Lots-o-Links 5.20.15

What Small Churches Can Do by Joe Thorn | 3 articles so far...

My Sermon Planning Worksheet by Chad Brooks | I'd do this a little different, but I'm sure many will find it helpful. Chad writes...

I really prefer having a physical document to orient my sermon preparation. I have found beginning a sermon on this sheet and letting it be for a couple of weeks is a great jump start to my weekly preparation. 

Retro 51 Tornado Homerun Limited Edition Pen | Review: Office Supply Geek...

Photo credit: Office Supply Geek

Photo credit: Office Supply Geek

The brass barrel of the Retro 51 Homerun is wrapped with a lacquer finish that has slightly raised red markings that do a great job of simulating not only the look but also the feel of actual stitches on a baseball.  The main body of the pen isn’t pure white, but more of an antique white which matches nicely with the antique brass looking finish of the clip and other accents on the knob and nose cone of the pen.

New Jazz: The Epic by Kamasi Washington | I've turned to this nearly every day since I bought it for new and interesting jazz that both grabs my attention and yet doesn't break my focus on reading, writing, and general work that takes concentration. 

The Mission is for the Unimpressive

This book is for you--the normal, unimpressive, everyday person, young or old, male or female--because Jesus means to carry out his mission of filling the world with his presence through you. You are meant to do this.

The mission of Jesus is yours to participate in. It has always been God's intention to choose normal, everyday people, and to show his amazing power and glory through them. He's not looking for the most impressive person because he already is that person.

Jeff Vanderstelt in Saturate (or Kindle), pgs 14-15.

Elijah Crohn's Update 3.6.15

Brief update after Elijah's first infusion of Remicade.

Infusion - Elijah's first infusion went great. Stayed at Ronald McDonald House (RMH) Monday night and infusion was first thing Tuesday at Lurie Children's in Chicago. Given Tylenol, Benadryl, and Remicade. Benadryl made him a grump for a bit, but the Remicade had no visible effects. Seemed to take it great. Very proud of our boy. 

We took a photo next to a Lurie pillar (below) so we can track his growth with each visit, if we can remember to take the picture. :) We are believing that God and doctors and meds will get our kid healthy and growing. Praying toward that end.

Ronald McDonald House - E was a little bummed that we stayed Monday night and not Tuesday night because on Tuesday there were free tickets to Northwestern vs Michigan basketball game. More bummed to know it went to double OT!

Next Appointment - We set up next three appointments. Next one is Tuesday March 17. We got the big room at RMH the night before so we can have all six of us there and that will put us in the city for St. Patrick's Day. Big celebration is Saturday and we'll miss that, but hoping the river will still be bright green for the kids to enjoy! 

Test Results & Other Health Issues - A bone scan and blood tests have shown Elijah's bones are weak and vitamin D is way too low. We knew this was possible and the doctor already had him on supplements just in case, but now we know these are real issues. He is on serious doses of vitamin D and calcium. 

City & Stuff - We are trying to make these appointments fun enough to keep E encouraged. So we saw some sights Monday evening, especially noticing some architecture since E's working on a project about being an architect. He took a lot of pictures. We perused shops on the Magnificent Mile.

After the infusion and before leaving for home on Tuesday, E and I dropped Molly at the parking garage and walked in the rain for a couple of blocks to get to Do-Rite Donuts. Those are the best donuts I've ever had. And as someone who has never been a huge donut fan and NEVER go out of my way to get one, this place will get our regular business, you know, for the sake of Elijah. :) If you are in Chicago, I highly recommend finding a Do-Rite old fashioned donut. 

Giveaway: The Happy Christian by David Murray

“Don’t carry one miserable sin for one miserable second.” David Murray, The Happy Christian, p 56

I've been given the opportunity to give away a copy of David Murray's new book, The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World. David is professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and pastor of the Free Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. I've reviewed his excellent book, Jesus on Every Page. A book that may not be on your radar but should be is Murray's Christians Get Depressed Too. I appreciate Dr. Murray giving us the flip side book to the topic of depression, The Happy Christian. An important topic and a helpful resource for the many Christians around you who need encouragement. 

GIVEAWAY --> I'll keep this simple. To enter to win... 

  1. Tweet and/or share on Facebook -->  Tell folks about this giveaway so I can get the word out on this great book and use this link, please: http://bit.ly/gethappybook 
  2. Comment below (be sure to input your real name and email so I can notify a winner) with your guess as to how many brands of pencils I have on my desk. I'll send out of secondary gift to the closest guess and I'll post a picture to show the correct answer visually. I'm a pencil geek so it isn't only a few. I'll use random.org to choose a winner from the comments below on Monday.

BONUS --> If you order The Happy Christian before February 24, you'll receive over $100 of free books and videos. More information on the resources at happychristian.net. Giveaway includes ebooks, study guide, and films. You don't have to buy it anywhere special to get these free items. Just send your online or bookstore invoice to: TheHappyChristianBook@gmail.com.

“Happy is a cheap word nowadays, hardly strong enough to describe the realistic, joyful, triumphant Christian life into which David Murray labors to lead us. His book overflows with earthy, deep-rooted biblical wisdom that many miss but all of us need.”

-J. I. Packer, Professor of Theology, Regent College

Elijah Crohn's Update 2.19.15

Here’s a brief overview of the events of Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, which have been important days for Elijah, his diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease, and the hope for remission through a plan for treatment. Check out previous posts for some context if you need it.

Tuesday Appointment - First to Shriner’s Hospital for E’s rheumatologist appointment. Molly and I took Elijah and Daniel (12). His doctor is wicked smart, not only concerning the arthritis he suffers as a residual effect of Crohn’s, but also because she gave timely advice on steps forward as parents of a child with a chronic disease. Parent’s in our position need doctors who, according to Dr. Onel, are willing to answer every question we have and never treat us as if there are dumb questions. We need doctors who are approachable, available, and who don’t make us feel like we shouldn’t bother them. Words like these made us realize, maybe more than at any point thus far, how serious this is for Elijah. 

Ronald McDonald House - We left his appointment and headed to RMH in Chicago, just a few blocks from his next appointment at Lurie Children’s Hospital. Another wonderful experience. RMH Chicago is a lot bigger than the Loyola RMH, and Loyola’s was outstanding! It was fifteen floors of rooms and included meals from volunteer groups, retired NFL players came by signing autographs and posing for pictures, Cubs organization brought volunteers for a meal along with Clark the Cub to meet kids, a game room provided by the Bulls with memorabilia (including Derrick Rose shoes, table made from piece of the floor from 90’s championship teams, etc), and so much more. I’ve said it before but let me emphasize, RMH is a wonderful organization. Drop your change in the donation boxes at McDonald’s and help kids as their families deal with their serious health issues.

Wednesday - Up and out early for Elijah’s pill camera appointment in the brutal cold. He swallowed the large pill easily and watched it for a few minutes on a computer screen as it sat in his stomach. It could be seen because he wore a large sensor device wrapped around his torso and a shoulder strap with a battery pack. It recorded for 8 hours (15,000-18,000 photos) and we removed he sensor device at 4:45pm and turned it in at the hospital before returning home. He passed the camera last night. We should know the results in around a week.

Dr. Jeffrey Brown Appointment - This Wednesday afternoon appointment was the most important of our trip, and we are sure it’s the turning point of E’s health story over the last few months and into the years ahead. I can only give a brief description though we received a ton of information and help and direction from Dr. Brown. 

  1. Diagnosis - Elijah has Crohn’s, though it’s a little atypical. Some Crohn’s patients have certain tell-tail signs that make it a slam dunk, know-immediately diagnosis. Some just don’t have this. Even those who have biopsies in areas of severe inflammation can come up without a clear Crohn’s result. E’s case is like that. It’s the many pieces of his health puzzle, according to Dr. Brown, that prove it's Crohn’s. As we have been learning recently, all the details are connected (eye problem, hip arthritis, gut inflammation, severe growth delay, etc). 
  2. Possible Treatment - There are a handful of potential approaches to treatment. All of them attempt to bring an unhealthy kid to health (remission) and then work to maintain that health for the rest of his life. That means treatment essentially never ends. I’m not going to detail treatment options, but discussing them was the bulk of our very long appointment. 
  3. Age & Growth - Our decision on Elijah’s method of treatment takes his age very seriously. Because he’s 14 we don’t have a year or two to see what works, unless it just ends up going that way beyond our control. There’s a greater urgency because of his size and age. He has age 10 bones. Something needs changing while his body is producing growth hormone off the charts, as it is right now. 
  4. Treatment Decision - So starting in the next week or two Elijah is beginning treatment with Remicade. Treatment can only be done at Lurie, much like you would receive chemo (intravenously) except that he will get treatments every 8 weeks indefinitely. It starts faster than that: 1st treatment, 2nd two weeks after that, 3rd 4 weeks after that, 4th and following every 8 weeks. 

This is a heavy weight on our family and we feel the level of commitment this is going to take. But more than anything we are eager and excited to get started. Dr. Brown showed us a growth chart of another patient he saw yesterday (without the personal info, of course) and showed the massive height and weight growth after treatment with Remicade. Dr. Brown walked into the examination room, saw how happy and health the kid was, and told him, “I’m sorry, I have to go see a sick kid (Elijah) in the next room. You are doing great.” We could see on the doctor’s face as he told us this story how much hope he had for Elijah’s treatment. We started to borrow his enthusiasm. The other doctor in the room (Dr. Chantal Lucia-Casadonte) looked at E and said something like, “You won’t even believe how good you are going to feel.” 

Now, there are other things that could happen along the way. He may not respond as hoped to the Remicade, or at some point grow an immunity to it, etc. But this is the best, the most often successful, and the fastest way to get him back to health. It’s important we start him now. 

Days/Weeks/Months Ahead - We are completing a few more tests for E in the next week and working out stuff with insurance. He will start Remicade treatment as soon as we can get it scheduled, so hopefully in the next couple of weeks. We will be back at Lurie 4 times in the next 14 weeks for infusion and our next appointment with Dr. Brown will occur on the same day as the 4th infusion. 

Thanks as always to our amazing church members, friends local and far away, who have been following on the blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at all we’ve been going through. We appreciate your prayers, thoughts, “Likes,” and encouragement along the way. It’s really a joy during the most difficult of moments to find so many friends who care about E and the rest of us. 

Elijah Update 2.16.15

Last Couple of Weeks - A lot has happened the since my last update, though I have put other updates on social media along the way. Elijah’s upper and lower GI show Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s and colitis make up what is called Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). It’s NOT Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is common mistake. Radically different. This is a chronic, lifelong disease that causes ulcers in the intestines.  And his diagnosis is not a “for sure” thing yet, but the doctor is confident that it’s Crohn’s. A pill camera is going to, hopefully, give us an official diagnosis. More on that below. 

Crohn’s is likely to have caused his eye trouble last year, hip arthritis now, and his plateaued growth the last few years. Often when diagnosed properly and treated correctly it can go into remission and kids will begin to grow, even go through major growth spurts. E is hoping for that! 

Crohn’s is serious and when intestines and other areas of the GI tract are affected over a longer term, it can require surgery to remove scarred areas. 

After his scopes E was put on antibiotics (4 pills a day for a month) and he was referred to the IBD Center at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. A week of antibiotics left him a mess. Growing abdominal pain, difficulty eating much, and even vomiting. It took a few days to figure out the meds were what was causing it. A call to the doc and he got off the meds and now feels MUCH better.

Elijah As Of Today - After stopping meds and having his hip gradually improve, Elijah is feeling just about as good as he did before Christmas/New Years when the hip pain started. He still has a tiny limp and different daily aches, but doing pretty well considering everything. We haven’t seen him laugh and joke and sing this much (yes, he sings LOUDLY around the house at times…which will shock some folks) for several weeks. We are very thankful.

Camera Pill Test - Saturday and Sunday Elijah did an at-home test to make sure he could swallow and pass the pill camera. They gave him a test pill which is the size of a large grape, as they put it. He swallowed and passed it fine so the test is on. I don’t know the company that make the pill, but it’s something like this photo.

Test & Appointments This Week - We leave early Tuesday morning (tomorrow) for Shriner’s Hospital to see his rheumatologist. Then we stay in Chicago at the Ronald McDonald House near Lurie (Danny and I stayed at the RMH at Loyola Hospital near Shriner’s last time) on Tuesday night. Wednesday, first thing in the morning, E takes the pill camera, wears a recording device for 8 hours, and then turns it in so they can view it. We don’t know if we will have results from that immediately on Wednesday or not. The camera passes naturally and doesn’t need to be recovered (whew!). He has his first appointment with his new gastroenterologist, Dr. Brown. <reader can insert joke here>

Sarah (18) and Jack (16) will be home and at school and all that the next couple of days while Daniel (12 this month) will be with me and Molly and Elijah. Thanks for your prayers for our boy and for us. We all appreciate it so much. It’s hard to describe how difficult the last few weeks have been for us. Honestly, we really need a break. But we keep on as the Lord strengthens us. 

 

Music Monday 2.9.15

Grammys

Streaming Free

Coming Soon

This Take Away Show (live in public in Paris) of "I Went To The Store One Day" is amazing. It's by Father John Misty and is off of his album dropping tomorrow, I Love You, Honeybear. This is a gorgeous story-song about meeting his wife in a store parking lot. 

$5 Albums

In My Ears 

  • City Hymns - Fragments of Grace - 2011 album is getting a lot of play in my devotional time and on Sunday mornings before worship. 

Elijah Update - 2.2.15

Elijah (14) with his best friend and brother, Daniel (12 this month).

Elijah (14) with his best friend and brother, Daniel (12 this month).

Brief update.

Elijah's hip has been significantly better. Not completely better, but much better than a few weeks ago. He's had other issues, including problems that come and go with his knees, but nothing earth shattering. He's even taken a few swings at the batting cages and he felt better than he expected. Could be a result of taking Celebrex daily. But still doesn't walk around like a healthy kid. 

E has upper and lower GI tomorrow so no food for him today and we are gone much of the day tomorrow for the test (leave early am, 10am test, at home in the afternoon). I have no idea how much we might learn immediately after the test, or if we won't learn much until next GI doc appointment. Prayers appreciated. This test is a pretty big deal for our little guy. Praying for answers.

The Darkest Places

At Soma School a few years back I got to know Chris Thomas. I resonated with Chris' personal story, his family's situation, his dedication to ministry, and his willingness to sacrifice to be a missionary where he lived. Soma and TGC have put out a video and article called "Dope Church." It's well worth your time. Here's a blurb. Go to TGC to read the rest.

Cherie sits on a bed and speaks life into Bill and his girlfriend, Katie, while they eat turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce. A motel room is a really weird place for a Thanksgiving dinner. It’s an even stranger setting for a memorial service.

We reminisce and thank God for Tom’s life, read the 23rd Psalm together, and sing “Amazing Grace.” That night, a room where people shoot dope and women are exploited became a fitting place for a holy God to do some healing.