Friday, January 30, 2009

Marissa's House

I have long thought that we under-challenge and under-appreciate our teenagers. E.g., I have read that most of the hugely significant culture-changing movements of God began with young people. How arrogant my generation is to view teenagers as totally clueless, inept at life, and always focused on insignificant trivia...*sigh*

Here's what prompts this post. Tomorrow, PCS--the school my children attend(ed)--plays 4 basketball games. JV girls & boys, Varsity girls & boys. So what, you ask?? Here's the answer: the games & festivities accompanying are a fundraiser. So what again?? Don't all schools have fundraisers? Absolutely! But this particular fundraiser is a bit different. It's a fund-raiser to build something. Well, don't all schools raise funds to build? Yep. But this one is raising funds to build an orphanage. In Ethopia.

It's called "Marissa's House." The afternoon's games & festivities are called "Raising the Roof on Marissa's House."

I knew Marissa McGill. An absolutely delightful young lady, age 13. Always smiling. Loved by all. One of those who brightened up a room just by entering it. A close follower of Christ, who took her faith very seriously. Marissa was very interested in and concerned about the many orphans in the world, and in her case, especially the ones in Africa. She had apparently already decided to be a missionary to Africa when she grew up.

Tragically, Marissa was killed in a car accident last summer just after the school year ended. But as in my favorite movie scene (at the end of "The Last Samurai"), I will not focus here on how she died. I will tell you how she LIVED! And believe me, she lived very, very well in her 13 short years.

So, as a tribute to Marissa's life & faith, her parents are raising funds to build an orphanage in Ethopia. Marissa's House.

The fundraiser? Yeah...that's a few different student groups banding together to raise funds & give of their time & money toward seeing Marissa's House become reality. Teenagers, honoring their absent friend and her dream. And in the process, changing present reality for (ultimately) a hundred or so orphan girls in Ethopia.

I'm picking up my t-shirt shortly. I love me some PCS basketball. But tomorrow's games will be almost secondary to me. I'll be picturing this gorgeous, friendly, athletic, competitive, godly young lady who played for the jv girls last year, and who is now living her ultimate dream in glory. I'll also be picturing a bunch of Ethopian children & widows whose lives & living spaces will be vastly improved one day in the near future, all because of the passions of a teenaged girl. And the impact she had on her friends...and teachers...all of whom will be honoring her life by helping build an orphanage in a distant country.

Still think teenagers are clueless, hormone-addled morons? Then come join me @ the PCS games tomorrow afternoon and just watch...

I usually don't cry at high school basketball games. Tomorrow, I 'spect I'll have to make an exception to that, especially when the jv girls come out of the locker room.

Perhaps one day we'll stop under-estimating & under-challenging our teenagers. Personally, I'd love to see my generation have this same type of passion for the Lord and therefore for His children here on earth.

Thanks, Marissa. Can't wait to see your smile again. This world is better because you were in it.


p.s. - please pray for Ken & Leslie, Marissa's parents. Mercifully, I cannot even imagine their pain these past months. Ultimately, they're fine; but this year of "firsts" is rough. Also, please pray for Gabriel, Marissa's younger brother. This is truly an outstanding family.

>>>Marissa's House Information - CLICK HERE<<<
(note: at the bottom of the home page there's a picture of several folks. Gabriel is on the left, Mom Leslie is next to him, and Dad Ken is on the far right.)

p.s. - Want to be a financial part of building Marissa's House?
Please mail contributions to:
My House Ministries, Inc., Donations
604 Kings Lake Drive
McKinney, TX 75070
** Note on the donation that is for "Marissa's House" **

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The next Houston schedule - prayers welcome!!

A Prayer Reminder/Request:

Our next trip to M.D. Anderson is upon us. Your prayers are most welcome and appreciated!!

Here's the Schedule:

Sunday, 2/1 - Lisa & I head out to Houston after church
7.5 hours, or thereabouts.

