I recently was put into a deep anasthetic sleep, and, for three hours. For three beautiful quiet unaware hours, I was not affected at all by the wars raging all around us.
Then, and I guess they had to, they woke me up and sent me back to the world I had taken a brief rest from.
Yep, nothing had changed. Well, not for the better.
But, something is changing in me.
I have a very left leaning liberal aunt who is perfectly opposite me on the political spectrum. Just before I left the hospital, I read a post from her on facebook. A normal (for her) rant about the evils of the current leader and anyone who would support his actions.
And, you know what I did?
I scrolled right on by.
I didn’t even get mad!
A scripture jumped into my mind (some of you know how that happens) that I haven’t thought about in some time.
Psalms 131:2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.
I think I am!
This journey through life certainly has its ups and downs, its highs and lows, but every aspect of the life we live adds color and shading and depth to what others see in us as we discover the navigational tricks of finding our way.
I am fully aware as to “how bad things are getting”.
But, I am being shown, over, and over, and over, that I am who I am, where I am, and going through the things I am going through for a purpose.
Not the purpose of the “UNIVERSE” as those in the world, teetering on the edge of real life, like to say.
It’s kind of like, when a child is weaned from his mother, he begins a learning process that is slowly moving him toward who he was born to be as he becomes an adult.
There really is an order and a purpose to the events in my life,
and as I connect to the Father, and accept the plans that He has for me, I find myself held inside that cloud of contentment.
I know He is there because He changed me.
When He changed me, I found out how much He loves me. And, I did nothing to deserve that love.
But, in His love, He put that love in my heart.
A love that even reaches my enemies.
I hope my aunt can receive this love from the Father, too!
It feels really good to know that He is the One who is driving.
Wendy’s mom gave me an article written by a guy about my age.
It was about the time he met his first professional football player in 1960. He was nine. Me, too.
Eddie LeBaron, first quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, the guy who held down the fort in those formative days as they groomed Dandy Don Meredith for the role.
0-11-1 that first year.
But there was another team in Dallas at that time, the Dallas Texans of the American Football League. 8-6 in the first season of the fledgling league. They won the championship in 1962.
They had two running backs; Abner Haynes and Jack Spikes.
Sometime in those three years, my church, Monica Park Christian Church in Garland, Tx had a father/son banquet. Jack Spikes was the featured speaker.
My best friend was Earl Ray Shoemaker, preacher’s son.
We hadn’t yet developed into big football fans. Honestly, my earliest memory of football on tv was seeing the end of some important game at my grandparents’ house, when the losing quarterback removed his helmet, and he was bald! Seriously? A bald quarterback? Y.A. Tittle.
Anyway, I guess Jack Spikes gave a good talk. I was nine or ten, so I probably didn’t absorb too many details.
Earl punched me in the arm.
“Ask him how many times he’s shaved on tv,” He whispered.
“You ask him.”
“No, I can’t! Just ask him!”
I raised my hand. Jack Spikes saw me. Pointed to me.
“Uh, how many times have you shaved on tv?”
Everybody laughed. He hadn’t…yet.
That week, Casey’s Callum, the sports column in the local paper, The Garland Daily News, (Casey Cohlmia, who had twin daughters my age, and also went to our church) reported about the celebrity visit to our little church.
“One bright young lad even asked Jack Spikes how many times he had shaved on tv.”
That’s right! I was famous! Mentioned in the newspaper!
When I saw Earl, I said something about the column.
“I know,” he said, “I couldn’t believe he mentioned me in his article!”
I keep getting this phone call telling me my social security account has been hacked, and if I don’t respond, my account will be suspended.
And the one that says my car’s warranty has expired, and I need to quickly reestablish a warranty, so I won’t be saddled with expensive car repairs. This is your last notice. (That day) Two days later, I get the same exact call.
Then, the good one, (I can’t believe I didn’t respond to this one) I have won through Publisher’s Clearing House, one million dollars, a new car, and some thousands of dollars a week for life.
I remember, a long time ago, if I watched the news on tv, there was usually a pretty good chance that what I was hearing was true.
Now, it seems that there is a pretty good chance that it is not.
I find myself getting angry.
Just tell the truth.
Then, I realize that most can’t.
They cannot tell truth from lies.
They belong to their father, the devil, and they want to carry out their father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 NIV)
It still can get discouraging, when I try to point out the lies that I see.
I think, in my conversations, I will try to discern who is the father of the one I am talking to.
Maybe the children of light will be able to hear the truth.
There has to be a standard, doesn’t there.
“Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding. In ALL your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Oh, one other thing. There is a standard, a plumb line to know the truth.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
You can argue against this.
But, it is still the truth.
Mower dies three times in a row going through not so tall grass.
Wendy: What’s wrong with the mower?
Me: I hate this mower. It’s still not picking up the grass, and the old cuttings are stalling it out.
Wendy: Are you sure you have the grass catcher on right?
Me: Yeah, there’s only one way to put it on.
Wendy: Maybe you don’t have the right way.
Wendy: Maybe you have the blade on backwards.
Me: No, I put it on the way the original was on.
Wendy: Maybe a dude put it together in the first place. ( She didn’t actually say this. She would never say, “Dude.”)
Wendy: Seriously, maybe it is on backwards.
Me: Look at which way the blade turns when I pull the rope.
(I tilt the mower so she can see, pull the rope.)
Me: Which way?
Wendy: This way.( She shows me with her hands) Counterclockwise.
Me: Are you sure? ( I pulled the rope again)
Me : It is on backwards.
Wendy: I’m not my father’s daughter for nothing. (She walks into the house.)
So, I change the blade and start mowing again, but three times the grass catcher falls off.
Me: I hate this mower. WENDY! Would you take a look at this grass catcher?
Just to be clear, I am not inclined to seek thrills.
Comfort zones, good.
The thrill rides at the fair never had that much appeal.
The only reason I ever tried them was peer pressure.
If I record a football game to watch later, I don’t mind learning the outcome before I watch it, so I don’t have to feel that stress.
If my team lost, I don’t really need to see how.
Adrenaline, while necessary in certain situations, kinda makes me jumpy and nervous. I am not addicted to it.
I like people to like me.
Never have liked to make people around me uncomfortable.
I was always “decently athletic”, strong for my slight build, having pretty good hand-eye coordination, pretty fast runner.
But training was not my strong suit.
Laziness was my default position.
So mediocrity in athletics was the usual result.
School was easy for me, at least through high school.
I didn’t have to study. I just got it.
In college, that “lazy gene” got me.
College, not so easy.
I didn’t do well.
In love, well, don’t we all want what makes us happy?
In work, wanting to be liked, I always tried my best to please my bosses.
I usually did.
Sometimes, life would throw me a choice that was difficult to reconcile with my easy-going nature.
The stress of that type of decision made me jumpy and nervous.
I chose badly.
Once, I got fired for stealing.
Once, I got fired for lying about getting fired for stealing.
Not my comfort zone.
Generally, everything I ever did in any area of my life was for my own self-preservation, anything I could do to keep my life from being too hard.
Even line on a level slope.
“When I became a man, I put away childish things.”
May 8, 1978 everything changed.
The focus of my life that had always been inward, suddenly began to be upward.
The God that I had ignored most of my life, suddenly called me to come to Him.
I find myself being pushed to “step out of my comfort zone.”
My tendencies are still there, to hide, to put up walls.
But, there is a power that is not my power, that moves me, directs me, talks to me, teaches me, understands me.
“And when I run with Him, I feel His pleasure!”
My brother, Jeff, has made it his goal to keep checking on me since my recent cancer diagnosis.
He called me this last Thursday to find out what the surgeon had told me.
We probably talked a little over an hour.
During our conversation, Jeff mentioned that the trucks at his company all have the bumper sticker, “Safety Is Our Goal.”
I laughed and said, “That should be our country’s new motto! I’m gonna use that in my blog as the title.”
SAFETY IS OUR GOAL! ISN’T IT?
As a young man, long, long ago, I had no idea of the coming challenges, even dangers, or even losses that I would face in this life.
In 1975 when I worked for Dr Pepper, I was robbed at gunpoint by two men in South Oak Cliff.
In 1979, working for Pepsi Cola, I was told to take my loaded tractor trailer truck out for delivery during an ice storm.
As I was driving down a steep, icy hill, there was a guy in a car in front of me, facing the wrong way on the right side of the road.
He looked my way in horror, jumped out of his car, and ran from it.
I looked in my mirror and saw my trailer swinging past me on my right side.
It corrected itself when it smashed this guy’s car.
In the early 80’s I started my chimney cleaning, window cleaning business.
In 1984, at dusk, after a long 15-hour work day, traveling at least 70 mph, I drove under a large, unlit bobtail truck parked partially in my highway lane.
Just before impact, I saw a bright flash of light on the back of the bobtail truck.
Miraculously, and inexplicably, I found myself standing upright beside my little Toyota pickup, in the middle of Hwy 30 near Greenville.
