Yes and No

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I got an email this afternoon that contained only one word… “Well???” Because it’s Sunday, I laughed, knowing exactly what she was asking! “Did Tom teach or not?” The answer is yes and no. Our pastor had the idea that it might be good to video Tom teaching from home when he was having a good day. So that’s what we did last week. Tom wasn’t at church this morning, in person, but he taught his class Hebrews chapter 12 by video! He will do the same thing with the last chapter so he can finish his Hebrews series if he’s not able to make it next week.

Many might watch the video and not realize anything is odd if they have never heard Tom teach when he was well, or are unaware of his present health status. Tom is on hospice care with multiple malignant brain tumors, in respiratory failure, living beyond his anticipated life expectancy. His right leg is almost completely paralyzed, his right hand is uncoordinated and becoming more so, he is unable to walk or stand for more than a few seconds unassisted, he thinks very slowly, has difficulty reading and assimilating information and is in that stage of cancer where he just hurts all over and a lot of things just don’t work the way they are supposed to. But he still loves to teach and communicate the truths in God’s Word. So what drives him?!

When Tom was diagnosed with familial Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis in December of 2006 and retired early, we both had a pretty good idea what lay ahead. Tom decided way back then that he wanted to continue living the way he was living and quoted the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:20-21. “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” When you aren’t very sick, this is rather easy to declare. But when dark days of chronic sickness takes such a toll and a body is so ravaged by multiple problems and pain, and it’s hard to even think or talk, one can feel like it’s impossible to glorify God. One morning last week Tom was having one of those days and was struggling just to put words together. He dropped his head and said out loud, “How can I glorify God like this?” And just as soon as the words left his lips he chuckled quietly and said, “Don’t answer that. God already did. I will glorify Him by trusting Him.”

There are many ways in which we can glorify, or honor, God. One way that is most pleasing to Him is to simply believe what He has said, trust Him, and fulfill His will, whatever it may be, with contentment. It is said of Abraham that in his greatest trial, he was strong in faith, giving glory to God. And God honored that faith, because faith honors God. We magnify God’s name and give Him glory when we unashamedly declare who He is and what He has done through the ages, and will yet do in the future. Our praises don’t add a thing to God’s magnificence and glorious attributes. They merely declare who He is, and acknowledge that He is worthy of our trust, honor, worship, praise and gratefulness. We glorify God when we praise him in song. He says, “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me.” We glorify Him when we communicate His Word, share the Gospel, and make the focus of our life, Him, not us. Tom and I love 2 Corinthians 5:15, which says, “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”

If you would like to see the video of today’s Sunday School Bible lesson, go to You Tube and search for “Pryde Heb 12.”

Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:11-12)

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In case of emergency . . .

So reads a card on my refrigerator which includes the 24 hour hospice number connecting me to emergency personnel any time, day or night. Nice to remember! Especially when I find myself alone, and the patient (my dear husband) has fallen and is unable to get up! With my neighbors gone and church friends in church, the hospice number was my go to number for help. They in turn contacted the local fire department who were kind enough to send some strong guys who picked Tom up with no problem!

Needless to say, Tom’s had a rough time lately with one problem after another. He was excited that he felt better last week and was doing so well he was looking forward to getting out on Sunday (today) and teaching his Sunday class. When he woke up yesterday running a fever, weak, and unsteady (again), we both sighed, knowing this is usually the beginning of an infection that will land him in the hospital (again).  However, it so happened we were able to keep a doctor appointment in LA last Thursday and Tom mentioned he was coughing more than usual. His doctor decided to prescribe a particular antibiotic that he used to treat the last bacterial infection Tom had a few months ago, just in case it got worse. And, it did. Thankfully, we were able to start him on that specialized antibiotic on Saturday morning. We monitored his fever all day and by afternoon, it started to come down. Today, it would appear the infection is being successfully thwarted so we are rejoicing about that. So no, he didn’t get to attend church or teach, but hopefully, next week!

