I’m going in for a quick procedure today where they will take some pictures of my heart using sound waves. I hope it smiles at the tech.
My heart is usually pretty nice, I think. People tell me I have a good heart and a kind heart.
But last time they did this test, a few years back, they told me I have a “thick heart.” I knew I am thick-headed but that was the first time I heard I was thick-hearted. They said not to worry because it’s pretty common. So, of course, I worried.
Hopefully I can get my flu shot while I’m there. I always get a flu shot. Some people think the flu shot gives them the flu. I think they payed less attention than I did in science classes even though I don’t know how that could be possible.
I’d also like to get my standing blood lab orders drawn while I’m there. Transplant people know the CMP, INR, Tacro drill pretty well so we can check those AST and ALT numbers. My numbers have been about the only thing perfect in 2020 so I’m hoping that continues.
I’m kind of like a car you put in the garage. “Yeah, um, can you do an oil change, rotate the tires and, um, change the coolant while it’s here.” If I could, I’d go to a doctor mall and just take a day every year to get all my checkups done. Skin, bones, blood, heart, liver, prostate, lungs, colon … It would be a LONG and expensive day but it would be worth it to get it all done at once.
The docs always show me the pictures of procedures like I know what I’m looking at. I nod and say, “uh huh, yup, I see that” but I never have any idea. It’s like opening my good when the car stops working, “yup, that engine thing is still here.”
I am a way better photographer than all of those docs put together. I won’t be ordering a canvas of my heart portrait, I can guarantee that.
I set up my stuff for self-portraits yesterday. Taking my own pictures always feels weird but I needed an update since all my facial hair is now COVID white.
There I was with lighting set up, camera on a tripod, backdrop set up and remote in hand, taking pictures of myself.
I took some “happy me” photos and some “mad me” photos and some “Grampa me” photos. The mad me photos seem appropriate for today, since everyone seems mad about something. But, the mad me photos don’t look all that convincing.
Grampa me is definitely more me. Of course, that’s not the official headshot for all the online stuff but it feels like the most realistic.
Maybe I should post my portrait of “heart me” after my appointment later today. Could I use that as my social media profile pic? Nah, that’s probably not a great idea.
Have a great Tuesday. Be kind to people even if they don’t deserve it. If you give them back the same crap they give you it will just put knots in your stomach. That’s why the Good Book says that thing in Luke – it’s best for you.
Well, there she goes. My cute, little, 5’1″ wife (she’ll say 5’2”) just kissed me goodbye and walked off down the sidewalk, headed to school. The last time she did that it was mid-March.
I wonder if she left Shara instructions on how to take care of me. We always leave instructions for people who take care of Pompom.
I don’t see my daughter up here making scrambled eggs and fresh fruit for my breakfast. I’m afraid that means I’m on my own. I wonder if I remember how to feed myself?
It’s my day off. I try to do non-work type of stuff on my day off. What shall I do?
Stinky dog, Pompom, needs a bath.
After about 2 years of saying, “I need a new computer,” Robin bought a new computer. That means I need to set it up. She could do it but she pretends she can’t so that I will feel needed.
I need to pull the yucky, rain-soaked, birdseed paste out of my feeders. I am Old Man Fookwire.
I need to switch over to Pumpkin Spice coffee grounds for tomorrow, Sept. 1. Labor Day is late this year so I can’t wait.
I normally catch up on all my shows that Robin hates on Mondays but none of them have been filming new episodes. No Naked and Afraid for me. Booooo.
I can sit around and wait to see what all the delivery drivers bring us today. That’s always fun.
I need to update my headshots. My facial hair is now COVID white and I’ve been told I look “distinguished.” (I think that’s the male form of “she has a great personality.”)
Life is good. I enjoy it. Even the tougher days are good being on the top side of the dirt.
We’ve been having church in the park and I love it. People hear the music and wander over to join us. I think I’ve met 15-20 new people this summer.
One of my pet peeves about churches is that they can be like secret societies meeting in buildings that no one can see into. Churches even took the public ordinance of baptism and hid it inside in little fiberglass tubs. I love being outside. I’d do it outside year-round if I could.
Have an awesome week. I dare you to be a missionary to outrage rather than a missionary of outrage
I didn’t realize the survival skills I learned in the year before and year after my liver transplant would be needed again. Back then I went through a lot of discouragement and depression during so much isolation.
In the year before my transplant, it was my health that cut me off from humanity. I was too sick to join in on much of anything. After my transplant, most of the next year had me distanced to protect me from any illnesses others might be carrying. During that time, 8 & 9 years ago, Facebook was mostly pictures of families, recipes, and original posts. It helped me feel connected and was a mostly-positive input.
Now, we zip ahead 9 years and I feel as though I am repeating aspects of 2011-2012. The caution flags are back at full staff except now, the masks, sanitizers, and caution signs are for everyone, not only me. Today, Facebook has evolved into sparce original material and is mostly copy-and-pasted or forwarded posts, misinformation, and it is far less friendly. It’s also ad after ad after ad. For me, it is now a mostly-negative input.
From May, 2011 through April 2013 I experienced loneliness, loss-of-purpose and some pretty severe depression. I think depression is pretty common for those facing transplant or living with chronic illness but, for me at least, connecting online was a mostly positive interaction. I found my primary support groups through Facebook.
Now, again largely cut off from people going into six months, I am feeling some of the same feelings I felt back then. I am struggling with a loss of purpose to a degree even though I am still able to teach on Sunday morning. I enjoy teaching and speaking but am realizing how much I am missing all my coaching (Christians say “discipleship”) meetings. I sometimes wondered if local breakfast establishments would start charging me for office space!
During my transplant journey, my writing and online interaction sustained me to a degree. But, during this current time of separation, I have not been writing much and social media provides little positive input. I have been trying to use things like Zoom and Google Meet to bridge the gap with classes or live discussions online. At first, it worked pretty well but now everyone is tired of interacting with talking heads on computer screens. The result is that I’ve ended up being even more discouraged after planning meetings and classes that no one shows up for even though I can’t blame them at all.
