NO FAIR PILING ON

thBack in the 70’s, when we lived in the Charlotte area, I use to love to listen to a radio program called “Murphy In The Morning.” It was a funny program that use to do satire on Jim and Tammy Bakker and the “pass the loot club.” This was the height of the Bakker’s in the nightly news coverage… just before this house of cards came tumbling down. A lot of people fell for this paradise scheme and lost money. I met a pastor friend in later years who lost a lot of money on Jim and Tammy. He really believed Bakker’s story, as did many others. The satire during the time was funny, but the reality of it all soon became tragic for all concerned and it ended up very sad indeed.

The second thing I like about old Murphy In The Morning was his traffic report. When there was a wreck in Charlotte (which there were many) you would hear the squealing of tires and metal hitting metal… then he would say “No fair piling on.” Piling on is what we do when someone is down or weak… we gang up and pile on the tragedy of others. He is right, it is not fair to pile on anyone in any circumstance.

Have you ever felt like they were piling on you? That is the way I feel about my health lately. I think everything was going well until I had a serious heart attack back in 1995. Since then it has been a roller coaster ride… up and down and out over some mighty scary turns. Since then the piling on has been: atrial fibrillation, more stents, type II diabetes, stage III kidney disease, three back surgeries, very low iron, and now I have been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. WOW, I guess the 6 glasses of wine I have each YEAR has really had an adverse affect on my health. Not really. Cirrhosis of the liver is caused by many things: medicines, high alcohol consumption, accumulation of eating fatty foods which cause your liver to become fatty, hepatitis, viruses and other things.

So now I am probably getting ready to have neck surgery again… some disc problems at C7 or C8 causing a lot of pain. Along with that I have to deal with helping my liver not get any worse but to give it a chance to do some healing. What is needed, according to the doctor, is to get more salt out of my system, and to reduce my weight by about 50 pounds. Easier said than done. My sodium intake must be 2 grams or less each day, and my caloric intake is to be 1,500 or less. Shirley and I have spent the last few days with our jaws on the floor as we come to the realization of how much salt is in EVERYTHING WE EAT. Do you know that there is 5mg of sodium in some bottled water?

So now we are finding ways to produce low salt menues that will help me stay below 2 grams of salt each day. It means that each day we must be intentional about what we eat, how much we eat, paying special attention to calories and sodium in each bite we take. This is a “give your liver a chance to heal” diet. My liver will only get worse if I don’t do something about this sodium and weight.

Needless to say… we are finding a way to make this happen. Looking at every label is time consuming but it is paying off. So far I have come under 2 grams each day. 2 grams is one teaspoon of table salt. It is very little but it can be done. Saturday I had 1101mg of sodium and 952 calories, while on Sunday I had 544mg of sodium and 1216 calories, and I have lost 2 pounds in the process. Yes, all this means that we have to pay more attention and spend more time concentrating on menus that work toward better health. I have found that a diet is really setting goals, meeting those goals and recording what we actually do each day. Recording is very important because you can see side by side the goal and the reality which shows if am I reaching the goal? Recording keeps us honest about what we are really doing daily, and warns us if we are straying from our goals. That warning will help us take steps to correct what we are doing wrong or forgetting to do at all.

This piling on has become a wake up call for me to take control of this problem and participate in making it better. I know that this diet is really a lifestyle change… I will not be able to enjoy the foods I once ate on a regular basis. Hot Dog with chili and cheese is 1264mg of sodium. Cheeseburger with mayo and tomato is 775mg of sodium and french fries are 326mg of sodium. We use to have two hot dogs and fries which comes up to 2854mg of sodium. WOW – OVERLOAD!!! If we are not intentional about fulfilling the requirements of this lifestyle change we can get into some real trouble very quickly. Restaurant eating will be from a low salt menu. Snack time will have to be more thoughtful rather than grab and eat. Everything I eat will be vetted first… meeting the salt & calorie test.

The way we do it is to check the nutritional values of each food before we go out to eat. This means we have an idea of what we are going to order before we get to the restaurant. Sometimes it means we don’t go to that restaurant because the menu is not one I can tolerate. Each time I eat or plan a menu I must think of why I am doing this… to give myself a better chance at living longer with a better quality of life. I can’t forget that thought.