With Tom dealing with CNS Lymphoma and the immune suppression of a transplant patient, infections are a huge high risk. Not only do they affect his breathing and strength, but they also cause the brain tumors to swell, resulting in all kinds of additional difficulties. It’s at those times that I most sense my need for strength, wisdom, patience, endurance, and the ability to “count it all joy.” And that’s when I review the other IN CASE OF EMERGENCY  note on my fridge! In looks like this:

In Case of Emergency, Call Upon The Lord!

Call upon Him when you are in any trouble.
And call upon me in the day of trouble:  I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.  Psalm 50:15

Call on Him when things look hopeless
Lord, it is nothing with thee to help whether with many or with them that have no power; help us O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude.  O Lord, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee.  (2Chr. 14:11

Call on Him when you are being treated  unfairly
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.  And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?  I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.  Luke 18:6-8
For my love they are my adversaries; but I give myself unto prayer.  Ps. 109:4

Call on Him when you are afraid
I sought the Lord and he heard me and delivered me from all my fears.  Psalm 34:4

Call on Him when you are overwhelmed
Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.  From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.  Psalm 61:1-3

Call on Him when you need guidance
Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.  Whom have I in Heaven but thee?  And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.  My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.  Psalm 73:24-26

Call on Him when you need wisdom and understanding
Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt though understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.  For the Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.  Proverbs 2:2-6

Call on Him when you need strength
In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.  Psalm 138:3

Call on Him when you fail
Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.  He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.  Psalm 107:19-20

Call on Him when you sin
For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.  Psalm 86:5

Call on Him when you are tempted to sin
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Matthew 26:41

Call on Him for salvation
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  Romans 10:13

Call on Him at all times
Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.  Jeremiah 33:3
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 6:16

Always remember!
In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence; and his children shall have a place of refuge.  (Proverbs 14:26)

 

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Cancer has a mind of its own!

This has been an interesting week, filled with twists and turns. Tom was hopeful he would be good to go yesterday morning so he could continue teaching Hebrews, but by Saturday, it was clear it wasn’t going to happen. He’s been having some difficulties that interfere with his ability to be mobile. We are still searching for solutions, but thus far, nothing tried has worked. At the same time, he is still doing surprisingly well speaking clearly, even with some memory glitches and a few quirky brain things. In many ways, he is doing well, and his doctor is saying the cancer has changed from highly aggressive, to “indolent” or slow moving. At least, for the time being. We know things might change in a moment, but we’ll take indolent over aggressive any day! The fact is, we have already gotten the benefit of the high risk treatment we declined last June without having the treatment or its risks. And of course, we thank the Lord for that. Only He could have known.

Dr. Wilder Penfield was a famous Canadian neurosurgeon who lived in the early 1900’s. He is credited with mapping the functions of various regions of the brain. He tells of doing surgery with patients fully conscious and stimulating neural pathways with an electrical probe. He discovered he could prompt memories, smells, emotions or movements depending on which compartment of the brain he stimulated. In one instance, the probe caused a patients hand to raise and he asked the patient why he did that. The patient replied that it wasn’t him that moved his hand, but the doctor’s probe. Interesting that the patient intuitively knew what was a voluntary movement and act of his will and what was an involuntary movement caused by an outside influence! We are much more than a body or a physical organ—we are a living soul inhabiting and utilizing a body.

We see daily evidence that truly, the brain is an amazing organ and the command center for our physical body and every single function that we so often take for granted. When brain connections in a specific “compartment” become damaged for any reason, that’s where problems show up physically. In Tom’s case, the tumors have damaged connections that send and receive signals from his right leg, so much so, he can’t walk. Pain signals in his body are mixed up, so that he can feel pain when he has merely been touched, or he can feel nothing at all. The brain compartments that retrieve memories, control fine motor skills, movement, etc. has some glitches that show up now and then. We are getting first hand reminders that our brain is involved with everything we do—our ability to see, breathe, regulate the heart, or carry out any number of bodily functions.

The brain is an organ that we utilize like a tool. It does not define who we are. The real “me” simply lives inside this deteriorating body which includes a brain! My body might fall apart and become irreparably damaged—but the real me, the immaterial part of me called my soul, isn’t damaged at all. We may not have a working body if things go haywire, but the person we are still exists. This has raised some interesting questions that Tom and I have pondered in his adventures with brain tumors. One thing is certain—the brain is not synonymous with the soul! We are much more than a physical body.

