Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I give up on acoustic amps . . .

Well, I made a decision today.  I am willing to accept the positive or negative consequences of my decision either way.

I am simply giving up on acoustic amps.

I've got a very good Fishman Loudbox acoustic amp.  It's for sale as of today.  Nothing wrong with it. I've used it for 3 years.  Carted it easily around with me to inside and outside gigs.

Why?

Well . . . I just can't get the sound I want dialed in.

What is the sound I want?

I want to hear the sound my guitar makes acoustically when I plug it in to an acoustic amplifier.

Trouble is . . . I can't get it to sound like my guitar, in fact I can't get any of my 6 string guitars to sound like they do when plugged in to an acoustic amp.  My Guild 12-string sounds fine . . . go figure.

To my untrained ear (emphasis on "untrained") I hear too many "effects."  However, I don't hear the sound my 6-strings make, which is the reason I got them in the first place.

So . . . I guess I am moving toward getting a portable PA system.  It looks like I am going to give an HK Lucas Nano 300 portable PA system a good long hard look.  Grapevine Guitar Works has a couple in stock, and I'm going to take my Taylor GS Custom and my Guild F-50R over to the shop and plug them in.  They are German engineered, very compact and easy to transport and set up.  And, to my delight, there is only a balance knob and a volume knob to adjust on the control panel.

Wow!  I can't begin to imagine set-up before a gig taking any more than 15 minutes.  And pretty much all I need to adjust during a gig is the volume or tone control on the guitar itself.

Brilliant!!!

Why didn't I pay attention to this sooner?  Guess I secretly wanted to sound like Monte Montgomery.  Only problem is, I'm not Monte Montgomery.

Don't know the full cost yet, but somewhere around $600.  Take off what I can get for my Fishman on a trade or on Craig's List . . . maybe around $450 or less.

More info to come.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to all!!

Despite my recent / current cancer journey ... I come into this Christmas of 2012 with a great deal of warmth, love and appreciation for the season. I am blessed with loving family, friends and an ever increasing faith.

My singing voice grows stronger each day with the help of the Vocal-Ease exercises that Jim Newton is mentoring me through. My speaking voice gets a first major test this Sunday as I provide the sermon in the downtown campus sanctuary at 11:15 AM at FUMC-Grapevine.

What a blessing ... 2 Christmas celebrations today with daughters and their families. Here at home this morning with Maranda and Dustin, and this afternoon/evening with Meredith, Chad and Briana. And then home later this evening before ice forms on the streets and highways. A possible white Christmas for us in the D/FW Texas area. A little snow would be nice.

Right now just a lot of very needed rain and a lot of wind!

Merry Christmas to you and yours. Despite the horrific news of recent days ... Christmas proves that God is with us (Emmanuel). There is light in the darkness. God's presence is here with us, the true gift of Christmas that keeps on giving the whole year through."

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Monday, December 17, 2012

Doing pretty well . . .

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I'm doing pretty well.  I just completed my 3rd full week of work, etc., with no ill effects.  It seems my ability to pull off long days (my "normal" Thursday begins at 5:30 AM and I usually don't get home until after 9 PM) is still in question.  Long days require that I take a nap or a long break where I can rest up.  I have forgotten a time or two to pace myself during the day.  On those days, I usually fall asleep in my recliner before going to bed.

Alas, I have a patient family, and they are helping me along.  I love having them by my side.

Advent here at the church has been very special.  We've taken a very hard look at Christmas as a church this year.  The shooting in Connecticut this past Friday were heavy on our hearts yesterday as we came to worship on the 3rd Sunday of Advent to light the candle of joy.  But light it we did, because as Dr. Cindy Ryan put it . . . "we had to."  If we didn't, we would have surrendered to the darkness, and the testimony of that would have been that evil had won. 

It didn't.  It hasn't.  It won't!  Not this Christmas.

I've been asked by many people what a I want for Christmas.  My honest answer has been, "it doesn't matter because I'm not going to get what I want for Christmas."

I want to be free of cancer.  That's all I want for Christmas. 

However, we won't know about receiving the "all-clear" until after the 1st week in April.

I still plan to participate and celebrate fully in Christmas this year.  My two daughters and their husbands have been negotiating an "all-family-in-attendance" Christmas gathering, and we may get to actually pull it off the evening of  Christmas Day.  It seems very important that we have a family time.  These days, with adult children and adult work schedules, getting together for the holidays is not always that easy.  I am grateful for my kids working hard to make this year's family meal something special.

I believe I've told my wife about 5,000 times that I love her these past 4 months.  I guess Liz and I are the age where "for better or worse" meant just that, "for better or worse."  I understand better now how the family of someone with cancer are just as affected by so many emotions and feelings.  The outreach of cancer is vast.  My wife has been to every appointment with me, to my treatment, waited on me when I was too tired to get out of bed or my recliner, always with a smile and an "I love you!"

I am so blessed.

I will be preaching on December 30th at the Downtown Campus.  I will be sharing some of my cancer journey during the message, as we focus on the "The Gift That Keeps On Giving!"  I'm looking forward to it.

Holiday activities are picking up around here at the church. So, this may be my last blog for a week or so.  Thank you all for your prayers, support and encouragement.  In all honesty, this exercise of reporting about my life has not been very easy.  But the effort has been therapeutic in several ways that I wasn't expecting. 

All good.

God's grace still amazes me . . .  ><>

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Translating "Doctor talk' into more understandable "English" . . .

What a difference it makes when you have someone who can "translate" something into a language you can understand.

My oncology nurse called me this morning, after receiving a long list of questions I sent to her on Tuesday night by email. She shared that as she read my email, she realized that there had been a miscommunication ( and it truth, the miscommunication was a lot my fault.)  My emotions got pretty scrambled at the doctor’s office on Tuesday morning, and neither Liz or I correctly understood what my oncologist was attempting to communicate to us in “doctor language.”   As a result, I “heard” that I was having another treatment in April and I panicked a bit, and I “sort of / kind of” got mad at the doctor. 
 
Seems that when I get mad, I stop listening . . . something that is probably not news to those who know me well.
 
Seems that when I get mad . . . people (including doctors) often become afraid of me . . .
 
So . . . here is the translation . . .
 
In reality, I am not having a treatment in April.  Rather, it will be "determined" in April if I need another treatment and/or surgery.

As our nurse explains it . . . I am going back to the oncologists in April for a “re-staging” which involves 3 things:

- One or two injections of a medicine that will allow me to not have to stop taking my new meds (synthetic hormone), and to not have to do a full week long low-iodine fast

- Two days later I will orally take a very small radioactive iodine marker (no isolation period involved)

- Two days after that, I will have another scan on my neck.

The results of the scan, as well as the results from new blood work, will help to determine 3 more things: (We could know the answers to all this by the middle or end of April)

- If the “spot” (evidence of thyroid cancer in my upper neck/lymph node) is still there . . .  

- If another radioactive iodine ablation (a 3 week process including diet and isolation) is necessary to take care of it

- If surgery is required to remove the lymph node (which is actually the “worst case scenario” according to the nurse . . . one that I can very much live with.)

A result of another ablation or surgery will be that I will have several more scans over the course of the next few years.

The wait until April is to give my neck more time to heal, and to allow the first treatment some time to have full effect (apparently my recent treatment has a half-life, meaning it is still “theoretically” working).  The cancer I have (follicular carcinoma) is the very slow growing.  It has probably taken many years for that little spot in my upper neck to get to the size that it is.
 
So, I am thankful for an oncologist who has everything under control, even if I'm out of control.
 
I am thankful for my oncology nurse who was patient to respond to my questions with a phone call instead of an email . . . and as a result, I am informed and on-board as a participant in the plan.  I am much more at ease. 
 
