Thursday, November 28, 2013

Here but Not Here

The LORD knows what He's doing. I certainly do not.

Born and raised in New England,

lived by far the majority of my 66 years within the borders of the United States of America,

and yet somehow I feel as if New Hampshire is a foreign land. 

Yes, yes, I know that I've lived a long time, 

the pace of change in the world seems to be increasing,

and I've been based in Europe the last two years.

But those reasons don't seem adequate when I interface with the culture.

I'm overwhelmed by the kinds of products available in stores that I've never seen before.

I struggle with the decision making I have to do at the grocery store - sheer numbers, ingredients, price, etc.

I have to ask how to do basic activities - fee, best locations, etc. for using an ATM card.

I sense an even more serious threat against the family in almost every cultural aspect.

Neither Curt nor I seem to be able to sort our way through the medical world maze.

We have evidently become triangles caught between two nations of squares and circles.

What joy there is in being with the family God has ordained for us. There's a grounding that takes place when we're together, a secure familiarity that brings peace.

We are deeply grateful on this Thanks-giving Day for the way God intervenes in our lives and draws us close together. 
(MIssed you Sunnie but hope to see you before long.)

Perhaps all of these conflicting experiences and emotions are what caused me to connect so completely with the words that describe God's plan to return His people from Babylon where He'd exiled them.

"See, I will bring them from the land of the north 
and gather them from the ends of the earth.
Among them will be the blind and the lame, 
expectant mothers and women in labor, 
a great throng will return.
They will come with weeping;
they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water
on a level path where they will not stumble,
because I am Israel's father,
and Ephraim is my firstborn son."  Jeremiah 31:8-9

The Father would bring His people back to the place they were from, but they were driven to prayer as they were overwhelmed to the point of tears. 

And so I too find myself falling down in supplication as I am overcome by emotion.

Where are you today?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanks-giving Past & Future

On this approximate date in 1976 my Honey and I became brother and sister. 

We'd already been husband and wife since August 1968, but the union in Christ was and is a more poignant transition. 

I remember Thanks-giving that year quite well. 

We gathered with the L'Abri community in the Huémoz chapel nestled in the Swiss Alps. It was a particularly somber occasion, filled with much reflection on the goodness of God. The plan to share a testimony and then sing a hymn seemed like the perfect balance. 

I'd be happy to be corrected by another attendee, but I think I was the first one to jump to my feet. I could barely contain my joy since I had prayed for my Honey's salvation for a very long time. I praised and thanked God for making my Honey and me truly one in the Spirit.

You know, I think that's a great place to start my Thanks-giving gratitude this year.

Dear Father, thank you for Your great work in our hearts, my Honey's and mine. Thank You for joining us into one on that earlier date. Thank You most especially for uniting us on that glorious Swiss day 37 years ago. Amen

I won't post my entire, ongoing list, but I assure you it will be long and strong. 

How about yours?

Now I want to focus on the same kind of life-giving unity for our grandchildren. 

Dear Father, please bless our grandchildren with unwavering faith, the ones we know now and any others You may choose to gift to us. 

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast."  
Ephesians 2:8-9

And in Your perfect will and timing, I further ask that You would bless each of them with a You-loving, -honoring, and -obeying spouse.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'"  Jeremiah 29:11-13

What are your prayers for future thanks-giving?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

How Thursday Became Saturday

This time I claim a whirlwind.

That's right, a whirlwind.

It wasn't the most destructive kind, but it made a shamble of the tentative routine we've been enjoying and sent us scurrying to keep our balance.

We wracked our brains and made lists for each other.

We packed as many tasks into the day as we could and that did not include preparing a post.  

The idea that gripped us was that we might have to wait several months for Curt's cardiac surgery. 

If that were the case, we thought we might as well wait out the time in Prague and the most efficient way to do that would be to take the pre-planned flight that takes off 25 November, this coming Monday.

Necessities outlined by our daugthers:
1) 100% approval from Curt's cardiologist to wait and travel to Prague in the meantime.
2) 100% assurance that Medi-Gap insurance coverage is in place before leaving.

