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January 2017

The Blessed Scandal of Unbridled Joy!


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Unbridled joy is such a rarity that it is often viewed with suspicion and offense, but it is, in reality, a sacrament of the highest order in that it is an expression of pure grace. The etymology of the word, “scandal” comes from the Greek, “skandalon” meaning “trap, stumbling block, or offense.” On the other hand, the concept of a sacrament is based upon the idea of “consecration.”

Some years ago, we were looking for a descriptive name for our church. We decided to write our mission statement first and let the “nickname” emerge from that. It arose among us, without controversy or ambiguity. God was calling us to be a fellowship of joy.

The Greek words for giving, grace, gratitude, and joy are all rooted in a word that sounds like CHAR. Joy is the natural emotional response to grace. Wherever grace is, there is unbridled joy. Gratitude is the rightful expression of grace-received and generosity is the undeniable attitude of the heart, touched by grace, toward other people.  II Corinthians 9:7 says that  “God loves an hilarious giver.” 

All of God’s ways are gracious and the joyous response of His people is a eucharistic sacrifice through which grace is given and received. It is so blatant that many are scandalized by it, but whenever it is seen, it reveals the authenticity of the gospel in its purest form.

To be God’s people is to be filled to overflowing with gregarious joy.

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,   To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen. (Jude 1:24 KJV) 

Justice, Kindness, and Humility in a Hostile World #thejesusthingtodo

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Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God - a favorite life verse of mine with a fresh bluegrass interpretation that you'll love and sing and an even fresher insight from verse 1:

What if we live in an environment where pride, arrogance, and chauvinism blunt the force of the prophetic and compassion message of God to a people who are very religious but have forgotten from whence they have come (the house of slavery)? He gives two admonitions:

1. Keep proclaiming the message if only the mountains and hills will listen - faithfully proclaim.

2. Practice the message yourself : "do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God ..."

Micah 6:1-8
"Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. "O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD." "With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"



Going Knowhere

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I once posted a blooper in a social media platform that I could not correct. In my flawed messages I said that something was going "know where."

It was not my first blooper. Nor was it the only one I could not fix. I was going “knowwhere,” but ….

I meant "nowhere."

I was only a few letters and a space off, but the meaning changed.

Never one to let a good lemon go wasted without making lemonade, I pondered the deeper meaning of the contrasting terms.

If you are going to where you know where then you can't be going nowhere.

That was not excellent grammar, but I think you get the point. If not, let me rephrase.

If you know where you are going, you can't be going nowhere.

You must be going somewhere.

While I can't tell you where nowhere is, I know that somewhere is real and worthy of your efforts.

So there!

Now then, what is the difference between nowhere and know where?


N - Negative because it is kNee jerk. It is reactive rather than responsive or proactive.

O - Oblique because of its lack of clarity or definition.

W - Worthless because it is the product of a void of values.

H - Hopeless not because it is so awful, but because it was not born of hope.

E - Effortless and effort accompanies value.

R - Redeemable if we are willing to stop and re-calibrate our intentions.

E - Efficient. If it is your goal to go where, you will always succeed.

Now .... KNOW WHERE you are going ...


K - Knowledge is the key word. You have given this some thought and gathered wisdom.

N - kNees engaged - Not kNee jerk, but born of prayer.

O - Obvious - There is so much clarity that others can see where you are going.

W - Worthy - your destination is a worthy and worthwhile goal.


W - Will - Your will is engaged. You have made a decision and are following through.

H - Hopeful - This dream is born of hope, bathed in hope, and built daily with hope.

E - Energized moment by moment. You put in the effort and see the fruit.

R - Reachable - It may be lofty, but you can do it. You can get where you are going.

E - Extraordinary - Efficiency is not enough. You were created by God for an extraordinary life!

That is not a lot of prose and there is little here but some thought propellants. However, see what happens if you take one or two of them as seeds for reflecting on where you are going. Spend some time doing that today. It will be worth it.

Welcoming Strangers and Refugees the Jesus Way

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What is :"The Jesus thing to do?" We may not always be able to influence what local, state, and national governments do, but we can bear witness, exercise influence, and govern our own actions based upon God's moral law and upon what it means to follow Jesus in a world that is often antagonistic toward His call.

I am posting three reflections from scripture on what the Bible says about welcoming the refugee and the stranger in our midst. 

The first is by Sharon Gallagher in Radix.

Jesus the Stranger: Friend to the Dispossessed

Sharon Gallagher
Radix Vol. 38:4)

One of the striking things the Gospels reveal about Jesus is his concern for outsiders. This major theme in the preaching and healing ministries of Jesus was rarely heard in the sermons I grew up on.

