Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tough Blessings

It is pretty rare that I talk about what is going on in my personal life in the blog. These good times are over for my readers, at least for today.

About a year ago life slowed down for me a lot. Not long ago I was walking 2 miles a day on my half hour lunch break and after work I was riding my bike for miles. Weekends were spent in the mountains hiking. I knew something was wrong when I carried a server (not heavy at all) into a storage room and couldn't recover my breath. I felt like I had just ran for miles, I was out of breath and panting heavily and it was like the deep inhalations were not doing anything. Then just after Thanksgiving 2014 I began having coughing fits and running out of breath just walking across the room. My bride asked me if I wanted to go to the emergency room and completely out of character I said "Yes"

I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, COPD, and a pulmonary embolism in the mix to make life interesting. For the next 365 days I have been in and out of several hospitals for all kinds of things including a couple of bouts with pneumonia, some very annoying issues due to blood thinners, physical therapy, and tests tests tests. I'm on oxygen so travel is very difficult and when a new doctor asks me if I'm still working and I reply "yes" they always look shocked.

It's been a year now that I've been leashed to an oxygen concentrator at home and work, and I walk around with an oxygen tank hanging from my shoulder and a cannula (hose) in my nose. At our introductory meeting at BSF I introduced myself and introduced my tank as a physical reminder of God's blessings, and  I made sure the guys were all well aware of what I mean when I call my "scuba gear" a blessing. The events of the past few years have made me reflect on what God is up to with me.

Slowly I can see the parts of God's plan for me coming together a little, to me it is still a disjointed mish-mash of events and meetings seemingly without cohesive meaning but every now and then a couple of things come together and I realize that God is up to something awesome. If He wants me to know what He is doing He will tell me, but Christ Jesus is my Lord and He doesn't have to answer my information requests, and to be honest I think He already did cover most of them with this:
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)
A lot of my life was spent wearing the USAF uniform, my job was very physically demanding, potentially dangerous (especially if you do it wrong), and vastly important. (Without guys like me the USAF would just be a collection of flying radios). Then without a break I moved from Bombs and Bullets to PCs and Laptops, and it took a while but I soon discovered the joys of doing a job where no one might die from your actions or lack thereof. Learning that death and destruction was no longer my occupation was a nudge closer back to Him.

It was then that I went back to school to use the GI Bill that I earned. I started out taking classes that I wanted to take and continued that path until my advisor chased me down and gave me that bad news: "You got more than enough credits, now get out of my school". The one class that I loved more than all others was "The Bible as Literature". I've heard this class being derided by several pastors, but I'll bet they never had the class I had. Studying Genesis and Ruth under a Rabbi was incredible! Understanding the nuances of Jewish law makes Revelation so much easier to understand. Learning that God's word is the most interesting thing I've ever read was a nudge closer back to Him.

After school was over I moved to the mountain west, a land I came to love decades previously, and there God brought my bride and I together. After letting us tour the mountains that we love so much (we actually got married in a mining town saloon) He led us to the First Congregational Berean Church which is the most wonderful church family I could have ever imagined. Gaining a church family of loving Bereans was a huge nudge closer back to Him.

Then it became apparent that God wants me to slow down and pay attention to other things. Sometimes it's hard to remember to thank God for all of it; every twinge, every gasp, every handful of multicolored pills is a blessing.
16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Yes, God did take a few things away, free mobility, the ability to lift anything over 30 lbs, endurance,
The Wonderdog
that kind of thing. But think about it: what good is the ability to run 5 miles if no one is chasing you? I prefer a slow stroll with SwampThing The Wonderdog and I can dedicate my time on the walk to prayer without worrying about turning an ankle.

He even took away the mountains, mostly. I've found that traveling to high altitudes (above 8,000 feet) for any period of time is a painful experience and it's best if I do it on very rare occasions. This high altitude moratorium also includes air travel as an airplane cabin is only pressurized to 8,500 feet. But in return he blessed me with the sweetest, prettiest, most intelligent granddaughters a man could ever wish for, a bible study that can't be beat, and so much, much more, all of which nudges me closer back to Him.

Throughout my life I have not paid attention to the medical community, in fact I spent most of my life avoiding them but God has changed that. I've been in and out of hospitals a lot this year, my world is now filled with a litany of impressive acronyms and jargon that has nothing to do with heavy bombers or computers. I've learned to cringe at the thought of an ABG, dread a Spirometry, and pray for a 'clinical' INR. Long ago pain was a sometimes thing, now it's generally nearby, especially when I try to push my limits... like shoveling the driveway after the snowfall this week. However the people in the medical field are always a nudge for me closer back to Him. For example:

Quite often I have a blood test, nothing big, just a pin prick and a meter measures the "viscosity" of my blood, and if it's not right they adjust the dosage my blood thinning medication. One day I was in a bad mood about absolutely nothing important but the nurse that was to do my test was in tears, her previous patient was in a bad mood about absolutely nothing important and took it out on her. Loudly. It moved me profoundly to see a smart, pretty professional hurt like that while in the act of trying to save someone's life. I firmly vowed to treat my health care providers the exact same way Jesus demanded we treat everyone and not as a paid servant. Now the nurses look forward to my visits to their office, we laugh and smile no matter how bad I feel and have the greatest conversations. I'm the nice guy they let their trainees meet first because I sympathize with their OJT (On Job Training) and can calm the new nurses fears. Nurse Holly's tears taught me the value of Christ's teachings and were a huge nudge closer back to Him.

Not too long after that I went into an ER with chest pains, they immediately admitted me but the hospital was crowded so they put me in a ward they wouldn't normally put an ER admission. All night long the nurses were checking on me and since I don't sleep in the hospital they'd stay and we'd chat and laugh and have a great visit. Only later did I find out that I was in the oncology ward and the nurses were hanging out and chatting with me because they don't often get a patient without mortal pain and they liked talking with someone who was smiling. I still remember the feeling of shock, sorrow, and humility when I realized they were spending their time with me because I was the only person under their care that wasn't in agony and wasn't going to die on them. What kind of person gives that much of themselves to put themselves through that much sorrow day after day, and love the job? I still feel torn - heartbroken yet grateful for their smiles which were a nudge closer back to Him.

These vignettes are just a couple of the dozens and dozens of nudges God is giving me, This blog could be filled with these little glimpses into His plan for me. Still, life can be very frustrating: once upon a time I loaded tons and tons and tons of bombs on the biggest baddest bomber in the world and barely break a sweat. Now I have a tough time unloading the groceries from my car. Every time I stand up and grab my oxygen tank, every time I get tangled in my oxygen line, every time I pull my CPAP machine off the nightstand, every time I realize that I forgot my medications, every time SwampThing the Wonderdog stands on my oxygen line bringing me to a screeching halt it's a blessing from God.

These are all little reminders that I am not the master of my fate, He is. And He's still got work for me to do.
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

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