My entire truck cab was sheared off.
I suffered only a cut to my scalp (3-4 stitches) and a cervical strain.
I joked that the angel must have twisted my neck when he jerked me out by the head. Wendy took me home from the hospital the next day.
I have discovered that Satan hates window cleaners and sends his red wasp “air force” after them on a regular basis. (Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but sometimes we do have to fight those demon red wasps.)
I have no idea how many times I have been stung (hundreds) but I can guarantee you there were dead demon wasp bodies after each one.
About 12 years ago, though, I had my first serious allergic reaction to the stings, so, I began keeping Benadryl and Epi Pens with me at all times.
One time, a builder asked me to power wash a metal roof.
I didn’t want to do it, but I bid it high, hoping he would turn me down.
He accepted the bid.
I got about 3/4 of the job done, when my pressure washer ran out of gas, so I went down to refuel.
When I went back to the roof, I had unknowingly gotten a little wet sand on the bottom of my shoes.
As soon as I started spraying the roof, my feet slipped.
Sliding on my back down the roof, trying to grab anything I could to stop the slide, I sliced the heck out of the tips of my fingers.
I landed on the deck, unhurt, but bleeding.
I wrapped my hand with a towel and duct tape, loaded my equipment and drove home. I did not finish the job.
Another time, I was cleaning a second story window from a deck, and, trying to save a step, I reached a little higher than I should have, and my ladder slipped.
I rode the ladder down, and would have been fine, except my heel, resting on the rung, took the impact and cracked in three places.
The owner helped me load my equipment, I drove home, and took off 6 weeks.
In 2018, as I stepped onto a roof, the ladder on my shoulder caught the top of my on-the-ground ladder, and knocked me just a little bit off balance.
I stepped back, hoping to catch myself, but instead, stepped onto air, and fell 12 feet onto my back, breaking 6-12 ribs.
I finished the job, had the owner’s son help me load my stuff, drove home, then went to the hospital.
Most recently, in July, my ladder slipped and I fell 13 feet, landing on a child’s wooden picnic table, which likely prevented my head from hitting the concrete floor.
(Thank You, God).
This time I broke my left scapula, and fractured and compressed my T4 vertebra. This time, I couldn’t finish the job.
I drove myself home, and Wendy took me to the hospital.
While there, a blood test found me to be anemic.
The anemia prompted a colonoscopy, which led to the discovery of a cancerous tumor in my colon.
Why I am I telling you all this?
I have spent my life working, trying to do a good job, trying to provide for my family.
I seldom went to the doctor, unless I had been injured.
Any one of these “accidents” could have ended my life.
The most recent injury may actually have saved it.
I could have decided that this job wasn’t safe and left these “dangerous” conditions long ago.
But I didn’t.
And neither would most of you.
All of us go through trials in our lives that disrupt our plans.
Plans for safety and happiness.
Loss of a job.
Loss of a home.
Perhaps even the loss of a child.
Yet, in those trials, we find something more precious than safety and happiness.
That God is ALWAYS with us.
He is ALWAYS at work in our lives.
Life is not safe.
It has never been safe.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 tells us “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD,….
In Isaiah 41:9b-10, God said, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off; fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
He tells His people “I will NEVER leave you or forsake you.”
So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Heb. 13:5-6
In every one of these instances, I found myself to be enveloped in a supernatural peace. (Except for the armed robbery in 1975. That happened before my second birth and I was frozen with terror.)
But now, because I carry within me the image and Life of Christ, the trials of life prove to be just that.
Trials of life.
Stepping stones to a closer relationship to the God that I belong to.
I find His presence to be constant, always there, NEVER leaving.
Sometimes it is from within, a supernatural peace and strength to endure.
Sometimes it is from without, perhaps a member of His body holding me up in prayer, speaking life into my heart, or being the answer to a prayer offered up to God.
I told my brother, Jeff, whose wife died last Christmas Day from an 8 month battle with brain cancer, that in each one of our serious battles, we find the presence of God in the LIVING through the trials.
Finding our lives narrowed down to just doing the next thing.
To just surviving the next MOMENT.
That thing that we would never have chosen becomes the circumstance that changes the path we are on.
We find that safety and comfort and fear do not put us on the path of life.
But, as we go through this life, and its trials, we find His voice inside, saying, “My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Ezekiel 37:27
SAFETY IS NOT MY GOAL!
The psalmist says to God,
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”Psalm 16:11 ESV
I cannot remember any time the Bible mentions how important it is to BE SAFE!
If Jesus is my king,
And He says, “Follow Me!”