Thankfully, when we step into eternity, the body with all its worn parts and defects will be left behind. But all of our memories, all that we learned and everything we have become on earth will go with us. For believers, it will be a happy day, for we will inhabit a new, improved edition of the body and person that we were, minus the sin that we deal with daily. Now that’s a wonderful Biblical concept that gives joy and hope to every believer!

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7) For in him we live, and move, and have our being; (Acts 17:28)

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Life on God’s Terms

Tom wasn’t able to teach this morning. He had a rough week with some problems the doctors are trying to treat. The medicine hasn’t helped much so far, but he has a doctor visit and blood work tomorrow, so perhaps that will yield some better solutions. I was able to attend church this morning and teach the ladies’ class while Jon (our grandson) held the fort and stayed with grampa. I got home as quickly as I could and wasn’t sure what I’d find as Tom wasn’t feeling too great when I left. My heart was warmed (and relieved) when I came in the door to find Jon and his grampa in a deep discussion about Exodus, Bibles open, a stack of books pulled from the library and a notebook filled with Jon’s notes! All you have to do is get Tom teaching and he seems to come to life! Although it wasn’t in our plans, it was time well spent, and definitely life on God’s terms, not ours!

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I often hear the statement, “I’m going to live life on my own terms,” or, “I’m going to die on my own terms.” When I hear this, I shudder, because I hear in those statements a naive arrogance that fails to acknowledge we can do nothing that God does not permit! The problem with this kind of thinking is that it ignores the reality of God, who He is, and the fact that we will be held responsible for what we do with the truth He has plainly revealed to all of us. (See Romans 1) In an age where it’s fashionable to exalt self as the master of our personal universe, few seem to consider the fact that there is an all powerful Creator God who is THE Master of the Universe, Lord of all we imagine we own (including ourselves!), and Sovereign King to whom we owe allegiance, submission, and worship. He is worthy of our reverence and trust.

Sometimes I hear Christians say, “We need to make Christ Lord of our lives!” They are sincere and believe this honors God, but in fact, it does not because it cannot be validated by Scripture. The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ IS Lord! What we need to do is acknowledge that He is the Son of God, Lord of lords and King of kings and then submit ourselves to Him! So . . . no, neither I, nor Tom, wish to live life on our own terms. We are delighted to live life on God’s terms and are wholly satisfied when we trust Him with the twists and turns each day brings.  His ways are far better than our ways!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

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Essential Things

Yes! Tom was able to teach the first half of Hebrews, chapter 12, yesterday. He had a rough week, so we weren’t sure he would be able to be there, but the weekend arrival of our Pepperdine grandson (Jon) and the prospect of teaching on Sundays always seems to energize him. (If you want to see Tom smile, just mention any one of our 8 grandchildren, several “adopted” grandchildren, or what he’s studying in his Bible—those are his soft spots!) Sometimes the marked improvement in his alertness and strength on Sundays defies explanation after a particularly rough week. But explanation or not, we thank the Lord for such a sweet gift, as we believe it flows from His love and grace.

Sometimes, as caregiver in chief, I have to make decisions on what Tom can and can’t do, when I’m pushing too hard or not pushing hard enough. I’m constantly aware that I’m often making decisions for someone else as well as myself. When a person is ill they never initially “feel” like doing things, even when doing them has a beneficial effect for them. For instance, because moving is downright uncomfortable, I sometimes apply some pressure on Tom to get him outside on the patio. Once settled there, however, he is almost always much happier outside than inside, and is happy he made the effort. He thoroughly enjoys the fresh air (well, as fresh as LA air can be), the lovely yard and his happy dog. A car ride adds another significant layer of effort, but is sometimes a good diversion worth the extra effort, and on rare occassions, he even enjoys a brief destination. There are times, though, when I know I’ve pushed too hard and overestimated his capability, in which case I need to back peddle and turn the volume way down. It’s all just a part of my new “job!”

