Monthly Archives: April 2013
Where was God? Again? We’re asking that question again? If we don’t need God, then why do we keep asking where He is? Why do we keep expecting God to show up and protect us when we don’t believe in Him any more? Why not expect Zeus or Athena or some other god to show up? If we no longer believe there is anything supernatural out there then why do we keep appealing to the supernatural? Why do we keep seeking God?
Here is why:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. Romans 1:19-24 (ESV)
God has put eternity in the hearts of all men. We are more than just animals. We are made in the image of God. We are filled with God’s attributes: love, creativity, empathy, mercy, compassion, self awareness.
So, how does this all figure in to the events of the last week? Oh, I’m sorry. You thought I was talking about the events in Boston! No, I’m talking about the events that took place in Austin. We went down to Austin to celebrate my daughter-on-law’s completion of her Ph.D. Here is a picture of us at her party (A Doctor Who themed party! You can see more pictures here.)
My daughter, Casey, had her first seizure when she was 8 years old. The subsequent two years were hell on earth trying to figure out the kind of seizures she had and how to treat them. We ended up at the Epilepsy Center in Los Angeles, one of only two such centers at the time. My little 9 year old daughter was attached to EEG leads for 24 hours a day on continuous video monitoring in a small hospital room. She couldn’t go more than ten feet from her bed and my wife stayed with her for 10 days before they made the diagnosis.
We treated Casey through four different neurologists over the years of her childhood. Just when we would find a good pediatric neurologist, that person would leave our local medical school and we would have to find another one. At Casey’s school, we had to go through the tedious process of getting the teachers to help Casey with her lessons and her instructions as the seizures affected the part of her brain that controlled reading comprehension.
Middle school years were a nightmare. Young girls are, no doubt, the cruelest creatures on the face of the planet. In the sixth grade, Casey endured 9 weeks of torture and extortion at the hands of a gang of girls before we found out the reason she was covered in bruises. We thought she was having a reaction to her meds!
Then, we had to find her a private school where she wouldn’t get beaten up every day for being “different”. She finally made it through middle school. But, the high school in our district would have the same girls as that middle school. Casey’s grades would not allow her to be in a “magnet” school. And, now at the private school, the high school age girls were even more cruel to her because she did not attend the church that ran the school.
We had to sell our dream home, build a new house, and move to another school district so Casey could get into a high school where she would not be tortured. She found peace and acceptance among her peers at this school, but now we had to weather the storm of standardized testing. Casey had to pass certain benchmark standardized tests to move up in high school and all of these tests relied on reading comprehension. There were NO exceptions for her seizures. Her senior year in high school, we had to change her medication and we knew she would have some breakthrough seizures so we planned that transition during the time she would take these tests so we could get a personal tutor hired by the school district to come and administer the test at home in anyway possible for Casey. She passed and walked across the stage in 2006 to receive her diploma. It was the proudest day of her life!
Since 2006, Casey has continued to struggle with her seizures. We had to transition her to a neurologist specializing in adults and to our dismay, there were NO neurologists in our town who specialized in seizures. Frustration after frustration ensued as Casey’s symptoms began to change and involve her face and her mouth even on maximum medication. She tried college and had to drop out because her professors did not understand her disease! Her last semester in college, the professor locked her out of the room and told her she had been faking her illness!
Our neurologist in January 2012, “fired” us. This from one of my fellow physicians! I was furious! I was so frustrated! Casey was approaching the age of 25 and she literally had no life! Now, at this point I should have been shaking my fist at God. But, I didn’t. My wife didn’t. And, to Casey’s credit, she had long ago accepted that this was her lot in life.
In June, 2012 God worked a miracle and we found a new neurologist in New Orleans. He saw Casey and instantly drew a totally different conclusion. Casey suffered from an extremely rare form of migraines, not seizures! She also has a rare metabolic disorder that produces this problem easily corrected by vitamins. Since June, we have been in the process of trying to wean her off of 17 years of seizure medication and onto migraine medication.
