Sunday, September 30, 2007

Head cold

Today I have a head cold. This week I have had a head cold. Stuffy head, runny nose, cough. That feeling that your head is going to pop out thru your eyes.

One of the nice things about being sick is the appreciation that we have later for feeling well. We get used to feeling well and we take it for granted. Illness makes us appreciate being well.

One of the things that I think I learned in 2005 was to not worry so much about the small things. It's only a head cold. The kid got a tattoo. Ok, at least they aren't on drugs.

Here is a good thing to think: If that is the worst thing that happens to me today, then we are going to be ok. Head cold, no problem. Tattoo, no problem. Dog needs a bath, no problem. Annoyed with something at church, no problem.

Lets not get upset with the little things. Lets see the good and dispense the grace.

Its a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Things that I learned

One of the blessings of trauma and trial is that our world changes. Difficulty can teach us, if we allow it to do so. The lessons of September 2005 were many for me. Some of them were new, some of them were things that I already knew, but had forgotten.

I find it very interesting in life that there are things that you know, but you get busy in life and then you forget them. Then something happens to bring the things back to mind and you feel as if you have received a totally new insight, when in fact it is something that you should have known, something that you used to know, but just forgot. Like, the ancient Egyptians did brain surgery. Really.

Unfortunately, some of the things that I would tell you that I learned in September 2005 are fading into memory. Life goes on, the poignant pain that brings you to your knees can be easily forgotten and its lessons encroached upon by the ever present demands of life.

On October 9, 2005, I preached a sermon that outlined what happen to me and the things that I felt that I learned. I have had the audio version reposted to our web site. You can listen to it if you like by clicking on the link below, or going into the church website at Select "sermons" from the menu on the left, then select "audio sermons" from the slide out menu. The title of the sermon is: October 9, 2005, Things I am thinking about."

You can also cut and paste the following link into your browser to reach the sermon, or some of you may be able to just click on the link and go directly to the audio sermon.

I think I am going to make a point to listen at least once a year so that I do not forget the lessons learned.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Sarcoidosis is a disorder of the immune system. It is a chronic, benign disease which is most often found in women and African-Americans. In sarcoidosis, a person's lymph system turns on and sends out lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are little dudes that look for illness or infection in the body. Not finding anything to attack, the lymphocytes gather together like clumps of grapes in any soft tissue organ in the body. While most common in the lungs, they can also effect the liver, spleen, sinuses, etc.

No one knows why the immune system turns on when there is nothing wrong. There may be a different reason for every case. It is suspected that something airborne in the person's environment has caused the immune system reaction. It is also suspected that sometimes, the immune systems comes on for a good reason, fixes the problem, and then just never turns off. I hear that many of the workers from Ground Zero have ended up with sarcoidosis.

Although the disease never goes away, it rarely kills anyone. Treatment with steroids is usually enough to shrink the nodules and send the sarcoidosis into remission. In some cases, the patient never has trouble with the disease again. In other cases, future flareups require additional rounds of steroids.

At any rate, it is not lung cancer. Thank God. Steve Ward made me a shirt when this was all over. It was a plain white sweatshirt with one word printed on it:


That says it all.

Its a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

I don't remember anything about what I did in the morning, but I will remember lunch time until my dying day.

I had gone home for lunch. Always quiet and peaceful when the kids are in school. On the way back to the office I stopped at the mailbox to get yesterday's mail. My cell phone rang.

Now let me tell you something. I have been waiting for a phone call. I know the number by heart and when I pop the phone open, there it is: 756-2255. Dr. Lem's office. Test results.

Every emotion that I have carried for the last 12 days is about to erupt, one way or another. The voice on the other end of the line says, "Jeff, this is Dr. Swartz. Can you hear me alright?"

Yes sir, I can hear you alright. Tell me something.

"Well Jeff, I have good news for you."

GOOD NEWS! I put the phone aside and shouted it outloud. My neighbor was pushing her son in a stroller nearby. I startled her. GOOD NEWS!

Oh, yes. The phone. "Dr. Swartz, what is the good news?" He answered, "Jeff you have sarcoidosis." Thank you doctor, love you doctor, bless you doctor. Have a happy day doctor, I love you doctor. Goodbye.

Now from down in the bottom of my soul there is a cry that is coming out. Tears that have been bottled up for two weeks are pouring out. I am standing in the street next to the mailbox crying like a baby. I don't care who sees! Everyone come out of your houses and cry with me if you want. Heck, let's dance. I have the dancing gene, don't you know.

I am so happy. I am praising God. I have my life back!

I call my wife. She has been waiting too. What a relief..... Only sarcoidosis. We know exactly what that is, because we have been reading on the internet.

I go back to the office. I tell anyone I can find. "I HAVE GOOD NEWS!" Many of my coworkers are in tears now too because they have held my hand while we walked in this dark valley.

[Gosh, two years later I am writing about this, and I am crying and my nose is running.]

Thank God! I have something to say! I am alive! The struggle is over. The fear is gone. God has shown mercy. I am happy as a bee.

Friends, I did not think that I was a bad guy before all of this, but let me tell you something, I am alive as never before. I see every sunrise, I smell every flower, I see every person as a human being. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your love. Thank you God for hearing me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

12 days in September, 2005. That's how the story ends. Happy. Good news. We are alive. Lets see the good. Lets hear the birds sing today. We may not have tomorrow, but we have today.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monday, September 26, 2005

As I look back on my calendar for this day, there are three things on the schedule. A morning meeting with two of our lead staff, an afternoon planning meeting, and the Chiefs played on Monday night.

