My Stroke

I suffered a stroke on September 19 around 10:00 p.m.

It happened very quickly. I was pretty calm, but I didn’t know what was going to happen. At the time, I was frustrated I wasn’t able to tell my family, including my kids who had gotten out of bed, that I loved them, possibly for the last time. In fact, I delayed the ambulance trying to get the words out but couldn’t. I was very disappointed!

Thankfully, Joleen was able to call 911 and get help. Moments later, I remember waiting in the ambulance in front of the house but don’t remember anything after that. I was life-flighted to Altoona and then onto to Pittsburgh where I spent the next 15 days at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.

I don’t remember the first few days at the hospital, but I gradually became more aware. It was a pretty surreal experience. The nights seemed especially long; I described them being three times as long as the days. I sometimes wondered where Joleen was because I didn’t see her for so long, or so it seemed.

Doctors suspected a brain bleed, but it wasn’t until a second angiogram revealed the cause of the brain bleed, an AVM (arteriovenous malformation). I underwent surgery on September 29, a craniotomy, which went well. The surgeon described the brain bleed as “severe”; he later said it was the size of a lemon.

A few days later, I was transferred to HealthSouth (Altoona) for therapy and spent 25 days in occupational, physical, and speech therapy. I would have stayed longer to make the most of my inpatient therapy, but that was as long as our insurance would allow. I appreciated my time at HealthSouth. I enjoyed visiting there six weeks after I was discharged for a routine appointment with the rehab doctor. I got to see my three therapists. It was especially rewarding to walk in without a wheelchair or a cane!

From early on, I discovered I was “fiercely independent” (a phrase used by a speech therapist at HealthSouth). I quickly learned to dress myself, including socks and shoes, and open my own food, all with one hand.

With the stroke I lost the use of my right side and my communication. Thankfully, my communication has come back pretty well (I was recently discharged from speech therapy), and my right side continues to get stronger. I continue to go to Drayer Physical Therapy for occupational therapy and physical therapy three times a week.

The toughest part is the daily battle. There’s no time to settle. There are always new accomplishments to achieve. This is how it’s going to be for a while!

I’m so grateful to God and the many people who have helped with my recovery, including surgeons, doctors, nurses, and therapists at Presbyterian Hospital (Pittsburgh), HealthSouth (Altoona), as well as the physical and occupational therapists at Drayer (Clearfield) and a speech therapist Penn Highlands (Clearfield). I’m especially grateful for my family, friends, and the prayers of God’s people!

Well, we wish that was the end of the story. However, a routine follow-up angiogram revealed some “residual AVM.” Hopefully, this will be addressed in the next few weeks with different procedures.

If you’d like to follow the journey, visit my Facebook timeline. We continue to put our trust in God’s hands!

“Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, & Bad Attitudes …”

Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes … in You and Your Kids is the best book on parenting I’ve ever read!

The authors, Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, propose an honor-based approach to parenting (which is actually applicable to other areas of life, as well)!

In families, it’s easy to focus on behavior, but focusing on the heart goes deeper.

Honor doesn’t just address behavior. It involves the heart. Too often, parents focus only on getting the right actions. But behavior change is not enough. Honor deals with deeper issues in family life. As families practice honor, they experience great rewards. (8)

Turansky and Miller believe, “Honor changes the way people think, the way we act, and the way we treat others”; it “adds that little bit of grace that transforms family life” (13).

I love the author’s definition of honor. We’ve been working on it in our family, and I’ve taught it in more than one sermon.

Treating people as special, doing more than what’s expected, and having a good attitude. (13)

The book has a lot of practical ideas. One example is a key question to ask yourself, especially when you’re upset: “How can I respond with honor here?” (19).

The authors believe, “As individuals learn to honor one another, they begin to see life differently. Every situation is now an opportunity to value others” (20).

