Sunday, July 19, 2009

From Valleys To Mountains

I am on vacation. Though circumstances dictate that we can't really "go" somewhere for vacation, I am taking some time off before school starts back for Ellie and we begin the fall student ministry activities. So instead of going to church this morning, I took my Bible, iPod and a cup of coffee to my back deck and had a little quiet time.

I first read the scripture from Acts 5 that Pastor Roc would probably be preaching from today. Then I was led to Psalms where I read chapter forty four. I made a mental note that in both passages God brought deliverance from bondage, victory over enemies and provision to His people. As I was reading, Third Day's "Mountain of God" came on my iPod. I was listening to the words when I glanced up and directly in front of me was what you see in the picture above. In the trees along the tree line in my backyard was an opening "naturally formed" by the way the limbs had grown over many years. Through this opening, perfectly framed by the limbs, was the mountain known in these parts as Chimney Top. I had seen this many times from my back deck, but never from this particular perspective from a chair that "I just happened to pull up" to this particular spot and NEVER while listening to these words from Third Day:

Even though the journey's long and I know the road is hard Well, the One who's gone before me He will help me carry on After all that I've been through now I realize the truth That I must go through the valley to stand upon the mountain of God.

Now I realize this may be redundant for some, but I want to make sure that everyone who reads this understands the imagery of mountains and valleys, Biblically speaking. Scripture uses the image of valleys to speak of low points or dark points in one's life. For instance, David talks about the "valley of the shadow of death" in Psalm 23. Conversely, mountains are used in scripture to speak of high points or those times in our lives when we are in tune or in step with God. Sometimes we refer to these as mountain-top experiences. God provided a ram for Abraham's sacrifice and spared Isaac's life on a mountain. Moses encountered God and received the law on the mountain. When he came down even his countenance reflected the time he had spent with God. The song reminds us that in life we must endure the valleys (with Jesus by our side) in order to experience the mountain that God has for us.

After pondering my scripture readings, as well as, this song experience, I realized that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me. I came to a few realizations that I will share:
  1. I don't know why God chose this particular time for Paige's health ordeal. For whatever reason, we were not supposed to go on this vacation that we were so looking forward to. I intend to use this time off from work AND vacation to listen to Him.
  2. God has already seen us through and will continue to see us through this situation with Paige's health.
  3. Even when my first inclination in many difficult circumstances I encounter is to "handle it," God has a better plan. I need to learn to stand upon truth, wait on the Lord and let Him bring whatever I need- be it deliverance, victory, provision or other.
  4. I keep myself so busy that I forget the benefit of doing my quiet time/study AND going the next step of putting my thoughts and reflections down in the form of this blog. It really helps me work through my thoughts and I pray that whoever reads this blog will also be encouraged, challenged and even entertained. I will do better.
Quiet times rock! I highly recommend them.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Oooohhhhh, Mexico, never really been, but I'd sure like to go..."

Here is the short story. Back in January, three families of friends got together and determined that we would go on vacation to one of those all-inclusive resorts. My family has never done the cruise/resort thing so we decided that we would give it a go. We signed on, saved our pennies and were ready to head out--- tomorrow morning.

Then there was the small matter of Paige's health concerns, cancer scare, and surgery. Obviously, all my belly aching on Twitter and Facebook about not getting to go on our vacation is just me being silly. The notion that Paige is through her surgery, is cancer-free and is recovering well FAR outstrips laying on a beach somewhere vegetating. We can go somewhere later when everyone is healthy and feeling good. I am overjoyed with what God has done in our lives and know that this has happened for a reason.

