View From The Ridge

View From The Ridge

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Year to Remember

1st Chron. 16:8-11 Give thanks to the LORD, proclaim his greatness; tell the nations what he has done. Sing praise to the LORD; tell the wonderful things he has done. Be glad that we belong to him; let all who worship him rejoice! Go to the LORD for help, and worship him continually.

As I write this, it is just days before Christmas, and while there is every prospect of a white Christmas at home, there is none where we are in Santa Paula, California. It is now the fifth day of constant rain which has amounted to about 8 or 9 inches so far, but we are on high ground and I have not seen anyone building an ark yet.

This will mark the second Christmas in 36 years that we have not spent  on the ranch with family, both times due to my health. It was not an easy decision to leave home two months earlier than normal, yet I knew that I would not be able to contend with the winter weather this year. And from the reports of friends at home I made the right choice. But with every choice there are consequences, some good, some bad.

The down side of this choice was not having Christmas with out kids and grandkids. I have long stressed the importance of family, and holidays have always been a great time of interaction and reconnection. Jeri and I will miss that this year.

Yet there is an up side of my choice in that we will be able to share Christmas with my sister and brother-in-law and their family for part of the day, and then we will spend the rest of it with our niece and her family along with Jeri’s sister and brother-in-law and her mother. This will be a special treat since it has been many years since we have been here at Christmas.

As the year comes to a close, it has been a year that in many ways I would like to forget. Health wise, it has definitely been the worst. But if I were to forget all of this year, then I would also be forgetting all the ways that God has blessed me and I would not want that to happen. How could I forget how so many friends and family prayed and ministered to me and Jeri. This has been a year of watching God meet our every need, of having friends and family give of their time to unpack our trailer when we arrived home in May, pruning our raspberries, weed whacking fence rows, fixing our built in vacuum, crawling under the house trying to find the shorted wire, cutting and splitting firewood, welding a gate, checking the flu on our wood stove, packing wood to the garage, winterizing the house and repacking the trailer so we could leave. How could I forget the four months that my daughter and her family put up with us parked in their driveway while I went through surgery and radiation. I will never be able to forget their worried looks and concern, will always remember their loving care and attention. Then there are the doctors and nurses at OHSU who have been fantastic. They have been so supportive, encouraging, yet brutally honest when we asked them to be. I can’t number the times that they saw me on short notice or took my calls when I know they were busy.

But most of all, there is Jeri, my life partner, the love of my life. She has been most supportive, ministered to my every need, put up with all the ugliness of post surgery and radiation, the many nights when I could not sleep, listening to all the unpleasant noises that come with not being able to breath through the nose, the flushing and blowing of the nose, etc., etc., etc. Long suffering does not even begin to describe it. There has to be saint hood in her future if there is any justice at all.

Yes, this has been a bad year in some ways, but a very good year in many ways. One always questions why something like this has to happen, yet God promises that there is a purpose for adversity. I am sure that there were lessons for Jeri and me to learn, and I am sure that others learned something from observing. But it also allowed others to use their spiritual gifts, and that is a good thing.

I am not sure what all I was expected to learn from this year, but I did realize how important family and friends are in a time of crisis. I came to a better understanding how to be a friend when someone is ill, how to minister to them, how important it is to just be there and maintain a continuity of friendship.

But more than anything, I learned first hand that even when bad things happen, there are good things happing at the same time and in the end they may out number the bad things. It just seems like at the time that the bad things are overwhelming and we fail to see the good that is happening.
As this year closes, I am looking forward to what God has in store for us this next year, as I hope you all are also. It may be a good year, it might not, but I know that there will be good things happening no matter what, and there will be blessings from God if we take the time to look for them.

As I go into the New Year, I am feeling better this month than any since February and that is encouraging. Besides, first time out playing 18 holes of golf in four months I shot 87. Jeri and I wish you all the best in 2011.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ramblings from an Old Man

Hanging loose

Sitting on a beach in Hawaii has it's good and bad points.  It is good to be in the warm sun and feel the ocean breeze, to observe God's creation and smell the salt air.  It also gives you way to much time to think.  Some of that thinking can be good, but when you are dealing with a possible terminal disease, your mind can wander into places you would rather not be. 

