View From The Ridge

View From The Ridge

Monday, March 31, 2014

Tax man cometh.

“I am proud to be paying taxes in the United States. The only thing is – I could be just as proud for half the money.” — Arthur Godfrey, entertainer
"Taxation with representation ain’t so hot either.” — Gerald Barzan, humorist
“Income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf.” — Will Rogers, humorist 

 When they arrived at Capernaum, the tax men came to Peter and asked, "Does your teacher pay taxes?" Peter said, "Of course." But as soon as they were in the house, Jesus confronted him. "Simon, what do you think? When a king levies a tax, who pays--his children or his subjects?"   He answered, "His subjects." Jesus said, "Then the children get off free, right?   But so we don't upset them needlessly, go down to the lake, cast a hook, and pull in the first fish that bites. Open its mouth and you'll find a coin. Take it and give it to the tax men. It will be enough for both of us."   Matt. 17:24-27 msg

It has been another “interesting” year for the Query household.  Our life is sort of like flying; long uneventful periods of time when nothing seems to be happening punctuated by moments of sheer terror.  2007 was no different and I expect the same for 2008.   When you have played bumper tag with a Mexican semi, had all eight lug bolts snap off on a front hub, narrowly escaped running head on with a Mexican SUV who was on the wrong side of a narrow highway, and came within seconds of an electrical fire in the trailer brake controller in Las Vegas, I am not sure much could phase us in 08.  Then there were the California wild fires, of which one went through my dad’s mobile home park, torching about 140 homes, but barely missing his.  2007 will go into the books as the year of multiple miracles

So, how was your 2007 and what are you expecting for 2008?  Jeri and I are praying for a little less excitement, a little more time at home, more time with the kids and grand-kids and more time with friends.  But most of all, answers to our long list of people who we are praying daily for salvation, that God in his mercy would draw them close to him. 

By now your probably wondering where this is going since it has nothing to do with the quotes and scripture located at the beginning.  Patience, we’re getting there.

With the beginning of a new year arriving, each one of us approaches this time with different expectations and anxieties.  Many will be worrying about how to pay off all those credit cards used to purchase Christmas gifts, and kicking themselves for spending so much in the first place.  Credit cards have made impulse buying so easy it borders on criminal.  Some will be hoping that they had enough withholding tax held back to cover their impending tax bill.  Others will be scrambling to come up with the money to pay their taxes because they failed to plan ahead. 

As I have been preparing these last couple of weeks for our annual migration south, one of my tasks has been to close the books on the ranch and gather all the information for the tax return.  Our farm/ranch/200 acre yard is in a corporation and those returns have to be filed by March 15th every year so we are always on the road when the filing dead line arrives.   Then I can take my own sweet time about filing my 1040 return because I don’t pay taxes and there’s no dead line for that. 
“What” you say?  “You don’t pay taxes?  How do you get away with that?”   Well, it’s simple.  Having retired from the IRS, one of the fringe benefits that’s little known is retired revenue agents don’t have to pay t------, No, not really!!  Just foolin’ with you. 

The bottom line is – it is always the bottom line - if you don’t earn any money, you don’t have any tax to pay.  So, for all those budding wanabe tax protesters out there, to avoid paying taxes, just don’t earn any money.

 Or, you can sell everything, close out your bank accounts, cash in your 401K, buy a motor home and a utility trailer, stock it up with some kind of fast food items, or fill it with cheap jewelry, CD’s, tee shirts, you name it, and hit the road for 365 days covering every county fair, flee market, 4th of July, Memorial day, labor day, hog wild and mule day events  in the lower 48 states.  Deal in cash only, no checks or credit cards and keep moving to the music of Willy Nelson and “On the Road Again”.   Keep no records, burn everything. 

You’ll have lots of friends.  You’ve seen them, the ones with cut off tee-shirts and lots of tattoos, one or more teeth missing, smoke stained fingers, smoke coming out of most their body orifices, and a distinct foreign accent from Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama or Arkansas.  Oh, yea baby, this is the life!!  Just you and me and 4 yappy dogs crammed in a 290 square foot motor home like rats in a tin can.  Woo Haaa!!

I always got a kick out of working with tax protesters.  If they had worked half as hard at earning a living and paying their taxes as they did planning and scheming to avoid paying taxes, they would have been well ahead of where they ended up financially.  

Of course, for most of us, obeying the law and following Jesus’ example and instruction is enough.  We bite the bullet and pay what is due.  The reward for that is we get to gripe and complain to our hearts desire about it in a country that is free and allows you to complain all you want as long as you want. 

There was a time – a looong time – when we were farming where there was not enough money to support us, let alone pay taxes.  Then we both had to go back to work for wages and started to pay taxes again.  Man, that felt good! So I look forward to some day having to pay taxes again, because it will mean I have more money coming in.  Hopefully it won’t mean I had to go back to work for it.  That would put a real crimp in my golf game.  My prayer for you all this year is for you to stay employed and paying into social security so I can keep playing golf.    