I did not know it at this time, but this would be the last day that I would have to wait and wonder about my diagnosis.

I would like to say a word about the internet. What an amazing blessing it was during this time to be able to surf the web in private and learn about different lung ailments. Not too many years ago, I would have made a trip to the library and checked out a bunch of books to sort through. Now, you can be so specific in your search that you can find what you need so much easier. Just another blessing of technology that we take for granted.

This is a list of diseases that I learned about by reading on the internet.
Ciliary Dyskinesia
Pulmonary Fibrosis

Two years ago, I could have described just about every one of these lung ailments. Almost any of them would be preferable to the original diagnosis.

I knew that each day that went by brought us one day closer to the phone call with the results from the bronchiascope.

I watched the Chiefs game and went to bed.

Monday, September 26th, 2005. That was then, this is now. Thank God.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sunday, Septebmer 25th, 2005

Sunday. Another Sunday. When you are the preacher, it seems like Sunday comes three times per week. About the time your brain has recovered from the previous Sunday, Sunday is here again and you need to have something to say. Something inspirational. People feel let down when the sermon doesn't hit them just right. You are supposed to be super human. You always have to provide hope. [Really when you think about it, providing hope is a pretty neat thing to try to do.]

Today, I've got a lot on my mind. How long will it take to get the results back from a bronchiascope? Maybe we will know the results tomorrow. Silent prayers are offered that my lung problem is something other than lung cancer.

Lets see. What is the topic for today's sermon? It is connecting Sunday. The scripture used in 2005 was Hebrews 10:23-25.

23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

I have to admit, I remember this day very well. It was a tough day to get up and talk. I was glad when lunch time came. Maybe tomorrow we will hear some test results.

That was then, this is now. Thank God.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Saturday, September 24th, 2005

I would like to talk about my wife for a moment. When a person is going thru a difficult time, usually they think about themselves. I did plenty of that. We should always remember that there is lots of collateral suffering going on around the sick person. But, people of character have a knack of finding the tools to cope with dfficult situations.

My wife is a reserved person. She holds her cards close to her chest. She didn't really count on being a pastor's wife, it just sort of happened to her. She has been a wonderful mother. She is my best friend.

The day that the c-t scan results came in, I faxed them to her office. The medical people that she worked with explained to her that the radiology report was very bad. They sent her home. On the way home, a 30 mile drive from Lenexa, she had her first tearful discussion with God. Cathy would never tell you that she "hears from God," but she did that day. In response to her prayer in the car, she felt an answer. She felt God was saying, "you have to let him go." No. No. NO! That was not what she wanted to hear.

She arrived home and we talked a bit. She prayed again. Same answer. Later in the afternoon, she prayed more. "God, please let him live. How can this be? He works hard for you, Lord. What about the kids. Please God please let him live." She received the same answer. "You have to let him go."

Well, she fought this, just as any person would. It was not the answer that she wanted to hear. In one moment her entire life had been turned upside down.

That night she tried to sleep. Sleep, awake, nap, awake. She wrestled with God in the wee hours of the morning. Finally, she came to the place that I hope all Christians can arrive at. She said, "ok God, I ask that you spare my husband. But no matter what happens, I will trust you."

She cried. The struggle was over. God had won. His gift to her was a peace that would be instrumental over the next few weeks. Everytime I talked with her and shared my pain and my fears, she would say, "Jeff, everything is going to work out. No matter what happens, God is with us. I am not afraid anymore."

I wished that she told me that God was going to heal me, but thats not what she heard. What she offered me was an invitation to trust in God no matter what happens. She asked me to do what I always ask others to do. Don't worry about the circumstances. Trust in God. She was solid as a rock for me.

I want to tell you. This is a good woman. This is a great person. She runs deep. If you are ever team captain, pick her first when choosing sides. Cathy will not let you down.

Saturday, September 24th, 2005. That was then, this is now. Thank God.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Friday, September 23rd, 2005

Ok, it isn't fungus, so what happens now? A bronchiascope. That is when they put you out and run a tube up your nose and down into your lung. They take a sample of one of the growths. Then a biopsy tells you what the growths are.

Very few people knew about me being scheduled for this procedure. One of the people that I kept in pretty close contact with during this time was Aaron M. Aaron is a young doctor who was playing softball on the team I was coaching, "the buzzards." [all the church softball teams are named after something to do with roadkill.] Aaron's next door neighbor at the time was Steve W. who also played for the buzzards. Aaron's mom was coming to church with him. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer. We had her funeral earlier this year.

So, Cathy and I are at the St. Luke's medical building on the plaza, where Dr. Schartz [partner of Dr. Lem] is going to do the scope. We are sitting in the waiting room when in walks Aaron and Steve.

I didn't want to trouble anyone. I didn't want the whole church to worry. I didn't ask anyone to come to the procedure. But here they were. I've got to tell you, when they walked in the door, I was so excited. So happy to see them. There are some great men at WCC. Two of them had stopped by to bring a word of encouragement to their old softball coach.

The procedure came and went and I was delivered groggily back to my wife.

We went home to wait for the results. Small cell? Large cell? Something else? What will it be? At least now we will know.

Friday, September 23rd 2005. That was then, this is now. Thank God.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

Several have asked what my symptoms were.

