Thursday, July 30, 2015

For the Love of a Dog by Mike DeCamp

For the Love of a Dog
By Mike DeCamp

Clint Davis emailed me a video the other day.  He didn’t say anything in the email.  He just sent the link.  At first, I was hesitant to click on it.  I thought he might have been hacked and maybe it was a virus.  However, he called me a day or so later and told me it was okay.

So, I watched it.  Here’s the link if you want to check it out:

I’m not going to give it away, but it’s entitled “Denali” and it’s about a man and his dog—from the dog’s perspective.  It will make you cry.

Sugar--and I guess maybe she is judging my clothing choices.
I’ve had five dogs in my life.  The last two (Leo & Xena) are still with me.  I’ve loved them all, and they’ve all loved me back.  I can remember my first one, Sugar.  She was a puppy when my folks got her—the runt of the litter.  I was one.  She died when I was seventeen.  She used to sit so patiently and listen to all of my problems.  No judging.  No laughing.  She didn’t drift off.  She didn’t get distracted by the TV or her cellphone.  She just sat there and let me vent, smiling her doggie smile.  And, then she’d give me an affectionate lick on the cheek.  I always felt better after our “talks” out on the back landing at my folk’s house.

Sally was my third dog.  We got her when my girls were young, and we had to put her down when she was around ten or eleven—some sort of tumor on her snout.  She was my dog.  No one could hold her if I called her.  Like Sugar, she was an outdoor dog, but if I was outside, she was right there with me.  If I sat down, she hopped up next to me—so affectionate.  And, like Sugar, she was a great listener.  Something in my heart broke when she died.

Leo with Nancy, and Xena by her dish
Leo is one of my current dogs.  He’s really Nancy’s dog.  She is his favorite by far, but he loves me too.  He just wants to be with us.  If one of us goes upstairs, he cries.  When we come back down, he acts like he hasn’t seen us for years.  He jumps, bounces, and runs around the room with joy.  If I bend over, he hooks his front legs on me and sort of pulls himself into my arms.

I wonder—what would it be like if we loved one another the way that our dogs love us?

Listening without judging.  No laughing.  No condemning.  No conditions.  Just listening out of love.

Paying attention without distraction.  Always there—in the moment.

Eager to show affection.  Okay, so no licking, but still, a warm hug would be nice.

Overjoyed to see one another.  I mean, seriously joyful, bouncing off the walls happy to be together.

Well, so maybe bouncing off the walls with joy is a bit much to ask, but the Bible does have something to say on the matter:

1 Peter 1:22 – Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.  Apostle Peter

Romans 12:10 – Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Apostle Paul

John 13:34-35 – A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  Jesus

I know I’ve got a long ways to go before I reach the standard that has been set for me in scripture, but along the road I can learn from the example set for me by the unconditional and limitless love of my dogs. 

Even so, I promise not to jump up into your arms and lick your whole face when I see you.  I’ll stick to the warm hugs.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Addiction, My Father, and Me by Terry Gardner

Addiction, My Father, and Me
By Terry J. Gardner
Text:  As Paul “spoke about justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became fearful.” —Acts 24:25
God gave my father many gifts.  He was intelligent, handsome, and physically strong. In his youth, he was “tough,” and yet he knew the words of the Bible as well as anyone I have ever met.  He could speak fluently without notes, intelligently and, often, wisely.  My father was addicted to nicotine, hard liquor, and gambling.
In my earliest memories my father smoked—first, unfiltered Camel cigarettes, then filtered Camels, and, later, Pall Malls.  When my father discovered that he could buy a non-smokers’ insurance policy if he smoked cigars, he switched to Rum Soaked Crooks and, later, Bering Imperial Cigars.  Today twenty-five Bering Imperials sell for $96.25.  Dad had a champagne taste but had no budget.  He smoked from the moment he woke up in the morning until he went to bed at night. He showered with a lit cigar.  If he swam in a pool, he swam with a lit cigar.  When my father’s first grandson was born, someone told my sister that the child favored my father.  “Does he have a cigar in his mouth?” she asked.
My father’s trouble with alcohol began when he was sixteen and left home for a year.  Later he decided that he wanted to preach and overcame his thirst for alcohol for some time.  Yet by the time I was in high school he had begun to drink, more and more.  He favored Scotch, Johnny Walker Red Label. He would only have “one” drink at night but that “one” was “refreshed” over and over.  When my father drank, he would call me lazy and worthless, suggesting that I would never amount to anything.  I knew the alcohol was talking, but it was still painful to hear.
As for gambling, my father preferred the horses—frequenting Bay Meadows, a track near our home in San Mateo. He enjoyed Las Vegas from time to time, and who knows what else.  If you gamble long enough, the house always wins. My father gambled long enough.
I detested smoke from cigarettes and cigars, and suffered from asthma as a small child.  As I grew older, I pleaded with my father to quit smoking, but he could not do it.
Meanwhile, my father’s alcohol problem became unbearable.  In the late 1980s we intervened, persuading him to enter an alcohol treatment program in Minneapolis. He quit drinking for a while, but soon he was again a slave to alcohol.  I don’t know that my father ever tried to quit gambling.  I do know that—as in the song, Papa was a Rolling Stone—when my father died, “all he left me was alone.”