It's a good plan, in fact.

God's grace still amazes me . . . . ><>

 

 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Not what I hoped, but still some good news . . .

My visit yesterday morning to my oncologist’s office did not go as smoothly as I had hoped . . .  but I believe all is going to be good in the end.

The results of my recent full body scan showed that I do not have any metastatic disease (in other words, the thyroid cancer did not migrate anywhere else in my body).  That is very good news.

However . . . the scan, according to the oncologist, “lit up” a section in the upper left area of my neck, indicating there “may be something” in the lymph node region.  He wants to address this “cautiously,” meaning I will receive another radioactive iodine treatment (smaller dose) during the 1st or 2nd week of April 2013.  I will receive more info on April 2nd.   I will probably be out for several days related to all this.

The take-a-ways from this are a bit mixed but mostly good.
 
The bad take-a-ways . . .
 
-I will not get what I really wanted for Christmas . . . the "all clear" report.
-Another treatment, meaning the process that I hoped would last no longer than 6 months will probably now take 10 months to a year from first detection of the lump in my neck to the time I get an "all clear" report.
-More dealing with my "not being in control" (which I find quite frustrating).
-Having to re-evaluate some future things I wanted to do, which may have to delayed a year.  No big deal, except I made some promises . . . but everyone involved will understand
 
The good take-a-ways . . .
 
-I am feeling much, much better physically. 
-I am able to work full-time, and that feels really good.  It's good to walk into Advent/Christmas carrying my fair share of the pastoral load.
-The thyroid cancer did not move to other parts of my body.
-There is no confirmation that what the scan revealed is cancer . . . but why not be agressive (what my oncologist calls "being cautious."  I prefer aggressive . . . like "kill the damn thing now!!!"
-This is not a fatal disease . . . it's just going to be over when it's over.
 
I think in the end . . . the good take-a-ways win!!!!
 
God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>
 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Body scan results tomorrow morning ...

Tomorrow morning, Tuesday December 11th ... 3 months since my ENT called to tell me that I had thyroid cancer, I will meet with my oncologist to get the report from my recent full body thyroid cancer scan.

I am a bit nervous and apprehensive ... naturally so ... however, based on how I have felt the past 2 weeks, I am expecting something positive.

The entire process beginning with my experiencing regular fatigue in my voice and noticing a lump in my throat to the present time has has taken about 6 months.  Half-a-year dealing with cancer. Not as much as most people with cancer that I provided pastoral care to over the years, but every journey is different I guess.  The last 2 weeks are the first I've worked a regular schedule since the last week of August.  That's a long time to me.  In my own mind, I've not accomplished much In 2012, and I'm pretty much calling this year a wash.  I've have managed to accomplish a few personal and professional goals I set.  At the same time, a good number of goals were simply "tabled" for the time being.  Nothing major, but none-the-less, some things I needed and wanted to check off my list.  There are always other days and new lists!

The level of fatigue after surgery until I could take the treatment was more than I anticipated or was advised to expect.  Some days went well. Most ended early. The half-days I did manage to be in the office were few and far between. I felt "out-of-the-loop" after a while in addition to feeling like I was in the way of everybody else.  I am forever indebted to our church staff as each, without fail, advised me to focus on getting well.  My thanks also to everyone in the church for cards, calls and prayers.

Tomorrow I get the word.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>




A Change is Gonna Come . . .

One day I hope to bring same intensity and heart to any song I sing as Grandpa Elliot and Clarence Bekker of the "Playing for Change Band" bring to the song "A Change is Gonna Come."

www.playingforchange.com/episodes/63

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Help Make This World a Better Place . . .

The new "Playing for Change" music video is out!   A great message.  A call to to "arms" in fact . . . a call for us to join up and connect by our arms to sing a loud enough song that we can all work for change.  We can all work together to make this world a better place.

Check out www.playingforchange.com/episodes and click on episode #72.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Traynor amp . . .

Since accepting delivery of my Taylor T-5 last month,  I asked Sean Simon at Grapevine Guitar Works to look for a small electric guitar tube amp that I could use to play it through . . . something easy to operate, as I only put it through a tuner pedal.  I'm  really new to electric guitar playing, and wanted to keep things really simple.  Mostly because I don't like carrying a lot of equipment around.

Sean put me onto a Traynor Custom Valve YCV20WR that belonged to our late friend, guitar player and church member, Mike Pueppke.  Mike was a wonderful young man who finally succumbed to cancer last year after a long and courageous battle. I miss him daily still.  He was a good friend

I used to go to the hospital and visit Mike.  I did this many times over the years.  Mike was super intelligent, was working on his doctorate in English Lit . . . he could very well have become a college or university president . . . of that I have no doubt.  He was also a pretty decent lead rock-n-roll guitarist.  He had a beautiful Gibson Les Paul.  When I visited Mike, all we talked about was guitars.  It didn't matter to him that I was his pastor.  He just wanted someone, anyone, to visit him and talk about guitars so he could temporarily "leave" cancer for a while.  Quite frankly, I only to happy to oblige.

His hospital stays were often for months at a time.  We talked about guitars a lot during those times.  When we met for lunch at Old West Cafe in Grapevine or in Euless, we also talked about guitars. When I preached at his memorial service, I mentioned our conversations.  Several people approached me afterwards and told me that Mike had helped them get their guitars.

After Mike's death, his family asked Sean to help sell some of Mike's guitars and amps.  Mike was an eBay expert, and bought and sold guitars, bass guitars and amps for several years.  And he loved Traynor amps.  Sean thought I might like Mike's personal Traynor amp because it was small, used, in great shape, easy to carry, sounded great, but mostly that I would appreciate the connection to Mike.

Sean was right!  He usually is.  Sean is really a great guy.

Mike's YCV 20 is a freak!  I am pretty sure he replaced the tubes with J&J's . . . and the 15 watt Celestone speaker was replaced with a 30 watt Hellatone.  One would think it would be crunchy, but it's not.  It is really smooth.  Could be the Taylor T-5.  I think it's the amp.

Now to be completely honest . . . I really don't know squat about electric guitars or electric guitar amps.  However, this amp is a simple two channel amp, and it sounds great with my T-5 plugged in.  With my little Strat plugged in . . . oh my word!!!!   It amazes me the sounds you can get without running the guitar through a pedal board and just straight into the amp.  Amazing.

Mike had stuck an orange folder into the back of the amp with all his notes about what settings he used for different guitars and for different songs.  I'm looking at that folder right now.  I'm thinking of Mike, and his beautiful and brilliant wife Brittni and their son, who will grow up with very dim memories of his father.  It's still a sad story, and there is a little bit of grief still for me personally.  But there is a connection I will have forever with Mike.

First, he was my friend, who always wanted to get together to play electric guitar.  I was never able to schedule doing that with him.

But I'm finally doing it now, by playing my T-5 through Mike's amp.

I miss you, Mike!  Love ya, man!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>


Resources for Creative people . . .

Some great websites with great products for creative minded people . . . these are really good resources for artists, musicians, authors . . . and others who find it easier to manage their personal and professional lives when they see all aspects of their lives as individual projects. 

I have found these resources to be a great help to me.

Action Method
Behance.com
Creatives Outfitter
The 99%

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A great new song from Joe Walsh . . .

"Family" is a great new song from Joe Walsh.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, November 30, 2012

I'm back ....

Last night I had the special privilege and honor of providing the musical program for "The Well" event at FUMC-Grapevine. "The Well" is a bi-monthly gathering of women for fellowship, a great meal, followed by programs from noted women's authors and speakers.