April, May, June. Sinus problems, congestion. Progressively worse. Several trips to the doctor. Several different antibiotics. Strange things going on in my sinuses. Things that are not normal. I can't put them in print. Ask me in person if you really want to know.

July. Back to the doctor. Now its bronchitis. More antibiotics. I am noticing regular problems with breathing. Short of breath, gasping for breath. Pain in my upper chest. You aren't supposed to think about having to breathe. It is just supposed to come naturally, automatically, voluntarily. When it doesn't, you know there is a problem.

August. X-ray. Pneumonia. More antibiotics. Regular problems with breathing. Co-workers, family, and those who know me well can clearly see that there is something wrong. During July and August I had to work very hard on Sunday mornings to manage my air. Talk slower. Pause. Maintain. I don't want to have a spell during worship.

September: dry cough. Anything that requires exertion results in severe shortness of breath. Something is definitely wrong. c-t scan. lung cancer diagnosis.

Those were the symptoms.

September 22nd, 2005. That was then, this is now. Thank God.

Its a beautiful day in God's world. Be sure to see the good.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

The doctor called today. It's not fungus.

..................................................................its not fungus..............................


Bang. That was the sound of my heart hitting the bottom of my soul. Fear rushes back in. I have held it off for several days, but now hope is dashed and fear is back.

Fear steers a Christian toward prayer. Some of the most heartfelt prayers are delivered by souls that are at the end of themselves. Two years ago, I was at the end of Jeff. Bad trials can take you down to the quick.

I prayed in ways that I have never prayed before. Yes to be healed, yes that it was not cancer, but I also prayed that I can trust in God no matter what. I pray for my wife. I pray for my children. I pray for the church.

There is a song that I have just become familiar with in 2005, and I find myself singing it over and over again:

Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

And blessed be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord, Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

And blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be
Blessed be Your name

And blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord

Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord blessed be Your name

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005. That was then. This is now. Thank God.

It's a beautiful day in God's world. Be sure to see the good.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005

Responsibilities don't go away when you have a problem.

This week, two years ago, I am waiting to hear if my lung problems are fungus. When is the doctor's office going to call? Waiting is lots of fun.

In addition to what ever problem you are facing in life, your other responsibilities still call your name. You may have a sick child, a dying parent, or a bad medical diagnosis yourself. You still have to keep the rest of your life afloat. On Tuesday, September 20th, 2005, we were in the middle of a capital funds drive titled "prepare the way." We were planning to build a youth/missions building and expand our foyer. I met with leaders of the campaign during the day and the consultant came in that night for one of several church wide meetings. Life must go on.

There are two kinds of fungus. The doctor calls. It is not the one kind of fungus. The other test will be in tomorrow. Pray that it is the other kind of fungus now.

I am really depressed. I have pinned my hopes on fungus. Lots of questions. Lots of doubts. When you are the preacher, you are not supposed to have questions and doubts. You are supposed to be "up" all the time and you are supposed to have the answers.

I don't feel like a very good Christian. I pray, "God, please can it be the other kind of fungus?" Tomorrow we will know. "Just wait, one more day, it will be fungus," I tell myself.

September 20th, 2005. That was then, this is now. Thank God.

Its a beautiful day in God's world. Be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Monday, September 19th 2005

If this is boring you, this is killing me.

Day after day, for 13 days in 2005 I was thinking about things that no one wants to think about ever.

On Monday, September 19th 2005 I am waiting for a call from the doctor's office to see if my blood has tested positive for lung fungus. We wait all day and hear nothing. We continue to pray for fungus.

That night I was at another UMC and made a 2 hour presentation on missions and our church's permission giving structure.

The kids.
Let me tell you something that was horrible about this ordeal. Its about the kids. What do kids do with news like this? My kid's reaction surprised me. They withdrew. They were too afraid and too worried to talk with me. They talked to their Mom a ton during this time, but they withdrew from me. They just went about their business and didn't stop to talk.

It crushed me. I wanted to talk to them. I wanted to know that they were ok. I wanted to encourage them.

They were sad little babies with broken hearts. They couldn't deal with it. I hated the feeling of being separated from them, but I understood. They were doing what they needed to do to cope.

Parents have to let their kids grieve in their own way. That was one of the really sorry parts of the entire experience.

Monday, September 19th, 2005. That was then. This is now. Thank God.

Its a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sunday, September 18th, 2005

I have been at this church for a long time. September 18th, 2005 was my 585th Sunday at Woods Chapel. I guess there have been some hard ones. In the old days when I had to get up and tell the folks that we were broke, that was tough. After my parents died, those days were tough. When Scott was sick. After September 11th, tough time.

For me personally, this is not an easy day. I am not ready to tell everyone about what is going on. The reason for that is simple. We don't know what is going on. I am still praying for fungus.

I have taken alot of heat in the last two years for not sharing my struggle with the congregation until it was over. Well, people are different. Please understand, I really am shy. I hate to be the center of attention. My counselor tells me that I am an introvert in an extrovert's world. I don't even know how to begin to tell the people about what is going on. I make the decision to wait until we know something. Cathy agrees.

So, its going to be just another Sunday. Four services. Lots of hands to shake. Encouraging as many people as I can. A sermon from Philippians 4. Silent prayers for fungus.

Sometimes you get thru such times just biting your lip and pushing thru. You do what you have to do. That's what we did. I was so glad when the morning was over and I could go home.

