Megan makes people better. She was my PUSH to Trek in 2015.

Megan Makes People Better

Megan Makes People Better

In my last post I told you that I registered for the three-day, 180 mile, 2015 Trek Across Maine because of a girl named Megan. I promised to tell you about her in my next blog entry. Here goes.

I once had a coach tell me that there are two types of people in the world; whiners and shiners. I think there are more types than just two but I know what he was trying to say. He was telling me I had a choice of which type of person I would grow to be. I could be a whiner, always complaining about one thing or the other and bringing people down, or I could be a shiner choosing to be positive and part of the solution.

Megan is a 17 or 18 year old shiner who inspires me to be better.

The backstory is that I met this incredible, selfless, driven young woman  this past Spring when I helped her host a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at our church for all her summer benefit activities. She was riding, running and swimming all summer long to raise money for a number of causes. Good stuff, right?

Truthfully, I saw it as a good chance to connect with people in the community and do something good for others. I thought it would be a good service project for the people in our church and be a lesson for us in serving others. But, Megan surprised me with her own lessons for me.

Though only a senior in high school, she impressed me. Understand that I’ve worked with a couple thousand kids over the years. I spent 25 years as a youth director for large youth groups before liver disease came on the scene.

After all that experience, there are about dozen kids who stick in my mind as truly exceptional. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked with tons of great kids over the years. I’m talking about students who just seem to radiate a certain “world-changer” attitude. I’ve been at it long enough to see them go on to some pretty amazing roles. I’m certain Megan will be on that list. 

Some people just make other people better.

During the spaghetti dinner I made small talk with Megan and started to recognize her shine. I watched her interact with her family and the people there and noticed something different in her. I talked with other adults who were there helping and noticed how they talked so positively about her. Some told me how her example made them better or helped them achieve goals they never thought possible.

When I asked about her summer events, Megan told me about riding in the Trek Across Maine in honor of her uncle. I listened to her talk about how proud she was of her mom making the ride with her and heard her talk about the others that came along. I was impressed at her influence but didn’t see that it was already at work on me.

And then it came. Megan looked me directly in the eye after I told her about my own mini-achievements in cycling since my transplant and said, “come on the Trek with us!”

First, I was taken aback by her confidence. Most teenagers have difficulty looking strangers in the eye and yet here she stood, extending an invitation with a hint of challenge.

Second, because the Trek is a three-day, 180-mile ride, I laughed at her. At that point, my biggest achievement since surgery was 35 miles pedaled in one day. I reminded her of all my transplant limitations and floated a number of excuses thinking, “this kid is crazy. She has no idea what a wuss I am.”

Megan did not back down. Instead she insisted, “Come with us. You can do it.” Megan wasn’t interested in  hearing about my limitations. She didn’t believe them. Her confidence made me start questioning them myself.

By the time the spaghetti dinner was finishing up, after spending the evening with her family and understanding exactly where this exceptional kid came from, I brushed her off with, “Maybe next year.” I was sure she’d move on and forget about it.

The next day, Megan started texting me. Remember, I know teenagers. Teenagers have been my life. It’s not normal to text an ugly, old, chubby, bald dude who you have just met and say, “What are you doing tomorrow? Let’s ride!” Now, looking back, I have a strong suspicion that I may have been another of Megan’s projects.

I remember agreeing to a ride thinking it would be okay if her mom, Karen, came with us. I was pretty sure Megan would be bored with my pace but I figured that if Karen came with us that I’d have a better chance at saving face. But Karen didn’t show so it was just Megan and me. We rode, talked and put in the miles. All the while she kept saying, “you’ll be fine, ride the Trek with us.” Megan patiently pedaled my pace.

“Maybe I can do it. Maybe it’s not absurd. Maybe I will do the Trek. What’s stopping me? So what, I had a liver transplant? Why should that hold me back?” I think I had a little, white angel on my right shoulder sitting on a new, carbon-fiber bike, talking into my ear.

