Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Organ Recital

Well I passed another milestone. Three quarters of a century has witnessed my presence on this planet, and we find ourselves increasingly engaged in the organ recital. You know, I need to check my blood sugar. How's your blood pressure? The doctor says my kidneys are working a bit better than this time last year. My PSA is high so I need to take antibiotics and do the test again. My last molar on the top right cannot take a simple crown over the expensive root canal. It needs $600 more work, so I had them pull it out instead. Extractions are so much more reasonably priced than canal/crowns. I won't be needing any molars for the next 6 months anyway.

When I went to urgent care to see if I had pneumonia (I don't, and I am truly grateful to God for that!) I got a shock when I stepped on the scale. It seems that I have gained 24 pounds since June! The doctor said a lot of that seemed to be water. I elevated my legs a little and after a few trips to the restroom I lost 6 of those pounds over the weekend. But something snapped in my head. I am no longer inordinately corpulent--I'm fat! When I mount the stairs, I am carrying a 100 pound body suit with me. I must be killing myself. I know I will feel better and be much healthier if I might lose my pillow.

Someone needs to pray me through this one. Kaiser has a program called "Optifast" that is specifically for folks who are 40 or more pounds overweight. It is a 20 week, physician supervised, liquid diet. I go for orientation on Nov. 4, and I suppose the program begins shortly after that. I have already enjoyed my "thanksgiving dinner" of turkey and stuffing at Hofs Hut on Monday. Actually I suppose you need to pray for my wife who has to live with me through this whole thing. I have promised myself that I will not carp, whine and complain, but I am a weak and sinful man.

What snapped in my head was the sudden light that said "do this or die". I will let you know how things are going from time to time. I promise not to bore you with daily details, however.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ecclesiastical Snobbery

On vacation in Branson, MO, we found ourselves engaged in ecclesiastical snobbery. It's not an unwholesome allegiance to the OPC. We have lived long enough in this denomination to realize that John Mitchell was right when he dubbed us the "Overly Prickly Church" rather than the "Only Perfect Church" as some aver.

My friend, John Toebe, drinks voraciously of reformed preaching, and he says, "Rollin, you just don't know what it's like out there." Well on vacation away from reformed centers is the only time I can get a taste of what John says. And we did get a taste this last week. We were in Branson, MO, a thoroughly "churched" tourist trap.

We scanned the Internet and perused the yellow pages and the consensus was to try the local "Bible" church. I figure that any church that respects the Bible enough to put it in the church's name must be worth trying. They also have an evening service, which is another good sign.

We were rather bitterly disappointed, however. It was not really because the pastor was an emotionless monotone. Nor was it the fact that cute pictures were flashed on the screen during the sermon (I guess to keep us awake and wondering where he was going). The order of service did not include a scripture reading of any sort. The fatal flaw, however, was the tragic fact that the pastor did not preach Christ! He sorta worked his way through John 13 for the account of the washing of the disciples' feet. What a wonderful text to display our servant Savior, who came not to be served, but to give His life a ransom for many! But instead we were given a moralistic harangue about how we ought to wash each other's feet. He told us about a time when he actually did wash the feet of another minister and they both felt humiliated. Aww, how good it is to be humbled. But it was not the humbling that comes from seeing the Savior bearing our sins. It was just the awkward social circumstances of culture.

So for the evening service we chose the local Southern Baptist Church. We thought we knew what to expect, but we did hope to hear the gospel preached. Again we were disappointed. The text was Ephesians 6 and the Christian armor. We should have guessed we were in for disappointment when the preacher said this text was going to be a jumping off point for his message. Here too there were distracting slides on the overhead to help us follow the sermon outline. But by his own admission, the sermon outline did not come from the scripture, but from literature published for a neighborhood watch group. There was some cleverness here, and even some good advice given, but I wanted the minister to bring me to Christ, and he did not do that. It really is amazing how close and yet how far one can get from preaching Christ while using the Bible.