Sunday, September 18th, 2005.

That was then, this is now. Thank God.

It's a beautiful day in God's world. Be sure to see the good.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Saturday, September 17th, 2005

Saturdays are always interesting days for me. Everyone else gets to go out at night, I have to stay in and get ready because Sunday is a work day. When you only work one day a week, you have to be ready to go. On Saturday I always count up what I have to do and try to keep a limit on what I get involved in, because Saturday always includes finishing off the sermon.

Today [September 17th, 2005] we are going to the Renaissance festival. Alli is singing in a choir from school. She is a senior and will leave for college soon. We don't have that many more chances to hear her sing. We also decide that a day at the Renaissance festival will be good for us to get away and spend some time by ourselves. Keep your mind off of everything that is going on.

We arrive at the Renaissance festival at 10:30am. We walk around together and hold hands. We have been together a long time, 20 years. Hand holding used to be a thing of the past. Now it is back.

We watch Alli's group perform. I wonder what she is thinking as she looks out into the audience and sees her mom and dad there.

We wander around. It is a beautiful cool day. We come to the town tavern. They have done a very good job of making this area look medieval. It is quiet. We are close to nature, out in the woods. We talk. About life, about love. We are praying for fungus.

Later that afternoon I finish the sermon that had been under construction all week. For some reason the title that I had chosen when I still had a life was "the Lord is with you." The text was Philippians 4:4-9.

4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I go to bed wondering what kind of mess I am going to be at church in the morning trying to talk to people about such things. Kris is closing the service with the song "He knows your name." I pray that I am not a mess tomorrow. I pray for fungus.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

That was then, this is now. Thank God.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Friday, September 16th 2005

I woke up early. Sometimes it is hard to sleep. Friday is my day off, and this one has filled up quickly with things that need to be done.

I have been drinking coffee and watching the news for a while, when Cathy comes downstairs and gets ready to leave for work. No cursory "goodbye" today. She makes a point of coming to me, hugging me and speaking to me, heart to heart. She said, "no matter what happens, its going to be ok." I will address her struggle and search for resolution at another time.

Appointments. I want them. I want to see my spiritual mentors. I want to see the lung doctor. Originally, the lung doctor that I was assigned to could not see me for a week. Sorry, that isn't going to work. Thursday afternoon [yesterday], I called around. Dorothy H recommended Dr. Lem. I called his office. The receptionist said something very interesting. "I don't know if we can see you right away, but I will call you Friday morning and let you know.

Friday morning. The receptionist kept her word. The phone rang. Dr. Lem's office. They can see me today.


Can you come in at 330pm?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

You will be our last patient of the day, you may have to wait.

No problem. I will be glad to wait.

At 10am I was in the church office to meet with my Boss, my friend, my District Superintendent, Cody C. As always, he was gracious and caring.

I had a noon appointment with my counselor. Yes, I started seeing a counselor on occasion a few years ago after I received a particularly hateful letter. Today my counselor has words that I need to hear. She is more than a counselor, she is a spiritual friend. She tells me many things that I will come back to later. I feel better having met with her.

I don't remember what I did the rest of the afternoon, but I was in Dr. Lem's office at 3:30. I read in the Reader's Digest. The title page advertised an article about great strides being made in the treatment of cancer. I read the article. Great strides are being made in the field of cancer, except for lung cancer which still has a 5% survival rate.

Cathy arrives at the appointment. The nurses come and get me. They take an x-ray. They run some tests. They are very nice. So very kind. It is a scary place to be, and they are to be commended for the way that they treated me as a person instead of a patient.

I met Dr. Lem. Wonderful. wonderful man. "Jeff, this may be cancer, but there are many other things that this may be. Lets run some tests and find out what we are dealing with. Do you work outside? Are you around trees and birds? It could be a fungus." Dr. Lem said, "have your friends pray that you have a fungus."

A break! A window of hope! It may be something else.

They sent me down the hall to have blood taken. They are going to test for a fungus.

On the way home we stopped at Russ and Melanie's home. They were very kind and very encouraging.

The time taken for someone in need can be such a blessing. Every chance that you get, speak to those in need. Hug them. Look them in the eye. Your touch may calm their fears.

I go to bed praying for fungus. Friday, Sept 16th 2005.

That was then. This is now. Thank God.

It is a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

September 15th, 2005. a Thursday

How do you recount a day like this?

At 8am I was in the church office and my extension rang. I picked up the phone. I heard the voice of my ten year doctor friend on the other end, but his voice had changed. This was a professional call.

D: Jeff, I have the results of your c-t scan.

J: Yes, how are they? [I am smiling a nervous, hopeful smile.]

D: They are not good. In fact, until I tell you otherwise, you have lung cancer.

J: Why don't we hang up and start this call again from the beginning.

D: I wish I could.

J: How bad is it?

D: 8 out of 10. Its pretty bad.

J: Doc, my wife is not going to believe this. Is there a number that she can call you?

He gives me the number for Cathy to call and I hang up.

I cried. I cried like I don't know I have ever cried before. Just writing this and remembering that moment is bringing out some deep sobbing.

I gained my composure and called Cathy. Since I am always joking with her, as I expected, she does not believe me. She calls the doctor. She asks to have a copy of the c-t scan results faxed to us. When I get the fax at the church, I fax it out to her office.

I still have this c-t scan report. It is so frightening. I am not going to write what it said, but Cathy works with doctors and nurses. When she showed it to them, they told her that she was done for the day and sent her home.

