Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sunday should be Super!

I'll be wrapping up the sermon Series: Operation Disciple: The Inner workings of a Disciple. It's family Sunday -- so our grade school children will be worshipping int he sanctuary. We will also celebrate communion together. I heard that they are playing a football game in Arizona in the afternoon this Sunday too. Our youth have two parties planned for the Big Game.

What a deal!

What would you do with $850,000? Buy a new house, car, and Rolex watch? Invest it? Tithe on it? Give it away? Send your pastor on an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii? (I like the way you think!) Well, that could have been my dilemma by the end of the day, because according to an e-mail I received yesterday from a minister in the Republic of Benin, I am the recipient of an ATM credited account of $850,000. All I have to do to receive that boat load of money is send in my bank account information and a $98 processing fee and the 850,000 smackeroos will be mine! WOW! What a deal!

If my math is correct, I would stand to make a profit of $849,902 from that $98 investment. While I would love that to be true, excuse me for being a wee bit skeptical. Maybe I shouldn’t be such a cynic. I just read the story of Howard Schultz, who in 1987 decided to buy a small chain of coffee shops for four million dollars. Maybe you’ve heard of these stores, they are called Starbucks. Well, five years after that initial investment, Starbucks stocks went public and old Howard made 273 million real bucks in one day. Not a bad payout for a four million dollar investment. Still, my ninety-eight dollar investment in an ATM account doesn’t seem to be the same kind of opportunity. Just what exactly is an ATM account, anyway? And why is a minister of the gospel offering such a deal? Most of the preachers I know don’t have that kind of loot. (Present company included, I assure you!) Why does the good Reverend Maxwell Bello of Benin need my bank account information in Kansas? I’ve never been to Benin. I’ve never heard of Benin. Sniff. Sniff. I smell something rotten in Denmark (or Benin to be more geographically correct).

My guess is that these scams work because people wish and dream that they could strike it rich one day—without work and with little effort. “Somehow if I can do nothing and still get rich quick that would be really cool,” they wish upon a star. Presumably, the notion of a windfall for the low, low price of $98 is too much of a temptation. So they dutifully send in their 98 buckaroos and bank account numbers and the next day (“Surprise, surprise,” Gomer Pyle) they discover that they are not only missing their 98 dollars but everything else that was in their savings account.

The old adage is true: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

I know of only one completely and totally too good to be true story. Here it is: Jesus Christ gave up the glory and splendor and majesty of heaven for an old rugged cross for you and me. It’s unbelievable but true. While we were unlovable, God loved us. It’s unbelievable but true, that God daily pours out his love on me and you. It’s unbelievable but true, that God longs to be in relationship with people like us. John Newton called it “Amazing Grace.” The Apostle Paul put it this way: But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God's grace that you have been saved! (Ephesians 2:4-6). And there is even more good news; we don’t even have to send in a $98 processing fee to receive it. Wow! What a deal!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Back in Kansas

It's good to be home and good to be back in the blogging world once again. Karla and I enjoyed the time away at the COK conference. We renewed some friendships, were able to rest and relax, and had some meaningful meetings and conversations about pastoring in these days.

I am feeling pretty well (not quite 100%) but pretty well, and will be resuming a full schedule.

Sunday was a good day.... we have such a great church! I really liked the Youth Sponsored Spaghetti Dinner (Yum!) last night and Pastor Padraic preached a fine message.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A wake Up Call

Karla and I will be leaving tomorrow for a conference. So I may be out of the "blogsphere" for a while. If I can, I'll keep on blogging from time to time. The conference is on a cruise ship-- so there will be meetings and rest and sun and hopefully recuperation. I really hope that when we return I'll be able to resume my regular (albeit modified) schedule.

One of the "wake up call moments" of the brain hemorrhage is my realization that I have to make some life style changes. Diet and exercise will be a part of that, but also I am having to come to terms that days off are important, and maintaining a healthy balance of work and rest is important. All of my doctors (especially "Doctor" Karla) are insisting that the pace in which I have kept may not have caused the hemorrhage but did not help the situation. So I will be grappling with some of those areas in the days ahead. If even the Lord needed rest on the seventh day, we are foolish to think that we do not need it. It's a lesson I am learning. Unfortunately it took a brain explosion to teach it.

