Category Archives: Life/Death

Thoughts On A Renewed Lease

I don’t want to dwell on the subject too much, but I’m still experiencing new insights and emotions stemming from my recent heart attack and surgery.

Today, I sat through the funeral service for the father of some childhood friends of ours. Thankfully, he was a follower of Christ, and his homegoing was more of a celebration than a time of mourning.

But it was when I walked up to the casket a little while ago that the cold reality of my own mortality chilled me. It’s one thing to say you know that death will come to us all, that one day we all will breath our last breath and meet God, but had it not been for a shift change and a doctor who did one more blood test, I would have been in a casket last week!

It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). I could have been in the presence of God at this moment, but I’m not. I could have been lying there, stiff, cold, dressed in my best suit. I could have been dead, but I wasn’t.

Yet, it will happen, eventually.

You, me, all of us…it will happen.

But here’s the disturbing thing: no matter how much I’d like to boast to the contrary, I’m not ready, at least not nearly enough.

Sure, my salvation is secure; that’s not the issue. I will be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and my works will have nothing to do with whether or not I will enter into the presence of my Father and King; by grace I am saved through faith.

But I wasn’t ready last week, and I’m barely more ready, today. What am I talking about?

I wasn’t living with the immediate expectation that at any moment my number would be called, that my appointment was near. Maybe this is why I did not have a real sense of urgency. I was living like tomorrow was a given.

But it’s not.

Some have asked, “I bet you feel like you’ve been given a new lease on life, don’t you?” Well, yeah! But it’s only a “lease,” and one day what I’ve been given must be returned.

Did you know there are penalties for returning a leased car in poor condition?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve been acting more like I own this ride, but in reality I should be cleaning out the cup holders and doing a little vacuuming.

I don’t know when my lease is up.

Do you?

(Expect more thoughts on this subject as reality continues to sink in.)

 

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Filed under Life/Death

It’s a Reality Show In the Making

Folks, I’m just going to shoot straight with you this Saturday morning. I only have a short amount of time to write this, so I’m just going to type it, post it, and not worry about the aesthetics.

Like the title of this post says, our life is like a dad gum reality show in the making. I don’t know who would sponsor it, and I don’t know who would watch it, but there’s more that happens to us in any given week than ever takes place on a TV reality show. The DRAMA! The TRAGEDY! The COMEDY!

The only problem is that what happens in our family, should it be made into a reality TV program, would be considered made-up, fake, or overblown just to get ratings. In other words, no one would believe it.

You may be reading this with a little smirk, thinking to yourself, “Yeah, right. It couldn’t be THAT bad, Anthony. Everybody’s got their issues.” Maybe, but consider what has happened in just the last couple of weeks.

  • After 14 months out of work (except for the occasional insurance commission), I finally got through all the red tape of getting my CDL (Commercial Drivers License) back in order to drive a school bus – that story is a book to itself. THEN, I only worked 2 days before Spring Break came – without pay.
  • Friday, the last day of Spring Break, I had a heart attack which required 4 days in the hospital and 2 stents. Now I can’t drive a school bus until I’m cleared by a cardiologist.
  • Our insurance through the Marketplace changed, so NONE of our doctors were covered – we had to find new ones. The only problem is that hardly any doctors or hospitals in our area take the new insurance! SOOOO, I’m having to wait 2 weeks to see a cardiologist.
  • The day before yesterday, in the morning, on the first day I was at home from the hospital, my mother (who stays with us) wouldn’t wake up. We had to call an ambulance. I had to take a nitro pill. She went to the hospital and didn’t wake up until 8 p.m.! We still don’t know why!
  • While at the hospital, I got a little too winded, so my wife said she would push me in a wheelchair. On the way to the van she flipped her knee scooter – the one she was riding because she had a broken bone in her foot and a fractured tibia from dropping my mother’s wheelchair arm on her foot – and fell in the hospital parking lot, doing more damage to her leg…now she’s in a full-blown cast.
  • Oh, she also broke her toe in the hospital where I was being treated. She closed the reclining chair she was sleeping on and it closed on her toe.
  • When my wife and I got the wheel chair out of the van, she pushed me (imagine how that looked) into the hospital where my mom was (they moved her from the ER to a room). As she was pushing me in, she looked down as we were going through the automatic doors. They opened outward, not inward, so she ran me right into them!

We’ve had little income, more bills than money to pay them, multiple injuries and illnesses, sermons to preach, people to visit, jobs that have been lost, arguments that have escalated, death that nearly happened, and people wondering what in the world we did to deserve all that’s been happening to us for the last 25 years.

YET… God is good, all the time.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. [We are] troubled on every side, yet not distressed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; – 2 Corinthians 4:7-8 KJV

People look at us with wonder and ask, “How do you do it?” All I can say is that “He giveth grace.”

I don’t know why we have so much happen to us. I don’t know why it’s been so hard the last year and a half, especially. It could be that Satan is trying to attack us and defeat us. It could be that the Lord is testing us.

