Baptizing Them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

Today was an important day in the life of our little house church. We’ve not been growing in numbers, but we’re growing. And part of that growing was the commitment that 5 adult believers in the church made to obey the Lord and be baptized in water as a symbolic representation of their faith in Christ and their decision to follow Jesus.

At this point, all the adult believers in the church are now baptized. For a variety of reasons it has taken some time for these to reach this point, but the joy of following Christ through these baptisms today was evident to all.

Our good friends, Paul and Denise Lambert, hosted us in their home. Their co-workers, the Bedfords helped out with music along with two of the Lambert’s kids. Our teammate, Bryan Smith, gave an excellent message on the theme of baptism.

The water in the pool was chilly and took a bit to get used to. I wasn’t sure if I could handle the water temperature ahead of time, but I was determined to get in and participate. Bryan also led the baptism for me as I assisted and mostly was just glad to be there. I’ve had a rough few days health-wise and for the first time in about three weeks, I struggled to breathe in my attempt to sleep through the night and only slept a couple hours. I wasn’t feeling up for much today, so having our missionary friends run the entire service was a much needed help and blessing.

Here are some pics from our special time together today:

IMG_5735 IMG_5743 IMG_5748 IMG_5749 IMG_5753 IMG_5754 IMG_5760 IMG_5767 IMG_5788 IMG_5789 IMG_5791IMG_5783IMG_5639 IMG_5681 IMG_5728 IMG_5823 IMG_5841IMG_5838

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Anniversary Day

Today is April 8th which means that today is the one month anniversary of the two heart attacks I suffered (mostly unknowingly at the time). I haven’t quite figured out how I could have a heart attack (or two!) and not know it, but I did know I was in a good bit of pain. I suppose I was on to something by at least identifying the presence of pain. I do have a couple of college degrees, so I guess I’m smart enough to figure out some things. I should have stayed in a Holiday Inn Express the night before.

One month out I really just want to express gratitude in a few different directions.

First and always foremost, I thank our great God who is sovereign over all and is the giver and sustainer of life. I am here for both reasons and I could have just as well been in His glorious presence for the same reasons, but I am content with His will and time for all things. May I continue to become more like Christ and live worthy of the life given to me.

Second, maybe it’s just me, but it is hard to grasp and appreciate the great community of people who love you and care about your well-being during the routine days of life. Being a child of God with a great heavenly family here on earth adds much to the breadth of that community as well as to its depth and genuineness. Thank you for being a part of that community of love. I feel your prayers, and I cannot thank you enough for your love for me/us. (Before I finished writing this post, I was interrupted by lunch and then a phone call from a good friend in Ohio who just wanted to check on how I’m doing and to let me know that he prays for me throughout every day. I couldn’t have scripted a better example.)

Third, this August will be 25 years of marriage for us, and we’ve spent the majority of our years not just united in marriage but united in our vocation and work. Since leaving our teaching jobs in Aurora, IL in June 2001, we’ve been partners in this ministry journey and that has meant being together almost all day, almost every day. It is hard to grasp the closeness this has rooted in our hearts toward and for each other. It can be easy to forget just how close we are, but as we came close to me being uprooted from this world, I can say it has made us both appreciate each other and the gift we have in each other. I cannot thank God enough for Beth. She is not just my wife and partner but now is my life-planner in many ways. She spends over an hour getting my weekly pills in their containers. She tracks my diet and food input and I often find myself asking her, “What else can I eat today?” (aside from vegetables! ha!) It’s the little things, right?

I’m thankful for much more, but 3 points is all that WordPress allows for bloggers.

How am I doing?

I’ve had some pain issues and we haven’t figured out the source of them definitively, but with any doubts about chest pains comes another EKG and every time the EKG looks the same. The medical staff say the EKGs are normal…”for you.” Of course, they’re not normal for an undamaged, healthy heart, but for mine, it’s normal and no cause for alarm there. That’s good to know. I slept really well last night as far as I know. Beth said she slept well, so that means I slept well!

The healing and recovery is slow. There’s not much to say in such a phase, so in other words, “Whatever I said a day or two ago…ditto.”

Thanks again for praying for me/us. We can’t thank you enough for your prayers.

