash's mom, in an attempt to "settle" his desire to be involved with student activities and hide his incredible abilities says, "Everyone is special Dash"  To which Dash responds, "which is another way of saying 'no one is.'"

For as long as I have been involved in cultural studies, I have heard and read people bashing Disney for their "devious and hidden sexual content" messages in their animated films.  I find such allegations interesting, sometimes easy to see and always entertaining.  I am not sure Disney peeps sit around and think of where they can "hide" profound and cultural influencing, reflecting content in their films.  I am more interested in the obvious cultural messages.  This conversation Dash is having with his mom is a true window into today's, highly competitive, I-have-an-honor-student-sticker toting, trophy-handing-out culture.

When did we get the idea that everybody is special?

Before you stop reading, let me clarify.
Indeed, we are all special in terms of our value as a person.  A message that should be trumpeted from every adult and placed deep inside the heart of every student (and adult for that matter) is that every person is deeply loved for who they are and not because of what they do! 

Our culture communicates a much different message. A message that leaves people believing their worth (ability to be special and/or loved) is determined by what they do and how well they do it.  Therefore, Culture's attempt at correcting such an obvious injustice is to make everybody's "what they do and how well they do it" special (you may want to read those last two sentences again-they fly by really fast).

"What is the problem with that?" you ask.
A person's value is still being placed on performance.  And, like Dash, our student's soon realize that in a world where everyone's performance is special, no one's performance is truly special! Therefore, the natural process (interest, attempt, success/failure) of a student discovering their own, unique and special abilities is lost.

Hey adults, our student's know the truth.  They know...
...not everyone gets to be on the "A" team and/or be a starter.
...not everyone gets to sit in 1st chair.
...not everyone can make the cheerleader squad.
...not everyone can sing a high "C."
...not everyone makes the honor roll.
...not everyone wins the literary contest.

They know they are not special in everything and that is alright! Actually, they need to hear that more often.  I am convinced the one's who are often not "alright" with this truth are we adults.  Perhaps, the entitlement problem we say teenagers have is actually our problem.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

People Watching

After one of many appointments, Lisa and I were getting lunch in downtown Dallas.

It is one of the very special things we do these days.  We pray, talk, laugh, tear up at times and, almost always, start People Watching.  People Watching is like bird watching but a lot more fun.  Like bird watching, you do not want to spook the subject by revealing your "watching." To clarify, People Watching should not be confused with stalking--that is just weird.  Nor should it be conducted in order to validate a bias, position and/or person's value.  Done correctly, People Watching helps one appreciate the beauty, uniqueness and value of each individual person.  That was the case in downtown Dallas.

My wife and I selected a table next to a large set of windows.  It was an ideal People Watching position.  We saw some beautiful, unique and valuable people. 

We saw a street saxophone player (he was doing pretty well with his tips).

We saw cowboys (various hats and boots)

We saw business people (casual and suited up).

We saw students (you can tell by their back packs).

We saw homeless people (you can tell by their back packs as well).

We saw tourists (too many identifiers to mention).

We saw police officers (on horse back and scooters). 

We saw ourselves (glass reflects images).

It was an awesome time of People Watching.  I leaned over to Lisa and said, "I wonder if all of these people have families or those who care for them."  We concluded, that regardless of their situation, each of them needed to be loved by someone.  Then, in a moment of clarity (which often comes with genuine People Watching) we agreed that, at it's core, this is the message of the Gospel and the point of ministry.  Jesus put it this way,

"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 the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”-Matt 22:37ff

The thought I am about to leave you with is not necessarily a criticism of the way we "do church" in America (unless you need the prophetic correction).  However, it is a thought that draws our first fruit efforts and focus on that which I am convinced was the first fruit effort and focus of Jesus--people!
It is a challenge that comes from a lifetime of ministry experience and a lot of time with those "outside" the walls of our church whom we would love to have come "inside" the walls.  Here comes the thought:

What has the power, to bring a person "inside" the walls of churches?  
I know that cool paint, signage, songs, lights and comfortable pews have a certain value but NONE have the power, nor can replace, the impact of a Jesus follower who loves the Lord and their neighbor.  

Church leaders/members, where are we placing our first fruit efforts and focus?