Isn’t that what we do in our life of faith… each time I feast on the grace of Jesus Christ I am giving myself a better chance at living a grace-filled life. A grace-filled life is not just going to happen… just kinda unconsciously fall on us one day and we are changed. No. A grace-filled life is one we work at daily giving ourselves more to the love of God in Christ and intentionally seek to live in Christ each day. That is the Christian diet (lifestyle) living our lives, filling our lives with the good food of Jesus and not the unkosher fatty foods of the world.

So set your goals, meet your goals, record your goals, celebrate what God can help you accomplish… and live a good quality of life.

Grace and Peace

Steve


I hope you will find intentional living for Christ in my books

Amazon online

Barnes & Noble online

Books A Million online


BLACK FRIDAY

TrumpPeople really get excited about the Friday just after Thanksgiving, excited about all the sales, all the bargains out there and the official beginnings of the Christmas Season. Some get all bloodied and bruised as they fight for that special toy or that one item on their list.

Well there is another Black Friday. It is January 20, 2017 when the United States will officially recognize that dark, dark days are ahead of the United States… if this tweeting narcissistic twelve year old does what he wants… and his proposed cabinet suggest even greater cuts.

Already NC lawmakers are wanting to cut arts and physical education from the next year’s school curriculum for K-3 grades in NC. Hey, you voted for them and for this top clown… you overlooked all the bright… blinding… screaming warnings, facts, and opinions which pointed out why this person should NEVER govern anyone – especially the US. So when things start to fall apart; education for our children, care for our elderly, Medicare and Social Security cuts for the sick and retired, health care for those who can’t afford it – especially those with pre-existing conditions, joint activities with other countries around the world to bring peace and better living conditions for all the people – especially the poor and forgotten, when we start arguing with and going to war with major nuke states, when your son, daughter, grandson and granddaughter are drafted to fight in a Trumped up war… that will be the time you stop thinking about what you got – how you don’t have to pay to help anyone you don’t want to help, just the ones you agree with – you  may have to think about what you just may lose and how your selfishness may actually hurt those you really care about.

Even tonight on Black Friday Eve this guy has only 30% approval rate… 70% of the people worry about what he will do. If you let him know he will use your name in a reactionary tweet about how phony you are and how much better he is.

I hope I am wrong because the United States will better survive if he grows a heart and finds compassion in it. My doubts and fears say he has no capacity for anything outside his own personal need for approval and validation… I haven’t seen it in anything he has done so far.

Well Black Friday is here and the roller coaster ride is about to begin. Hold on baby! It is going to be different this time… more than just bloody and bruised, it may be a deadly one?

Grace and Peace

Steve


Yes, I believe that our selfishness is a sinful way to live. It is the sin revealed in the Garden of Eden and it is still with us today. All of God’s people are called to live caring (really caring) for our brothers and sisters round the world and across the street. Caring includes building a community where we care for ALL PEOPLE no matter how they look or condition in which they find themselves. As you pray for Mr. Trump, I hope you will pray that God will reveal to you what living as a real disciple in today’s world looks like and what we are called to do and become.


My Books online at Amazon (Click Here)

My Books online at Barnes & Noble (Click Here)

Ignored in the Doctor’s Office

thMost of you who know me know that I have had some medical problems since my heart attack and by-pass surgery back in 1995. I have sought to live well, exercised daily until back surgeries in 2002 and 2004. Up to then things seemed to be going fairly well. Since the second back surgery I have had a five level fusion of cervical discs, cardiac stents, atrial fibrillation ablation, type II diabetes, kidney disease, and heart failure. Over those years I have moved to the point where I am 100% disabled by the Veterans Administration.

Now here is the thing… I have always tried to do the healthy more than the unhealthy. I have sought to take as little medications as possible, only using those meds which were really necessary. When they did not agree with me or made me feel sluggish I would ask the doc for different meds or just not take them at all.

