Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In the End It Turned Out Well

Monday I endured the indignity of having a colonoscopy. When one is being delivered from every morsel of food so that a ridiculously long scope can be inserted in a part of the body that no one else should ever see, there are plenty of things to reflect about.

However, a couple of friends passed on to me the reflections of syndicated columnist Dave Barry. Anyone who has had a colonsocopy will absolutely laugh out loud at Barry's comments. I think that most of the rest of you will enjoy as well.

With that setup I defer to Dave Barry's colonoscopy journal:

I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. A few days later, in his office, Andy showed me a color diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis. Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner. I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn't really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, quote, 'HE'S GOING TO STICK A TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR BEHIND!'

I left Andy's office with some written instructions, and a prescription for a product called 'MoviPrep,' which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven. I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America's enemies.

I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous. Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my preparation. In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavor. Then, in the evening, I took the MoviPrep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one-liter plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a liter is about 32 gallons.) Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes - and here I am being kind - like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.

The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humor, state that after you drink it, 'a loose, watery bowel movement may result.' This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground.

MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: Have you ever seen a space-shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.

After an action-packed evening, I finally got to sleep. The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous. Not only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage. I was thinking, 'What if I spurt on Andy?' How do you apologize to a friend for something like that? Flowers would not be enough.

At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said. Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.

Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep. At first I was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this is, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn your house.

When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist. I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I was seriously nervous at this point. Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand. There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was 'Dancing Queen' by ABBA. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, 'Dancing Queen' had to be the least appropriate.

'You want me to turn it up?' said Andy, from somewhere behind me. 'Ha ha,' I said. And then it was time, the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.

I have no idea. Really. I slept through it. One moment, ABBA was yelling 'Dancing Queen, feel the beat of the tambourine,' and the next moment, I was back in the other room, waking up in a very mellow mood. Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent. I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that It was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colors. I have never been prouder of an internal organ.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Thank God for Reuel Hemphill

Last month one of my greatest supporters left this world and crossed over into the next. Reuel Hemphill was just shy of her 100th birthday.

“Miss Reuel”, as most of us called her, belonged to one church her entire life, the First Baptist Church of Fulton, Kentucky. She began teaching a Sunday School class at age 16 and continued to teach for 70 years!

When I arrived as the new senior pastor of FBC Miss Reuel had been on staff with the church as Assistant to the Pastor for 36 years. She decided to retire during my first month and I begged her not to. She gave me 6 more months which I treasured. More than a wealth of knowledge about my job and the general state of every member in the church (over 800 of them), Miss Reuel loved God and loved people better than anyone I had ever seen.

Miss Reuel’s daughter found a hand written document that was her personal prayer list for her pastor. She prayed these things for every pastor she had for the past several decades. I now understand more clearly why I saw so many of God’s blessings while serving as her pastor.

Here’s the list:
1. Pray that God will protect your pastor spiritually.
2. Pray that your pastor will be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
3. Pray that your pastor will know God’s will and do it.
4. Pray that your pastor will make personal devotions and quiet time a priority.
5. Pray that your pastor will resist temptation.
6. Pray that your pastor’s ministry will be Christ-centered.
7. Pray that your pastor will be concerned for the lost.
8. Pray that your pastor will have a compassionate heart.
9. Pray that your pastor will handle appreciation well.
10. Pray that your pastor will give glory to God.

Occasionally Miss Reuel would lean over toward me with her eyes glancing around to make sure no one was close by to overhear and she would whisper, “Now don’t tell anyone but you are my favorite pastor.” Somehow I believe that every pastor she had was her favorite at the time he served FBC. I still learn from her as I remember and reflect on her life.

I look forward to seeing her again someday when I cross over. Great is her reward in heaven.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday Abraham Lincoln

Today is the 200th birthday of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. Traditionally our country has honored and greatly esteemed Lincoln both for the way he presided over our country during the Civil War and because of his tragic death by assassination.

Much has been written and told of his values, faith, leadership, compassion, and humility. In anticipation of February 12, Lincoln’s 200th birthday, more effort has been made in the attempt to demythologize Lincoln or to show how he was not as great as we thought.