And He says, “I will never leave you or forsake you,”
Then He will be my safety, my refuge, my strength, my strong tower that I run to,
to find a different kind of safety in a world that is filled with danger.
“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.”
Psalms 46:1 NASB
THE NUMBING OF AMERICA
I was not aware of it in its early stages, but I began to feel its draw in the late sixties, and, more so in the early seventies.
“If it feels good, do it.”
“If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”
“Lucy in the sky with diamonds.”
“We don’t need no piece of paper from the city hall,
Keeping us tied and true….”
On and on and on.
A slow and gradual questioning of the morals passed to us from previous generations began to grow, and flourish, to gain acceptance in all areas of society.
Behaviors which used to be kept hidden, practiced with the hope of no one discovering, began to be accepted as lifestyle choices.
Belief in God began to fade, and honoring God was disappearing from the culture.
Our focus in life became “Please yourself; don’t worry, be happy; don’t let anyone judge you; everything is okay as long as you don’t hurt anyone; religion is the opiate of the masses….”
Our focus grew inward. We wanted what we could get to stop the pain, feel the thrill.
Sex without boundaries.
We expected moments of ecstacy to be the source of our happiness.
We had to find new and greater thrills; previously forbidden acts became the drug du jour.
We had taken the bait, believed the lie, followed the path to a paradise that turned out to be a ghetto after passing the glittery, shiny gate.
We found the gate to be locked when we tried to escape.
So we stayed.
What we used to be ashamed of, we popularized, made it all mainstream, found friends who had also settled into this lifestyle. “I’m okay, you’re okay.”
We found new ways to numb the pain, to forget the emptiness, to pretend that we were alive and “living the life.”
But, every so often, we would hear that whisper.
“Come to Me.
I will give you Life.
Come to Me.
I have a purpose for you.”
Usually, we turned up the noise, to drown out the whisper.
More numbness, to relieve the disappointments.
Some said, “I’m coming. I want what you have for me. I am Yours.”
The numbness was gone.
The pain, the sorrows, the trials, the victories, all became the essence of a life. Being alive meant feeling.
Feeling all levels of what the Life brought, gave us the ability to know love, to love, to be loved.
And to know the One who made us.
Voice: Hey, whatcha doin’?
Girl: Oh, hi. I didn’t know you were here. I’m gathering fruit for dinner.
Voice: Yeah? That looks good.
Girl: Oh, it is! All the fruit in the garden tastes wonderful!
Voice: Have you tasted all of the different kinds?
Girl: Oh, no, there are so many! Today was the first time I tasted this one, and it is incredibly sweet and juicy. And satisfying!
Voice: So, all these fruit trees are good to eat from?
Girl: Oh, yes. All of ’em are good.
Voice: What about that one?
Girl: Oh, I forgot….
Voice: Mmmm, this is REALLY good!
Girl: He told us not to eat that one. We believed Him. He is always good to us.
Voice: Now, I wonder why he would tell you not to eat THIS one? Surely, this is the best one of them all. You are very intelligent. I wonder why he doesn’t want you to think for yourself.
Girl: He said we would die….
Voice: Die? You’re not going to die! I feel great! I feel FANTASTIC!
Girl: But, He said….
Voice: Obviously, what he said is not true. Seriously, you have got to taste this.
Girl: Oh, that’s okay. I’ve got enough for today. Maybe tomorrow.
Voice: One taste is not going to hurt, is it? You really have no idea how good this is. Just taste it!
It will change your life.
Girl: Okay… One taste…
Oooh, that IS good…
Oh? I feel different….kinda cold…exposed…
the taste in my mouth now…it’s kinda bitter….
Voice: Oh, that will go away when you get used to it.
Girl: Give me some more. I want some more….
You’re right… It is even better now, not so bitter…
I’ll take these home instead of these other ones.
Girl: (leaving, yelling down the path) Adam, you’ve got to taste what the serpent gave me! It will change your life!
Wendy and I were talking yesterday on the way home from my last doctor visit.
(I never thought I would be the one visiting doctors every week.)
“I had already prepared myself for the result that the cancer had spread,” she said, with a catch in her throat.
I had to admit that I had, too.
We had so many people praying, and the prayers had helped so many times.
Were we doubting God by entertaining thoughts that went against what we were praying for?
“I have to say,” I replied, “ that we both know that God is God, and that He will do His will. When we pray, a lot of times, we are asking Him to make what we want to be what He wants. “
We knew that the results may or may not be our preferred outcome.
Our struggle would be to figure out the path to walk if His will differed from ours.
