Life from the rear-view mirror

Back on the bicycle…Vol 82

2000-GI-Escaper-Disc_BLUE       I have always struggled with my weight. There have been various times in my life when I have actually won the struggle and shed a bunch of weight…keeping it off for anywhere from a few months to a few years. I think it was about 6 years ago, I was at one of those points in life where I had decided it was, once again, time to get busy.

I had ponied up $350 and purchased a decent bicycle with the intentions of riding the new bike on the new walking/bike path at the lake…which is literally just around the corner from the house. I got the bike home…rode it around the block a couple of times to get the hang of it. The next day I did a few miles with elevation changes and found that I was working pretty hard. It was a big workout for someone who had been pretty sedentary over the last 10 years…and more sedentary recently due to a couple of hip replacements. I got back from that ride and thought that if the weather was right the next day…I would take on the trail by the lake. Trust me when I tell you that this trail was something a teenager would handle and not break a sweat…but for an overweight 53 year old…it was like the Olympics.

The following day dawned cool and sunny. I was working from home back then. I put my 8 hours in and got on the bike around 4pm..pedaled out of the driveway and up Rock Beach Rd to where the trail started. I took it slow…but even so, the elevation changes surprised me and I was shifting gears every hundred yards or so to keep from running out of steam. At the 3 mile point I decided to do a 180 and head home. It was a nice workout and I could envision getting all of the 12 miles in as I built up my endurance. I could see pounds coming off, blood pressure going down, stress relieving…all good stuff. That was today…

The next day was similar to the day before…got my work out of the way…strapped my helmet on, hopped on the bike and pedaled out of the driveway once more to see if I could add a couple more miles to the route. Rock Beach road has about a 20% uphill grade for the last few hundred yards before the start of the trail. I didn’t have any trouble with it the day before. Sure I was breathing hard but I was also working hard to…today…as I got about half way up the hill I was once again working hard but this time I felt like I was pulling a muscle in my left pec. It didn’t hurt really…but it was noticeable. When I got to the top of the hill I really expected the feeling to go away and pedaled on…but now the muscle pull  was starting to feel like I had a charlie horse in my chest…and I knew something was not right. I found that I couldn’t pedal any more without intensifying the discomfort.  I was starting to realize what was really happening. I reached for my cell phone…it wasn’t there! I was about a mile from home…but it might as well have been 100 miles cause I wasn’t pedaling anywhere.

As the reality of what was happening started to settle in, I realized that unless I wanted to die on the side of Lakeshore Blvd…I had to do something. Thankfully, Lakeshore Blvd gently slopes downhill for about a mile from where I was to St Paul Blvd…I thought maybe if I could coast, I could get a little closer to home. I got the bike turned around got a couple of good pedals and began to coast. Washington St crosses Lakeshore right before St Paul. I thought if I could keep my speed up I might be able to to make it part way down Washington St which would put me about a quarter mile from the house. I had to brake some to make the hard right onto Washington and my speed bled off to nothing. I stopped and got off the bike…thinking perhaps I could walk…I couldn’t.

It was a beautiful afternoon….there was no one around and I started preparing to die. I began to confess sin, pray for Lori who had already been diagnosed with cancer…prayed for the kids. By now the classic symptoms of a heart attack had started. I was beginning to sweat, my left arm had begun to ache some. There was nothing more I could do for myself but wait for heaven….until a UPS truck rolled up. As the UPS dude got out of the truck I yelled…”Do you have a cell phone?” He did, and I made a call. Lori pulled up with the van about 5 minutes later. She rode the bike home and I drove. Another 5 minutes and I’m sitting in the driver seat of the van in the driveway… not wanting to believe any of this to be true. I was chewing on a baby aspirin that Lori had found in the house…I decided I should call my dad who had experienced some heart challenges in the past. About 30 seconds into the call dad told me to hang up and call 911. From that point on things got really exciting.

When emergency rescue got there I was standing…well… leaning on the back of the van. I was VERY uncomfortable at this point and had a headache to go along with severe pain in my left arm and the feeling that someone was sitting on my chest. They had like a zillion questions for me…and then some blessed angel from the ambulance that had just shown up gave me a couple of nitro pills. In about 2 minutes it was as if I never had the issue. I felt silly being loaded into the ambulance with the kids watching. I waived and smiled to reassure them…I don’t think it worked. I kidded and joked with the guys in the ambulance on the way to the hospital…at that time we had health insurance so I didn’t have the additional panic of a looming five figure bill when this was all over. From there it was wires and cables and blood draws and nurses and labwork and a doctor I didn’t know telling me I had just had a very minor heart attack evidenced by a minuscule blip in one of the blood enzymes.