In his life, my father suffered pain and grief.  His mother and father had died of tuberculosis by the time he was seven years old.  Two of his older sisters had died from tuberculosis by 1949.  Yet many people loved my father and would have done anything for him.  His choices made no sense to me. Whenever I asked his advice, his counsel was wise—but he did not follow his own advice.
Jesus teaches that “everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin”  (John 8:34).  In my father’s early life drinking was a choice, but once he passed a certain point he became a slave to alcohol and he could not stop drinking . . . or smoking . . . or gambling.  The answer was clear: he needed to admit that he was a slave, that he was powerless to stop doing these things, and turn to God in faith.  That faith requires humility; my father was a proud man. The Bible warns us, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 16:5) and “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall”  (Proverbs 16:18).  My father was determined to “do it my way,” to live as he had chosen, without counting the cost to his health, to his family, or to his God.
I am my father’s son . . . yet God expects something more of me.  I can not blame my father for what I am for God expects me to learn from my father’s mistakes and to be a better man than my father was. God showed mercy to King Nebuchadnezzar, who did many things in his ignorance, but God showed no mercy to his son King Belshazzar.  Indeed the prophet Daniel delivered the message of God to Belshazzar, reminding him of all that happened to his father, and then added, “Yet you, his son Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven . . . you praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand, but the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified.”  (Daniel 5:22-23).
I have avoided some of the sins of my father, but other sins are more challenging.  Christians are to take our thoughts captive, to eat and drink in moderation, and to control every physical passion.  I love to eat, and recently found myself becoming addicted to diet Coke.  Humility, trust in God, accountability, and prayer are necessary for self-control—it is, inevitably, a daily battle.  “I discipline my body and enslave it,” Paul wrote, “so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be lost” (I Corinthians 9:27).  Paul’s call to “self-control” terrified Felix.  It scares me, too.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What's the Point? by Steve Faidley

What’s the Point?


We don’t function as well alone.

Sometimes we like our alone time, but that’s not the same thing.

We weren’t meant to be alone. Genesis 2:18 says,

 “The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

Jesus surrounded himself with his apostles for the duration of his ministry.  When he sent them out to preach the gospel, we see in Mark 6:7-8 that he sent them out in pairs.

Paul was always working with a partner.  Paul and Barnabas.  Paul and Silas.  Paul and Mark.

The book of Ecclesiates tells in 4:9-12,

9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Every year, as we get into the thick of planning for our annual trip to Spring Mill Bible Camp, I ask myself what benefit for God’s kingdom are we accomplishing with all this expenditure of energy, time and money?

So, what’s the point?  We were not created to be alone, to work alone, to serve alone.  We were created for relationship.

One of the great benefits of camp is the relationships that get created under the banner of and through the bonds of Christ.  It’s a wonderful thing to watch two kids that didn’t know each other on Sunday get to be companions during the week.  It’s a wonderful thing to see kids gravitate toward their Bible class teachers as they get to know them…and then watch their faces light up when they come home and see them at church (or anywhere)! It’s a wonderful thing after a long and fatiguing week to come home and be told, “My child hasn’t stopped talking about camp.”  Or, “We sang camp songs all the way home!”  Or even when a tear is shed because the week is over and they have to come home.  Then my heart melts and tears well up in my eyes, and I’m reminded of the point.

We build relationships within the arms of Christ.