Then, on the left shoulder, a red-caped devil sat in an overstuffed chair with a Super Supreme extra cheese pizza on his lap, saying, “What are you? A moron? You’ll be 52 years old, you’ve got the body of a pastry chef and you had the largest organ in your body yanked out for a new one. You can’t do it. Are you freaking crazy?!?”

And then one Saturday after Megan headed off to school, Karen was in the riding group that helped me accomplish my 2014 mileage goal of a 50 mile ride. Karen encouraged me up the hills, made sure I was drinking enough water, asked how I was doing and cheered me up and over several nasty hills. It’s clear that, where Megan is concerned, the apple does not fall far from the tree. I asked a lot of questions about the Trek.

I got home with 51 miles on my GPS,  logged on to the website, paid my registration and hit “submit.”  I was officially registered for the Trek Across Maine.Why? All because a driven, confident, shiner asked if she could hold a spaghetti dinner at our church back in April.

People like Megan make the people around them better. They help us look past our limitations to consider what might be possible if we dare try. I want to be that type of person. I want to encourage people to press on to discover their potential.

I have no idea how I’ll do or if I will complete the whole Trek but I do know that I will work hard to accomplish my new goal. I know my effort will encourage someone lying on a couch somewhere praying for their gift of life to know that there is life after transplant.

No matter what happens, finish or fail,  I’m confident I will be better for trying because of all the Megans in my life who have stepped in to give me a PUSH when I needed it.

Click here to give me a PUSH in my 2015 Trek goal.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, Says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

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PUSHing through and checking off goals in my liver transplant recovery. Donate Life cycling team.

2014 Donate Life cycling team.

2014 Donate Life cycling team.

In September 2012, 4 months post-transplant, I crossed the finish line of a ten mile ride with my legs shaking like Jello. I was a participant in the Not Dead Yet ride at Pineland Farms to benefit the Cancer Community Center. Family and friends cheered my accomplishment knowing that less than 5 months before I was close to death. Finishing a ten mile ride was a big, crazy goal but those are the goals I like best. (read the blog post from 2012 here)

Other cycling goals on my checklist have fallen since then. In 2013 I rode 100 miles in a week and made it 35 miles in one ride. Check! My goal for 2014 was a half-century ride of 50 miles. That goal fell a couple weeks ago. Check!

Yesterday, I returned to Pineland Farms for the 2014 Fight Back Festival NDY ride.  I cruised across the finish line after 25 very hilly miles and felt great. It is amazing to think back to the last time I came across that same line and see how much my life has changed. All three of my kids are married, I’m working full-time doing something I never could have predicted and I’m enjoying my photography business again. New liver, new house, new neighborhood, new friends, new perspective, new life …

So what goal did I see fall at Saturday’s Fight Back Festival? It wasn’t the mileage. Look at that picture at the top of the page. Notice anything?

Boy howdy, that’s a sharp-looking team! Heck, we almost look like we know what we’re doing. Matching team jerseys and all, we made a statement loud and clear; “Donate Life!”

The reality is New England is one of the worst regions if you need a life-saving transplant. Our average wait time is among the longest because we have fewer registered organ donors. People like me, waiting for livers, are ranked by something called a MELD score. The higher the number, the worse shape you’re in. Basically, it’s a rating that gives you your odds of dying in the next three months. When I was at 36 MELD in March 2012 there was a 50% chance I’d be dead in the next three months.

In the Southeast the average MELD for transplant is 22 (10% chance of dying in next three months). Here in New England? Your MELD needs to be in the mid-thirties to be at the top of the list for an organ. Take it from me, I was much, much sicker at 36 than I was at 22! We even talked about moving to Florida to save my life.

What does that have to do with my goals? After my transplant I vowed to do whatever I could to spare people from going through what I endured. That means I talk with people, email people, write and speak about organ donation whenever and wherever I can. When I started cycling again to regain my strength after transplant, I wore my Donate Life jersey that I had specially made.