Lori and my brother had arrived at the hospital by then and got the news. The docs were gonna keep me overnight then do an angiogram, which they did. That revealed that some big artery was nearly 99% blocked. Fixing the blockage  was kinda cool as I could see the whole thing on video and watched them put the stent in. The next few hours were a bit of a drag as they put a very heavy sandbag on my groin to make sure the hole they drilled into me stayed closed. Then very expensive medication was prescribed and my life changed forever.

That was all 6 years ago now. After the heart attack I put the bicycle away…or maybe let the kids abused it for a couple years….for a year or so it leaned up against a wall in the garage…brake cable sheared…shifter broken…tires flat. Two years ago I loaded it into the van and drove it over to the shop for an overhaul. Then I lost my job. So It sat in shop for about six months with the owner calling me every week wondering if I would please come and pick up the bike. After my sob story,  he agreed to hang onto the bike but moved it to his off-site storage (aka… his garage.)  A year after that…4 months ago now…I finally had them deliver the bike and I have been riding it of an on around our block which is very flat.

Present day…

Last week I finally went back to my new/old cardiologist to have some tests done. Over the past year my ankles, feet and calves have blown up like balloons and gotten painful. At the same time I haven’t been able to keep my weight in check. Friends told me the extra fluid I was seeing was probably heart related. Last week the doc confirmed it. My heart is doing great on the pumping side…not so good on the resting part (diastolic). The good news was that I had lost 2 pounds since my last visit 4 months back…now he said if I could lose another 88lbs I’d be in better shape. And he said something about staying away from salt and sugar…I think eating hay was in there someplace too…I don’t remember…I think I blacked out. He prescribed a fluid pill (that will help get rid of the 15lbs of fluid I’m retaining), reiterated all the stuff about salt and sugar…and we scheduled another visit where I’ll probably do some kinda stress test. Then if I don’t die on the treadmill, they will extend my warranty or something…

That brings me back to the bike. This week, weather permitting I’m going to try three miles on the roads around the house. I’m getting serious about this for the first time in a very long time. Ok…so how is this devotional?  Our lead pastor, David Whiting asked a question yesterday and had us text the answer back to see where we stood as a group. The question was this…”Did you read your Bible and have some quiet time with God yesterday?”  The answers were not positive. Just so you know….I answered “no.” “Really?” I thought. Shouldn’t we want to spend time hearing from God and talking to God?  I know the answer…”yes we should!”  But we perceive that as “work”…something hard to get excited about…maybe even a little boring.  But we want those blessings from God don’t we? We want God to hear our prayers and heal our friends and family members, save those whose names we bring before him, avenge those who are being persecuted, give us wisdom to speak boldly in his name, give us wisdom to reach our kids.  But we don’t want that blessed life enough to spend time in the well of wisdom and spiritual knowledge…his Word. And we don’t want to know God badly enough to set aside time for conversation…to share our hearts and thoughts with him in prayer.

We are, for the most part, insolent, spoiled children. Let me personalize that a bit…I am often an insolent, spoiled child. What will it take to get us (me) serious about being  followers of Christ? And if it comes to that…whatever “that” may be…will we recognize it as a call back to God and holiness or simply a circumstance that may be hard or painful or both.

Will we complain about that circumstance and accuse God of being harsh or will we rejoice that God has remembered us and continues to call us to closer fellowship where he can teach us, train us and show us how much we are loved and necessary to build the Kingdom until he calls us home.

There’s a line in an old song that goes like this “For whatever it takes for my will to break…that’s what I’ll be willing to do…” nice song…powerful lyric.

Easy to sing…hard to live.

Does God have your attention yet?  He’s got mine.

HE IS RISEN! Easter 2014….Vol 81

Every day I live with the knowledge that my life is not my own…that I was bought with a great price.

But it is on THIS morning all that knowledge comes into focus…and we shout “He is Risen!” celebrating a love and a sacrifice we do not understand fully but believe with all our hearts and minds.

There are no three words in the universe more powerful, more life changing, more thought provoking, more meaningful to the believer. It is because He is Risen that we have hope, both for now and eternity.

It is because of the greater meaning behind these words that we who know Christ move forward in faith, endure trials joyfully, and wait patiently for our redemption…Happy Easter!



Once more around the block….Vol 80

Last night Kathy and I took a walk around the neighborhood…it was just a mile, but enough to get the cobwebs out and long enough for our joints to let us know that we are older than we used to be!

I’ve lived in the same house for 23 years… We’re off the beaten path a little.  You’ll never accidentally drive by our place…you really have to be coming here to find us. It has made for a great place for the kids to grow up. The homes are modest, reasonably priced and the neighborhood still is quiet and kid friendly.