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

God is in control

Job 23:14  He will fulfill what He has planned for me; that plan is just one of the many He has. 

Jeremiah  29:11  I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord.  “I have good plans for you, not to hurt you.  I will give you hope and a good future.”

Proverbs 16:9  A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure.”

After sharing with you all about the health issues that I am dealing with, I began to look back at the chain of events that brought me to Portland at this particular time.  I don’t believe in coincidences; I believe that everything that happens is God-driven and directed, and if we would just learn to stay out of His way, great and mighty things will happen.  With the clear vision of hindsight, I am able to see how the hand of God was in this long before I thought He was. 

Last December we flew to the mainland to celebrate Christmas with our kids, kid-in-laws and grand-kids.  Our grand-daughter, Beth, announced that she and her boyfriend, Johnathan, would be tying the knot and set a date of March 15th.  Randall, her father and our son-in-law, was preparing to go to Chicago for  chemotherapy in preparation to harvest his stem cells.  After killing off his immune system,  they would be transplanted back into his body.  He was scheduled to be finished and return to Portland on March 11th.   We decided that we would come over about 10 days before the wedding and help out, and then stay as long as necessary to help with Randall since we had no clue what his condition would be. Not knowing when we would return to Hawaii, I booked one way tickets using air miles. 
As it turned out, he didn’t need our help.  He has bounced back way better than anyone thought, and it is I who now has major medical issues with uncertain surgery and radiation/and or chemotherapy schedules that are still undecided. 
Beth’s parents tried to talk her into waiting until summer for the wedding, allowing more planning time, Randall would be stronger, and we would be over on the mainland on our summer sojourn to Oregon .  But Johnathan and Beth were insistent on a March wedding during spring break at OIT.  And so it was set.

 James 4:13-15  Some of you say, “today or tomorrow we will go to some city.  We will stay there a year, do business, and make money”  But you do not know what will happen tomorrow!  Your life is like a mist.  You can see it for a short time, but then it goes away.  So you should say, “if the Lord wants, we will live and do this or that.”
You have to understand that there is very little that will cause me to travel from Hawaii back to Oregon before June.  This time of year, the high temperature, even in Portland, seldom gets up to our low temperatures in Hawaii.  I see the sun virtually every day in Hawaii, seldom in Portland.  My Camaro is in Hawaii, not Portland.  The water temperature in Hawaii is warmer than the air temperature in Portland.  And of course there is the golf.  Play in the sunshine, or play in the cold rain.  So you see, there is no earthly reason for me to be in Portland at this time.  Except that my lovely grand-daughter was getting married, and Jeri and I were not going to miss that for anything.  I thank and praise the Holy name of God for that because if I was not here, I am not sure when the colon cancer would have been discovered. A weeks difference in discovering this cancer can make the difference in the outcome.
All the delays and scheduling problems we had from December through February were not there to frustrate me, but they did, but they were there to guide and direct me ultimately to Portland and OHSU where they are better equipped to treat cancer, as they have in my two previous battles.  I believe that the eyes of the doctors in Kona were blinded to the evidence of cancer revealed on the CT scan taken there in mid-February.  They were so concerned about the potential heart issues (turns out there were none) that they would not consider any other procedures until the angiogram was completed, which could only be done in Honolulu.  Turns out by the time that was scheduled, I could not get a flight out of Kona because all the seats were booked by tourists escaping the Polar Vortex.

You don’t suppose that the Polar Vortex was caused to send thousands of extra tourist to Hawaii so that I could not get on a flight to Honolulu?  And I just happened  to book a flight to Portland, months in advance, to be here when I needed to be, even before I was aware of this new cancer?  My granddaughter and her beau decide that March 15th had to be the wedding date no matter what?   Is this just some gigantic coincidence that all these factors came together by chance, or luck?  Am I just one tremendously lucky duck or what??  (The only place I have seen luck come into play is occasionally on the golf course, and then it is usually on the bad side.  Once in a while we will see a “lucky bounce” but not often.) 
I don’t know what your take on this is but I lean toward the Job theory.  If you remember my posting of Sept. 2013 where I wrote the parody of the incident in the book of Job where God and Satan are having their discussion about Job and his loyalty to God.  I believe that discussion goes on a lot in Heaven and  God is challenged by Satan to withdraw his protection  so that we will curse the name of God and reject Him. 

I believe that Satan went a second time to God in late 2009 and requested permission to touch my body again with cancer, only that time with a rare and deadly cancer that surely should have killed me.  This had to frustrate Satan when I again refused to curse God’s name or place any blame on Him, to accept that adversity as God’s will for me.  He used it in the ongoing process to mould and shape me into the person He wants me to be.  And God has blessed me through it all.