Christmas was horrendous. Her “auras” as they are now called were debilitating and our neurologist finally added a new migraine medication that caused the symptoms to stop. But, the side effect for Casey has been depression and weight loss.
Which brings me to last week. We went to Austin to celebrate my daughter-in-law’s completion of her Ph.D. from UT Austin. From the minute we arrived Thursday before last, I was apprehensive. All I could think about was something bad happening to Casey. I don’t know why, but there it was. The first night, Casey had a pretty bad “aura” at the restaurant. Every day, she had these “attacks” where her mouth would stop working and she would grow weak on the left side of her face. Monday morning, April 15th, I was so anxious, so nervous, so panicky I was pacing our hotel room. Casey was staying at our son’s house. I had to talk to her. I had to know she was okay. I tried calling and got no answer. I texted and got no answer.
My wife couldn’t understand my apprehension and I was afraid we would have to go the ER. Something was happening. It was bad! Major bad! I could hardly breathe. We hurried over to my son’s house and Casey was fine. No problem. It took me about four hours to calm down and then, BAM, the explosions at the Boston Marathon.
I won’t go into this, but this reaction had occurred before in my life, most memorably the week before 9/11. I will share that sometime. Did I have some kind of “evil barometer” in my heart and mind? If I did, I didn’t want it!
Tuesday, Casey had some more “auras” and I insisted she return to the hotel with us that night. It was a good thing. Our suite had two bedrooms and Casey went into her bedroom to change into her pajamas. Suddenly, she was screaming for help. The door was locked! I tried to break it down. No good. Finally, I grabbed a fork from our kitchenette, bent a tine out and stuck it in the little hole on the door handle to open the door. What we found I cannot describe. Casey was totally paralyzed on her bed, unable to move for almost 7 minutes and totally awake the entire time. It was horrendous! It was horrible to stand there and not be able to do a thing!
Finally, it passed and she sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. So did we. She was aware the entire time, remembering everything.
That was when something broke within me. Why was God allowing my daughter to go through this? Wasn’t 18 years of suffering enough? Why didn’t He heal her? Where was He? For the first time, I was feeling anger toward God. For the first time I wanted to ball up my fist and shake it at the heavens and demand that God fix this! I couldn’t even sleep that night. I lay awake in the bed (my wife slept with my daughter) and replayed that scene over and over and over.
There was a debate this past Thursday at Broadmoor Baptist Church between Frank Turek and David Silverman, the head of the American Atheist Society. My apologetic group was involved in setting it up and we had all planned to attend. I told my best friend, Mark Riser that I couldn’t go. I might agree with the atheist!
You see, I know there is a God. My life is a testimony to God’s plan, God’s work, God’s redemption in spite of my failings. I have talked about this in many past posts and in my book, “Conquering Depression”. But, there are times when even the deepest of faiths threatens to crumble under the pain of suffering. Look what Job endured.
So, last night Sherry and I went to the “Hymns” concert at Cypress Baptist Church. My good friend, Philip Wade arranged and orchestrated a concert of his favorite hymns. The Shreveport Symphony played along with three church choirs. It was up lifting. It was exhilarating. It was powerful. The last song was “It is Well With my Soul”. The author of this song had lost his family on a sea voyage and while traveling across the Atlantic to London to meet his grieving wife, he wrote the lines to this powerful song. I still had my daughter!
I came home and watched the replay of the Boston Marathon bombing events from the week. I watched runners turn around and run TOWARD the bomb site to help out. I heard about doctors and nurses who went in to the hospital after running 26 miles to help out. I learned about runners who ran to the hospital to donate blood. I saw men tearing off tee shirts to make tourniquets. I watched first responders rush in to help in spite of the threat of more bombs. In the pursuit of the bombers, I saw men and women law enforcement personnel do everything possible without sleep, against exhaustion to bring the perpetrators to justice so that Boston could breathe a sigh of relief. And, I saw and heard millions raising their voices in prayers to God.