Either way, I will not yield ground to the Enemy by giving up. I will not surrender my faith by doubting God’s goodness, mercy, and grace. I will not give up. I’ll keep getting up. I’ll keep pressing on.

I’m still not sure what I’m going to be preaching on tomorrow morning, but I can promise you one thing: The devil won’t like it.

God bless you all, and have a great weekend!

Go to church somewhere this Sunday.

Tell the networks we are ready to talk.

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Filed under blogging, Christian Living, Faith, General Observations, grace, Life Lessons, Life/Death, Love of God, ministry, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials

When There’s Been a Heart Change

Above is the view from my hospital bed at Coliseum Medical Center in Macon, Georgia. It’s not a view that compares with those my friend David Welford posts on instagram, but at least it’s a view – there were no windows in the ICU.

However, this morning my wife and I will be driving the 4-or-so hours back to Chattanooga, enjoying the view through the windshield. FREEDOM!

A  New Era

Last Friday I entered a new era in my life, one that will require lots more medication, a radical change in diet, and a physical therapy program that will probably turn into a regular workout program. I went from living life a certain way to living it a totally different way. I went from life as usual to life unexpected.

That’s what happens when you have a changed heart.

How It Happened

My heart began to change the moment I realized I was in trouble and admitted my need for help.  Had my pride said, “I can handle this…I’ll be OK,” I would have been dead.  But the painful feeling in my chest convinced me nothing I could do was going to change my condition – I needed a doctor.

The next step in my change of heart came when I submitted to the recommendations of those with whom I consulted. There was the doctor in the first hospital in Washington County who told me: “We got the results of your blood test…there’s something going on…you need to see a cardiologist tonight.” Then, several hours later, after a long ambulance ride and a lot more tests in another hospital (Coliseum), there was the cardiologist who said, “You need surgery.”

If I had rejected the recommendations of either, I would not be writing this; someone else would be writing my obituary.

The final step came when I submitted to the wisdom and ability of Dr. Nisreen Jallad and allowed her to fix what was wrong by weaving a wire up through my wrist and arm, all the way to the blocked arteries in my heart. Had I just agreed to what was needed, nothing would have changed. It was only when I put my life in her hands and allowed her to perform the scary, painful, life-saving angiogram and arterial surgery that change actually occurred.

Reassurance

Over the next couple of days, as I lay in the intensive care unit (ICU), there were times when I felt pain in my chest. Was I having another attack? More surgery?

That’s when Dr. Jallad calmly reassured me, “You came in with problems, but you are fixed…don’t worry.” All I was feeling were a combination of soreness and anxiety, not a heart attack; my heart was working fine.

What’s the next step? Live like my heart has been changed.

Evidence of Change

With a changed heart I will no longer consume the same foods; I will be on a healthier diet, one which will demand I think before I eat.

With a changed heart I will require an ongoing relationship with a cardiologist, someone who knows how the heart works and how to keep it working.

With a changed heart I will have to maintain a very specific regimen of medications for the rest of my life, else the devices in my heart will cease to perform as designed. The change was permanent, but its usefulness could be thwarted by my complacency and lack of discipline.

Spiritual Change

Can you see any comparisons to the spiritual heart? Some people claim to have had a change, but where’s the evidence?

Was there ever a moment of crisis? A moment of need? A time when you realized something was seriously wrong and there was nothing you could do to fix yourself?

Has there been a change of diet and discipline? Has the change been taken seriously?

Was there ever a surrendering to the Savior’s surgical hand, or did you simply continue as you were with only His words to contemplate?

Is there an ongoing communication with the Great Physician, the Cardiologist of the soul? Or, was that one trip to His office enough for you?

Then did a heart change really take place?

All I know is that everything changed for me the day my heart was changed.

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Filed under Christianity, fitness, Life Lessons, Life/Death, salvation

I’m Not Dead…Yet

I was behind the wheel of our Toyota sienna when my wife looked over at me and asked, “Are you OK?”

We were in a little town called Sandersville, GA,  and we had just finished walking through a small grocery store just to see what it was like.  But when I got in the van and sat behind the steering well, my chest was burning. I was a little short of breath and I was staring straight ahead. My wife had good reason to ask if I was OK, because I wasn’t:

I was having a mild heart attack.

Over four hours away from home, not counting Atlanta traffic, the last thing I wanted to do was go to the emergency room in a little town where the hospital wasn’t much bigger than a Walmart.  But knowing that chest pain isn’t something to trifle with, and especially since my wife looked worried (Who’s kidding who? I was worried, too!),  I agreed to go get checked out.

The little hospital was the best it could be, I suppose, for a little town like Sandersville. They couldn’t do much for me other than do an EKG, a chest X-ray, and a blood test.  All of the tests that they did came back negative, as in nothing was wrong. So, we got ready to leave as we awaited the results of a second blood test that needed to be done, one which was supposedly only a formality.  The only problem is that the final blood test showed that my troponin levels doubled in the three hours that I had been there…evidence something was wrong.

