Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Are you ready?

The phone rang at 10:24PM.

I looked up at Gail and she said, "It's kind of late for a phone call", knowing that when the phone rings that late in a pastor's house it isn't going to be a lunch invitation. She was right.

"He's been taken to the hospital and his wife has asked that you be there." The prognosis was not good.

We were simply acquaintances, although his wife and mother-in-law are family of close friends. In fact, he was my son's Little League coach 22 years ago. I had only seen him a couple of times at the most in those two-plus decades. But I was asked to come right away, and being a believer in Divine appointments, I put on my shoes, brushed my teeth, and headed down the road.

While I'm no physician, I've been around the block a time or two in the hospital and ER in my pastoral experience. As I stood just inside the curtain that separated the room from the doctors and nurses station, it only took a second to know this would likely be my last chance to see him.

He was conscious and alert, and through the mask that covered most of his face, giving him oxygen as he labored for every breath I could see his eyes widen as he saw me. I took it as a sign that he was glad to have me there. At least three medical professionals were tending to him, working on needles, bags and such. So I stayed near the foot of the bed and gave a simple wave.

This was not a good time to try and get close enough to talk, so I left for the waiting room.

My third trip back to see him found him hooked up to everything imaginable. Only one nurse was there, punching things into a computer. So I walked up to the side of his bed, took his hand and said what needed to be said. His wife stood beside me.

"I'm not going to tell you what you don't already know. You don't have a lot of time left on this earth." He was looking directly into my eyes as he continued to struggle for each shallow breath. A slight nod told me he knew it, too. "I need to ask you...are you ready? Do you know Jesus is your Savior?"

The next nod wasn't so slight. It was deliberate.

"Knowing that will give you the peace you'll need through this night, and it will bring great peace to your family."

I prayed with him that God would help him through the night; that he might get some rest; that the Lord would bring comfort and strength to his family.

He was transported by helicopter to a hospital 80 miles away where he could be in an ICU. Today, after his wife, children, mother and sister said theirs goodbyes, he was taken off the ventilator and in a few minutes slipped into eternity.

He was ready.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life."

One day all of us will have a similar experience. Perhaps it will be dragged out for days or weeks. Perhaps it will happen in an instant and be totally unexpected. But we will all face our mortality.

Ready or not.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012


Without commenting on my personal leanings, I find these debates to be too many and too annoying. So, I don't watch.

Maybe if they talked vision and solutions instead of wasting time taking each other apart I could tolerate them.

Besides, the guy with the most dinero in his war chest wins the nomination anyway, right?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Great Customer Service!

Today I had an appointment with the Apple store. My Mac book needed a minor repair and Gail's power adapter needed a replacement. It was my first visit to Apple since purchasing the laptop a year and a half ago, which is good since it is 75 miles away!

Some observations, then some thoughts about CS in my chosen field.
  • An appointment is required. This can be done online, so it's very easy. They tell you what's available and you choose the time that is most convenient for you. You can also let them know the nature of the visit so they can be prepared.
  • Upon entering the store I noticed it was very busy, but the employee to customer ratio was very high...maybe 1:2. Almost immediately upon entering a friendly, outgoing Apple associate (I don't know what they call their employees) asked me if she could help me. I didn't have to go looking for her. She noticed me, even though she was already engaged with someone else. I did not see one blue-shirted employee not serving a customer.
  • On her Ipad she found my appointment. I was almost 30 minutes early and they were "running on time", which meant it might take that long before I would be seen by someone from the "Genius Bar". Their lingo for tech support. So she offered to let the know (via the Ipad) that I was there, and to give them a description of me ("handsome, graying with stunning blue eyes", I'm sure) and when a "genius" was available he would find me. No standing in line. I was free to roam about the store. I declined to hang around because I had one other item to take care of in the mall, but would return in plenty of time.
  • Ten minutes before my appointment I approached the "Genius Bar" where a young man was finishing up for an earlier customer. Seeing me, he immediately asked how he could help me. He found my appointment on his Ipad and said he would be right with me...which he was.
  • In short order I was walking out of the store. As I left, the young lady I originally met saw me and told me she had let them know I was back. That meant she remembered I had come in earlier. I said, "Thanks! I've been taken care of and am on my way out."

This is not the kindest thing to say, but I've visited churches who don't have a clue about Customer Service. I'm not talking about church members who expect others to serve and wait on them...they certainly don't get it. But in my travels I've had the unfortunate experiences of being a guest and being ignored.

Church leaders perhaps should venture out more and find out how others either accomplish or utterly fail when it comes to welcoming guests. To some people there is nothing more frightening than to wander into a strange building, where perhaps you know not a soul. Making that even more uncomfortable is when, not a soul offers to get to know you.

