Archive for November, 2010

“And the hits just keep on coming.”

The past two weeks with Luke in the hospital are best summarized in the clip below.

We are up against something a little bigger than a shotty colon. It’s good to remember that we humans are more than just flesh and blood. We have a mind and a spirit and if one of those is out of wack, then our bodies are affected as well. It appears that this may be happening to Luke. For the past four days, Luke has not wanted to get out of bed, walk around, go to the playroom, go to the lobby, go to the rooftop playground, or eat. It’s as if his mind and spirit have given up because of what is going on in his body. One of the Docs pulled Amy into the hallway today and said that she needs to be Luke’s cheerleader. She needs to encourage him to get out of bed, no matter how bad it hurts, encourage him to eat even though he may throw it up. He said that for every day Luke spends in bed is another three days of recovery. I can’t tell you how difficult that is. When you are in the hospital with a patient, the temptation is to just sit around and watch TV, to disengage.

Please pray that the Lord would move Luke to get up, walk, play, engage his mind and heart, so that his body will recover.

I apologize for the film/television clips, but my default is both theology and pop culture. It helps me to connect my faith to things that I see in the culture. One of those art forms is “Friday Night Lights”. Amy and I call it the best show that no one is watching. This clip from season four (click here), episode one illustrates how we have all felt these past two weeks (the song in the clip is Sufjan Stevens‘ awesome cover of “Come Thou Fount”):

I will hold these lyrics from this wonderful hymn close to my heart this week as I cling to the only hope I know, Jesus, to get me and Amy and Jack and Luke through this trial.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

The past three posts have felt pretty heavy to me. Even in a really hard time, I believe the Gospel frees us up to laugh. So here is some humor that helps me:


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Jesus Got a “No”

We’ve been here at the hospital in Winston for 10 days now. Luke is progressively moving along. Today they transitioned him to a liquid diet and he was able to hold it down. Tomorrow, he may be able to eat solids. Right now, they are saying he can come home on Wednesday.

Living in a hospital for 2 weeks gets pretty exhausting, but we have moved into a routine. Amy and I have taken turns staying with Luke while the other stays at the Ronald McDonald House with Jack (the RMH is awesome, btw). Here is a typical day: around 6:00 am, the docs come in, flick on all the lights, talk really loud, and check to see how Luke is doing. Then they leave. Then we go back to sleep, kind of. Then the nurses come in and out and check on their stuff. Around 7:45, the cartoons come on. Then I get up and take a shower. Then we sit around. Then we get Luke up with all of the wires and tubes attached all over his body and walk him to the playroom. Then back to the room to sit around. Then lunch (we don’t eat in front of Luke b/c that is cruel and unusual punishment). Then we sit around. Well, you get the picture. At the beginning of the week, I was doing lots of reading (Tim Keller’s new book, Generous Justice) , but then after Luke’s second surgery, I crashed and haven’t read since then.

This week has marked something new in my walk with Jesus. Most people who know me would say that I am a very optimistic Christian. I am always telling Amy, “Don’t sweat it, God is in control.” I still believe that, really, I do. But this week, God showed me that sometimes He says, “No,” to my prayers. This shook me in a very profound way. I have been asking, “Jesus, why does Luke and our family have to go through all of this? Can’t You just fix his dad-burn colon, so we can out of this hospital and go home? Why does Luke have to go home with a “poopy bag”? Jesus, do You have any clue what our medical bills are going to be? Don’t You care for us?”

Jesus’ disciples asked similar questions when they were with Him. Have you ever asked God questions like that? If you haven’t, then your relationship with God may be fake and shallow. God takes us to the edge and He says, “Are you going to trust Me?” Jesus has taken me to the edge this week.

I once heard Tim Keller say in a sermon that Jesus understands when we get a “No” from God when we pray to Him. In the Garden of Gesthemane, the night before Jesus’ death, Jesus prayed to God the Father to remove the “cup” from Him. Jesus was asking the Father to take away the cup of wrath that God had stored up towards sin that would be dumped out on Jesus on the Cross. Jesus prayed, “Father, please figure out another way to win your rebellious kids back. There’s got to be another way, but not My will be done, but Yours.” Jesus prayed and got a “No”. Matthew 26 records that Jesus prayed this 3 times and each time He got a “No.” 3 Times! So, Jesus submits to the will of the Father with joy and He drinks every drop of the cup of God’s wrath and He accomplishes salvation and redemption for everyone who believes. That is flippin’ awesome! Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…

I write all of this to make this one point: God the Son understands what it is like to get a “No” to a prayer. I don’t know the will of God. Perhaps, God has allowed all of this to happen to Luke and us this past week (and past 5 years), so that when folks in our little church in Tryon, NC look at us, they can see what faith looks like when things are shitty in life (hope I didn’t offend anyone, but that is literally what our life has been like with illestomies, colostomy bags, etc.).

Last night, I was surfing Youtube and I found this song by a dude I have never heard of. The song resonated with me.

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The past two days have been rough. I hit a wall yesterday where I had “spiritual amnesia”. The Christian life is progressive in the sense that I continually need to be reminded of the Gospel. I felt a little like one of my favorite dead preachers, Charles Spurgeon, who battled depression for most of his life. There were times when Spurgeon couldn’t get out of bed and preach to his 20,000 hearers in London and he would ask one of his elders to preach the sermon.

