I Will Teach You How to Skate

I am reflecting back on the journey my family and I have taken over the course of the year. My youngest son spent almost every holiday between October thru February in the hospital.  I helplessly stood by and watched my son lose the ability to walk.  He was suffering from an internal bleed that occurred right in the knee joint.  As the bleed progressed he lost mobility in his right leg.  He could not extend his leg fully and the bleeding continued for almost four months.

Hemophilia has reared its ugly head in our family many more times than I care to admit. At times living with the effects of a bleeding disorder takes a toll on one’s psyche.  For me as the caregiver it is sometimes overwhelming. I can’t imagine how my son must feel.

Last week my stinky boy and I went to the ice rink near my home. He wanted to go with me to see me skate.  I enjoyed seeing him sit in the stands.  This was a part of my life that I had not shared with him.  The ice actually is my solitude.

As I was leaving the ice my son said to me, “Daddy, I wish I could skate.” It never occurred to me that he would want to join me.  I quickly grabbled around for the right words to say to him.  I said, “Son, I will teach you how to skate.”  As I listened to the words come out of my mouth I realized that all I have to offer my amazing boy are words of assurance.  Sometimes a quick message of hope is all that we can bring to the table in the toughest of times.  These mighty words filled with confidence and a promise that things will not stay the same.

I give thanks today that we are at a new point in our treatment. Knock on wood, my son has not had a bleed since February.  With the help of a good physical therapist he is beginning to walk again.  It is our hope that he will not depend on a wheelchair in the very near future.  We will look back on this season of struggle and give thanks for the lessons that we have learned through these difficult times.

I will teach him to skate. I will also teach him many other things reserved for dads and sons.  I will continue to be his biggest cheerleader; his biggest advocate.  I will…

Fear is a Part of Life

I have to admit something right off the bat. I am a pastor and I struggle with fear. I have heard it said that a pastor should never allow fear to enter his/her life. Faith should be enough to carry a “person of the cloth” through any situation. Well, if only it were that easy.

The truth is fear is a reality that seems to be present in my life and makes its way into my psyche without warning and without any introduction. This past week my youngest son was admitted into the hospital and had his fifth port-o-cath removed and his sixth placed in a new position in his body. For some reason I had a tremendous amount of anxiety regarding this his eleventh or twelfth surgery (I’ve lost count). I kept thinking that the Spirit had protected my son in the past, but another procedure is really tempting the fates.

I did the one thing that I never do; I lost control of my emotions. I am very good at keeping things in check except when it comes to my family. I tend to love much deeper and feel things much stronger where my wife and children are concerned. So, it should have been expected that fear would be present in most aspects of my life. In other words, the “What Ifs?” were killing me.

As I was feeling overwhelmed, a Bible verse came to me. The text reminded me that my son would be protected and that he would be okay. I felt a sense of relief wash over me as I claimed the promise found in this special verse. While it did not wipe away all of my anxiety it did bring me a sense of peace.

I thought about the crazy notion that a pastor does not, or should not fear. I say balderdash to that idea. The truth is, we are human. We can get angry, happy, sad, resentful, etc… The issue is not that we feel emotions, but whether we let our emotions become our god. Notice I put the little “g” and not the big “G”. That is the constant struggle with fear. While it is normal to experience feelings, nothing should replace the source of strength to which we are called. For me, I reclaimed my strength in a verse from scripture. I didn’t go from frazzled to fantastic, but I did reclaim the source of hope that holds me up when my path becomes uncertain.

My prayer is that we all my return back to our source of hope, light, and life when we struggle. May you encounter that Divine spark and let it illuminate your soul to penetrate the darkness. It all comes down to one word; trust. This five letter word filled with a ton of meaning.

What will be your God? The choice is yours to decide.

There Is Indeed a Time for Everything

“There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens” (Eccl. 3:1 CEB).

