Thursday, May 26, 2016

One more significant accomplishment...

On Tuesday of this week, I finished another major milestone in my progress; I graduated with my certification of one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. The class consisted of 17 weeks of instruction (8 classroom hours every Monday), 24 hours a month of on-call chaplaincy at Methodist Medical center (8pm-8am one day during the week, and 8am to 8pm on one weekend) each month, January - May, and then 300 total hours of clinical work (fulfilled by my work at St. Croix Hospice). For those of you keeping score, that's 140 hours of classroom work (we met 4 times for a 1 hour individual instruction), 120 hours of on-call work at Methodist Medical center (and, by the way, when we were on call we had to be on location, meaning we had to be at Methodist for the entire 12 hour shift), and 300 hours of supervised clinical visitation. I have already been endorsed by the Converge World Wide for chaplaincy; this is one more requirement down. May is stroke awareness month; I am now 7 1/2 years post stroke, I love what I do through Hospice and I am so thankful to God for what He has allowed me to do, and for all the people who have been praying for me through this process. For those of you that might be reading this blog who have recently had strokes, or know someone who has recently had a stroke, please, never give up. Your stroke may have taken many things from you, but don't let it take your determination! Drs told my wife I would never walk, talk or feed myself again, and here I am working as a chaplain for St. Croix Hospice; Drs know a lot, but they don't know everything! God is in control, let Him take over.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What my stroke has taken from me...

I was sitting in Knoxville, outside of the Knoxville Dance Academy, waiting for my girls to finish up with their dance classes when I had just a little bit of time to reflect on the last 7+ years since me stroke and all that has happened in my life.

My stroke has taken my ability to play basketball as well as I used to (which was not very good...)
My stroke has taken my ability to play football as well as I used to (see the above statement...)
My stroke has taken much of my energy to be able continue as full time Senior pastor,
My stroke has made me take medicine to control eye movements,
My stroke has made me start taking medicine at night to help me sleep,
My stroke has made me much more of an emotional wreck than I ever was before,
My stroke has made it so I laugh, nearly uncontrollably, at the wrong moments,
My stroke has made me lose the ability to answer people appropriately at time,
My stroke has made me nearly choke on water or tea because of swallowing problems,
My stroke has made me drool at times because I sometimes lack control of my facial muscles,
My stroke has made mt left side get weak at times, and in fact I have fallen several times,
My stroke has made me call my daughter to help me get up the stairs,
My stroke has made me bitter...GUESS AGAIN
My stroke has made me a better pastor because I know what it is like to have weakness,
My stroke has made me a better husband because I know what it is like to have problems and no one seems to listen.
My stroke has made me a better father because I nearly never want my kids to think I don't treasure every moment with them.
My stroke has made me a better Chaplain because I know what it is like to be on "that side" of the bed, to lose complete independence.
My stroke has made me a better friend because I want to be the friend I needed when I was at the lowest point in my life.
My stroke has made me better in so many ways that I cannot begin to count...would I ever want to have another stroke? Of course not. 
Do I regret what it has made me? OF COURSE NOT

Friday, March 11, 2016

Sometimes I'm shocked at how good God can be...

I was just reading some of my old posts and have come to this conclusion: only God could possibly do all of things that have happened in my life. Even if we set aside all the "stroke stuff", it is just so improbable that I would be where I am today if God had not intervened in my life.

But, this is about the events that have transpired since my stroke; so I will get back to that. So much has happened in the months since I posted last that I feel that I must spend the first few sentences just catching up on where I am now.

First, I no longer actively pastor; I told in my last post (which now seems like it was a long time ago...which is because it was) that I had stepped down from full time to part time pastoring. Well, in June, 2015 I stepped down completely and effectively "retired" from Senior Pastor ministry. This was a difficult decision for me; I have known nothing but pastoring for nearly 20 years and now I have to face the reality that it is no longer in my future. Since my stroke in 2008 it has just become harder and harder to deal with some of the stresses that come with Senior Pastor ministry.

Second, I also no longer live in Knoxville, Iowa. When I stepped out of ministry I realized that it is no longer effective for our family to live in Knoxville when my wife works in Des Moines. I was working part time as a Spiritual Care Counselor for HCI Hospice in Knoxville, but I could not justify a situation in which my wife drives 1 hour each way for a full time job while we live in Knoxville for my part time job. So, in May, 2015 we moved to Ankeny, Iowa. We love it, my kids really love the schools (and they were able to go to New York to march in the Veteran's day parade).

Third, I am now a Chaplain for St. Croix Hospice in Ankeny and Panora. I do what love most: talking to people about their spiritual issues and helping them in their daily walk. I get to use my own experience to encourage people in their daily walk.

What all of these mean: God allowed me to take a terrible situation, my stroke, and use it in a way that helps people in their situation. Let me reiterate a statement from my first post: God is good, regardless of what my situation is!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

There are some things so good you could not make it up...

