Of riding bicycles

bicycle 1Maybe this will help…

They say it’s like riding a bike.  You never really forget how to do it.  You just get back on and start pedaling again and as soon as you do, it will all come back and it will be as if you never stopped riding at all.

Well, that may be true of bicycling, but there’s no way it’s true of writing.

Nevertheless, I am getting back on the bike tonight.  I left the training wheels on, just to be safe, tho.  I’m a little scared of face-planting and being laid up for a few weeks again.  I’ll try to beware of the potholes.  Metaphorically speaking…

The truth is, I’m doing really well with my daily post-sawzall-to-the-sternum  dance I’ve been doing for the past 13 weeks.  I’ve graduated from cardiac  rehab (I was the class valedictorian).  I’m at the gym four times a week, doing the hardest kind of workouts I’ve done since I was in my 30’s.  It’s pretty crazy.  Physically, I feel better than I ever dreamed I would feel at this point in my playing career.  Maybe I should take my talents to South Beach…

Mentally and emotionally?  Well, it’s another story.  Doctors, counselors, and open-heart surgery vets say it can take months, or even years, to get back to normal in the mind and emotions.  Sheesh.

It’s only been three months, and I’ve grown impatient.  No mental focus at all.  None. Reading for any length of time is nearly impossible.  Writing a weekly sermon is a total beatdown.  Getting sidetracked is an hourly circus.  If this is what adult ADD looks like, I hear there’s a pill.

Trying to write…even once in a while…is the grind of all grinds.  I sit down with my laptop everyday, fully intending to illuminate the masses, only to find myself grabbing the remote and watching reruns of NCIS.

Maybe I just need a new padded seat for my bike.

I’ve always believed there is a fine line between acknowledging the truth and whining and making excuses.  I think I’ve pretty much crossed that line…

Speaking of truth, I went and broke a promise to myself tonight.  I wandered on to Facebook to see if I could kick start my writing by feeling some inspiration.  Geez.  What was I thinking?  All I felt was my blood pressure start to get jacked up.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll go back to listening to the wisdom of Tony DiNozzo for inspiration.  And if you don’t know who Tony DiNozzo is, you definitely have more focus than I do…

Here’s hoping.

 

 

Read this. Please.

importantI knew I had gained some weight.  Not a ton, but definitely enough to make my clothes uncomfortable and my ego a little bruised.  I had not given up completely.  There was always another Monday morning looming around the calendar.  A new plan at the gym and a new diet was always just a smart decision away.

But I never thought I’d be that guy.  Open heart surgery was not in my future.  Not mine.

But reality has a way of kicking your butt.  And a way of re-orienting your thinking and re-prioritizing what’s most important.  I won’t bore you with the long list, but I have to pass on something critical that’s on my new short list. Read on…

In my years as a prosecutor, I saw plenty of violence, including many deaths. Some were accidental, but some were the work of killers, even serial killers. I have always been fascinated by serial killers. How do they choose their victims? How is it that they can take a life so easily? I studied them, tried to understand their behavior. None of that prepared me for the day I met a serial killer of a different sort — a medical one with the ominous name “the Widowmaker” — that had come for me.

On Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, I suddenly became wide awake at 5 a.m. I lay in bed with my eyes open for maybe a minute, thinking, “Hmm, this is weird,” and then, “I feel kind of funny.” Within about 30 seconds I rushed to the bathroom and threw up. I felt very cold and climbed back into bed with my husband and snuggled back under the covers. A minute later, though, I knew I was going to be sick again. I figured I was coming down with a virus, but it was strange how suddenly it had come on.

My husband, Tim, was concerned. He sat beside me, felt my cold, clammy forehead and said I just looked so pale. Then he whispered, “Let’s go to the emergency room.” I laughed. “Why?” I asked. He replied, “You could be having a heart attack.”…

Here’s the link to the rest of the article.

If you care about your life, read it.  If you care about the ones you love, read it. If you are a woman, read it.  If you are a man, read it. If your mom or dad is still alive, read it… and then pass it on to them.

Read it.  Then act on it.

You’re welcome.

 

Hey. I’m back.

medicWell, I guess I owe you an explanation.

It’s been a couple of months since my last post and, honestly, it’s been over a year since I’ve written with much consistency.  Maybe you’ve missed it.  I know I have.  I think I am on my way back.

Now to the explanation for my recent writing recess…

Although this story has many, many layers, I’ll cut right to the juicy part.  Get it?  Cut?  28 days ago, I had open-heart surgery.  Boom.  (Many of you already knew this…many of you didn’t).  The technical name for my procedure is a Coronary Artery Bypass Graft.  The water cooler slang is a double bypass.  I had two diseased arteries that were 90-95% blocked.