I think I’m going to take a long slow walk to pay the water, electric, and cell phone bills. Maybe my life-planner will go with me. Not sure she can get away. She’s been doing my job of proctoring achievement testing today. Even if she can go with me, she is still learning how to appreciate “old man walks” as my pace is somewhere between “nursing home” and “elderly Publix shopper” (you may need to be from Florida to get that).

This song came to mind today. I wanted to share it with you…it’s from way back from the year we were married. I love the Irish sound to it, and if you don’t appreciate the humor in it, you’ll probably not appreciate my humor either!

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Another Step in the Resurrection Journey of Life

Today we held our first Sunday house church service since March 6 (two days before the heart attacks). It has been difficult to not have any services over the Easter season, but there was nothing we could do about that. Committing to having the service today required a bit of faith and some determination. I never know how I’m going to feel from one day to the next, but the past few days had been relatively good ones.

Of course, we not only face physical challenges, but there is a spiritual battle that is ever ongoing, and Satan takes no delight in seeing a small group of believers meet and submit themselves to worship and praise. With last night being when Mexico switched to daylight savings time, that always adds an element of potential fatigue and tardiness. At 11:30 p.m. (12:30 on the new time), someone set off about 30 seconds of booming fireworks which awoke me from a really nice sleep that had only begun about 30 minutes before. That kept me up for two or three hours as I have difficulty resuming sleep once awakened. I don’t know for sure when I really slept again, but by 8:30 I was waking up from the light of day but feeling fatigued and tired. I finally willed myself out of bed around 9.

The thought of cancelling the service flashed across my mind, but I knew the spiritual battle was greater than the physical one, so I dispelled that idea and just did the best I could to take a shower, get coffee made, sweep the dining room floor where we were planning to have a brunch with a devotional, and ended up heading back to the recliner to recuperate from those menial tasks that had consumed what energy I had.

Given it was a time-change Sunday, we hadn’t met for a month, and we were adding a carry-in brunch, no one arrived at the stated start time of 11 a.m. In fact, no one arrived until 11:30, and then we waited about 15 or 20 more minutes for the second family to arrive. I went out to meet and greet at that point. A third family was planning on coming and had even texted us in the morning concerning what to bring, but they never did arrive. We enjoyed some time to eat together and talk a little, and then I gave a relatively impromptu devotional for about 20 minutes.

I had decided yesterday that I wanted to touch on the theme of the resurrection, but instead of the resurrection of Jesus, I had decided to read from John 11 and the story of the resurrection of Lazarus and focus on the words of Jesus in 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Basically, I shared the reality of this declaration and how it took on fresh meaning for me in my recent experience. That evening of the 2nd heart attack as I was in a small clinic room here in San Juan del Río, the realization that I might very well not live through the night had finally caught up to my oxygen-starved brain. I remember praying a very simple and direct prayer in my mind, “Lord, am I about to see you? I want to be ready.” That’s all I remember praying. But that’s not all I remember. I remember feeling a flood of peace in my soul. I was not afraid of dying. I was not even concerned with dying. I was just at peace with whatever was about to transpire. I thought I might be about to pass from what I was seeing (in bits and pieces at this point) to seeing the face of Jesus. That’s all I knew.

At that point, life and death didn’t really mean much, at least not compared to how it seemed just hours before. Life meant Jesus. Death meant Jesus. Anything and everything else was simply irrelevant and not of any concern. Jesus didn’t tell Martha in John 11 that he “gives life,” but that he “is life.” Jesus didn’t say that he “raises the dead,” but that he “is the resurrection.” That is the truth. That is all.

The Apostle Paul understood this so well when he declared in Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” There is nothing else. There is no one else. It is just Jesus. If our lives are anything but Christ, then we aren’t really living in Christ. He is the resurrection and the life. He is my resurrection and my life. There is no one and nothing else. Just Jesus.

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Step by Step

I’m sorry that I have not been able to keep the blog updated with any regularity. I’ve been posting on my Facebook wall for the most part these days. I don’t have a lot of energy to juggle all the social media as I might normally be able to do.

Since I last wrote and mentioned some prayer requests, much has happened. We have had no problems getting to the hospital, and I’ve been able to do most of the driving which is a huge relief to Beth.