Ann Hailey had asked me if I could provide a musical program of Christmas carols for the event. I initially planned to decline. I had not accepted any invitation to sing since my 2nd throat surgery in early October. Between a fluctuating energy level and vocal problems, I just hadn't felt comfortable singing in public in front of an audience. After thinking and considering the invitation for a couple of hours, I felt compelled to accept. i replied back to Ann and suggested a Christmas Carol sing-a-long to help compensate for my voice not being at full strength. Ann thought it was a great idea, and we confirmed I would be there.

This week was a good week energy wise. I worked a good full-time week with no problems. However, my Thursdays usually start at 5:30 AM and usually end with my getting home at 9 PM, so I was a little worried about my energy level and my voice. Yesterday, after taking an hour break away from the office, I started rehearsing about 2 hours before the event, working on different keys for each song until I found my comfort zone. I used my new Taylor T-5 through the PA, and it worked just great. I am getting more and more pleased with that guitar every time I play it.

I took another break as dinner was served, and went up to my office to finish sipping through a Diet Sprite from Sonic, and to just relax for a bit. Perhaps I was also praying, I don't remember. I got up to head downstairs to tune up, and I had this calm sense of peace that it would all be OK. Many of the ladies attending know me or about me, so it wasn't a hostile crowd.

After Ann's very precious introduction, I started into a little Jamaican rhythm version of "Silver Bells" with the ladies joining me on the chorus. Then a slow version (is there any other way?) of "White Christmas." The 3rd song was a long time personal favorite, "Do You Hear What I Hear." Half-way through, I felt a warm wave of peace and assurance ... I almost started crying, but kept singing. I knew right then, and finally accepted for myself, that I was going to be OK, that the worry of the past 3 months of dealing with thyroid cancer and voice issues was coming to an end.

Vocally, I was doing pretty well through each song. It felt like I was getting stronger with each song. I was projecting with no strain, and controlling my voice with little effort or thought. In other words, I was getting comfortable. My throat felt relaxed and I was enjoying myself.

The final song was "Mary Did You Know," my favorite contemporary Christmas song. And, to quote a friend, " I just let it rip." Afterwards, as I thanked the ladies for their applause and participation, I knew and accepted that my voice was going to be ok. In fact, it may even be a little better!!! Given time and some re-training, I really believe I'm going to have a better voice.

It was good then, and is good today to feel at peace about it all!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, November 23, 2012

Joe Walsh . . .

If I have a favorite electric guitar player, it's Joe Walsh.

During my period of isolation last week, I watched an abnormal amount of television.  Granted, normal for me is NO television at all . . . seriously, I just don't watch TV anymore.

However, I watched my Eagles DVD (live concert in Australia)  and also found a Netflix movie called the "Strat Pack" which was a tribute concert in England in memory of Leo Fender.  Joe Walsh had the longest set on the movie, and he was just fantastic. 

This past month, Joe was Daryl Hall's guest on the most recent Live from Daryl's House internet program.  Check out www.lfdh.com.  He and Daryl do a version of Joe's "Funk #49/50" on the show which was just plan awesome.

What a program!!!!  Joe looks as broad shouldered and healthy as I have ever seen him.  His new album, his first in 20 years, is out and its called "Analog Man."  Joe has been sober for 18 years now, and shared that it took him that long to re-learn how to write music again in a sober state of mind.

Are there more skilled electric guitar players than Joe?  Probably.  But Joe Walsh is my favorite electric guitar player.

Can I play like him?

Are you kidding? In my dreams maybe . . . heck, I can't even play scales!

But I do so love to watch Joe play, and hopefully in the near future I will get to attend a concert.

I think he is getting ready to do some of his best stuff.  

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Update: Out and about . . .

My isolations and restrictions following radioactive iodine ablation are over.  I'm trying to get back in the swing of things.  However, my body is telling me I am going to have to slowly work back up to full speed. 

Yesterday I went by the guitar store and to my office at the church.  I didn't stay long.  I was tired, and had a dizzy spell.  Today I arrived at the church early . . . but my concentration just isn't up to the task.  So, after catching up on my daily devotions, I am going to head over to Sonic for a grilled chicken sandwhich and then leisurely run a few errands before heading back home. 

I so want to be ready to take on a full schedule . . . but 2 surgeries and 2 months of reduced activity (sitting in my recliner recovering) have taken their toll on my stamina and energy level.  Apparently I am no far enough along the hormone replacement process for it to have made the "big" difference others have told me to expect.  

Liz and I will be in worship this Sunday, and then Monday morning (11/26), I'll start my first full week back and see how much I can do.  I am thankful for this great church in their allowing me the time I have needed to get well.  I love this place a lot . . . especially the people.  I think I will start drawing energy again from working with the staff again, and being with all the people.  I have a lot of catching up to do pastoral care wise.  A lot of that can be done with phone calls and emails.  A lot can be done in face-to-face visits as well. 

Plus, it's time to get ready for Advent!!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Give thanks out of a grateful heart!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Update: I can taste again!

Yay! The old taste buds are working again!

The swelling in my neck, which I am pretty sure is due to swollen salivary glands, is reducing. Other than my neck still feeling stiff, I think I'm good to go.

3 pm today ended a long list of 5-day restrictions. I can be near loved ones and others. I can hug but can't kiss (a 7 day restriction ... Awwwwwww!) I can hold my cat again, which may not be very soon because he apparently believes that I've given him up for Lent or some other human celebration. I'll work on him some. He'll come around.

Tomorrow I will spend a good part of the day cleaning and washing clothes, sheets, blanket, mattress pad, towels, bagging up "Rick's" trash, cleaning and disinfecting the bathroom (twice) and wash the shower curtains. I have to throw away my toothbrush, and little travel toiletries I've been using. Also have to throw away my old CPAP mask and start using a new one.

I am glad that I did not have any sweating side-effect episodes, in that radiation is more easily transferred or causes contamination through sweat. My trusty recliner gets a good wipe down, but no one else can sit in it for the week. Liz can move back into our bedroom on Tuesday (end of a short list of 7-day restrictions ... Yay!!)

I hope to be at the church on Tuesday and Wednesday of this coming week. Liz and I will attend wirship services on Sunday, and I will be "officially" back on the 26th. To say that I have cabin fever is an understatement for sure!

I have a body scan on the 27th, and meet with my oncologist 2 weeks later. At that time I'll know if I am done, or if we start with plan B.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Friday, November 16, 2012

Update: Some side effects continue

Two days now with a very tender and sore neck, including some swelling. The very bad fatigue of Wednesday evening and yesterday has let up. Taste buds are still a bit off; however, the metallic taste is gone. I have not yet experienced any kind of dry mouth, which I had been told to expect.

I can resume some normal activities on Monday, and can be back in public for sure on Tuesday, and glad for that as the Reigelman's are coming through town and we really want to see them.

Yesterday was just one of those rare "mostly bad days." I don't have many bad days, because I believe that a bad day is more about my deciding it's a bad day, rather than trying to identify something redeemable. I believe there is something redeemable about every single day, in every single relationship, in every single person. I decided, a long time ago, to live life this way. Doing so has served me well for a long time. It's been an act of faith.

Yesterday ... was pretty bad. Painful physically and emotionally. Not wanting to get out of bed because you honestly don't feel like it ... can be frustrating for some. Today is off to a better start despite some lingering side effects from treatment. In the end, this will all pale when compared to the cancer journeys some of you have, and are facing. I promise this to all of you, should you seek me out for pastoral care ... I will have a more empathetic ear to give to you as a result of what I experienced.

I hope that will do us all some good.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Live from Daryl's House new episode just posted ...

Joe Walsh is Daryl Hall's guest this month.

Watching this brought a decent ending to what was, quite frankly, a horrible day. But redeemable none-the-less ... Because of some wonderful music. I'll write more a out how I feel about bad days tomorrow.