Turansky and Miller outline a four-step discipline process …

  1. Identify the wrong behavior.
  2. Identify the dishonoring heart issue.
  3. Identify the honoring heart issue.
  4. The right behavior grows out of the honoring heart issue. (22-23)

The Goal of Discipline

The goal in discipline is to help children not only act correctly, but also to think correctly and to become the people God made them to be. Honor addresses what’s going on below the surface and considers a child’s heart. (23)

Noting that Scripture says “Honor your father and mother” eight times, they assert, “Honor provides a foundation for children that sets them up to be happy, joyful, and to enjoy life.” But, the authors also note that “honoring others doesn’t come naturally. It needs to be taught” (29).

Whining & Complaining

Whining and complaining are manipulative techniques used by children to get what they want. Children must see that their tricks don’t work. They need to learn a more honoring way to communicate. (31)

One of my favorite takeaways from the book, another great practical idea, is the phrase, “Obey first, and then we’ll talk about it.”

But it’s also important for children to learn to give up their agendas and follow instructions—even when they don’t want to. … Sending the message, “Obey first, and then we’ll talk about it” emphasizes obedience. (32)

One of my favorite chapters highlights six ways to teach honor to children …

  1. Teach children to treat people as special
  2. Teach children to do more than what’s expected
  3. Deal with a bad attitude
  4. Create honor lessons in life
  5. Model it
  6. Appeal to conscience

For Parents

I love the title of this book, especially the last part, “in You and Your Kids.” It’s easy to focus on kids’ behavior, but parents must also work on their own stuff.

When parents discipline with honor, they must remove selfishness from their own hearts in order to discipline effectively. This is a challenge, but the results reproduce themselves in their children. (60)

Teaching honor is worth it!

Honor comes back to the person who knows how to give it. … When parents and children honor each other, the family dynamic changes, and joy is the result. (62)

The authors note, “Honor-based parenting does take work” (99). So, they offer some practical skills.

Skills …

  • Be firm without being harsh.
  • Express sorrow instead of anger.
  • Use problem solving and decision making.
  • Enjoy children according to their needs and interests.
  • Envision a positive future for your children.

There are also chapters on how siblings relate with each other, as well as getting teens through “the tunnel years.” There is an appendix with eight “family together times,” or devotions, to help families better understand honor. We plan to use these devotions in our family devotional time.

Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes … in You and Your Kids is a helpful book, and I’m looking forward to implementing more of it in our home!

Core Prayers

Are there certain things you find yourself praying over and over, such as when you pray for yourself, your family, and your ministry?

I do. I have a list of some things I pray regularly. These have become some of my core prayers.

I’m sure there is no perfect list of core prayers, and I’m sure it varies from person to person and situation to situation. That said, here are some of my core prayers.

Personal & Family

  • Wisdom
  • Love
  • Health
  • Peace & Protection
  • Strength & Energy

Leadership & Ministry

  • Wisdom & Knowledge (“Give me wisdom and knowledge so I can lead this people, because no one can govern this great people of yours without your help.” 2 Chronicles 1.10, CEB)
  • Clean Hands & Pure Heart
  • Courage
  • Clear Vision
  • Passion & Energy
  • Patience & Persistence
  • Fruit & Joy
  • Change & Transformation
  • Favor & Power

For more on praying for leadership and ministry, see A Prayer for Transformational Leadership.

On favor and power, especially for preaching, I often pray Acts 4.29 and a prayer based on some of Paul’s words …

“Lord, … enable your servants to speak your word with complete confidence.” (Acts 4.29, CEB)

“Lord, please let my message and my preaching be presented, not with wise convincing words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power and with deep conviction … so that people’s faith won’t depend on human wisdom but on the power of God (based on 1 Corinthians 2.4-5 and 1 Thessalonians 1.5), for ‘God’s kingdom isn’t about words but about power” (1 Corinthians 4.20).

During the course of my leadership at Centre Grove (almost 7 years, so far), four prayers have become part of our church culture …

What are some of your core prayers, for yourself and your family, and for your leadership and ministry?