The meeting with the nutritionist was helpful and full of needed instructions. I have a pretty strict diet. If you have me over for dinner, please don’t be offended if I can’t eat anything you have to offer! It’s not quite that bad, but actually…it is.

The cardiologist was positive about there having been no deterioration in my condition which I guess is a positive thing. There wasn’t much to point out in the positive, but at least we know where we’re at and where we’re starting from in the recovery.

The CPAP device has not worked out. After trying to sleep with it for 2 weeks, I never managed to do anything but gasp for air as soon as I fell asleep. I never could actually stay asleep. If I need a device like this, I may have to start over in the USA with a better medical facility for helping me with resolving whatever issues are causing the problems I’ve had with it. On the other hand, I’ve been able to sleep without it so it isn’t clear to me that i really need it.

I did have one problem a week ago that resulted in a hurried trip to the ER. It turned out the burning in my chest was nothing to be overly concerned about, but I’m pretty sure it was a problem resulting from a lack of sleep. What sleep I was getting was usually very late in the night (basically morning). The surgeon came in to the ER and talked with me, and he gave me a 30 day prescription for a sleeping pill. That has helped immensely. I’m usually able to fall asleep by midnight or just after and to sleep to 5 or 6 a.m. This is not enough sleep, but it’s a big improvement.

I started rehabilitation this week. After a Monday stress test session (which was quite stressful to be honest), I began on Tuesday. I walked on a treadmill for about 25 minutes. That about killed me. I returned today and was obviously fatigued so they put me on the stationary bicycle for 30 minutes. Similar fatigue results but maybe a little less fatigued than the first day. I have one more session this week (tomorrow), and hopefully, I’ll survive that session and can get over the fatigue this weekend.

I’m not feeling great, but I’m alive and kicking and may God strengthen my heart and body to gain endurance and stamina and be able to handle more and more. It takes time and I’m not trying to hurry it, but I know that it takes hard work to get through to better health.

Beth is wrapping up the math co-op with her three students as they’ve decided the three 9th graders would be best served to just cut the class in half and finish it next school year. They’re working a couple of grades ahead, and there was really no need to keep pushing them to finish when that wasn’t going to be possible anyway. The boys are wrapping up a speech class with Denise Lambert (another missionary) who has been teaching that class. Tomorrow we’ll go in a little early for rehab and drop the boys off and after rehab pick them up. So, there’s some encouragement in knowing we’re seeing a little bit of our routine returning.

We’re considering resuming the house church services this Sunday. I won’t be able to do the normal routine, but I think we may have a brunch and short devotional and time of prayer. Every day is a little different at this point, but I generally can’t count on talking more than a few minutes before I’m fatigued or winded. I’m still thinking it through. I don’t want to commit and then have to excuse myself in order to rest, but I haven’t seen anyone from church since the heart attacks on March 8. I’ve only had some communication on Facebook. I really want to see everyone soon.

After rehab today we did stop in at the Lamberts who live in Querétaro, and Beth talked through the co-op situation, and I spoke some with husband, Paul. We’re looking at using their swimming pool next month for a Sunday service if we can work it out on our end for a baptismal. We have 5 wanting to be baptized but have not had an opportunity to work out a place and a time that works for everyone since several have challenging circumstances and can’t always be available on Sundays. What a joy it would be to finally see these followers of Jesus baptized in obedience to him.

Thanks for your continued prayers. The recovery is going to be a slow process, at least 6 months according to the doctors, but there is ministry to be done and while I can only do a minimal amount at this point, I do want to be faithful to serve Jesus to the extent that I can regardless of the circumstances. I’m not going to overdo it, but I’d rather die inside God’s will than to live outside of it. Wouldn’t you?

 

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A Good Day

Today we remember and celebrate the greatest injustice and unfair act of all time and eternity: that though we were still sinners, Christ died for us; that though we have all sinned, our sin was passed over by the shedding of the blood of the Righteous One, Jesus Christ; that though we are sinners, through faith alone in Christ alone, his sacrifice has declared us to be righteous in the sight of God. And not one of us will ever complain or protest this great injustice, for it is by this unfair gracious act, we live. Oh the deep, deep, love of Jesus!