What is the solution? I have decided to resume blogging while backing away from Facebook to see if I can get to a healthier place mentally. Though I have been writing almost daily posts on Facebook, using a mix of satire, humor and an occasional entry addressing a timely topic, I have decided that platform has become too unstable. I have decided it’s time for me to pull away from its constant barrage of outrage and misinformation.
I will link my WordPress blog to my Facebook account hoping to provide something positive, encouraging and hopeful but, I will not be posting much else beyond pictures for distant family.
What will my blog posts look like?
My blog will now be a little bit of everything. Sometimes it will relate to transplant and sometimes it will be the silliness and humor that Facebook followers have become used to but blog subscribers have not been subjected to. Sometimes my posts will teach, provide resources or provide more writing in the inspiration, motivational, and spiritual genres that Facebook users have not seen. It will be a smorgasbord of what is happening in my head.
If you are a Facebook regular, I invite you to subscribe so that you receive my blog entries by e-mail. That will also be the best route for others who have also decided to pull away from Facebook and spend less and less time there.
Of course, if I get tagged in things on Facebook pics or comments, I’ll still see them. I can’t dump Facebook altogether because so many still use it to communicate. My goal, however, is to spend far less time there so I will not be reading all the memes, forwards, mean-spirited attacks, slanderous assaults, and misinformation.
I’ve been noticing that garbage in is indeed resulting in garbage out in my own life. My garbage out is my increasingly-cruddy attitude, my lack of motivation, and a somewhat fatalist, cynical view. That is not like me at all.
Yes, YOLO (You Only Live Once). And, yes, GIGO (Garbage In: Garbage Out). If I only live once, I want to limit my garbage consumption.
I feel like a shepherd who has fallen into a deep hole. Every now and then, I hear one of my sheep pass by, up there somewhere, or I catch a glimpse of a shadow, but I have little idea how my flock is doing.Subtle differences but deadly.
Sheep like to huddle together closely. It’s how they find comfort and security. When wolves hunt sheep they like to spread them out and pick them off one by one.
Across the country, we shepherds are seeing evidence that our sheep are indeed getting “picked off” by wolves providing a selection of delicious, but poison, food. These wolves are gradually convincing our flocks to live in fear. They are luring them away from being ambassadors of Truth to becoming ambassadors of fear, paranoia and rage. They are convincing them to spend all their time in a new cause that truly appears worthy.
That’s what the wolves do. They dress up in sheep’s clothing and redirect the sheep away from the Shepherd into a different flock where they are eventually devoured or, at least, totally cut off.
In my case, I am a shepherd working under The Shepherd, Jesus Christ. The new life and salvation he brought gives peace, hope and eternal security, not fear and paranoia.
2 Timothy 1:7 (Young’s Literal Translation)
“for God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind;”
The wolves are subtly appealing to the good, caring values of the sheep, implanted by the Good Shepherd, to enlist them in a false war so that they lose sight of the real enemy. The sheeps’ time, effort, attention and resources are being pulled away from the mission of Christ to be invested in a battle with imaginary enemies.
Even some shepherds have abandoned “sound mind” and solid, biblical teaching to chase after shadows. They are spending their time convincing their flocks to focus on the “hidden, shadowed, covert, underground” activities of the enemy while his clear, overt actions go unchallenged.
More and more of the Good Shepherd’s sheep are gorging on the poison food believing it is the best food. They are ignoring even the most educated, expert sheep within their own flocks, their brothers and sisters. The experts bleat strong warnings and plead for sound minds but the wolves have convinced the sheep that even their formerly-trusted experts have been blinded. Sociologists are calling it “the death of expertise.” It stretches far beyond just the Christian ranks.
“Trust only us,” the wolves say, “Read what we provide, watch what we produce. We are sent by God. This is God’s will for you,” they say to the church. It is happening in politics, in medicine and other areas of daily life.
Meanwhile, I sit, calling up from my hole, praying that my sheep, the sheep that the Master Shepherd put in my care, might hear me.
“Live like Jesus,” I call. “Be his ambassadors. Trust in him. Don’t fear! Don’t hate! Stop fretting! Study his word. Seek his kingdom first…”
I feel like most of my words are echoing off the walls of this deep hole while my phone shows me another meme, another forward, and another venom-filled post coming from the sheep of Jesus who have been convinced that they are doing what he has called them to do.
“Damn wolves! Get away from my flock!” I yell and then sink down, my face in my hands, discouraged and distraught.
“God-damned wolves,” I mutter. I know the wolves are damned but what can I do from this hole? What can I do?
I pray. I pray hard. I pray nearly continuously. I pray that the sheep who are being lured away will see the wolves under their sheep’s clothing.
“If you hold to my teaching, … you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” is what the Shepherd told us.
I want my sheep to live in the freedom of Grace. Free from fear. Free from paranoia. Free from believing that our hope rests in man, in politics, in economies, in possessions or in relationships. If we hold to, focus on, grasp, digest, live by, and seek, Jesus’ teachings we will be set free.
Some are calling what the wolves are offering, “a new religion” because it is so very different than the Jesus of the Bible.
I love my sheep even though, in my head, I know they are not really mine. I know that they belong to God. I have only been given the privilege of shepherding them for this brief moment. But, in my heart, I love them as my own.
Literal shepherds have tools to smack the wolves and chase them off. They have ways to rope or hook their sheep to drag them back. I’m a figurative shepherd. The sheep in my flock can and do walk away whenever they want. That hurts my heart but the Master Shepherd made them that way. They are free to choose whatever path they want.
“Dear God, these sheep you have entrusted to me? I need to release them to you and trust that you will stay with them and bring them back, close to your side. I pray you will open their eyes to the subtle tricks of the wolves. I’ll keep doing what you have called me to in 2 Timothy 4:2. I will, ‘Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching’ whether distanced, locked-down or back to normal.”