As many of you recall, in September I made the decision to step down from full time ministry. This was a big decision for me, because I have not known anything but full time ministry or preparation for full time ministry for over 20 years. Granted, the decision came with a lot of questions in my mind, but I did not let anyone know what those were, except for my wife. When the decision was made and I officially stepped back it lifted a weight off my shoulders, but I still wondered what I was going to do. I am too young to do nothing, but I don't have the stamina to do much since my stroke. 

As many of you who have been following my blog for some time recall, I have been working on my second Master's degree, the MDiv. But, I was thinking that I would not be done for at least another semester, or maybe 2. Well, on September 1 I stepped back from full time ministry, and on September 11 I got an email telling me that my degree was conferred. So, I was officially a Seminary graduate for the 2nd time. I got the degree in the mail on October 3; on October 4 my wife saw an ad for a PRN Chaplain for Hospice of Central Iowa. I sent in my resume and applied; a few weeks later I was informed that I got the job. It is only 5 - 10 hours/week and it allows me to do what I love doing; visiting hurting people, while still allowing me to pastor New Covenant church part time. Joe Strode is doing a fantastic job working full time as the Family Life pastor. It just seems that God divinely put things together in a way that I just don't think anyone could make up.

Sometimes it seems that life is really bad under our circumstances. I will always Charles Shafer at Trinity Baptist College in Jacksonville, Florida telling our class: when you find yourself under bad circumstances, ask yourself what you're doing under there. God has called you to live for Him, regardless of your circumstance. Regardless of what happens in your life, remember, God is good all the time.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A little hard to admit, but the time has come for me to step out of full time work...

There are times when God’s work and His timing make absolutely no sense to us. In 2008 when I had my stroke, my family and the church were taken completely by surprise. As the time went on, it was amazing to watch how God used a terrible situation to bring about something that brings Him the greatest glory. God’s provisions in the months after my stroke were absolutely incredible. He has sustained me and my family through some of the most terrible months of our lives.

About a year ago, I had mentioned to Laura that there were some things occurring on Sunday mornings and as I interacted with people that might seem to suggest that some of my deficiencies were becoming more evident. What I told her then was that when my deficiencies begin to become almost a distraction, I would know it would be time to step back from full time ministry.

Over the next several months, it was communicated to Laura and and myself that I look tired, appear to be having swallowing issues and more difficulty with weakness in the left side.  Certainly, all of those things are true.  At that time, I began praying about what to do. Enter Joe and Kerri Strode. In April, Laura and I met with Joe and Kerri and asked them to begin praying about what God would have for them in full time ministry. I asked him, then, if I were to take a diminished role in the church, would he be interested in becoming a full time Family Life Pastor at New Covenant church.

We talked several times over the next few months and in July we met again to discuss the possibility of a transition. Following those discussions, I met with the deacons and the Board and discussed the possibility of a realignment of workload and salaries that would allow Joe the opportunity to pursue the Lord in full-time ministry as well as give me the option of following the advice of many physicians and reduce my workload.  The proposal to have Joe come on in a full-time capacity while I mentor Joe in his new role was met with overwhelming affirmation.  With that said, effective September 1, I will be stepping down from full-time ministry. I will remain the Senior Pastor of New Covenant church during this time of transition and come along side Joe as a mentor and friend.  Joe has shared that the Lord has given him a desire to become a senior pastor and this will be a step in the process in helping Joe get to where he feels God wants him to be. Joe will assume the day-to-day operations of the church and his job will be expanded to include a greater responsibility with our youth, children and families.

Joe and Kerri have shown themselves to be dedicated to the Lord and clearly have a heart for reaching people.  God has obviously equipped them with tremendous talents and in turn, Joe and Kerri use those God-given talents for the purpose of reaching and discipling people for Christ.  I would ask that you prayerfully come along side myself, my family and the Strodes as we move forward with what we believe is God’s direction for New Covenant Church.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

I felt a little spacey at times...

This has really been an issue for a long time, but it seems to be becoming a little more apparent to my family. Last night we were doing some work around the house and my wife asked me several times if anything was wrong. The first few times I was pretty evasive "Nothing. Just tired. I'm OK." After awhile, and after she had asked a few (probably 6 or 7) more times, I finally had to admit that I seem to be feeling pretty spacey, or distant. It's not blood pressure; after I checked it, it was 147/88 - not bad. I have also had a few episodes of a "swimming" feeling; that is when I am sitting still or lying down and the room seems to be a little wavy - it's not spinning like vertigo, it just is an odd sensation that occurs every now and then. It is not constant, and it had only happened about every 6 months since my stroke, but now it seems to be occurring about once ever other week, or even once a week recently. It is just weird, that's all I know. But, I know that God has all things worked out for me, I just have to trust Him and believe that everything that happens will work out for His good, I just have to trust Him.

Friday, August 22, 2014

New Book: How Big is Your God...


I just got confirmation that my new book, How Big is Your God, is available at