Monday, 2/2 - All-day, fun-filled testing.
No breakfast , no lunch, no coffee. Luckily, though, I get to ingest the oh-so-tasty CT/P.E.T. contrast solution a couple of times...*sigh* Oh, and there's the IVs. And the bloodwork. And the three separate CT scans. And the P.E.T. scan.
On the plus side, I can tell you with confidence that Monday night's supper will be one of the all-time great meals. Wherever it occurs...

Tuesday, 2/3 - Morning appt. w/ Dr. Homsi, followed by return to H'burg
I think my appt. is at 9:30. We'll head east right afterward, with the intent of making it back for my night class.

The obvious prayer requests are (a) accurate and (b) negative results of all scans & tests. (recall, "negative" in medical speak means "nothing to see here; good news") Safe travel's another good prayer direction. Anne's time staying w/ friends. (etc.)

We'll be staying w/ a high school classmate out in Houston. Our friend's place we've stayed in for all of last year's trips has been sold, which is great news for him! Thus, my HS classmate is very generously opening her place to us.

Car-wise, we'll be driving some friends here's car. Ours would probably make it. Subtract about 150,000 miles, and add about 18 years, and you get from ours to theirs. We like the odds better. *grin* My buddy said "you've got enough to think about without wondering if your car will make it." Thanks, bro!!

So, you see, God's already answering prayers. Here's praying that He continues to do so. I'll keep you posted!

With much love and hope, and with great appreciation,

Friday, January 23, 2009

Waltzing Across Texas again...(*sigh*)...The next trip to M.D. Anderson looms

FYI, we're off to casa beach bum - west soon. (M.D. Anderson) We'll head out to Houston Sunday, Feb. 1. Monday 2/2 is all-day testing & scans & such. Tuesday 2/3 is the 9:30 appt. w/ Dr. Homsi. Then home in time for night class (hopefully!).

Your prayers are most welcome for continued good medical news.
This trip is more or less routine, although such trips will never again be "routine" for us...*sigh*

Let me clarify the phrase "all-day testing." I start with my first part @ 9:00 in the morning. We'll leave MDA around 6:00 that evening. In between will be bloodwork, IV installation (there's a good time!), a P.E.T. scan, three different ct scans (complete with all three delivery mechanisms for ct contrast solution: one is by oral ingestion, a second is by IV). There's also the potential for an M.R.I.; I can't recall if that's on the list this time or not. (As I told my family practice guy here, I think I've had one of every test known to man except for a pap smear...*grin*) Sometimes all of this is done in one section of the clinic; often it's not. Sometimes "not" includes a long ride on the patient cart from one part of the clinic to another. Oh, and there's the waiting for each test and for the contrast solution to work...

Emotionally what happens to me on such trips?
Well, I've only had the one since my last surgery, which was August 29. What that means is, we've been out to MDA once as a "healthy" patient, and ten times either knowing I have cancer or suspecting I have cancer. Twice for surgery; twice for high-dose IL-2 cycles. So, frankly, I'm still deciding what it's like to go there like this. As I say, a trip to MDA will never be routine. (to start with, there's the 7.5 hour drive...)

God graciously reveals Himself every time we walk in. (Isaiah 41 & 43 come to mind..."Do not fear, for I have redeemed you"...."when you pass through the waters I will be with you and the flames will not consume you." What great promises!). Sometimes through people, sometimes through a heightened awareness of His presence, sometimes through circumstances. So there's that.

Still, my blood pressure typically spikes upward upon walking in. As my brother Jim & I concluded this summer, one doesn't go through those doors for a sprained ankle...So to say there's no fear is to tell a lie in my case. (Again, your prayers are most welcome) I'm not consumed by fear there, but it's always not far beneath the surface, lurking.

One of the great blessings of our 2008 is a reminder of the sinfulness of living in the realm of "what if" and of the joy of living in the present tense. A cancer patient must force himself or herself to not live in the realm of constant focus on and fear of what if. "What if the test results are bad?" "What if there's pain?" (there will be...) "What if I don't get to live out all of my dreams?" (etc.) The land of "what if" will make you crazy, but more, it will rob you of the joy of right now. Time with your spouse & your kids will be robbed of its innate joy. Fear will keep you from being productive at home and at work, and will also rob you of sleep.

