Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Storms in Our Lives

We’ve all experienced some major storms in our lives or have been close to someone who has.

Storms such as:

You’ve lost your job, you’ve become estranged from a sibling, your spouse wants to call it quits, you’ve been given a life-changing or life-threatening medical diagnosis, or your son or daughter announces a lifestyle change you can’t come to grips with.

What can help you deal with this is contained in the three virtues. Faith, the belief, confidence, and trust in God. Hope, the optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes. And, love, kindness and compassion that facilitates interpersonal relationships. Of these three, love is central to each of these storms. It is the bond of love that even makes these situations storms in the first place.

During one of these life storms, imagine that you are in a row boat on a lake when the storm comes up. Will you be better off with one oar or both oars in the water? Well, both oars of course. These oars are faith and hope. Facing one of life’s storms with only one oar in the water is a recipe for simply going around in circles. If one oar is Faith but without the expectation for a positive outcome, circles are the best you can hope for. Also, it is the same if you have Hope but without a real trust in God, you’re circling again.

To paraphrase Isaiah; he wrote that God will carry you through every storm and give you the strength to make it. So, I’m asking God, not to make my life easier, but for Him to give me the strength to face my troubles.

We all have our storms so let’s pray together. Dear God, we bring You our burdens. You know our situation and You know we can’t make it without You. Comfort our heart, give us strength and help us carry on.

World’s Greatest Grandpa, Grandma, Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother . . . . .

When you’re not sure how you are affecting the lives of those you love and who love you, remember this dialog between grandchild and grandparent.

Grandpa: “How do think I am doing as a grandpa? I know haven’t had a chance to take you to a baseball game yet this summer.”

Grandchild: “Well, when I was at your house last weekend, you made me French toast. And, all the while I was there, you laughed at my knock, knock, jokes. And, when we went for a burger, you let me swap onion rings for the French fries. And, you let me sit on your shoulders so I could see over the neighbor’s fence. Most important, remember, I got you that mug that World’s Greatest Grandpa Mug. And you know what Grandpa? Mugs don’t lie!”

Update
The next infusion is being switched from next Monday to next Wednesday (July 1). I’m going with my three sisters (Jane, Colleen and Juleen) and brother (Patrick) to Camp Brosius for a long weekend and to accommodate the trip, the infusion will be two days later than scheduled. So, I won’t write this weekend. I’ll be too busy keeping my sisters from ganging up on Patrick.

I’ve missed some infusions for other medical reasons and I can say that concerns me. But, in keeping with all that I’ve been writing, my faith tells me that no matter what lies ahead of me, God is already there.

Stay strong! Keep on keeping on!

Father’s Day

There comes a time in our lives when we go into reflection mode. If you have been reading about my journey, you know that I’m in that mode. My thought today is to encourage us to become reflective sooner rather than later. For example, today is Father’s Day and since I wasn’t writing yet on Mother’s Day, I hope you didn’t forget reaching out to or thinking about your mother on Mother’s Day.

There is so much to be reflective about. Thinking back on all of the blessings we’ve received; a good stable home environment with loving parents, a supportive spouse who walks our journeys hand-in-hand, and loving children, some who might be in their early forties while others who might be well into their fifties but who still make us proud every day. Then there are the grand and great grandchildren some whose lives have really just begun. We know from the early indications that, they to, will make us proud. Hopefully, you will hear from all your children today; moms and dads alike.

Well, on this Father’s Day some are fortunate to still have their fathers with them while others still have the fondest memories of their fathers. If you can, reach out to your father today and tell him how much he means to you. If your father is not with you, share a story about him with someone who may not have known him. Edgar Guest’s poem, Only A Dad, can easily be about our dad, all of our dads.

Only A Dad

Only a dad with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame
To show how well he has played the game;
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come and to hear his voice.

Only a dad with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more
Plodding along in the daily strife.
Bearing the whips and scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.

Only a dad, neither rich or proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd,
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.

Only a dad but he gives his all,
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing with courage stern and grim,
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen:
Only a dad but the best of men.

Just like our fathers here on earth, our Father in heaven can be counted on when most needed.

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm,
For God can be trusted to keep his promise.” – Hebrews, 10:23 –

I can remember the many times when my dad made me feel safe. You see, I didn’t then and still do not “do dark.” Nighttime noises are usually followed by, “Sue, did you hear that? Should ‘we’ check it out?”

“I prayed to the Lord and he answered me freeing me from all my fears.”

“I cried out to the Lord in my suffering, and he heard me.”

