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?
Randy Epps 8/9/20
This world we are living in is quite a risk, yeah?
And, suddenly, 2020 rolls around and the leaders of the world have taken it upon themselves to “protect” everyone, no matter what.
Well, not everyone. But, maybe everyone that might ever have a chance of getting this new dread disease that we are told surrounds us, on every side.
I am starting to understand that this is not really a safe world, anyway.
When I became a chimney sweep in 1982, then added window cleaning to the mix in 1986, I had no idea of the coming dangers I would face.
In 1984, at dusk, after a thirteen hour work day, traveling at least 70 mph, I drove under a bobtail truck parked partially in my highway lane. I saw the back of the truck before impact and found myself standing outside of my little Toyota, in the middle of Hwy 30 near Greenville, the cab sheared off. I was taken to the hospital. I suffered only a cut to my scalp (3-4 stitches) and a cervical strain. I joked that the angel twisted my neck when he jerked me out by the head. Wendy took me home the next day.
I have discovered that Satan hates window cleaners and sends his 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 bodies after each one. About 12 years ago, though, I had my first allergic reaction to the stings, and I would take some benadryl and sit in my truck for an hour as I went through some sort of foggy twilight zone experience. Finally, I got some epi pens. I would always finish the job and drive home.
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. I got about 3/4 of the job done, my pressure washer ran out of gas, and I went down to refuel, and get some water to drink. 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 to spray, my feet slipped I slid on my back trying to grab anything I could to stop the slide, sliced the heck out of the tips of my fingers on my left hand. I landed on the deck, unhurt, but bleeding. Wrapped my hand with a towel and duct tape, loaded my equipment and drove home. I did not finish the job.
Once, I was cleaning a fairly high window on a deck, and, trying to save a step, I tried to reach a little higher than I should, my ladder slipped. I wasn’t real high, so I rode the ladder down, and , I 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.
Remember in 2018, one week after the most severe wasp reaction, when I stepped onto a roof, my on-the-roof ladder leg caught the top of my on-the-ground ladder, and set me just a little bit off balance. I stepped to catch myself, 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, went to the hospital. I took off 2 weeks.
And, then, this last fall, 13 feet, onto a child’s wooden picnic table, on my back, breaking my left scapula, and fracturing and compressing my T4 vertebra. I couldn’t raise my left arm, so one-handed I loaded my equipment, drove myself home, and Wendy took me to the hospital. A blood test found me to be anemic. I was back to work in 4 weeks.
And when I returned to work, I was stung once the first week (epi pen used), and again the second week (oops, using the remaining epi pen, I thought, “That didn’t hurt at all!” Then I saw that it was a trainer, a pen to practice the epi pen maneuver) so I took one benadryl and itched like crazy all the way home.
The anemia prompted a colonoscopy to find the reason for the anemia, and the doctor discovered a cancer growth in my colon.
I haven’t mentioned the time when I worked for Dr Pepper and was robbed at gunpoint by two men in South Oak Cliff.
Or the time when I worked for Pepsi Cola and we were told to take our trucks out on the day of an ice storm. As I was going down a 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 and 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.
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. Any one of these “accidents” could have ended my life.
LIFE IS NOT SAFE!
It has never been safe.
We don’t see the statistics now about how many people die every day from NON-COVID-19 related deaths. But, we have to realize that death is part of the process of life. We all get to try it. We usually can’t predict its timing.
Why did I keep going back to work if it was so dangerous?
Because, so many times in the Bible, Old Testament, New Testament, the words appear, “FEAR NOT…DO NOT BE AFRAID…FOR I AM WITH YOU!”
There wasn’t a single one of these incidents I have mentioned that the government offered me any protection.
I had to make the decision, do I want to be safe to stay alive, or do I want to Live?
Jesus said that He came so that I could have a Life that I had never experienced before: a life of joys, sorrows, ups, downs, falls, recoveries. He offered me a life where I could find His strength in times when mine was gone.
I wonder how many of us are letting a fear of a disease disrupt our need to be together in fellowship? Intimate times with family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ have been closed down because of social distancing and mask wearing. And people continue to get tested positive for Covid, by the millions, and, a fraction of one percent actually die.
But the government says that this is apparently the worst thing we have ever seen, and we have to do these things that separate us to protect us.
I didn’t ask the government to protect me from disease or the natural hazards I may face in everyday life.
Is that what you want?
The riches of life are found when we realize that life is not safe.
But this Life, in Jesus, is GOOD.