I remember having leg pains and numbness after my second back surgery. They tried me on several different meds… all of which made me feel terrible. I, therefore, just endured and worked through the pain and numbness. When they would prescribe oxycodone or hydrocodone I would only take half what they prescribed and for a much shorter time. I don’t like that stuff but use it only to get through some periods of pretty tough pain.

I have mentioned all of this because of what happened today. Back in the middle of December I did something to my shoulder/back which may have been associated with moving some furniture. It has been so painful that I can’t function all that well and have spent many sleepless nights full of pain.

In early January I had a regularly scheduled appointment with my primary care physician. I shared the story and asked if he could prescribe prednisone to help with the healing and the pain, and refer me to a specialist. He prescribed a five day round which worked very well. However, on the sixth day (a Saturday) the severe pain returned. I called the doc on Monday and he again prescribed prednisone but in a different order.

Yesterday was the day I met with the specialist…(one I  had seen before) spending four hours in his office (partly dew to an emergency in the office). After x-rays and discussion he diagnosed that it may have something to do with the vertebra below the disc fusion in my neck, and referred me to a neurosurgeon.

We talked about the terrible pain I have been experiencing and what medication I may need to help me through this. He mentioned oxycodone and/or hydrocodone. I responded by saying that I didn’t like that stuff, took less than prescribed, and would only take it to get through the most severe pain. So, he prescribed Tramadol 50MG… which is an entry level pain med in the codeine family.

I waited till around 10:30 last night to take this med. Believe it or not, it didn’t even touch the pain. I spent the entire night almost in tears. I spent time in every room in the house, on every couch, in every chair, in every bed in the house. At 8:00 this morning I placed a call to this doctor’s office. I shared my story, told about the level 10 pain I thought I was experiencing, and left word asking for the doc to prescribe something in the oxycodone or hydrocodone family. I figured that since we talked about this yesterday he would understand.

I called early so that I could get pain meds and out of pain as soon as possible. I called them again at 10:00 and I was told: “We don’t work that quickly. The message has been sent to him and he has it.” I thanked them and continued in pain. I called again at 12:30pm and again at 2:30pm and was told that my primary care physician must prescribe this medication. I called my PCP and his nurse called back letting me know they would not could not prescribe the meds because I was under the care of the specialist… “Sorry, that is the way it works.”

I called the specialist office again at 3:15pm explaining what I had been told. After being on and off hold I was told that the doc was working in the clinic and would get back to me. It is now 8:44pm and I am hurting. More than that I feel like my primary care doctor does not care and certainly not this specialist… it has been over twelve hours that he has known that one of his patients has been in severe pain all that time. The second thing that upsets me is that I now believe my doctors, whom I have trusted for years, somehow seem to think that I want pain killers for some other reason than to control severe pain. This hurts deeply, doc. I deserve better and you should be more compassionate about the people who pay your bills… who come to you for help and healing.

Yes, I may be looking for a new Primary Care Physician, and I certainly will not return to see this specialist.

Do We Have A Dream?

mlkihaveadreamgogoToday is a very good day to ponder Dr. Martin Luther King’s word as he spoke all those years ago. He reminded us of a dream he had for all God’s people.  I wonder if we have a dream where we are moving toward that day when all God’s people will join hands and hearts and move forward in peace.

“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!


DREAM THE DREAM!!!


I pray that you can find encouragement to dream the dream in my books…

Amazon on line

Barnes & Noble on line

To follow my blog click on the title, go to the web site and add your email address.

 

United, Accountable, Compassionate

IMG_1533Since the November Presidential Election I have increasingly tried to come to terms with what all I perceived that to represent to the United States, my own family, and the world. I was hurt and angry and absolutely befuddled by what I understood was happening. I could not understand how the United States people could vote for a person with what I saw as a very black hole where his heart should have been… a billionaire playboy who felt he could (and did) assault women simply because they would let a star do that to them. A bully who could publicly call on Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, encouraged Wikileaks to bring forth more stuff into the news of the day. A man who’s lie rate in all his sayings were 83% and yet people believed him.