That Jesus Christ is God’s son and our savior was taught and remains a cornerstone of my faith. Sermons stressed the importance of being “saved” and holding right doctrines. Heated controversies flared up about exactly when Christ would return. Since Jesus said no one would know the day or hour of his return, this speculation seemed a strange focal point. CONTINUE

 The next is from World Relief Global:

Scripture and Immigration

The Bible has a lot to say about immigrants and immigration.  In fact, the Hebrew word ger, the closest word to our concept of an immigrant, appears 92 times in the Old Testament alone.   We encourage you to do a Bible study on the topic of immigrants in Scripture.  Here are some passages to start you out: READ

 The third is a video from Dr. Darrell Whiteman 


For the follower of Jesus, it is really not about politics or about our political opinions, preferences, or views. We have clear instructions and teachings from scripture on this matter.

Embrace Humor

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You really do need to take a break from serious thoughts from time to time and laugh at absurdity if you intend to survive with a sound mind. I'm serious. Humor is no laughing matter.

Recently, we lost Mary Tyler  Moore who had such a great gift of making us laugh and smile. She did it very well and it was a blessing to our lives.

Here are some suggestions (from me) for embracing the HUMOR in life:

Humility - The essence of humor is the ability to laugh at oneself. It is not self-deprecation; it is simply humility and the self-esteem and security necessary to be humble.

Understanding - It is necessary to have some insight into humanity in order to fully appreciate how silly we must look from the outside. The best humor of all actually loves and empathizes with humanity while appreciating its foibles and flaws.

Maturity - As you grow older, wiser, looser, and better informed, you have more of a smorgasbord of humorous material. Life itself becomes your best source of intelligent humor. The better your command of language, the keener your capacity for wit. The broader your experiences, the deeper your belly laugh. Maturity frees us to enjoy more of what is best about laughter - not at the expense of others, but with them.

Obvious and Ordinary - Humor takes what is obvious and allows it to entertain deeper or alternate meanings. If you want to enjoy the laughter of life, keep your eyes and ears open and be ready for those moments of serendipity when everything comes together, when timing is, indeed, everything.

Rip and Relax - Let it rip! Get over it. Let go of it. Relax. Give yourself permission to take a short vacation into the realm of the absurd.

Holding Hope Hope in Our Hand



Frayed and tattered

Faded, shattered

Vacuumed vitality

Stark reality

Sound the alarm, but be not alarmed.

A cry, a sigh, but none to say, "why."

It just is and it is and it is what it is and 

What it will be is what we shall see and there only is one task to be done

And thus, it is this and this it is thus and the scraps of our words

Become seeds of our faith and we never lose hope and we hold on to hope

And we hold it, tattered and frayed, shattered and faded

In the palm of our hand in the depth of our heart.


Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me ... It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD's hand has gone out against me!"  Ruth 1:12-13

"What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient?  - Job 6:11

Did I ask you for a son, my lord?" she said. "Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?"  - II Kings 4:28:

 ... in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel.  - Ezra 10:2


Without hope, we shrivel up and die. We atrophy from the inside out. We formulate no goals, formulate no strategies, articulate  no objectives, and develop no action plans for our lives. We stop dreaming dreams and seeing visions. Without hope, we cease to seek God and God actually becomes an irrelevant sideline to our lives. Without hope, we die. Hope is illogical. We can think of any number of rational reasons for discrediting hope in our own lives or the lives of others.

Hope is risky. At the worst, we lose time and money; at the least, we lose face. But without hope, we lose everything.

With all of that in mind, there is one solid, indisputable reason for having hope: Jesus Christ. While the “facts” may argue against hope, the Word of God says, “there is still hope.”

Hope is based upon irrefutable truth. It is founded upon ultimate reality and rooted in in dynamic power. If there were no evidence to support hope the still small voice of God’s eternal Spirit would whisper it into our hearts. But there is evidence. Millions of transformed lives through history and alive today attest to it.  Embrace hope and live.

Let us resolve to be people of hope. As we are becoming hope-full about God’s bright future, we will be contagious. The hope that spills from our lives into the lives of other people will infect them for a lifetime and encourage them to rise up and accept the challenge the Lord brings into their lives.

It may not look impressive to the world or to us, but we hold hope in our hands and it is enough.

Hope of the ages,

Breathe hope into my faltering heart.

Rebuild the foundations of faith

Within my troubled soul

That I may bear witness to Your

Constancy and faithfulness

As long as I live.