I’m learning the characteristics and limitations of a patient with a life draining brain disease, and slowly figuring out how it impacts personality and how it changes (or doesn’t change) former likes and dislikes, abilities and disabilities. I’m increasingly more amazed with the complexity of the human brain and I find the more I know and UNDERSTAND, the easier it is to respond in good ways to the challenges of brain disease or injury. I’ve always believed that working successfully with people requires us to invest the effort it takes to understand people, whether we are dealing with a small child, a wounded teenager, a trying neighbor, or even a very ill spouse.

It’s why I always encourage young parents to read good child development books and why I keep a plethora of informative materials in my counseling office that covers a wide spectrum of human problems and challenges. My counseling students laugh when I say, “I have a handout for that!” The purpose behind handouts is much more than imparting knowledge—it’s purpose is to impart understanding and demonstrate how biblical principles play a huge part in discovering practical solutions for whatever life throws at us. Information is powerful, but understanding is essential!

In an oversimplified nutshell, wisdom is the God-given ability to apply truth to life, knowledge is the acquisition of facts and truth (as God defines truth), but understanding is the ability to comprehend the mind of Christ first, and the heart of human beings second. I believe the most common communication failure in any relationship is the failure to understand what another is attempting to communicate, not the failure to listen or speak. It’s more than a lack of information—it’s a lack of love that is essential to hearing others with the heart so we can listen and respond with understanding. The next time you listen to a friend or spouse, listen for the purpose of gaining understanding. It changes everything.

Interestingly, I first learned this as a young teenager when I was caregiver to a horse! And it was my mother who pointed out the reality that horses do not think or respond like dogs or cats! When I worked on understanding my horse, not just riding my horse or learning facts about horses, wonderful things began to happen and I enjoyed my horse much more than I had. ( I would have loved Clinton Anderson’s DownUnder horsemanship videos as a teen!) Same with our dog. And surprisingly, it is the same with people. When we understand, we have new patience. Instead of reacting to problems or being overwhelmed by problems, we find solutions to problems and discover the truth of 1 Corinthians 10:13. So, my encouragement to all who are caregivers (and that takes in every believer who follows Christ) . . . Seek wisdom, acquire knowledge, but do not underestimate the importance of loving enough to get understanding as well.

Proverbs 3:13-14 – Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.

 

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Quick Update

Tom is doing some better since coming home from the hospital. Every crisis we lose ground, but it seems that when he gets home he improves enough to make us think he might just finish Hebrews, or make it until who knows. No, he hasn’t regained all the he lost in this last ordeal, but he is better than when we left the hospital. You know he is better when he wants me to watch some you tube video called, The Zipf Mystery and then discuss it’s significance from a Christian world view. I especially liked the closing comment, “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I’ve eaten; nevertheless, they have made me who I am.” And after Zipf, we watched vihart’s fibonacci patterns in nature, which is very exciting for a science/math guy.

We are learning to live with a lot of new paraphernalia designed to help take care of problems encountered when “this ol’ house” begins to fall apart. Looking forward to the day we will leave this ol house behind and get a new one. But until then, we keep patching things and make do. We’re getting back into the oxygen routine 24/7 but we haven’t attempted leaving home except to venture to the patio occassionally. The portable liquid oxygen unit will be delivered tomorrow so we will see what we remember. They aren’t willing to give us two portables (which is what it takes to get through Sunday school and church), nor will we have a 50 lb liquid oxygen supply in the back of the Hummer this time around! But we think we can do it on one portable if he uses two e tanks coupled together for the car ride and the liquid oxygen unit for teaching. We’re still hoping his oxygen requirement will come down a little more but it seems to be holding pretty steady at 6-8 liters. We’re also adjusting to the machine used at night to help him breathe under pressure. That one is a bit more uncomfortable and “foreign” but he’s working on it.

Tom’s talking teaching Sunday, but we’ll see how things go the rest of the week. The pulmonary edema has improved, but it’s not clear yet. It’s one day at a time.

Thank you for praying!

Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me:
for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. (Psalms 25:4-5)

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Disabled or Truly Shut-in?