LFDH is my favorite internet web show. Joe looked great, and played even better.

www.lfdh.com

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Update: it must be side-effects day

Interesting ... Most of the side-effects I was told that "some" people get after radioactive iodine ablation ... Have hit today.

Ugh!

It's going to be a day spent in bed.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Update: Phase 3.1

I'm home! A completely un-eventfull treatment ... Swallow a pill that 3 people were involved in giving to me.

I was surprised by the peace I had during the entire process. Apparently, I had been the only patient so far in the day that was either very worried/emotional. My response when asked how I was doing was "Go Team!" My nurse said, "you are to be just fine."

My visual for all this is to imagine any remaining cancer cells or thyroid tissue will just soak up the "I-131" radioactive iodine ... then to scream "Raid!" ... and then blow up.

I think I just dated myself again.

Doing ok!

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Update: Phase #3 begins today

Here in a little bit, I will head toward my radioactive iodine ablation at my oncologist's office. After the treatment, provided there are no side effects, I head back home for a 1 week period of isolation as the Radioactive Rev. Rick!!

I admit I am a little nervous, not about swallowing a radioactive pill, but about my being able to stay out of everyone's way here at the house. However, Liz has it all planned and she is the best project manager I know and trust!

My family is being so sweet to me. My church has gifted me with additional time off so I can focus on getting better. Folks from the church have called to let Liz know when they are available to run errands or do yard work. Long distance friends are calling or emailing with words of encouragement.

I am overwhelmed by love and by God's grace.

That, in part, is why I always end each blog entry, no matter the topic, with my favorite line from my favorite Phillips-Craig&Dean song ...

God's love "still amazes me ..." ><>

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ain't she sweet!

My Taylor T-5 custom electric guitar arrived this past Wednesday. It has a dark, rich stripped sinker redwood top, with mahogany back and neck. A lot darker than the sinker redwood top on my Taylor GS, which is a very rich reddish orange with hardly any stripping at all. Both are simply magnificent in their own unique way.

Oh, oh, oh, oh ...... I am a fan of the sound a redwood topped guitar makes. I thought cedar was a warm sounding wood, and it is. But redwood, to my ear, is warm ... but with more volume than cedar, but not the brightness of spruce. A great sound for the the performer like me, who usually sings solo, or in a duet or trio.

Sinker redwood really touches something in my heart and soul.

My thanks to Sean Simon at Grapevine Guitar Works and J.R. Robison of Taylor Guitars for getting this truly one-of-a-kind guitar created. This guitar is one that I'm going to very much "enjoy" paying for. It's been a needed bright spot during this medical journey I've been on. I've already managed to play it over 6 hours in just the past few days. I'll introduce it publicly during VBS at the church this June, provided my voice has recovered enough to handle daily singing by then.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Some after election thoughts ...

A few after election thoughts this morning ...

Cheering your candidates victory, or grieving their loss may make you happy or sad for the moment ... in the end it all doesn't matter.

What matters is this .... for real constructive change to happen for everyone's benefit, you have to raise your individual and personal level of involvement in the process to doing something more than just casting your vote and then sitting back hoping the winner will do what you want them to.

Get involved yourself!

Start in your neighborhood or local community. Volunteer where ever there is a need. Commit to serving on a civic or community committee, or help build a playground, or feed and clothe the poor. Pick up the trash along a section of road. Drive around and really look at the needs in the world you live in. Take your children with you because they have eyes that see things more honestly and clearly than adults do.

Purposely work with people who are "different" than you in hopes of widening your "compassion vision". Or, if so called or inclined, run for public office yourself.

Expand you understanding by engaging in dialogue with "the other guys," which may be difficult at first because you will have to develop the greatest of of adult skills ... listening! You might find you have more common ground than you think. At the least, what may come out it is your discovering something you have a true core-value-connected passion for helping with.

Despite all the reasons listed on their resumes and bio's, candidates usually enter into politics for basically one of two reasons ... They truly want to help make things better, or they want to be in power. (Perhaps this applies to many other fields of endeavor as well??) I wonder if many who are celebrating or grieving the election results today are doing so because of a perceived gain or loss of power? From my experience, I believe that the ones running for office because they truly want to make things better, whether they win or lose, are already rolling up their sleeves this morning and going to work to make good things happen.

After you take the time you need to celebrate or grieve ... consider making the effort to take the time to ponder some way you can be involved in the process beyond just voting.

It's true, positive change for the benefit of many first begins in our own lives.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Yep, I must be a cat bed...

A splitting headache and flu like symptoms (related to an ever increasing level of fatigue) have me at home again today. I'm just about ready to call this week a wash.

I've done a lite of thinking in all the time off I've had recently.

And right there in front of me ... I discovered that I have truly missed my calling!

I am, in reality, a king-sized cat bed!

I wish I could believe they both were acting out of sympathy to how I feel, but then I know better.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Monday, November 5, 2012

Update: Fatigue / the home stretch ...

Thanks again for all the cards and calls. I am overwhelmed.

Well, it's low-iodine diet week (finally), and as promised, the fatigue is quickly getting worse ... Lasting longer and feeling much more draining. I am now considering taking most of this week off, and have cancelled most of my appointments. I sure hope I can make the Gala this coming Saturday, but if I can't go, I can't go. My mom is coming down for a visit this weekend, and I'm looking forward to that.

And ... It seems because of my sitting in my recliner so much this past month, that one of our cats believes I am his new custom cat bed!! I bet he stayed in my lap for 4 hours. The little guy recently had de-claw surgery, and was probably a bit woozy.

I know what that is like. Anyway, he seemed comfortable and was just so dang cute!

Our diet plan for the week is very doable, really not much different from my regular diet, except for no salt or commercially prepared foods. No eating out this week. All homemade! Liz is good at that.

Next Tuesday, Nov. 13, is my ablation. A week at home in "radioactive isolation" (meaning camped out in my study) begins that afternoon. Hormone therapy (Yay!) starts the next day. I am grateful for my family for working out their schedules, etc., as I have to have a dedicated bathroom for my own use during the week. Love'em all so much!

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

 


 

Friends,

I believe that I still have about 100 or so copies of my Children's Worship music CD which I recorded several years ago.  I'd like to get them sold before the coming holidays, as 100% of the proceeds go toward the support of Hugworks and Kenya Kid's Can food project in Kenya.

Send me word by email or give me a call at the church if you are interested.  $10.00 each or $2 for $15.00.   People tell me this CD has been a blessing to their children.  It includes a lot of the songs we have sung together with the children who have come down for the Children's Time during morning worship services and Vacation Bible School these almost seven-and-a-half years together here at the First United Methodist Church in Grapevine, Texas.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Update: Radioactive Rev. Rick . . .

Visited my radiology oncologist yesterday.  A great guy who was very positive from the get-go.

I start my low-iodine diet on November 6 . . . which is only a little more restrictive than the counting calorie diet I've been on for almost a year.  Shouldn't be any problem at all.

I will have my radioactive iodine ablation on Nov. 13, and then be at home for a week.  Even signed a couple of forms from the "State of Texas" acknowledging I won't be around small children or mingling in crowds from November 13-18. 

Sure don't plan to be.

Call me Radioactive Rev. Rick!!!

All this is really good news, because it means the schedule is a bit expidited.  I was under the impression the diet lasted for 2-3 weeks, which again would have been no big deal.   That I can stay at home, with appropriate precautions (have to sleep by myself, have a bathroom for my use only, etc.) it's going to all be OK.   We can host family Thanksgiving this year and as of November 19th,  I can be around my daughter who is expecting, and be no danger to her in any way!

Outstanding! 