We understood and appreciated their perspective and agreed to meet their criteria.

Yes . . . a whirlwind of prayers and thoughts and activities . . . a definite whirlwind.

As we scurried here and there I said to my Honey, "It feels like we're living in a pinball machine." 

Ever since Curt got sick our life seems to be ricocheting around like the steel ball that's been shot out onto the playing field. 

Circumstances interrupt or we make decisions that set us on a certain course.  

We do our best to adjust to the new direction only to get caught in one of the holes or diverted by one of the posts that set off blinking lights. 

All the thought and energy we applied is lost and we're forced to recalculate using the new route before us.

To carry on the analogy, we're thankful all over again that God's hands were on the flippers!

On Friday morning we decided that we couldn't take the stress of trying to tie up every loose end in order to fly out in three days. We breathed a sigh of relief as we forged ahead with the events of that day.

We had to give up a visit with dear friends we've been trying to see since we arrived. When I made the call with the sad news I told my friend I was beginning to feel as if it might be easier not to make any plans at all than to face the disappointment of having to cancel them. I was blessed by her understanding and willingness to look to the LORD for an opportunity to see each other.

Of course it's silly to think we can live without making any plans. The very nature of the world requires that we look ahead and make the most of each day. I need and want to be ready for all that the Father has planned for me both now and in eternity.  It takes a lot of dedication and courage to forge ahead in these trying times, the kind you are facing along with us. 

I'm happy to report that when we submit to God's will there are blessings all along the way. For example, the fully packed day we had yesterday included an invitation to a delightful gathering. (see photo below)  Had we stuck to our original plan or even the short-lived one to fly back home on Monday, we would not have been able to respond with the resounding, "Yes, we'd love to."

I'm learning!!!!!

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."  Proverbs 16:9

The best part . . . the really good news, if you will, is that

in spite of the whirlwind

in the midst of bouncing around like a pinball

God is granting us joy upon joy.

Last night we attended the Varsity Soccer Awards Banquet at Goffstown High School. We went to rejoice in the accomplishments of our oldest and tallest (for now) grandson, William James Baggs III. 

His prowess on the field was rewarded, but it is his growth in godly character and stature that we celebrate. 
Thank you, God, for William!!

THE WINNER for the best reason for the delay of this post is that we get to tell you the latest and greatest news yet.

We received a phone call this morning from my Honey's cardiologist. Dr. Lockhart says Curt's "survival definitely would not be enhanced by open heart surgery." The other, less-invasive therapies are preferable so that is what we will pursue.

Of course Dr. Lockhart could not guarantee that another cardiac episode would not occur, but he is encouraged by my Honey's lack of ongoing symptoms and increasing strength.  He went on to tell Curt that he needed to "live life" and cleared him to fly back to Prague if that's what our plan for recovery includes.

What does that mean for our schedule?  For now we have no idea.

1) We now have confirmation that Curt can travel. 
2) We have to wait until Wednesday for confirmation from the insurance company. 

So for now we sit and wait on the hand of the LORD

(Well, there are about a million other items we need to take care of around here.)

And as we wait, we choose to follow Paul's instructions.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"  Philippians 4:4

Please rejoice with us, lifting your hearts and voices high with praise.  Amen

Monday, November 18, 2013

"What's up, Doc?" Bugs Bunny

I'm feeling torn as I sit down to compose today's post.

Monday's the day I focus on a Scriptural theme. I've got a list of topics in front of me, but for now the need to share what's happening with my Honey's health needs to take the lead.

Come to think of it, maybe those two subjects are not in competition.

Today we head to the VA to meet Curt's new primary care physician. We've got a lot of questions for Dr. Bailey and the answers we receive will likely affect the decisions before us. 

We need to choose a facility to provide Curt's cardiac care.
We need to find a surgeon to evaluate the situation and guide us.
We need to determine the best way to meet the financial obligations.

All of this and more has to happen before my Honey even begins the treatment process.

Though we know God has arranged this set of circumstances, the sheer number of steps takes my breath away. The complex task of figuring out what they are, putting them in the right order, and actually taking them feels like way too much to handle. 