“He set me free from all of my fears.” – Psalm 34:4, 6 –

Update

Busy weekend: had dinner Friday with daughter Sara and friends of ours and visited friends who are moving back to Chicago. Then, later today, dinner and quality time with our Indianapolis family members and thinking about how I miss the Pittsburgh (and San Francisco) families. Infusion tomorrow.

Stay Strong!

Say What You Mean, Do What You Say

A number of years ago I brought a colleague, Will Keim, to campus for leadership development work with students as well as faculty and staff who worked closely with those student leaders. Will had served as a campus minister in Corvallis, Oregon (Oregon State University) and had witnessed numerous occasions when a student or group of students responded to a situation in a less than appropriate manner. He is the first person I heard use the expression, “Say what you mean, do what you say.”

I think that many occasions could be summarized as, “they should have known better.” Well, they did know better but, unfortunately, when the situation presented itself, they went off script. Their initial reply had all the ingredients to suggest a successful outcome but, between the verbal reply and the physical delivery, something went dreadfully wrong.

For example, when you ask college students if they understand the consequences of drinking and driving or the consequences of binge drinking, the vast majority will clearly respond that they do. Then, some of those same students will be in attendance at a friend’s funeral who they allowed to drive after drinking.

I use this general example to point out the fact that we need to remember that there is a consequence for all we say or do. Dr. Keim writes in “The Education of Character” that you make choices daily in each situation you encounter and every choice is important. He writes, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” As you journey through life and you have time to reflect, you prefer ‘no regrets.’

He also writes that in life “there can be great pain and sadness. We all know some form of pain but we also know the Spirit. We cannot only survive the pain but we can use it to grow.”

Our friend Francine sent me this. “Whatever we’re going through, the Holy Spirit fills us. We have to have hope and keep our heads up. We are not powerless. God is working through us and in us.”

My close to home Say what you mean, do what you say involves our twins, Tom and Sara. In Junior High School they had afternoon newspaper routes. They had an agreement with their customers to have the newspaper delivered each afternoon by 5:00. Without fail, Sara completed her route by 5:00 even if she had to run and deliver the last few papers to beat the 5:00 deadline. Sometimes she actually sprinted.

Tom had a different issue. He tried out for Junior High basketball and made the team which meant the 5:00 deadline was impossible as practice lasted until 5:00. So, he sent a notice to each of his customers informing them of the change and for them to call him if there was a problem.

On the last night of basketball, he delivered a second notice saying that normal schedule would return the following Monday. Well, on Monday he returned home at 5:10 with a gash above his eye that would take six stitches to repair. When I asked him what happened, he said he had 10 papers and 10 minutes before the 5:00 deadline when he wrecked his bike and hit his head. He said he went into the clubhouse at the complex, looked into the mirror and realizing he wasn’t going to bleed to death, finished the route with a minute to spare. I then took him for the stitches.

I had just been shown an example of “Say what you mean, do what you say,” by two 13-year olds.

Update
I just spent the last three days going between Methodist and IU Hospitals with some bacteria in my blood. I had a fever of 103 on Sunday, went to the Emergency Room at Methodist, they sent me home, and brought me back on Monday morning, I stayed overnight on at IU on Monday. I was there to receive continuous antibiotic IV’s. Needless to say, I missed this Monday’s infusion. They sent me home Tuesday afternoon with oral antibiotics and I should return to my chemo schedule next Monday.

Stay Strong! Keep on keeping on.
Jeff

Take the Time Necessary to Really Get to Know Those With Whom Your Life Intersects.

We all have those people in our lives, beyond family and friends, whose support makes some aspect of our life easier. Support staff at work, people behind the counter everywhere, people working in call centers, all aspects of police and fire support, the person to whom you take your dry cleaning. I could go on. These people have good days and bad days and we likely never take the time to know why.

Of course, you can’t say, “I see you’re having a bad day. Care to share why?” It is a process to learn about them and in some of the examples I gave, the learning is more difficult. For those whose service happens often in your life, a few simple questions; how has your day been or finding a positive response you can give to that same question if they ask you.

Remember, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” On that not, I’m introducing Edgar Guest and then and excerpt from his poem, “When You Know a Fellow.”
Edgar Guest
From time to time I like to quote Edgar Guest. He has a poem for all occasions. Born in1891 in Birmingham, England, Guest came that same year with his family to the United States. After he began at the Detroit Free Press as a copy boy and then a reporter, his first poem appeared on December 11,1898. He became a naturalized citizen in 1902. For 40 years, Guest wrote sentimental, optimistic poems and was widely read throughout North America.

From his first published work in the Detroit Free Press until his death in 1959, Guest penned some 11,000 poems which were syndicated in some 300 newspapers and collected in more than 20 books, including A Heap o’ Livin’ (1916) and Just Folks (1917). Guest was made Poet Laureate of Michigan, the only poet to have been awarded the title.