Today, some of our relatives (they really aren't related, but they are closer than just friends,) Larry and Jane Luethke, brought Mexico to us. See the video for more. The moral of the story is always buy the trip insurance (PTL!) and trust the Lord. He WILL take care of you.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Reflection on Blessing

I am sitting in the corner of our hospital room watching my sweetheart sleep. I am wrung out physically and emotionally from the roller coaster of the last couple of weeks. At the same time, I am overwhelmed by the joy of knowing the love of my life is out of harm’s way. All glory to God not only for successful surgery and the fact that there is no cancer present, but also for the peace He brought to us even in the midst of the stress of NOT knowing. Throughout the entire process, I had a peace that God would take care of everything and that He was not finished with Paige on this side of eternity. Yes, I know its easier when we are talking about someone other than ourselves, but as Bebo Norman sings, sometimes if you don’t have peace or strength or when hope seems gone, you can “borrow mine.”

Even as I write this, however, my mind is thinking of all the people who received news today of a much more sobering nature. Their tumor was malignant. The doctors did all they could, but they could not save him. The couple that lost their child to a miscarriage. My heart goes out to the husband who waited just as I was waiting only to receive the news that his sweetheart went to sleep in an O.R. somewhere and woke up in heaven. I have seen it too many times in my ministry and I have held too many hands that were struggling to grasp the news. Don’t think for one second that I take the news that my family received today for granted.

Today, it is easy to say that we were blessed. So what about all those other people? Did God choose not to bless them? Difficult question isn’t it? You see God is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Everything he does, every action or inaction, is justified, perfectly planned and orchestrated. The difficult things we endure today may be reflected on in the future-- after the benefit of the passing of time—and they may truly be a blessing. Blessings come in many different packages. Blessings come on God’s timetable and no other. The fact that today happened to be a high watermark day in the life of the Brooks family does not ensure that tomorrow will be peachy keen. Although, I am still a young man ;) I have seen enough of life and I have seen enough of death to understand more fully the meaning of some key passages of scripture:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."- John 16:33

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”- Psalm 23:4

Lest we forget that it was man who was responsible for the way things are today:

To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." –Genesis 3:16-19

We fool ourselves and we are woefully misguided when we presume that we deserve better than what God gives us.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

As easy as it may be for me to praise God in the midst of all that He has done for me, I also need to be able to praise Him in the storm as was so aptly penned by Mark Hall in the Casting Crowns hit song. I am reminded of the story of Horatio Spafford who, out of the most tragic of events- the death of his four precious daughters in a shipwreck, wrote one of the most beloved hymns of all time:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

May my faith be that strong. Amen.

And so it begins...

Well, seeing as how the hospital survived the night without torrential rains and hurricane force winds, it would appear that things are a "Go!" As of this writing it is 10:28am and Paige needs only to prepare herself to within a stone's throw of perfection sans makeup and the normal finishing touches, so it appears that we are on schedule for our 11am arrival at IPH.

I will do what I can to update the blog throughout the day as things progress. Between this and my Twitter (see left column) you should be well informed. We continue to be inundated with your love and prayers and you would not believe what that means or how effective that is.

Grace and peace to you.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Surgical Saga Continues...

This morning, a (reportedly) high-rated local hospital, Indian Path Medical Center, apparently discovered they have an operating room that leaks when it rains. Not sure how, they just said that it was flooded. This is the 21st century, right? They call and say Paige's surgery is postponed.

After not hearing anything other than "they will probably reschedule for tomorrow," and thinking that at 4:30 the people responsible for scheduling would be leaving soon, I called the hospital. Here is the unofficial transcript of that conversation.

"Hello, Indian Path Admitting."

"Hello, my wife, Paige Brooks, had been scheduled for surgery today and it was postponed. I was just wanting to know if they had been rescheduled for tomorrow and what time."

"Yes sir, they are doing those surgeries tomorrow. Let's see, um....... I would have her here at... uh. Well, what time were you scheduled for today?"

"11:00 am"

"Well, that will probably be okay... 11am."

"That will probably be okay? Is that the official word?"

"Yes. Yes sir! We'll see you tomorrow morning at 11AM."

So now having the official word, I wanted to let all those who were interested know that we are now scheduled for tomorrow morning, same Bat time, same Bat channel.