One church my wife and I visited had multiple buildings with no signage. So we picked one, found out it was the children's ministry building and asked where we belonged. Another church, known for its pastor's excellent teaching, was as cold as ice. The only greeting or acknowledgment we received was from the guy handing us a bulletin at the door. Still at another we arrived a bit early. The doors were all solid wood and closed. The windows were all stained glass so we could see nothing inside. Again, no signage or evidence where the main entrance might be. For all we knew the door we were about to open led to the pulpit. And no one was posted there.

I get the impression that some churches either don't really expect anyone new to try them out. And for good reason.

My belief is that the church, the family of God, the body of Christ is commissioned to share Good News that much of the world, including my community, has not yet heard. And if guests show up (and we should encourage the church to invite and bring their unchurched friends) we should act like we're both ready for them and expecting them. It should be our desire for their first time (and subsequent visits) to be the most welcoming experience ever.

After all, our Savior said, "Whosoever will may come". If they show up, apparently it's for a great reason. Let's let them know we're glad, for eternity's sake, that they did. Let's let them be glad as well. If we do, there's a great chance they'll be back.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy Birthday, Gwyneth!

Our granddaughter is 4 years old today! She's growing and brings us great joy as she does.

January 8 is more than the anniversary of her birth, it's the anniversary of seeing God show His power, grace and mercy in ways we can never forget.

Below is a re-posting of what I wrote four years ago. I'm still in wonder.

They took Tricia down to OR just before noon. We got a call just after 1:00 that the tracheotomy went well and that she was stable. However just a couple of minutes later we were told that they were proceeding with the C Section. So we all rushed down to the surgical floor to join Nathan.

The wait seemed like forever, but about 45 minutes later the OB doctor came in and said the C Section went well and that Tricia seemed stable. The wave emotion that swept over us was huge. Lots of tears. Prayer of thanksgiving.
The baby weighs about 1 lb. 6 oz. She's been intubated and is in NICU. We've seen a picture the doc took on his blackberry. She's tiny, but has hair on her head!

Tricia's been taken back to ICU where they're tweaking her ventilation. For the time being she's kept under sedation and paralysis to keep her still. Her pulmonary doc met with us a few minutes ago and told us what took place. There were about 75 people in the OR and he said they all did their jobs well.
He also said Tricia's chances of survival from this are still "iffy" at best.

Nathan seems to be doing OK now. It was tremendously emotional for him, as you can imagine. He's been in to see Tricia. Later we'll get a visit from someone in NICU to update us on Gwyneth's status.
So please, if you're part of the prayer effort, don't stop now. Both mother and child are critical at this point. But all of us here know that all the prayers helped us get through this.

And the doc was wrong about who was in the OR. There was One he missed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Encourage Someone Today

"Good job, Grandpa!"

I heard those words several times this morning from granddaughter #2. She's just 2 years old, but has already learned to be an encourager.

Her toy dinosaurs needed "a mommy' she said. "They are crying". Gail told me there was a bigger one at the top of the steps in the attic. So as I started climbing up the pull-down ladder she said, "Be careful, Grandpa."

"What are you doing, Grandpa?". Gail had brought in the last of the Christmas decorations from our deck and a few tiny leaves dropped on to the floor. So I was picking them up. "Picking up these leaves", I said.

"Good job, Grandpa!"

In the kitchen I was chopping up some onion to go with the ham, eggs and cheese I was preparing for breakfast. "What are you doing, Grandpa?" "I'm chopping onions."

"Good job, Grandpa!"

She loves oranges, so I was peeling one for her after her two bowls of "Snap, Crackle, Pop". "What are you doing?" "I'm peeling an orange for you".

"Can I help you, Grandpa?"

Encouragers are worth their weight in gold. They seem to come along (sent by God I believe) at just the right time. And when they speak those words cheering you on or offering to help or just showing that they care, they can be the missing piece in your track that allows you to move forward rather than retreat or give up.

Encouragers provide the anti-venom for the critics, gossips, whiners and complainers that seem to be so vocal and active.

God knew we all can use someone to come along side us and say just the right things that give us courage and dissolve our fears. So in the church He has even gifted some with a special ability to do just that.

To the Roman church, located in the heart of a pagan Empire ruled by a mad man named Nero, Paul wrote, "When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours." And, "If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging."

Chances are you'll be around someone today who could use an encouraging word. And if you don't know what to say, sometimes all it takes is a smile or a nod.

Personally I like, "Good job, Grandpa!"

If a two year old can do it, can it be that difficult?