This is a long drive home for my wife. 30 miles. It took forever. The suffering that my poor wife faced during this time was something that no one wishes to place on their spouse. We both arrived home about 10am. Lots of tears. Shock. You don't know what to think. Talk about small-cell and large-cell. Talk about fighting this. Talk about love. Talk about life. I told her that I was so sorry. We cried and cried.

There is an end to a persons soul. A bottom of where you really live. Most of us don't get to that place very often. Too vulnerable. We reached it in the kitchen on September 15th.

Although this was not on my calendar for the day, a 1:10 Royals game was. I had planed for weeks to go to the game with Brian and Kris and Ray and Jim L and one other. Cathy and I decided that I should go ahead and go to the game. I told some of the guys what the report was. People don't know what to do with really bad news.

That night, when I came home from the game, all of the kids are hanging around waiting. They know something is up, they can read their mom like a book. We had already decided to just tell them. We aren't very good at hiding things.

In 2005, Alli was a senior in highschool. Jenny was a Junior, and Scott was at the 9th grade center. Telling my children about the doctor's report was one of the most horrible things that I have ever had to do. We told them the minimum and we told them that we won't know for sure for a while, but we told them the truth. You just don't want to see your kids hurt, and the noises that came out of their broken hearts will forever be imprinted in my memory.

September 15th, 2005. a Thursday.

That was then, this is now. Thank God.

It's a beautiful day in God's world. Be sure to see the good.

Friday, September 14, 2007

September, 14th 2005

This was a day that was all about one appointment. I had a cat scan scheduled for 1:30pm at the First National Bank building next to Burger King on 291. Several of our member worked at the 1st National Bank. Bonnie T, Susan G, Valerie F, now Valerie S. A few others that I am missing. Sorry for that. I always stop by and say hello to whoever is in the bank.

I remember all of it as clear as a bell. I waited for a while. 15 minutes. Not terrible. Then I was called back. The tech was a woman, a bit younger than me, and very gracious. You know, how you treat people is so very important. I don't remember her name, but I remember that she was very gracious. She made me feel comfortable.

Waiting is not a lot of fun. Waiting for the results of a test can do a lot of strange things to your brain. One thing is already happening to me.....I am becoming more understanding of the struggles of others......for the first time in my life I have first hand experience of what it is like to wait for news from the doctor. I prayed a lot that day.

September 14th, 2005

That was then, this is now. Thank God.

Its a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

September 13th, 2005

[as I mentioned yesterday, I am going to be writing for the next couple of weeks about the events of two years ago.]

September 13th, 2005

I had a required district pastor's meeting from 10am -noon at the Aldersgate UMC in south Lees Summit. So, I scheduled my doctor's appointment for 8:30am. I had been having sinus and breathing problems since the early spring. The doctors had diagnosed a sinus infection, and then bronchitis and finally pneumonia. For the past month I had been on a pretty strong antibiotic to fight the pneumonia.

My doctor is a great guy. We have been friends for ten years. Today, he listens to my chest and sends me through the process of another x-ray. After the dance with the x-ray tech and the customary wait to have it read, the Doctor tells me that the x-ray is not clear. Sometimes this happens because what the film shows can be a bit behind what the medicine is actually accomplishing against the pneumonia. Even so, he announces to me that I am having a ct-scan tomorrow. He gives me the time and the place. He has already made the appointment.

Hello. My brain turns on. You made an appointment for me to have a ct-scan tomorrow without asking me about my schedule? This is serious. I ask him, "is this serious?" He gives me the normal Doctor answer, "I don't think so, but we have to be sure."

We make small talk and I leave the office. I still remember driving from the doctor's office to the pastors meeting. My brain is considering the options.

With all of this going on, I am a bit late to the pastor's meeting. The main presentation is over when I arrive and the pastors have divided into small groups for discussion and prayer. I pick the group with a friend of mine, Dave O, the pastor at Lone Jack. He is a great guy and being in his group makes me feel comfortable. Actually, there is nothing comfortable about me today. My doctor has alarmed me and I am wearing it like a bad suit.

There is a fellow in the small group that I have never met. John P, pastor at Virginia UMC near Butler. He takes one look at me and asks me what is going on. Isn't it interesting how certain people are perceptive. They can read you and they just know that there is something wrong.

I told John and the group what the doctor said. They prayed for me.

When Cathy and I got home from work that night, I told her. She could tell that I was disturbed by the insistence of the doctor, but as she sees the world, I am often worried about things that I shouldn't be. Later that night I say my prayers and go to sleep. Sleep doesn't come easy, but I feel pretty confident about what the outcome will be.

Tuesday, September 13th, 2005. That was then, this is now. Thank God.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

comments and two years ago

Comments to this blog. I believe that I have found the settings that will allow you to comment on the blog again. If I have done this correctly, all comments posted by you will not appear until approved by yours truly. If this works correctly, this should reintroduce the joy of dialogue to the blog. If a few of you would post comments today, we will see how it works. If there is a problem, I will keep working on it. Thank you for caring and thank you for reading. Blessings to you on this fine day.

- - - - -

Two years ago I had pneumonia, or so they told me. I had been sick for about six months. I thought it was a cold. I finally went to the doctor in July. Sinus infection. A month later when that didn't clear up they told me I had pneumonia. This week is the two year anniversary of a very scary time for me.