I pray that life in my pandemic hole does not go on for years. I hope that God allows an effective vaccine soon. But, if he should wait, I’ll try to learn the lessons that the Apostle Paul gained in prison where he wrote, “I have learned to be content no matter my circumstance.”
Donald W. Linscott Jr, (9/21/32 – 3/29/20) of Auburn, Maine passed away peacefully on Sunday, March 29 at the Maine Veteran’s Home in Scarborough, Maine after a long battle with diabetes resulting in renal failure.
A memorial service will be held later in the year after travel restrictions and stay-in-place orders have been lifted and it is safe to gather again.
Don was born in Portland, Maine to Donald and Lois Linscott on September 21, 1932. He married his beautiful bride, Beulah B. Cochran on December 22, 1951. He attended South Portland High School. Over his career, he worked in either administration or sales at General Foods, Lyn-flex Industries of Saco, Hillcrest Foods of Lewiston and JW Penny Industrial Supply, of Mechanic Falls and Diversified Pumps and Compressors of New Hampshire.
He was a veteran of the Korean War (1950-54) and served in the US Marine Corps where he achieved the rank of Sergeant. He was awarded the US Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal with 4 stars, a Navy Occupational Medal, a Good Conduct Medal, a National Defense Service Medal and a Presidential Unit Citation. He was a 2nd Degree Mason, a life member and officer of the VFW, the American Legion, and a member of the Lions Club for years. He also served dutifully in each church he attended over the course of his life. He was a very active volunteer, serving as the founder of the Blue Flames Drum and Bugle Corps and Color guard, and a youth sports coach in Little League and Lewiston’s Football League for Youth. He continued to serve even in his retirement volunteering numerous hours with the Auburn Police department and as a certified tax preparer, helping the elderly and underserved complete their annual tax filings.
Those who knew Donald knew that he overcame a number of military service-related obstacles and emotional baggage to build a tight and loving family and social circle. Determination to affect change was one of his core beliefs shown through his constant willingness to serve in whatever capacity needed. His commitment to his veteran comrades showed in his dedicating thousands of hours to VFW causes and activities including serving as an officer at his local posts, serving as State Adjutant and even State Commander. He was also involved regionally and nationally in veterans’ issues.
Presence was his gift to his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews, as he would drive hours to support them in their activities whether a color guard competition in the Midwest or a middle school football game an hour away. He spent countless hours in auditoriums, on cold bleachers or standing on sidelines cheering them on.
Humor was his gift to all who knew him whether from his playful teasing, and quick wit or his willingness to wear silly hats and play the clown even in public settings. He brightened the room wherever he went, carried lollipops for kids and whistled and sang his Frank Sinatra favorites. He teased his grandchildren by acting gruff with a, “Hey kid! Did you bring me any money?” or “Hey kid, come back when you’re 18!” They ignored him and climbed onto his lap for tickling and wrestling. He loved his children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews dearly.
His wife heard his “I love you, Mummy” coming from the den to the kitchen throughout their marriage. When Alzheimer’s Disease started to rob his memory, she would hear, “I love you, Mummy” dozens of times a day. He called her his bride, mummy, dear and honey throughout their marriage and never was able to walk past her without some form of touch whether a kiss, a caress, a tap or even a little pinch. He loved her dearly.
His service to veterans brought about positive change in numerous areas right up until he was physically unable to continue. From transporting veterans to the Veterans Hospital in Augusta, to stopping for conversation with homeless veterans on the street offering to help them get connected to available support services. He could not turn his back on brothers and sisters who served.
Donald is preceded in death by his wife of 67 years, Billie Linscott, and his siblings John, Ruth and Ernest.
He is survived by daughters Gail Silva and her husband Louis of Cumming, GA, Gloria Caldwell and husband Tom of Poland, Maine, and son Donald Linscott III and wife Robin of Westbrook, Maine. He is also survived by sisters Carol Dobson, Barbara Nelson, Mary Armstrong, Wanda Dubuque and Elizabeth Splettstoesser and brothers Guy and Dana Linscott. He also leaves behind seven grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial gifts be given to the activities fund at the Scarborough Maine Veterans Home where Don received excellent care, love, and tremendous support. MVH Scarborough 290 US-1, Scarborough, ME 04074 online at https://mainevets.org/memorial-giving/
Don’s family wishes to extend our sincere thanks to all the staff at the Maine Veterans Home who clearly demonstrated, day-in-and-day-out that they are not just “going to work every day” but having the honor and privilege of caring for those who have sacrificed so much for us. Their love, care and detail to attention and connection were amazing.
Following a presentation that I made at our District 7780 Rotary gathering at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth, Maine during the summer of 2019, the District Governor, Andrew Glazier, asked, “why couldn’t we make this a challenge for all our clubs this year?”
Registering to be an organ and tissue donor is easy, costs nothing and can literally mean the difference between life and death for someone waiting. Organ and tissue donation align well with our values as Rotarians.
The Challenge Is Issued The Westbrook-Gorham Rotary Club, my home club, is hereby challenging every club in our district to aim for 100% of the membership as registered organ donors by April 2020. Will your club hit 75%? 85%? 98%? Let’s have fun will doing good and promoting such an important cause.
April is National Donate Life month. We are planning some fun recognition for our winning clubs, even though the reality is that we all win with every donor registered.
ACTION STEPS FOR YOUR CLUB –
Establish a way to record your club members as registered donors or new donors so that you can report your results by March 15.
Add art and information to your social media pages, website and newsletter encouraging club members to register as organ donors at www.RegisterMe.org
I received my gift of life, a liver transplant, on May 7, 2012. I am alive today because of organ donation. I would be glad to come speak to your club or do what I can to help you reach 100 percent. 123,000 people are waiting for transplants in the United States today. As many as 21 people die each day on the waiting list. I hope your club will rise to the challenge. Our District Governor is correct. It makes perfect sense for Rotarians to get on board.