One must laugh to keep from crying. We feel your prayers. Which reminds me... I am going to have to get back on my soap box just a moment. We have received all manner of well-wishes. We have received countless notices, verbally and electronically, that people are praying. We have also received "thoughts and feelings" and probably some Beach Boy "good vibrations." Understand that we appreciate your concern in whatever form it presents itself, however, thoughts, feelings, and vibrations will do nothing to help our stress or heal Paige's body. Only the God of the Universe, the Prince of Peace, the Great Physician has the "where-with-all" to make a difference in our situation. If you don't know Him-- please, let me pray for you. We will be fine no matter what comes of this. But if you don't know Jesus Christ, you have a much greater need than we have.

I had to get that off my chest.

I will keep you informed.

Surgery Postponed

We just learned that due to storm-related water problems at Indian Path Hospital, Paige's surgery which was scheduled for 11AM today will have to be rescheduled. No dates or time yet. I will update as soon as we hear anything.

This is just an aside, but that fact that your operating room can be flooded due to a storm outside forces me to call many things into question. Sounds like an episode of M.A.S.H. and I am waiting for Klinger to call me. I'm just saying...

Thank you for the outpouring of encouragement and prayer support. It really does make a huge difference. We are waiting on the Lord.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Paige Health Update #2

This morning we had a wonderful consult with the specialist who will be performing Paige's surgery. She is scheduled to go to Indian Path Hospital this coming Monday at 11:00 am. Dr. Kramer was great and while he did not give us any more information than we already had, he was compassionate, caring and highly competent. He took great care in explaining and took all the time we needed.

We are trusting the Lord and praying 1) that she will only have to lose one ovary, 2) there will be NO cancer and 3) that her recovery will be speedy.

Every day many people ask us what they could do for us and I will tell you that the most important thing you could do for us is pray. I don't say that flippantly or with sense of piety. I truly mean that. This is a very difficult and stressful time for Paige, obviously, but I don't mind telling you that this has been one of the most difficult weeks of my life. Not only have I had to deal with this, but I have a very serious situation with some students at church with which I am continuing to have to bear the burden. Please pray for wisdom, patience and grace for me with respect to that.

More to come.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Paige's Health Update

First, let me thank you for your thoughtful concern and prayers over the past week.  Because of the vocations God has called us to and the activities we are involved with, we have been blessed with many loving family members, friends, associates and acquaintances who care enough to want to know what is going on in our lives for better or for worse. It is impossible to find the time to call or email everyone and that is why we are choosing the medium of this blog to disseminate information. For those of you that don't know everything about the situation with my wife Paige, let me start at the beginning.

Last Wednesday, we were in the middle of our Mission Tour in the Cincinnati, Ohio area with our students from ISBC, when Paige started having severe pain in her lower abdomen late that evening. We were blessed to have our good friend and nurse, Tese, on hand to come to her assistance and advise us that we probably needed to go to the ER. So after spending the night at Bethesda North Hospital in Cincinnati and after blood tests, CT scan, and ultrasound, it was determined that Paige had a 4.7 cm mass on her right ovary. She took it easy for the remainder of our time there and we returned to Kingsport.

This past Monday, Paige was able to see her regular OB/Gyn and they did another test to help gauge the risks with the understanding that whatever it was, it had to come out anyway. Today, we returned to see the doctor and he referred us to a specialist who we will see this Friday and who, in all likelihood,  will perform the surgery the first of next week. We still have no way of knowing exactly what the mass is until it is removed and tested. When they open her up and test it they will know if it is benign and no further action needs to be taken, or if it is malignant and more invasive measures need to be taken. 

There are many reasons that could account for the mass and the elevated numbers other than cancer.  We remain positive although concerned. We are trusting our Lord with whatever this turns out to be and have faith that His plan is perfect. We continue to covet your prayers and appreciate your loving concern.  I will do my best to keep everyone up to date through this blog.

Grace and Peace,