Don't Miss the Mission


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Luke 10:3 – Go your ways
: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.

The costly commission to follow Jesus and to go forth as His ambassadors is so controversial as to appear adversarial. Jesus warns us to expect hostility and opposition. He does not say this to discourage us, but to encourage us. He does not intend to frighten us away, but to have us brace ourselves in the embrace of His grace and power.

“Go your ways,” He says, knowing that each of us has a path that is uniquely and wondrously ours. No two paths are exactly the same though they often intersect and frequently follow parallel courses. We may hesitate to go our ways because it is less risky to continue as we have been, sitting at the feet of Jesus in the cloistered environs of our religious retreats. But we must go. It is His commission.

“I send you,” He says and that gives us courage to go forth, knowing that we have been authorized and mandated we bear His Name and represent His kingdom. It gives us confidence and joy to know that we are not staggering through the darkness of meaningless humdrum. We have been sent.

“I send you forth as lambs,” He says. We are like baby sheep. We still need our shepherd. As we go from Him, we develop a new relationship with him. We discover that He has come along in a new way.

“Lo, I am with you always,” He assures us.

“… as lambs among wolves.” This is the scary part. It is dangerous out there to the extent that we really could lose some things along the way. And if the things we can potentially lose are dearer to us than the commission, we could lose everything. However, if we have relinquished our hold on the things of earth so that they “grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace,” then we have absolutely nothing to lose. We have died, as the scriptures say, and our lives are hidden with Christ in God.

Don’t be afraid of the wolves. Beware of them, but don’t let them stop you. Whatever you do, don’t miss the mission.

Thirsty Soul

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Thirsty soul and fainting flesh can be signs of health seeking more health. The soul that longs for God is the soul that knows enough of God to know that there is more of God to know. God never leaves us so satisfied that we remain where we are, but always creates, within us, the desire for more, for deeper intimacy, and for stronger ties to the Source of our being.


Seizing the Moment for Moment by Moment Growth

Going for the depths

Do not assume that all your troubles are a spiritual deficit in your life. They may, however, be a profound spiritual opportunity for asking deeper questions, exploring deeper waters, and seeking and knowing God more deeply.

" All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
(Psalm 44:17-22 ESV)

" Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!"
(Psalm 44:26 ESV)





Getting Used to a New Normal

Tools for adjusting

The road is uncharted.

The future has not been invented.

While the ultimate outcome is guided by providential, magnanimous grace, the path is still being cut out of the rough terrain of the present and near future.

We cannot predict every contingency. We cannot foresee nor can we forestall every challenge. Knowing what we know, would we have decided what we decided?

Would we have avoided every loss and insured only gain? Would we have sidestepped the pain, suffering, and heartache?

That would be "insider trading" and it would be cheating.

We make the best decisions based upon what we know and upon the guidance God gives us in the moment.

The, we adjust. Our new normal scenarios present a mix of opportunity and obstacle and require us to change things about our attitudes,  lifestyles, and beliefs about what we can and cannot cope with.

When things dramatically change, we must change in a number of superficial ways in order to preserve and flourish in the essential nature of who we have been created, equipped, and called to be.

We are involved in shaping and being shaped and we have lots of choices to make and tools to make those choices with. 

I am just exploring this as I travel a path of change, adjustment, and synchronization to some new normal realities in my life. Perhaps the acronyms upon which I am reflecting will help provide a starting place for identifying some of the tools we could each use.

New Normal

This NEW NORMAL is first, NEW.

Newness comes delivered to our doorsteps in various packages. Sometimes it comes with beautiful gift wrapping and a bow. Sometimes, it is stuffed in a tattered trash bag. Let's spell out the concept that what is inside is not defined by its packaging.

N - It is NEW for what it is NOT. It is not what we had before. It is not what we had grown accustomed to experiencing. It is not the old, the tried, the true, or the comfortable. It is new.

E - It is NEW for different EXPECTATIONS. The kinds of new normal experiences with which we are confronted will not have the same possibilities as the old. We cannot always get to where we were going by the new route. We will lose some things and we will gain some things.

W - It is new for its WEALTH of possibilities.  Doors have closed. Some possibilities have been enveloped in a sea of of what was and will not be again. But there always were more possibilities than we knew. The task it to discover, uncover, and explore them.



Normality is a benchmark and a launch pad. It may not always be normal, but it is for now.

N - Normality indicates the presence of an active NARRATIVE. Our lives are stories with multiple chapters. We cannot thumb through the tables of contents or skim along to the final paragraphs of each chapter or the last chapter and get ahead of ourselves. We have to live the stories and stay in one chapter at a time. The constant in each is the grace of God.