Scott Linscott Westbrook-Gorham Rotary Club 207-400-2481, firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s our 2019 brag letter about how awesome everything is. I’ve been out of prison for 3 months now and am adjusting well. Robin took me back in but she does not like the cool prison tat I got of her face on my left pectoral. I think Tiny did an awesome job on it. It wasn’t like I had a choice. Tiny weighs 500 pounds and eats people like me for breakfast.
My kids are still three good-for-nothins but at least they’ve stayed outta jail so far.
And I’m still struggling with telling fibs now and then. In fact, all that stuff above is fake news except for maybe my tattoo of Robin, but you’ll never know.
Honestly, life is great and my grandchildren are so cute and smart. Calvin will be 4 at the end of December, then Chloe turns 2 in January and then it’s Emma’s turn to be 4 in February. Poor Ethan has to wait until June 2 to turn 3. I remember that because it’s our anniversary. Shara was kind enough to have a baby on a date I had already committed to memory.
Doctor Josh is doctoring at Maine Medical Center. He won’t let me scrub in to assist on any surgeries though. I know, right? I watch reality TV all the time and that Emergency Department show and Doctor Pimple Popper have me ready and itching to go in and make someone’s bladder gladder. (He’s a urologist.) His wife, Kristen, is amazing at holding their family on course during Josh’s residency.
Shara is my boss at the church now. Well, she’s doing administrative stuff. It’s good. I used to finish my outlines Friday or Saturday. Now she prints them out a week before. It’s been good for me. And she’s an incredible mommy, party planner and creative wonder.
Donald Jacob and his lovely wife, Laura, are now homeowners in Windham and doing very well. I keep reading about Millennials never buying homes, not getting married and living in their parents’ basements. I guess that throwing them out when they turned 18 was apparently the right move. (We didn’t. That’s another fib.)
Oh, wait, Shara and her Jake just sold their house and will be moving into our basement in January while they build their new house and Josh his family lived in our basement while he finished medical school so maybe they were true Millennials after all? I don’t think so. Anyway, you should sell Jake and Shara some land close to Westbrook to rescue them from being cellar dwellers.
Robin and I are loving life. She’s teaching and bookkeeping. I’m photographing and pastoring. My health is good and stable, and my transplant is still working just fine. I’m going on 8 bonus years so far in May. What a gift we’ve been given!
Merry Christmas friends. We are blessed with so many people we love from our church, neighborhood, community, transplant network, Facebook, Guatemala and more. We are thankful for all you add to our lives!
If you’re in Maine or passing through, be sure to drop in and say hello!
Much Love, Scott, for Robin too
5 Village Ln, Westbrook, ME 04092 207-400-2481 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
I remember sitting in the back row at church, as a kid, wearing my shoulder pads, my Giants jersey, my football pants and my cleats. And I wasn’t the only one. It was our Sunday morning attire before our youth football league games. Church came first.
I remember my Dad being on the board for Little League and not allowing Sunday morning games or practices in the league.
And Dad wasn’t some legalistic, bible-thumping, KJV-only-fundy either. His language was naughty and he battled alcoholism all his life. I never even heard a hint of a message that we were going to earn points with God or or get into heaven either. It wasn’t about that.
Dad was a Marine. His motto was “God, Country, Family” as I grew up. And yes, sometimes I think it was Country before God after his years of military service.
We went to church. Picnics were for “after church.” Activities were for “after church.”
We weren’t even well-behaved in church. My mom was always giving us “the look” and sitting between us so we wouldn’t poke and pinch each other. But, we were there.
I think I was bored most of the time but, I have to admit, a lot of the messages seeped in somehow. The old hymns seeped in too as Dad and I poked fun at the language or he rolled his eyes and winced during “special music” numbers that were more painful than special. He would make me laugh.
One of my favorite songs by Rich Mullins include the lyric:
“And did they tell you stories ’bout the saints of old? Stories about their faith? They say stories like that make a boy grow bold, stories like that make a man walk straight.”
Mom and Dad would resume bickering as soon as we got into the car to head home. I had a time where I judged them as hipocrates before I understood that they were simply human trying to navigate life like everyone else.
Mom asked for the same thing for Christmas every year from the time I was twelve on, “I just want you to sit with us in church every Sunday, that’s all.” She meant not with my friends or my girlfriend. They were welcome to sit with us and they usually did.
Our church was little and pretty lame, at least, by most of today’s standards. We had no polished musicians and the sound system regularly produced weird feedback noises. The bulletin thing had plenty of typos. The pews were uncomfortable and sometimes it was way too hot and sometimes way too cold. But none of that seemed to matter much because people seemed to really love each other and care.
Mr. Sidelinger was awesome. Mom and Pop McCleary were old but they’d invite our handful of teenagers to their house for board games and Bible studies and we went: always hugged and welcomed. Dick would give me rides whenever I needed them. The Hawkins family was like my second family. Irv Lash was my hero… It was 40+ years ago but, as I write this, I still feel those connections. I still feel the warmth of their love.
None of it was about legalism, earning salvation or making God love us. The message I got was that we went because God was God and church was about Him much more than us. I got the message that we went to be a part and to serve. I am thankful Mom and Dad found a church like that and made me go. I’m glad they committed to it even during the “pastorless” times showing their commitment to the body.
Yes, they complained about the church sometimes but that was no different than complaining about things at family gatherings we went to. We all complain about family stuff but we love our families.
So, this morning when I saw this post that read, “church should be your excuse for missing things, not vice versa” I paused to consider it. And then, I was grateful that my mom and dad set the example for me without legalism, without any nonsense about earning God’s love, just because God was God so we went to worship, be part and serve – even during the boring times.
I am thankful today that my kids appear to have received that message from Robin and me and are now passing it on to their children, teaching them that gathering is to be a priority to worship, give and serve.
I apologize if you wince with guilt or painful memories of “church” misused in your childhood. I am so sorry if you were told God doesn’t love you when you are naughty, or misstep, or live wrong. I am sorry if God was used as a punishment to create fear in you and manipulate you into behaving a certain way.