I know Hillary had a uphill climb with her own faults and Republicans used whatever channel they could to convince the American people that the do nothing, obstructionists Congress was somehow the fault of the Democrats and not their own inauguration day vow to not let Obama pass anything – make him a failing President. They gave him no chance from the very beginning. Somehow their smoke and mirrors fooled the people and now we will have a person in the White House who already (before Inauguration Day) has China threatening war with the United States.

Some of my friends are excited about the new path coming. I, on the other hand, am very afraid. Afraid of a Civil War between the rich and poor, people of color and whites, progressives and conservatives, people on the fringes of both political parties, and radical groups with the United States.

I am afraid for any young man now in the 10th to 12 grades of high school. Soon they may just be standing not in the lunch line but in another line – a military draft line to supply the military with our young men who will be sent to suffer and die for Donald Trump’s narcissistic philosophy. I am afraid because President George Washington predicted that the only major threat to our democracy would be the erosion of the people’s trust in fair elections. That day is here… not in its fullest I hope… but it is well on its way to chipping away at the foundations of our country.

I fought for this country. I love this country. I believe it to be the best country in the world. But friends… you know as I do… it is a very fragile country. We are on the brink of some very unsure times. If we don’t learn to come together as a country of real brothers and sisters who care for the welfare of all our people we are in some really deep and terrifying times ahead.

As we approach the new President taking office… pray… act… become… UNITED, ACCOUNTABLE and COMPASSIONATE!!!

2017 RESOLUTIONS


IMG_5509Here we are on Sunday, January 1, 2017. This will probably be the only time I get 2017 correct for the next few months. Dr. Howell is out in the mid-west so Shirley and I will be joining in worship at Washington’s National Cathedral this morning. Dean Randolph Marshall Hollerith preached last Sunday and delivered a wonderful message. I look forward to his sermons every Sunday.

I hope you are headed out for worship this morning as you begin the new year in the presence of the Lord. I can’t think of a better way for new beginnings to take place within us. “Behold, I make all things new…” and those things include you and me. Thank God it does!!!!  All of us need to make sure we find ways that will help Christ to become more real to us at a much deeper level.

So that would be my first resolution… as it always is… for Christ to become more real at much deeper levels of my being, and for me to respond to His love, mercy and grace by being more faithful in my discipleship. This past year I think we missed worship the Sunday I was in the hospital. Other than that I participated in worship several times each Sunday; Duke Chapel, Riverside in NYC, Marble Collegiate Church in NYC, Washington National Catheral, and Myers Park UMC in Charlotte. I love the worship in these churches because they challenge me, inspire me, correct me, and all seek to lead me into a life where Jesus may be seen and experienced by all those around me, and where I seek to be more like Jesus in all that I do.

My second resolution is to write every day. As many of you know, I have written five books so far and want to write one that has been on my heart for years. Its working title is “Jesus Moments; the Life of Servanthood.” It deals with our call to ministry and our journey of continued discipleship as we seek to serve God’s people as pastors and leaders in the church. This past year has been one filled with fighting all the medical stuff I encounter daily. I think the meds may be nearer to working in my favor – my iron is better since I had two infusions in December. I feel better now and hope that will continue. As it does I will write more.

Another resolution is to fully live as long as I have life. I know what it feels like to not even be able to dress, take a shower, or walk to another room down the hallway without becoming short of breathe and having to sit down for at least 15 minutes to recover. I know what it is like to be so tired that you feel that you don’t have much time before the EMT’s arrive. All of that can bring one to the point of giving up… if this is all there is then what is the use of continuing in this? I am fortunate to have recovered some of that strength. I still have some weak days but none quite like I was experiencing earlier in the year. So I hope to be able to better use my time and strength this year to stay alive as long as I live… make the time I have worthwhile.

Make your resolutions worth enough to keep them all year long. Keep Jesus in the midst of them all and you just may find the grace to see Jesus Moments all over the place.

Grace and Peace

Steve

My friend and colleague Reverend Ralph Eanes coined the phrase “Jesus Moments” and is one of the most passionate, caring and devoted pastors I know. It is an honor to count him among my friends.


My books speak about the grace and mercy of a loving God who reaches down to become one of us that we may become more like Him. Looking for mercy and grace…. check out my books on-line.

Amazon on-line

Barnes & Nobles on-line