So, I'm not walking in there focused on "what if." My Lord has the "what ifs" covered. Again, though, the fear of "what if" is real and becomes palpable inside MDA. I fight it with prayer, the Word, conversation, and a really twisted sense of humor. All are fairly vital. (Aside: a day like Monday 2/2 is oh-so-ripe with twisted sense of humor moments...can't wait! *smile*)

But the real comfort in walking into MDA, even for "routine" tests & scans, is knowing that our names have been on the lips of the saints of God, and are echoing around the throneroom of heaven right then. I absolutely cherish the prayers of the Body of Christ, and will always be convinced that I am alive to write this because of them. Because of you. Do not every take intercessory prayer lightly, my friends. I certainly don't. Remember, God is not up in heaven wringing His hands in worry, wondering how this (or any other situation!) will turn out; therefore, pray with boldness & confidence. He may or may not answer the way you and I pray, but He will always answer, and He is always good. Even when His goodness seems veiled at times.

And know that amidst all of the jokes & attempts at profundity found in this space, YOU...ARE...GREATLY...LOVED & APPRECIATED!!

Thanks for standing in the gap for us!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rejoice IN IT!

James & his dog Beau just rolled out of my driveway heading back to Oxford for another semester of pharmacy school.

With them rolled a significant piece of my heart.

He had a long break; over 5 weeks! And that just absolutely flew by. Time seems to do that often these days; the breaks & visits are never long enough.

Next August, it'll be both James and Anne rolling out of my driveway headed off to college. I'm in total denial and refuse to ponder it very much.

Got little ones around w/ dirty diapers? Young'uns who sometimes don't sleep when they're supposed to? Struggles w/ spelling words, science projects, book reports, summer reading & such?

Here's some cold, hard reality for you. The days will absolutely zip past you if you're not careful. When it's yours pulling out of the driveway, you'll find yourself amazed at how quickly s/he went from dirty diapers to driving off to college. It'll seem like just a week or two, trust me.

My challenge to all of to really seriously ponder this biblical concept: THIS is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad IN IT.

Make a conscious effort to live in the present tense, enjoying the moments, even when it's not easy. Though time has a wonderful white-washing effect, I do truly recall sleepless nights & dirty diapers & book report arguments & last-minute science projects & such. I know those moments are hard to "rejoice in." But again, my challenge from scripture is to find a way to rejoice, even on days when you don't really feel like it. As one of my favorite theologians Gary Shows says, when you don't feel like praising God, start praising God & keep doing so until you feel like praising God. (paraphrased & re-applied to raising kids)

Enjoy every stage w/ your kids! Even if it's hard work to do that at times. (it will be). Even if it seems to be purely an act of the will & not an act of desire. With all of the physical, mental, & emotional challenges of raising children, on balance I've enjoyed every stage w/ mine. For me, the hardest stage is this one...the one that involves "Aight, Dad...I love you...see you at Spring Break if not before..." followed by a car cranking & pulling away.

Yet again, here's another life moment that makes me totally long for the land of the eternal hello. I totally dig where my son is educationally, mentally, spiritually, etc. I'm so very proud that he's doing quite well in a program that I absolutely couldn't handle. Because such a large piece of my heart is there, I wear my Ole Miss stuff with great pride, for my baby boy is there. (Some of you will get to experience your kids attending a college that's not me--if you love your kids, this will not be a hard transition at all.)

My only problem...and it's a BIGGIE just that 4.5 hours from now, he'll be pulling in at HIS place. Which means he'll be 4.5 hours away from MY place. Which just creates massive suction...(despite the stuff in the previous paragraph.)

So I'll be at the "Theology for the Average Dude" series tonight. And I'll be worshipping & grooving on the presence of my Lord. All the while, missing the stew out of my little boy who just left.