Mike on the Hoover Farm, 1949

 I have reminisced probably too much lately, going back over my child hood days, the early years when Jeri and I were just starting our journey together, the years raising kids, success and failures in business and life, things I have done or said that I wished I could do over.  But given the choice of living the same life over again or starting over with a new, unknown life, I would choose to live the life that God has given me.  No changes,  no regrets, not one!   I have been truly blessed beyond riches because of family, friends and church family. 

Chuck's Graduation, 1980

Straughn, Indiana, 1961

Luke 6:46-49  "Why do you call me Lord but don't do what I tell you? "I will show you what everyone who comes to me, hears what I say, and obeys it is like.  He is like a person who dug down to bedrock to lay the foundation of his home. When a flood came, the flood waters pushed against that house. But the house couldn't be washed away because it had a good foundation. The person who hears what I say but doesn't obey it is like someone who built a house on the ground without any foundation. The flood waters pushed against it, and that house quickly collapsed and was destroyed."

Just as the house pictured above is built on solid lava rock, I have tried to live my life on the bedrock of Jesus Christ, so that when the wind storms and waves of life come beating on me, I will be on solid ground.  It doesn't mean the storms and troubles won't come, because they have and will,  it means you will be able to weather them no matter what.  If my life stands for nothing else, it will at least be a testimony to standing on the promises of Christ.  It is what keeps me sane through the current trial. 
Mat 11:28-30    "Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.  Place my yoke over your shoulders, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble. Then you will find rest for yourselves  because my yoke is easy and my burden is light".

I wish I had a dollar for every time this scripture has come to my mind.  There were too many years that I heard these verses, but tried to do things on my own, my way.  I grew up in a generation that preached that hard work would bring success.  Well, bull hockey!!  I worked hard on the farm, sacrificed time with my family, material things, only to discover that farming was not my God given talent, and no matter how hard I worked it was never going to be successful.  Only when I fully surrendered to His will was I able to enjoy the gifts that God had instilled in me.  Unfortunately, it took 13 years for that to sink in.

Phi 4:11-13 I'm not saying this because I'm in any need. I've learned to be content in whatever situation I'm in.  I know how to live in poverty or prosperity. No matter what the situation, I've learned the secret of how to live when I'm full or when I'm hungry, when I have too much or when I have too little.  I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.

I noticed on our three trips to Ecuador on medical missions that the people there seemed content, no matter how poor they were.  The mother and daughter in the picture above illustrates that so well.  They were watching us load up the bus that was taking our team from Cuenca to Sucua.  They were enjoying watching us without any signs of envy or regret, just people watching.  The other picture shows houses on the steep hillsides of the Andes mountains.  They are hard to see, but they up there with no roads, no power, and if they have water it comes from either a spring or small stream.  The owners have to hike up those steep hillsides packing food and supplies and sometimes water.  Yet when you approach them and say hello, they smile and return your greetings.  They are a patient people, and few ever demand things. 

The woman to the right struck me in the same way, just the perfect picture of contentment, yet by our standards she and her family are dirt poor.  They live in a adobe brick "house" with no running water or electricity, yet how could one look any more contented.    I have strived to attain that level of contentment, but it is difficult in our society.  Also difficult when you have a type double A personality.  Oh, well, I have always consider myself a work in progress.
 Psalm 131 1-3 O LORD, my heart is not conceited. My eyes do not look down on others. I am not involved in things too big or too difficult for me.  Instead, I have kept my soul calm and quiet. My soul is content as a weaned child is content in its mother's arms.  Israel, put your hope in the LORD now and forever.

1Sa 1:16 Don't for a minute think I'm a bad woman. It's because I'm so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I've stayed here so long."

The flip side of contentment is this little girl we saw in a small village south of Cuenca where we were holding a one day clinic.  We heard her wailing from three blocks away, and she was very unhappy that her mother apparently got tired of her fussing and just went on her way.  The girl was in no danger, so we also left her to her tantrums.  I have no idea how long she sat there but it was obviously a battle of wills.  I'm betting mom won out.
I regret the number of times when I was younger that I have fussed and complained about what was going on in my life and what was not happening that I wanted.  But God was patient with me and still provided all my daily needs, but not necessary what I wanted, just as any good parent would have done.  That is the amazing thing about God and His promises;  He keeps them, despite ourselves. 