O- Normality points toward ORDER. It is not what we had before. It is not what we had grown accustomed to experiencing. It is not the old, the tried, the true, or the comfortable. It is new. There is an organization that creates a stability that sustains us in the process. Without this stability, we are rocked about in a constant state of crisis. We cannot live that way. Order is a reminder of the Rock that provides ultimate stability.

R - Normality is REALITY. It is where we live for now. As much as any earthly address can be, it is our permanent forwarding address. We reside in the present until some future change takes us to a new present. We are in this world until we leave it and go to our permanent home.

A- Normality is ARBITRARY,  but not ultimately AUTHORITATIVE. It is what it is. We can spend all of our time questioning "why" and "why me," or we can get on with the adjustments and make the bast of what we have.

A- Normality comes with LIMITATIONS,  than can LIBERATE us to experience growth we have never imagined, profound growth, and the unleashing of potential to live our lives with greater significance and deeper satisfaction.
I am dealing with mine right now and you are dealing with yours. At some point, I may come back and edit with with more personal anecdotes and reflections. However, at this moment, I am fleshing it all out and will leave it dangling for you to work out your own.

In many ways, we are all on this journey together. God is with us and we have each other.

Reflections on Storms


Peace, Be Still

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(He  Qi Art)

In the boat and in the storm,
Though it be anomaly or though it be norm,
Tossed and swamped, and dramatized,
Sleeps One who cannot be traumatized.
Sways to left and rocks to the right.
Sun grows dim, land out of sight.
It seems He's asleep until He's awakened,
That One is still and cannot be shaken.
"Wake up, Master Jesus for all that we cherish
Is now being rocked! Don't you care that we perish?"
He got up and sat up, and spoke to the winds
And turned His attention and spoke to His friends.
"I see you're afraid; do you even know why?
Have you no faith; Don't you know it is I?"
He was there in the boat, along with His fellows,
But resting in peace, then commanding the bellows.
Just a word from His mouth and the seas would be calm.
He is wellness, shalom, deliverer, and balm.
And filled with an awe that enshrined that dark hour
They wondered aloud who He was with such power.
We've each had our storms and at times been aware
Of unshakable Presence and a Word that was there,
But never imagined the difference He makes,
Maintaining the peace while everything quakes.


Mark 4:35-41 (NRSV)
"On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, 'Let us go across to the other side.' And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?' He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said o the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, 'Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?' And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'''

My New Feast

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"You have to eat." We have all heard it as if missing a meal would be our death sentence.

I know the feeling associated with that statement. I am a lover of food as well as a life-long consumer. I love varieties. I love the way food titillates all of my senses and I love the sense of well being and intimacy. Food is sensually and aesthetically pleasing to my body and my soul, but I am walking away from food by mouth, at least for now and probably always for the most part.

I have known what it is to be governed by appetites. Paul spoke of those whose gods were their bellies. I've been there and, for some time, have gotten largely past it. I thought I had until this time of culmination in a developing wave of complications has matured.  Now, because of some severe and complicated esophageal dysphagia, I am exchanging normal eating for a G-Tube.

In many ways, it can be a relief not be be governed by meals and meal schedules and to be rid of the need to feed one's body with food through the mouth. Some of the benefits of fasting for an extended period of time are coming my way through the back door of medical necessity. There are elements of this that are liberating.

In another way, meals tend to punctuate our days in ways that give us milestones and benchmarks. In the new normal, there are replacement routines that will motivate and discipline me to take in nutrients, but none have the attraction of the aromas, tastes, textures, and aesthetic presentation of edible and prepared foods.

There are also the rhythms and movements of prayer and the spiritual disciplines which nourish the spirit. These can be quite satisfying.

The instincts and drives of appetite have been given us by God and through nature to compel us to get the nutrition we need. Without those instinctive appetites to call us to supply food, we must rely upon our commitments and establish new forms of punctuation.

We  use meals to gather as families and communities around a common table. Food promotes community and conversation among friends and strangers who become friends. What happens when we must be more intentional about conversation?

What happens is that we are stripped bare of any pretense or attraction other than the sheer joy of feasting upon friendship and human interaction.

We use food as a reward system - usually addictive "comfort" foods and corrosive sugars that do not speak to our body's wellness needs, but appeal to our senses. We even reward our good behaviors of eating well with the destructive behaviors and "a little treat" of poison.

So, when they delivered my green tea with a little honey in the hospital yesterday, I was delighted. That last drop I licked off the tiny bag made my day. The rest was dissolved into the clear liquid that I am able to sip a bit, and did no apparent harm.

