Monday, April 29, 2013

Disease free . . .

I haven't felt like writing about it until today.

Last week on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 3:20 PM or so . . . my oncologist told me that I was disease free according to the scans and blood work tests I had 2 weeks previous.

He kept saying . . .

"That reading was zero . . . and so was that one . . . and so was that one."

"These two readings indicated "benign."

"Your cancer is in remission."

Then he shared that the only thing wrong with my scans and blood tests was that my body was wanting more thyroid hormone replacement than I was getting, so he gave me a new prescription. 

I will be "re-staged" in April or May every year for the next 5 years.  If those scans are all negative, then I can say I'm cancer free in 2018.

But . . . I can use words like "remission" or "disease free."  Both of which are big relief.

And now . . . I am caught between a rock and a hard place.

I've postponed getting ready for the upcoming VBS season in June, and also have delayed preparations for being at Philmont Scout Ranch in July as a chaplain.  I have a lot to do in 2 months, which also includes our Annual Conference meetings in Fort Worth, as well as a new list of "to-do's" as long as my arm.

I just couldn't get myself to start planning for some of these things until after I received some sort of an "all clear" from my oncologist.   I didn't want to say "yes" to people, and then have to say "no" if I had to go through another treatment.

Oh well . . . life is about responses.  I've learned a lot since we first found the lump in my throat back in late July of 2012.

I came out of this experience with a better singing voice . . . remarkably enough, after having had two neck surgeries, although their was a month or so I couldn't sing a note.

I have a better understanding now of some of the mental/ emotional aspects of cancer that I had no clue about earlier.  I will be a better pastor to those in cancer treatment as a result.

I'm know talking about, thinking about and doing more of the important things in life that really matter to me. 

About time.

I would still give myself a C- grade for how I handled it all.  But then again, that's still a passing grade, and I don't see anybody burning me in effigy just yet.

I never truly realized how much my family has gone through during my diagnosis, surgery and treatment.

My sweet wife of 37 years . . . what can I say?  I've fallen in love with her again and again and again these past months. 

My daughters and son-in-laws, my mom, my sister and her husband, my friends . . . all seemed to call me exactly when I needed them to.  Being able to call my friend Joe, a victor against cancer in a much longer battle than I went through, gave me some good info along the way.  My friend Floyd let me vent.  Jim Newton . . . my musical mentor . . . taught me some vocal exercises that made all the difference in how fast my voice recovered. Sean let me hide in the Grapevine Guitar Works back room whenever I needed to.

And, what can I say about the church staff and members of the First United Methodist Church of Grapevine??? 

Only that they are the greatest. 

John Mollet, Cindy Ryan, Nathan Firmin, Armando Alvarado, Amelia Beasley, Trudy Hughes, Wren Robinson . . . . all carried me a lot these past months . . . not an easy thing since I out-weighed several of them by 150 pounds!!!

All the support staff helped as well. And then there is Katherine Hunter, our Assistant to the Pastors. Thank you, Katherine!

People here in the community of Grapevine like Sharron Spencer and Martin Thompson, and so many others . . . always checking up on me.  

Whatever announcement I made about how things were going, the first call or card I received afterward from Carole Lee and the good people of our church cancer support group.

And then, there was Annette Sowell . . . thank you my dear friend!!!!  You were always there at exactly the right moment to listen.  It is amazing how much care you gave me without saying much in the process.  Liz and I love you so much!

I was well cared for during this process.  I am thankful.  I am blessed.

I will be a better person because of it.

And, I will live life better as well.

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

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Full circle of emotions ...

R.I.P.
-Richie Havens
-George Jones

Happy Birthday
-Willie Nelson

A full circle of emotions . . .

Mercy, I can still vividly remember the first time I saw the Woodstock movie during my freshman year at Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX.  They showed it twice in both the fall and spring semesters.  One night, I was the only one who came to watch it, and the audio/visual guy asked me to put up the movie projector so he could leave.

How does one watch that movie and see and listen to Richie Haven's performance . . . and not say, "this is going to be some show!"

I never got to meet or go to a George Jones concert. 

My loss.

A lot of friends got Martin guitars because George played one.  What a singer.

Willie Nelson sang in West, TX for his birthday this past week, to help raise funds for that devastated community.  80 years old . . . with no plans to retire until the day his guitar, "Trigger," can't be played anymore.  It's still going strong as well. 

A full circle of emotions . . .

Richie was a folk icon . . . one of the only black artists to embrace folk music.  He had a smooth as velvet voice.  His rendition of "Here Comes the Sun" is one of my favorites.

George's death causes one to cry out with the words of one of George's songs . . . "Who is gonna fill their shoes?"

If Willie Nelson isn't one of the greatest song writers of all time  . . . then I don't know who is.

A full circle of emotions . . .

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

Monday, April 22, 2013

RIP - Richie Havens

I am so sad to hear this evening that Richie Havens has died of an apparant heart attack.

I can watch the video of him singing "Here Comes the Sun" at Woodstock all day long.

We lost another good one today.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

RIP - Jonathan Winters

He was one of the funniest men in the world.  His kind of improv humor was genuine and truly funny because it was funny!  Didn't need to make you laugh by shocking you.

Jonathan taught us all that it was OK to use our imaginations in a constructive way.

RIP.

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

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Regular maintenance works both ways . . .

Regular maintenance has many benefits.

Yesterday, at my oncologist's office, I "swallowed" a small capsule of radioactive iodine (just enough to light me up for my scan tomorrow morning.)   I get the results on April 24th.

I felt a bit nauseated the rest of the day, and through most of last night.  Nothing serious . . . just that queazy sort of feeling that let's you know something isn't quite right.

Funny, I experienced no nausea what-so-ever back in October when I swallowed the "BIG" dose of radioactive iodine to treat my cancer, after-which I was in seclusion away from people for a week.