I am drawn to the reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-13.  There is something about the incredible awareness of being human that the author brings to the table of our everyday life; that humanity acknowledges before God that there are times that we celebrate as well as times that we struggle.  Of course, the selfish side of me would like to play God’s hand and make him take away the trying times in life.  My prayers tend to be selfish like, “God take this away from me.  Let me know perfect health.  Let my family know perfect peace.  Take hemophilia off of my children’s back.  We have dealt with this bleed for so long.  It is time to release my son from his pain.”  My prayers are not wrong, they are simply a petition to move forward to times of peace and wholeness.  The first thing we want to do when faced with difficult times is to get out of the chaos as quickly as possible.  Who wants to feel trapped in a rough situation?  Not me.

The passage from Ecclesiastes reminds me that life consists of everything.  To deny suffering is to deny joy.  We must face whatever it is that life throws our way.  That is our human condition.  There is no way around it, we must move forward in our victories and our defeats.  How we respond to the situations that we face determines our attitude and awareness of the Divine presence in the middle of all of life’s issues.  We must put our trust in the God who rejoices with us on the mountain tops and carries us through the difficult times in the valleys.  To expect there to be no valleys takes away the joy of the mountain top experiences.  Joy – sadness, faith – doubt, happiness – sorrow; they must remain in balance in our everyday lives.

My hope for all of us this year is that we can praise God while we celebrate and cling to God in our times of greatest need.  May the endless blessings of God surround you so that while you are in the valleys, you may look up towards the mountains and journey forward to the summits of peace, love, and joy.  I pray that you may be comforted by God in whatever season of life in which you find yourselves.  I hope that you may be able to say, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the final victory in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.”

We Know What We Know

First of all, I have to say that I am a very grateful pastor as I have learned how loving and caring my congregation truly is.  We have been inundated by prayers, food, and words of hope and inspiration to carry us through what continues to be our longest hospital stay to date.  Caeleb will be in the hospital for a full month on Monday.  Within the month, we have been discharged twice only to return to the hospital the next day with complications from a knee bleed that will not stop.  Specialists can’t even stop the bleeding.  They try and try, but without much success.

I must admit that this journey has been very difficult for many different reasons.  It is hard seeing my son in pain and not be able to stop it.  We as parents are “supposed” to fix problems.  When we get to the point that we can’t relieve his pain there is a feeling of absolute powerlessness.  Faith becomes the only option by which to express hope.

I look at faith as part of my life intertwined into the very fabric of day to day living.  I have faith that medicines will work, or I have faith that a certain treatment is the one that will restore my son’s health, or I have faith that God will show up in the middle of all of the chaos and create beauty.  I must say, I cannot separate science from my expression of the Divine.  The merging of both worlds is a rich tapestry of both faith and reason that provides a holistic approach to who I am in my finite humanity and that part of me that is connected to Spirit. Together, that which is seen and unseen fills me with the love and knowledge of something that is light years bigger than who I am in this world.

I see God’s work being done by the love and care the nurses on our unit offer to my family.  Their efforts reinforce the holistic identity of who we are by engaging the spiritual aspect of care as they utilize scientific methodology to provide answers to medical issues.  It is an incredible and necessary dependence on various ways that we can validate the existence of both science and the Divine.  The truth is, sometimes we can’t measure what we know to be true.  It is simply profound and present.

So, today I give thanks for the marriage of science and faith and how they come together to make life complete.  I am grateful for the men and women who continue to make life better for my son and seek ways that not only provide him with medical wholeness, but also feed his spirit.  I give thanks for the many people who touch our lives with material and spiritual gifts.  Your service and your compassion are amazing!

And I say, “Thanks be to God.”

christopherjoiner

Some Thoughts Along the Way

Cazandra Campos-MacDonald

We take our journey with love and hope.

Perseverance Runner

Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.

strugglewell

That marriages in crisis will find Biblical solutions and reconciliation

jefflust

Reflections on leadership and what it means to be the church God intends for the 21st century.