I'll keep reflecting upon this as I journey through the potential of a life without eating by mouth. I know that some capacity may return in the future, but there is no guarantee. The strongest likelihood, bordering on certainty, is that the bulk of my intake with come through a tiny tube that will be surgically implanted in my belly tomorrow.

There had been some hope that a recent surgery might restore my ability to eat normally. That did not materialize.

I have been living without solid food for over six weeks now and anything other than clear liquids, also for three to four weeks. I expect to learn a lot as this simplifies my life while complicating it in other ways.

I will travel with cans packed next to my CPAP machine, vitamins, and pill crusher, but I will travel.

I will learn gracious but firm ways to decline the kindest offers of meals, snacks, and culinary expressions of love and hospitality. I will pray not to offend.

I will enjoy the look and smell of foods and will sit down to meals with people and a cup of tea.

I will cook for anyone willing to eat. I may even taste and spit out when no one is looking - just to make sure it is OK.

More important, I will learn more about what is truly important and live life more purposefully and with more focus and intention.

I've had some good meals in my day, but I hear the call to a bigger feast.


Here is some background from a Facebook post:

I have a report on me and my progress, but first a joke, then a scripture that used a bit of humor, and then, a short reflection followed by the long update.

"Here’s some advice: At a job interview, tell them you’re willing to give 110 percent. Unless the job is a statistician." - Comedian Adam Gropman

If you did not get that, try this:

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.'”

""When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, 'Who then can be saved?'”

Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'”

All things are possible, even impossible situations have great possibilities and you can, only with God, exceed 100%

Now the report!

As you can see, I am posting, so I am still with you. The swelling began to go down in my arm after the PICC line was removed. I am getting 2-100 mg injections of Lovanox a day and am on an IV for hydration and some nutrition. There is still some pain, but it is much better. It took a few weeks to empty my esophagus, but now that it is empty, I am not vomiting. Nothing goes in but some green or herbal tea - and not too much of that.

I had a visit here in Santa Monica from our DOM, Pastor Jason Blankenship  which was a huge surprise and blessing and, before I left Fresno, from Pastor Don Hargis, my neighbor and also a huge blessing.

My surgeon was to be flying in today, but he is technically off until Tuesday. He has been on my case from afar. What a great guy, Dr. David Chen! I think they will want to resolve the clots before they do the surgery. It is somewhat more complicated than a normal PEG tube. It is pretty interesting, because they will bypass the stomach pouch I have been using and cut through some intestinal wall flapped over the old remnant stomach. It will need to be laparoscopic under general anesthesia.

I will then have two active stomachs that empty into the intestines. One for food and most of my liquids and the other, at least for now and the foreseeable future, just for liquids.

Won't I be special :) - and walking conversation piece? :) :)

"Hey, see that dude? He's got two working stomachs!"

The usual procedure involves cutting a small hole in the abdomen and entering from above through an endoscopic insertion with some wires and tubes to be pulled through (or vice versa). I did not become well versed in that because it is not an option for me.

I specialize in causing trouble.

Someone in food service is not getting the message about liquids only. Someone else is.

The was who is getting the message has caused me to accumulate the world's most impressive collection of tea bags that anyone ever collected in a hospital. They send me three cups of hot water per meal.

The one who isn't sent me a full breakfast this morning. I decided to have them remove the top and let me look at it. It looked and smelled delicious. In fact, I have seldom seen such lovely eggs. I said. "Thank you. You can take it away now." :)

I am trying to use the time well, studying a lot, doing correspondence, listening to lectures, watching documentaries, talking to you, passing on things that inspire, interest, challenge, or even irritate me, preparing for my Theology class that begins January 24 (SIGN UP!!! :) ), and working on the next steps for 4141 Ministries .

I have plenty to do and plenty of time to do it.

I cannot overstate how wonderful the staff, nurses, care providers, housekeepers, doctors, and clerks are here at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica .I am also deeply indebted the the doctor's nurses, EMTs, and NAs who helped me so well at Saint Agnes Medical Center . They knew I needed to be here where folks understand my complicated anatomy and helped me get here. They also were essential during those early hours for saving my life.

Now, if you are among the heroic ones who waded through all of that to get to this: Thanks to YOU for the hundreds of prayers and expressions of support. I hope there are some folks who can be encouraged by my journey. God gives me strength and joy for whatever challenges arise - not because I am worthy. I assure you, I am not, but because of God's infinite grace and mercy.

So, here I am, being threaded through the eye of a needle, 110% and, surprisingly, it is working.