Why is it that we wait until bad things happen to reach out to God? Why is it that we place God somewhere in a closet or on a shelf until we need Him? It seems that this is the kind of God we want. A genie in a bottle who stays out of sight until we need Him.
Well, that was where God was on Monday. That was where God was Tuesday night. Right where we had left Him. For many, God was distant on Monday. For me and my wife, God was right there in that hotel room with us when Casey had her episode. In spite of my doubts and my anger and my anxiety, God will NEVER desert us. His faithfulness is absolute in contrast to my fickle, human nature
Look again at those verses above.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
We want to worship the god we see in the mirror. It is the only god we can control. And, we have this illusion that if we can control god, we have complete freedom. We can do anything we want. It was this freedom of will that allowed two young men, deluded by radicalism, to place bombs at the Boston Marathon. But, in that freedom, we also have the choice to love. And, it is in that love that we truly see God. Not in the broken, failing visage of the mirror. But, in the light that shown across time and space from the ultimate suffering God endured on the cross. No amount of suffering any human can endure can ever match or overcome those last few hours of life of the Son of God. God KNOWS what we are going through. God sends peace and comfort because He has BEEN there! But, we must seek it. We must immerse ourselves continuously in that love.
The days ahead for my daughter are still challenging. She will eventually get on the proper medication for her migraines and one day, she will have a normal life. I trust God to take care of her. He owns her.
When I went through my horrible depression years ago, I never imagined that God would use my suffering to help others. In 2001, my pastor, Mark Sutton and I co-authored “Conquering Depression”. Over the past 12 years, this book has literally saved thousands of lives. I cannot take credit for that. It was not my choice to endure depression and write a book about it. It was God’s plan. And, if I choose, I can look at those years of suffering as a waste, a loss, an abandonment. But, clearly, that suffering was part of God’s plan to help others. Recently, Mark and I were offered a new contract to update our book and we hope to release the new book in the fall of 2014.
My point is, how can I shake my fist in anger at God when He is using that very anger; that very doubt to grow and mature me; to help others who feel that anger and doubt? Rather, I must have a paradigm shift. I must realize that everything works toward the good in God’s plan. Even my daughter’s illness.
I do not know what God has planned for my daughter. But, instead of continuing in anger and doubt, I have chosen another path. I will sit down with my daughter and talk about how God used my depression for good. If I can help her use her illness to help others, then perhaps that is the plan for her life. How many people out there are suffering from the incorrect diagnosis of epilepsy when they are, in fact, having migraines? Our neurologist said, “4 out of 6 neurologists misdiagnose migraines as seizures”! Perhaps this is my daughter’s purpose. Perhaps I can help her see this. And, perhaps once we both realize this is part of God’s plan we both can say, “It is well with my soul”.
Resistance is Futile!
My Borg friends will understand this statement. If you are not familiar with the Borg and you are an aspiring or published author, you will probably recognize a better version of this statement: “Resistance is Inevitable!”
In February, I attended the Platform Conference featuring Michael Hyatt. I had the opportunity to sit at the table with Michael (yes, we are on first name basis — at least for my part!) and I had a follow up “coaching” session with Michael four weeks later. What I learned from that conference is priceless. Authors today MUST build their own platform as publishers no longer provide marketing and publicity for their authors. I am also now a member of Platform University and I strongly recommend Michael’s book, “Platform” and considering a membership in the university.
But, what I wanted to talk about in this post is Resistance. Michael devoted an entire hour to this topic and frankly, I didn’t want to hear it. Let’s just say I was resistant to the idea that my writing career meets resistance. That is a huge chunk of denial!
I would recommend buying the book and reading the entire section on Resistance but I’d like to hit a few highlights of how resistance presents itself in my writing:
There are two sources of resistance: external and internal. I have very little control on the external sources of resistance. These are often related to the changing world of publishing. But, these sources can also be very close to home: children, day jobs, aging parents, health issues, etc.