Last night Kathy and I ran into our neighbors, Deider and Marianne out taking care of their impeccable lawn. They are in their mid 80’s and a wonderful couple. I’ve never seen them in a bad mood. He’s German and she’s Dutch. Marianne is a fireball! So full of life and energy. God has blessed her with a rockin’ gene pool! She doesn’t remember names anymore which is both cute and a little annoying . She called me every name but mine in our short visit… but it’s always a pleasure to see them and speak with them. I know a little German so I always practice on them… and I think they are happy to have me try. There’s just something special about hearing some American butcher your native tongue….

Last night we chatted about life for 15 minutes maybe… and within that time they mentioned they lost their 30 year old son in a swimming accident just about 3 miles from the house off the Charlotte pier. They talked about how long it took them to recover and that you never really get over losses like that. It still hurts. That resonated with Kathy who lost her 35 year old son in 2009 and then this month will be 4 years since Lori passed.

It reminded me that shared experiences tend to draw us closer and differentiate our relationships.

It’s comforting to know that another person can identify with you, can empathize with you. In some weird way it sort of spreads the pain around more evenly…maybe makes the burden a little lighter when it’s carried on many shoulders and not just your own.

I don’t know if that makes any sense to you… but after our visit, our mood was a little lighter and the next lap around the block wasn’t so tiring. Don’t you love to have friends like that in your life?  Encouragers, joyful people who lift you up just being around them. Kathy is like that…me?…not so much… but I really want to be.

Being a Christ follower has changed everything. And even though we still have to go through the challenges and sorrows of life…we can find the greater meaning in it and we know that at the end of life…Heaven awaits. That’s happy news. And it’s not God’s secret…He wants us to tell others.  Let’s make joy our choice today, regardless of what we’re going through. Let’s choose to live happy!

Something to work on for today!

Remembering Lori Warner ( July 12, 1962- June 12, 2010) ….Vol 79

57908_1543190414150_511515_nFour years ago today…Lori, my wife of nearly 19 years went home to be with the Lord after a three and half year battle with cancer. Sadly…so many people I know have lost that battle…while some I know are still waging the war.

I wasn’t sure just how to remember Lori today…On one hand, we want to remember what a wonderful mom, wife and friend she was. On the other hand…the three and half years of struggle, pain, despair mixed with faith and hope were a roller coaster of emotion that took every shred of energy and faith we had.

For the last 6 months or so I shared a caretaker role with Lori’s  family while I tried to keep the kids moving forward…all the while praying for a miracle but living with the reality that so many families of cancer patients have…we were going to have to say good-bye to mom soon. I struggled with how the kids would see God through this experience. Lori and I talked to the kids a lot to try and offer some sort of explanation… to provide some sort of comfort. We prayed that God’s will would be done but I think we prayed harder that He would just heal mom. In the end, God chose to take her home. 

Would the kids ever understand this agonizing loss at all?  Would they be mad at God for taking their mom…would they recover, would they survive this at all? As I write this my heart still aches for what Brendan, Leah, Evan and Brett will miss and never know of their mom.

And… how all that pain, ache, and longing never really goes away.

For me …with the pain of loss comes the regrets and the “what if’s.” Lori has been in heaven for four years now but sometimes the loss seems like such an open wound. I’ll confess that the regrets sometimes keep me from being the father and now husband of Kathy Warner that I should be…and want to be.

Thankfully God is in control of both our “rememberers and our forgetters!”  We remember yesterday but we live for today. And today the kids are doing well and have a great relationship with Kathy. There are still rough days…and rough ones still ahead.

But one day we’ll all be reunited…what a joy as a believer to know that truth! What confidence it gives us to move forward even when it hurts.

Hebrews 13:5

Father’s Day 2014…. Vol 78

dad and StinsonIt’s 7:30 am and I’m having my first cup of coffee. I might even have another…who knows? I’m still a ways from my target heart rate this morning… 

It’s going to be gorgeous for the next couple of days here in the Rochester, NY area, and this morning I’m dreaming about airplanes and flying! It’s been quite a few years since I’ve actually been at the controls of anything that flies….in the air anyway… I guess my old Porsche 928S would have qualified for a low- flying vehicle!

Anyway…when I moved up to NY from TX, there was always something that took priority over flying. Family, finances, health…but even with all that I still tried to fly at least once a year to remember the thrill of it. The pure joy of it! I even got an hour in an old Enstrom helicopter…just to remember why I loved flying a helicopter so much.

For me, flying started as a shared interest with my dad..and remains a shared interest today. Dad will be 85 this year, so we mostly just “hangar-fly” now. But it’s still fun and brings back memories that both of us cherish. Years ago, flying was a way to connect with dad  that got us past the “I am the father…you are the son”  boundaries that were still prevalent back in the 50’s when I was growing up. It was either going to be flying or holding the flashlight while dad worked on car projects.  Flying suited me much better. When it comes to cars…I’m still your guy when a flashlight needs to be held.