And then there's the issue of time. We enjoy being with our family, but we're already beginning to feel a bit homesick for Prague.

How will it all unfold?

As I ponder the answer to that question the events of the last two months replay themselves in my mind.

Curt was already at the hospital when the arterial bleed occurred. His life was spared.
Curt was already at the hospital when the massive heart attack hit. His life was spared.
Curt had 10 days at home to build up his strength. He travelled to the USA with energy.
Curt had a scary episode that led to a hospitalization. He received care and info we craved.
Curt is making his way along the adjustment process for his abdominal surgery.
Curt met with his cardiologist a month earlier than scheduled due to a cancellation.
Curt has received more positive options about his heart than he ever expected to hear.
I am receiving effective medical attention I've needed for nearly a year.

These facts are ample evidence that God's love and power, grace and mercy are being poured out over us. 

It's almost as if He's driving home the Truth of the promise reported in Hebrews 13:5, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." It's a promise that's repeated numerous times in the Scriptures. I've written about it before and yet it's taking on a new perspective.

God, the Almighty and Sovereign LORD over everything, is not only here beside us always - which provides deep security and confidence. The One and Only True God will always keep us. 

You see KEEP is the antonym or opposite of forsake. When God says He will NEVER leave nor forsake us that means He will ALWAYS be with and keep us. He is actively attending and intervening into the lives of those who are His, the ones He has chosen for Himself. 

Hallelujah!!  God isn't just providing us with warm and loving company along this challenging path. The great I AM is coordinating every detail to meet our needs and foster our growth according to His divine will. 

And that's as true for YOU as it is for US as we recognize and trust in the saving work of His Son Jesus the Christ. Amen

What more do we need to know about what's ahead?

Stay tuned for more news on Thursday. Be assured that, by God's perfect plan, the unfolding will be influenced by your prayers. We thank you for them.

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."  James 5:16  NIV1984

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Go ahead, make my day." Dirty Harry

What would make your day?

Would it be breakfast in bed?

Or a surprise dinner invitation?

Maybe a day at a theme park?

How about a touch from the One who holds your life in His hands?

We received exactly that this morning via a call from a cardiologist.

Dr. Lockhart explained that he'd been able to find a computer that would read the CD of Curt's angiogram provided by his Czech colleagues. There was a lot of medical-ese that I wasn't able to catch as I heard the overflow from the report he gave my Honey over the phone. The upshot is that it appears the heart is not in as bad a shape as he suspected from the written description. 

If I heard correctly, the blockages are further along the branching arteries which means they are not so dire. There's a possibility that instead of bypass surgery Curt can be treated with other therapies followed by the placement of another stent or two. This process would be followed by a cardiac stress test to confirm that improvement has been attained.

Dr. Lockhart cautioned us that he will need to review the images and his thoughts with a colleague. Curt is still on track for a 10 December return appointment with him. Our plans are still in place to research various options to meet the financial demands of whatever steps are determined we need to follow. 

So once again a roller coaster dive that threatens to take our breath away hasn't crashed us into oblivion. 

I seem to hear the click, click, click of the towing mechanism that I hope (that's biblical hope, the kind that sustains) will take us up another incline. 

I relax my grip and watch color return to my knuckles. I breathe easily for the first time in a while.

What's it all about . . . this life?

Am I just an unwilling passenger on a thrill-filled ride set up for the amusement of its whim-driven designer?

The words of Apostle Paul echo in my mind, "Mey genoito."  
(May it never be.)

The Father has a plan that He set in place before He laid the foundations of the world.                                                                                      1 Peter 1:20

His perfect plan includes those He creates and calls to Himself.  
Isaiah 43:1-7

By the Father's gracious provision Christ paid the ransom for my soul, redeeming my life from the wrath I deserve and granting me eternal life.  
 John 3:16

The LORD is a refuge as He cares for those who trust in Him.         Nahum 1:7

By His loving arrangement Pastor Hobi shared from Psalm 61 at prayer meeting last night. He called it "A prayer for the times we are overwhelmed" and outlined the prayer, promise, purpose of, and protection for those who are overwhelmed. It was a most fitting ministry to my soul last night and again today.