Then a thyroid cancer scan after Thanksgiving, then see the doctor in early December, and everything hopefully will be good to go.  Fingers crossed and prayers being offered that's for sure.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Update: Fatigue - Phase #2

I went to the doctor today ... As a result of 3 dizziness episodes on Monday when I arose from a seated position. I also had an episode while driving. My doctor took me off one of my BP meds, and halved the other ... which is a good thing for me in the long run.

She also confirmed, based on her experience, as others and my wife have have told me, that I am to that point post-surgery where my daily fatigue is lasting longer, and will continue to do so until hormone replacement therapy starts.

Her advice ... the same as others have advised who have gone through thyroid cancer ... It is going to get better.

So, another month at least of increasing fatigue, along with an expected increase in appetite, and all I can do is rest when I need to.

As a result, I'm getting a little nervous about driving. So, if tired, I don't drive, or get home as quickly as possible before the fatigue headache and backache start.

It's all more than a bit frustrating. I don't feel at all like I am carrying my load at the church; however, I am so blessed by my fellow staff members who in a collective voice have told me to rest when I need to. They are the best. I don't tell them that near enough.

There is also, at times, a bit of confusion when I get fatigued. Putting myself in my easy chair during those times is the plan.

It's all going to be over before Christmas, although we may have to have a vegan diet for Thanksgiving. Now THAT will be interesting!

Radiological oncologist visit is next week, followed by 2-3 weeks of a low-iodine diet, then they make me radioactive!! Then, it's over.

I truly can't wait.

In the process, I'm praying for more patience, continuing to read, doing a lot of pastoral care by phone, and wearing out my recliner.

God's grace, and the struggle to appreciate process, still amazes me ... ><>

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Update: A full morning of worship ... Well almost ...

The picture here is my view of the sunrise this morning coming east on Mustang Drive toward S. Main Street. Pretty awesome.

Helped lead worship at 8:50 am, sang and helped at 10:10 am, but only made it through the Children's Time and hearing the kids sing before I ran out of gas at the 11:15 am service.

This fatigue thing has no rhyme or reason to it. It hits you when it hits you, and I don't like to be driving when it does! I made it home to my recliner in time. I'll make my class tonight at 6 pm at the church.

Didn't realize until today how much I have missed working with and beside John Mollet. John has become a good friend and ministry partner, and it's a challenge to keep up with him. As much as he and I joke about each other in public, there is a deep inner and personal respect we have for one another. It's my honor and privilege to work with him.

His sermon this morning was a great start to our new "Split-Ticket" sermon series.

God's grace, and the people I serve in ministry with, still amazes me ... ><>

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A special thanks to Butch Hall ...

I had the honor and privilege of meeting and talking to Butch Hall of Butch Hall Native American Flutes this afternoon in Weatherford. Butch was kind enough to receive Liz and I on an early Saturday afternoon, and gave us a personal tour of his wood shop, and let me share my hopes and dreams about furthering my understanding and appreciation about music that heals, as well as exploring if Native American flutes could be part of this journey.

I'm now approaching therapeutic/healing music more from a clinical perspective, which is how Jim Newton and Paul Hill have developed the songs they have written in their work through Hugworks for 30+ years.

It became apparent in just a few moments that Butch was the man I needed to talk to about Native American flutes and this dream of mine.

Butch showed and even let me play 6 of his flutes, but guided me toward the lower toned flutes he makes. I will be getting the Dm and Cm bass flutes from him very soon, and probably an E as well at some point. The goal is to eventually get several flutes that play well with guitar, keyboards and other instruments. I also purchased several of his lesson and song books.

I've been searching NAF flute sites on the Internet almost daily for over a year ... and have seen many, many examples of hand crafted flutes which are nothing more than one-of-a-kind works of art (and priced to match!) However, in my humble opinion, in a therapeutic situation, they would scream out "look at me!".

My goal in learning more about music that heals, is to find simpler designed flutes that sound great. My reason is this, when you are in a room with someone, or a group, who may benefit from healing themed music, the issue is not to get them to notice how pretty or ornate your flute is. The focus is on the recipient ... completely on the recipient. It's about the music. The same goes for the guitar. The reason I play 12-string when I sing/play solo in a therapeutic music situation is because of my personal observation that many patients in a hospital (children and adults alike), or seniors in a care center, actually close their eyes when a 12-string is softly played!!

Butch's flutes are not bad looking at all. His focus, however, is on how well they play and how well they sound! The basic design of the concert flutes he makes will not themselves be a distraction in a therapeutic / healing music setting. I think playing his flutes will be a good match for what I hope to accomplish in the months and years ahead in my music ministry. They sound great, are appropriate for the situation, and very fairly priced.

Thanks again Butch! The path before on this journey is now far less cluttered, and a lot more clear.

God's grace, and the healing power of music, still amazes me ... ><>

Friday, October 19, 2012

Reconnections . . .

I blogged recently about "reconnecting" to something spiritual during my recent 2 week stay in New Mexico. That reconnection has changed me, and my understanding of it continues to develop, almost to the point where I hope to put it down into words.

I've experienced several additional reconnections since, two in just the past few days. How this has all happened is pretty amazing to me.

The first new reconnection ...

On Wednesday morning, a church member who recently experienced an accident came to see me. It was the year anniversary of the accident itself. During our conversation, she presented me with a small guardian angel medallion that she had worn every day during the past year of her recovery. It had been given to her by another church member. That member received it from me. I presented it to her when she began a very long period of rehab as the result of a stroke.

This little pendant is showing its age! It's tarnished, a bit pitted, and the edges are a bit worn and smooth. It has travelled with two dear people through their individual recoveries. It has been held tightly in a hand while prayers were offered. It has been touched by fingers when times got rough, listening to words of their doctors and during ah ha!" moments.

I am wearing it now on a chain under my shirt. Please ask me to show it to you. I'm glad to do it. I'm going to have it with me every day until my doctor says the words "cancer free." Then I will pass it along to someone else.

If you would like, or would be blessed with having your own little guardian angel pendant, then please let me know. I try to purchase about 25 of them a year from a little church in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. That small church has a beautiful little garden from which you can see the Christ of the Ozarks Statue across the valley above Eureka Springs. It's a holy and sacred place for me personally. Perhaps you can wear one for a while, and then pass it on to someone else afterwards as a blessing to them in their journey.

The second reconnection ...

Yesterday I was reading Twitter posts, when lo-and-behold, I notice an 18 day old message from my old "Youth for Christ" director back in my high school days down in the Rio Grande Valley. Rev. Bob Hager (he was just "Bob" back then) is now a retired elder in the Arkansas Conference of the UMC, and is currently involved in creating independent documentary films. I hope we are going to connect again by phone later this morning. (We did .... an almost hour long conversation).

Bob was as instrumental as anyone with helping me discern a call to ministry, and how we could be about doing ministry in a new way that would reach teens in the culture of that day back in 1975. Bob was my first example of an "official" religious leader "thinking outside the box" in a day and time before that descriptive phrase was even conceived. Pretty much every breath he took or word he spoke was about new ways to reach teens in 1974-1975 with the love Christ. His recommendation helped me get my first youth ministry job as an 18 year old high school graduate at FUMC in Donna, TX.

He was, in that day and time, a bit of a rebel. No, make that a full blown rebel. He was our YFC leader, he had a weekly radio program for youth on Saturday nights (and got fired from it for having youth actually come onto the program). He brought contemporary Christian bands through the area (Chuck Girard and others) and got blasted for it because they played "rock" style music on guitars. He hosted Burger Bash's, world's longest banana split contests, Earth Ball Olympics (with a giant 7 foot tall air-filled ball (oh, was that thing hard to pump up with old hand pumps) and other events that attracted teens in large numbers. He was accepting of everyone. Youth programs today put some of the things we did back then to shame (but then, we had little to no access to "technology. A little red painted battery-powered "Hot Seat" stool, guitars and a film projector was it.) ... but such wasn't the norm in the middle 70's in Deep South Texas.