Dad started flying in 1961 in an old Piper Cub tied down at Canastota Airport…which is now business park. With a young family and nearly always working two jobs…there wasn’t much money for flying…so dad took lessons in very small increments… literally 15-30 minutes at a time. So it took him a while to get all the hours he needed to solo, do his cross-country flights and prep for his written test and check ride. It all came together after we moved to VA. Dad got his private pilot’s license in South Hill, VA in 1984…just a few months ahead of me.

Flying can be…unforgiving. There is an element of risk. You can’t just know about flying to pilot a plane…you actually have to know how to fly. You have to be able to execute a variety of skills, on demand, at any moment,  for the privilege of being able to walk away from the airplane, fully intact, at the end of the flight. Acquiring these skills takes some smarts, some time, a lot of money, a big commitment and patience. And then there’s the weather…All this stuff has to work in harmony to create an opportunity to fly. At least it does for those of us who don’t have an instrument rating. We have to be able to see where we are going at all times to be able to get there and back again.

We all need guides in life. God has seen fit to ordain our parents as those early guides. They have put in the love (huge amounts of it), the time, the money(lots of that too…), the commitment and they learned the necessary skills of life over many (often difficult) years to be able to impart them to us in lessons that we may actually remember. They have always been loving, always had our backs, pray for us and support us in ways and means that range from tender to fierce at times.

Sunday is Father’s day.

My dad has left my brother and me an enormous legacy of love, faithfulness to our Savior, an uncompromising love of our mother, and shared interests that have empowered our lives and filled them with purpose, hope, direction and meaning in ways we could never fully express. Dad and mom have lived out this incredible life example ….right in front of our eyes…with much personal sacrifice. We couldn’t miss it. We didn’t miss it…although at times our own lives might not have looked anything like the wonderful example that was set for us.

Today I just want to say “Thank you” and “I love you dad!’

I still aspire to being the man of character and faith you are and have always been.

Happy Father’s Day!

We are the GOOD part of the story…Vol 77

This morning I read Mathew chapter one again. I’ve read this chapter a lot.  Mathew recounts the lineage of Jesus. I read through it mentally notating some of the fathers that I remember reading about from a great deed they did or an event they were involved in…maybe a miracle…while the other fathers’ names are still just names written down in the Bible to me….I know they are not insignificant…but they don’t spark a keen remembrance.
In my earlier spiritual life I used to skip over all those names after the first few verses to get to the Jesus part….just so I could get on with my reading.

It seemed to me like all those other names, those other fathers…were just filler. The important stuff didn’t come until we got to Jesus…but not so.

Each man, each name, each contribution was important. Each father was necessary. Every name on that long list was critical to God’s plan. Without them..without that lineage that God ordained and made sure was written down for us…we would not have seen Jesus, He would not have been our Emmanuel “God with us” in the flesh.

Sometimes we may ‘feel’ insignificant going through life…raising our children, going to church…working at our jobs, maybe even serving others. Mostly, we see what is right in front of us..or what God wants us to see in the “right now” of life.  But one day the camera is going to pull back to the wide shot…the “big reveal” and we will see how God used each of us in his plan as we were faithful to him and his purpose… even though we couldn’t see all that  from our vantage point before.

There are many days I go through hard things and wonder why…sometimes I even whisper “why?” out loud…and some days I scream “WHY?!” That might seem disrespectful…even irreverent… but I believe God wants us to be transparent with him. To pour our hearts to Him  in the good and bad of life.

Here’s what I know for sure…God is big enough and loves us enough to allow us, his kids, to ask the hard questions. As for me…I rarely get the answers to the difficult things…and while it’s frustrating and sometimes painful…I know the answers are coming, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am necessary in his plan…that I have a part to play that no one else can. And it is THAT reason that continues to give me hope.

Jesus has already been born. But who knows what God will do in us and through us in this time, our time. Our lives are not simply “filler” in the Kingdom till we get to heaven…We are not empty words until we get to the good part of the story. We are the good part. God’s ultimate plan includes us…requires us to play our part just like David or Solomon or any other of those fathers  before.

So be encouraged today and live your life with a little more “gusto.”

As a little boy I would see all these ladies at church doing needlepoint…but being only about 3 feet tall at the time all I could see was a mass of thread and knots from my short perspective. But occasionally, some nice lady would turn the needlepoint over and show me the finished work. I could hardly believe how beautiful, how ornate, how intricate it was. It wasn’t the mess I pictured at all! There was a design.. a plan she was following to make a beautiful piece of work.

Here’s to all us “works in progress!” It may look (and feel) like a bunch of knots today…but we’ll see the beautiful picture soon!