Some of our kids don’t have much spiritual support at home.  Some kids face frequent rejections.  Some are just like your kids.  What we get to do for one week is feed each other spiritually, shelter each other from the treatments of the world, lift up our voices in praise and worship, and share in the love of the Lord.  We get to grow our relationships!  Kids with kids.  Teachers with kids.  Cook with nurse.  Counselor with counselor.  The combination can go on!  But ask just about anyone that has spent a week at camp if they didn’t come back with better relationships within the body of Christ than when they left?  We have a chance at camp to help our kids establish peer and mentor relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ that can help plant their feet on the rock.  And as the camp song goes, “…and when the rains come down, and the floods come up”  that house will stand firm!

I hope camp continues for many years to come! 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Broken Heart and the Laughter of Children by Mike DeCamp

I had a rough weekend.  Sometimes, when you shoulder responsibility, the burden can get pretty heavy, and I was definitely feeling it over the 4th of July weekend.  Most of the time, being an elder is pleasant and rewarding.  Sometimes however, it is heavy.  When you couple that with my emotional nature and my highly empathetic heart, it can occasionally weigh me way down.  On Saturday, I felt like I had a 10-ton anchor sitting on my chest.  Let’s just say that I was definitely not a joy to be around.  (You can give an “atta-boy” to my wife and daughters for putting up with me.)

On top of the general leadership burden I was feeling, I had also lost a niece to liver failure earlier in the week.  She had passed away after complications arose from liver disease that I’m told was prompted by her life-long abuse of alcohol.  On Thursday before the weekend started, her sister showed me a picture of her taken not long before her death.  If I’d been standing right next to her, I would not have recognized her.  But, before all of that, she was just a little girl, and I remember her mostly that way.  She spent hours, even days, at my parent's place.  She had a rough home life as a kid, and our house could sometimes be a sanctuary for her.  She was at all of our family gatherings.  She was family, despite the fact that our paths had gone in different directions as adults and I had not seen her in many, many years.  And, she was gone.  Gone way too young.

My heart was weary and broken.

Then, two wonderful things happened to renew my spirit.

First, our family had a cookout on Sunday evening, and we invited a collection of friends from different seasons of our lives to come join us.  Nearly everyone we asked was able to join us, and we had a whale of a time.  God assisted by clearing out the rain for the day. Then I grilled burgers and hotdogs—inhaling way too much grill smoke in the process—and we sat around on my deck and told stories for hours.  We renewed our bonds, and created some new ones.  We laughed.  We solved the world’s problems—if only people would listen to us.  And, we encouraged one another.  I have to tell you—fellowship is good for the soul.  I felt so much better.

Second, on Tuesday night—after I had driven from Evansville to Plainfield in the rain, and then traversed the city, dodging crazy traffic and out-of-sync traffic signals—Nancy, my daughter Andrea, and I loaded up in the car and drove to Muncie.  We went there to attend my niece’s memorial service.  Again, circumstances were trying to discourage me.  More rain.  Crazy traffic.  Water flowing over the road.  We were late, and missed most of the formal service.  Still, we were able to see the family.

Then, the most amazing thing happened…

I have nieces who have had children already.  (That does seem a little crazy to me, but it is true.)  Some of the little ones I have met, but not all.  None of them really remembered me.  There were five or six of these little ones running around the room where the family was gathered, and they were all preschool age or younger.  Well, I sat down and started talking and teasing with a couple of them, which led me to a simple magic trick—I pulled a fake rose petal out of one of their ears. The first two little girls were amazed!  "I think you're a magician," one of them said.  Well, the next thing I know, I’m pulling dimes, nickels, and pennies out of all of the ears, noses, and mouths of all of the kids in the room!  They were swarming me.  (It’s a good thing I had a pocket full of change.)  They were happy and giggling.  “Pull it out of my ear! Please!”  “Do it again!”….”and again”…”and again.”

They were laughing.  I was laughing.  Their eyes were sparkling with joy.  And, suddenly, my heart felt lighter than it had in months.

No wonder Jesus wanted the little children around him.

Matthew 19:14 New International Version (NIV)
14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I suppose the moral of this article is this.  The next time you are feeling the burdens of life, do two things: Spend time with good friends, and take the time to connect with little kids.