At group rides I saw cyclists fly by me wearing their team jerseys advertising local pubs or riding clubs. I started dreaming of a line of cyclists on the roadside someday here in Maine raising awareness for organ donation. Saturday, I saw that. At one point I was sixth in a single-file line of Donate Life cyclists!

10492009_10204984213624683_2609792815132046435_nWhen I came across the finish line, my teammates were sitting in the shade over to the right on a grassy hill waiting for me since I had hung back to encourage some newer riders on our team. Their hoots and hollers made me feel good but what made me feel better was the sight of them sitting as a team, wearing their jerseys. I know that everyone that saw our team on Saturday, at least at some level, considered what it means to donate life. I know I had conversations with a few about my transplant and the importance of organ donation.

I never want to go through what I endured again on my transplant journey. It was a hell I would not wish on my worst enemy. But now, 28 months out, I see the good that has come. Because of this mess, I live in an awesome neighborhood, am healthier than have been in 25 years and am plugged into an incredible church family.

Take a look at that picture at the top of this page again. Other than my dad and Robin, I had no relationship with any of those people just a year ago. And now, they are people who have come alongside, welcomed me, accepted me and PUSHed me to be a better person. Several of them were there PUSHing and encouraging when the 50 mile goal fell. When I saw them show up Saturday wearing Donate Life jerseys that they purchased on their it meant so much to me.

So what now? What’s the next goal?

trek 2015To celebrate my 3 year liverversary on 5/7/15, I will be riding the Trek Across Maine June 19,20 & 21. It’s three days and 180 miles.

In March of 2012 I had a 50/50 chance of dying. I spent 26 days in the hospital and had my own, special “code blue” incident that sent the medical staff running. Both Robin and I doubted I would get the transplant I needed in time.

Because of the selfless gift of my donor, (video) this winter I will PUSH myself to train for a ride the scope of which I have not tried since I was 17 and toured Scotland on a bicycle. The truth is, I’m nervous about it. I wonder if it will be too much. I need you to give me a PUSH.

Am I crazy? Is this stupid? Megan says it’s not. I’ll tell you about her and how she inspired me in my next blog entry…

Thanks Donate Life team! You guys helped me accomplish one of my goals even though I’d never spoken of it with you.

*PUSH – Pray Until Something Happens

To order your own Donate Life biking jersey just email sales@bikingthings.com and ask Luis about it. He’ll be glad to hook you up.

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50 Miles: Hidden tears behind sunglasses

PUSH

PUSH. 50 miles 28 months after transplant.

I’m going to be gross for a minute. Skip to the next paragraph now if gross medical stuff makes you want to toss your cookies. Twenty-eight months ago I was lying in a hospital bed at Lahey Hospital with a new liver of just 6 days. I had four balloon drainage bags coming out of holes into my abdomen. They were filling up with green and red fluids that the nurses drained every several hours. I had a tube going into my right nostril, down my esophagus into my stomach draining its contents into a jug. I felt humiliated because I wore adult diapers that my sister and wife changed for me. They cleaned me like an infant and wiped my bottom. No one told me that transplant recovery would be like that. I told my wife that I wished I hadn’t had the transplant at all.

Skip ahead to today, 28 months later. No drains, no diapers, no tubes and I am so glad that I went through with the transplant and was gifted a new life. Today, I pedaled my bicycle 50 miles.

A handful of my new friends rode with me and encouraged me up each hill and around every bend. Karen shouted”whoo-whoots” celebrating my reaching the top of the monster climbs. They had no idea what I was feeling or of the thoughts and memories going through my mind.

On one hill I had a mental image of the blue handicapped parking permit that hung from our car mirror for more than a year. I could see blue plastic so clearly. I could see myself sitting in my spot in the passenger seat, unable to drive.

At the top of a ridge I looked off to my right and saw spectacular rolling hills, the beginning of Fall on treetops and blue, hazy mountains in the distance. I saw myself confined to a mobility scooter at the Fryeburg Fair in 2011, unable to walk more that 100 yards. I pushed back the emotion that clenched my throat.