Your prayers are most welcome. And if yours are still at your place, make it a top priority in 2009 to enjoy their presence at whatever life stage they are right now. Live in the present tense, and remember, this is the day that the Lord has made; rejoice and be glad in IT.

Both excited about and missing James,

p.s. - on re-reading, this is a bit of a whiny entry...I'd apologize if I were sorry for it. But I'm not; it's my heart at this moment. I'll say this: Please focus on the challenge & not on the whining by the old dude.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Who are you listening to?

"You'll always sink...always...if you only listen to the voices of the circumstances around you."
John Piper

The above comes in an amazing sermon on the value of memorizing Scripture. The message is found >>here<<. Go there & click "listen" & listen to the 1st part. He quotes several passages of Scripture, stringing them into a wonderful 15 minute sermon in & of itself.

And thus came my latest challenge to take back up Scripture memory. I've been working on Eph 2:10 & 1 Samuel 3:10. I also want to memorize some passages.

Doing this creates a huge temptation for pride, which seems to be one of my uglier besetting sins. Join me in prayer about this, won't you? For motivation, discipline, & humility.

And join me in Scripture memory. There are few guarantees, but here's one: you will NOT regret this particular activity. Rock-solid guarantee.

You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.

Psalm 40:5 (ESV)
(Piper & his wife have claimed this one as their marriage verse this year. Good one for that purpose!)

Yours for knowing & showing the Word,

Monday, January 12, 2009

2 questions

So, yesterday morning, we had a guest preacher. Missionary who works @ Kiev Theological Seminary in Ukraine. Very challenging!

Here are 2 questions he asked. I've heard them before, but somehow they grabbed my soul this time.

What are you doing with your life that's making a difference for the Kingdom of God?

What do you want written on your tombstone?

The first one's going to cause me to ponder for a while...perhaps & hopefully all year. The second one evokes 2 thoughts. First, I'd like mine to say something besides "He had cancer, loved college football, & was occasionally funny." Second, I'd like it to say something like Mr. Ragains said yesterday morning: "His life mattered to others."

BTW, Mr. Ragains & his wife went to the mission field at the age of 57! Been in his career (worship pastor @ a church) for 35 years prior to that. They've been in Kiev for 6-7 years now, leading a church planting program there that's training young men to plant churches among the unchurched in Ukraine.

Maybe...hopefully...the Lord's not finished with the Madarises just yet in terms of missions...

Have you ruled yourself out of mission work? (short- or long-term) Again, this guy quit his job, sold his house & cars, and flew across the pond to stay when he was 57 years old. What's more, when he left, his mother had cancer. (She has since passed away) They have 2 adult children.

So, what was that excuse again, Madaris?

As I ponder, those 2 questions, combined w/ Mr. Ragains' life & work beg another question:

How big is

Join me in prayer that we would all change our tombstone inscriptions this year as we invest our lives in things that impact the Kingdom of God and thus the world. The list is virtually endless. Let's get on it!


Monday, January 05, 2009

My 2 theme verses for the year

Happy New Year, all! Here's my own 2 verses that I'm praying for myself this year. Won't you join me?

And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”
I Samuel 3:10

Pray for ears to hear. The context for this passage is that Samuel had heard the Lord calling multiple times before, and had mistaken the voice for someone else. It's my prayer this year that I--and others!--will clearly recognize when the Lord is speaking to us.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

An incredible verse found in an incredible passage. (your blog homework: read Ephesians 2:1-10) Just ponder with me: we are crafted by God to be who we are. Amazing! But there's more; He's not finished with the shaping & molding yet...we are still works in progress. My pastor speaks of an "already/not yet" component to the kingdom of God. I think the concept applies here too. We're already shaped & created, but we're not completed works yet. And then the deal about God preparing works for us to do...VERY freeing, isn't it? To realize that God Himself has already prepared works for me to do...Now that, amigos, gives great confidence!

So there are my 2 life passages for this year. Just so you know...


p.s. - I'd write more, but I'm off to eat a bagel w/ Lisa at the downtown old-school bagel shop...*smile*