And yet, here we are just 4 years later again facing the ravages of cancer.  I believe that Satan again has gone before my heavenly Father and requested a third time to make my life miserable and hope that he would beat me down to the point that I would finally question God’s purpose in all of this and curse His name.  I believe that God is allowing Satan a third swing at me, but it will be a strike and he will be out.  I will not curse God’s name nor Satan’s for fear of angering either one of them.  I have enough to deal with already. 

I believe that no matter how this turns out, God’s name will be glorified.  No matter whether God chooses to take me home or leave me here, I win and Satan loses. 

Please understand that in all of this I am not bragging.  2nd Corinthians 10:17 states “but if people want to brag, they should brag only about the Lord.”  I share this only to show how the Lord God has intervened in my life and not because of anything I have done.  In reality, I deserve nothing.  I am nothing special, just an ordinary sinner saved by Jesus.  I write this because, first I believe that God wants this message to go out and He gives me the ability to write, and second as an encouragement to others who are going through the same challenges of life and that these adversities are not punishment from God for past sins in our lives. 

I am not sure it is even because of past eating habits or whether we exercise or not.  My dad never ran, walked or lifted weights or anything until his fifties when he started playing golf two or three times a week.  He quit playing golf in his late 70’s and sat the rest of his life and died at 92.  He was a creature of habit though.  Every day at about 2 pm he would sit in a lawn chair at the back of his mobile home, take off his shirt and soak up the sun for about 30 or 40 minutes.  Four o’clock was happy hour and he would have either a martini, shot of whiskey, or a beer virtually every day.  He was born at home and never spent a day in the hospital until he was 91 from a mild heart attack, and he drove himself to the hospital.  Obviously I only inherited his bald genes.   But, again, I digress.  Hard to stay focused. 

I think and pray for Peggy and Pam back in the La Grande church that are fighting cancer.  I pray for Heidi in Kona who has rejected two kidney transplants and does not qualify for another attempt, who thrice weekly undergoes dialysis, suffers partial paralysis, and yet daily fights the good fight.  I pray for Holly in Kona who suffers from severe Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency which causes her untold grief.  Both of these young ladies are in their early 30’s.  Both have been steadfast in their testimony to God, never blaming or cursing his name, but have been true to their walk with Jesus.  My prayer for myself is that I will also have the strength and fortitude that these four have in fighting life’s adversity. 

Last Fall, I stopped writing on my blog, not because of health, but because I was tired of writing about myself.  I could not understand why people would want to continue reading about me and my woes.  So I started waiting for God to inspire me to write something, because that is the way it has always been.  God would plant seeds of thoughts in my mind and then I would write them out.  But nothing came except ideas that were about myself and seemed trivial to everything else that was going on around me. 

So I became like Jonah and said, “nope, not going to write about me”!  And so God has swallowed me up and spit me on the beach and said “yes you will, and you will write what I tell you!”  And now you have two posts  back to back.  You will get another when we find out Thursday what plans lay ahead.  

I want to thank all those who sent encouraging words of support and promises of prayer.  You will never know how much Jeri and I have appreciated all the prayers and support over the last 8 years.  There are friends and relatives all over the country and in some foreign nations that are praying, and have engaged their Sunday school classes, care groups and churches to pray on my behalf.  I am truly humbled.  In all of this, I pray that God’s name will be glorified and his people encouraged. 

May God richly bless each and every one of you.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Round Three

Yes it has been a long time since I have written on my blog, and I was not intending to this time either, But the longer I wrote, the more I realized I needed to post it.  This is just to bring everyone up to date.  For the last 18 or 20 months I have been fighting with type 2 diabetes, losing the battle,  About 8 months ago the stomach pain and bowel pain, which we thought was coming from the diabetes medicine, became worse and so I stopped it, only to discover that was not the cause.  In the beginning of December I went back to the G.I. doctor and said "We have to scope my stomach and find out why I am having this sporadic pain." Turns out that because I had not had a stress test since I retired in 2001, she was requiring one before she would put me under anesthesia to do an endoscopy.   I insisted that I was not having any heart issues, but she insisted on ruling out angina, which can express itself in various and sundry parts of the body.  Thus began a catch 22 situation where now I was having to have tests for something that was not bothering me, and not dealing with the pain that was causing my distress. 
Of course, the GI doctor can't request the stress test at the hospital, my GP has to do that.  Another week goes by, I have the stress test, and sure enough, a little blip shows up and they don't know why.  After two more stress tests and two sessions with an ultra sound with a cardiologist that only comes to the Big Island once a week from Honolulu, nobody knows what is going on.