See, the thing is, that God’s love for you is always beyond what you can comprehend. It’s what this whole Christmas thing is about. It is mankind that has reduced God’s love to being all about you and what you do and how you act. That is not the Good News proclaimed to lowly shepherds on a hillside. It’s just not.
I’m thankful that my mom and dad brought me to church where I learned that gathering to worship is more about who God is than who I am. I’m thankful that it shaped me into who I am today.
Maybe consider church as you set goals for the new year?
As life gets more difficult, more chaotic and more cluttered, going to church must become even more important according to Hebrews 10:25:
“Let’s not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (as things get tougher)
Find a good church where people are real and it’s about who God is, what Jesus accomplished and who we are in him. Make it a family priority.
I am afraid to write what is hurting my heart this morning because it will likely bring comments and reactions that add more hurt.
My issue is my own lack of understanding of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I run the risk of judging hearts and coming out with me being superior and more godly … and that’s baloney. I am not those things. When I hate those I want to label “haters,” I become a hater.
My opinion is that many in my Christian ranks are reacting in fear and that is at the root. The old book I study speaks of fear quite often. As, I read it, I am not to live in fear of man when I am trusting in my God.
When immigrants to our area were Muslim, the fear was that they would bring personal harm. All were judged by the actions of the radical. I get that because, as a Christ follower, I am often tied to the parts of our Christian ranks that picket funerals and spew venom though I am nothing like them. They use the same book I love to somehow justify their actions.
Now, the asylum-seekers are here because they chose Portland, Maine as a welcoming place and they have heard positive things about our state. They are here from the Congo which is 90% Christian. But, rather than welcome our brothers and sisters in Christ, many Christians are again reacting in fear.
I see fear that they carry disease and even E-bola (with its 2-21 day incubation period) despite them having been travelling 5 months or more. I see fear that they are going to take our stuff and eat our food and take our housing and rob our resources. And then I read Acts 2:44-45 about the believers being together, sharing and even selling their stuff to help other believers.
The “my stuff” fear doesn’t fit my theology because I see myself more as a manager of resources God has provided. In my paradigm, all I am and all I have is God’s.
I’d like to propose that we separate people from policy. Punishing people because we disagree with policy is, in my opinion, in opposition to the scriptures we claim to hold dear. Continue to debate the government policy you dislike with all the passion and vigor you want, but love the people in front of you with the love of Jesus. I believe that’s our clear calling in Christ
The bible is a difficult book. Love our enemies (read Matthew 5 for fun). Take care of widows and orphans (James 1:27). Our book also has a lot of guidance about how we are to treat aliens and strangers. It is also clear on how we are to handle people who refuse to work when they are able. In my personal dealing with immigrants I have always found them willing and expecting to work.
What would you do if war and violence were killing all around you and threatening your family? Would you choose fight or flight? What if your fight was impossible to win? Would you fight knowing your children would certainly be killed as well or put into slavery? I’d choose the Sound of Music, Von Trapp family route. I would do all I could to try to find safety. If we stay, we die. If we flee, we maybe die.
My plea is simple … see the people. See the children. And though it is near impossible for us Americans to even imagine, try to imagine yourself in their shoes. Please don’t blame them or punish them for the policy that brought them here. The policy is not their fault.
They are people.
My Christian brothers and sisters, I beg you to spend some time in what we call the “Word of God” and test your attitudes and actions based on its teachings. Decide who the “neighbor” is that you are called to love. Search its pages for direction on how we are to respond to strangers and aliens who end up in our lands.
Debate policy, shape policy, vote policy changes and legislate policy but please, for the love of God, love people.
Allow me to gush about this woman … the mother of my children.
I met her in college. She was a science major on a pre-vet track. She was heading to classes and labs all day and studied like a madwoman. She was rocking biology and physiology classes and cruising through organic chemistry. Well, no one “cruises through” organic chem but it didn’t bury her like it does so many others. She was dissecting cats and sharks and her perfume was a lovely scent of formaldehyde.
Me? I was a journalism major that someone placed in a science dorm with all the pre-med students and future veterinarians. I wrote papers while they studied genetics and memorized muscles and bones. No one had much time to play with me and I was a pest.
She wanted to work with large animals, not be a doc for doggies and kitties. I couldn’t picture this 5’1″ peanut wrangling livestock.
Then, after a 2+ years of study, and meeting me, she decided to change majors to Early Childhood Development with a concentration in Developmental Disabilities. (I tease her that she knew she was meant to develop my children!) She rocked that too, of course. Our conversations shifted from carbon compounds and the nervous system to Piaget and Erikson. I went from having no idea in one field to being totally clueless in another. The constant was that this woman amazed me with her discipline.
Me? I was a crammer. Thankfully, I had the type of brain that could read and retain just about anything because my study habits were awful. My hyper-focus kicked in about 12 hours before my exams and pulled me through. Thankfully, that changed in grad school!
Anyway, I married this straight A, incredibly smart woman with her desire to shape young minds and make changes in the way kids with developmental challenges were educated.
I still remember the day she came home from teaching her class of 1st graders or kindergarten kids (I don’t remember which) and told me that we would be teaching our kids at home. It was one of those frustrating teacher days that all our teachers deal with but this one pushed her over the edge. I thought it would pass but it didn’t.
I agreed to the homeschooling thing a bit hesitantly with the agreement we would reenter our kids in the “real world” at 6th grade. That didn’t work out when the school tested Josh, our first, and wanted to put him with 8th and 9th grade at 11 years old. Nope! I worked with 14 year olds and there was no way that would fly with me! I think I saw a smirk on Robin’s face. We didn’t even try with Shara because she was the same or stronger.
Robin taught me the difference between rote memorization for tests and training true learners to be problem solvers. I went from being impressed by the kid who could recite the Declaration of Independence to being more concerned that my kids know the philosophy and purpose behind it. She educated me while educating our kids.