Nothing is more encouraging than the laughter of children and the sparkle in their happy eyes.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

"Bittersweet" - Revisited by Frank Black

“BITTERSWEET” – Revisited  (Medical Missions)

(F Black – July 2015)

I was reminded of my article, entitled “Bittersweet”, written upon return from serving at Chimala Mission Hospital last year.  Here I am one year later having again just returned from serving there. After re-reading the article from last year, I thought I’d just have it reprinted.  Not really. But little has changed in the interim – in fact, little has changed in the Hospital and the Village in the 20 years since Lou Ann and I lived and served there (1992-1997).  This is one of the distinctions in answering, “What is Third World?” àCHANGE: LITTLE and very SLOWLY!!”  The only glaring exception is the presence of the cell phone.  Even Masaai men, cattle herders from deep in the “bush”, have cell phones.  They’re cheap, and people pay for their minutes of usage. -- I always wonder, “Who calls them?”

       First of all let me tell you what I didn’t miss during our month in Tanzania.  We had no TV, no internet connection, etc. Beginning to get the point?  No politics; no info about bombings and other distant tragedies; no incessant info leading up to the Supreme Court’s decisions of last week. Very refreshing!  We could totally focus on our quite challenging tasks at hand. This brings me naturally to the question, “Why do you go there?”  The one word answer is NEED.  So many people are so sick and have basically no money and no access to even limited medical care.  Our medical team is able to provide good quality care at no cost to as many as possible.  At the same time we endeavor to show people the love and compassion that Jesus showed in His healing.  He gave us medical missionaries what I call our “marching orders”:  Jesus sent them out (His disciples) to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:2).

       I’ll give you just a few examples of the galactical differences in your world and the world of the people of Chimala:

       The evil spirit world (animism) is all too alive and well.  One morning there was a disturbance at the hospital.  It seems the uncle of a three year old albino child had come during the night to steal the child from his mother.  Why? He planned to sacrifice the child and sell his body parts for witchcraft activities (apparently in the evil spirit world the genetic difference of albinism holds some “special power.”).The boy’s mother and some other family helped fight off the uncle.  The child was uninjured but his mother was admitted for some injuries.  The uncle had been apprehended and was taken by the police. My comment to the people there was, “Mungu amekuwa na uwezo zaidi.” (God has more power). 

       We had a seventeen year old girl die from complications of “local medicine” she took to cause a miscarriage. Abortion is illegal in Tanzania, plus it is a disgrace to a girl’s family if she becomes pregnant out of wedlock. [How refreshing! – and it’s called “Third World”]. At this same time we had another young girl who took the same ‘medicine’.  She survived but did lose the baby. 

       They sound much less dramatic and almost mundane; but trust me, we save more lives treating malaria, dysentery, and pneumonia than the much more ‘exotic’ sounding diseases. 

       Difficult decisions:  The first thing one morning I was checking Obstetrics as usual. There were two women in labor with their first pregnancies. Both women were having difficulty, and both babies were showing signs of extreme distress.  I sent the lady for a C-section first whose baby seemed in the most distress. Shortly after surgery, the baby did well.  There was about an hour between the two C-section cases. The second baby was severely depressed – not breathing on its own for about 45 minutes.  The baby died the next day.  Why am I telling you this?   We have one operating room. A decision had to be made as to who went first. The extra hour was just too damaging to the baby.  Two simultaneous C-sections were needed.  Just not possible. Add this to the list, “What is Third World?” Can you just imagine the ramifications of such a situation in the USA!!?

       On a much lighter note:  We had a hippopotamus bite one day.  Fortunately, the man was able to outrun the hippo and was bitten on ye ol’ bohunkus. - Not something you’re likely to see in the St. Francis ER.


       Of course most of my time was taken up being a doctor, but I was able to give devotionals at the hospital, pray with patients, speak at church, and give a series of talks on HIV/AIDS – some for the hospital staff and some during a Seminar for young adults held at the church on the Mission.  In addition to dispelling fallacies about the disease I always emphasize that God’s Laws of Sexual Behavior are the best prevention. [As per my article last year, HIV/AIDS is a huge problem in Chimala where it is spread heterosexually]


       It was a special pleasure for Lou Ann and me to have our granddaughter, Hope Faidley,with us.  She’s mature well beyond her 16 years.  She didn’t just “tag along” but pitched right in and helped us medically, just like the Harding senior nursing students.

       I conclude with the same quote used last year:

              “You have the blessing of location.

             They are the victims of location.”