But, there are some forms of internal resistance we should consider:
1 — Writer’s Block. I have NEVER suffered from writer’s block! Ever! For me, it is a matter of finding enough time to sit down and do a “creative” dump of all the ideas whirling around in my mind. But, in March, I took a week off to write and for four straight days, I sat in front of the laptop and did NOTHING! Blank! Empty! So, how do you overcome the resistance from writer’s block? I realized that in my study, I have surrounded myself with creative “cues” that unlock the creative forces in my mind. But, in a strange location those cues are gone. I had to develop another way to stimulate my creativity. So, I just started writing on the blank page — just putting down thoughts and ideas as they flew through my brain. Soon, by day five, I was cooking with gas!
So, what do YOU do to break the writer’s block? Share some tidbits with the rest of us.
2 — Procrastination. Well, I’ll talk about that later.
How do YOU overcome procrastination?
3 — Fear. This is a BIG one. Who am I to write? Where do I get off thinking I can be a published author? What will people think about me when they see what I’ve put down on the page? Do I dare bleed all over the page?
Fear is the biggest culprit for me. Fear of rejection. Fear of criticism. Recently, out of nowhere, an email arrived from someone I’ve never heard of. Turns out this person had somehow gotten their hands on a script adaptation I wrote back in 1988 of a play called “The Living Last Supper”. When I was handed the original play by my fine arts minister at the time, I was told the play was out of print. I was asked to adapt the clunky, sort of King’s English version to a more modern sounding version and to shorten the dialogue so a group of inexperienced deacons could play each one of the disciples. I adapted the script. It was so successful, our church performed it for eight straight years. During that time, I was asked for the script and I shared it, ALWAYS informing the person that it was an adaptation of the original play.
Well, this stranger took me to task for plagiarism. He accused me of passing off my adaptation as the original play. How in the world did he even get a copy of my script? I hadn’t dealt with that script for over 16 years! But, the man insisted I do the “right thing” and withdraw the script and put a disclaimer on my website. So, I did. I did so out of outright fear! What if this man ruined my albeit tiny, but growing writing career by calling me a plagiarist! I realized I had to do the right thing and correct a wrong I was not aware I had committed. But, it was still MY responsibility!
And, here is the final solution for Fear. I always stop and ask myself, “What is the Lie?” Am I a plagiarist? NO! Am I worthless? NO! Can God use me for His work? YES! Fear can be conquered so simply by asking this one question. And, here is why. Who is the Father of Lies? SATAN! Who is the Father of Truth? GOD! And, from fear and anxiety and procrastination and even some of those external sources of resistance, the TRUTH will set us FREE!
Oh, by the way, I seem to recall a little verse that says something like this:
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:6-8 ESV
(I want to be sure and give the proper source so I will not be accused of plagiarism!)
How do you handle fear? Share some of your wisdom with the rest of us!
This fall, my wife and I will be traveling to New Zealand for almost three weeks to visit with friends. I found this timelapsed video and it is amazing! How can we look upon the beauty of our world; of our universe; of the heavens and not see God?<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/62980495″>New Zealand Landscapes Timelapse Volume Two</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user11743321″>Bevan Percival</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
I haven’t written very many blogs in the past two weeks. It is because my family is in crisis mode. Wait! We always seem to be in crisis mode! But, this latest crisis (following on the heels of a recent prostate cancer scare)involves aging parents.
My father passed away in October, 2012 at the age of 98. I have written a number of posts about my father but I have never really shared much about the ordeal of becoming a parent to my parent. My father had his mind up until the week he died. Unfortunately, a lack of senility did NOT keep him from becoming childish. Our roles reversed and the last three years of his life were extremely stressful on me and on my two sisters. Nevertheless, I was grateful to have had my father with us for so long. He sang at his own funeral!
Now, my wife is having to make some very difficult decisions about her mother who lives with us. The caretaking is now taking a toll on my wife’s health. Someday, I am going to write a book about this adventure. It seems that more and more of middle age adults are having to care for their ailing parents. We are living much longer than ever and that is not about to change! Where are the manuals on how to care for an aging parent who is living into their 90’s? They can’t all be as spunky as Betty White!