Many years ago (again while on vacation) we visited a church where the minister announced as his text a paragraph from Elizabeth Elliot's book, "Through Gates of Splendor." We met some wonderful Christian people who took us to their home and treated us to ice cream and fellowship. I wept internally to think how these brothers and sisters were being fed with sand instead of the pure milk of the word.

When I ponder these experiences I tell myself, "These are by brothers in Christ. They will be sitting on the same pew with me in glory. While I think so harshly of their preaching, they are out there talking to people about Jesus and bringing them to the Savior. Who do I think I am to pass judgment?" Is it possible that Jesus will tell me that I was right about good preaching, but I ruined my contribution to the kingdom work on earth with pride and laziness and fear of conflict?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Covering the bases

Just to make sure that no proverbial stone was left unturned, Kaiser scheduled my wife for two consultations (not one, but two). One was with a radiation oncologist. The other was with a thoracic surgeon. Now I surmise that within the parameters of medical propriety, there is room for a little salesmanship for one discipline over against the other.

If Barbara were to authorise action against this schwannoma by her spine, the question is should we bomb it with radiation, or should we cut the whole thing out. Not surprisingly the radiation oncologist listed the benefits of his approach. It is not as invasive. It would not shrink the tumor, but it would stop its growth. A few sittings a week for a few weeks and it would all be over.

But the surgeon seemed to think it would be easy to extract this thing with arthroscopic methods. Just a couple little holes, inject a light and a camera and go for it. He warned us that if we allow it to grow into the spine it would get more complicated. He also suggested that if (and there is a very high degree of improbability) this tumor is or becomes malignant, the biopsy would not have detected that because only a small tissue sample is taken. When the tumor is removed the whole specimen is sent to the lab and it becomes certain that there were no cancerous cells.

We arranged the appointments to occur on the same day since this facility is in Hollywood. One was in the morning and the other in the afternoon. We thought it might be nice to have lunch in Hollywood between appointments. Of course we could not find our "Entertainment" coupon booklet. I'm sure there are some eateries in Hollywood who advertise in this book. So we let our GPS tell us what was available in the neighborhood. Well, since this GPS is now two years old we have discovered that these things get out of date. We must have tried three different restaurants listed in this thing, and all of them were long gone. We found a little Italian hole in the wall that turned out to be a nice establishment. My eggplant parmigiana and Barbara's cheese raviolis were excellent.

It seems that it is hard to decide where to eat in a strange neighborhood, and it is just as difficult to decide how to handle a benign tumor. We have already decided to wait until December and scan it again to see if there is noticable growth. We will make a decision then.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


My wife is unique in so many ways. She is one of a kind as far as I am concerned. So why should I be surprised that she has a kind of tumor I have never heard of before? The sheath that surrounds nerve cells are made of schwann cells. Since this tumor is made of these cells it is called a "schwannoma". I thought "Schwann" must be some lab research doctor's name, as is so often the case in weird sounding names of diseases.

These tumors become malignant in less than one percent of the cases. They are usually slow growing, so unless it causes pressure against the bone and/or nerve, we will probably do absolutely nothing. Kaiser wants to check it again in a few months to confirm that it is slow growing, and not a problem. For this good news we give God a big "thank You". And no we did not ask the doctor if she was sure this was Barbara's biopsy report.

I have seen definite signs of relief in Barbara since she received this report. Now we are concentrating our attention on preparing to leave to see our son, Bobby and his family in Memphis. Since we fly out tomorrow morning we do need to focus our attention on all those easily forgotten details. For us the packing of medicine is in itself a big chore. We both have special containers to stash each day's pill supply in separate chambers of a larger packet.

From Memphis we are all driving to Branson, MO, to be entertained in this tourist trap. We expect to see a "family" show and eat more than we should of the good stuff.

If we perish in a fiery plane crash, or from a heart attack because of the greasy food, you will understand why this fascinating column has no more new posts. This too is all in God's hands. My friend, Bob Lee, was absolutely fanatical about eating and exercising. He was in great shape until he keeled over at the ripe old age of 61. As I said before, "All this and heaven too!" God is just too good for our praise to ever do Him justice.