Because of early detection, I was able to create a plan of action.  I wasn’t sick.  I hadn’t had a heart attack.  My doctor pointed out the obvious:  I was 30 lbs overweight, eating poorly to mask depression (I’ll write more on this in a few days), and making no time for serious exercise.  I was experiencing some serious oxygen debt.

Enter the massive attitude adjustment.  I had about eight weeks to get ready for surgery. Back to gym, with my cardiologist’s encouragement and instructions.  I could work out as hard as I wanted, unless my heart began to hurt.  Cycling and swimming became my cardio workout cornerstones.  Lots of lifting.  Revamped eating plan.  I lost 18 lbs before surgery.  (I’m down 31 lbs, now).  

Today?  32 minutes and 5.3 miles on the life-cycle and a pretty full leg workout.  I still can’t use my arms much for the next 3-4 weeks, to let my sawed-in-half-sternum continue to heal.  But everything else is way ahead of schedule and I feel seriously better than I ever imagined I would.  After four Sundays off, I will be back to preaching this week.

So, here are three lessons that have become pretty important to me through this ordeal:

  1. It’s never too late to own your issues and get your act together.  I had been privately moping around for nearly a year and a half.  I was hiding behind being 60.  Arthritis had slowed me down noticeably.  No team was looking to pick me up on waivers.  But, I was fortunate enough to get a wake-up call.  So unless you’re dead, consider this your call.  From me to you.
  2. I am not ready to quit anything, but I am ready to redefine it.  Just because I can’t do everything I still want to do, doesn’t mean I can’t live every day with purpose and passion.  Age and energy and even cultural relevance will inevitably change the way I walk my path.  I’ve been on the bench for nearly a month, and life went on quite well without me.  My world is full of gifted and talented people.  That is both comforting and inspiring.
  3. Pace is more important than production.  For most of my life, I have believed and taught that faithfulness, not success, was to be pursued.  I still believe it, but I think my understanding of that truth has deepened with age.  This is more profound than a marathon versus sprint  illustration.  It is in our pace that we find resolve.  It is where we experience rest.  It is the place where goals are forged and self-awareness is intensified.  It is the only way a 3-minute walk around the nurses’ station can become a 5-mile bike ride.

There’s way more to this story.  I’m looking forward to living it.

Bad sermon

BadHere’s the backstory…

Two weeks ago, I had surgery on my knee.  It was “old man surgery”a scope of the knee to file down and remove what little cartilage was left, clean up bone spurs, and do who-knows-what to a torn ligament.  I should be back to dunking basketballs in a couple of months.

I figured after all the surgeries I’ve had, I would be good to go for preaching the next Sunday.  Surely, five days recoup time would be more than enough.  The problem was getting a clear enough head to write the sermon during the recoup time.  Ooops.

Without completely re-living the disaster, let’s just say I stepped up to the front, looked down at my iPad and had no clue what my sermon was about.  Nothing.  Nada.  I’m staring at a page that makes no sense.  For some reason, whatever seemed good on Saturday night in my recliner quickly turned into a train wreck on Sunday morning.  Both services.

Between a clueless sermon, some kind of unplanned reaction to meds, and the collection of dumbfounded looks on North Point parishioners, it was definitely in my “Not Top Ten” ministry moments of all time. Probably top five.

I suppose yesterday was better.  My head wasn’t spinningand my sermon made sense.  At least to me.  When the bar is set low enough, it doesn’t take much to clear it.

Here’s how the story defines me and my world:

After my sermon was over last week, both immediately and throughout the week, I got no compassion.  What I got was a steady flow of sacred harassment.  And it hasn’t stopped this week, either.   And that’s what the church is supposed to be.  Normal.

Good friends don’t let friends get away with blowing it big time.  There’s a price to pay.   I have been the object of much joking, ribbing, text banter, dissing and loving disrespect.   And all of it well-deserved.

Friends don’t let friends take themselves seriously.  And friends don’t let their ministers be anything more than normal, everyday people.

I am grateful for the kinds of friends who accept me as I am and let me be just another guy.  Oh, there will probably always be those who expect me to have all the (Bible) answersor think that my prayers will be more effective at the side of a hospital bedor that my righteousness will be something more than Pharisaical.

But most simply let me be a fellow struggler getting by on the same common grace that everyone else does.  No special grace required.

Bad sermon and all…

It takes faith

so i’m on my way home tonight from watching a high school baseball game up in frisco, and i see this new building off the 121 service road in the colony:

Faith Surgical

it made me think.

would this name inspire me to want to have my surgery there?

does it mean that people of faith should go there for their surgery…or that you wouldn’t want to have your surgery there without a lot of faith?

just wondering.