The emergency room doctor came back with the results and said that I needed to go see a cardiologist. My wife asked, “Just schedule an appointment with one when we get back home?” “No,” replied the doctor, “he needs to be transported by ambulance to another hospital right now.”  Unfortunately, the nearest ambulance to the hospital was still two hours away! So, the waiting began.

When the ambulance finally got there, we decided to go to the nearest hospital that was in the direction of home. So, we decided on a hospital in Macon, GA.  An hour later I arrived at Coliseum Medical Centers. #coliseumhealthsystem.com

All I can say is that I praise God this happened down here when it did, because this place is so much better than Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga. Everyone down here, from housekeeping to the nurses to the cardiologist, has been absolutely wonderful!  They have treated me like I was their only patient.  If I had been at Erlanger, it would’ve taken me four hours to get a bedpan.  But I digress.

Anyway, long story short, more tests were run on me here which led to the discovery  that I had blockages in all four main arteries in my heart, two of which were blocked 90%.  A few hours later I was in surgery receiving 2 to 3 stents, depending on how you measure them (one was as long as two). Other than when they numbed my wrist, I felt everything. No kidding, it hurt.

But I’m alive.

Come to find out, I’ve had heart problems for a while. When I have had pain in the past, all that was done were EKGs and stress tests. But nothing ever showed that I had blockages of any kind.  None of the places in Chattanooga ever did a heart catheterization.

My dad died at 46 with a heart attack. My grandfather died at 53.  I’m 51. Am I blessed, or what?

But here’s the thing: I’m going to die one day, and so are you.  Unless the rapture takes place, everyone of us have an appointment with death. It doesn’t matter how many times we go to the hospital and get fixed, these old bodies will eventually break down the last time  and we will enter into eternity.

My only hope for you, dear reader, is that you have the same hope and peace that I have.  That hope and peace is found in my Savior, Jesus Christ. Because of Him, when I take my last breath, I know where I will spend eternity.

I’m not dead…yet. But because of the blood Jesus Christ shed for my sins, I’ll be more alive that day than I am right now.

I’m ready to go. Are you?

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Filed under Christianity, current events, fitness, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

Pray for Penn

I just finished watching the following video with tears in my eyes. Please pray that God would humble the heart of Penn Jillete.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Faith, Life/Death, Witnessing

When I Die, Will They Come?

If you’re looking for an inspirational blog post to start off your day, this one might not be for you. It’s dark and rainy as I write this, so don’t expect a lot of literary sunshine.

You see, I went to a funeral, yesterday, which is nothing new… I go to them all the time as a preacher and chaplain. Heck, it’s a common thing to go to more funerals as one gets older, and I’m certainly getting older. After a while everybody you know starts dying off.

But a common worry – yes, a worry – struck me as I sat in the funeral home chapel. It’s a low rumble of a fear that is noticeable only to me, but one that seems to be growing in intensity with every funeral I attend.

It’s the fear that no one will come to my funeral.

Take it however you want, but every time I go to a funeral and see empty seats in the chapel or church sanctuary, I wonder what it will be like when I die. Will I have affected the lives of enough people to warrant my life being memorialized or celebrated?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a King Herod who wishes people to mourn when I die. No, all I’m afraid of is that I will not have made a big enough difference to be missed.

A good name [is] better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. – Ecclesiastes 7:1

I’m not afraid of dying, per se; I’m afraid of dying having not done enough to be missed when I’m gone.

Do any of you ever feel this way?

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Things to Do In 2019: Don’t take time for granted

“Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away” (Psalm 144:4)

Every hour that passes, ever second of every minute, is another moment in time we will never get back. Our time here on Earth is so short, so fleeting, that we are compared by the Psalmist worthless self-perceptions and the nothingness that is shadow.

When I was young, Christmas morning was always 10 years away. Monday morning meant that I’d have to wait a lifetime until Saturday-morning cartoons. High school graduation was a moment that didn’t come soon enough.

Now that I’m much, much older (although I still watch Bugs Bunny), I have children that are adults, bills that come far too frequently, and calendars that fly by faster than a starving bat after a June bug.

Years ago I spent a couple of hours talking with a young man about his soul. I shared verse after verse, gave reason after reason, but he would not give his heart to Jesus. I’ll never forget how he agreed with everything I said, yet said, “Not tonight…maybe later.”

No more than a week later, after going to the hospital for a headache, he died of spinal meningitis. As far as I know, he went into eternity without God.

We don’t know how much time we have left. We don’t know how much time our loved ones have left.

One thing I’ve learned is that no matter how old you get, and no matter how old your friends and loved ones get, whenever some one you love dies it’s always too soon; you always wish you had more time.

We should never take the future for granted, like it’s going to be here for us. Actually, it will be here, but someday we will not.

Use every moment wisely. Cherish every moment. We only have so many.

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Filed under Family, Life/Death, the future