We are now into mid February where I spend three days in the hospital while they try to figure out my stomach pain.  They do the last part of the stress test, a CT scan, test on my gallbladder, kidneys, pancreas, determining the gallbladder is suspect and there is inflammation and swelling in the lower bowels.  But NOBODY will sign off on doing a colonoscopy or endoscopy until the heart issue is resolved.  They call me on the 26th to schedule an angiogram on Friday the 28th at 11:30 am in Honolulu.  No one on the Big Island can do that procedure.  Problem is, I can't find a seat on any airline that will get me there by 11:30.  Hawaii is flooded with tourists from any area where the weather is cold (which is just about everywhere).  This is where I make an executive decision and tell them I am already booked for a flight to Portland on the 5th of March for our granddaughter's wedding and I will pursue treatment there.  This, of course, is a huge relief to my two daughters.
We spend the first week Portland making appointments at Oregon Health Science University (OHSU)  all which have to be  after the 15th because I am not risking anything getting in the way of being able to attend the wedding.  The angiogram was completed on the 18th and, guess what;  nothing is going on.  The heart is fine, no blockage, no build up, only a 10 to 15% reduction in flow which is expected in a normal 75 year old, especially in one whose body has been subjected to all kinds of abuse and stress over the years.

Now that that issue has been put to bed, they scheduled a colonoscopy and endoscopy for the 20th, yesterday, to be completed at the same time.  Only their news was not good news.  Inflammation in the stomach, and evidence of cancer in the colon. Biopsy's were taken and we are waiting for those results.  This morning I was notified that I have appointments with the G.I. surgeon on the 27th and also the Preoperative Medicine Clinic that afternoon.  I am assuming the biopsy report will be back by then.  Also this morning, the colonoscopy doctor called to say the CT scan showed no indication of tumors anywhere else in the torso other than what is already in the colon. 

So Jeri and I begin the next chapter in our lives.  There was never the question of if the cancer would come back but when, and where.  And until the biopsy report comes back we won't know if it is related to mucosa melanoma.

As I have been writing this I have received 6 calls from various doctors and nurses giving me results of tests, scheduling of appointments or just checking on how I was doing after all the procedures yesterday.  I don't think I have received 6 calls from Hawaii medical people in the last 6 months.  

The  CT results show no indication of any cancer other than in the colon.  Lungs are clear as is the pelvic area, so that is good news.  There is also no indication that the cancer has masticated outside the colon.  At this point it appears that surgery is a given and any decision on radiation and/or chemo will depend on what they find during surgery.

Last night my oldest grandson, Mitchell, asked me how I was doing with all of this.  I said I was doing fine with it, it wasn't the first time we had traveled down this trail, and he replied that he was not fine with it.  And so began a long discussion of who is actually in control, the cycle of life, and where I was in all of this.  And so I want to share that with all of you also.

I am a big fan of God being in control of my life.  I have seen evidence of it in my life of 75 years, and would not trade any day of it for what I might think would have been better.  I am appreciative of the adversity's that have occurred in my life because it has strengthened my faith and made me stronger.  God has shown me great love and has blessed me beyond - well, most of my dreams.  Surely more than I deserve.  I am not looking forward to major surgery and/or radiation and chemotherapy.  But I know that God has a plan for this, and I am His servant and this may not be about me, but about someone down the road who needs to hear my testimony and see how God has operated in my life.
I explained to my grandson that this is part of the cycle of life.  I am in a win/win situation.  If I am healed a third time, what a blessing that will be.  If not, then I will be at home with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, and that will be the greatest blessing of all.  For those of us who know Christ, and have accepted him as Lord and Savior, we will spend eternity in heaven fellow shipping with each other.  When one dies it leaves a huge hole in the lives of those around him, but life goes on, time heals.  Death is just as much a part of life as birth is.  We have an appointed time for both and there is nothing, NOTHING we can do to alter those dates.  I explained to Mitchell that both sets of grand parents are going to die, but not before their appointed time, and in the end we will all be meeting again in Heaven because of our love for Jesus.

He asked me if I was afraid of what was forth coming and I said that death does not scare me, but I was afraid of the pain of surgery and the amount of time it takes to recoup from that, but mostly of the thoughts of having to go through chemotherapy and dealing with the side effects of that.  I have not felt good since 2009 just before we started dealing with the last episode of cancer, and so to anticipate what lies before me, and my family, I am not the least bit excited to go through this again and what looks like more pain than before.

But, the good news is that my Heavenly Father knew of this before the foundations of the earth were set in place, has placed in motion everything that I will need, will comfort and hold me when needed, and I have hundreds of people praying from me all over the U.S. and in some parts of the world.

Matthew 6:7-8 "When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagans do, who think that their gods will hear them because their prayers are long. Do not be like them. Your Father already knows what you need before you ask him. GNB  (see past blog Adoption, February 2010)

I want to thank everyone for their prayers in the past and request your continued prayers as we travel down this new trail.