She gave in and let Josh take honors biology in the school system. We never saw him open a book. The next year she said he would be learning chemistry at home and I thought she was nuts. (I forgot her background included organic chemistry.) I guess she did okay because today he’s an MD, with a PhD in chemistry.
I watched this incredible woman design and write custom curriculums for each of my children based on their interests and leanings. Each of them graduated at the top of their class of one and went on to thrive.
She never blows her own horn so I need to do it for her. She is an incredibly intelligent woman, a phenomenal mom and now, a spectacular Nana. She is always teaching.
When we are walking behind our kids with their kids and watching them interact, I like to pull her in close and say, “you did a great job, Mama. You built a wonderful family.”
She tells me I had a part in building it too. But, without her, this little pots and pans chaos parade would not be what it is today. She’s the core.
She’s quiet and unassuming and humble. I think people have no idea what’s wrapped up in that little package. She could easily be teaching chemistry or math. She could have been an RN with another handful of classes. She could have been a great veterinarian. But, instead, she chose to be Mom first and foremost and is still doing so today.
If you’re a child behaviorist, like my BCBA daughter, or an educator or even a biology or chemistry nerd, pull her aside and watch her eyes light up while you toss around the jargon that I don’t understand. This amazing woman goes far deeper than board books, puzzles and Duplo blocks.
I’m blessed to have my children call her Mom and blessed to be coming up on 35 years of marriage June 2.
Happy Mother’s Day weekend, Robin. I know you are embarrassed that I wrote this but, if there’s one thing you know after our 37+ years together, it’s that I am embarassing!
“What would the world be like without Captain Hook?”
“What if Clarence never jumped into the river to save George Bailey and Zuzu’s pedals?”
It’s the age-old, “what if I wasn’t here” question that mankind has wondered for years. It crosses my mind every Liver Day.
Liver Day is my liverversary – marking the occasion of Josh giving me 60 percent of his liver to save my life.
If the surgery hadn’t been successful, my smoking hot wife would never get a moment to herself. Male suitors would be after her like bill collectors after college grads! Instead she gets the joy of me going shopping with her and reminding her of my love with pool noodle love taps.
Emma wouldn’t be masterfully wrapping me around her finger and Ethan would not have a short-enough grandpa to headbutt in the groin. Calvin would eat less green muffins and lack his time of asking the Reverend deep, theological questions while negotiating five more minutes on the playground. And Chloe would not be growl-whispering “grumpaaaa” with her mischievous smile. And ice cream establishments might be out of business.
Pompom would be living with some other family and be named something lame like Snowflake or Miss Beardie. She wouldn’t be named for two great surgeons, Jim Pomposelli and Liz Pomfret.
My lawn definitely would not look so good and our $12 each fresh tomatoes grown in my garden would not be a summer treat. (I figure, with the amount of cash and labor I spend on my garden, it comes out to about $12 per tomato.)
There would be no daily Facebook drivel seen by 5% of the people that I have on this 21st century odd phenomenon called a “my friend list.”
And all my friends with cats would not be aware what a terrible pet choice cats are. They would have no one trying to set them free from feline mind control.
It’s Liver Day. It was 7 years ago today. Today I will eat a couple fried eggs, over easy, 3 strips of rubbery turkey bacon and some peppers and onions. I’ll drink 2 cups of froo-froo coffee, volunteer with my first-grade reading pals, go to my Rotary Club meeting and then spend my afternoon assembling a 5th annual report for the church that God plopped me into. Then, I’ll spend my evening pretending to help Nana babysit our four rugrats while their moms and dads have their LifeGroup.
It will be a great day. Pretty much all my days are great in one way or another. Even sick days, grumpy days, conflict days and hard days are great days when I consider that I nearly didn’t get the chance to have any more days.
Every day is a bonus day. It really is true. “Hey, I’m glad to be alive to have this crappy day,” is what I try to remember when crappy days come around. But, thankfully, most of my days are awesome and I try not to take any of them for granted.
Have a fantastic Tuesday. Write to your Congressman and try to get May 7 to be made a national holiday. Then, we could all get another day off and spend it enjoying each other. I’d like that a lot.
Do you need some resurrecting? On Saturday, all was quiet while Jesus was in the grave. Friends and supporters sat weeping with loss and dashed dreams.
Detractors were gloating and feeling some relief at finally being proved right and getting what they wanted.
Middlemen were glad to be out of the middle. Bystanders who never were quite sure what all the commotion was about anyway went back to their regular routine.
Who are you in the story? Bystander? Middleman? Detractor? Supporter? Crucified?
The crucified one lay in the grave. Just days before today they had a huge parade to welcome him into the city. The celebration was huge … hosannas lifted … coats and palms laid on the street. It was big. But, he knew.
The detractors were not happy. Detractors are rarely happy. They celebrate brief victories before moving on to their next target.
Supporters were at their peak thinking all they had dreamed about and planned for was finally coming into place after 3 and a half, long, often-difficult years.
Bystanders came out to watch the parade before going back to their regular tasks.
And the middlemen? They were just hoping not to have this spill into anything else bringing more work for the weekend.
Which are you?
Many of us have experienced some of what the crucified one experienced.
We remember the big celebration when we got the new job and everyone was thrilled to have us on board. And then we remember the conversation gradually changing around the water cooler over the next two years. We remember the feeling of friends changing sides to join the detractors and feeling betrayed. And then, we remember the end and giving our notice feeling numb.
Or, we remember the huge wedding celebration and being so much in love. We remember the talk of the future and building a life together. We remember the spouse who never had a harsh word, gradually moving to the other side of the spectrum and speaking only criticism. And then, for some of us, the agonizing pain of betrayal and the death of our dream came with “crucify” translated to “divorce.”
It has happened to the athlete who was the star. Gradually he stopped wowing his adoring fans and saw his Twitter feed change from “best ever” to “trade him” and “overrated.” “Crucify” in different language.
Or, you had the college graduation party, summa cum laude, with big dreams and bright future. And then, that changed as your biggest fans and biggest supporters, transitioned to telling you that dreams are fine but reality demands that you settle and “just get a job, any job.” And now you hear the beep of barcodes scanning 8-10 hours a day.
The pain of crushed dreams. The pain of betrayal when friends move to detractors. The pain of seeing that all your efforts apparently were not enough. The shouts of “crucify” translated to “you’re fired” and “you’re done.”
Jesus knew and he still walked forward. We had no idea and were taken by surprise but we can still walk forward. How? The same power that rose Jesus from the grave is alive in us.
It’s Saturday and many of us need resurrection. The good news is that Sunday is coming. The good news is that the detractors and middlemen have some major disappointments ahead. The good news is that Jesus did not quit but did exactly what he said he would do. He rose.
You and I are not finished.
“By Your spirit I will rise
From the ashes of defeat
The resurrected King, is resurrecting me
In Your name I come alive
To declare Your victory”
Tomorrow, Sunday, we will gather at 10 AM at 733 Main St in Westbrook to celebrate the resurrection. Join us. And yes, detractors, middlemen and bystanders are always welcome. And, if you miss it? We’ll be there next Sunday doing the same thing, and the next, and the next …
Some of you know that I see more in my photographs than the obvious. Things I photograph often speak to me.
Today, while I walked around a historic train yard, these old padlocks and weathered chain drew my eye. In the shape of a cross, the message of Easter on my mind, I pictured the locks busting open and the chains falling off. I must have looked strange spending so much time photographing the scene.
I thought of the power of the cross and the freedom I’ve found in Christ. “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free. My God, my savior, has ransomed me.”
But then, I thought of how easy it is for us to reach down to pick up those heavy chains. We choose to carry them wondering why we feel so weighed down, so depressed and such strangers to peace.
Drop them. Their only power over you is now the power you give them. Drop the hatred, the fights, the drama. Chill instead of raging. Stop partying in the pity pool and swim away. That faction-focused friendship is dulling you. It will always find a new fight.
Galatians 5:1 “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.”
Those are my thoughts today while photographing old trains. I like it when my photography sparks something within.
On Tuesday mornings, I volunteer at one of our local schools reading with first graders. I love doing it. Kids always make me smile.
Back in January, one little girl who is always pretty outspoken, was clearly frustrated. She explained that her teacher was making them write manuscripts and she said, “I don’t know why. I can never be an author.”
I told her she could be anything she set her mind to but she wasn’t buying it. I told her I could write books like the books we were reading and she laughed. “You’re not an author!” she said.
I have self-published some photography books for family and friends so, technically, I am an author but not in the distributed author sense. I was so determined to show her that being an author is not impossible that I found myself saying, “the next time I come read with you I will read a book I wrote.” She just laughed at me. Challenge accepted!
That left me needing to write and produce a children’s book and have it in hand the next time I came to read to the class. Thankfully, I had about 4 weeks to get it done between their school break and my being away for a conference and planning time.
Since the class always teases me about my aversion to cats, I knew my book had to be about dogs. I also knew that I wanted to convince my little friends that they can decide what they want to be in the future. So, “I’m Just a Dog” was born. Fortunately, a dog event was scheduled nearby during my time in Florida giving me plenty of subjects to photograph.
The class was pretty thrilled when I returned and read “I’m Just a Dog” for them because each of the dogs was named after one of the children in the class. The concept was simple, “Eva wants to be an artist but she can’t because she’s just a dog. But you can!”
That lead to wondering if perhaps I could find a traditional publisher for my children’s book and researching the publishing process. Several sources recommended approaching publishers with three projects demonstrating versatility. So, now I have three children’s books ready to go.
The publishing process, if I find someone, will take at least a year but if you simply cannot wait that long, each is available in a one-off printing service online that prints and ships book by book. (That makes them more expensive than they will be if they ever make it to the shelves of Barnes and Noble.)
It has been fun and, even if they never get published for real, my grandchildren will have some keepsakes from Grampa.
If you want to see, just click on the titles. That will allow you to see and read them online.
I’ve been doing some studying … mostly because I’m coming to the end of my six months of messages and teachings for the church I serve and am asking God what’s next. In the process I am looking in the mirror and seeing a change in myself that I do not like.
I’ve been at our little church revitalization work for just over five years now. When I started, I was just on the other side of the liver transplant journey that shook me to the core. It was a process that stripped me back to nothing.
When I started at this historic building on Main Street, I was in a place where I was vulnerable and absolutely awed by a God who I came to know more intimately than I ever before. I had been through difficult seasons in life. but I had never been totally broken and desperate. I always had some core strength or belief that I could do something, make some changes and pull myself through. The transplant journey offered none of that. Everything was entirely out of my control. All I had left was my faith and my people. And even some of “my people” distanced themselves from me because, like Job of the bible, I was too much to look at and too uncomfortable to be around.
When I started with this small group of people, all I wanted to do was worship and show others what I discovered. All I wanted to do was tear down barriers so that people could find the life-giving, always faithful, sustaining Jesus I had come to know so intimately. I remember times of singing songs in our gathered worship service and having to take a few minutes to compose myself before being able to speak. I went to worship. Not much else mattered.
Skip ahead to 2018. I am relatively healthy, just having the normal immunosuppressed challenges of catching most every virus and every bug going around. I am reestablished and financially secure in middle class Americana. I have appointments on my calendar, planning meetings to attend and even long-range goals. I remember not being confident enough to even plan things two months in advance because I didn’t know if I would be in the hospital or even alive. I am not desperate for God and the intimacy of suffering has faded. I’m operating on my own strength.
I have been studying why Americans go to church. I’ve been reading blogs, watching videos and studying church growth resources with their formulas for building attendance. I see things listed like:
attractive children’s spaces
quality coffee, welcome area
comfortable and inviting lobby areas
engaging stage design
practical, upbeat messages
parking lot greeters
I am being offered resources for attractive, targeted, direct mailings promising 1-2% response rate.
I just watched a young man make a very good and passionate plea for Christians attending church for the “right reasons.” It was all basically good stuff:
Because Jesus went to temple and the church is His Bride. He values it.
To contribute and serve.
To give your children a faith foundation.
Community – caring for each other and receive care.
Connections – personal and professional networking.
I’m reading a lot and watching a lot of presentations. There is no shortage of materials aimed at helping struggling churches attract people. That makes sense because the American church is not even keeping up with population growth. The American church is searching for the formula to fill the seats.
Worship, beyond a well-produced musical package, is missing. I am trying to discover when all-encompassing worship left the equation. When was it that gathering to simply worship God moved from the key reason for believers gathering to not even making the list?
I attended a large church service recently with a few hundred others and though the message was strong and the people welcoming, I was bothered. The band was tight and well-produced and the two large screens gave us the lyrics we needed.. We sang about how we can do anything in Christ, about how much God loves us, about our power in him and we sang about God’s “reckless” love pursuing us and chasing us down. I sang “boundless” because I can’t assign “reckless” to anything my God does. It was all good in reminding us of our position and standing in Jesus. But, I left feeling like I had worshipped myself rather than my God. Does that make any sense? It was all about me somehow … or, at least, that was my perception. The energy was great and the enthusiasm palpable. It was so good but I still felt like something was missing.
Worship is missing. Worshipping the living God for who he is, worshipping him for his character, his mercy, his love, his justice and his position is missing. It’s been missing in me.
I’ve been going to teach good Truths. I’ve been going to church worrying about who comes and if this person is happy or why that person doesn’t like me anymore. I’ve been going hoping that people will get something out of it and even hoping people find hope in Jesus. I’ve been hoping our children’s program grows and hoping we can see our music team add musicians in key spots. I’ve been putting presentations together and searching for memorable object lessons. But, I haven’t been going to worship.
When worship is my focus not many of the details matter. When worship is my focus I don’t tend to notice who came and who skipped and I don’t leave wondering if my message landed as a 9 or a 3. When worshipping God is my motivation, other things flow out of it naturally.
I want to stand up and say, “hey, if we’re here for something other than worshipping the living God, we’re here for the wrong reason” because that’s true of me. My God saved my life and preserved me not to revive a little church in Westbrook; that is not my primary purpose. He preserved me, saved my life so that I might worship him, give him all and then stand back and see what he brings out of that worship. This privilege I have to shepherd here in Westbrook is not about me at all, it’s an outflow of worshipping my God.
We’ve been fooled into thinking that our evaluations and our opinions are what matters more than anything else. We give our reviews and feedback immediately on Google or Yelp. Waitress too slow? 2Two stars. Meat overcooked a little? Two stars. Temperature in the theater just right and popcorn good? 4 stars. We really believe our personal opinions, preferences, likes and dislikes are the most important thing. We write our blogs, tweet our thoughts and compose our rants on social media fully believing that our “right to be heard” is tantamount.
And then, we bring that mindset into our churches where we evaluate everything, Children’s program? 1 star. Music, 3 stars. Coffee, 1 star. Decor, 1 star. Preaching, 3 stars. People, 4 stars. It goes on and on. It’s about us. It’s our job and responsibility as reviewers. We are the consumers.
I’ve been doing the same thing. It’s not unimportant to have quality programs. Cleaning is important and comfort is not a bad thing. But worship is to be our primary motivation.
I am not talking about ‘worship music,” if there is such a thing. I am not looking for a 4 star, tight, energetic, get-them-on-their-feet, great lights and sound, “worship experience.” What I long for is a total focus on being in the presence of God to worship him.
I’ve been blessed to worship singing along with a terrible guitar player trying her best. I’ve been blessed to experience powerful, authentic worship inside a large, hot, very uncomfortable big-top, tent. I’ve been moved worshipping with believers with no PA system and no electricity and I have worshipped in a setting with 5,000 others lead by a song-leader who became almost invisible, directing everything to God. I’ve been immersed in worship where the speaker was not polished or funny or energetic. In each circumstance nothing mattered except for gathering to worship the living God.
I’ve gone to our worship gathering for the past two weeks refocused on the immense privilege and mystery of joining with other believers, as the church, to simply worship. It has been good to get back to what matters. I haven’t worried about anything. In fact, I forgot my watch Sunday morning. I don’t know if I finished on time or started on time. But, I do know that I sang my prayers to my God through lyrics that focused on worshipping him. I know that I sang songs reminding me of my position in him as his child. I didn’t really notice much else. And I didn’t worry at all about the teaching time and who would like it or not like it. It was part of worship.
“Worship” is the word we use. But the Greek and Hebrew languages use a bunch of words to describe all the elements of worship: aboda, latreia, latreuo, latreia, leitourgia, proskyneo, shachac, gonu, gonupeteo, histahawa, shachac, proskyneo, homologia, thusia. Somehow we’ve reduced all of it into a 60-90 minute block of time that we attend when nothing better is pulling us away. For many people, it’s reduced even further into just the music portion of that 60-90 minutes. Somehow, worship is now about us and what it does for us. Did we sing songs I like? Was it the right length? Did it move me?
Worship is the response of grateful and humble people to the living God where submission, sacrificial service, praise, profession, testimony and gratitude are freely expressed in innumerable ways. ~ Lee Campbell, PhD
This relationship with God is so much bigger than a Sunday morning event. Worship is saturating, shaping and defining every day. Worship is not about me at all. Worship is my response to an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God who holds everything and is worth everything.
Worship is response, praise, sacrifice, obedience, fear, service, adoration. Worship is confession, testimony, study, conforming and bowing. Worship is always.
Sunday mornings are just part of worship. Gatherings of believers is when the supernatural mystery of God’s pleasure, power and presence meld when two or more show up to focus all on him together. He indwells corporate worship for his glory and his purpose.
Worship is not about me at all. And that, in itself, has freed me from so much of the pressure I was carrying.