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.
Romans 3:21-26 NLT

Worship with me…

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March Madness – Moving on to the Next Round

What a day this has been. As has been the case all week, I didn’t sleep much last night. As has also been the case all week, despite only 2 or 3 hours of sleep, I was grateful and relieved to see the light of dawn creep through our bedroom window.

I requested prayer this morning for five things:

1. For no problems getting to the hospital.

– None whatsoever. We arrived early brought by our teammate Bryan Smith who drove all the way from his home in Querétaro early this morning to pick us up and take us there and to be with us for help translating as needed, and he did a whole lot more. Originally, our team leader was going to be our driver and helper, but his wife awoke to a terrible migraine and Bryan got the early morning call and he didn’t hesitate to change his plans for the day. Thanks Bryan! You get the Player of the Game Award today!

2. For productive meeting with the nutritionist. 

– This went very well. I think she was impressed with Bethie’s detailed notes on everything I had consumed, and her food preparation methods have been spot-on. The only things to change were to scale back to 2 whole eggs a week (from one a day which our cardio doctors had approved last week), a little too much fruit, including to scale back the hand-squeezed orange juice a little. Every time we moved on to describe a different meal I’ve had this week, the nutritionist was in agreement down to rather fine details. Thanks Bethie! You get the MVP Award today!

3. For a clean heart check by the cardiologist.

– The cardio doctor ran a couple of tests that I couldn’t spell in Spanish or in English, but electrocardiohangontoyourhat tests. Actually, they’re not at all painful and no needle poking required. Thank God! He saw nothing in any test metric or view that indicated anything happening that wasn’t positive. Not that everything is positive, but nothing has gotten worse and overall, everything is looking better than last week. Despite the lack of rest/sleep, my heart is hanging tough and appears to be getting closer to making a comeback. I can’t really repeat this accurately in the correct medical context, but he told us that a normal heart beats while using 60-65% of its capacity. No one, not even world athletes come close to 100%. My heart is at 30% capacity, so half of what it normally should be. Nonetheless, I am very close to beginning rehabilitation (set for an initial evaluation on March 28). Praise God for these results! God gets the Coach of the Year Forever Award!

4. For a positive outlook/prognosis, including being allowed to continue recovery at home. We are financially up to our shoulders and another stay in the hospital would take us in over our head.

– As noted above, it’s an encouraging outlook, and there was not even a hint that my current situation might require returning to the hospital for overnight treatment. And from a financial standpoint, they moved an expensive charge for one of today’s tests and put it on the rehabilitation bill which comes as a package. As far as the rehabilitation, it will be a challenge to drive to the hospital multiple times a week for a number of weeks. They would have liked us to do this 32 times plus the evaluation session. That’s a LOT of travel and would take well into summer to make it happen. While we understand the rehabilitation is very important, most of it is designed just to make sure that effort is being sustained. We can do that on a lot fewer visits. So, we agreed to the evaluation session and 16 rehab sessions ending with the last week of April. This coincides with our team retreat the first week of May and then our planned travels to the USA a few days later. They had no problem with this and they cut the package price for rehab exactly in-half which at half is still a little under $1,000 USD (a bargain, right?). After having to pay so much out-of-pocket within the past week, we’re grateful for their flexibility and understanding, and for the hospital’s head accountant for her help in managing costs. The accountant gets the Most Improved Player Award!

5. For potential adjustments to the cpap device that might help it to help me.

– This one was answered a little less directly than I phrased it but to the same positive end. The cardiologist was concerned about the breathing/sleep issue. However, he felt the real problem at this point is probably not the CPAP device itself but my lungs. He thinks there is probably liquid in the lungs and because my heart is so weak (only 30% capacity remember), he decided to give me another prescription to add to my daily meal of pills to help my lungs move the liquids off (a diuretic).

ME: “Wait, ‘diuretic’ like coffee?” (asked with hopefulness).

CARDIO DOC: “Oh yes, like coffee. You can drink coffee if you’d like.”

ME: “Yes!”

CARDIO DOC: “Decaffeinated.”

ME: (dejected) “Oh. Never mind. Why bother?”

CARDIO DOC: “Well, you could have a little regular coffee…say half a cup.”

ME: “Half a cup? OK. (thinking) Double espresso with steamed light milk!”

CARDIO DOC:—…—“

So for the good report today and the permission to have a LITTLE caffeinated coffee and for hopefully being correct on the lung issue, my cardiologist (don’t ask me to come up with his name, I can’t even read it in one breath) receives the Team’s Favorite Player Award!

And finally, thanks again for praying for us, and especially for me and my ongoing recovery along with the assortment of medical and financial issues we’re dealing with…YOU get the Sixth Man Award!

One more week of absolute rest and then hopefully, my body will be ready for some intensive rehabilitation. I have trouble moving very far without experiencing shortness of breath and fatigue. It will take the commitment of an all-star athlete to make some relatively small advances. I’m looking forward to it!

It truly is March Madness…on to the next round!

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For Today Has Enough Troubles Of Its Own

Good morning. Today brings me to my first post-hospital visits, first with a nutritionist at 10 a.m., and second and more importantly with my cardiologist at noon. Other appointments could be added as a reult of these two.

As it stands, I have regained my appetite with no nausea which are both good things. Bethie has been great to take charge of my diet and there has been much thought put into everything that I have consumed here at home: no salt added, no sugar, heavy emphasis on vegetables and fruits, water or fresh squeezed fruit juice, no caffeine, etc. Amazing diet! (with apologies to my good friend, coffee).

I feel stronger with a few exceptions and generally feel alive.

The big negative is a tough one. I still struggle every night to breathe and sleep at the same time. I have a cpap machine I am trying to adjust to using, and I use it every night for some length of time and during the days at times. However, I have not been able to fall asleep while using it as my breathing stops and the machine has not yet gotten me past the point of gasping for air at that point. I have taken much advice, read forums and websites (sometimes in the middle of the night on my tablet desperately seeking ideas), and so far I have not found a working solution. Many would say it takes time and patience. My best sleep came the second night home with nearly 5 hours. All other nights have ranged between 90 minutes and 3.5 hours of sleep (as best I can tell).

Yesterday, I began to struggle by about midday. My sinuses are congested and my nasal passages were compltely clogged (as they had been some of the night before). I started fading and wasn’t breathing well. We noticed a change in my skin tone and I spent a couple hours on the cpap while in the recliner. This really helped but only after we attached the cpap’s humidifier and added some drops of eucalyptus essential oil. By early evening I felt better and my color was normal. Had this not come about, we were planning on heading to the hospital. Glad we did not have to do that.

I could not help but notice in the local news that there was a huge protest on the highway to Querétaro yesterday or the day before that brought the traffic to a complete stop for 4 hours. I can only imagine the situation had we been stuck in that. There are other much longer ways to get there, but once on the highway, often there are few places in which to turn around, and drivers can become beligerent with others who seem to be making progress that they are not. Unlike an accident scene, there was no real way to even move forward once stopped.

So, for today here are some prayer requests:

1. For no problems getting to the hospital.

2. For productive meeting with the nutritionist. Something was amiss with my discharge and we received no nutritional info or warnings. Bethie looked up everything we are going by on medical websites.

3. For a clean heart check by the cardiologist. The lack of sleep could be damaging my heart. If so, pray it is evident and that the cardiologist would be especially interested in helping me resolve the sleep issues rather than pointing me toward other doctors or staff who so far were only interested in showing me cpap devices to rent or buy, but not really demonstrating much interactions with my particulars. He seems like a knowledgeable doctor and I am sure he does not want to see his patient’s heart deteriorating.

4. For a positive outlook/prognosis, including being allowed to contunue recovery at home. We are financially up to our shoulders and another stay in the hospital would take us in over our head.

5. For potential adjustments to the cpap device that might help it to help me.

Thanks for praying with us!

(You might be having doubts about this hospital and personnel, but this is probably the very best care available in our region. Many other alternatives available would have been worse. Had I not left San Juan del Río last week for treatment, I would not have survived through last Wednesday. We are grateful for what level of care we can get. Missionaries we know in other parts of Mexico are much further from this level of care. It is a risk and a cost of following Christ to the ends of the earth and we know that ultimately we are in His good hands.)

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