When You Know a Fellow

When you get to know a fellow, know his joys and know his cares,
When you’ve come to understand him and the burdens that he bears,
When you’ve learned the fight he’s making and the troubles in his way,
Then you find that his is different than you thought him yesterday.
You find his faults are trivial and there’s not much to blame
In the brother that you jeer at when you only knew his name.

You are quick to see the blemish in the distant neighbor’s style,
You can point to al his errors and may sneer at him awhile,
And your prejudices fatten and you hates more violent grow,
As you talk about the failures of the man you do not know,
But when drawn a little closer, and you hands and shoulders touch,
You find the traits you hated really don’t amount to much.

There are two more stanzas and I encourage you to read Edgar if you haven’t already.

Update – Infusions have changed to Monday so I’m six days from my last one. The next one is tomorrow. The side effects have been minimal. My hair loss is in a holding pattern. I look as if I should be auditioning for the part of a gunnery sergeant in an old Marine movie. I like the sound of it, “Hey Gunney, what should I do with this extra ammo?” On a sad note, I may have lost my taste for beer. Sue and I went to dinner, I ordered my favorite and I sent it back thinking it was from a bad batch. I ordered my second favorite with the same result. Finally, I ordered a sample of a beer the waitress was sure I would like and I only took a sip. Sorry Lamke, you know have one less beer-drinking buddy. I’ll try a Cosmopolitan next time.

Seriously, all is well. To quote a Lakota prayer, “I asked to live happily, that I might enjoy life, I was given life, so I might live happily.”

Stay strong, Keep on Keeping On

If If’s and Buts Were Candy and Nuts, It’d Be Christmas Every Day

Always remember, be careful what you wish for and the grass ‘ain’t’ always greener somewhwere else.

A number of years ago I had the opportunity to work with Billy Mills as we did training and leadership development with the National Association of Indian Athletic Directors. Billy Mills grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He received a track scholarship and a degree in Physical Education from the University of Kansas. In 1964, he stunned the world by winning the Gold Medal in the Tokyo Olympics. Later his story was made into the movie, Running Brave.

Billy had many stories to share. The inspirational messages he shared came from Lakota Indian lore. As I became fascinated by the many messages, I read a book he had written, Wokini, which translated from Lakota, means, “New life, a life of peace and happiness,” In the story, Iktumi is regarded as a trickster and a liar. If believed, Iktumi is dangerous and Iktumi’s lies can ruin a person’s life. Iktumi’s lies steal happiness. Happiness should transcend all other goals in life. Happiness improves life in many ways. With it, all your goals can be realized. Real happiness is strength, peace and love.

The Eight Lies of Iktumi

If only I was rich, then I’d be happy.
If only I was famous, then I’d be happy.
If only I could find the right person to marry, then I’d be happy.
If only I had more friends, then I’d be happy.
If only I was more attractive, then I’d be happy.
If only I wasn’t physically handicapped (Or Didn’t Have Cancer), then I’d be happy.
If only someone close to me hadn’t died (Or Didn’t Have Cancer), then I’d be happy.
If only the world was a better place, then I’d be happy.

To counter Iktumi’s lies, what is needed are The Sticks That Fuel the Fire of Happiness
(My reflection is in parenthesis following each of the Sticks.)

Remember, you are the most special thing God ever created.
(We have to understand God’s role in our journey. We might be spiritually tested, but not abandoned.)

Appreciate what life has given you.
(If given lemons, make lemonade. Control your reaction when you can’t control the situation; Blog II)

View your life with optimism and hope for the future.
(If you believe God loves you, there’s hope for all things current and there’s hope for eternal life.)

Set new and interesting goals.
(Don’t stop living. List a series of milestones; births, birthdays, weddings, graduations, and a trip or two.)

Live each day as if it were your last.
(Create a God-centered plan for no regrets. Try to leave nothing undone. Go for the gusto!!!)

Adjust to life accordingly.
(There will be good days and bad days. Live them both to the fullest. Don’t hold back.)

Learn to live with and love yourself.
(Be one of your own best friends. “If you owe yourself a good time, be the first one to pay yourself off.)

Never be a perfectionist.
(Choose your battles. Let some things go. Trust in God to guide you in these choices.)

Learn to laugh at life.
(Keep your sense of humor. Through all of this, I have to keep my sense of humor.)

Learn to see the person’s perspective.
(Don’t let many years of thinking a certain way, get in the way of seeing what others see.)