When I hit the 10-mile mark, I flashed back to September of 2012 when my son-in-law jumped off his bike and pushed me up the final hill of a charity ride that I was determined to finish. It was only four and a half months after transplant. My legs were done and I was in so much pain. But today, 10 miles was nothing. Ten miles is a quick ride for me now.

At about 28 miles I started losing the mental game. “Fifty is too much. You are never going to make it. You’ve got nothing.” Then Rick came up beside me and started a conversation. I think he could see that I was struggling. The next time I looked, we were at the 35 mile mark and the mental battle was over. Sometimes friends step in and take your mind off the struggle until you are coming out the other side.

By 40 miles these new cycling friends were laughing and joking and even poking fun at me a little. I knew I was going to make it. They were pulling and pushing me through it, giving me strength and encouragement.

For the last 10 miles, the sun finally came out and Russ and I shed our jackets. Why do I mention that? It changed my view. Russ was wearing the Donate Life cycling jersey I gave him this summer. Donate Life – the whole reason today even happened. My mind wandered again.

My friends could not see the tears behind my sunglasses when we stopped as my GPS ticked off mile number 50 to take the picture above. Fifty freaking miles! The last time I completed a half-century ride was in 1989 when I was 26 years old. Twenty-eight months ago I couldn’t even begin to picture the new life my Creator had in store for me.

Today I have a new life, a new neighborhood and so many new friends. Some people ask “why me” when bad things happen. I find myself asking the same on a weekly basis but for a completely different reason. Why have I been so blessed? Why is my life so good? Why is my recovery so remarkable when I see so many others struggling?

No, I don’t deserve it. There is nothing in me that makes me more worth God’s favor than anyone else.

Grace. Undeserved favor. I can’t figure it out. It baffles me. There’s a lot of God stuff I can’t grasp.

But, I’ll take it. I’ll take it with tears of thanksgiving hidden behind sunglasses.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

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Holy Freak-out, Batman! What just happened?

Sharpen the SawSheesh, that was out of control. It felt like I was a combat veteran in one of the thriller movies I like to watch. You know the scene? A car backfires and the loud bang sends the vet into a complete and irrational panic? Yeah, it was like that, except it wasn’t a bang that sent me spinning. My flashback was triggered by a sudden sharp pain in my right side at the bottom of my rib cage. My mind immediately recognized the pain that I have not felt since before my liver transplant. I put my hand tightly against my abdomen and thought, “oh no, not again.”

My heart started racing and I went into self-talk. “Relax, it was just a random pain.”

It was the exact pain that kept me up so many nights. It was the same pain that left me curled up on the cold, bathroom floor begging God to let me die. Then it hit again … and then again. I laid down and pulled my knees as tight to my stomach as I could,  just like I used to. Yeah .. just … like … I used to.

“What the hell is happening? God, I don’t want to go through this again. This is not THAT pain, is it?”

I went over my day and thought about every food I ate. I did lift a pretty heavy printer. Maybe I pulled a muscle. Maybe my scar tissue was complaining? I couldn’t convince myself no matter how hard I tried. The pain was the pain, not just a pain.

I turned to my network of transplant friends online. Most echoed my thoughts; bile duct problems. No one said, “Bah, it’s nothing. No worries.” I wanted them to say that. They’ve said that lots of times in the past 27 months. Instead I heard of one of them going in every 8 weeks to get a new stent placed in her bile duct. Another told me of a permanent drain port sticking out of his side with attached bag. I like my liver community normally, but not so much at the moment. They were scaring me

The good news is that, other than that afternoon and evening, I’ve not felt the sharp pain again in three days. The occasional discomfort may just be imagined. I restarted the bile thinning medication that I was weaning from and have my next round of blood labs in a few weeks. My mental state is a bit better but I’d be lying if I told you that worry isn’t just below the surface.