Over the next two weeks I am going to look back on that time and tell you about those days. The things I thought, felt and learned. It was a very frightening, poignant time. I was on point. My life was on edge. God had my full attention.

To face your own mortality is a sobering thing indeed.

I have always tried to appreciate the goodness of God and the gifts of life. A serious health scare will bring your appreciation to life in ways I had not thought of.

This is a pretty personal story, a very private journey, but I invite you to join me over the next few weeks.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

boil it all down

A teacher of the law asked Jesus a question. "What is it all about? Boil it down. What is the greatest commandment?"

I was talking with some great Woods Chapel guys the other night. There are a lot of questions about life and the Christian faith. Sometimes we get stuck on what we don't know, stuck on things that we will never know. We cannot answer every question, but Jesus answered the most important one.

What is the greatest commandment. Boil it down. Tell me what you know. Jesus, what are you trying to teach us? What is the greatest commandment?

Jesus answered, "love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength. The second is like the your neighbor as yourself." Then he added: "on this hangs all the law and the prophets."

Think about what he is saying. All of the law and the prophets hang on these two simple commandments. Get them right and everything else will follow. All of the doctrine, all of the questions, all of the things that we worry about in relation to our faith are all secondary to the one basic principle: love.

God is love. Love the Lord. Love your neighbor. Get that part down. The rest will follow. Everything else hangs on our assimilating these truths.

Don't feel like a good Christian? Go back to the basics. Love God, love your neighbor. Apply it to every area of your life. That is enough. It is the greatest commandment. Everything turns on our ability to love.

Its a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What we stand for

Lots of bad news today.

BYU coed's body found. Authorities had hoped that she was a run away.

The bones of the Porter children have evidently been found in Sugar Creek. That means that they were murdered by their own father. Aruggghhhh!

9-11 anniversary. So many shows about the planes, the people and the conspiracy theories. It makes me feel so sad, I don't even want to watch. I don't want to be reminded. Sorry, but that is how I feel. It's too sad.

What we stand for.

Love is stronger than hate.
Mercy rejoices over judgement.
Good is stronger than evil.
Faith can overcome fear.
Weeping lasts for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
All of these are the gifts of God.

These things we choose to remember, and so we enter the week thinking not of circumstances, but of who we are and whose we are.

There is much good to come this week. Lets focus on it.

Children have been baptised.
Visitors enjoyed worship services.
Babies are going to be born this week!

It's a beautiful day in God's world. Be sure to see the good.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

This day

This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!.

Bow your head and pray with me:

Dear Lord,
Thank you so much for the gift of this day. Thank you for your presence and your strength. Whatever comes today, good or bad, we know that you are with us. Your love and grace are enough for us. In fact, your love and grace is more than enough. When I begin to think of your goodness, my heart is over whelmed. Your loving kindness is better than life itself. We lift our hearts and voices in praise to you. We begin this day with joy in our hearts. You are with us. We need nothing more. May your blessed presence fill our church this day as we seek your face. In Jesus name, Amen.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Posts and Comments

Dear Friends,

As I mentioned in previous posts, I am going to have to limit comments on the blog to those who will identify themselves to me and take responsibility for their comments. We are working on an arrangement that will reintroduce comments to this blog. In a test case, Lions Den Man was able to post. See his comment in the post titled "Lions Den Man weighs in."

If you are interested in commenting on the blog from time to time, please send me an email at

I don't know how long it will take to get this figured out, but we will be working on it.

Blessings to you this day my friends.

Its a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

“Lion’s Den man weighs in”

Wow. I probably missed the last posting of sub critical and that is a good thing, I am sure. Last night my wife and I were talking about the post he was making and wondered how long this would continue and where it would bad. I really enjoyed sharing with people and you and was hoping more and more would join in.

I am sorry this has happened to such a great thing. You handled the situation well. No surprise there. You are a great man of God who happens to be my pastor. Lucky me. I love you.

I pray for people like sub critical........a friend of mine shares some of those same beliefs and I worry where it may lead him. I see how it affects his life and relationships...He is so different from the people I know that are filled with the love of Christ and understand the Grace of God. I know that when I came to understand and embrace those two gifts from God, I began to approach the world and all of it's/my problems from a different perspective.

1 John 4:15-18 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Thank you for allowing me the oppurtunity to post this. I hope you are able to get something else set up for everyone else. If they are like me they miss it already.

Yes I can hear the birds sing. He showed me how.

Lion's Den Man

no [sub] critical comments please

Well, it is time to make a change. I have collected a nemesis. Someone who calls themselves "subcritical." They appear to be an unhappy, fundamental, judgemental Christian. They have left several hateful and theologically shallow comments over the last few days on "my" blog. I cannot allow them to comment on my blog anymore, and I have blocked their comments. It is always easier to tear something down than to build something up. My hope in this blog is that good people who have been wounded by the world, and by churches, will find the joy of life in Jesus Christ.

If "sub=critical" showed up in church and wanted to speak from the pulpit, based on the hate speech that they have provided, I would have to stand up in the middle of the worship service, for the good of God's kingdom and ask them to stop talking and sit down. So, unfortunately for the rest of you good people, there will no longer be an open opportunity for people to comment on my blog.

This is my blog. It does not belong to WCC. It is not supervised by anyone. I don't have to do this. I do it because I want to. I do it because I think it is a good thing for members of the congregation to see into the heart of their pastor. For better, or for worse. It is my chance to share with you some of my heart, the good and the bad. The strong and the weak. It is not an opportunity for someone to tear me apart anonymously.

