Wednesday, October 31, 2012




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!


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, 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

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

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