I know, I know, worrying accomplishes nothing and my faith should be bigger than fear. And I know the bible verses some of you will email me. Really, I get it. But, the reality is that I still worry and I still have fear. Sorry to disappoint but I know my God knows me better than I know myself and I know He gets it. I’m thankful He’s patient.

Freaking out did have some positives though:

First, my psycho reaction (one friend called it “PTSD”) made me ask myself some tough questions like, “are you doing what you want to be doing?” For the most part, the answer is yes but then I also have to admit that I’m being stupid. I haven’t written anything in a month and a half, I am not reading anything for pleasure, my alone time with God is sporadic and rushed, my weight is climbing from lack of food discipline and I’ve averaged maybe only 30 miles a week on my bike over the past month; zero the last ten days. I haven’t been smelling any roses lately and have been falling behind in the rat race.

Abraham Lincoln would say that I’ve been in a race cutting logs without stopping to sharpen the saw. When we don’t sharpen the saw we work twice as hard and see half the results. I’m as sharp as a marble right now.

I’m a builder-creator-planner personality. I am always thinking about what comes next. I love that in my new life as a coach/shepherd/mentor/leader I have tons of dreams and so much I want to do. The toughest part for me has always been to recognize that it can’t all be done at the same time and that my God doesn’t even want it done at the same time. He has time.

Think about this for a minute. God worked 6 days and then rested, right? Did He need to rest? He’s God, right? Omnipotent, never-sleeping God, rested. Is that odd to you? From what I figure, He rested not because He was tired. So, then why would He rest?

I think He rested to enjoy looking at all He had created. I think He stopped to smell the roses because roses smell awesome, not because He was tired of making roses. I think He rested to show me that resting, even when I am not yet tired, is good. God doesn’t need to “sharpen the saw” but you and I do. We get tired. We get stressed. We burn out. I think God was showing all of us that it is not only okay to rest, but it is good to rest. When I am tired I get cynical, grumpy, snippy and I lose my words filter. I say things that don’t need to be said. My motivation goes out the window and my self-esteem takes a hit.

According to my transplant friends, I am not a total nut-case. Apparently most of them have had similar panic attacks at one time or another. Apparently what we endured was trauma and PTSD occurrences among transplant survivors is common. Somehow that knowledge doesn’t really make me feel any better but it does tell me I’m not alone.

Second, my episode woke me up enough to remember that I don’t ever want to go back to what I was before my transplant journey. I’ve been dozing, getting sucked into and discouraged by things that don’t matter,  and being distracted by stuff that can wait. I’ve been letting the urgent overtake the important. It’s time to reboot, reprioritize and start again.

Direction, not intention, determine destination. I intend to be a healthy, balanced person who values people. I intend to be a reflection of the Jesus I follow. But my direction lately has been taking me to an entirely different destination. My path and recent habits, if I continue to follow them, will take me to an unhealthy, obese, stressed out, grumpy man that is very unlike Jesus. Hope will be swallowed by cynicism, patience replaced by pressure and love for others obscured with “I don’t have time.”

I’m praying that the pains do not return.  I don’t want a drainage bag hanging at my side. Having to endure biliary stents being replaced every 8 weeks is something I don’t even want to think about. For now, I’m going to do my best to push those worries back and just focus on doing all I can to reach my destination.

It’s time that my direction match my intentions.

“Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~Jesus  (Matthew 11:29-30 The Message)

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It’s another BIG day in the Linscott household

Our little Indiana Jones.

Our little Indiana Jones.

“You won’t believe where I found your son,” were words I heard at least once a week when Robin would call me at my office during our daily check-ins. The emphasis was always on “your.

My Donald Jacob, our third-born, was an independent little guy from the start. I spotted something in him at birth. We had settled on two possible middle names; Aaron and Jacob. When the nurse put him into Robin’s arms asking what his name was, Robin looked at me, “What do you think?”

“He looks like a Jacob.”