If you would like to lodge a complaint about me or my theology, you are welcome to call the office at 795-8848 x307. I am always glad to meet with anyone who wants to visit with me, even if they don't agree with me. God's grace can cover all kinds of disagreements. I invite you personally, Mr. or Mrs. subcritical to come see me and talk about life, grace, and the mission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In the future, if the rest of you would like to comment, please send me an email at say what you want to say, personally between you and me. If there is enough interest, I will set up an email group to pass on the comments that are shared. It is a shame that one person can ruin the good opportunity that we have to encourage one another thru our comments to the blog. I hope that one day in the future, if "post-critical" will come forward, we can get this breach healed and comments can again be posted to the blog.

I invite all of you good people that I know, that read this blog, to keep writing if you like. Lions Den Man, Jan R, Inky Lynn, Bruce, Carol, Melanie, Western Kentucky Ping Pong Champ, Paul, Grace, TerriM and all of the rest of you that I cannot remember at this moment.

Goodbye subcritical. I used to be a fundamentalist myself. It just doesn't work. It is not a realistic approach to life. God's grace is so rich and so free. I hope you find it. There truly is a joy that comes from knowing Him and experiencing His forgiveness. Mercy rejoices over judgement. And by the way, the dispensational thing is new as of the 1850's. It is not the historical belief of the church of Jesus Christ. Check your beliefs against church history. There is a good deal of heresy out there.

It is a beautiful day in God's world for those who choose to see it. I hope that each of you will choose to see the good.

Why am I awake at 1:30 am?

Well, I am awake because my heart breaks when I upset someone else. I am a pleaser. I would prefer to help things be "ok" with everyone.

I don't want to have others unhappy with me. I want the grace of Jesus Christ to heal every difference.

I want our church to be big enough that all people feel welcome. I want the extreme left, and the extreme right to be welcome at WCC. Why? Because we are going to spend eternity with both ends of the spectrum in heaven.

We are all God's people. We don't always agree, but we are all God's beloved people. When we remember that, we can understand that.............

It is a beautiful night in God's world, be sure to see the good.

self esteem part 2

A few of you read the comment of "post critical", about self esteem.

It will be "post critical's" last comment on my blog.

Self esteem on the day of judgement is very important. On the day of judgement, when asked how we hope to enter in, I hope that each of you, as well as myself, will exclaim "the blood of Jesus Christ covers my sin." "I know in whom I have believed."

As I said before, God tells us who we are. You can trust in His grace. Always. Everyday. When others are judging you and condeming you, the blood of Jesus Christ still covers your sin.

That is why it is a beautiful day in God's world, and you can still see the good.

Friday, September 7, 2007

self esteem

Sorry I am late today, I had to go to the dentist.

Self-esteem. The only kind of self-esteem that is real is the kind that is not diminished by the disrespect of others.

Do you feel good about yourself until someone insults you? Then what you have is not self-esteem. Are you happy until someone says that they don't like your hair? Happy until someone demeans you? Then what you have is circumstantial, it is not true self esteem.

Our value does not come from the approval of others. God tells us who we are. He tells us that we are loved and valuable. The insults of others do not change God's opinion of us. Do not let the hateful words or unkind actions of others define you. God tells you who you are. Remember who you are.

The only kind of self-esteem that is real is the kind that comes from God. It is not diminished by the disrespect of others. You do not diminish the majesty of Niagara Falls by spitting into the water. Remember who and whose you are.

It's a beautiful day in God's world. Be sure to see the good.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

beautiful boy

John Lennon wrote a song when his son was born. That song got stuck in my head yesterday. Here are some of the words:

"Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy. Darling, darling, darling, little boy."

He, like almost all parents, loved his child very much. I think of my three kids. What a blessing. I guess my parents felt this way about their kids too. Mom had three miscarriages, two of them pretty late. I know that really bothered her.

Anyway, kids are a blessing. I will tell you a secret, I didn't really care for kids until I had my own. Now, I love everybody's kids. I am glad to see them. They are so full of life and excitement. Kids are a blessing.

I wonder. No, I don't wonder. I know God feels the same way about us. Jesus said, "let the children come to me." Romans 8 tells us that we are God's children.

That is an exciting thought. God is up there today, singing a little song about how beautiful you are. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful you. You are loved! What a great thought to start the day.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

We minister to one another

Before I get to the thought for the morning, I have to ask you, did you see the sun rise yesterday? Wow!!! Red orb, brilliance disguised, appeared as the moon for a moment in time. It was amazing.

I was on the phone with Carol later that day and we discussed the sunrise. She reminded me of the old saying, "Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning." Anyway, the sunrise was beeeauutifuuulll yesterday. I will be looking at it again today.

Alright, back to the topic at hand:

Occasionally I scroll back thru the posts on this blog to see if there are any comments. I guess that I hope that people read this and find something helpful in the blog, whether they comment or not on the musings of a 50 year old preacher.

Well, I ran back thru some posts and found 2 comments on the Tuesday, August 28th post. In the first comment, Lions Den Man is back and has a very poignant comment. Jan R is present in comment number two. She thanks Lions Den Man for his words.

I am touched by their exchange of caring. I am reminded that this is what we are supposed to do. It doesn't always happen, but when it does it is a beautiful thing. Just think, one little word from you today, one little comment, could be exactly what someone else needs to hear. Look how powerful you are! Look at the great opportunity that you have to do good in the name of the Lord.