A thought or two have come to my mind in regards to "getting the results"  . . .  

-If my cancer is indeed "gone" this time around, is it still my cancer?

-If it's gone . . . I sure don't want it back!

Anyway, I didn't feel well enough this morning to attend the Thursday morning Iron Men study at IHop in Euless, which is the study I lead.  About 9:30 AM, I rolled out of the house and went to Lowe's to buy a small tool bag, then to my barber's for a haircut (and dose of testosterone - figuratively speaking), and then went by the church to pick up my Guild F-50R Jumbo 6-string, and my Taylor sinker-redwood GS.  From there it was over to Grapevine Guitar Works, where I spent 3 glorious hours in the privacy of their repair room.

Thank you to Sean Simon (owner of GGW) for giving me the key to that wonderful, wonderful room.

Here is where the "regular maintenance" thing comes in.

I wrote a few days ago, and shared with my wife and a few others, that I was just about ready to sell all my guitars, except my Martin, and chuck the whole music thing.  The feeling I had at that time was a bit over-whelming.  I've missed a lot of work this past year, and backed-off most of my therapeutic music entertainment schedule so I could put all my energies, on those days when I could better focus, on the ministries at the church.

Things like:

-Pastoral care of others . . .

-Advent and Christmas . . .

-Writing sermons . . .

-Holy Week and Easter . . .

-Our new Sunday morning Worship schedule change . . .

By the way . . . I am finishing my 8th year as the Senior Associate Pastor at FUMC-Grapevine.  To be honest, I'm really excited about the next 8 years.

Back to my story now about selling my guitars . . .

After sharing with Liz, she lovingly and wisely counseled me that I was probably experiencing the fatigue related side-effect that we were warned would follow my having had a Thyrogen injection on Monday and another again on Tuesday.

In other words, she said, "honey, you hit-the-wall."

She was right.  The fatigue I felt on Tuesday was like the fatigue I felt in between my second surgery and over a month later when I finally got on thyroid hormone replacement.  It was awful.

So today . . . I took my most used 6-strings into the GGW repair room, turned on the light, closed the door behind me . . . and began to clean and polish the body, neck and fret boards of both guitars.  Then I re-strung both with fresh Martin SP Medium Phosphor Bronze strings.  I also made a needed adjustment to the neck / truss rod of the Guild (something you do ever slow slowly and carefully).

Both guitars played better and easier than they did before I started to work on them.

In other words, I didn't screw up either of them!!!!

All told . . . 3 glorious hours of careful yearly maintenance on two already excellent guitars.

-I didn't rush.

-I took my time.

It was heaven.

It was then that I realized I was feeling very clear headed and calm.  I didn't feel fatigued.  I was actually in a good mood. I'm pretty sure I smiled.

In other words . . . I felt great!!!!  About time.

OK, now here is the part about how regular maintenance works both ways . . .

In the process of working today on my guitars, and later on a 3rd guitar at home, I felt such a strong feeling of humbleness, gratitude and appreciation for the fact that I have these special guitars in my life (several were gifts to me), that I stopped . . .

I stopped, and out of a grateful heart, I gave thanks to God.

Then it occurred to me . . . I have been focused a lot this week on cancer stuff (3 doctors office visits, a body scan, and blood work), and in the process I had not prayed since worship this past Sunday morning.

Note . . . when I say "I haven't prayed," that means that I haven't sung either.

Guess I had been focusing on the wrong things this week.

Go ahead . . . say it . . . you know you want to . . .

"You guess??"

Thanks, I needed and deserved that. Message received loud and clear.

Seems that while I was doing the maintenance on my guitars, regular maintenance that they need every year . . . I got, in the process, a needed tune-up as well.

There is one thing I know from experience about preventive maintenance . . . It has to be done "regularly."

Same goes for prayer, personal Bible study, worship as well as time spent discipling others (IMHO).

Do you, or does something in your life, need a tune-up?

-Your home?

-Your car?

-Your relationships?

-Your health?

-Your life?

Take care of it soon . . . you will be glad you did, in more ways than one.

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

PS . . .

I also had a great conversation, and re-connected in the process, with Rocky Gribble of Grapevine Opry House fame.  He shared a couple of stories with me about his Martin D-35.  That conversation led to my decision to give my guitars a tune up.

I also had a great conversation this week with Sarah Oliver, the Director of our Creative Learning Center.  Looks like I will be doing TME work with the children there a couple times a month this next school year as part of their new afternoon learning-development curriculum.  I am truly excited about this!!!  More info to come.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cancer tests and screens this week . . .

Sorry for not posting a devotional since Easter.  I hope to be back blogging a daily devotional beginning in May . . . perhaps "150 Days in Psalms."

This week I am participating in re-staging procedures for my thyroid cancer, including a scan and blood work up this coming Friday.   Should get the results on April 24th.

Otherwise . . . life is good, but I'm at the point where I know I have too many guitars . . . and don't play any of them regularly.  Today I actually thought about selling all of them . . . but then I rather quickly came to my senses.  Seems one of the side-effects of injections and stuff I've had so far this week includes mental fatigue.  Part of it is due to the frustration that my cancer stuff this year set back some plans that I had worked a long time to bring about . . . only to have to cancel or suspend them until I one day get the "all clear."

I would honestly rather be singing.

Thursday, I am going to work on the neck action on 3 of my guitars . . . hopefully without violating any warranties in the process.  I don't mind doing little tweaks, but lack the nerve, skill and tools to do anything major.

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

Sunday, April 7, 2013

My other passion ..

My other joy in life, besides being a pastor, playing guitar and singing is cooking on my Big Green Egg! I am officially hungry! God's grace still amazes me ... ><>