As many of you know, my mom has been in and out of the hospital the last several months. She had part of her lung removed in 1997. Maybe that would be due to smoking during at least 65 of her 84 years. Earlier this summer, she contracted pneumonia and, along with the chronic COPD, complications caused her travel itinerary to begin in earnest. She has been in the hospital, then a rehab facility, then home, then back to the hospital, rehab and home, again and again.

My sister, Dana, the blessed saint-ess she is, has been there in Houston to monitor her care and deal with the doctors and deal with mom and move things forward. Patti and I have helped out when we can, but we’re not in the vicinity, certainly not there as much as my sister is.

Over the course of the past several months, we have tried to find levity where we can — just to avoid being in the dumps all around. For example, just when we think my mom is on a downward spiral, she has a period where she perks up, starts giving us orders and shows the clarity of thought and action that defies her age. We have joked that mom, like a cat, has nine lives. Except that over the past several months, she has gone well beyond the nine lives that most cats are allotted.

Seems like a long introduction to my point about God having a sense of humor. Don’t forget the comment I made about “having nine lives.”

Earlier this Spring, when Patti and I moved to Chicago, we both started walking … and walking vigorously wherever we went. We both walked the dog every day a couple times and I walked to work just about every day. It was about two miles to work — a brisk walk if I wanted to keep up with the regular Chicagoans who walked much more than I did.

Which brings me to the iPod. After a few treks back and forth to work, the glorious architecture that is Chicago’s becomes just another object to blot out the sun. To make the walking more enjoyable, I had my iPod. Now, mind you, I’ve had this iPod since Patti first gave it to me the Christmas of 2004. That year, between Christmas and New Year’s, I downloaded all our music library that we had on CDs. At last count, we had about 1970 songs on this little music machine. We moved the CDs into storage and I listened to the iPod for years.

Just before we moved to Dallas from the Chicago apartment, I noticed that my iPod was beginning to falter a bit. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. Once or twice, when I turned the little thing on, it gave me a reading that led me to believe there was NO music on the little instrument. The past couple weeks, the iPod has gotten worse. All sorts of whirrs and clinks come from this toy with a mind of its own.

I took it to the Apple store and met with the Genius representatives there. Imagine the looks I got from them. ‘Whoa! I’ve never seen a problem like this before! Herb, you ever seen an iPod act funny like this?” All sorts of disturbing responses coming my way from the experts. None of them good!

They told me Apple couldn’t really help and suggested some software available on the Internet that may be able to help. I made the small investment, downloaded the software and, lo and behold, a couple hours later, all the music I had taken years to acquire and download, was safely stored in my iTunes account on my computer. Whew!

I have a history of giving life to inanimate objects, much to Patti’s chagrin. Like, whenever the lawnmower doesn’t start, I get furious and kick and scream at the mower. That goes for the weedwhacker and just about any other tool designed to help man, including my iPod.

That is, until lately.

I think I look at these things a bit differently now. The facts that both my mom and my iPod, while at times seeming to falter, show weakness, display frail traits, and needing of a little extra TLC, helps me to realize that we’re all pretty much in the same condition at times … and many times not necessarily when we’re older.

I appreciate God’s help in giving my mom new strength. She is feeling very strong these days. We hope and pray it continues. As for the iPod, I have to laugh that since I got the software and transferred all the songs to my computer, that little instrument has bucked up and started operating perfectly as it once did. I don’t think it wants me to put it out to pasture yet. Wow, did I give that little music maker a personality?

As a bit of background, Patti was raised a Seventh-Day Adventist. I was raised as somewhat of a lapsed Methodist. Over the years of our marriage, I would like to think that I have strengthened my faith in God and his Son, largely due to the example  Patti has set for me.

As you can imagine with a diagnosis like pancreatic cancer, I hear from friends and family how I am “in their thoughts and prayers.” On occasion in the past, when I have heard disturbing news like this, I, too, have offered my thoughts and prayers to someone who is facing a difficult situation. It’s how we comfort each other. It’s how we show we care for our fellow man. It’s how we feel and how we believe that there are truly divine interventions occurring around the world on a daily, perhaps hourly, basis.

And this community of faithful can be so much more extensive than any of us believe or recognize. For example, in the past few weeks, my sister-in-law, Lisa, has told us how her sister, who is Mormon, has put us on the prayer list at the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. With a choir like theirs, it is sure to capture the attention of the Man upstairs.