So, a simple post today. Pray for my family and the very difficult decisions we are making. Pray for your own family for you may be facing a similar situation now or in the future.
On a happy note, I did receive an email this week about a new book contract this is all but a done deal! More work for me to do as an author and I’m loving it!
When I was ten years old, my aunt gave me a brass box. She was a dealer in antiques and passed the box on to me. I wasn’t sure why she gave me the box. It is lost somewhere in my attic. But, this past week I was thinking about story ideas. Where do ideas come from? How do you start a story? Sometimes, for me, it is a mystery. Specifically, a mystery box as J. J. Abrams has spoken about. What is in the box? It can be a literal box or a figurative box. Whatever is in the box is the great motivator for the story. So, just for fun, I present to you the beginnings of a story. I thought about that brass box of mine somewhere lost in my attic and wondered what was originally is this box. So, here it is. The beginning of a story. Read it and ask yourself, how would you end the story? What do you think is in the box? What is the mystery here? Just for fun, stretch your storytelling ability and drop me a comment and tell me what you think.
The box spoke to me in the middle of the night. It was not the first time.
The box is four inches tall by eight inches wide by six inches deep. It is covered in a beaten brass shell. The box is sealed and cannot be opened. On the top of the box is the impression of an American Indian in full headdress hovering over a boulder in the desert. Sitting atop the boulder is the skull of an animal. The animal is not of this earth.
I was thrashing about in my bed, suspended between the world of nightmare and the world of reality when I heard the box call my name. I arose from my bed and held a candle to the clock on the mantle above the fireplace. Three A. M. The box always spoke at three A. M. I slipped on my robe and made my way quietly down the hallway and passed by the nursery. Richard and Nathaniel were deeply asleep woven into a tapestry of dreams of soldiers and infantry. I eased down the stairs to the foyer and stood at the entry to my study.
Bloody light diffused across the mounted antelope head above the fireplace. When the box speaks, it glows a golden crimson and there is music unlike any music human ear has heard. My heart raced and I felt sweat trickle down my back.
“Michael. Michael. Michael.” The voice was soft, pleading and feminine. It rose gently against the rhythm of the unearthly music. It wove the threads of my name amongst the chords. I moved carefully around my desk and sunk into the leather chair. The box sat in the center of my desk. Pulsing; glowing; singing; calling my name.
“I am here.” I whispered.
The voice ceased its pleading. The pulsing crimson light faded. The room filled again with empty, cold shadows and the box sat there. I swallowed and reached a shaking finger to touch the face of the Indian on the top. The metal was as cold as ice and I withdrew my finger quickly. At times, the box was hot. At times only lukewarm. At times, I had felt nothing at all, not even the slightly rough texture of its surface.
I ran my index finger along the seam around the top of the box. It was growing warmer, returning to room temperature. The seam was barely palpable. I had tried many flat edged devices to open the seam. All had been unsuccessful.
“Why do you call to me?” I leaned forward over the box. “What are you?”
I jerked up in surprise shoving the chair backwards. It clattered against the windowsill of my study. Nathaniel stood in the entryway. His night shirt was pale and wrinkled and his blonde hair coiled around his head in disarray.
“I heard something, Papa.” Nathaniel stumbled sleepily into the room. He was only eight and yet already, he had grown six inches since his last birthday. I was beginning to see his mother’s willowy figure in his body language. It made me sad. Nathaniel wrapped his arms around my waist and buried his head in my chest.
“I heard mother, Papa. I heard mother.”
I gasped and combed his hair with my fingers. “Mother is in heaven, Nathaniel. You know that.”
He pulled his head away from my chest and gazed into my eyes. In the weak light of the moon coming in through the window behind me, his eyes were maroon and filled with moisture. “But, she called to me in my dreams. I heard her, Papa. I heard her.”