Pain meds

i’ve had nine surgeries in my life.   five ankle reconstructions.   one ankle “clean out”.   two knee arthroscopies.   one ruptured achilles tendon repair.   none of them were particularly fun.   i would like to avoid another surgery…of any kind.   i’m not holding my breath…

looking back,  the best part about the surgeries was always the pain medication.   being a non-drinker and having limited my drug use to legal prescriptions and the basic,  over-the-counter kind…well,  let’s just say my surgeries were where i got to taste the joy of intoxication.

the happy juice they give before the anesthesia is very cool.   i can actually see how people can get addicted to the buzz from alcohol and drugs.

don’t get me wrong.   this is no advocation.   i am not lobbying for the legalization of anything.   i’m just saying…

but better than the happy juice are the pain meds.   definitely everything they’re cracked up to be.   i’ve never really understood the high road that some people take.   “i’m not putting any chemicals into my body.”   “i just want to get off the pain medication as soon as possible.”

whatever.   not me.   gimme the stuff.

anyway,  the point is not about my drug use.   i’ll give equal time to the morality police some other day.   no…there’s something way more important.

we all use  pain meds.   the question is what are yours?   what do you use to mask your pain?   what is your medication?

you may not self-medicate with alcohol or drugs.   you may be using something far more deceptive and just as harmful.   are you using denial?   are you using anger?   do you push away the pain with sarcasm?   are you cynical?   do you gossip about others to cover your hurt?   do you carry around a judgmental spirit or attitude of superiority?

do you give others the silent treatment?   are you passive-aggressive and manipulative?   are you a workaholic?   are you habitual time waster? do you put up walls? do you blame others?

do you run from commitment?   do you cultivate an unforgiving heart?  do you hide behind busyness?   are you immersed in hobbies?

all of these actions are pain meds. they are all things we use to avoid the pain…to avoid facing the realities of our lives.

ruthless honesty with yourself and with god is the beginning of breaking your addictive behavior.   without it,  you will continue to hide the pain,  instead of experiencing healing.

maybe it’s time to get serious about your pain…and what you’re doing to hide it.

Not your average week

my friend, brian, had open-heart surgery on monday afternoon.

yeah, not your average week.

there are a lot of highlights over the past couple of days…not the least of which is that brian came through the surgery like a champ.   within 24 hours of completion of the final stitch,  they had brian up and walking…eating meals…showing off his scar…and carrying on some very average conversation.   can’t wait to hear about the success of his first bowel movement.   amazing.

but here’s my highlight:   shortly before brian was wheeled away for his surgery,  there were eight or nine of us standing around his bed sharing some nervous laughter and watching a really lame,  hospital-produced video about surgery for an aortic aneurysm.   there were some super-creepy cartoon drawings of leaky aortas…you should ask brian about them.

anyway,  in walks this lady with a weird-looking cross around her neck and a bunch of papers and books cradled in her arms.   she looks totally dishevelled.   the room gets quiet as she moves towards brian.   i think i was the only one in the room who recognized that she was a hospital chaplain.   i watched with anxious expectation.

everyone sort of moved away from the side of the bed and left brian all alone to fend for himself.   she moved close to the bed…and then leaned in even closer to his face.   i was working hard not to catch eyes with brian.

she began to speak to him with a quivering, kind of grandmotherly voice.   she told him she was there to bring spiritual comfort to him, if he wanted that.   she admired all the people who were there and told him how a strong circle of friends could aid in his spiritual well-being and healing.   she offered to pray and bring spiritual blessing to him, if that was something he desired.   all while leaning within about twelve inches of brian’s mug. oh, yeah…i was enjoying this!

then brian did it.   my friend, brian,  sold me out.   “thank you…but i have my pastor here in the room with me.” brian.  dude.   this was going to get so cool…and you had to go and play the pastor card.

this was starting to have a “train wreck” feel to it.   there was no doubt that the unitarian, ecumenical, all-roads-lead-to-heaven  spirituality was going to transpire.  bless her heart.    instead,  she seemed almost disappointed that one of those “jesus guys” had beat her to the punch.   she quietly backed away from the bed,  said “oh, well that’s good”, and quickly left the room.

i stepped up to brian and he had this “that-was-really-creepy” kind of look on his face.   he then thanked me for not catching eyes with him.   i said,  “that’s what a pastor’s for!”

i know i’m making a little fun of a very sincere lady.   i’m sorry.   but if we can’t find some humor in the midst of life’s most  trying times,  we are just a sorry bunch.

i gotta get one of those crosses.