Dear Father, please cause Your Spirit to quicken my mind and heart to the messages You have for me through these trials and struggles. As You seem to be blunting the worst of the circumstances I ask that You keep me from ignoring the hand that has brought us this far. Prevent me from returning to the beginning of this particular portion of the pathway You have set for my feet. I want to remain where I can sense the shelter of Your wings. Amen

Psalm 61 
For the director of music. 
With stringed instruments.
Of David.

Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you.
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.   Selah
For you have heard my vows, O God;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

In crease the days of the king's life,
his years for many generations.
May he be enthroned in God's presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him
Then will I ever sing praise to your name 
and fulfill my vows day after day.

If you make it this far, please leave a comment.  Thank you.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Monday Became Tuesday

I'm really not sure how it happened but Monday became Tuesday before I could put together a few words.

Today will be a collection of thoughts I've had along with news about what's going on around here.

First a question, what things let you know that you're not at 'home'?
The other day it was wooden spoons for me.

We spent Saturday night in the ER of Concord Hospital, Concord NH. Curt was moved to his room around 5:30am and we both settled in for a bit of sleep before the day's routine began. I was really thankful for a room with a banquette beneath the window.

We were sad to miss worship with the local New Boston body, but I went home feeling relieved that Curt was being closely monitored by medical professionals again. We returned that afternoon to gather around his bed as a family. Sunnie even drove up from Connecticut to be with us. 

At one point I sat on the side of the hospital room and took in the sight of all of us together as a family. With all the uncertainty and unknowns we were facing there was a sense of strength that washed over me. There we were a small collection of human beings joined by blood and marriage (happy to call Bill our son-in-the-Lord) through the loving sovereignty of God Almighty. 

People often speak of the ways God makes Himself known to those under duress. My Honey and I have had a number of such experiences over the last two months. But this episode of feeling bathed in great strength that washed away every hesitation and fear, question and trial was a fresh taste of the Father's great love and power. It is something I want to hang onto for the rest of my life.

Sunday night I once again crawled into bed alone. As often happens to me threats and pressures seem to become more frightening in the darkness of the night. As a troop of them harassed me I cried myself into my Compassionate Savior's arms. He held me in His firm embrace until I fell asleep.

Once again the power and Truth of the Scriptures sustain me.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.  Psalm 46:7,11

The staff came around on Veterans Day to present Curt with a flag and a certificate offered in gratitude for his service in the US Navy. It was a treat to be so honored. 

On Monday morning Curt underwent another colonoscopy. The report was so positive that they decided to release him that afternoon. When we heard the good news we were already on our way up to visit. By 'we' I mean Jenna and Sunnie, Champ, Miss Mae, and BigGame. 

Instead of entertaining Doc with various activities we spent our time taking care of paperwork and making preparations to take him home. Jenna called a friend nearby to borrow a shirt, shoes, and a sweatshirt. We all decided it would be cool for the aging Hipster to enter the world in his fashionable pajama bottoms. 

Dr. Q. sat down with us and went through a lot of information about my Honey's surgery which he said was world class. He also explained the phases of recovery and offered a lot of insights about diet and menu and lifestyle adjustments we will need to make. It was exactly the kind of input we've been craving since about 6 October when we started to recover from the shock of his emergency surgery. 

By the time we were ready to leave it was already getting dark. It was hard to tell who was happier Doc or our three grandchildren.

We bid good-bye to the tremendous staff, kissed Sunnie farewell as she headed back to CT, and made our way to the Baggs home for an early dinner and bed time.

And that's how Monday became Tuesday as I missed my posting deadline.

We're thankful God built in a Day Off when we could do close to nothing - eating, reading, resting, and laundry. It's just what we needed to get ready for tomorrow morning's appointment to meet Dr; Lockhart, my Honey's cardiologist. Guess I'll be sharing that news on Thursday, assuming it doesn't somehow turn into Friday.   *tee hee

Thank you for sticking with us in this seemingly never-ending story. In spite of how it feels we KNOW that God has us in the palm of His hand and that He already has His perfect conclusion in place. Hallelujah!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Too Tired to Type

Today is Thursday and I think I'm finally winding down from the most recent push to gather up our things, fly to the USA, and start making contact with the medical community.