Mills, Billy, Wokini, Your Personal Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding, Feather Publishing, 1990

My Update
It is nearly 24 hours since my most recent infusion and still no side effects. They give me a steroid for anti-nausea and it really seems to work. I’m eating less but more often and I still have all of my taste buds. Also, my unrepaired left knee hasn’t acted up since the treatments started.

I’m still asked for my thoughts on this ordeal and I think of one of the answers to Iktumi’s lies; “I said a prayer for health in order to lead a long life and was answered with infirmity so that I can appreciate each minute.” Well, I am now in the ‘appreciating the every minute’ mode.

Also, speaking of having a sense of humor, you know you don’t have to be able to tell a joke to have a sense of humor, you just have to be able to get a joke.

Prior to my next infusion, I’m taking my oncologist, Dr. Loehrer’s advice and having a breakfast of beets, brussel sprouts and egg plant casserole. I haven’t had any nausea yet so if I do for the first time, I want to be able to blame it on beets, brussel sprouts and eggplant. Then, since I’ve never liked them, I’ll have a reason to never try any of the three of them again.

We Can’t Control All Situations But We Can Control Our Reaction to Them

You can’t always control the situations around you but you can control your reactions to them. You determine what you think, so think good things. – Kenneth Copeland Ministries –

My dad was a veteran of many years as a mail carrier for the US Postal Service. His work day was often 4:00 am to Noon which left time for many part time jobs. Among other things, he painted houses, was a landscape gardener and was the part-time janitor at the church and school. This lesson came while I “helped” him clean the school. This particular time was when I was in the fifth grade. I was “helping” clean the boys’ bathroom; a large, open area, marble tiled floor, with the assorted necessities. You may remember the marble floors that were common in the 50’s and you may remember the intricacies of operating a buffer; push down when you wanted it to go and pull up when you wanted it to stop. Being a fifth-grader, the up and down thing periodically escaped me.

This particular day dad had the buffer poised and ready to go and stepped out in the hall for a minute. On cue, I started the buffer and had the up and down thing going well for a while. Then, just as dad came back into the room, the up and down thing did escape me. The buffer took off and the more it got away from me, the more I pushed down which is exactly the opposite from what I should have done. Well, the buffer darted forward into one of the open stalls, took a wicked left, wiped out the porcelain throne, and sent a mini Old Faithful shooting toward the ceiling. My first instinct was to drop the buffer and run. Just then it stopped. Dad had pulled the plug. Then he reached in and turned off the water supply. The closeness of the water supply suggested to me that this may have happened before.

There was no cursing or swearing which my dad wouldn’t have done even if we weren’t in a Catholic school. He simply said, “I’m glad one of us remained calm. You could have been electrocuted.” There it was. He couldn’t control the situation, but he could control his reaction to it. Oh, trust me, a, “this punishment is going to hurt me more than you,” remained a definite possibility but it was not evident at that moment.

When I’m asked how I’m handling all of this, I know I can only control my reaction with minimal worry, and a prayer to tell God what I need, and prayer to thank God for all of the good he has done in my life (Sue, our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchild,our siblings and our many other relatives and friends) and to focus on all that is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable and things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians).

Stay strong and keep on keeping on!

Smile: Things Could Be Worse

This is the first installment of “Funny things that happened to me on my way to getting sick.”

The plan is to share some of those funny stories mixed with things to think about that may be good for your emotional, spiritual and ultimately your physical health. Some of things to think about have been with me what seems like forever. Many were passed along by my mom, dad and various other relatives and friends.

The first of those “things to think about” my mom shared with me more than once when I was complaining about a bad break I thought I had received or a bad choice I made while hoping there would be a better result. Mom quoted my grandmother who used to say, “Smile, things could be worse.” Mom then said, “So I smiled and sure enough things got worse.” Her serious take on this expression was, “It is never so bad but it couldn’t be worse.” For me, that statement has never had more meaning than since receiving my pancreatic cancer diagnosis. My cancer could have happened when I was thirty-something and our children were in grade school and we had just started making a life for ourselves. Or, we could live a great distance from my treatment at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center instead of just two miles. As I receive my treatment, I see any number of people in the infusion area who are young, likely with young children, while others live so far away as to have to stay overnight on the day of treatment.
Also, only a few miles away at the Roudebush Veterans Hospital young men and women are being fitted for prosthetic devices and are learning to live with a whole new set of challenges.

So, while my diagnosis doesn’t seem fair, and I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to have cancer, I have to trust that God is making the journey with me. Yes, it could be worse and it will take a toll on family and friends who I worry will suffer, but we will make the journey leaning on each other comforted in the knowledge that we are all a creation of God who loves us, blesses us, and ultimately that he will heal us according to his purpose.

Stay strong and keep on keeping on!