Tom had a good and quiet night at home in his own bed. Today he is doing a lot of sleeping, is very weak, still struggling with congestion, and is coping with a lot of new equipment and changes that may, or may not improve. He’s not doing much talking, eating, reading, etc., and isn’t up to visitors for the time being. (He hasn’t even turned on a football game!) Tom has crossed over that fuzzy line of being disabled to being confined, or what we commonly call being “shut-in.” As much as he would love to, he’s not able to teach today, or even attend church. It’s raised some thoughts . . .

A handicapped, or disabled person, is someone who has a physical disability that severely limits a life sustaining activity. While it’s easy for those who are disabled in some way to choose the easier path of staying indoors and becoming inactive, most disabled people have the ability, if they choose to use it, to get out of their homes and find ways to overcome the difficulties of remaining active and connected. “Where there’s a will there is a way,” is a true enough statement when faced with limitations and the difficulties of overcoming physical obstacles.

For the past ten years, since he was first diagnosed with IPF, I’ve considered Tom to be in the handicapped category off and on. When faced with new limitations or changes in physical capacity, he’s found ways to cope and live within his new perimeters. Being an “invalid” just wasn’t an option for him. The picture below was taken in 2007, just after he was diagnosed with IPF, was dependent on oxygen, and retired from Raytheon. He quickly found new “work” helping out in our Christian school and found a way to strap oxygen on his back so he could play basketball with the high school kids.

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Just one of those examples of, “where there’s a will there is a way!” Tom found ways to play his trumpet with oxygen by learning how to circular breathe, new ways to maximize his limited energy so he could do things that mattered, new ways to stay active and new ways to continue serving the Lord and attending church as usual. Life was constantly changing, but the God given ability to adapt and go on made “normal life” possible. Our agreement was to live as normal as possible for as long as possible, and that has worked well for us. Even as Tom’s lungs began to fail him, we found ways to be in our places and work around all the inconveniences and limitations. A few months before his transplant, Tom moved from being handicapped to being what we commonly call “a shut-in.” It’s that point where living normally is no longer possible.

A shut-in is generally a person who is confined indoors because of severe physical incapability. It doesn’t matter how much of a will there is, there’s just no way of getting out and carrying on. With this new reality, we waited and anticipated the possibility of a new lung—the only “way out” of certain impending death. Then, with his lung transplant November 6, 2012, Tom miraculously went from total incapacity to walking the dog in the park in one month’s time! For five years now, he has enjoyed a fairly active life, free from the oxygen hose, able to cope with the physical limitations and inconveniences of transplant life. It’s been a bumpy five years with lots of setbacks, hospital visits, defeats and victories. But through it all, he has been able to stay active and engaged with life. He will tell you that one of the greatest blessings of having his life extended the past five years is that it has allowed him to know his grandchildren and be a part of their lives. He has loved being part of the Bible college, teaching college young people, teaching his Sunday Bible class and staying in touch with our grown kids.

Now he is entering a new phase of life. It’s not spring, summer or fall, but the dead of winter, when things begin to wind down and life changes once again. Winter has its own beauty, but it’s different, and it can get mighty cold. Thankfully, we prepared in summer for winter. As many before us have experienced, it sometimes comes with that dreaded label, “shut-in.” This morning, after struggling just to do the bare necessities of living, we tuned into a livestreamed church service, and we commented, “So this is what it feels like to be shut-ins!” It wasn’t our church, we were observers, not participants, and while we enjoyed the special music, singing and sermon, we both thought of our “live” classes, being taught by someone else, and longed to be there. We missed the familiar interaction with our own church family that cannot be duplicated on a screen. And we missed hearing how this one and that one is doing.

Being confined to home is a very “disconnected” experience. I’m making a mental note to be more sensitive and aware of those in our church who have become “shut-ins.” For the one who is sleeping and whose life is slowly disconnecting from life in this world, it’s a different experience than for the caregiver confined by caregiving rather than physical incapability. Yet even this experience, for both, is a part of life and is allowed for a purpose. God never wastes an experience, if we have the eyes to see it. For Tom, it is a time where he is looking forward to a new spring and new life in a place where nothing ever dies and tears do not exist. We don’t know when his winter will end, but at just the right time it will, and we do know one day the Lord will say, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone…” (Song of Solomon 2:10-11)

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