Today is a new day and Luke is doing a lot better than he was yesterday. He is still confined to his bed, but by tomorrow he should be able to get up and move around and begin eating liquids and then hopefully by Saturday he will begin eating solids. Poor guy, he hasn’t eaten real food since Tuesday a week ago. But we are thankful. Thankful for many things: family and friends dropping in for hospital visits, the doctors, nurses, and staff here at Brenner’s, the Ronald McDonald House, the mochas at Border’s, Moe’s, the playroom and rooftop playground here at Brenner’s, the many cards and gifts from our church family at Grace Foothills (woo woo), and thankful for grace during this difficult time. I was reminded of this reality when I read a quote from Paul David Tripp:

“God’s grace means that I can rest assured that I’ll have everything I need to be what he wants me to be and to do what he wants me to do in the situation in which he’s placed me.

I’m no longer restricted to the limits of my own strength and wisdom. By his grace, I’ve a new identity and a new potential. I’m a child of God; the risen Christ now lives inside of me. I need no longer fear people or circumstances; I don’t have to feel weak in the face of suffering or temptation, because I no longer rest in the resources of my own ability. I’m in Christ and he’s in me.

This new identity gives me new potential as I face the realities of life in this bent and broken world. God’s grace gives me reason to ‘take heart.’”

The morning of his surgery last week, we were all in his hospital room watching the Today Show. They showed a video that morning that Luke has been asking to re-watch several times this week on Youtube. The Lord has used this video in our lives this week. It balances out where I was yesterday as I was comparing myself to George Bailey.

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Luke Out of Surgery

Just a quick update. Luke just got out of surgery (7:15) and he now has an illestomy, something he has had previously. An illestomy is a small portion of his small intestine that is poking out of his tummy and this is where his stool will come out of into a colostomy bag. It’s not the greatest of scenarios, but the illestomy became our “new normal” for over two years, so I think we will manage.

Thanks for you prayers and putting up with my doubts. As a father of another suffering child from Mark 9 said to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24). I also need that re-orientation back to the simplicity of the Gospel.

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An Unexpected Surgery

Luke just went into surgery (at 3:45). He developed an infection from the previous surgery last week. Luke was recovering quite well until last night. The NG tube was taken out yesterday and he began drinking some water. He even passed gas and had a bowel movement in his sleep. By this morning, he had sharp pains in his tummy and developed a fever of 102. He had an x-ray done around 2:00 this afternoon and the technician was alarmed at what she saw. He has air and bacteria that is leaking out of his colon, probably where the incision was made in the colon resection. Now he is back in the OR and they are looking for the leak. When he wakes up, Luke will most likely have an illestomy, bypassing the colon all together. Luke had an illestomy for 2 years, so we are accustomed to that. We can come back later this coming Spring or Summer and have the illestomy reversed if we so choose. At this point, I have no idea what’s going on.

Which brings me to God. I understand that God is sovereign, which means that He is in control of everything. I do not believe that God is distant or that God is disengaged from me, my family, or the world. I believe in a God who “puts skin on and moves into the neighborhood”. Theologians call this the Incarnation (“in the flesh” from the Latin), something that we will celebrate next month at Christmas. I believe all of that, but at this moment, I am struggling to believe all of that. I feel like George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, when he prayed to God for some help and he got a punch in the nose.

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We Need an “Awakening”

It’s Monday, day three of Luke’s post-op (that is Dr. speak BTW). He still has an NG tube in his nose which means he has not spoken since Friday morning. I am sure that most parents sometimes get annoyed at the sound of their kid’s voices (“Ja-ack!”), but not hearing Luke speak for three days now is gut wrenching. We have a pad that he writes on to communicate with us, which kind of reminds me of Stephen Hawking. Anywho, the tube stays in until his intestines “wake up” and he begins to pass gas (a fart, if you are in Middle School) and hopefully a bowel movement. So we are waiting.

This idea of of Luke’s intestines “waking up” made me think of two things: The Gospel and the TV show “Lost”. There was a period of time in America called The Great Awakening (1730-1740’s). From Wikipedia, “Pulling away from ritual and ceremony, the Great Awakening made religion intensely personal to the average person by fostering a deep sense of spiritual guilt and redemption, and by encouraging introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality.” Two dead dudes (they were not dead at the time) that God used during this time were George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards. What Jesus did through these guys was nothing short of the miraculous. Basically, religious people who thought they were Christians, were struck by the preaching of Whitfield and Edwards, and came to the conclusion that they were not Christians and responded to the gospel of grace with faith and repentance. They repented of their “churchianity”, something that needs to happen here in the American South.

Much like The Great Awakening, Luke’s colon needs a “great awakening”.

I also thought of the last season of “Lost”. If you haven’t seen “Lost” (and you need to, go ahead and put it in your Netflix queque), these clips may not mean much, but when I saw them last May, I was struck with how they parallel with the Gospel. The whole point of the Gospel is that our hearts need to be “awakened” with grace. Without grace, our hearts are dead and cold, so we need Someone from the outside, Christ, to come and awaken our hearts and remember who God is and who we are. Notice in these clips, that someone’s “awakening” happens when someone from the outside touches them. We are unable to spiritually awaken ourselves. That is what these clips are about (note: the pluralistic theology of the writers doesn’t quite fit with historic Christian orthodoxy, but the point of being awakened still stands).

And to continue this theme of “awakening”, here is Skillet, whom Luke and I will be seeing in concert on December 5th with the youth group of Grace Foothills.

Please continue to pray for us and for the Lord to “wake up” Luke’s colon.

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15 Second Update

Today has been a good day. Luke is still recovering, so most of the day was spent in bed for him. He has gotten up a couple of times. Nothing really new to say. Just waiting.

We checked into the Ronald McDonald House this morning and their facility is amazing. Amy and I will take turns staying with Luke and the other will stay at the Ronald McDonald House and eat all the cheese burgers you can imagine 🙂

Thank you for your prayers. They mean more to us than you know.

And here is Luke in his usual form:

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