Then, a friend of mine in D.C., Mike, told us how 30 Catholic bishops had gone to Vatican City to be installed as cardinals, and the head of the Catholic faithful in Washington, DC–a guy named Archbishop Daniel Weurl–was recently named a cardinal and went to Rome to be installed. Mike’s local Parish priest–Father Raymond Fecteau, the pastor of Our Lady of the Visitation Parish in Darnestown, Maryland–was one of the priests who was invited to go to Rome for the installation.

Turns out that the Pope gave a special blessing to all the priests who attended, telling them that they could bestow this blessing on those in their congregations back home, and that the blessing was especially intended for those who are ill and are remembered in the prayers of those back home. So, as Mike shared with us, “While receiving the blessing yesterday from Father Ray, I specifically thought of you and asked that the Pope’s blessing be extended to you.”
Then, just yesterday, Patti heard from a former neighbor, Alyssa, who passed along her best wishes and mentioned that her brother, Mark, is a cantor with the largest Jewish synagogue in Jerusalem. Mark told his sister that he was going to say a special prayer for us during Hannakuh, when the congregation was at its peak attendance and special prayers are in order.
This is a very humbling experience for me, personally. To be in the thoughts and prayers of Mormons, Catholics and Jews is a true testament to God’s tremendous influence on us all. Whether the prayers are said in the Vatican, the Mormon Tabernacle or the community church down the street, or by the bedside at home, I truly believe God hears all prayers and wants to protect his children from harm.
This stream of prayers is an immensely gratifying and humbling experience; one that I am so thankful to experience. Thank you again to the many who are offering prayers of healing and strength and power on our behalf. God bless you all and your loved ones.

My daughter, Kate, sent this after a visit yesterday with Carrie, Kate, Chas and my grandson, Carter. Further evidence of the things we are truly thankful for.

Reading time

This comes from Cindy, a friend I’ve had the complete joy to work with. She and her husband, Lee, live in the Woodlands.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010
I embody radiant health and vitality.

The human body is complex and beautiful. Every cell, tissue and organ is a masterpiece of divine engineering.

During my daily activities, my body protects, repairs, regenerates and revitalizes. It is a gift, worthy of my love and care. I stem any negative thoughts about my physical self and embrace a deep sense of gratitude for my body. I see that my body is blessed with the power and strength of God. I praise and give thanks for the divine life flowing through me.

As I see my body for the miraculous vessel and vehicle that it is, I experience greater fitness and health. I think health. I talk health. I see health expressing. I am the embodiment of radiant health and vitality.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?–1 Corinthians 6:19

Thank you, Cindy.

Last night, I physically and mentally stepped out in faith.

With our commitment to fight damien from the perspective of faith, humor, holistic medicine and conventional medicine, last night was the time to put faith in faith.

There are a variety of ways of getting anointed

A pastor that Patti and her brother, Bill, have known since childhood performed an anointment on me to invoke God’s healing powers to help me overcome the cancer. The ceremony is very biblical in nature, and for that I was extremely gratified.

In preparation for the anointment, Pastor Serns suggested I read James chapter 5. He also suggested another reading, and that I give some thought to any unresolved conflicts I may have had with others throughout my life. Whoa! Now, that’s a tall order! Not reading James, or the other reading, but the unresolved conflicts; that’s monumental.

While I took some quiet time to study James 5 and the other reading, all the time there was that nagging notion of how best to resolve some of these conflicts. After some deep prayer, I came up with my list. Perhaps not as many as some people may have, but maybe more than others. It’s not a competition, really. Either way, they are mine and I own them.

I resolved the best way I could reach each of these people and ask their forgiveness. It was an extremely therapeutic exercise, and I am so completely glad I did it. It was like freeing a bird that had been in a small cage too long.

When the pastor and his elders visited, we started with prayer. Pastor Serns asked if I had some lessons that I had learned from my “homework” assignment. I mentioned that the portion of James 5 where James talks about the importance of having patience really struck a nerve. Whatever our wants, needs or desires may be, it is ludicrous to ask God to provide them on “our” time, but on His time.

Then, each of the witnesses provided a comment or two, if they wished, about the importance of God’s healing powers. We had some additional prayers, the pastor anointed my forehead with oil, and the anointment was complete.

Do I feel better for having gone through this exercise? You betcha. Was it freeing? Absolutely! Does it help me feel a better connection between faith in a God that heals and my illness? Of course. It was a very solemn exercise and I was comforted by the entire event.

Thank you, Pastor Serns, and to your elders, for surrounding us in your prayers and requests for the healing powers of our Lord.


The other day Patti, Casey and I were painting at the ranch house in Murphy, Texas. We were either painting trim, walls, sills or electrical faceplates.

Others like 'stoops' too

At one point, I took a break and went out to the small set of stairs that lead from the back door to the walkway to the garage. When I was a kid, we called these stairs a “stoop.”  My buddies and I would sit on the stoop and decide where we were going to play marbles, or build a treehouse, or play army at the nearest playground.

As I got older, the once reliable stoop gave way to chairs for the deck, or Adirondack chairs beside Lake Taylor in Bainbridge Township, Ohio, or those folding chairs we all carry with us to concerts in the park, or to our children’s soccer  or baseball games.

On this particular day, the air was blowing slightly, wispy even; the sun was bright and warm to the skin.  With the back door, slightly open, I could hear the teasing banter back and forth between Patti and Casey. I could hear Texas boot scootin’ music from Pandora on the iPad, and I could also hear the horses kicking their stalls in the nearby barn. Also, it was easy to hear the movement of machinery and equipment at the middle school under construction nearby.

Sometimes, the most comforting feeling a body can enjoy is taking a few moments to not make any noise, but to just be still and listen. Listen to the sounds of laughter from the people you love, music that inspires and moves you deeply, animals that share the same air and space with you and even nearby neighbors who are going about their business without even the slightest knowledge of your presence.

I’m sure we will find some chairs that may be more comfortable, but on this day, the “stoop” was the absolute best place in the world to be, and I’m sure it won’t be the last place I get the chance to stop and just listen.

Chrissy passes along these inspirational passages:

“Prayer is the answer to every problem in life.  It puts us in tune with divine wisdom which knows how to adjust everything perfectly.  So often we do not pray in certain circumstances because from our standpoint the outlook is hopeless.  But nothing is impossible with God.  Nothing is so entangled that it can not be remedied.  No human relationship is too strained for God to bring reconciliation and understanding.  No habit is too deep rooted that it can not be overcome.  No one is so weak that he can not be strong, no one is so ill that he can not be healed.  No mind is so dull that it can not be brilliant.  For everything we need if we trust God He will supply it.  If anything is causing worry or anxiety, let us stop rehearsing the difficulties and trust God for healing, love, and power.”

Thank you, Chrissy

Phil is a friend of mine from Cleveland. While he is now in Dallas, and so are Patti and me, Phil and I had a wonderfully harmonious and synchronous working relationship in Cleveland. He sent along this set of guidelines from a coach he had in high school:

For times you may need it;

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,

When the road you are trudging seems all up hill,

When your cares are weighing you down a bit,

Rest if you must, but don’t quit!

Phil, thanks a million for this item. It reminds me of a slogan I heard years ago, which says that the most powerful words in the English language contain no more than two letters:

If it is to be, it is up to me!

I realize that this may be good information and a fancy slogan, but it is also indicative that without the Lord, none of these two letter words will take place.

What do you think?

Chrissy, you are right. This prayer says it so well:

Dear God, I ponder Jesus’ words. The purpose of asking, seeking and knocking through prayer is to refine my ability to request what You want to give most of all. The one blessing You do not give until I ask is the fullness of Your own indwelling Spirit. You surround me, protect me, watch over me arrange life’s circumstances for my good and growth; but You do not give the fullness of Your Spirit until I cry out for nothing less than an infusion of Your very life in me.
I know that You constantly are at work preparing me to realize that my deepest need is for the power of Your Spirit. I acknowledge that need now. Father, anoint my mind and heart with Your Spirit. I open myself completely. Grant me the strength, joy, peace and power of Your indwelling Spirit for the challenges of today. Imbue me with the wisdom, insight and understanding I will need for today’s problems.
Especially, fill me to overflowing with the gift of love. I think of particular people to whom I need to communicate love today. When I remember the sheer delight of being loved by You through another person, I want to love in the healing, helpful, hopeful way today.

Part of what we hope to do with this information sharing is to return to you the blessings your friendship has been to Patti and me over the years. If any passage we put here is helpful to you, or to anyone you know, please pass it along.

When I said, “My foot is slipping,”

your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.

When anxiety was great within me,

your consolation brought me joy.

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