Managing Chaos With Online Calendars

With the adoption of Ethan in 2008, Joleen and I went from being a clergy couple to being a clergy couple with a child. In other words, the chaos only increased!

Shortly after bringing Ethan home from Korea, we set up online calendars using Google Calendar. The benefit is that either of us can access our shared calendars anytime so we don’t overbook days/times. And, with mobile technology, we have access to our calendars anywhere with a mobile device.

We have set up multiple calendars (each with their own color) that all appear on one calendar. At the moment, we have Randy’s Work, Joleen’s Work, Our Work, Family, School, and Special Days.

For time management, especially family time management and communication, this is the best thing we have done. We use our calendars to schedule appointments, activities, and remind us about special days.

Time management expert Laura Stack suggests calendaring everything …

I’m not sure if we calendar everything, but one area most people, including us, need to improve is learning to prioritize what goes on the schedule and what doesn’t. Some people, such as Michael Hyatt, suggest having a not-to-do list …

I’ve written a lot about time management over the years, including Task Management, Task Management 2.0, Time Management, Early Methodist View on Use of Time, and a post on the task management app, 2do (I still use the 2do app but the app is long overdue for an update, which the developers have been promising for a long time; I may write a new post on how I use 2do after the update). I’ve written a lot about time management, not because I have a lot to say about it, but because it will always be an area I want to improve!

How do you manage chaos, especially with others (families, teams)?

Marking Moments and Making Memories

We’ve always tried to mark moments and make memories by taking photos, especially with the kids. Over the last several years, the blog has given us a place to document part of the journey (much of which is in the category of adoption).

Another way we’ve tried to mark moments is by creating photo books through services such as Mixbook and Shutterfly. So far, we’ve created photo books telling each of the kids’ adoption stories. We created a photo book at the end of last summer with photos from the summer (including our trip to Maine). And, since we celebrated Christmas with family in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, we created a photo book for Christmas, as well.

For the last few years, we’ve created a photo calendar with photos from the previous year (i.e., photos for a given month normally include photos from that same month the previous year). The kids enjoy seeing the photos on the calendar posted in our kitchen.

I remember flipping through photo albums when I was a kid. In this age of digital photography we have to find creative ways to mark moments and make memories. I trust Ethan and Sarah will cherish the photo books and photo calendars we create.

What do you do to mark moments and make memories, especially with your family?

Our Worship Playlist

Music, particularly worship music, plays an important role in our family. In fact, one of my favorite spiritual disciplines is listening to worship music.

In 2007 (before kids), I wrote Songs for Leaders, a post reflecting on some songs that were encouraging me and challenging me, at the time. In 2010, I wrote about how we began listening to worship music with Ethan in Ethan’s Repertoire. And, last year, I wrote Sing Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs! on the role of worship music in my life, particularly as it impact my passion for God.

I believe the music we listen to is formational for us, giving us hearts for God and making us more and more like Jesus!

Now, it’s not like we listen to worship music all the time. Mostly, we listen to music when we’re on the road, usually traveling out of town, though we may occasionally listen to music around the house. Of course, we sometimes go days without listening to music, but we try to make it part of our lives as much as we can.

I try to add an occasional new song to the playlist, one that I think will be catchy for the kids (not to mention contain good theology). Previously, I’ve written about songs like, “Trading My Sorrows” (the song that started this spiritual discipline), and “My Savior Lives.” Recent favorites include, “God’s Not Dead” (Newsboys), “Build Your Kingdom Here” (Rend Collective), “Your Grace Finds Me” (Matt Redman), “Open Up Our Eyes” and “Nothing is Wasted” (Elevation Worship), and the latest, “Our Great God” (Casey Darnell, North Point).

I enjoying hearing what phrases and concepts the kids pick up on. I love it when the kids pick up phrases that haven’t grabbed me yet.

How does music (especially worship music) inspire and shape you?