Jacob, of Bible fame, was a strong-willed character who liked to control the outcome. He did some things that were less than admirable to get just what he wanted. But, after wrestling with an angel of God, saying, “I will not let you leave until you bless me,” Jacob grew to be a faithful, stubborn man of faith. God changed his name to Israel and built a nation through him.

We named both of our boys for their potential. Joshua Abram and Donald Jacob. Abram became Abraham, and Jacob became Israel with both as integral parts of God’s plan to redeem mankind.

Our Donald Jacob (Donald, for his grandfather) became our Jake, our charmer, entertainer, trickster, cuddler and adventurer.

“When I came out of the bathroom, he was sitting on top of the counter cutting a cake with one of the big knives out of the butcher block!” Robin’s voice usually had a twinge of relief and wonder when she would relay her “your son” stories. We would wonder if he would survive. His Sweeney Todd impersonation and counter-top climb was at about 18 months old.

At three years old our Jake would routinely look for the biggest, most intimidating kid on the playground, walk confidently up to him, stand face-to-chest and give him a firm shove. Then he would laugh. We were positive that he would get beat up eventually.Somehow, he never did.

There was the time I spotted him at the very top of the rusty jungle gym at the town park grinning from ear-to-ear. There was the time he decided to play hide-n-seek without telling anyone and ignored Robin’s desperate commands of, “Donald Jacob! You come here right now! You are scaring Mommy!”

Our Jake grew, like the Jake of the bible, testing every limit. Our other two children sat and did their schoolwork while Jake focused on ways to distract us with laughter. From the time he learned to read he devoured books unless we told him he had to read a book. Of course, he would read and do his work on his terms, being in control.

He is intensely independent yet incredibly sensitive and loving. We watched our little guy become a loyal friend to everyone. He never bought into the kids who thought they were cool and put on an act. Our Jake refused to act. He could easily hang out with the popular kids and be part of their crowd. But what impressed me most was they way he accepted the less popular kids, the ones who might get left out at school or not picked to play. Our Jake grew to be a very loyal and welcoming friend.

I have watched a few of his wrestling matches with God. I have seen him weep in the face of poverty. I watched him refuse to stop working mixing mortar and lugging bricks building a school for the deaf. I have seen God melt his heart. At 22 years old, his wrestling is far from over. I sense that my culinary school graduate still has hold of his angel and will not let him go. I have a feeling that my God has something planned for him where he, like the Jacob of Scripture, ends up feeding many, with food that lasts forever.

Today, I get to stand at the front of a church filled with family and friends, and watch his high school sweetheart walk forward in her beautiful white gown. I watched my son pursue her and refuse to give up when she showed little interest. His Laura is known by her friends as a quiet woman who knows what she wants; strong and independent.

I will see them exchange rings, speak vows and tie a knot out of three strands representing each of them and Jesus as the third. I will pray that that third strand comes to mean more and more to them each year.

And then, I will pronounce them husband and wife; Mr. and Mrs. Donald Jacob Linscott.

Jake and Laura

Jake and Laura

I will do my best to hold back my tears and keep it together. Today is another amazing bonus day that, apart from the miraculous healing hand of my God and the incredible sacrificial love of my family and friends, I would not be alive to share.

I am so very blessed. Today I will officiate the wedding of my third. I officiated my daughter’s wedding shortly after I learned I needed a liver transplant in 2011. In 2013, I officiated my oldest son’s wedding a year after he saved my life by giving me half of his liver. Now, today, I am beyond blessed to officiate my youngest son’s wedding. I am three for three.

Tonight, my gorgeous wife of 30 years and I will collapse into bed, exhausted, with hearts overflowing. We have been through so much … so very much.

What an amazing gift it is to be parents of our three wonderful children. What a wondrous thing it has been to see our prayers answered in each of their lives.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

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Dropping our heavy bag of rocks to celebrate

Dining OutLately I’ve been carrying a bag of rocks everywhere I go. It’s heavy. It affects my mood and can make me grumpy. My bag of rocks sits on my chest while I try to sleep and makes me toss and turn to try to get rid of it. It’s stickier than Crazy Glue, somehow.