Luke 12:37  Lucky the servants whom the master finds on watch! He'll put on an apron, sit them at the table, and serve them a meal, sharing his wedding feast with them. 
When in Cuenca, Ecuador, the GHO team stays in a hotel that the owner closes for the week we are there.  The dinning room is set up like this with a different decor and colors every meal.  It has always reminded me of the wedding feast we will enjoy in heaven when Christ and his church are reunited. 
Psalm23:1-6   A psalm by David. The LORD is my shepherd. I am never in need.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside peaceful waters.  He renews my soul. He guides me along the paths of righteousness for the sake of his name.  Even though I walk through the dark valley of death, because you are with me, I fear no harm. Your rod and your staff give me courage.  You prepare a banquet for me while my enemies watch. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.   Certainly, goodness and mercy will stay close to me all the days of my life, and I will remain in the LORD'S house for days without end.

It probably doesn't surprise anyone that I would show water on a golf course for this.  Yet some of my most peaceful times have been walking and playing a round of golf, admiring God's handiwork, just enjoying being alive and physically able to swing a golf club.  I haven't been able to do that much this year because of all the surgeries and radiation, but I am getting stronger and should be able to start playing golf in December when we arrive in Southern California. 

I have a tee-shirt that has a saying on it that goes like this:  "Let your ball lie in green grass, not in still waters"  Arnie 3:5  (Arnie, being Arnold Palmer)  Believe me, I have made many a sacrifices to the golf gods by donating balls to lakes.

Titus 6:6-9  A godly life brings huge profits to people who are content with what they have.  We didn't bring anything into the world, and we can't take anything out of it.  As long as we have food and clothes, we should be satisfied.  But people who want to get rich keep falling into temptation. They are trapped by many stupid and harmful desires which drown them in destruction and ruin.

There is nothing wrong with being rich.  The problem lies in how we attain that wealth and what the cost was.  I have never chased the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  My most frustrating time in life was when I was not able to pay my bills on time and I questioned God about that.  I can remember praying and saying to God that all I wanted was to be able to pay my bills and provide for my family.  Is that to much to ask?  Well, it apparently is if you are not where God ultimately wants you.  Once I understood that principle, things changed.  What I came to realize years later was all the many ways God blessed me when I wasn't aware of it.  He always provided just enough to get us by. 

Malachi 3:7-11 You have a long history of ignoring my commands. You haven't done a thing I've told you. Return to me so I can return to you," says GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies. "You ask, 'But how do we return?'  "Begin by being honest. Do honest people rob God? But you rob me day after day. "You ask, 'How have we robbed you?' "The tithe and the offering--that's how!  And now you're under a curse--the whole lot of you--because you're robbing me.  Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don't open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams.  For my part, I will defend you against marauders, protect your wheat fields and vegetable gardens against plunderers."

This is the only time in the bible that God challenges us to test him that I know of.  And I am here to tell you it works!  God doesn't say He will make you rich beyond your wildest dreams, He will give out blessings beyond your wildest dreams.  Once you submit to His will and operate according to His instructions, your life will change.  If you were to tell me in 1986 that within 15 years I would be debt free, retiring, and then would travel to eight different countries, I would have said "In yours and my dreams".  He does not say the blessings will start immediately, but they will come.  I have been blessed with a phenomenal wife and family, friends by the bushel, and a great church and church family.  I really don't need anything else, Yet God has blessed me in other ways.  I am privileged to live where I have million dollar views, my closet neighbor is a quarter mile away, the peace and solitude is overwhelming, and eight months of great weather.  Unfortunately, there are four months I really don't care for, yet God has blessed Jeri and I with the ability to go south those four months where the snow flies not. 

I have probably bored you all enough, much like the young boy in this picture, so I will end this with an update on me. My last CT-PET scan on Nov. 24th was clean, no sign of any cancer. So we are cleared for the next four months when I have the next scan in April. For now, the elephant in the room has been shoved to one side, but he will be back in the center of the room in April. We try to ignore him but he is quite large and imposing. Thank you all for your prayers.