Replenishing After Easter

Taking a break after Easter has become a family tradition. It started before we had kids, but now, it’s more important than ever.

We used to take off a few days after Easter, but with kids, we have to work around the school calendar. This year, we took two days off after Easter (school holidays), but because we had expected to lose those two days for snow makeup days, we had also planned to take the weekend after Easter off. So, we ended up taking two mini-breaks this year. And, it was a good thing: Joleen was sick on Monday, and I was sick on Tuesday (Ethan had been sick the day before Easter)!

After Easter, we spent a couple of days relaxing in a borrowed cottage along the Juniata River. The kids got to play, fish, watch a couple movies, while we took turns being sick!

This past weekend, we went to Pittsburgh and spent several hours at the Carnegie Science Center and the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Here are some photos from Easter and our post-Easter break …

Our Girl is 5

It’s hard to believe, but Sarah turned 5 this week. Today, several friends and family members, including my dad, who happened to be visiting from Tennessee this weekend, helped us celebrate Sarah’s birthday.

Sarah requested the Disney Brave theme, even though she’s never seen the movie (too scary). But, she likes Merida’s bow and arrow!

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Ethan Joined Our Family Six Years Ago!

Today is one of our favorite days of the year—Ethan’s “gotcha day”!

Six years ago today, Joleen and I were in Korea and Ethan became part of our family, a day after meeting him for the first time in his foster home.

In some ways, it’s hard to believe it has been six years already. No wonder the number one piece of advice we heard as we prepared to bring Ethan home was “Don’t blink!” It was good advice!

To celebrate, we went to a local play place, where the kids played for a while. Afterward, we went to McDonald’s where the kids got ice cream cones (even though it was at least -13 degrees this morning). At bedtime, we read the story of Ethan’s adoption using a photo book we put together a couple of years ago.

We are grateful to God for his blessings on us!

2014 Bishop’s Retreat

We just returned from the 2014 Bishop’s Retreat for Our Clergy Family, which was held in Lancaster, PA. The retreat is for pastors and their families from our conference.

Tracy Radosevic, this year’s presenter, is a storyteller, and she was excellent. Tracy spoke often about, and from the perspective of, the Network of Biblical Storytellers. She said their goal in storytelling is 75% word accuracy (with the biblical text) and 95% content accuracy (the gist of the story, maintaining the integrity of the text).

Tracy told several biblical stories and also presented tips on the process of preparing to tell stories. Tracy’s storytelling was nourishing and replenishing. And her teaching provided some helpful tools for storytelling and sermon preparation.

Tracy talked specifically about storytelling (i.e., telling the biblical story), her teaching can also be applied to general sermon preparation. She talked about “MULLing the text” (MULL is an acronym for Master the text, Understand the text, Live with the story, and Link personally with the story). She offered some practical tips for each area.

I will work on incorporating MULL into my 4 Ss of Sermon Preparation, which have some similarities. I should also be able to improve the way I mark up the text during sermon preparation (see my post, Sermon Prep With iAnnotate, for my current process). And, I am especially looking forward to getting better at “mastering the text” (which does NOT mean memorizing the text).

This was the sixth retreat that Joleen, Ethan (who’s 6), and I have attended, and it was Sarah’s fifth (she’s almost 5). This was also Joleen’s and my first full year on the planning committee for the retreat.

The retreat includes four sessions—Monday evening, Tuesday morning and evening, and Wednesday morning. We like to arrive a day early for extra downtime Sunday evening, Monday morning and afternoon, in addition to the built-in free time on Tuesday afternoon. The kids enjoy child care during the four sessions, but their favorite activity is the children’s indoor water playground during free time (see photos below).

Interestingly, Tuesday was a snow day, as a major snowstorm moved through the region. Below, you can see a photo of our car halfway through the storm, and one from my ill-advised drive around town late Tuesday afternoon (the worst part was driving on secondary roads that didn’t seem to be plowed)!

All in all, it was a great event and a good few days away for our family!