The Minister became the "ministeree"

Before this last month, my only other stay in a hospital was 32 years ago. I had a really bad tummy ache. Everyone said it was just a tummy ache. Turns out it was a ruptured appendix. So following its grand explosion, I spent ten days hanging out in the hospital and eating McDonald’s burgers (a treat back in those days). I think my mom felt bad about the whole tummy ache diagnosis and, since I was a tad spoiled anyway, and since I was a tad picky on my eating habits, she brought me yummy burgers to eat instead of the awful hospital food. It wasn’t too bad of a deal. For my troubles, I got lots of burgers, a little scar on my side and an autographed picture of Al Kaline (think of him as the Detroit Tiger’s version of George Brett). It’s hanging in my office to this day (the picture of Al Kaline, not my ruptured appendix).

My most recent hospital stay was for a week following the worst headache of my life. As you know, my noggin, like my appendix, had a grand explosion too, also know as a subarachnoid hemorrhage. I didn’t get an Al Kaline autograph or McDonald burgers or a scar for my troubles this time around. Karla did bring me a club sandwich from the Cheese Cake Factory one night. I am still a tad picky in my eating (and maybe a tad spoiled) and since I had grown sick of the hospital food (the shoe leather covered in gravy was a little too unappetizing), my lovely bride found me something better to eat. It’s another reason why I love her.

She wasn’t the only one to show me kindness. Not by a long shot. Not a day has passed that I haven’t received a get well card or a thoughtful e-mail telling of family prayer times on my behalf. Moreover, we have consumed many wonderful meals that folks from the church brought into our house during my recuperation. Some wonderful ladies even paid no attention to Karla and her ridiculous rule of “no desserts” and brought cookies, cakes, brownies, ice cream and pie anyway. Thank you for not listening to that silly, silly rule! (I am neither a doctor, nor the son of a doctor, but I say a good way to overcome bad pains in one’s melon is to fill the tummy with yummy treats!)

One family in the church provided our entire Christmas dinner. They made the whole deal. Karla heated it up and brought the ham, sweet taters, beans and yummy cake (and I don’t know what all) into my room at St. Luke’s Hospital. We turned my bed into the buffet line and we had a glorious Christmas dinner. Others secretly passed along money to Karla to help with the extra expenses that we were incurring. And some sent along gift cards to restaurants so that she would not have to take time cooking.

All of this is to say, the minister became the “ministeree.” (I am sure that is not a word, but you know what I mean). Since my little brain hemorrhage the tables have been turned and the people to whom I have ministered to and with the last couple of years have reached out in wonderful ways and ministered to me and my family. I think old Martin Luther would be proud to see “the priesthood of all believers” in action, ministering in such a wonderful way. You know, it’s true: we should all be ministers—whether you have an ordination certificate hanging on your wall or not. Our calling as “Christ follower” means we care for one another and think of ways to share and show the love of Jesus. And many, many people have done that for me these last four weeks.

So thank you Central Nazarene. Thank you for ministering to me. Thank you for the prayers. Thank you for being such a great place to serve. Karla and I are leaving for a conference tomorrow. OK, the truth is that the conference is on a cruise ship… so, I’ll have a few meetings with other pastors of churches similar to ours and hopefully there will be a little more recovery and rest and sun and sea, and I will return completely ready to join you in ministering once again.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Another Day, another doctor

Went to another doctor today-- a neurologist-- who also thought I was coming along nicely. I will see her again in a month. She said the headaches from the brain hemorrhage should be ending soon. Yippeee!

I need to say how well the pastors of central have stepped in-- and done a great job in my absence. We have a great pastoral team at Central and they have proved it this last month!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Great morning at Central!

Oh it was wonderful being at Central this morning. Great Worship. Great to be in the pulpit. Great seeing the tremendous response to God's word in both services. It was just great!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Tomorrow is only a day away!

I really think God is going to do something great at Central tomorrow. Not simply because I am preaching (I can't wait!!!), but because of all that has happened: brain hemorrhage, still headaches, still fatigued, yet... God will get the glory!

I haven't preached in what seems like forever... and I am so excited to be with the folks of Central and to see what God has in store. We are going to have a great day. I know it!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Good report

I went to the neurosurgeon today and the report is that I am improving. The nurse practitioner was surprised at how well I was doing. I am not. To God be the glory great things He has done! They say a couple more weeks and I'll be good as new (or at least good as before). God is so good!

I'll be preaching on Sunday... I can't wait. It seems like I haven't preached since last year!