Yeah, yeah, I know … “let go, let God.” Sing me another chorus from Frozen. “Just give it to God.” Thanks, got it!

My bag of rocks beeps at me on my phone and dings at me every time I boot up my computer. I’m sure you’ve felt the pressure of your own bag of rocks, right? It’s life. It happens. It’s totally normal. Sometimes you can set the bag down. Sometimes you can chuck the bag off a bridge. But, most of the time, you just have to deal with the rocks one at a time until they are gone.

I set my bag of rocks by the front door Sunday afternoon, climbed into my car and drove to New York City. (Well, I drove halfway and Robin took the second half.) We were heading to the city to celebrate with my son Josh and his wife Kristen. We were planning to blow through some of our savings, eat at fancy restaurants, tour the city a little and sleep on the floor of their tiny studio apartment on a futon mattress.

My bag of rocks tried hard to penetrate my thoughts but it couldn’t override what was happening.

Josh presentsOn Tuesday morning we sat in a conference room and listened to a presentation from an accomplished young man. He went through charts and diagrams, he explained things with words we didn’t understand. He made his case to the 30 or so people who gathered. And then he fielded questions from his audience. We couldn’t understand the questions either. The man was brilliant, an engaging speaker and very handsome in his three piece, tailored suit. His presentation was titled, “Protein Lysine Methyltransferases: Substrates, Mechanism, and Transition States.” Seeing that my spelling checker doesn’t even know two of the words in his title makes me feel a little less dumb.

I have been looking at the presenter’s face for almost 27 years. I have been praying for him daily since before he was born. I have watched him move from Oshkosh overalls to Little League Baseball pants to Gibson Guitars to college sweatshirts with “Bates” printed on the front. Today he is a confident man in a suit.

After he finished his presentation his name changed a bit. People called him, “Dr. Linscott” and congratulated him. His friends told me how well he did in his presentation and assured me that he was impressive after he finished and was secluded with his committee. All I could think of was my little, round-headed boy with his giant blue eyes pleading, “just pitch one more bucket of balls, dad? Please?” We would spend hours on the baseball fields. My son has always been driven.

While we waited my mind went to memories of him singing, “I’m the Lamest” with his rock band. I saw him in a suit on his first real, big date. I flashed to him trying to build as a child with various toys and getting frustrated when his creation would topple.

And then, there is the image from when he saved my life. He showed it as an introduction to his presentation that morning. He is standing at my bedside holding my hand in a blue hospital gown just before going into surgery to give me half of his liver.

Now here in New York City,  I watched my little boy with his colleagues, now a man. While he raised his champagne to offer a toast to all his labmates, I flashed back to a picture of his face in the middle of about a dozen of his 10-year-old baseball pals, all wearing their caps and looking over his birthday cake with giant smiles.

josh-krisWe walked to dinner behind he and his wife and I smiled because of the way they look at each other. So in love and on top of the world. I held my wife’s hand a bit tighter. I know her heart was just as full.

We drove home yesterday, enjoying our time together, with very satisfied hearts. Life is good. We have three great kids and so much to be thankful for.

On my way to the office this morning I bent over and picked up my bag of rocks. It’s just as heavy as when I left it but one or two of those rocks should be gone shortly. It will become more manageable day by day as I deal with each stone.

It felt good to take a break from lugging my bag of rocks around. It’s usually not this heavy. It feels good to rest and celebrate and remember that life is good. The best thing is that I know my God is a God who breaks up rocks, gives us others to share the load and even, from time to time, makes them fall to the ground.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

Posted in Liver disease | 4 Comments

Exponential deja vu. I am broken.

exponential-2014-east-orlandoI laid out on the carpet, face down, and prayed, “Lord, whatever you want. Break me. I give it all to you.”