The biggest problem we faced daily was from pastors of area churches who I guess were questioning our theology, long hair, music ... They basically insisted we had to be in a church classroom with nice clothes, short hair, with a red- letter "approved" Bible in our laps for "correct" Christian teaching. Personal expression was a still a bit of a no-no. But Bob kept going forward, in-the-process training a group of youth leaders and future church workers and volunteers (and I'm still damn proud today that I was on that leader team - probably because I carried a guitar on my back everywhere I went in those days). We met on Tuesday nights I think, in homes or in schools.

Bob left for seminary in Massachusetts about the same time I left for college and we quickly lost track of one another. It's going to be good to reconnect, mainly because I never got the chance to thank him for letting me watch him struggle to honestly and uniquely live out his Christian faith and beliefs with integrity. (I did give that thank you. Felt good. Should have done it a long time ago.)

'Tis a season of reconnections in my life right now, especially during this time of surgery and treatment for thyroid cancer. They all mean a lot to me ... and pondering about them all seems to be leading me to something. I just don't know what yet. I believe and honor that this is all part of a process, a journey. It's all good.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>



Monday, October 15, 2012

Update: A "new" normal is my goal ...

I facilitated session #1 of our new "Questions People Ask About Death and Dying" class last evening. Today I was back in my office, and actually got several pastoral care items taken care of. It all felt good.

The number of get-well cards that Liz and I have received continues to grow (and we are so thankful to all who have sent then with Facebook "likes," texts, emails and calls). However, seeing, greeting and talking to people "live" and one-on-one today was a blessing. I relished every single personal contact today!

I worked until a little after 2:30 PM, including time for a healthy lunch at Old West Cafe. I knew I was starting to push it a bit, so I headed home. It's sort of interesting and yet annoying, that you "feel" the fatigue coming on, or it blindsides you.

Focusing mentally was a bit of an issue today, perhaps because of fatigue, or from being away a lot during September and part of October. My main focus remains on pastoral care and on our upcoming worship survey, and yet my guitars started calling out to me, as well as several future projects that require my attention. I'd forgotten the number of people, to-do's, and projects on my plate, plus personal/spiritual time and reading I use to handle before my surgeries.

Time now for a new more focused list of action items (remembering my doctor's advice, "plan for half-a-day, and be satisfied with accomplishing half of that" ... in other words, despite my love for my iPad, it's time for some old fashioned pencil/pen to paper right-hand-to-the-brain time.

Action Item #1 ... Start working toward what I call my "new normal." That will be a bit difficult to do, as it looks more and more like my radioactive iodine treatment won't be until late November. Normal may have to wait a while. I'm putting some thought to the reality that I may have a series of "new normals," which may be easier to deal with.

If nothing else, I appreciate and understand process.

So for right now, I think my new normal for the next few weeks will hopefully include: (thus the purpose for this blog entry ... make all this a matter of public record!)

1) Make every effort to work a full morning at the church, followed by a more quiet time in the afternoon in my office or at home

2) I know my energy level is down, but my reading needs to continue, and I need to start working on action items for a few projects that are now more "time-crunched" than others, which will include delegating certain things to staff and ministry area/team leaders. The other projects will have to wait, but they are pretty much 2013 stuff.

3) I need to take a book of the Bible, and get after some more focused study. That always involves pen and paper. Something about writing something down on paper (notebooks / journals in my case) that helps my mind ponder an idea more clearly.

4) Choosing to work on my music again, scratchy voice or not. If not guitar, then continuing lessons on the Native American flute. I'm to the point where I need to use the flute for the meditative benefit of the music. Again another pen / paper exercise, writing down words and flute tablature.

"New normal," here I come.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Moving into Native American flutes . . .

Part of the stuff I started to plan for when I was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer, was to accelerate my efforts around learning to play the Native American flute.

If you have ever gone to a massage therapist's office, that flute based meditation music you probably heard in the background during the massage is usually from a Native American flute.

I've been researching wooden flutes for several years now.  Why?  I just love the sound they make.
They are soothing and calming, something I can always do with more of.  With the prospect of losing my singing speaking voice during two thyroid / throat surgeries, I decided to go ahead and take the plunge.  In case I lost my voice, I wanted to start learning another instument that might have to become a new music voice for me.

Well, all is going good with the voice, it's getting stronger . . . and it will be back to full strength after I start some voice lessons soon.  But I am far enough along now in learning how to play the flute that I now developed a genuine interest in continuing on this new instrumental journey.

So far so good along the way so far . . . it's all about breath technique, memorizing scales and finger placement.  I have two flutes now, a High Spirits Sparrow Hawk (Key of A) made of cedar, as well as a High Spirits Red-Tail Hawk (Key of G) in walnut.  Odell Borg at High Spirits has been great to find time to speak to me several times by phone to answer my varied list of questions.  A great guy.  He has been making flutes since 1990.  They play well, and are somewhat artistic in their design.

What I have been consistently told my all . . .  if you have no experience with a woodwind instrument, consider starting with a Key of A flute.  The Key of G is more compatible with most instruments.  Down the road, I want to get a bass D flute.  The sound they make is haunting.

Butch Hall is another well respected Native American flute maker who lives in Weatherford, TX.  I've communicated with him by email, and hope to visit him in November or December. I may have the funds then for the purchase of one of his cedar flutes in F#, the key most commonly used in Native American music.

The history of the Native American flute is readily available on-line and in print, and the best instruction book is probably the one written by R. Carlos Nakai.  I have it ordered.

I put a new link list in the column on the right about Native American flute stuff.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Update: Phase #3 begins

Phase #1 - Was diagnosis
Phase #2 - Was 2 surgeries
Phase #3 - Radioactive iodine treatment

Got word yesterday that we will go see the radiological oncologist on October 30. They will let us know of any cancellations between now and then, as we are not far from their office while either at home or work.

Initial visit, start the low iodine diet, and weekly blood tests until levels show I'm ready for the radioactive iodine treatments.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Update: Post-Op update

Released today, referred to next doctor (radiology oncologist??) and stitches are out. I will take a glorious shower soon.

I am, and will be for the time being, on driving restrictions because fatigue issues until I start taking hormone therapy, which is after the radioactive iodine treatments. My doctors orders are to only drive short distances, if I feel up to it, basically 10 miles or less ... No driving to Dallas or Ft. Worth yet. Due to my larger than normal body size (really?) it looks like my fatigue will be ongoing throughout the day, and will gradually worsen over the next few weeks.

I slept great last night, but was in my recliner just a few minutes after getting up. The bad episode I had Sunday, according to the doctor, was probably due to having had 2 surgeries in a month, and staying out to long. Sunday was my first time out since the surgery.

I'm happy to be released, and forcing myself to be realistic about the restrictions, which I need to admit isn't, and won't be easy. Nothing I can do about it. Guess I'll be calling and emailing people a lot for a while. I can visit hospitals if they are close by.

I hope to attend 11:15 am worship again this Sunday, and plan to teach my class on Sunday evening. I spoke to John, and my goal will be to try and put in a half-day each day beginning on Monday.

As my doctor put it, "plan for half-a-day, and then be happy with accomplishing half of that."

Ok . . . . .

Path came back showing a calcified goiter, but no cancer in the thyroid section my doctor removed last Thursday. Hopefully one radioactive iodine treatment will be enough.

Weekly blood tests starting as early as next week and 2-4 weeks or so of a low iodine diet are next.

That's it for now. Thanks again for cards, notes and calls. They meant a lot to me and my family.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Update: Post-Op visit is tomorrow

All things considered, it's all good.

I got the attend our staff worship planning meeting this morning at the Heritage campus, my first "more than a couple hour" venture from home. It was an awesome meeting, and I'm very, very (did I say "very?" Can I get an "Amen!") excited what will come our of our frank, open, and honest discussion about worship. As of today, I just can't wait to get back into the ebb and flow of daily ministry. I very much miss working with John, Cindy, Armando, Nathan, Wren, Jenny, Trudy, Melissia and all the rest.

I was also blessed today by my barber, Joe Sheppard. He bought me lunch, gave me a haircut and a shave, and then drove me home (I'm still on driving restrictions). Joe has been my friend for almost 8 years. Floyd Diehm told me about Joe's shop, and no one else has cut my hair since. A good Christian man who counsels and mentors many in his daily walk. And, it's a "Barber Shop." Not a "salon." It's about the only estrogen free place I have left to go to anymore (remember, I have 2 daughters ...).

I did have my first "I no longer have a thyroid" fatigue episode on Sunday, as well as bit of it today. Simply put biologically, I no longer have a thyroid to produce for my body what a thyroid produces when the body wants it.

What? Did that even make sense?

It does to me. I can feel the consequences ...

On Sunday, Liz and I attended worship at 11:15 am, and then were invited to lunch with Jesse and Annette Sowell (Happy Birthday, Annette!) After eating we were talking away about family and church stuff when WHAM! It felt like I hit a brick wall! I just had no energy. I had a very sudden bad headache, felt completely de-energized and told Liz to get the car. After an afternoon nap, I was better.

The worse part of all this, as I'm told by both doctor and others who have gone through this, is the constant episodes fatigue (with no rhyme or reason to them ) until after radioactive iodine treatments are completed, because only then can my ENT start my hormone therapy (the little pill I will take daily the rest of my life). A low iodine diet comes first with weekly blood treatments before iodine treatments ... which look now to start in 4-6 weeks.

That's a long time to experience fatigue, especially when you drive a lot to Dallas and Ft. Worth to visit in hospitals. Glad we have Amelia Beasley interning with us. Her helping us, especially these past 3 weeks, with visitation and funerals has been a blessing.

So, it looks like I am going to have to carefully plan each day with a shorter to-do list than normal, including limiting my driving. Another frustration is that I have not been cleared to again resume visiting in hospitals. A "clarification" of that comes tomorrow, I hope.

Please keep praying for my family and I. This has all been harder on them than I expected or have come to realize. I'm sort of use to people being worried about my mental health (a joke! at least I hope it's a joke ...) but not so much when your loved ones are worried about you having cancer. If my family's love can get me through anything, it will get me through this, as will the love of my friends like Joe Sheppard, and my church family.

I'll blog or Facebook something tomorrow after I see my ENT.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Friday, October 5, 2012

Update: I'm home!

I'm in my recliner with my fleece Indian "God's Eye" decorated blanket and my "Hope" pillow. I feel a long quiet nap coming on.

I'll update again in a few days. I think I'll take the next few days for rest, reading, writing, and visiting with family who are planning to come over.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Update: Surgery #2

Surgery yesterday went well. The rest of my thyroid was removed, and it is expected that they will find a tumor in it as well. After healing up a bit, I anticipate being referred to a nuclear medicine doctor in a couple of weeks to begin prep for radioactive iodine treatments.

My voice is raspy, and tired after just speaking a few words. "No singing for a month" says the doctor. Irritation to the vocal chords is the culprit. Two surgeries on your neck in less than a month near your throat will cause that I guess. But, it's not vocal chord paralysis, which is good.

Pain this time is a lot less, and perhaps that is due to my being less anxious, since I've been through this surgery before. I can only speak of my complete and total satisfaction with the care I have received from Dr. Charles Railsback, he is a fine man and a wonderful doctor, and from everyone at Texas Health Harris Methodist HEB Hospital. The care here is exemplary!!

Hopefully leaving for home later this morning! Thanks to all for your calls, cards, texts, emails and visits.

God's grace amazes me ... ><>

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Update: Surgery #2 is tomorrow

Dr. Cindy Ryan, fellow pastor, ministry team partner and friend, stopped me as I was leaving the office this afternoon, and tells me that she has a gift for me from a secret ministry group in our church that "even you don't know about."

My reply to her was, "but you know about it, right?"

Cindy replies, "we'll of course!"

It was the very cute, yet quite masculine little pillow you see below.

Surgery #2 is at 10 am tomorrow, to remove the remainder of my thyroid. A week or so after my post-op visit with my doctor, I will be referred to a nuclear medicine doctor to begin all that needs to be done in preparation for radioactive iodine treatment.

No time table yet on all that. But that's how it usually works with any kind of illness requiring surgery and treatments. The process of it all is just that ... a process. The journey takes as long as it has to and the road meanders a lot along the way. All I know to do is keep going forward, one step at a time.

Thanks to all for prayers prayed and yet to be prayed! I'll post an update tomorrow or Friday.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Time to write about music stuff again . . .

Surgery #2 is this coming Thursday.  I would appreciate as many morning prayers as possible.  Thanks again for all the prayers so far.  

The only negative note about all this is my decision to cancel my October nursing home gigs, mostly due to my probably having a raspy-after-surgery voice for the next few weeks. My voice is much better, but still a bit more "nasal" than normal, and my voice tires easily it seems after just a couple songs, or speaking for more than 5 minutes.  Some vocal lessons with Jim Newton in a month or so will fix all that up, I am sure.

I am blessed that the relationships I have with my nursing home folks are long-term, so the folks there understand and know I will be back, hopefullly in time for my Christmas music stuff, which often includes the families of the nursing home residents. 

Now . . . for some music stuff . . . and it's good to be writing about music again.

First, I've today discovered, thanks to an email from the Americana Music Association, about a new online music discovery and curation webiste that is cultivating, in my humble opinion, some really high quality digital music and video content from some of the best new independent artists in pretty much all current music genres. It's called  Brite Revolution .

Brite Revolution integrates the artist e-commerce and fan development tool Brite.me, giving artists a turn-key platform to share and sell digital music online, acquire a fan base, and collect meaningful data. I think this this a very neat thing . . . in fact, I'm impressed enough to give it all a thumbs up after just one viewing of the website. I had a few minutes to listen to a few of the artists today, and was very impressed. I will be doing a lot more listening and video veiwing, especially next week as I recovery from surgery. 

For more information about Brite Revolution, visit www.briterevolution.com

The Americana Music Association, and organization I became familiar with last year, is a professional non-profit trade organization whose mission is to promote awareness, provide a forum, and advocate for the creative and economic vitality of the Americana music genre.. which is where I would probably be pigeon-holed in terms of the music I sing and perform.  The Association produces many events throughout the year including the annual Americana Music Festival and Conference.

To learn more about the Americana Music Association, visit www.americanamusic.org

As always . . . music and God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Update: Back to normal for a few days ...

Yeah, I know the question you want to ask ... Define "normal?"

Normal for a Sunday is leaving the house around 7 AM, and head to the Sonic in Grapevine for breakfast, arriving at the downtown campus in time for our worship run-through meeting at 8 AM. Then do my part, as I am scheduled, in the morning services.

It all went good this morning, but I have to admit that I was tired when I got home after lunch. Greeting everyone who wanted to talk, visit, offer prayer or other types of support before and after services both charged me up, but tired me out.

You see, I am supposed to be the care giver ... the one asking "how are you doing?" That's my job here at FUMC-Grapevine, and it's the thing as a pastor that I do far better than most and not as good as some. As I was being cared for, I saw others I wanted to care for. The tension between the two can wear you out.

One thing I do know, and am very proud of, us that we have one of, if not the best pastoral staffs anywhere around when it comes to the quality of care received. For pastors and other care-guvers, receiving care from others can be difficult. Talking to everyone tired me out, but all the hugs and promises to pray, and the offer of rides (I am not supposed to drive for 1-2 weeks) were uplifting ... And I am encouraged again that Liz and I are loved and appreciated by many here, a validation that makes us feel good. That validation, in and of itself, is a great blessing since all I've ever asked is to at least be tolerated.

After a short rest at home, I was back at the downtown campus at 5 PM to unpack bags I took to Philmont with files, resources and music. Then our Administrative Board meeting at 6 PM, which I enjoyed because attending offered my the opportunity to catch up quickly after 3 weeks away.

Staff meetings and worship planning tomorrow and Tuesday, with meetings Monday and Tuesday night, including one meeting with a couple who hope my radiologist lets me delay the radioactive iodine treatment a few days so I can officiate their wedding, which has been on my schedule for months. I know it's going to work out. Also, more lunch invitations, always a good thing, than I can accept this week.

For the record, I am eating a lot less food than I used to.

I did decide to cancel my regular nursing home gigs (3 a month) for October, as I don't want to have to cancel at the last minute due to the fatigue I am told I will experience during the time between having your thyroid removed and beginning hormone therapy, which cannot begin until after the radioactive iodine treatments are finished. I plan to hit the gym again after I am released by my surgeon, hoping to combat some of that with doing some cardio and some core training.

One more thing, I've been told to get ready for a possible weight loss!

Uh, hello? I've already lost over 60+ pounds already .... if I lose more weight, people are going to really start worrying. But the idea of getting down to my high school pant size (36"x36") does intrigue me. Last night, Liz bought me a pair of 38"x36" casual style pants from the tall men's store. And they fit!

My personal prayer, is that all is back to normal, skinnier or not, fatigued or not, before Thanksgiving. It may be a while yet before I can provide pastoral care to the level if my own personal and professional expectations, but that will come soon enough with time.

What I do know going into surgery #2, is that I am cared about and cared for. i know that am in good hands!

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Update: Home, getting ready for part 2 ...

We arrived home yesterday. There is something to be said about sleeping in your own bed for the first time in over 2 weeks, and taking a shower in the bathroom designed for someone my height.

One neat thing about this trip was our seeing several rainbows. Don't know about you, but rainbows for me are very spiritual, and always a sign of hope and the active presence of God. The picture below was the closest we have ever been to a complete rainbow, meaning we saw both ends and the complete bow between. It was brilliant, far more so than this picture can show. We were on the road leading out of Taos back to Angel Fire.

We saw another rainbow on Interstate 40 on Thursday afternoon, as we drove through a big thunderstorm with rain, very high wind, and a ton of small, slushy hail. I swear that the end of the rainbow came down into the hood of our car. I could have touched it, if such a thing is even possible. Just a very awesome God moment.

As I reflect some this morning, I feel like I accomplished some sort of a mission in a sense ... Reconnecting with the felling and rhythm of nature, listening to God's many voices (including rainbows), spending a wonderful amount of time with Liz, thinking about a lot of things (mostly distractions, deciding that most are not worth thinking about, as they don't match up with my personal mission. At 55 years old, I've learned how to gracefully say "No." Something Ken Diehm taught me to do. I will forever be grateful to him for that.

As I reflect, I can honestly say, that I have not thought much about cancer in the past two weeks. I am ready for surgery #2 next week, and wish it was sooner than later, although I am worried about being out for yet another week or so. I will be in worship and Administrative Board tomorrow, and have office hours on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I really appreciate the time I'm being given to get this all over with. Such is not the case for many others.

So, phase #2 begins next week, followed by a low-iodine diet, followed by radioactive iodine treatment(s) and the isolation time they require. That hasn't all been quite explained to me yet.

More to come ...

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>








Monday, September 24, 2012

Update: Understanding the need to reconnect

I've posted recently about coming to the mountains and desert of New Mexico for some healing time after my diagnosis of thyroid cancer following surgery to remove a tumor in my neck. Healing has occurred here as a result in mind, heart, body and spirit.

Something else has happened as well. I find that I have reconnected with the feeling and rhythm of what some call "nature," or "Mother Earth," or God's creation. Apparently there had been a disconnect that I wasn't aware of.

Keeping in connection with a natural rhythm in the greater DGW area has always been hard for me. There is such a fast pace of life, a constant hustle and bustle of going here and going there. What is most disconcerting for me is the constant "white noise" that drowns out the important still small voices from within. It numbs me in such a way that I sometimes miss those wonderfully tender "ah ha" moments that God quietly provides for us many times each day.

Now I know and can appreciate that some people are actually energized by such constant movement and noise. I enjoy being able to keep up, and the knowing that I can keep up; however, the process drains me in time. And in the end, I feel disconnected.

I suspect a disconnect comes as well from having had surgery and having to deal with and illness and subsequent treatments. I will remember that when providing pastoral care to others in the future.

So, this trip out to the mountains of New Mexico has been good for me, because I've reconnected again, in a way, with the feeling and natural rhythm of God's creation, of nature.

I think for many in our history, being connected with the feelings and rhythm of nature, of God's creation, was the dominant force of life and strength for us. I think many people, at some level, feel a loss of such a connection. There are few things, in my humble opinion, that awaken a variety of natural feelings of intimacy with God as being immersed for a time in nature.

I've reconnected better by:

-daily watching sunrises and sunsets
-watching wildlife
-walking a lot, over 100,000 steps during the 8 days I was at Philmont
-standing or sitting quietly and listening to wind blowing through trees, across mountains, and through meadows
-I've watched clouds form and float through the sky
-I got out in the rain, and walked and listened to it
-I've played guitar and sang, and began a new adventure of adding an Indian flute to my instrument list
-I've written and shared with others a bit more than normal
-I've watched the geography of the area as we have driven through it, marveling at what lies ahead and around the next bend in the road
-I've taken a bunch of pictures and videos
-I've prayed a lot ... or had some interesting conversations with God - this time I think God has been doing most of the talking
-but most important, I've allowed myself to listen to the feeling and rhythm of God's heartbeat ... and again appreciate the natural order of His creation, and again reconnected to it. And I've experienced, as a result, a tenderness to God's voice and touch that I'd forgotten .... a disconnect.

There is a strength that comes from such a reconnection. There is a hope that comes as well. And, there is peace knowing that your next journey is one you can't avoid ... a journey that has to be taken.

As a result, we will head home soon, for our return to family and work, for surgery #2 and the treatments that follow. I'm ready for it, and for what lies ahead, especially in new and exciting ministry opportunities.

Healing, in part, is about reconnecting with God's rhythm. Now it's time to head back home to share it with others.

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>

Friday, September 21, 2012

Update: A world of good

Today is the final full day at Philmont. This week has done me a world of good ... Mind, body, heart and soul. As of this morning, I have walked 81,000 steps, according to my official UMC Pastor's step-counter, since my arrival here last Saturday, with no I'll effect. Not bad for less than 3 weeks out from surgery #1. I have over 8,000 steps so far today. Perhaps 100,000 steps by the end of tomorrow?? It's going to be close.

Yep, this experience has done me a world of good, caring for all the faculty and conference attendees and Philmont staff ... Being outside, walking a lot, leading chapel services, playing guitar and singing, eating right and drinking mostly water. No soreness, no aches or pains. And I haven't thought or worried about upcoming surgery #2 and iodine treatments to follow, or having thyroid cancer in particular.

A world of good indeed!

I'm going to be ok!

God's grace still amazes me ... ><>