God's Grace is all I need

Headaches are no fun. Thanks to my little brain explosion of a couple of weeks ago, I have had a headache that the doctors say will be around for a couple of more weeks. They have given me drugs to make them go away, and the drugs work…. a little. For the most part, I have come to this conclusion: headaches are just no fun at all.

When you have a headache like mine, little noises sound like a drum and bugle corps is marching through your brain. And sometimes bright lights even hurt your brain. And sometimes when the headache is really, really bad you think “Hmm, I wish I could just cut my head off and I will feel much better.” Of course, I know that cutting off my head would probably not be the wisest decision of my life and might cause a few other complications. So, instead of losing my head, I lay quietly in bed hoping, hoping, hoping that the pain in my brain will somehow reach the level of a jackhammer and thereby become somewhat manageable.

I have prayed, “Lord is there some great lesson I can learn from my headache?” He has given no earth shattering revelations.

I have prayed, “Lord, will this help me better understand the pain others experience?” While I am sure that it will, He has neither confirmed nor denied this truth.

Why share with you this part of my journey? Some of you might be dealing with pain too. And simply because Jesus is our Lord and Savior and Redeemer and Friend does not mean that all pain has henceforth been eliminated from our lives. Sometimes when we are struggling with pain or with life, it’s not easy. I chose to use the word “struggling” in the previous sentence on purpose. Sometimes life can be a struggle. Sometimes it’s hard to smile and say, “Yippee! Yahoo! Everything is great!” when things aren’t so great. Faith is not plastering a phony smile on your face and saying: “Everything is great, when your head feels like the drums in an Ozzy Ozbourne concert and you know good and well that everything is far from great.” Faith sometimes is saying, “I have a great headache, but I have a greater God.” Or “I have a great problem or I have great trouble, but I have a far greater God.” You see, I know this: The God who spared my life and sustains my life and graces my life with His presence will see me through this day. I will trust him. I will rejoice in Him. I will not give in to the temptation that denies a loving and faithful God.”

Paul had an issue that he called “a thorn in his flesh” (read all about it in 2 Corinthians 12). Three times he told us he prayed that God would remove this thorn and three times God said, “Nope!” Oblivious to all HIPAA and privacy laws, Bible scholars have ever since debated what exactly his “thorn” might have been. They have guessed and surmised and suggested everything from bad vision to depression to gout. I certainly don’t want to add to the pool of guesses and I don’t want Paul to file a lawsuit for invasion of his privacy when I get to heaven’s courts, so I won’t make a guess as to what Paul’s thorn might have been. But this I know: Whatever God does with my pain, like Paul, I want to come to the conclusion that God’s grace is all I need. I want to focus on the greatness of God’s grace rather than the greatness of my troubles.

You see, God did not promise us a pain free, trouble free, never-a-problem life, but he did promise to be with us. He promised that even when I walk through the “valley of the shadow of death” (that sounds like a very bad place, doesn’t it?) even in that very bad place, we need not fear because he is with us (see Psalm 23). So I will not fear. I will trust. I will hold on to the fact that He is taking care. And I will proclaim loud and long that God’s grace is sufficient for me.

When you have a very bad day or a very bad headache or a very bad thorn in your flesh, I pray that you will say the same thing: God’s grace is all I need!

Monday, January 07, 2008

A phone call from the ICU

One of the funniest things that happened when I was a little loopy following my brain hemorrhage was the message I left with my secretary on the Friday morning from the ICU. I informed her that I would not be in the office that day... I think I'll play the tape on Sunday. You won't believe it. I neither remember making the call or giving the message... but it is funny.

Getting Back in the saddle

It was good to be at the church for a few hours today and participate in our weekly staff meeting. Good things are happening at Central. Great to have new Worship and Arts Intern Jon Hall also at the staff meeting.

Heard great reports of the services on Sunday. Thanks to Dr. David Nash and Rev. Molly Frei filling in on Sunday.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

I still miss Central

I really thought that I would be able to attend Central this morning. Oh do I miss it. Unfortunately last night was a bit rough and I knew I would not be able to attend. I was more sick this morning than I have been all week (why does that happen on Sundays? It's kind of like why do snow storms always seem to happen on Sunday mornings?)

So my worship time this morning consisted of some personal devotion time, listening to the sermon from Nashville First Church of the Nazarene (Gary Henecke is a great preacher), and then watching a local preacher on TV (He will remain nameless-- I would have gotten much more if I listened to two sermons from Gary Henecke).