God gives us power so that we can exercise it to bless others. I invite you today to use the power of your words to bring encouragement to another.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Labor Day

Hey! I really enjoyed yesterday. Labor Day is going to have to become one of my favorite holidays. Think about it. Many holidays have church services. Not that church services are bad, but for me, if there is a service, there is lots of extra work. No church services on Labor Day. Then, there are no family expectations. No dinners, no gatherings, nothing to interrupt what truly turned into a restful day off. No traffic on the streets, businesses seemed a little slow. I got everywhere I needed to go, and got lots of little things caught up.

I worked in the yard. We have a berm in the back. Berm = pile of dirt with plants in it. A hill, a hump in the back yard. A decorative heap of dirt. Well, this berm has been neglected for a long time and most of what was growing on it was weeds. If God invented weeds, He has a great imagination. I think there was one of every kind growing in the berm. Today, I am proud to say, the berm is weed free, matted and mulched. It looks perty.

So, yesterday for me was very restful and productive. I hope you enjoyed the gift of yesterday. Now lets welcome God into the gift of today and enjoy the moments with Him and all of His good people.

Its a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Old Sayings

Old Sayings. I know a ton of them.

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. A rolling stone gathers no moss. Don't put all of your eggs into one basket. What goes around comes around. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Don't count your chicks before they hatch. A fool and his money are soon parted. On and on I could go.

Mom and I used to have contests, bantering back and forth with old sayings. The last one standing with an unanswered old saying was the winner.

Yesterday, Dr. Ken passed on one of his sayings. He has lots of sayings, and often he will write them down in his beautiful handwriting, and give them to me on Sunday morning. I have heard this one before, but I received it with great joy.

"When the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change, that is when you will choose to do things differently in your life."

It is timely that I receive will fit perfectly in the sermon for Sunday. And, I may just need to think harder about some of the things that I need to work on personally.

Pain isn't always bad. Sometimes it leads us to thought, awareness, and positive change.

Happy Labor Day!
It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

another song stuck in my head

This song, "Wonderful Peace" has been stuck in my head lately. It is not in our hymnal. It may make it into worship services today. It was written by a Methodist preacher. The words are a blessing. Take a deep breath, invite God's presence into your morning, and then take in these lines:

Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight,Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm;
In celestial like strains it unceasingly falls O'er my soul like an infinite calm.

Peace! Peace! wonderful peace,Coming down from the Father above;
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray,In fathomless billows of love.

What a treasure I have in this wonderful peace,Buried deep in my inner most soul,
So secure that no power can mine it away,While the years of eternity roll!

Peace! Peace! wonderful peace,Coming down from the Father above;
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray,In fathomless billows of love.

I believe when I rise to that city of peace,Where the Author of peace I shall see,
That one strain of the song which the ransomed will sing,In that heavenly kingdom will be-

Peace! Peace! wonderful peace,Coming down from the Father above;
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray,In fathomless billows of love.

Weary soul, without gladness or comfort or rest,Passing down the rough pathway of time!
Make the Savior your friend ere the shadows grow dark;O accept of this peace so sublime.

Peace! Peace! wonderful peace,Coming down from the Father above;
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray,In fathomless billows of love.
W.D. Cornell, Methodist preacher 1889

Its a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

attending church

Labor day weekend. Another good reason to skip church. Some folks don't seem to need a good reason, but will lay out anytime it is convenient.

I am tired. I don't feel good. The church always wants something from me. I have other things to do. Ya, ya, ya and on go the excuses.

At WCC we try to teach our folks that church attendance is very important. It is not only important for what you might receive on Sunday, it is important for what you can give to others. Someone is waiting your smiling face, your willing hug, your words of kindness.

Don't feel like being an encouragement? Sometimes I don't either. But, an amazing thing happens when I show up on Sunday morning. The week may have drug me down a bit, but being with other believers lights up my soul. Sunday morning is so encouraging. As I reach out to others, their souls feed me. It is simply just a part of Christian commitment.

There is a great story about attending church:

The story is told of a man named Bob who had once been faithful to attend his church regularly, but had grown lackadaisical recently. The Pastor knew that he hadn't seen the gentleman in a while, so he went for a visit.Bob greeted the Pastor and welcomed him in, directing him to the chair beside the fireplace. He asked the Pastor what brought him to visit, but the Pastor didn't say a word......he simply grabbed the fireplace tongs, picked up a hot coal from the fire, and set it away from the fire, out on the hearth. Both men then watched the coal.While the fire roared on, the coal which had been red hot began to lose it's heat. It gradually lost it's red color, and then cooled off so that it became cool to the touch. The pastor picked up the coal, and handed it to John for a moment.....neither man said a word.Then the Pastor reached out and took the coal back from Bob, and returned it to the roaring fire.... and in just a few short moments, the coal once again glowed red hot, as the pile of flaming coals caused it to heat up again.The Pastor then got to his feet, put his hat on, and shook Bob's hand. At that point, Bob looked at the Pastor with tears in his eyes, and told him "Thank you for coming, Pastor, and I'll be back in church this coming Sunday!"

Thank you all for your commitment to your church. Thank you for the way that you continue to give yourselves to the heart and work of Jesus Christ. Feel free to pass this story on to anyone who is choosing to worship with Pastor Pillow.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.