I had had a C T Scan on Wednesday to see if the cancer was confined to the one place in the colon that had been discovered, or if it had spread to other organs.
The waiting is the hard part. Especially for Wendy.
I had worked the rest of Wednesday and half a day on Thursday, and I was able to avoid the heavy thoughts of “what if…” as I worked.
Chemo was the probable directive if the cancer had spread, before the cancer could be removed.
Chemo was the decision we weren’t sure we would choose.
Around 12:00 on Thursday, my phone rang as I was finishing a window cleaning job.
“Mr. Epps, this is Elizabeth, from Texas Oncology.” She had introduced herself a week ago. She would study the results of the scan. What she was about to tell me would have a major impact on my life, and Wendy’s.
“ I have studied the pictures…. There is no evidence of any more cancer, other than the one we found.”
“That’s what we prayed for!” I exclaimed. “Thank you, thank you.”
“I am so happy for you,” she replied. She told me a few more details of coming steps and said goodbye.
Immediately I called Wendy.
“That Dr. Elizabeth just called with the results…no other cancer was found.”
“None?” her voice broke, and she started to cry. “None? I was so scared.”
Her tears were a release of the fears she had been keeping inside.
Her tears made me feel God’s presence and her love for me.
Her tears reminded me that trusting God no matter what He may choose was always the right choice.
The trip to the doctor today was strictly a confirmation of the findings.
“This is great news!” he said as he looked at the charts. “There is really nothing you need from me today,” he said. And he told us about the coming steps regarding surgery. With a smile. With encouragement.
Our shoulders seemed to be missing a heavy weight as we rejoiced in the goodness of our God.
One step at time.
August 16, 2016
Now, before I start, you guys I knew from high school remember me as a 130 pound semi nerd. ( I hope “semi.”)
You’re thinking, “Right. When did he ever play football?”
Well, think again. No longer 130 pounds, tipping the scales at a healthy 150, I am talking about a time, about 5 years ago, in my 60th year in this world.
I was a part time teacher of math at a private school in Tyler, and homecoming week had arrived. A touch football game had been planned for the Saturday morning of the day of the homecoming dance. I remembered the old days when there were faculty/ student games, and I had always thought that would be fun. Wendy had volunteered to decorate for the dance, so I went to Tyler early for the game. I thought, “We teachers will show these kids some stuff.”
We teachers was me.
All the players on the field when I arrived were the current football team, the former players, and the 30 year old coach. Wearing cleats, athletic shorts, exuding youthful unbounded energy.
And me, balding old guy in jeans and tennis shoes. With glasses.
They were doing warmup pass routes, so I got in line, then ran five yards up field, cut right, and caught the pass thrown at me. Cool.
I did another. Caught. Yea.
Kinda winded now. A little bit glad when one of the players says, ” Mr. Epps, we don’t need you on offense, but you can play defense.”
When defense came, I discovered that there was a reason these guys wore cleats. Every time I reached for a flag, the guy would cut, and I would slip down.
Man, I was really getting tired, too. Sucking that water down when the offense was on the field. The other teachers ( on the sidelines in lawn chairs) tried to encourage me.
In a little while, one of the guys had to leave.
“Mr. Epps, you wanna play some offense?”
They had already huddled, and no one thought it mattered whether I knew what they were doing, so I lined up on the line, went down five yards and cut across. (Just like I practiced.) The quarterback sees that no one is guarding the old guy, throws the pass, I reach up, catch,(picture perfect), cut to the left to turn up field, slip and fall down. (Just like I practiced.) Still, a five yard gain. Couple of plays later, same route, catch, slip down, first down. Yea. (Felt a little pop in my knee. Uh-oh. That’s not good.)
Time to leave the comfort zone.
I decide to go long.
Apparently, the guys decided to go with me this time. I’m running full throttle for the post, defenders strolling along with me. Seriously, guys? Four of you to defend an old man? I look back, and I see the quarterback decided to try me again, the ball was in the air, my feet pounding the turf, my glasses bouncing up and down. I’m thinking, “Even if I catch up to where that ball is going to land, there is no way I will be able to catch it,” because it appeared to be bouncing up and down in sync with my glasses. I was five yards too slow. Interception. I’m done.
“Sorry guys, I have to go help my wife decorate for the dance.”
They bought it.
Drank more water, drove to the school, parked and got out of my truck.
Suddenly, every move hurts. Two by four beating kind of hurt. I was fine five minutes ago when I left.
I limped for three weeks.
“Wendy, if I ever tell you that I am going to play football, just say, ‘No!'”
Words with Friends?