Thanks for your prayers, the plan is still that I will be in the pulpit next Sunday! I think it will take wild horses to keep me away... I'm getting a little antsy.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A blown head gasket

After Karla commandeered this e-mail last week, I thought I had better take it back over or soon she would be preaching on Sundays and wanting to officiate at weddings. So from my bedside…

I was reading a list of some famous (and infamous) people who passed away in 2007. Among others on the list were people like Anna Nicole Smith, Don Ho, Lady Bird Johnson, Jerry Falwell, Evel Knieval, Kurt Vonnegut, Merv Griffen and Tammy Faye Bakker Messner. I noticed one name that wasn’t on the list: “Rob Prince.” I am told that it very easily could have been. As such, I am keenly aware that I have been given a gift this Christmas season. It wasn’t wrapped in fancy paper. It had no tag from a sender, but I have been given a tremendous gift: Life.

As most of you know, on December 20, 2007, I had a brain hemorrhage, or a brain bleed or in some ways a brain/blood problem. My non-medical, motor city rendering for what took place in my noggin is: A Blown Head Gasket. I definitely do not recommend such an event on the Thursday before Christmas. Imagine your worst headache, times ten, and happening instantly while sipping your morning’s McDonald’s coffee. That was my Thursday morning two weeks ago. While I do not remember much from the first few days, I do recall that in the first few moments before leaving my desk, thinking “Wow, I think I am either having a stroke or a brain aneurism.” I also remember praying: “Lord, I am pretty sure that you and I are OK, just be with my family in the next few days.” I’ll be honest-- that’s a very, very weird prayer to pray.

Well, since I am writing this e-mail, it’s fairly obvious that God has been with my family and me these last two weeks. I am doing well, and while fighting fatigue and headaches, the doctors are expecting a full recovery without any surgeries. Here are a few observations from the last few weeks:

1) Life can change in an instant. Be ready. Always be ready to meet with God.

2) Our Central family is awesome! I have received so many cards and reminders of how the church is suppose to act and love. Thank you Central Nazarene!!!

3) Hospital Food is not nearly as good as Central food. Many meals, yummy meals have been sent to our house. Thanks again, Central Naz!

4) If I saw you in my first two hospital days, please allow me to offer this disclaimer: I said many goofy things either as a result of 1) the brain hemorrhage, or 2) the medication for the brain hemorrhage. So disregard anything I may have said. Here’s one example: One of my ICU nurses asked me if I ever introduced myself as “Roberto.” When I said, “Never,” she informed me that was exactly how I introduced myself to her and what I wanted her to call me on that fateful Thursday. Weird. Very Weird. Please no one call me, “Pastor Roberto.”

5) Two facts from the week of the “Blown head gasket:”
Fact #1: The doctors believe that a spike in my blood pressure caused the hemorrhage.
Fact #2: Less than 24 hours before the “blown head gasket,” my 16 year old cherub, Alex, received his first ever Kansas Driver’s License.
Alex insists that Fact #1 has no correlation to Fact #2. He’s probably right.

6) As I enter 2008, I anticipate making a few life changes this year. I’ll probably exercise more, eat less fries and more salads, and in all things appreciate the moments of grace and joy that the Lord provides every, single day. (I see my doctor today; he might offer a few more suggestions).

7) I am very appreciative of a great wife, a loving family, a wonderful church and a gracious Lord who never left my side.

Went to the doc today

I went to the doctor today. "So far so good" was the non medical assessment of my situation. I see my other doctor in a week and have to make a couple of appointments with a couple of other doctors in the coming weeks. I went from being basically healthy and rarely seeing a doctor to becoming a medical professional groupie. Ah well, hopefully this will set a course for a healthy many years to come!

Thanks again for all the cards, e-mails, meals and other signs of love that many of you have shown myself and my family. We have felt very loved!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Wedneday at Central

I thought I might try to come out and see some folks at the church tonight.... but I think I over did it some today. I wrote out a few "thank yous," undecorated a tree, boxed up some gifts that didn't get delivered to Michigan and that pretty much used up the energy pile for the day.

Ah well, I love Wednesdays at Central. Unless I am counselling someone or meeting with a group, usually I am just hanging out, greeting people and enjoying the fellowship of being with God's people. So, I'll miss tonight. Enjoy the evening at Central!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Yippee! 2008!
What an awesome year is ahead! God has great things in store! People will find Jesus this year as their Lord, Savior and Friend. People who right now have no hope will discover the hope of Christ. I can't wait to see 2008 as the greatest year for Christ that I have ever witnessed!