It was April 2011 at the concluding session of the Exponential Conference in Orlando, Florida. I had spent the last few days attending workshops and listening to motivating speakers talk about bringing faith to a generation of Americans that wants little to do with church as an institution. The closing speaker, a refreshingly genuine and approachable man who I regularly listened to online, Francis Chan, had just opened his heart to us telling the crowd of more than 2000 church planters why he was leaving the large, successful church that he planted. He felt too comfortable, too safe. He felt a disconnect with the life he was leading and the life he was reading in Scripture. He felt a stirring of discontent.

I sat in my seat knowing exactly what he was talking about. Just 4 months before, I left my church of 11 years for the same reason. It was a great church with lots of people, a beautiful facility and a healthy budget. We were making enough money to have both a savings and a retirement account. We were very comfortable hanging out with fantastic Christian people week in and week out.

My stirring began in 2008. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do but I simply had a restlessness. I knew that change was coming. The Great Commission “go” nagged me and would not let me sleep.

I started pursuing church planting partnerships in late 2009. I went through the matching process with a few organizations. One had great resources and relationships but I couldn’t accept its reluctance for women in leadership. Another had scarce resources with large denominational expectations so I quickly pulled the plug. At last, I thought we had our match in January of 2011. After a few theological hurdles fell we pressed on fairly confident of the future.

But, there were red flags that I tried to ignore. Most of the people planting were young. In fact, I was older than most of the leaders and trainers. Looking back now, I don’t think I fit the mold, the look, the approach and style. By April it was in serious doubt but we continued moving forward.

John Teter, speaking at a March church planting conference stated simply, “You cannot plant a church until you have been broken.”

I remember asking Robin, “Have we been broken?” Our resume included some very painful times when all we could do was trust God. We endured a painful church split and fled an abusive church. We served a para-church mission that could not pay us and nearly lost our home. We had empty cupboards. But, broken? No, we didn’t think we’d ever been “broken.” Despite its bumps, our life had been good.

We wondered how on earth, if we could not say we had been broken, that others in our group could possibly meet that qualification. I realize now that true brokenness is a sliding scale. The things that we considered breaking events when we were in our twenties seem so minor now.

Broken. His question haunted me, still.

I thought of it again after listening to Francis Chan’s story of leaving his church for the unknown out of an ache to do the things Jesus did. I had that same ache. When he invited planters to come to the front to pray, I initially brushed it off. I’ve never been one much for experiential worship, waving my hands in the air or being very expressive.

Still, I went forward and poured my heart out to God truly wanting to be entirely open to all He wanted to accomplish.

Five days later I lay in Florida Hospital learning that I would die without a liver transplant. Of course, the church plant plans came to a halt immediately. Even our hopes of hanging out with the cool kid, church planters over the summer to earn their trust evaporated on the spot.

Tomorrow I will sit in the same room where I prayed that prayer three years ago. I will be part of Exponential 2014 with more than 3000 people who are planting new works, doing creative things or investing themselves in revitalizing dying churches. I will sit there, healthy, almost 2 years after the transplant that saved my life.

I return knowing exactly what God has called me to. I come as the new pastor of a 125 year old church that was facing closing its doors unless it took some courageous steps toward change. Our little church of 35-40 has become a church of more than 100 in the last 8 months.

There will be clusters of enthusiastic 30 year olds, canvas messenger bags slung over their shoulders containing the newest in Apple products. Denominational church planting teams will brainstorm around tables. General sessions will be energetic, creative and engaging with full volume worship music and accompanying lights and video. It will look vastly different from the one pastors’ conference I attended several years ago. I doubt there will be even one suit coat or tie in the room. I felt so out of place at that conference. Here, I feel at home.

One thing is for certain. If a speaker asks, “have you been broken?” I will answer with total confidence because of the events of the last three years. My God walked with me to the edge of death and hopelessness, made my transplant possible and brought me back to where I am now, restored.

I have been broken.

Let’s roll!

Yes, I have been broken.

Posted in Liver disease | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment