Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Health Update


Since I wrote about my prostate cancer last March, I have been warmly embraced by so many folks asking how I am doing. It has always been my intention to report back on my condition once I had something to report.

After my urologist gave us the news that I had prostate cancer, confirmed by a biopsy, Isaura and I spent the next six weeks researching all the alternatives we might want to follow. We did not like any of the medical options, so we turned to holistic medicine coupled with a life-change to our food consumption. Since the first of April I have been eating almost entirely organic foods. This presents its own set of problems, but the benefits have been more than worth it. The biggest challenge to eating organically is the fact that organic foods are not centralized in one store. Where we live in the Central Valley of California there are no stores that are fully stocked with organic foods. It’s my understanding that a chain of grocery stores called Whole Foods, has a full stock of organic foods, but the nearest store is seventy miles away. Certainly not convenient!

The biggest benefit in changing to organic foods is the significant weight loss I have enjoyed. As of last week I have dropped fifty pounds, all while eating more food than I did previously. The difference being that the organic foods are much easier for the body to process. Isaura is a wonder in the kitchen, using great creativity in preparing tasty dishes, and not the type of “rabbit food” so often associated with such a strict diet regimen. It is true that 75% of my daily intake is raw fruits and vegetables, but I have been pleasantly surprised to get my sense of taste back! The processed foods had spoiled my ability to enjoy the various nuances of taste. Now I eat organic oatmeal most every morning, sweetened with fresh fruit, my favorite being raspberries! Yum!

Starting out on this change I cut out all dairy, processed sugar, and red meat. Cancer seems to be particularly fond of red meat and processed sugar, so I’m simply denying it of these food items. Obviously while traveling it is much more difficult to stay on such a specific diet, so when eating in a restaurant I will order salads, or if they have it on the menu, I will order a vegetarian meal, or sometimes an organic dish (not available in many restaurants). While visiting friends and family everyone has been more than accommodating, and in the case of my brother in Virginia, he even offered to purchase a juicer should I want to juice some carrots during our two weeks with them. It was a gracious offer, but while traveling, Isaura and I buy bottles of carrot juice from the store.

During the past five months I have been under the care of Dr. Lisa Hunt, D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy). First thing she did when I had my initial visit was point at my belly and say, “That’s a heart attack.” I didn’t know quite how to react, mostly because I had always thought I was in pretty good shape for being 62. But she was right, and now I’m much leaner and working out seriously every morning with sit ups on my Roman Chair, and multiple barbell and dumbbell exercises. Last weekend I purchased a weight bench and rack along with 260 pounds of weight plates for some serious lifting – something I’ve always enjoyed doing.

Last week I had my first blood workup since I began this journey in holistic health. This test was to check my PSA count (prostate-specific antigen). Earlier this year my reading was 7.5 which got my urologist’s attention. So much so that he scheduled me for a biopsy – a procedure I hope to never experience again. Six months later my PSA count is 5.5 which is definitely moving in the right direction, but not quite in the “comfort zone” of 4.0 or less. From my research about PSA tests, I am unsure as to their accuracy, therefore, I am not allowing myself to get too worked up either way. I will continue down this path of holistic living until we’ve beaten this cancer back.

Either way, I know the Lord is in control. I like what the Scripture says in Romans, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Amen!

This sort of reminds me of the little boy sitting in church one Sunday listening to the preacher extol the wonders of heaven and how glorious it all will be. At the climax of the message the pastor shouted, “Everyone that wants to go to heaven, stand up!” The whole congregation stood to their feet, except for the little boy. The preacher, thinking the lad must not have understood, shouted again, “Everyone that wants to go to heaven, stand up!” Well, everyone was already standing, and the little boy remained seated. The preacher looked at the youngster and said, “Son, don’t you want to go to heaven?” To which the boy replied, “Yes sir! I just thought you were getting a load to go now!”

I’m like the little boy – I’m ready to go to heaven – I’m not that anxious to leave just yet!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Blessed!

            Last night was a first!

Isaura and I have wanted to have both our little grandbabies stay the night with us, but, though only five months apart, Brookie has not been quite ready to stay the night with us – until last night. Her temperament being what it is, we weren’t sure how this was all going to work out. Alyssa, on the other hand, spent the first nineteen months of her life in our home, so she’s very comfortable being with us.

Earlier in the week Isaura and I joined our daughters and granddaughters for lunch at McDonald’s. While there, it was agreed that we would have Brookie and Alyssa spend the night Thursday. I told them we would make chocolate chip cookies! And we would play in the back yard, watch a movie (“Sleeping Beauty”), and read some books. The evening was set.

Thursday was a long day for me, beginning with meetings at eight and the last meeting ending about six-thirty. So when I finally walked in the door, I was feeling a bit fatigued. Normally when Alyssa spends the night, she comes over later in the evening, so I was thinking this was how it would be last night. Well, such was not the case. In fact, when I rolled up to the house, I saw Jenny’s car (Brookie’s mom and our youngest), so I knew a short nap was not in the offing. Sure enough, Brookie and Alyssa were sitting in their kid chairs watching “Sleeping Beauty.” Isaura was busy in the kitchen preparing a great dinner which we enjoyed sitting outside on the back patio. The weather was perfect and when the girls had had their fill, they began running around the yard with great exuberance. And why not? You should have great exuberance when you are three years old! I was then recruited by the girls to chase them around the yard which included copious amounts of tickling. All this while Meema (that’s Grandma in Granddaughter-speak) was trimming various flowers in her garden. The girls would run to her, clutching her legs as a sanctuary from “The Tickle Monster” (that would be me). So it went, all in the hopes of thoroughly exhausting the girls so they would sleep well that night. I’m not sure who was more exhausted!

Back in the house we washed our hands real well and prepared to make the chocolate chip cookies – all from scratch, I would quickly add. Once we had combined all the ingredients (but not without various amounts of flour and other items spilling onto the counter and floor) the girls disappeared upstairs with Meema for a bath. I stayed downstairs to finish baking the cookies so the girls would have a treat after their bath. And yes, I cleaned up the mess!

Probably a year ago, Alyssa had spent the night with us. It was memorable because it changed the natural order of things. Alyssa and Meema were in bed ahead of me. When I came to bed, Alyssa was sprawled on my side, with an impish look on her face. I said, “Hey! Make room for Dandaddy!” That’s what I was called then. It’s Granddaddy now. She looked at me and said, “There’s no room for you Dandaddy.” I said, “What?” She answered, “There’s no room for you. You sleep in the other room.” I said, “Who pays the mortgage on this home?” Obviously, that comment went right over her head, so I’ve been relegated to the guest bedroom on sleep-over nights ever since.

Today is also our oldest daughter, Laura’s, birthday. Keeping both girls last night worked well since it gave Ken a chance to take Laura out for a special birthday dinner, and Josh and Jenny could have a free evening also.

Well, we must have done a fairly decent job of tiring the girls because they slept all night long! And so did Meema and Dandaddy! It was a wonderfully quiet evening. Just before turning in, I made my annual phone call to Laura to wish her a Happy Birthday. This may not sound like such a big deal, but she was born just after midnight thirty-three years ago. So, it is our little tradition for me to call her about 12:15 a.m. and sing Happy Birthday.

Now that our two little beauties are up and wide-awake, it’s time to make pancakes – from scratch, of course!

How blessed we are with two daughters who married two wonderful sons-in-law, and we have the joy of grandkids.

Did I mention Jenny is due with her second child in January?




Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Persecution

While on vacation in Virginia a couple of weeks ago, I sat down one morning to read the paper. My brother gets the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), so I began to peruse the July 28 issue. On the front page, lower fold, was a story that definitely grabbed my attention. The headline read, “China’s Banned Churches Defy Regime.”


I’ve followed with great interest the oppression of faith in China that began with the establishment of the Communist Chinese Party takeover in 1949. However, persecution of Christians in particular began in earnest during the 1930s. When Mao Zedong’s (formerly spelled, Tse-tung) Communist Party assumed control, he announced that they would officially recognize five religions: Protestantism, Catholicism, Taoism, Buddhism and Islam. “But they heavily restricted worship, destroyed churches and exiled foreign missionaries. During the decade-long Cultural Revolution that started in 1966, religion was banned.”


Over the years I have read numerous stories and reports coming out of Communist China detailing the persistent and extensive persecution of Christians. The current world population is just shy of 7 billion. China’s population is 1.3 billion, clearly making it the most populated country in the world. By comparison, the population of the U.S. is 307 million.


In the last couple of decades China has opened its doors to Western nations (predominantly the U.S.) and invited capitalism into its borders. With the enormous workforce in China, it’s no wonder most everything you and I buy today says, Made in China. The average Chinese today is experiencing an economic level unheard of even thirty years ago. This makes it difficult for China to return to the heavy-handed governmental approach once so common. It was only in 1989 that we witnessed the protests of students in Tiananmen Square – an event that cast the Chinese government in a familiar but all-too-ugly picture of repressive governmental practices.


According to this Wall Street Journal article, all faiths have been subjected to harsh treatment. Leaders of the different faiths have been harassed, arrested, sent away to prison, or simply disappear without a trace. With the innumerable ways of communicating today, using iPods, iPhones, e-mail, cell phones, etc., it is increasingly more difficult for a government such as the Communist Chinese to ride herd on its people, especially in the hopes of controlling dissent.


On a recent Sunday at the Beijing Zion Church, Pastor Jin Mingri laid out a vision for Christians in China that contrasts starkly with the ruling Communist Party’s tight rein on religion. “Let your descendants become great politicians like Joseph and Daniel,” said Mr. Jin, referring to the Old Testament figures who surmounted challenges to become political leaders. “Let them influence the future course of this country,” the pastor said in one of several sermons to his 800-member church.


Christians in China, particularly Evangelicals, are calling out the government to allow for their right to worship freely. The underground church is not as underground as it once was. These Christians, especially their leaders, are organized and are willing to confront the authorities, fully realizing their lives could be in jeopardy. But when one of the pastors is arrested, another takes his place. There are currently twenty underground seminaries in Beijing alone. The course of training is three years, when completed these ministers will continue to be a formidable force. The nation’s leaders are greatly concerned and are showing signs of being uncertain as to how to handle this.


For the first time China’s illegal underground churches, whose members are estimated in the tens of millions, are mounting a unified and increasingly organized push for legal recognition.


I find this to be interesting in light of the fact that an atheistic government such as Communist China is wrestling with the possibilities of officially allowing faith groups to worship openly, yet the United States is attempting to restrict faith expressions, particularly that of Christians.


You think I’m exaggerating? Did you not hear about the director of the National Cemetery in Houston, Texas, last month preventing ministers from offering Christian prayers at the funerals of deceased service members? Not only that, but even the words “God” and “Jesus” are not allowed to be spoken or written. A pastor performing a funeral on Memorial Day this year was told by the VA to remove the name of Jesus from his prayer.


So, is China becoming more like us? Or are we becoming more like China?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Sobering Scene

Part of our vacation was spent at my brother, John’s home in Virginia. Located just outside of Washington, D.C., you can’t help but be in the midst of many historic battle sites from the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, predominantly.

For many years I have wanted to attend one of the Civil War reenactment events, but they always fall on a weekend. This is fine for most folks, but when you’re a pastor, it really restricts your mobility as the Lords’ Day pops up in the midst of these proceedings.

My wife, Isaura and I arrived in Virginia on the 18th of July which gave us ample opportunity to plan to visit the reenactment of the 150th anniversary of the first Civil War battle, known as the First Battle of Bull Run as it was called by Northern Forces, and the First Battle of Manassas as it was known by the Southern forces. This battle was fought July 21, 1861. These armies would meet a second time at this location thirteen months later to slug it out once again.

The best day for us to attend the event was Sunday, so Isaura, brother John, and our sister Joy and I headed out for the battlefields. Manassas Battlefield National Park was the location located just outside of D.C., and is well worth the time to make the visit. They were prepared and handled the crowds with great efficiency. Grandstands were set up at the edge of a field used for the reenactment. Others stood down both sides of the field behind roped partitions. We watched as the re-enactors marched to and fro, maneuvering into position against their enemies. Circling around were mounted cavalry representing both sides in the conflict. Horse drawn cannons boomed their murderous sound, drowning the crackle of musket fire and creating havoc with the billowing cannon smoke that settled across the field blinding the eyes of the combatants from seeing each other. This replay of the actual event lasted about an hour or so, before we began our walk back to the buses that would return us to the parking lots. Re-enactors remained in costume all along our route, helping us to further experience the realism of what we had witnessed.

However, it was later that week that John and I decided to drive to Maryland and visit the Antietam Battle site. It was here that the Federals (Northern troops) engaged the Rebels (Southern troops) in a battle of immense loss of life. This was the first time that General Robert E. Lee would bring his Confederate forces into the Northern states (referred to as “Free States,” as opposed to “Slave States” for the South). Unlike the Bull Run/Manassas battle, this was not a live reenactment. At the Antietam Historical Center, we watched an hour-long movie that was a documentary replete with battle reenactments of this decisive engagement in the war. The most sobering part of this visit to Antietam was the driving tour you could make with a map directing you to eleven different historic spots. These rolling hills are still farm land, just as it was then. One of the characteristics of this battle was the corn fields (still growing today) the Union forces marched through in their imminent encounter with well entrenched Confederate forces. Back and forth through these corn fields the two armies advanced and mauled each other. The center of the action was a Dunkard church (German-American Baptists) which was at the end of one of the corn fields.

But the bloodshed was enormous. More than twenty-three thousand men met their end in this battle. Of historic note, the loss of life at Sunken Road, euphemistically referred to as “Bloody Lane,” about a half-mile from the church, witnessed 3,000 Union troops killed and 2,500 Confederate troops dead.

As my brother and I stood there, you couldn’t help but be hushed to silence, realizing the huge loss of life spent on this dirt road.

After I returned home, I researched this particular part of the battle to see what more I could find. One survivor of this engagement from the Union’s Sixth Corps, writes, “Further to the left there was a narrow road (Sunken Road), not more than fifteen feet wide, with high fences on each side. Here a regiment of rebels was posted; when our batteries getting an enfilading fire (gunfire that strikes a body of troops along its whole length) upon them, and the infantry at the same time opening a murderous fire, the regiment was literally destroyed; not more than twenty of their number escaping. Their bodies filled the narrow road (Bloody Lane). Some were shot while attempting to get over the fence; and their remains hung upon the boards. A more fearful picture than we saw here, could not be conceived.” (George Thomas Stevens, Surgeon for the New York 6th Corps)

It has been rightly said that “War is hell.” War seems to be an integral part of man’s existence. Will it ever end? I’m pleased to say, “Yes!” The Bible says when Jesus comes back, all wars will cease, and peace will reign. Won’t that be glorious! Even so, Lord Jesus, come!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Indebtedness

 
By the time you read this article we will know whether the United States Congress has passed new authorization to raise the “debt ceiling.” If they haven’t then those who prognosticate about such matters will be crying, a la Chicken Little, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Will the United States be forced to renege on its debt, and suffer the humiliation of having to default on its debt? Will we lose the coveted “AAA” credit rating? And who will be the scape goat in all of this?

Now, let me be clear – I am no economic expert. I do not have a degree in anything remotely related to the field of mathematics. I’m just a guy who, when I first started out in life as an adult, paid for everything in cash: gasoline, rent, groceries, car loan, etc. I did not possess a credit card. In fact, I couldn’t get a credit card for one simple reason: I had no credit! I remember discussing this with a Standard Oil/Chevron representative in 1973 when I was attempting to get a gas credit card. After kicking around this problem of not having established credit, I said to him, “So you’re telling me I do not qualify for one of your credit cards because I have always paid all my bills in cash?” He said, “Well, yes.” I was twenty-five years old, a Vietnam Vet, having served four years in the Marine Corps, and was back in college working on completing my bachelor’s degree. In order to get a credit card I would need one of my parents to sign me up under their card. This seemed absurd to me!

It has amused me and saddened me at the same time watching Congress dither over the budget and whether we should raise the debt ceiling. I’ll explain this mess in terms that are best understood by me. First: We need some adult leadership in the two houses of Congress! Second: Our elected representatives should live by a principle we all were taught as children – “Do not spend more than you take in!” Third: Never mind what the rest of the world thinks about us – Do the right thing!

What exactly is the “Public Debt”? “The United States public debt is a measure of the obligations of the United States federal government and is presented by the United States Treasury in two components and one total: 1) Debt Held by the Public – representing all federal securities held by institutions or individuals outside the United States Government; 2) Intragovernmental Holdings – representing U.S. Treasury securities held in accounts which are administered by the United States Government, such as the OASI Trust Fund administered by the Social Security Administration; and 3) Total Public Debt Outstanding – which is the sum of the above components.”

“As of June 29, 2011, the Total Public Debt Outstanding of the United States of America was $14.46 trillion and was approximately 98.6% of calendar year 2010’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $14.66 trillion. Using 2010 figures, the International Monetary Fund places the total U.S. debt at 96.3% of GDP, ranked 12th highest against other nations.”

Historically, the United States has had debt from its inception. As a result of the American Revolutionary War and the Articles of Confederation, the first annual reporting of the debt was $75,463,476.52 on January 1, 1791. In the first 20 years following the War of 1812, 18 surpluses were experienced and the U.S. paid off 99.97% of its debt.

Those who make light of our problem with debt are willing to raise the debt ceiling in order to increase the amount of borrowing power the United States may have. This, however, exacerbates the problem! We are, as the figures show, running a debt amount that is equal to the amount of money that is brought in annually by the American people. We are operating our country using every dollar we spend just to cover the debt. At some point this house of cards is going to collapse, throwing us into a financial crisis that will exceed any and all monetary collapses in the past. Gross debt has increased $500 billion each year since fiscal year 2003.

Let’s say our national debt was closer to what our founding fathers faced in 1791. We’ll round it off to $100,000,000.00 (One hundred million). Divide that by the number of days since the birth of Christ @ 730,000. You would have to spend about $130.00 a day for that many days to pay off the hundred million dollar debt. Now, for a debt figure such as we have today of $14,600,000,000,000.00 (Fourteen Trillion, six hundred billion), divide this by the same number of days, and you would have to spend close to $20,000,000.00. Does this help you see the serious problem we have? That’s $20 million a day for 2000 years to pay off the current $14.6 trillion debt!

There is some good news in all of this! As a nation, we bring in so much money each month from taxes and other incomes that we have enough money to cover Medicare/Medicaid, the military, Social Security, and the Debt. That’s a huge amount! But if we keep raising the taxes on the American people, American-based businesses will produce their products elsewhere outside of the U.S., thus damaging our economy all the more.

Pay attention to this Congressional debate over the budget. We can ill afford to keep raising both the debt ceiling and taxes. For the first 50 years of our nation’s history, the debt was virtually paid off every year. Can we do that today? I believe we can. More importantly, if we are going to leave a nation worth having to future generations, we must pay off our debts – even if it hurts in the short term.

Psalm for the Day