Well . . . except . . . that there's this other little thing happening.

Culture Shock

It might be easy enough to understand that a shift in our lives caused by multiple life-threatening episodes might lead us to feel unsettled, confused, and even questioning. All of that and more is true. Rather than continue that description I'd like to move to another very real aspect of our days.

We're back in our homeland, our passport country, the nation where we were born and raised and have lived most of our lives. And yet, it's not the same place we left two short years ago. In many ways we're dealing with similar issues we confronted when adjusting to life in Prague.

Though we speak the same basic language the conversations around us include foreign concepts, such as a Commander-in-Chief 'purging' top generals when there's so much unrest in the world. 

Though we are working with familiar money the prices we see in stores cause us to calculate again and again about value, needs v. wants, resources, and more.

Though we are the ones walking through our days there seem to be countless outside forces carrying us along at such a pace it makes my head spin.

We call doctors and fax forms.
We buy and set up a cell phone.
We rest in our hosts' generous three week provision and seek further housing.
I sit back behind the driver's wheel and concentrate on roads, traffic, and directions.
We spend time with our grandchildren and do our best to contribute to that household.
We ponder the unknown future, desiring most of all to follow the words of Matthew 6:33.

In the midst of another whole set of challenging differences I would be lost if it were not for God's presence and the power of His Truth. I revel in the Bible's use of the word same.

"There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men."  1 Corinthians 12:5,6

God is the LORD and He does not change in who He is or how He intervenes in the lives of men.

"In the same way the Gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth."   Colossians 1:6

The Good News of salvation extends God's grace through faith resulting in changed lives and new life, appearing globally as it has in me.  Ephesians 2:8-10

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."  Hebrews 13:8

The Son of God continues to seek and to save the lost, of which I was one.  Luke 19:10

"Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin."  1 Peter 4:1

I need not struggle or wander since I have an example after which to pattern my life, beginning with and working out from the attitudes of my heart.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Across the Ocean

By the time any of you are reading this I will be sitting beside my Honey as we make our way to the USA. 

We will fly from Prague to Amsterdam, enjoy a two hour layover, and then fly on to Boston. If all the flights go according to schedule we will arrive at 1:30pm Monday afternoon.

I'm sharing this photo of a double rainbow that I saw here in Prague in September as a reminder to all of us of God's promise not to visit the earth again with a global flood. 

When I saw it I was standing in an open plaza that my Czech friends found quite ugly with its heavy communistic history. It was really marvelous how the beauty of the rainbow and its spiritual significance covered over all that ugliness and actually made the scene quite tranquil. 

And so it has been these last days as we've prepared for this journey.

Dear friends came all the way from their home in Brno to spend the weekend serving us. Martin and Ivka left their children behind as they offered us the gracious hands of Christ.

David and Sara sent their warm greetings in the form of personal gifts. The handmade bookmarks are personally decorated and autographed. As we inserted them into our Bibles the love so many have extended to us began to wipe away the trials of the last month.

God is carrying us as we go through the faithfulness of His plan and the prayers of His people.

Our time in worship this morning was deep and rich. We sang praises to our God and King with our brothers and sisters. Pastor Farnik opened the Word with care and confidence. The prayers of the saints spoke of loving hearts. 

Miluška is a fellow worshipper. This picture of her was taken when we met at a café to celebrate her birthday. She told me about her family as she shared family photos.

At church she came to both of us to tell us of her love and promise to pray for us during our time away. Her eyes were filled with tears as she held Curt's hand to say good-bye.

If it wasn't so late I would take a photo of Curt asleep beside me so that you could see him too. But it is that late and we have to leave for the airport at 4:30am. So instead I'll finish this blog with a request that you pray for us throughout the day. Then I'll close my computer and try to sleep.

May our gracious God watch over you with His faithful promises. 

"Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does."  Psalm 145:12-14