I’m not sure that I really get the motivation behind the effort. Perhaps there are reasons nobler than just selling books or gaining viewership for televised specials.

In any case, as far back as I can remember I have been intrigued with and in awe of Lincoln. Perusing some of his axioms recently (and there are many) I came across this one for today—

“It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

Jesus Christ has been the One to put “life” in my years and I’m forever grateful.

Friday, February 06, 2009

America's Best Leaders

Recently US News & World Report identified the 24 best leaders in America. It is an interesting list. The list includes business leader Jeff Bezos of Amazon, film maker Steven Spielberg, athlete Lance Armstrong, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and 20 others from the arenas of education, science, government, non-profits, music, health and military.

The interesting omission to me was the arena of religion. In their opinion there was no religious leader worthy of note. A by-line to the article was, “This year’s Best Leaders are the kind of people who can help lead us out of our doldrums.” Really?

First, I mean no disrespect to those honored and recognized on the list. Those names that are familiar to me I esteem for what they do and those names not familiar to me were impressive in their brief descriptions.

Second, I certainly see the necessity of national defense, health care, education and a strong economy. But friend, people are more than their physical and natural needs. We are spiritual. We are a soul within a physical body. The integration of self, loving connection with others and personal engagement with the Creator are not secondary issues.

I’m totally aware that there are divisive, arrogant, obnoxious and irritating religious leaders. There are those types in every arena of life. Without naming names I can point you to religious leaders that run organizations and inspire armies of volunteers to feed the hungry, provide housing, do job training, build a variety of bridges to dozens of ethnic groups, establish health clinics for the poor, and facilitate scores of compassion based efforts toward those in distressing circumstances.

If some anti-religion types had their way they would prefer that all types of religion be removed from society. I would suggest that one think that through to the logical conclusions. If Christianity were totally removed from this country, and from the world for that matter, I believe society as we know it would self-destruct.

Congratulations to the 24 Best Leaders. Thank God for the thousands of religious leaders who continue to add a rather invisible service and value to our lives.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Living in a DVR World

“It changed my life.” I don’t say that about many things.

A few years ago my father-in-law upgraded from an older model Tivo to a newer. He was singing the praises of Tivo and asked me if I wanted his old unit. I said “Sure” without much conviction. I had a VCR where I could record programs so I didn’t “get it” as to why he was so enthused about a DVR.

I received his old unit and literally didn’t connect it to my TV for nearly a year. I forgot about it. Then I heard a few other people talk about their Tivo and really for the first time “got it” that you could not only record TV programming but you could stop live programming, rewind for up to 30 minutes and play it again. This meant that if I got a phone call in the middle of a program, or a family member needed my attention, or I wanted to go to the kitchen and get a snack, all I had to do was press the pause button. I could come back anytime within 30 minutes and resume watching.

This past Sunday I watched the Super Bowl with friends. Throughout the game we were not only entertained with the commercials we were looking for the one second Miller commercial and the half second Ivars commercial. We couldn't believe companies were paying big bucks for what amounted to a micro advertisement.

When the mini commercials blew right by us we stopped the programming, pressed rewind and viewed the commercials again. This practice of stopping a live program and pressing rewind is a regular habit of my television viewing. If I missed a word or phrase of important dialogue I replay it. If the network doesn’t give me the replay on a great basketball move that I want to see again I replay it. If something was really funny I replay it.

This “DVR way-of-life” is a little dangerous. Now I find myself in a live conversation and if I wasn’t listening carefully enough I feel my finger twinge like I want to press the rewind button. I’m driving down the street and catch something out of the corner of my eye and my finger twitches. My control over the television doesn’t translate into control over real life.

The look in someone’s eye, the expression on a baby’s face, the nuance of someone’s comment can’t be recaptured if I wasn’t prepared to seize the moment. If I fail to seize enough moments then I’ve failed to seize the day. That can lead to missing out on a lot of life.

God help me to not be careless in connecting with others, with experiencing the moment, or with communing with Your Presence.